“Feeling” What you Read

‘…thoughts–just mere thoughts–are as powerful as electric batteries–as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison.   To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as l3etting a scarlet fever germ get into your body.   If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.’     Frances Hodgson Bunett, The Secret Garden

Boy, what a blog break, huh?  It wasn’t intentional.   I’ve been here, there, and (mostly) everywhere, but I’d not slowed down to complete this post that I’ve been crafting for weeks.   In the meantime,

I completed an online interview for Lyria’s website in celebration for Black History Month (link to come later).

I wrote an article for Heart of the Matter Online that will hopefully encourage anyone who’s struggling with staying the course.

I’m working hard on a partnership that has come my way with CurrClick.com.   Please stay tuned—we (in conjunction will offer a free product give-away during the month of February!

Where I’ve been the most is in bed—sick, along with the kids.    We are fighting with everything we’ve collectively got to stay well amidst weather that gives us a high of 60-70 on one day, with a high of 40 just a few days later.   With the kids dancing and sweating, those quick in-and-out-of-doors trips are just enough to keep one or more kids coughing, sneezing, and/or blowing a runny nose.

 When we’ve not been battling colds, we’ve been doing lots of reading.   I’m reading From the Mixed-Up  Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler.    Though we’ve had this title on our shelves for years, it’s a first time reading it for the family, and we all are appreciating a 12-year-old’s perspective on being treated so unfairly and deciding to run away.     Our son is reading through The Flames of Rome as a part of his history of God’s kingdom curriculum.   This is a masterfully told fictional novel of Christianity at its earliest stages, its impact on the Roman government, and the consequential persecution of both Jews and Gentiles.   Yet, it is told with all the non-subtleties of any tale of ancient Rome, and I can’t help but think my son has probably gotten a full introduction to all those scenes I make him change the channel from when I see this same stuff on television.

Every now and then we must back up from the product and pay attention to process, asking ourselves the question “why,” as in “Why do we use this curriculum?”   “Why are we reading this book?”   “Why do we need to learn this?”   Actually, some would argue that the latter question comes more from our children ( or does it? 🙂  )

The oldest and I recently found ourselves at the point of asking “why.”  From the oldest’s perspective, ancient history is all about war, and medieval history is all about knights and monsters (Grendel, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, etc.)   Yes, oversimplification is sometimes a problem in our home as well, but I’ll get to it later.

The whole “why do we have to read about monsters” discussion originated when we opened, or rather, downloaded, “Beowulf.”    I honestly believe that she’d passed by me while I was trying to watch the movie—unsuccessfully, I might add.   I had one of those “never judge a book by the movie” moments.   In a matter of a few minutes, the oldest passed by, decided that the movie was too gruesome for her, and blew off anything associated with the word Beowulf.   Great discernment, but also a tad judgmental, perhaps?

Anyway, rather than feel unappreciated after pouring, blood, sweat, and tears into her syllabus, I answered her question with a question: why do you think we read these books?   Her response was a regurgitated academic “feel good” statement that she’d heard from me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.   I want her to know that she’s getting an education that, in traditional school systems, would only be afforded by the well-heeled or those that are considered gifted or talented.   I pray that she does understand that there is a body of knowledge that comes from being well read, from the norms of our culture, to our sense of good and evil, from  social class and structure, to language that gives us common understanding.    As I’ve said to the older kids before, when you encounter phrases in the media like “Et tu, Brute?” or “ ‘tis a far, far better thing that I do…” or “a man apart,” “but if not,…” or even the more chronologically recent “hoodwinked and bamboozled,” they have historical significance.   And though life doesn’t require you to be a walking reference book, it makes sense to understand language in its context.    That beginning normally leads into my own thoughts about relationships with words and ideas, but I’ll spare you (smile).   But after she shared her thoughts, we were able to look at all of our work from a different perspective.

The problem with oversimplication is that it allows us to dismiss ideas.   We can diminish medieval history down to stories about knights and monsters.   If we back up a bit past the story that modern-day media would present, we can read “Beowulf” for what it is—a story about what happens to a crude, warrior society that encounters the gospel of Jesus Christ.   The tale has far more meaning when presented from that angle.

When I was younger, we had a saying that indicated that someone had said something you could relate to: I heard that.    You had to swirl that “heard” around your tongue a bit and then hit the “that” hard, but it was a clear signal that you heard something that resonated with you.    Now the kids say I feel you.  Though I’m the first to sometimes question a classic, I do understand that a book—a good book—should make you feel something.      Through Odysseus, we each begin to think about our own trials on the way to discovering who we are.      Through Hrothgar we learn to represent Christ even when it means that we are indeed a peculiar people.   I could think of others if it weren’t so late.    However, I think you get the point.   And like the quote above from The Secret Garden, a good book should leave us with something uplifting to think about, something that aligns itself with Philippians 4:8.        After stepping back to have this whole “why” discussion with the oldest, I was re-energized about what we’re reading, with an even clearer understanding of why we’re reading it.   Yeah, I feel that.

Advertisements

A Day in our Lives

 

I’ve been trying to pen a “Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up” for a couple of weeks now, but my mind hasn’t been able to compartmentalize enough to make the various sections sound  like something other than garble.    I think some part of the problem is that everyone except me had some variation of a cold on last week.    Being the only well person in the house is a challenge unto itself; although the kids fought mightily to complete their work each day, I felt as if I was teaching three children through a dense fog cover.    I was a hot-tea-making, supervising-the-hot-bath-taking machine, and so time with my thoughts was a rarity.    Time with my thoughts and a pen was all but out of the question.

Given that my wrap-ups went MIA, I thought to pen my heart during this season where many moms are beginning to homeschool for the first time, needing hugs, encouragement, and votes of confidence.    Nada.    So, what to write about?  The bit of progress that I’m most excited about is the ability to school with a now 13-week-old puppy and boast of a reasonably smooth day.   So until those other thoughts formulate into something that wouldn’t be too embarrassing to share, I’ll go with a straightforward day-in-the-life post.    They never get old.

I’ve been getting up about an hour before the kids, allowing me to catch up on mail, do any remaining pre-school (as in before school since I no longer have preschoolers anymore) activities, and primarily, getting breakfast together.   By this time, my husband has served the puppy her morning meal, she and our older dog have barked at all the kids on the way to the bus stop, and she is back in her cage until I come downstairs.   Hubby’s left for work by this time.

Once the kids are downstairs, I work with our youngest.   Right now, at least, I can count on the puppy for an extended morning nap.   If it happens before we begin school, I follow the “normal” order: I read to her, then she reads to me, then math and phonics before her first break.   If the nap is yet to come, we postpone my reading to her until the puppy is napping.    Reordering my day around the puppy allows me to be most flexible when she is most active—kind of like a toddler, you know?   Anyway, with the latter order, I’m standing and moving around, if necessary, while the puppy is active.   There are days when the youngest will actually want to read with the puppies in the backyard.    She is my one “outdoorsy” child who likes to get out when the weather allows.

As an aside, we’re 233 pages into The Wheel on the School.    The wheel finally made it onto the school.

 The youngest is on a break at this point, and I get some quick chores completed—folding of clothes, cleaning breakfast dishes,  preparing fruit for mid-morning snack, etc.    Then it’s one-on-one time with our son, reading to one another.    He wrapping up William Carey, a “Christian Heroes: Then and Now” biography from last year’s studies, and I’m covering The Story of Christianity.   We also share our notes from logic (How to Read a Book), apologetics (Know What You Believe), and/or character (Ourselves), dependent upon the day (see our homeschool schedule).

Our youngest comes back to the table.   Most of the time, the puppy is still asleep!    We read some more (These Happy Golden Years) while she works on handwriting.   Then she completes grammar, history, and/or science, again, according to the schedule.

By now it’s lunch time.   I piddle between chores and work, and oh, yeah—I eat.  

After lunch, we all join around the table for Bible.   We continue the journey through the Psalms.   Today we covered Psalms 125-126, and talked about the Israelites returning to their home after being exiled for 70 years.    In the midst of all that they must have been feeling, there was one thing that remained: God was still their protection and the restorer of all that was taken from them.    Wow.  I wish I could have brought the energy and sense of awesomeness to the lesson that the passage deserved.   We are also memorizing the 34th Psalm.

Following our Bible study, the youngest runs off to play while the older two and I enjoy the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.    By the way, the puppy’s awake by now, and I usually put her outside so that I can read in peace.    After we’ve completed LOTR, I let her back in and have the youngest and/or our son watch her while the oldest and I work together.   The oldest is wrapping up Antony and Cleopatra from last year (that abbreviated summer break is wreaking a small amount of havoc on our schedule!), and we’ve just begun Virgil’s Aeneid together.   She’s not looking forward to what she’s read is a continuation of Homer’s Iliad. “Why can’t they just play ‘paper, scissors, rock’ instead of all this fighting?” she says, laughing.

Minus any leftover work from the morning to complete, or preparation for the days ahead, the school day is over.    For me, it’s a solid 8-9 hours of work between kids, lunch, and chores.   Then there’s work, and whatever projects are happening.    The puppy is also very “puppy-ish” by now until about 9 p.m. when she settles for the night.

Well, those are our days.   At least until next week when dance season begins.    Oi, vei!

Learning about Learning Styles

I can always count on Kysha for inspiration.    After hearing Sally Clarkson speak at the HOTM Conference, and then reading her post on learning styles, I went back to one of my homeschool favorites, Educating the Whole Hearted Child, to re-read and see what I might learn.

When I was first introduced to learning styles in children I have to admit something: I blew it off.    Don’t get me wrong, I am a staunch believer in the concept of learning styles.   In my corporate days, I was formally trained in temperaments as well as the Meyers-Briggs instrument.    Being able to answer the proverbial “what makes people tick” question helped me to help others with a bit more targeted assistance.    But my earliest education regarding learning styles as they related to home education was more geared toward curriculum.   Specifically, the thinking was that if you have this type of child, then buy this type of curriculum.   For a child who prefers this, consider purchasing this.    It was great information, but it immediately posed several problems for me:

1)      Our kids used A Beka while in private school and came home each day with numerous worksheets.  Though I’ve since used A Beka with both our children, at the time I thought if I had to find storage for one more worksheet that I’d be suffocated underneath. 

2)      The idea of buying different curriculum packages for different children sounded exhausting and expensive.

I think that ultimately, there was a disconnect for me because I never looked at learning styles as a connection to a profession, and much less to a spiritual vocation.     From my own upbringing, there was school, and school geared you, at the college level, toward work.    There was no discussion of what style you used to learn, and how the same combination you used to learn is the same combination God plans for you to do specific things for the Kingdom.

In listening to Ms. Clarkson’s presentation on learning styles and a host of other topics, I was struck by how, even in talking about learning styles, she spoke of how we should always point our children back to God.    It was a very different way of looking at how learning styles are not as much about curriculum choices as they are about giving God glory.    Look at this:

‘If God has given you a Helper (Facts and Values modes of learning) he knew you could meet the challenges of educating this servant child.   God designed your little boy or girl to help and appreciate others.   As a future leader, God will some day use your Helper child to serve others, organize people and…If your Helper is a girl, her biblical role model might be Ruth, whose quiet life of service and loyalty to Naomi was rewarded by God…Her servant heart and practical skills eventually led her to become the wife of Boaz, and the great-grandmother of David.’    (Mason, pg. 153)

This, along with other passages on this particular page, describes the oldest perfectly.    In reading, I “found” our son, too.

 

 

Ultimately, who our children will become is God’s work and His will.    We are given care over them for a brief time, and with the help of the good Lord, we do our level-headed best.    Where we screw up, there is still grace and mercy.    However, re-reading these pages gave me such a peace about who our kids are.    And every now and then, He shows us, in the midst of all the pulling and tugging, the questions and the uncertainties, and yes, even the sinful anxieties, a glimpse of Ruth, a peek at Paul, or David, or Esther, or Peter, or Deborah.    May He strengthen our resolve to let Him do His work.