“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Sunday, April 06, 2014


I am going to have to bail on the blog for a while :) 
I hope to finish the Caldecott series someday but I plan to take an extended hiatus.

I will also not be answering emails for month or so. Right now I just cannot keep up and I have family obligations.

Thank-you all so much for reading what I write and encouraging me and offering me the impetus to read and grow.

Hopefully, I will come back to blogging refreshed someday. I say someday because it may be next week or next month or next year.

Now I am off to meet two of my grandsons for the first time.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Teacher as Bore

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education

 Chapter 1 (part 1)

The premise of this chapter is the balance between "two philosophies of education that have been at war in our society for over a hundred years.....'romantic' and the 'classical' tendencies; the tendency to become entirely child-centered versus the tendency to become entirely teacher-centered."

I think this balance is exactly what Charlotte Mason achieved but it is so refreshing to hear it again from a modern voice. In fact, in this chapter Caldecott does exactly what Charlotte did. He walks us through the philosophies of various famous educators such as Montessori, Froebel, and Rousseau.

"What can we learn from this? Great educators differ in their conclusions about the nature of the child and the developmental stages that need to be taken into account, and even about the nature of the learning process, but each tries to devise an environment in which the child’s natural, impulsive quest for knowledge—or for beauty, goodness, and truth—can
be pursued with the teacher’s help."


"If attention to the child is the key to the teacher’s success, it is the child’s own quality of attention that is the key to the learning process..."

We cannot fail to grasp the ideas in the chapter on attention if we are going to truly understand education. My own way of saying this is-teaching is not learning.

An interesting article was circulating this week on the weakness of the academic lecture. I am very sympathetic to this subject because of my own inability to listen to a speaker for more than 30 minutes without becoming bored. I love to learn but I quickly become bored with stale ideas and most lectures cover only a single idea. Just tell it to me and get on with it. I can listen to audiobooks for hours on end and I can read for long periods of time but I struggle mightily to sit through a long speech. In other words, I do not have a short attention span, I probably have a rather long one, but I do not learn well in a lecture atmosphere.

This is why Morning Time will work better if we don't belabor it but move from book to book without long lectures, letting the ideas do their work. Of course, it is valuable to stop for conversation as long as it is not just one person (mom) doing the talking.

I also believe in the idea of the rest-step. We absorb only so much and then we need time to absorb more deeply what we have taken in.  I know of no school or co-op which accommodates the way we really learn in sprints and spurts and rests.  Plateaus are not times of stagnation but times of strengthening new growth. Learning is ALWAYS individual because of the nature of growth.

This is why I tune out when I hear people talking about classroom management at education conferences.  Classroom management is not a educational topic; it is a sign that we don't understand how people learn at all.  I know, I know, there will always be classrooms but they will never be able to achieve across the board learning. It is against nature. I will entirely retract this in the comments :) because classrooms do teach things, some of them valuable skills-like how to read a book while listening to a lecture without being caught or how to sneak out of class after roll call without being seen or how to get the cute guy to look at you. These skills are important too.

How about we do this-

Tell me what you remember from the best lecture you ever heard or sermon.

In Hermeneutics- I will always remember that the main thing is Ramm. That's it, but then again I did successfully sneak out a lot. Still I know where to go if I need to know and it was not class.

In Sermons- the best sermon I ever heard was by one of the worst speakers. His text was from Psalm 107 "...and then they cried out to the Lord..."   That is all I needed to know to carry me through many of life's trials.

In College Algebra-I remember I had the cutest sandals. I wish I could find a pair like them again.

In College Speech- I remember never to sit in the front row. People spit.

I spent about 15 years of my life in classrooms and the last 30 years making up for it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dorothy Who?

Being that I live my life in hyperbole (8 boys?), I will now say something fantastical. If all we had of this book, Beauty in the Word, was the Introduction, we would have a much better guide to education than Dorothy Sayers' (still my favorite writer), treatise on the trivium. I have nothing against Dorothy's essay only I wish some people hadn't read it.

Stratford Caldecott is da bomb.

First he quotes an obscure work titled The Didascalicon of someone named Hugh of Saint Victor and in a twinkling of the quote we have the fog part on the trivium:

‘Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear-sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing.’

Then Caldecott takes up the clay and remolds it once again so that we can finally 'get it.'

"That is the reason you will find the chapter on Grammar headed ‘Remembering,’ the one on Dialectic headed ‘Thinking,’ and the one on Rhetoric headed ‘Speaking.’ I wanted to emphasize the fact that we are discussing the fundamental skills of humanity itself. So under ‘Remembering’ I reflect on the birth of language and how Being reveals itself in speech. Under ‘Thinking’ I am concerned more precisely with the use of language to reveal what is true and what is not, and the question of how we know which is which. Under ‘Speaking’ I look at how we communicate what we know to others within a moral community of free persons."

Once he nails down the word 'remembering' we are like birds set free. We are, indeed, free-free from the chains of grammar. Yes, yes, we want to teach grammar but we want to teach it as free men not slaves.

Then Caldecott channels our dear Charlotte, as he should:

"The seven liberal arts were in any case never intended to constitute the whole of education. They were embedded in a broader tradition of paideia or human formation, which included ‘gymnastics’ for the education of the body and ‘music’ for the education of the soul (terms that have changed and narrowed in meaning over the centuries)."

Finally, he begins, in the Introduction no less, to explore the connections between the poetics and the sciences. I am telling you that this is a vast unexplored country and wildly exciting for the future. Poetry is the key to so many things. If that does not make sense to you now, take it on faith for the future of your little scientists, mathematicians and musicians.

"This is what I am searching for in the present book. Inadequate though my answers may be, I know the questions are valid. Rationality and poetry, science and art, need not be opposed. After all, we owe scientific breakthroughs as much to great acts of imagination as to feats of observation or calculation (one thinks of Einstein trying to picture running alongside a beam of light,..."

Read a biography of Einstein if you need further proof. Great men have great imaginations. Remember that as you plan your next school year.

"It must be possible to use this intrinsic connection between reason and imagination to overcome the alienation between the humanities and sciences."

I highlighted much more in the intro but I am getting away from the ideal length of a blog post.

I just love this book so much...in my best Holly Hunter accent.

Also read Pollinating Imaginations

Wednesdays With Words: Week 35

I picked this up free on Kindle a few years ago after hearing Ravi Zachaias mention Frank Boreham. I read a bit then but recently I refound it.  Good stuff and free for Kindle. The book looks at the life Texts of various people some fictional. Can you guess whose is "I am the resurrection and the life..."  These quotes come from the life of Ebenezer Erskine, someone of whom I had never heard. 

 "He felt, too, that the Positive must precede the Negative. The person of the most High must come before the precepts of the Most High; the Thou Shalts must come before the Thou Shalt Nots."

"In the typical novel the villain is a man who does what he ought not to do; in the
tales that Jesus told the villain is a man who leaves undone what he ought to have done."

"Between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, we invariably frame a variety of good resolutions; we register a number of excellent resolves. But, for the most part, they come to nothing; and they come to nothing because they are so largely negative. 'I will never again do such-and-such a thing'; 'I will never again behave in such-and-such a way'"

"The soul cannot flourish on a principle of subtraction; it can only prosper on a principle of addition." 

These quotes are right up my alley these days as I continue to move forward in making tiny, positive changes in my life.  


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beauty in the Word: And We are Off...sort of.

In spite of the awful, terrible, no-good, timing, I am looking forward to rereading Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education The minute I reread Anthony Esolen's Foreword I was glad I had made the decision.

First a caveat: This book is written from a Christian and Catholic point-of-view. I am a Christian, but I am not a Catholic. Some of my best friends are Catholic though (wink) and many of you.  The Catholics get the award for continuing to think about Christian education long after Protestants had given over their children to the public schools.  Classical education in America was almost entirely Catholic until recently.  The Catholics have a rich tradition to draw from in the area of education. This is why I am often most kindred with Catholic educators.

This idea of tradition reminds me of something that happened this week which illustrates something I have been trying to communicate lately on the blog.

I hate getting to a baseball game in time to hear the National Anthem. It is a painful song to listen to. It does not really stir the emotions. I went through a stage where I did not want to put my hand over my heart during the Anthem because my allegiance, I reasoned, was to God not country; I am not a Landmark Baptist. But then it hit me. Alex was always by me-watching me.  What good could come of debunking my country? What good could come from teaching him not to care?  I hear James K.A. Smith in my head saying that I am making nationalism my religion and I get that. Putting my hand over my heart is very similar to raising my hands to hear the benediction at church. In fact, Alex always looks over at me during that too.  And there is the rub.  There is also something religious about apathy. We can trade in our patriotism but the 10 demons that take its place are terrifying to me as a mother.

Oh, dear, I have not even mentioned the Introduction. Later.....

( If you have ever bought anything via my Amazon Links-Thank-you. I use that money to buy birthday gifts for my grandchildren. We are in the midst of birthday season here and that money is so helpful.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Beauty in the Word Preliminaries

Let's chat.

Things may be getting weird around here. It looks like I will be traveling out west....maybe. Also I am not sure how many people really will participate in the book club.

So here is what I will do for now. I will try to post one post a week on Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott. Eventually I will set up a page to aggregate all the posts. I will be doing this like I did Norms and Nobility. Since I cannot commit to getting my posts up weekly, I am not going to commit to the Linky.  If you have a post on the book you would like to announce, you can add your link to my comments.  If possible I can also pull the link from the comment and add it to my post when I aggregate the posts on the Beauty in the Word Page. Does that make sense?  In other words this is going to be a low key book study.

Tomorrow I will blog about the Introduction. It really is a very short book.

Also if you know anything at all about the route from Tennessee to the Seattle, WA area, I would love to hear about it because it looks like I am going on an adventure.

How does that sound? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesdays With Words: Week 34

 Education by Poetry by Robert Frost from the Imaginative Conservative

LOVE EVERY WORD!! And I thought I was the only one who thought that maybe poetry could stand in for all the subjects.  Whatever you skip next year and today, do not leave out poetry.  Here is a bit of hyperbole: This essay may be the most important thing you will read all year.

I would be willing to throw away everything else but that: enthusiasm tamed by metaphor. Let me rest the case there. Enthusiasm tamed to metaphor, tamed to that much of it. I do not think anybody ever knows the discreet use of metaphor, his own and other people’s, the discreet handling of metaphor, unless he has been properly educated in poetry.

(And now I am off to the dentist. Yes, that is right, I am off to the dentist with another child. This is not so bad as it could be. My dear husband is off to the Department of Motor Vehicles with a newborn 16 yo. This is the first time ever I have not had to do that horrid job, biting my fingernails and cussing, while the child forgets to check his mirrors or slow down for children playing. We all know that children don't play anymore anyway. But here's to Andrew and my new insurance rates.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Thoughts on Teaching from a State of Rest

(Part 3 of Teaching From a State of Rest is up at CiRCE and it is excellent. Here is a thought,"Anxiety springs from pride." Ouch. Lots of food for thought and lots of encouragement for homeschoolers. Love to discuss it in the comments....any of the parts.)

It's a bugaboo, fer sure. A wisp of air. A meaningless conundrum, maybe?  Teaching from a state of rest. The title always grabs us because we know, if we know anything at all, that we teach from a state of fear and frenzy. They are our children for goodness sakes!! When we decided to homeschool we decided not to eat chocolate and watch soap operas or whatever has taken their place-HGTV, maybe? We have traded in rest to teach them, right?  Or even more problematic, maybe we traded in a productive job for this new unproductive one and maybe we did it with the idea that we were going to make our children our products.

My favorite teachers are all a bit metaphysical. That is supposed to mean they don't make no sense! They aren't very practical.
When I first listened to George Grant on Wonder I was transformed. To me it was an injection of courage, but others of my friends were asking, "It is so beautiful but what does it mean? What do we do with it?" 

Here is the thing: You don't do anything with it, it does something to you. Ideas change us. When I went from a person who thought I could never run to a person who thought that maybe I could run, my life changed because what I believed changed.

If you want to teach from a state of rest you have to believe that it is possible to do that. You have to believe that fear is causing most of your problems. Anxiety is the author of error. When you run from something you often meet what you are running from coming around the corner.  Anxiety should scare us.

When we listen to George Grant or Andrew Kern and something they say enlivens our imaginations like "everything is already ours in Christ," then things are going to change. We don't have to make them change. While I was listening to Andrew speak in Talk 1, I visualized what I wanted my school to look like next year and I rearranged things in my mind because the talk gave me courage.

I know that the power of that visualization will bear fruit, not because I am some wacky member of a cult, but because that is how God has made us. That is why without faith we cannot please God. That is why the Gospel is to believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You aren't 'saved' if you pretend to think something you don't really think at all. You have to believe and if you believe you will change, not because you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps but because of the nature of faith.

So when you listen to a metaphysical speaker and you feel inspired and ideas flow-go with it. If you don't get inspired that is OK, too, because you can't manufacture faith and we all are in different places. I happen to be very hungry this year. You might be full to overflowing and living off the fruit of other years.

Never underestimate the power of ideas, both good and bad ones.

Here is a bad idea: I am off to the dentist.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cottleston Pie~3 Small Takes

~In a weird twist of something indefinable, I found myself touching a word in a real book to see what it meant. Inertia kept me from walking around to look for the dictionary. I do not quite know what to make of this. Sometimes I try to turn the pages of the Kindle. My favorite things about Kindle reading are the ability to have the quotes preserved to copy/paste and the ability to look up unknown words easily. I do not know if either of these things is good but I like them. I like them a lot.

 ~This may seem a bit self-serving because in this video Andrew says some very nice things about me and if that were all he said I would not recommend the video but the rest of his words are so profound and helpful, I think you need to watch the video if you are planning for your next school year. It is that old bugaboo-teaching from a state of rest. This video may be entirely metaphysical but I made immediate changes in my school planning after watching it. My friends and I have a saying, "What happens at CiRCE..." oops, I mean this one, "Don't plan your school year until after CiRCE." This video is incredibly helpful in getting a bit of planning done before CiRCE, the kind of planning that you won't have to change later.

 ~Funny and Real Pictures from Japan. I love these little boys so much:

Practicing carry backpacks for the upcoming airplane ride

David is not sure he is going to like this ride.

But it is not too bad after all!

In fact, it is downright thrilling.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wednesday With Words: Week 33 (Book Club Announcement)

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education

 I am putting a short quote from Beauty in the Word to announce that I will be reading and blogging through that book starting March 25. I hope to put up new book posts on Tuesdays after that. I can't think of a better book to read in preparation for next year, that clean slate that is before us.  Even though I have already read this book recently, I cannot wait to read it again. 

Will you join me?

"Thus when we teach our youngest children by means of rhymes and songs, we do so not merely because rhymes and songs are actually effective mnemonic devices. We do so because we wish to form their souls by memory: we wish to bring them up as rememberers, as persons, born, as Caldecott points out, in certain localities, among certain people, who bear a certain history, and who claim our love and loyalty."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cottleston Pie~Take 6

~Andrew has his first real game of the season today. He is so excited. This is his second year playing for the local public school and it has been a good experience, so far. Andrew hit his first homerun ever at a scrimmage last week. Alex also has a game and Christopher. Christopher's game is in Montgomery, AL which saves me some angst although this being his senior year at Covenant I did ponder trying to make it to Montgomery.

My husband seems to believe you can only be one place at a time while I refuse to acknowledge this until I have studied the days events from every angle. I hate missing any of the boys' games and I never concede that I cannot be two places at once until the very last second. I work the schedule like a logic problem but always come up short. Today I am headed to Sequatchie with Andrew. It is fortunate that Tim is off this week and he can watch Alex. Tomorrow we switch it up. And I said I would never do this....

 ~Did I mention that I am going to the Circe Conference this year? I had told David K. I would not be there this year but now I get to go. The speaker list is top-notch and I am excited to meet some of you.

~Speaking of Circe if you get a chance to go to the Summer Institute you will not regret it. Think of it as a spa retreat for the mind. Good food, good conversation, and beautiful scenery.

~I have found a new favorite pair of pants-yoga pants. Wow, are they comfortable and so much more attractive than normal sweats. I wear them under a long shirt if I go out but if I put them on in the morning I am sending myself a message that I will exercise today.  I am afraid I will never be a fashionista.

~I wrote a nice philosphical post in my mind a day or so ago as I was drifting off to sleep. It was really good :)   Now I cannot even remember the subject matter. 

~I could have gotten out of bed to write and I considered it but one of my newest goals is to get 8 hours of sleep a night and being menopausal that is very, very difficult. My running recovery is so much better when I get enough sleep. Sadly this means I am reading less. No more reading to the wee hours just because my husband is working nights.