Friday, September 26, 2008

"Habits are like stray kittens..."

That is the thought that came to mind a couple of days ago. I have been thinking about it since, wondering if it was silly or profound.

I certainly am not very good at establishing habits. (Big sigh.) Nor am I very good at helping (making) my kids form habits.

So, "habits are like stray kittens..." might mean that they are skittish, not resolute, not like an old cat that thinks (knows) she owns the place. A stray kitten will scamper away at the least bit of turmoil.

My habits seem to be like that. I work on them and work on them and then, bam!, something comes up, I stop the routine and it is as if I never had that habit. In some ways, it is worse, because I no longer have that enthusiasm that trying to form a new habit can give me.

This speaks to my self-discipline, of course. I just don't have as much as I should. I find myself thinking, "I don't want to..." I indulge that voice too often.

Here are some habits that I wanted to have formed and either haven't formed, or I started on them and then got sidetracked:

Gratitude: the 1000 gifts list. This is so important to my whole attitude and, goodness, how hard is it to do? I think about doing it, but I don't often get the things written down. I did spend time considering where the list should go- in this blog, on a yahoo list I created for that purpose, on my Amy Knapp Family Planner pages, in a notebook, etc. I have some gifts written down in a variety of places.

Exercise: I start and stop. Really, there is just no excuse.

Fixed Hour Prayer: This was working! Not perfectly, but very regularly and I was pleased. A difficult stretch and now I forget to pray much more than I remember.

Bible Reading: I was going to read the Bible in a year (or more). I got behind and then ran into the same difficult stretch (criticism about the time I was spending praying and reading the Bible) and it has stopped. Now I don't know what to do. (I am a bit of a perfectionist and thus the dilemma: skip the missed readings, go back and try to catch up, go back and continue forward, reading beyond the one-year mark...)

Flossing my teeth: okay, how many times will you see "Bible reading" and "flossing teeth" on the same list?

There are others, including books I want to read and projects I want to complete.

Part of the problem is that I resolve to do things without enough forethought. This season of my life is busy! I have too much enthusiasm for things that I want to do. Yet, those habits I listed (gratitude list, exercise, Bible reading, prayer) are vital!

Part of this wanting to do so much comes from a sense of having wasted part of my life. What part? Well, that part that was sitting in the classroom. I am learning so much with my girls following Charlotte Mason's teachings to the best of my understanding and the Ambleside Online curriculum.

Another part is the part that was reading twaddle voraciously during my free time.

Another part I wasted has to do with being a Christian but getting off the path and losing so much time that I could have used to gain Christian maturity and be a servant to the Lord.

You know what? I am going to finish this and go get ready for bed, including flossing my teeth) and then I am going to pray and read the Bible. Even if I tell myself, "I don't want to."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Charlotte Mason's "Use of Books Makes for Short Hours" part 2

My problem is that when I look at the subjects covered (even with lots of them only covered once a week), it is very hard to plan a school day that has short hours. My schedules end up being about seven hours of work. Then, when you consider that we probably have a longer lunch hour than they do at school (we don't have any cafeteria ladies...), our day is as long or longer. However, I think the education is richer.

Our school week is Monday through Friday. I understand that in Charlotte Mason's day, the children went to school five and a half days. With my children's outside activities (music and sports) and friends, we just cannot count on having school time on Saturday. I'm not sure I would want to even if I could.

So now, I am wondering, what was the comparison that Charlotte Mason made? How long were other children in the late 1800's going to school?

I have seen schedules for a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool with short hours, but the rigor of the curriculum seemed to be lost.

On a practical note, I can get most of our academics scheduled to be done in five hours, but that is just too long to go without lunch. My hope was to be able to get all those things done before lunch (even if we needed a snack), so there would be that sense of a different kind of work done "after lunch." We leave at noon one day a week for music lessons. Combine this with no Saturday lessons and it is easy to see why our day is long--or at least, not short!

Since we cannot get all the academic work done before lunch, I am wondering if I should schedule the start of school earlier, followed by lunch after three hours. Then, continue with two more hours academic work, then have a break of an afternoon snack before we get to the music practice, art, nature walk, handicrafts and artist and composer studies.

And in implementing the schedule, I need to be better about ending the lesson at the prescribed time (or time expended). I am so guilty of going over.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Charlotte Mason's "Use of Books Makes for Short Hours"

I picked up volume 3 of The Home School Series: School Education. I wanted to see what she said about the time needed for school for this age group (since School Education tends to deal with middle school-aged students).

I found the emphasis she placed on "Books and Things" for a good education interesting. Books, of course, should be living books and should be part of a wide curriculum.

"Things" included:
  • natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking
  • material to work in -- wood, leather, clay, etc.
  • natural objects in situ (in site) -- birds, plants, streams, stones, etc.
  • objects of art
  • scientific apparatus, etc.

Then, on page 240, she says that the use of books makes for short hours.

In her schools, all bookwork, writing, preparation and reports were done between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. for the youngest group and 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. for the oldest group. That is six days a week, not just five, from what I understand (it doesn't say this in the book). That makes from 15 to 24 hours per week of the work described above: bookwork, writing, preparation (of what is not specified) and reports.

Then, there was one to two hours in the afternoon for handicrafts, field work, drawing and more. (Music practice comes to mind.)

Evenings were free for hobbies and family reading.

In the past, I have scheduled our days with a bit of variety, moving from one type of activity to another, not paying any attention to the "bookwork in the morning" aspect.

I am considering scheduling our day so that all this bookwork is done in the morning hours. I think it might be a good way to do school. I'll have to see if I can fit everything in in those morning hours and what it is like, but I can imagine the relief in getting those things done and then having the afternoons for more outside or other types of studies.

Charlotte Mason's Table of Centuries, Century Charts, Century Books and Timelines

I have been thinking on what Charlotte Mason wrote about Century Charts and the Century Book and really trying to understand them.

Table of Centuries
She first advocated a Table of Centuries. This, as I understand it, was to be for the younger students. You made columns on a page, labeled each one with a century, then as the students read, they would put names on the table in the correct column. The order of the names in the column was not important. I get the impression this was a tool to help the students understand that things happened in different centuries only, but the students were not to be too worried about the details yet.

I find it interesting that she didn't write about this in volume 6, which is her final work written after years of experience. I wonder if she found the century chart and century book to be better ideas? I never did a table of centuries with my children.

Century Chart
I have had what I think is a breakthrough on my thinking of a century chart! See this earlier post, when I really starting mulling over these options.

My breakthrough came as we started our Plutarch study for this year.

It occurred to me to make a century chart for Plutarch!

But before I tried that, I wanted my girls to make a century chart for our family, as described in the article, The Teaching of Chronology.

Since 100 years is about the limit of man's life, and we generally speak of centuries in history, we take for biography, or for history, a square divided into 100 squares, thus, and it is read as a page of ten lines:--

<diagram 1>

Now this may represent the life of a man or that of a century. To a little child it should stand at first for the former, as we must proceed from the known to the unknown, for his own life. The first square stands for the time before he is a year old--i.e. The year "nought" of his life; the second square for the time when he is one year old, and so we mark the squares accordingly. The first line gives the first decade of life, in the second line we have all the tens, in the third all the twenties, and so on; whilst, looking vertically downwards, we have in the first row all the numbers ending with zero; in the second those ending with one, and so on. A child very quickly learns to read on a black chart the number corresponding to any square in the century of squares; a line somewhat thicker is given down the centre to help the eye, and it is easy to remember that the fifty comes just beyond the central horizontal line and five beyond the central vertical line.

I decided to make it just a little different for our family. We started with the year my husband and I got married. Children followed quickly, so they could plot their older brother's birth and then their births. They ended up being interested in presidents and Olympics (no doubt because of current events) so we put those in there. They will keep these charts and add to them from time to time. We will only put one or two events in each year. It is hard to decide what to put in and when you do a century chart on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, the squares are really small! My daughter really liked the idea of symbols (as described in the article above), but I much prefer words.

We each did one. We all wrote this on our chart, which is something I got out of the book, Facts Plus: An Almanac of Essential Information by Susan C. Anthony: "A century is 100 years. The first century was from the birth of Christ through 100 AD. The second century was from 101 to 200 AD. The year 2000 is in the 20th century. 2001 is the first year in the 21st century."

So back to the Plutarch Century Chart:

After some review, I determined that a five by five chart would do, with each square representing 100 years. Our chart starts at 1500 BC and goes to 1000 AD. Because the BC years can be somewhat confusing--we aren't used to counting that way--we numbered each square with beginning and ending dates. For example, the first square is numbered this way: 1500 -- 1401 BC.

I included enough centuries so that we could plot Plutarch's life and the lives of the Greek and Romans he wrote about (just the ones we will study). This will cement the knowledge of when he lived and how far back he was looking to write the biographies he wrote. Since we have just started with Plutarch (it took a year of inconsistent reading to finish Publicola) there are not many entries, but this is what I included:

Founding of Rome: 653 BC
Rome kicks out her kings: 509 BC
Publicola (in the square 600 - 501 BC)
Rome conquers Greece: 146 BC
Julius Caesar born: 100 BC (we will start will him this term)
Jesus born: about 1 AD
Jesus died: about 34 AD
Plutarch born: about 46 AD
Plutarch died: about 122 AD

Edited to add: here is the document that we started with, then we added the dates noted above:
Century Chart of Plutarch's Lives Century Chart of Plutarch's Lives leahintexas The beginnings of a centruy chart based on Plutarch's Lives.

Next, I thought a century chart for Shakespeare could be useful. The same idea will be used: enough centuries to include Shakespeare's life, plus the histories he wrote about. (The tradegies, romances and comedies cannot be pinpointed to specific times and even if they could be, that is not really useful or needed information.) I have done a little research with an encyclopedia to get these dates, but haven't actually made our charts yet.

When I make these charts for our use, I use the table feature and usually just print that out. We hand write in the dates and so forth. Or I may include a few key dates in the printed copy and then we complete the rest.

So what was the (for me) breakthrough idea? That students can create a century chart for any specific subject to help clarify the historical chronology of that subject. The article, "The Teaching of Chronology," (noted in my earlier post) gave this example:

Later, we should make such a chart on a larger scale, and with room for ruling and marking important events. We use charts coloured for various periods of English History--e.g., the Roman occupation, the various Royal Houses. * The four periods of five centuries each, form good divisions for Modern History. In the first line we have, roughly, from Augustus to the fall of Rome, and in England the period of Roman occupation. In the second line we have the period of barbarian settlements--tribes are changing into nations. In the third line we have, speaking roughly, the Mediaeval period. In the fourth, Modern History.

I made a century chart of what I think this example means. It is in the HEO yahoo group's file section.

Then I went back to Charlotte Mason's writings in Volume 6 and found this, which, although I had underlined it previously, I had missed part of its meaning:

The pupils make history charts for every hundred years on the plan either adapted or invented by the late Miss Beale of Cheltenham, a square ruled into a hundred spaces ten in each direction with symbol in each square showing an event which lends itself to illustration during that particular ten years. Thus crossed battle axes represent a war. Volume 6, page 177

What I now noticed for the first time was that the student in these forms (Form V and VI)--ages 15 to 18, are to "make history charts for every hundred years" they study.

What this said to me was that my students (who are younger than the recommended ages) could make century charts for the era they were studying.

Here is what the Ambleside Online students are studying in the various years:

Year 1 -- early history, focusing on people rather than events
Year 2 -- 1000 AD - Middle Ages
Year 3 -- 1400 - 1600 (Renaissance to Reformation)
Year 4 -- 1700's up to the French Revolution and American Revolution
Year 5 -- 1800 to 1920 up to WWI
Year 6 -- end of WWI to present day, then a term in ancient history
Year 7 -- 800-1400's Middle Ages (Alfred, King Arthur, Joan of Arc)
Year 8 -- 1400-1600's (Reniassance to Reformation)
Year 9 -- 1688-1815 including French and American revolutions
Year 10 -- 1815-1901 including the American Civil War
Year 11 -- 20th Century
Year 12 -- ancient history

from the FAQs on the AO website. (That link doesn't look right....)

So my AO Year 5 student could have two century charts, one for the one hundred years from 1800 (or 1801) to 1899 (or 1900) another for the next one hundred years. My AO Year 3 student would have three century charts for her time period.

I think many homeschoolers used a timeline instead of these century charts, but I find it interesting that Charlotte Mason never described a timeline as we think of timelines now; at least, not that I have read. I think many people assume that the modern timeline replaces the century chart and the book of centuries.

But I have to say that I really like working with these century charts. They are better than timelines in at least one way and that is if you want to clarify something specific, such as Plutarch or Shakespeare and their works. Timelines cover so many years that I think some of the details about these specific topics might not be so apparent.

Century Book or Book of Centuries
OK, what I found interesting about this was that it, too, was not a timeline like we do timelines now. I kept thinking about the idea of taking the Book of Centuries into the museum and drawing the everyday items from an era. Charlotte Mason did not talk about putting people in these books, at least not that I can find.

One day it hit me that these Books of Centuries are like the Usborne books that feature the everyday items of a particular time period. Now, I don't really care for these Usborne books, but if I had created one of my own (with my own sketches and notes) it would be much more meaningful!

Sorting this out has been interesting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I forgot this book!

The Gospel According to Moses: What My Jewish Friends Taught Me About Jesus by Athol Dickson.

It has been said before, but I heartily agree:

So many books, so little time.

I wonder who first said that?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Great Haul of Books!

I just brought home some interesting library books. I requested these late one night and I don't remember the inspiration, although I think some of it was the Amazon site and the "people who bought this book also bought ..." feature.

Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren (part of the new The Ancient Practices Series, with a forward by Phyllis Tickle)

Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional + Evangelical + Post/Protestant + Liberal/Conservative + Mystical/Poetic + Biblical + Charismatic/Contemplative + Fundamentalist/Calvinist + Anabaptist/Anglican + Methodist + Catholic + Green + Incarnational + Depressed-Yet-Hopeful + Emergent + Unfinished Christian by Brian D. McLaren

Praying the Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others by Scot McKnight

Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today by Scot McKnight


I just got this from Paperback Swap:

PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline by Janet Holm McHenry.

Writer's Block

OK, now I understand writer's block!

I sometimes think of things that would make a good post. Compose the post in my head as I do something else with my hands. These posts sound good!

Then I get here and face the blank "Create a Post"" page and...nothing!

I used to not give writer's block much credence. Now I do.