Friday, September 30, 2011

The Core, by Leigh Bortins

I had read The Well Trained Mind a few years ago and really enjoyed it. But also knew there were a number of things that didn't sit well with me.  It wasn't too long after that, that I found TJE and knew it was more what I was looking for in overall educational goals. 

But, after implementing a lot of the classics/mentor approach, I guess I was ready for more.  I read about The Core, Teaching your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins. She is also the founder of Classical Conversations, which has a newsletter I've been receiving for a few years.

And it got me really excited about implementing some of the classical/grammer stage tools to our learning tool belt.

I read The Core and was a bit confused as to whether TJE and classical education were compatable or not.  I wanted to be sure I wasn't being lazy or stubborn.  So as soon as I finished The Core, I picked up TJE, for the 4th time.  Great book! :)

And after reading both, I do think that they are mostly compatible, although some of the details are different.  Both aim to teach the student through classics in all subjects, and both aim to help the student use their natural  curiosity to learn, while also encouraging a true joy and independence in education.  So, I look forward to re-reading Well-Trained Mind and other classical education books, to learn more tools to educate myself and my children.

Bortins broke the book down into two parts.  The first is 'The Classical Model' and is the why behind the concept.  The second is 'The Core of a Classical Education' and is the how of classical education.   In it, she breaks down the various subjects into more details.  She had a separate chapter for: reading, writing, math, geography, history, science and fine arts.  Each chapter gives personal stories from her life and other classically trained people (past and present), appropriate books and resources, as well as ideas for implementing them.  The last chapter and epilogue give more tools and ideas as well.

It's not a long or complicated read.  It is definitely encouraging and exciting and very informative.  She stresses the need for more information to be gained at each point, and gives ideas as to where to look.  She is a Christian and writes from that perspective, but tries to show the bigger picture, so a person from any 'religion' would enjoy it if they are interested in the classical model of education. 

A few of the tools that I am especially excited to use from The Core this year are:

1.  Geography/map drawing.  I am super excited about this.  They have it broken down into weekly lessons of sorts.  I love how it's broken down and am excited to be learning/teaching geography.  She says, if you do it regularly until they are out of the house (and review it regularly the rest of your life),  that they can/will have the entire world map memorized.  Depending on the person, they may have a lot of details memorized, or just general outlines.  While this may change over time, my plan for this school year is to take one day a week, probably Thursday, during our table time in the morning, and do our geography lesson.  It will only take about 10 minutes and will be mostly repetition.  Starting with the great circles (continents), learning how to label them.  And adding details slowly after that.  Starting with continental blobs, and then oceans and then working on the details of the 'blobs'.  I'm so excited!  My plan, until now, has been to just have a map on the wall and refer back to it whenever we read about a place.  We'll still do that of course, but I think we'll really enjoy drawing the map also.  I don't think it's 'necessary' for learning and proper education, but I do think it can strengthen skills and be fun and useful. Plus the kids love to draw, so it will utilize their natural curiosity.  The other day I came into the living room and Samuel had the globe and was drawing his own map from it.  I was shocked as we hadn't really discussed the geography much.  He was making a treasure map and he naturally used what he had at hand to draw it.  Sweet!!!

2.  Math Facts.  I confess, I've never seen much of a need for memorizing them.  But after reading her book, and seeing how it works in day to day life, I came to appreciate how much of a boost that would give the kids (and myself) in learning and implementing math in the future.  So this year, I am looking forward to learning our math facts.  Mostly multiplication and division tables, as we learn them, in Myia's 3rd grade Saxon math book.  I hope to make it fun for us.  My plan is to use visuals to learn it, and to do things like throwing balls to one another and saying them out loud together.  I figure Samuel can learn them with us, even though he won't have a clue what they mean yet.   I'm a little concerned about teaching Samuel 'facts' before he understands the need for it.  But, I think I am going to try it this year and see how it goes.  And pray it doesn't mess him up for life. :)

3.  Reading.  I am reading 'The Writing Road to Reading' by Romalda Bishop Spalding
And hope to find a few other books she mentions on english grammar.  Once again, my inclinations leaned more towards just learning english grammar by reading.  Which I still think is an acceptable way to learn.  But, one thing she mentioned that caught my attention, is that if you really learn your own language well, it will make learning other languages considerably easier.  Enough said!  I was talking to my FIL and he said that he learned a lot more about his own language while learning Spanish.  If I can give my kids this tool to make learning foreign languages easier, I'm on it!  As usual, it's a lot more work for me, but I'm willing and ready.  I too want to learn other languages, and currently feel like it's an impossibility for me.  I am planning on learning the rules for English language really well, and teaching them to my children as we read and write together.  I do not currently intend to use the Spalding Method for teaching reading.  But that could change, esp with Samuel.  She bases her method on phonograms, instead of letter sounds.  It's interesting and I'll hopefully think through it all and post on here soon.  I really did enjoy the book and actually bought my own, updated copy.  And even found out they teach it in some of the NYC schools and offer training classes to parents on how to use it properly.  I'm on the mailing list!

4.  Writing.  I am taking Tuesdays and Thursdays to copy a verse from the ESV Bible of my choosing.  We discuss what it means, the context if relevant, and then the kids copy it.  So rather then doing Eggermiers (have I mentioned how much I like Eggermiers?  I LOVE that book!) those days, we copy the text.  I look forward to learning more from the Spalding reading book I mentioned above, so I can use that time to teach the kids proper grammer, hand/paper position and letter formation.  I figure, we can learn it together, since I don't know much of it either. 

5.  History, science and arts I feel I need to wait on until I get the others figured out.  We'll continue to learn about them through books, videos and daily life.  But she had some good ideas that I'll look over again and consider.

If you are looking into the possibility of using the classical method of education for yourself and/or your kids, I would highly recommend you start here.  Well-Trained Mind is more thorough, but much more overwhelming also.

I look forward to seeing how God will use it to change the outlook of our education. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Minding your Own Business, by Raymond and Dorothy Moore

I had heard of Minding Your Own Business, by Raymond and Dorothy Moore for a few years, but had not actually ordered it through my library.  I finally got around to it, and I'm glad I did, esp after reading Radical Homemakers.  It was a natural book to follow up with.

I was actually surprised with the content.  I had in my head, that it was simply a list of ideas for 'cottage industries' or home businesses.  That is a natural way of teaching skills and character to your children, while also providing income.  But it actually had a lot more then that.

And it makes sense really, after reading and thinking about it.  We can't start with some random money-making schemes.  We need to have our priorities set first.  We need to be sure our homes, relationships and finances are in order first.  So the first part of the books talks about that aspect of home management.  He quotes Larry Burkett extensively.  I need to read more of his stuff. Our finances are definitely NOT in good order.  And he seems to be a wise, godly mentor in that area.

The Moores discuss their own stories growing up, and how they learned to save rather then spend everything.  To sacrifice for the future, as hard as that can be.  They talk about recycling and not spending more then you have, about cleaning and organizing your home and time.  And they end that section with some ideas for serving others. Once your own life is in order of course.

After that, they devote the rest of the book to Home Industries.  They discuss why it's important to have children work with their hands and minds in tandem.  Which is a truth I am starting to see.

They give ideas for businesses from home, some ideas of the legalities involved and suggestions for learning more . They talk about how to find capital for starting bigger businesses (although they generally encourage small enterprises that don't need any start-up funds like bread baking, car washing, babysitting, etc.).  And they give a number of stories of families who have started their own businesses.  Some families have started numerous ones, spawned from only one.

I am not currently ready to start down that road with the kids.  But I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for such ideas over the next few years, and praying that God will open our eyes to any possibilities.

My dreams are kind of big at the moment.  :)  I want a farm where we have a few milk cows and make all nutrient dense food stuffs, esp broths and ferments, which we can sell as a family.  We'll see if God allows that, or if he steers us elsewhere.  No matter what we do, I pray we glorify him through it all. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another Quote-Soups of the World

I have another funny quote I don't want to forget.

We have a book called 'Children Just Like Me'.  We have had it for a few years and have only read about a few of the children.  Each page or 2 features a child from a different part of the world.  It gives a lot of great 'kid-friendly' information.  It tells what they wear, where they go to school, what they study, who their siblings are, what they do for fun, where they live.  It is filled with pictures.  It's 15 years old, but still relevant enough to be interesting and fun.

We added it to our pile of school books for the year and have been reading it during breakfast most mornings.  The kids take turns picking out who they want to read about.

One day Myia was reading through the book on her own and she says 'Mommy, almost all of them eat soup every day'.   She was shocked.  She thought only WE ate soup every day.  It led to a great conversation about why so many people all over the world eat soup. Because it's cheap, easy and soo good for you.  It is a staple, passed down from generation to generation, in most, if not all, people groups in the world.

See here for a great article on broth from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What is 'Balance'-Then and Now

I typed up the following in February of this year but never posted.  It was fun to read it 6 months later and see that I have grown immensely.  God is giving me grace and helping me to see both sides of an issue more clearly.  And he has also helped to free me from my intense fear of consequences.  He truly is sovereign and in control.  And he will use everything in my life to bring glory to him, and he will help me, in the meantime, to deal with the consequences, no matter how hard they may be.  To God be the glory, great things he has done!!!!


My life of learning seems to resemble the pendulum of a grandfather clock.  I learn something and it's all I can think about until I have exhausted the topic and feel confident on it.  And then I learn something else and do the same. I seem to do this in pretty much every area of my life.  For better or worse, I have decided that it's just the way I learn and it can't be helped.  What can be helped, hopefully, is my know-it-all attitude and pride.  I see it so clearly after awhile, I just want to help people.  But it always backfires.  I so hope God will teach me grace, and humble me to realize that I never see the full picture at any point in time. I see through a magnifying glass, but only one little part of it. I hope over time to get more of the big picture, but I also know that I will never know everything.

What has been humbling is to be constantly learning the 'sides' of any issue. I read about and believe one side, and then I realize the other side has some points also. It's humbling and eye opening.

I love learning and I love that when I really learn something, it becomes a part of me. I think that is a wonderful personality trait.  But it has it's negative sides and I look forward to being more aware of those in the future.  While still learning the way I best learn.  Can it be done?  I hope so!

One thing that I think God is going to teach me in 2011 is balance.  I still struggle with consequences.  But as I come to believe that God really is sovereign, I come to realize that He has chosen to allow consequences as a way to draw us closer to him.  We simply can't control everything and avoid consequences of sin, in our lives or anyone else's.    But he has promised us grace to get through those consequences.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Funny Kid Quotes

I love that I can 'indoctrinate' my children.  Esp when I'm convinced it's true.  :)

Today, Samuel and some boy were 'wrestling'.  I don't generally encourage my kids to wrestle with strangers, but, it was kind of cute how it came about.  The kids was 3 years older then Samuel.  He stops and says 'Oh man, what do you eat?'.  I told him 'Cod Liver Oil and chicken broth'.  He thinks a bit and says 'Oh wow, you're lucky'.  My kids were not sure how how to take that. 

As we were out walking a bit later, Samuel watched a teenaged boy climbing up a pole. It was very impressive, and Samuel was duly impressed by his strength and prowess.  He remarks 'Wow, he's really strong, he must eat raw fish or something'.  I tried real hard not to laugh out loud.

I talk to my kids ALL the time about, well, everything.  We discuss anything and everything and it's amazing how much we all learn through it.  It's so much fun!

It's really fun to see how their minds work, and to realize that the things we talk about really do sink in!

It's so cute and fun to see where conversations lead to in any given hour of any given day.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Year Anniversary of 9/11

Wow, I can't believe it's been 10 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. 

It seems like it happened in a different life, in a different world.   In a lot of ways, that is true.  I am a completely different person then I was then.  And the world has definitely changed since then as well. 

I typed out 'my story' of that day in 2008.  I'm really glad I did, as some of the memories get fuzzy over time. But yet, surprisingly, certain pictures and smells can still produce an instant and agonizing feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It brings me back to that day, that month, instantly. 

It's a story I have told, without some of the graphic details, to my now 6 and 8 year old.  The day they killed Bin Laden was the first time I told them about it.  It's hard to know how much to tell children.  They seem able to compartmentalize things in such a way that they are able to handle it all.  For which I'm grateful.  But I also didn't want to burden them with too much information. 

As with everything else so far, I figure that over time, more details will come out, and we'll discuss it more.  Now and then they will refer back to it when something reminds them of the story.  But to them, it's just a story.  Just like all the other stories they hear.  See, compartmentalizing is a great thing! 

I would like to have gone into the city today, to be at the memorial and be a part of it.  I wonder if it would not bring about more closure.  But, I can't bear the crowds and I have a feeling it would just cause more irritation.  So, I'll go in one of these fall weekends by myself and just walk around and remember and pray. 

Lord, thank you for showing me your hand throughout all of life's tragedies.  I pray you would keep me strong and truthful.  Hold me to you when life is hard, and when life is good.  Help me to always remember that you are in control, even when it doesn't seem like it.  Help us to remember the lessons learned from this tragedy, to never forget them, and to pass them on to our children.  You are good-always.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our 2011/2012 School Year

I'm excited about the upcoming school year.  We officially started on Tuesday.  I posted here about our schedule for last year.  It didn't work out perfectly, but we definitely had an over-all good year.  Lots of learning and trying and discarding as necessary.  I'm learning that I don't have to have it all figured out at first, but can, and should, change as we go.

I was hoping to do more reading over the summer, but it never happened.  I hope to do better next summer with that.  

I still want to keep the general format from last year.  Wake up, eat breakfast, clean up, do chores, read something Scripture-oriented, do math and reading and any table work, followed by reading a book.  We still use our book reports and like them as a way to think, see how far the kids have come, and have a record of what we have studied. 

I am not planning on doing 'half hours' even though I probably should.  I just don't have enough time to do that and get our family lunch ready.

I also hope to do more reading in the afternoon then we did last year.  Or, planned activities of some sort.  I hope to play more board and card games with the kids.  And we are planning on getting a family pass to the Liberty Science Center, which is only half an hour from here. So I plan to go there every 2 to 3 weeks.  I also want to have a movie night, where we watch good movies, that help us to think and see the world around us.   We currently have Netflix and have found some good ones, surprisingly.  I tend to shun movies, but have felt like that was throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  We will do a movie report on them, same as we do for books and activities. 

We are also going to Iowa for 3 weeks in October, and we will probably not do any school then, other then some reading in the morning.  I don't see me bringing the big saxon math books along, and I hope they spend the vast majority of their time outside.

I think the biggest changes I plan to make this year are changing some of our table time.  Not a lot really.   But some.  I hope to do Eggermier's Mon, Wed, Fri and Tues/Wed I hope to find something more 'Precepts' to do with the kids, where we interact with an actual text more.  Also, I plan to start going over math facts together, and adding geography one morning, based on what I learned in 'The Core'.  I'm super excited about both, but esp the geography.

I also hope and pray that one big change from last year is I will be more organized with my cleaning and cooking so I won't be 'stressed' the whole time I'm doing school.  I have to have lunch ready by 1ish, and have Drew's supper ready by 2, when he leaves for work.  So I often found myself checking my 'to do' life for lunch while doing school, and it distracted me and made me more irritable with the kids.  I need to be more prepared for lunch/supper, so I can be confident and focused on the kids while doing school.  For cleaning, I have found that I can not concentrate if my house is a mess.  I don't know if I need to work on that, or just work on keeping my house cleaner.  I'll try for both. 

I also am looking forward to reading more difficult books with the kids this year. We'll still do some 'easy ones', but I'm amazed at their ability to listen to, and comprehend, harder texts.  It's so fun to see them grow!

Oh, I also hope to find or start a book club for Myia to join this year.  That one is still far from happening.

Lord, I give this school year to you.  Thank you for the growth in myself and the kids over the last year.  I pray for the same in the upcoming year.  I thank you for the ability to learn about your amazing creation, and to learn from history and other's mistakes.  Make us more like you this year. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

What IS Important?

I used to think that I could answer that question for everyone.  I am realizing, finally, that I can not.  It must be answered by each person, each family, and it changes in different circumstances.

But Drew and I do agree on an overall consensus of what is important for our family.

1.  Spiritual health

2.  Physical health

3.  Mental health

If we give our kids nothing but a deep, abiding awe, fear and love for God, e will consider ourselves successful parents.  After all, this life is short, but eternity lasts forever. 

God first did a huge work in my life regarding my spiritual deprivation.  And was gracious to get me into the Word daily.  And then he set me on my long journey of learning how to care for our bodies.  They are, after all, the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are commanded to take care of them.  After getting all of that somewhat under control (ok, not even, but we had started on the right path anyway), God started really opening my eyes to the need to educate my children's minds and hearts

He has been so gracious to slowly unfold these all in my life.  If I had seen the serious deficits all at once, I'd have thrown in the towel and given up.  But thankfully, he did it slowly and surely.

And I hope, and pray, that He will keep me accountable to those priorities, in that order, the rest of my life.  Education is extremely important.  Taking care of the body is important.  Both are mandated in Scripture.  However, our spiritual health must take priority at all times.  The others will come naturally if our spiritual lives are in order.

As for the little, day-to-day priorities, family time is high on the list, as is reading good books, honesty, character development and truth and hopefully soon, we'll add service to those less fortunate. 

I am so thankful to look back and see all that the Lord has taught me.  I am prideful and stubborn and dense, but I CAN and DO learn-eventually.  Hallelujah!!