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Friday, October 26, 2012

P.S. Carnival is coming!

Coming soon!

  • Submit your posts by clicking on the carnival button above :)
  • Deadline for submissions is this coming Monday, October 29 (5pm PST)
  • As always all posts on any CM-related topic are welcome and will gladly be included.
  • Completely optional topic for discussion: Principles 16 &18, loosely rendered thus:
"(16) There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children - 
'the way of the will' and 'the way of the reason.' (18) The way of reason: " ... "

Read the principles in their completeness, here. :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

aahhhh. nature study :)

out in the field, looking...

...back at home, sketching

more nature study links:
Nature Study Outing: Week 9 - Joyous Lessons
First Rain - living CM in California
Nature Journal inspiration
Using field guides in nature study
Nature study one of the constants

... linking this post to nature study monday's october post :)
just click to link your nature study posts too!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Knocking at Will.


A deed knocks first at thought,
And then it knocks at will.
That is the manufacturing spot,
And will at home and well.

It then goes out an act,
Or is entombed so still
That only to the ear of God
Its doom is audible.

Emily Dickinson

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pursuing the Way of the will...

According to some sources, every one of my kids (my husband and I as well), would probably be categorized as "strong-willed". If I didn't know better, I'd say that strong-willedness was a Tuttle family trait. :) But what would you say, if I told you, that we were actually born very weak-willed individuals all?

Charlotte helps clarify how things really are when she explains, "The baby screams himself into fits for a forbidden plaything, and the mother says, 'He has such a strong will.' The little fellow of three stands roaring in the street, and will neither go hither or thither with his nurse, because 'he has such a strong will.' He will rule the sports of the nursery, will monopolise his sisters' playthings, all because of this 'strong will.' ...But, all the time, nobody perceives that it is the mere want of will that is the matter with the child. He is in a state of absolute 'wilfulness,'––the rather unfortunate word we use to describe the state in which the will has no controlling power; willessness, if there were such a word, would describe this state more truly." (v1 p321).  If you'd like to read more about 'will training', click here, and see helpful links below.

So, as it is, in our family, weak wills are constantly being stretched and strengthened. Every one of us has come a long way... and yet we still have a long way to go. :) The following excerpt pertaining to the will, is a modified example of what I write down periodically in my 'Mother's Diary'. Read more about that here (v2 p106).

For me lately it is cooking. I've never really liked to cook. And for some reason, in recent weeks, it's become more of a chore. But someone must cook, or there'd be certain mutiny among my crew. And we'd be very, very hungry. So, even though I don't want to cook, and wish someone else would do it, I know that I ought to. So I do. Many days I can think of a thousand things I'd rather, and so have to will myself to do it; twist my own arm, so to speak. Now, I've taken measures to make it easier on myself, like having a plan, organizing my recipes, delegating some tasks, etc. But do I really have to *like* to do it?! I don't know. But I do know that the hours preceding dinnertime would be a lot less miserable if I could find a way to be cheerful about it. :) So, my next step in pursuit of the way of the will is to approach cooking cheerfully, without even a hint of complaint. And believe me, this is gonna be huge! My plan is to think about something else. Listen to a sermon, an audiobook? I don't know what, but changing one's thoughts is a very CMish idea, and one I fully intend to employ. :)

Then, there is one of us who is strengthening his will muscles in the area of math. This certain someone does not enjoy taking time to attend closely to the math lesson. He does not enjoy using his time to do his math exercises. This, for him is a huge daily feat of the will.

Another certain someone, who shall also remain nameless, has by way of the will, been overcoming in the area of copywork. Even though this person has special talent in this area, for some reason it had become a burdensome and most dreaded task. Being made aware that the way to victory lay in taking it in manageable sized chunks, and going straight to task to get it over with quickly, has been key for this person.

Then there is one who usually makes it his business to be the most attention loving groupie wherever two or more are gathered. He has a most perpetual test of will power especially during school hours: having to will his pencil not to drum, his feet not to tap, his tongue not to click, his chair not to tip, his voice not to burst out with every answer... etc. maybe you know someone like this. If you don't have one in your homeschool, be very, very glad. :)

The cutest little someone in the family is currently valiently working on willing herself not to suck her thumb, the sweet chick. For such a small person, she's admirably facing this gargantuan exercise of the will, and though she's had some setbacks, she's doing a fantastic job.

Lastly, there's the one who seems to do everything well, and get along with just about everybody all the time. But even this one doesn't escape the occasional test of will, and is currently working on willing to obey right away, because otherwise forgetfulness sets in immediately within ten seconds or so.

These are some of the tests of will we've been facing lately.
How 'bout you? What are some areas you have seen improvement by working on willing?

"The will is the controller of the passions and emotions, the director of the desires, the ruler of the appetites." v1 p320

helpful links:
The Will -- The Conscience -- The Divine Life In The Child
Looking for an easy read? Simply Charlotte Mason has a free book called "The Way of the Will", where they've gathered some of the most important CM quotes and put them together in a easy-to-digest format.

Friday, October 12, 2012

P.S. Don't forget. :)

Coming soon!

  • Submit your posts by clicking on the carnival button above :)
  • Deadline for submissions is Monday, October 15
  • As always all posts on any CM-related topic are welcome and will gladly be included.
  • Completely optional topic for discussion: Principles 16 & 17, loosely rendered thus:
"(16) There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to
children - 'the way of the will' and 'the way of the reason.' (17) The way of the will: " ... "

Narration: A little prep goes a long way {pt.2}

“Let the boy read and he knows, that is, if he must tell again what he has read.”
Charlotte Mason, vol 6 pg 262
If it is true that, as one writer put it – we narrate and then we know – our children's comprehension of the material then, not to mention their retention of it, depends on narration. It would seem that it's of utmost importance and that we had better get it right, hadn't we?

I love this picture as an illustration for this subject. 
It reminds me of how we are always there to help if need be.
Yet we allow the child to have the full experience in education; 
to come face to face with his own reality, his circumstances, himself.
"The message for our age is, Believe in mind, and let education go straight as a bolt to the mind of the pupil." 
Charlotte Mason, vol 6 pg 261
As parents/teachers, just what do we have to do with narration?
"This, of getting ideas out of them, is by no means all we must do with books. 'In all labour there is profit,' at any rate in some labour; and the labour of thought is what his book must induce in the child. He must generalise, classify, infer, judge, visualise, discriminate, labour in one way or another, with that capable mind of his, until the substance of his book is assimilated or rejected, according as he shall determine; for the determination rests with him and not with his teacher." 
Charlotte Mason, vol 3 pg 180

"We as teachers offend deeply in this matter. We think that we shall be heard for our much speaking and we repeat and enforce, explain and illustrate, not altogether because we love the sound of our own voices, but because we depreciate knowledge, we depreciate children, and we do not understand that the mind and knowledge are as the two members of a ball and socket joint, each of them irrelevant without the other." 
Charlotte Mason, vol 6 pg 258
So, the getting of ideas and the putting of them into order belongs to the child. And according to the quote above, it seems there are ways we can hinder our children.

Circumstances and books vary. Some may be starting out with very young children. Others may be coming to a Mason education midway through. Still others will be adapting to special needs in their families. Many times troubles arise, and suddenly, we think we need to take things into our own hands. In order for them to get everything (something?) out of the reading, I've got to ask them QUESTIONS. Especially, leading or probing questions to prompt their memory. Right?!
No way! Listen to what CM says,
"Given a book of literary quality suitable to their age and children will know how to deal with it without elucidation. Of course they will not be able to answer questions because questions are an impertinence which we all resent, but they will tell you the whole thing with little touches of individual personality in the narrative."
Charlotte Mason, vol 6 pg 261

"When a child is reading, he should not be teased with questions as to the meaning of what he has read, the signification of this word or that; what is annoying to older people is equally annoying to children... Direct questions on the subject-matter of what a child has read are always a mistake. Let him narrate what he has read, or some part of it. He enjoys this sort of consecutive reproduction, but abominates every question in the nature of a riddle. If there must be riddles, let it be his to ask and the teacher's to direct him the answer. Questions that lead to a side issue or to a personal view are allowable because these interest children––'What would you have done in his place?'"
Charlotte Mason, vol 1 pg 229
The only really helpful questions then, are those based on the Socratic method which tempt the listener to apply a moral or lesson to their own life.

If lotsa questions don't help, by golly, what else can we do?

Primarily, we help by giving patience, time and practice in narrations. After that, more patience, more time and more practice. And then? Still more patience, time and practice. :) You get the picture. But, Charlotte also recommends several other ways that the teacher can help without getting in the way of the reader and his mind feast. Two of these come in the way of preparation before the work of narration is done.
"The Teacher's Part.––The teacher's part is, in the firstplace, to see what is to be done, to look over the of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions [see acceptable types of questions above] and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils' mental activity."
Charlotte Mason, vol 3 pg 181
Pre-reading Prep:
Giving an introduction to a reading is sometimes helpful if not downright necessary. Remember, that as educators, we want to stay out of the way as much as possible. The purpose of an intro would be to aid the student's understanding, in a way so as not to interrupt the reading. It is NOT a supplement to the story. It is not a teacher dictated lesson. It is only soil preparation, as it were, so that the child may listen unencumbered by things too difficult. A helpful introduction might include, explaining difficult vocabulary, noting important names and highlighting any mapwork pertinent to the reading. Books that might benefit from a quick overview include, history titles, science reads, and a few more specifically: Parables of Nature, Our Island Story, Pilgrim's Progress and Marco Polo. But as is often the case, after recalling what happened in the last chapter, an intro won't even be necessary.
"Do always prepare the passage carefully beforehand, thus making sure that all the explanations and use of background material precede the reading and narration. The teacher should never have to stop in the middle of a paragraph to explain the meaning of a word. Make sure, before you start, that the meanings are known, and write all difficult proper names on the blackboard, leaving them there throughout the lesson. Similarly any map work which may be needed should be done before the reading starts."
Next, a simple reminder before the reading begins, that the student will be narrating when the reading is over, would not be out of place. Just quickly say, "Listen and let the words paint pictures in your imaginations. When I stop, I'm going to ask someone to tell back the story. If it is your turn to tell, you might even choose to use some of the same words from the story! Everyone should be paying close attention."

Pre-narration Prep:
Don't forget! The goal of the following tips is simply to help the teacher stay out of the way as much as possible.

1. Keeping those names of important people and places in the story written and within eyeshot can be SUPER helpful (use the same list of words/names you used as an intro to the reading). Being able to refer back to these, should help the narrative flow. This is very practical with those books you are reading aloud, but even in those early years if your child is reading some of the more difficult books alone, he/she will still benefit from an occasional intro and/or having difficult vocab and/or names written out ahead of time.

2. It also helps to have a few moments (even a half hour or so) to seriously reflect before giving a narration. Sometimes, when put directly on the spot, a student won't do well. He/she can't think of anything or perhaps their thoughts are still a little muddled and they feel frustrated having to put words to them. Maybe they've gotten hung up on an idea planted by something they heard in the story that they need time to process before having to move on to the work of narration. Giving them just a few minutes to order their thoughts with a few of the following prompts can work wonders.

Sometimes, when the reading was difficult, or we've been a bit distracted, I give my younger kids some extra prompts, "Take a minute to remember back to where we started reading. [pause] Can you remember what happened first? [pause] okay, got it? After you've thought for a minute, start as soon as you're ready." This seems to help them to put it in sequence.

3. And finally, for older children, knowing that they can jot down notes, or make lists or marks in the margins of their books, may help them to better formulate their narrations, and avoid a second reading. The students might write down their own questions that cover the reading, or enumerate a series of points made, or any other variety of activities that will help them to own the material for themselves.
“Let marginal notes be freely made, as neatly and beautifully as may be, for books should be handled with reverence. Let numbers, letters, underlining be used to help the eye and to save the needless fag of writing abstracts. Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied; he need not write the answers if he be taught that the mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself."
But let this be a warning to us all...
"Disciplinary Devices must not come between Children and the Soul of the Book.––These few hints by no means cover the disciplinary uses of a good school-book; but let us be careful that our disciplinary devices, and our mechanical devices to secure and tabulate the substance of knowledge, do not come between the children and that which is the soul of the book, the living thought it contains.”
Charlotte Mason, vol 3 pg 181
Join me again next time in thinking how we might approach correcting narrations.

Posts in this series:
And then, like, well... and other narration woes. {pt.1}
Narration: A little prep goes a long way {pt.2}  <- -="-" are="are" b="b" here="here" you="you">
Narration: Correcting sloppy speech {pt.3}

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nature Study Mondays - October

So, I'd really like to continue Nature Study Monday posts as a place to collaborate and compile nature study love and inspiration... but I'm still trying to figure out a feasible format for blogging it, the most do-able for me, and at the same time, fun and helpful for everyone. I've decided to post Nature Study Monday posts on a monthly basis for now. I'll link all my nature study posts for October here, to this very post  (hopefully every Monday!) and I'd love it if you linked up to your posts in the comments too! Just bookmark this post and come back all month long. Maybe even someday I'll get all high tech and add a linky ;)

Share your October nature journal entries, your nature photos and nature experiences right here! 
{leave a comment!}
P.S. Snag the button and add it to your post, if you feel so inclined.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I've got mail!

Look what came in the mail yesterday!
Can you guess which things I'm MOST excited about?!

This is not everything in the box... just what was left after the main looting had taken place ;)

Normally, from the U.S. to the bigger cities in Peru, mail arrives within 7-10 days (or it can, anyway). Imagine my dismay, when after 6 weeks we still hadn't received the box containing the mother lode of chemistry books I'd ordered and was waiting anxiously to hold in my hands. SIX weeks. oh dear.

OH dear.

I refused to think about it until four months had passed. Why four months? Because that's the longest we've ever had to wait for a package; but that one was sent surface mail; back in the old days.

Well, at long last we have the box, and the books, in our possession.

And thanks to my very kind mother, we will also enjoy jell-o (pudding and raspberry), and dark chocolate mint m&m's (not pictured, because, well... do the kids have to know about them?), and punch balls (do you too remember these from the days of your youth?), and erasers (just in time!), and really cute stickers, and magic straws that flavor your milk chocolate-y.

Yep. It was a good day.

Now, I cannot wait til I have a minute, or two thousand to read my books!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Narration: And then, like, well... and other narration woes. {pt.1}

"To begin with, there is nothing mysterious or magical about narration. We all do it. When we have had a pleasant outing or listened to a beautiful concert or seen an exciting play, our first impulse is to tell our friends about it, and how frustrating it is if, when we get home the friends are out or watching a television programme which must not be interrupted. We tell them about it later on, but our account will not have the same vividness and spontaneity as it would have had if we had told it when it was fresh in our minds. This is an important point to remember when we come to consider the method of a narration lesson."   E.K. Manders, PR Article

During the course of the day, I talk. I tell my kids stuff. They hear me say 'so' a lot. I also connect my thoughts with 'and then', a lot. Sometimes, I use 'like' mid-sentence (I know, it's so west-coast. I am hopeful in my belief that I am overcoming this, however). I ramble and fail to connect my thoughts sometimes. All of this has shown itself clearly, in...  well, the way my kids tell stories. Oh yes. It also sometimes comes out when my kids narrate the stories I read to them.

Have you ever had this problem?

I know that at least some of you have. I am actually quite confident I am not alone in this. I am equally sure that there is hope. It is not the end of the world! With a little guidance, practice and time our kids' will improve in speech and narration... and so will we!

"Given absolute attention, and we can do much with four hundred hours a year (1,600 hours in our four years' course) but only if we go to work with a certainty that the young students crave knowledge of what we call the 'humanities,' that they read with absolute attention and that, having read, they know. They will welcome the preparation for public speaking, an effort for which everyone must qualify in these days, which the act of narration offers."  Charlotte Mason, v6p124

It is important to remember some key points about narration.

Narrating is natural. We want to tell what we think about the things we know. The kids will hear a story, and remember *some* things that stand out to them. That's what we want! We want them to remember *some* details, *some* ideas... the ones that start the wheels a turnin'! The ideas that form thoughts that become not just a name, but a picture, a person, a living idea. It will most certainly differ from child to child. And this may very well happen internally, and you may not be aware of its happening.

Let's help them (by example and other means) to tell their stories well. Over the years, I have seen some marked improvement with my kiddos by using some of the following ideas.

Helpful Hints:

Type out their narration verbatim. You could voice record it on the computer, so as not to interrupt or frustrate them by having to ask them to slow down or repeat something.

Have them listen to it, read it over, or read it aloud to them. If it's obvious, this will be enough! :)

You might ask them to count their 'and thens' (or whatever trouble word), or when typing, ask them where you should put the periods, or some such gentle way of pointing out the error.

If they don't notice their extreme run-on sentence structure, you might explain to them what a sentence is, and give examples of different ways of starting one out. Often, I remind them to start the sentence with the person or thing it is about. That makes it kinda easy. I tell them, "Instead of saying, '...and then after that, Napoleon marched his army to...', skip the 'and then and after that' and just start out with the interesting part, 'Napoleon'!"

Gentle ways of making them hear themselves are best. I'm sure you can come up with many of your own that will fit your context best. I tend to think that we probably should draw their attention to it, but not DURING the narration. Let them finish, and then correct if needed.

More things to remember:
  • We teach by example. Even though it may not have occurred to us that we could be part of our children's narration problem, I think a look at some of our own habits of modeling speech would be worth our attention. Enough said. :)
  • Thankfully, many problems tend to fix themselves when written narrations and grammar lessons come into play (usually around y4).
  • Prepping them for narrations will help (I will talk about this in the next post).
  • We correct, by helping them correct themselves (stay tuned for an upcoming post). 
  • Relax, enjoy the stories, and practice.
  • Take your time. For beginners, don't expect too much too soon. Narrating is a complicated skill!
    (see quote below)
"How injurious then is our habit of depreciating children; we water their books down and drain them of literary flavour, because we wrongly suppose that children cannot understand what we understand ourselves; what is worse, we explain and we question. A few pedagogic maxims should help us, such as, "Do not explain." "Do not question," "Let one reading of a passage suffice," "Require the pupil to relate the passage he has read." The child must read to know; his teacher's business is to see that he knows. All the acts of generalization, analysis, comparison, judgment, and so on, the mind performs for itself in the act of knowing. If we doubt this, we have only to try the effect of putting ourselves to sleep by relating silently and carefully, say, a chapter of Jane Austen or a chapter of the Bible, read once before going to bed. The degree of insight, the visualization, that comes with this sort of mental exercise is surprising."  Charlotte Mason v6, p 304
I'll be posting more of my thoughts on narration over the next week or two. So, stay tuned!  

Sometimes, we have fun. Just sometimes. ;)

Upcoming posts:
And then, like, well... and other narration woes. {pt.1}  
Narration: A little prep goes a long way {pt.2}
Narration: Correcting sloppy speech {pt.3}
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