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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thoughts on Education is a Discipline.

Habit Training, or discipline is... 
Taking care to guide our children in good habits to the end that the child is a delight to God, to self and to others.

When we use a GOOD curriculum, if intellectual habits do not develop properly almost on their own, it certainly is done without a great deal of trouble. You just see if it isn't true. Try a few confucian style* lessons out on your kids and afterwards, hand them a couple of living books on China and just see which is easier for them to apply their full attention to.

Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight. The call for strenuousness comes with the necessity of forming habits; but here again we are relieved. The intellectual habits of the good life form themselves in the following out of the due curriculum in the right way.

Some habits that make the way easier in education...

Attention. This is numero uno. Without it, the road is weary, filled with pot-holes and lined with jeering crowds. It is impossible to advance and the way is very unpleasant, until the habit of attention is cultivated.

Fitting and ready expression. Being able to put thoughts into words (spoken or written) is SUCH a valuable skill. Can I just say that twice? The ability to communicate ideas on any given subject, but especially one relevant to the current conversation, is VERY useful.

Obedience. This comes in super handy, when it comes to learning. A student must obey his teacher in order to improve. Must.

Good-will. And this of course makes it all pleasant. Can this be cultivated? A resounding yes. See CM's 5th volume, Formation of Character for more.

Impersonal Outlook. A person who reads widely and becomes familiar with a lot of subjects, is more likely to be a useful citizen. I think this is what is meant by Impersonal Outlook. Here's a contrasting example: Have you ever heard anyone say that North Americans are generally self-absorbed? Well, sad to say, it's probably often true. Too many times, we know nothing about the world, and care only for our local economies and personal comforts. A good education helps eradicate that by developing an appreciation for culture and the world we all live in.
We have lost sight of the fact that habit is to life what rails are to transport cars. It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends and after careful survey, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable. More, habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord.
...a certain strenuousness in the formation of good habits is necessary because every such habit is the result of conflict. The bad habit of the easy life is always pleasant and persuasive and to be resisted with pain and effort, but with hope and certainty of success, because in our very structure is the preparation for forming such habits of muscle and mind as we deliberately propose to ourselves.
Habit is like fire, a bad master but an indispensable servant.
'Sow an act,' we are told, 'reap a habit.' 'Sow a habit, reap a character.' But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.
Some habits that make the way easier for persons...

When we train ourselves to think of others first, many rules of personal and social etiquette suddenly become sensible, palatable, and therefore more easily remembered and practiced.
Consider how laborious life would be were its wheels not greased by habits of cleanliness, neatness, order, courtesy; had we to make the effort of decision about every detail of dressing and eating, coming and going, life would not be worth living.
Seriously. Life. Would. Not. Be. Worth. Living. If we had to think about everything before it got done: roll over in bed, take a breath, open eyes, pump the heart 3 times, breathe again, rub eyes, pump the heart again, breathe, pull back the sheet, breathe, pump heart, pull self to sit up, breathe, stretch, pump... by the time we actually got out of bed and dressed, we'd be exhausted. Okay, so the illustration is not exactly realistic, but seriously, there are so many things we do habitually that make our lives easier. We do them without thinking.

Neatness. Developing neatness demonstrates respect for ourselves and for others.

Order. This is what makes it possible to live with others. In the same way that music is played or sung to time, so that everyone can sing or play along, we cultivate orderly lives in order to be able to coordinate and live harmoniously with others.

*We read Pastor Hsi, in which he details normal lessons for the typical young Chinese scholar. Very intense, immense quantities of memorization, which is attempted daily in a room full of chanting boys all chanting different portions. Um, yeah. Give me some living books, please. :)

This has been another 'thinking out loud' post, along the lines of chapter 6 of CM's Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, Towards a Philosophy of Education.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thoughts on Atmosphere.

*see caption below

A couple of weeks ago now, the whole week long, I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how foreboding it was that the upcoming blog carnival should be on 'atmosphere'. Not because of how constantly perfect ours is, on the contrary, it was because atmosphere has always been one of our (my) constant struggles. And if it isn't for you, I truly congratulate you. It must be nice.

Conveniently, at our place, a lot of our atmosphere troubles have to do with how habits come into play, and that's the current week's topic, so I'll spare you the details. It was nothing but wishful thinking as applies to the current topic of this post, that caused this post to be two weeks late as it is, according to the carnival schedule. I wanted it to be more. Oh well. Someday, when I'm all grown up, and have more time to write, I'll share more of our personal atmospheric details with you all.

So. Atmosphere.
It is what we breathe.
All that we communicate, what we take in and what we put out, is what our atmosphere is made up of.

It is there, about the child, his natural element, precisely as the atmosphere of the earth is about us. It is thrown off, as it were, from persons and things, stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion, by the regulated action of common sense. We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby's needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his greatgrandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges. And, what tempered 'fusion of classes' is so effective as a child's intimacy with his betters, and also with cook and housemaid, blacksmith and joiner, with everybody who comes in his way? Children have a genius for this sort of general intimacy, a valuable part of their education; vol 6 pg 97 care and guidance are needed, of course, lest admiring friends should make fools of them, but no compounded 'environment' could make up for this fresh air, this wholesome wind blowing now from one point, now from another.

“a child's natural element, thrown off by persons & things, stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion by the regulated action of common sense.”

The child's natural conditions... As parents we are always working (or at least we should be) for the best natural conditions for our children. Proper relations with mother, father, brothers, sisters, baby. Play; rough and tumble, pretend w/ furniture forts. Special visits from grandparents. Dealings with friends from the neighborhood, pets, and the great outdoors all contribute to the child's natural conditions; “no compounded 'environment' could make up for this” fresh and wholesome air.

Atmosphere is all of these things.

And compared with this, no hand-made, specially contrived, child-appropriate 'environment' could ever even come close!
We can't create an artificial environment and be able to maintain it in our homes, even if we did want to. Still, too often, too much time is spent trying to make the classroom or our schedules 'just right', when what we really want is to make sure there is grace, time and enough air to breathe. To ensure the people and things are true to life and that there's always a wide variety of stuff to know.

It's not all about force fitting an artificial world to fit the child. We want the real child to be able to function in the real world. There's no use, “sprinkling with rose-water, softening with cushions. Children must face life as it is; if their parents are anxious and perturbed children feel it in the air. "Mummie, Mummie, you aren't going to cry this time, are you?" and a child's hug tries to take away the trouble. By these things children live and we may not keep them in glass cases; if we do, they develop in succulence and softness and will not become plants of renown.”

Plants of renown. That's it. That's what we want. Choice plants that, come what may, thrive.

There are two courses open to us in this matter. One, to create by all manner of modified
conditions a hot-house atmosphere, fragrant but emasculating, in which children grow apace but are feeble and dependent; the other to leave them open to all the "airts that blow," but with care lest they be unduly battered; lest, for example, a miasma come their way in the shape of a vicious companion. v6 p99

This has been another 'thinking out loud' post, along the lines of chapter 6 of CM's Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, Towards a Philosophy of Education.

*Please pardon the watermark... I did that for the other blog, and didn't take the time to re-edit!! ;) 

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Fallen Earthly Glory {NSM}

You may have noticed a trend lately here at Fisher Academy. Nothing but nature study posts lately.
Well, too much life, I guess. It isn't at all indicative of the variety of our days. It's just that I like nature study and blogging about it is a way to keep myself accountable. Plus, I get to share some of our many monthly pictures. We have been ultra busy these last months from sun up to sundown with myriads of interesting pursuits and an equal quantity of distractions!

Or maybe you've noticed nothing and I just let the cat out of the bag?


Speaking of cats, I saw a friendly black and white spotted one the other day outside our garage door. Though, I haven't ever seen it inside our property's high wall. I did see a man last week in the street with a slingshot who let loose at one of our resident doves. I didn't hear or see anything fall, but he seemed convinced he had been successful as he eagerly tramped off into that part of high grass indicated by his baby-slinging wife following close after. However, neither of these seem sufficient explanation for the discovery of the mysterious demise of our flitting emerald gem.

"Look, Frank, that's a colibri. You 've heard of colibris?"
Frank looked at the living gem, which hung, loud humming, over some fantastic bloom, and then dashed away, seemingly to call its mate, and whirred and danced with it round and round the flower-starred bushes, flashing fresh rainbows at every shifting of the lights.
Frank watched solemnly awhile, and then:
"Qualis Natura formatrix, si talis formata? Oh my God, how fair must be Thy real world, if even Thy phantoms are so fair!"
...from chapter 17 in Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley 

Slightly traumatic it was when we found his eyes were either sunken or gone. As we gazed, we were struck that perhaps he had died recently; we saw movement! It seemed his heart was still beating or maybe his acutely wound nerves were causing him to still twitch. Only later did we discover, to our horror, the corpse was teeming with maggot-ish creatures underneath the feathers intent on their business of returning him to dust. Another pity was, the long thin wire-ish string sticking out the side of his beak, that we determined must be his tongue, gave him a rather grim aspect

Still, obviously, he had been a real beauty, so tiny too.

For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 

It seems, since the Lord of all Creation knows we'll be looking, that He takes pleasure in spoiling us by showing off His beauty and wonders specifically on Nature Study Mondays! Fun. Even Bria noticed it this week. She said, "Weird! It seems like God gives us something extra special for nature study EVERY Monday!"  :)

Share YOUR nature study posts for all of March in 
the brand spankin' new LINKY by clicking here...

Monday, March 18, 2013

nature study monday: bug camouflage

totally interesting! bug camouflage.
i think they may be husband and wife. one looks like a little butterfly, and the other just like a thorn!
and they seem like they're good parents as they're hovering pretty close to the apparent egg sacks.
from the looks of things, we're guessing they probably eat leaves.
they've stayed in the same place now for a couple of days, so we're gonna keep our eyes peeled for babies!

wanna share nature study fun?
link up your nature study posts for the month of march,
see link for details...

Click here to share your posts!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Look who hopped in... {for Nature Study Monday!}

I'm always ever so thankful for whatever comes our way on nature study mondays (or any day for that matter)!
Whether we have to go looking, or whether nature comes and finds us, we'll take whatever we get! :)

Mya made the first discovery today. She pried me up from my afternoon meltdown spot with her third insistence of, 'Mom, there's a bug I think you're going to want to take a picture of!' After 'just a minute' turned into four and a half, she was back. She was lured away again with, 'See if Javen wants to take a picture with his camera...' But she came back insisting AGAIN that I would definitely want to take a picture of it.

I'm SO glad.

We were fascinated with this guy for over an hour (okay, admittedly, I was by far the most excited, but the kids were pretty captivated too!). He was SO interesting; strikingly colorful armor, perfectly smoothed black oval eyes, striped waistcoat, pygmy wings and spiky legs. And best of all, "His face looks like a wrinkled old man's." ~ Mya

Nature loving links {from the archives}:
Some Grasshopper fun
Nature Walk... call it study if you will
Nature Study Focus: Insects {part one}

Share your March nature studies with the
 Nature Study Monday {March} Linky! 

Click here to share your posts!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nature Study Monday: Rainbows. {March link-up}

If all were rain and never sun,
No bow could span the hill;
If all were sun and never rain,
There'd be no rainbow still.
                Christina Rossetti

So, for Nature Study Monday (posted on Wednesday), I realize I am a couple days late, but incidentally, NOT a couple dollars short, since we pretty much hit the jackpot this nature study! No, we did not find the pot of gold at the end, but we were absolutely thrilled nonetheless at the appearance of this treasure, which made his showing just. in. time. for our nature study.
Oh yeah!

Promises fulfilled.

Share YOUR nature study posts for all of March below in the brand spankin' new LINKY right below...

Monday, March 4, 2013

thoughts on sacredness of personality...

If it were possible to whittle it all down to one essential distinctive of a Charlotte Mason education, if I were a gamblin' man, I'd place a wager, that at the core, we'd be left with this one. Of course, I'm not a man, and I don't gamble, but still... I do know, that she wove the importance of it in and out of every subject area. In Philosophy of Education, the idea of sacredness of personality is one that from the start immediately arrests our attention and challenges to the uttermost the cleverness of every parent/educator to the very end. Or at least it should.
Did I hear an, amen?

[Ahem.] ... moving right along.

Everybody is different. Every single one is one-of-a-kind. Unique. I'm sure you've noticed?!
Think: fingerprints, snowflakes.
How much more carefully crafted are those who bear His image?
“...we must admit, whenever we meet the Infinite in man, whether well or poorly understood, we react with respect. There is in the synagogue, in the mosque, in the pagoda, and in the wigwam, a hideous side that we detest and a sublime aspect that we adore. What a subject of meditation, and what a limitless source of reverie is this reflection of God upon the human wall!”
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Personality is how we bear his image. We bear His image in our persons.
As persons, the children too are image-bearers.
Oh, therefore, how carefully we must tread!

I read recently of an author whose grandmother cultivated prize roses.
“When I came tripping up beside her, all set for sharing two or three of those cozy moments, when no one else stood on the earth but my Gram and me, she would cup a long lovely rosebud in her hand reverently and say:
     “Would ja' jist look at that? Would ja' jist look!”
My grandmother was not an educated woman. And she was not even proud of the fact that she could practically stick a pencil into the ground and make the pencil grow! She expected things to grow. She was simple enough and wise enough to revere the very life of that rose.
She was in awe of it.
In a deep and profound and marvelous way this simple woman and this simple child bowed before the life in that rose.”
Eugenie Price
It's like that with education.

We stand in awe of the child. We don't bow before the child. We bow before the life in the child. The image borne in that child. The child as a learner. The child is fresh yet often wise, delicate yet resilient, fascinating yet often grievously dulled by a lifeless education.

The kind of education that respects personality, requires a great deal of patience, faith and ingenuity on the part of the educator.  But, you may say, “Wait a minute, I agree with everything you've said. Who's to say that I'm not already doing all this? What does it all mean? How is what you're saying specially implemented?”

Charlotte Mason talks about ways that we teachers often encroach on the personality of the child. We pressure, coax or otherwise manipulate our kids to get them to do what we want them to do, specifically in this case: to learn.

But, they will not be forced.
These principles (ie., authority and docility) are limited by the respect due to the personality of children which may not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.
v6, p81

Wily ways of manipulating:
  • Using Prizes & Punishment / Praise & Threats to motivate. “If you do this, I will...”
  • Using Love/Fear as motivators. Tyranny or improper use of affection, “If you loved me, you would...”, or, "This is a requirement if you want to pass this class."
  • Forced consumption and memorization of dry facts, and the various presentations & repetitions of such.
  • Personality of Teacher / Undue Influence (this may be the most subtle: influence, which can be used rightly or wrongly “...the schoolgirl who idolises her mistress, the boy who worships his master, is deprived of the chance of free and independent living. His personality fails to develop and he goes into the world as a parasitic plaint, clinging ever to the support of some stronger character.”)
“Therefore schoolmasters do not amiss in basing their practice upon the Desires whose very function appears to be to bring nourishment to Mind. Where we teachers err is in the stimulating the wrong Desires to accomplish our end.”  v6, p
As educators, we respect Personality when we step out of the driver's seat, into the role of advisor and guide those childish persons to look to, to depend on, to develop and be taught in all things by the Holy Spirit. They are already endowed with wonderful gifts... curiosity, attention, will, etc. Our goal is to help equip them with tools for harnessing and using those to their full potential: books, habits, reason, knowledge (though still, we're only facilitators, the child must choose to take hold and use them).

We don't expect that a rose would grow in the same way as a daffodil. We stand in awe of the uniqueness of each. We water and watch with faith in springtime. In the same way, we wouldn't expect that one boy would turn out the same as the next. We stand in awe of the uniqueness of each. We spread the feast; we guide, pray and watch with faith. 

This one idea of respecting the sacredness of personality, has been revolutionary in my parenting. In life. In ministry. I'm still learning. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that I have so much to learn. It is my sincere hope that something I've written, might prompt you too, to pick this idea up for a moment's contemplation and in time, make it your own.

Read more here.
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