Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fairy Rings

 "Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value."      - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 224

the fairy ring!

The outdoor columnist for our local paper, Ron Kuecker, wrote about his sighting of a fairy ring north of town in this week's paper.  Our wet summer and wet fall have produced conditions  perfect for the growth of this  fungal phenomena.  So of course we jumped in the car to try and find the fabled fairy ring!  The science behind fairy rings is fascinating and we had fun reading about that afterwards.  But the enchantment comes first for us.  Notice that she wouldn't go inside the ring. (!) Have you spotted any of these recently?  This is the largest  ring I have ever seen.

And these fairy rings are also one of those things whose scientific explanation is just as enchanting as the folklore surrounding it.  Here is an excerpt from The Book of Knowledge*:

The mushrooms' force of growth is so great that they often lift masses of earth and stones many times their own wight.  Sometimes you can see grass or moss still growing on top of a mushroom with the torn earth handing over the side of the mushroom's cap.  Among the most attractive mushroom growths are the famous fairy rings.  Some ancient peoples thought they resulted from the midnight dancing of fairies.  In a fairy ring a mass of fungal threads (the whole mass is called a mycelium) starts growing in a circle.  As it grows, the mycelium exhausts the soil in the circle, baring the sod, but sends up mushrooms on the circumference.  As the mushrooms decay, they enrich the soil so that dark lush grass grows inside the ring.  The ring of mushrooms enlarges year by year.  Almost perfect rings 160 feet in diameter have been observed.

close-up of a mushroom from the ring

You can read more about fairy rings here. Also, Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study has a section on them.  And do let me know if you have seen any lately.


*The Book of Knowledge is a vintage encyclopedia set worth owning.  Valerie has written a helpful description here.
fairy ring picture from The Book of Knowledge

Monday, September 8, 2014

Motto for Teachers

In thinking about humility, we have a former student of Mason's and  secretary of the PNEU, R.A. Pennethorne,  giving us her reflection on the posture for teachers.  It fits perfectly with the teachers' motto - "For the Children's Sake." Here's the full quote:

“Teaching was to be a mission carrying the breath of life to God’s children…-not looking for results or rewards or for the praise of man but praying for our children that they might increase even as we decrease.”  


P.S. - photo cred to Katie!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why "Sage Parnassus" or What's in a Name?

painting by Kay Maniscalco (rather Barbara Cooney-esque, don't you think?)
Quite often I get the question, "Could you explain the meaning behind the name of your blog?"  The answer to that question is always towards the bottom of my "About" page, but I thought I would revisit it here on the blog. Sage Parnassus Academy is the name of our school.  We had to choose a name for some reason that I don't remember anymore.  When it came time to name this blog, that's naturally what came to mind.  Read on for the reasoning!

Why Sage Parnassus? We needed a name for our house and school, so the boys chose sage because strangers would knock on our door  and ask what color we had recently painted the house.  The shade of green was called sage.  They chose Parnassus because that was the name of Amy and Laurie's house and school in Jo's Boys which they were reading at the time.  A sweet memory, really, from two little boys who are now all grown up.

They put those two words together and we decided it sounded nice.  It worked for me because Parnassus on Wheels is a book I love (about a mobile bookseller) and Parnassus generally refers to the home of poetry, literature and learning due to the fact that Parnassus in Greek mythology was a mountain in Greece where the Muses resided.

Now you know! 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Plutarch Primer, Part III

 That which is not for the interest of the whole swarm  is not for the interest of a single bee.           
 - Marcus Aurelius
my little Plutarch notebook

On an airplane trip a few years ago  I was reading Howards End is on the Landing.  The distinguished gentlemen next to me struck up a conversation about literature after asking what I was reading. I eventually learned that he knew a bit about Plutarch since he was a classics professor at UC Berkeley. I just kept asking him questions and loved listening to his stories, his love of Plutarch since childhood, his archeology excursions, and more.  The flight was too short.  How much of who he is now was inspired by his reading of Plutarch?  I don't know for sure, but listening to his passion on the topic was a treat for me.

Since I wrote about some of the whys and hows in Part 1 and Part II, I will share some resources that I use to prepare for teaching Plutarch.

1.  I like to listen to the late Professor J. Rufus Fears.  He has two lecture series that are part of The Great Courses - Famous Greeks and Famous Romans.  He weaves historical, archaeological, and literary scholarship with a life from Plutarch, nicely blending it all together and providing me with a fabulous and interesting overview.  Not all of the lives are covered in this series, but most are. Preview them from your public library or buy them from The Great Courses. Famous Greeks has some handy maps, too.

2. Retellings are sometimes nice for the teacher to read first.  My favorite is by Charles Robinson, but it only covers 10 lives. You can read some children's retellings at the Baldwin Project for free - Plutarch's Lives For Boys and Girls and Our Young Folks' Plutarch.

3. Ambleside Online has a detailed Plutarch page with all sorts of helps, including Anne White's updated study guides.

4. North's translation of Plutarch's Lives.  I do think this is important if your aims are the same as CM's when it comes to Plutarch and I touched on that in Part I.  Personally, I don't care for the Wordsworth Classics of World Literature edition.  It's too big and unwieldy, the formatting doesn't break the text up nicely, there are no notes at all.  I'm just not a fan.  You can find nice editions online at the Online Library of Liberty and the  Hathi Trust digital library.

5. Here is a book that Sara Dalton put together for teaching Timoleon.  She formatted North's translation and added a few pictures.  She recommends that you use the "booklet" setting when printing. Really, you could do this for any of the Lives to make it more convenient to read. (Make sure you tinker with the settings to get it right before printing!)

That's about all I want to recommend because I don't want you to get bogged down in the planning, preparing, and presentation of Plutarch.  Just remember that this is a mind-to-mind thing.  A little scaffolding, reading, and then narrating. You can do this! And who knows what your student will take away from it.  He might just want to be a classics professor someday.


Here is a post about the Blackie editions Mason used.

Plutarch Primer, Part I
Plutarch Primer, Part II