Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Opinions During This Politcal Season and Always

I didn't plan to be reading Richard III during this election season.  But, since we're here, it's hard not to draw parallels and comparisons to the current political climate. Richard is a master of spin. Shakespeare presents this amazing ability of Richard's and we can hardly believe it ourselves - how can he do this? How does he get people to buy into his schemes?  Such a fascinating lesson for all of us, I think. And we're only on Act II. It's interesting to ask the students what they think of Richard and to hear their opinions.

Well-thought-out opinions are a major theme in a Mason education.  This whole process produces discerning, informed citizens. Rather important in any day and age.  I remember the first time I read that she thought having a just opinion was akin to saving a life.  She said, "The person who thinks out his opinions modestly and carefully is doing his duty as truly as if he helped to save a life." The culture today doesn't reflect this sentiment very well with anyone and everyone spouting off how they feel or what they think about any given situation.

Voting is a right.  But before that comes our duty to work out just opinions. This is where the real work lies.

In her fabulous chapter "Opinions: Justice in Thought", you will find an outline* for forming opinions which I have found helpful to think through when asked my opinion by others or when talking to my children.  It is especially helpful if one of them throws out strong opinions (as teenagers are wont to do) that aren't solidly based.

First of all, you have to have previously thought about the subject and collected some knowledge about it.

Second, it really needs to be our own opinion and not the repeating of a fb meme or some other person's popular article.

Third, we need to at least try hard to look at it objectively. 

Whew.  That sounds like a lot of work and it is. But whether talking politics, personal relationships, or even working through matters of faith, we need to have those well-thought-out opinions.  It's a critical skill WE need, as well as our children.


*An Opinion Worth Having

We may gather three rules, then, as to an opinion that is worth the having. We must have thought about the subject and know something about it, as a gardener does about the weather; it must be our own opinion, and not caught up as a parrot catches up its phrases; and lastly, it must be disinterested, that is, it must not be influenced by our inclination.
-From Ourselves, Book II, page 180.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Citizenship Notebook

As I was preparing for the Weekend of Living Ideas, I revisited some notes about keeping a Citizenship notebook.   I know that others have used certain aspects of this here and there, and certainly I have made use of all of these notebooking activities - just not compiled into one notebook. Here, all the ideas are gathered and placed in one 3-ring binder with 5 sections. As you can see, you could begin building this notebook with younger students and slowly expand to incorporate appropriate activities. I don't share this to overwhelm you, but to inspire you! Seeing how all these elements could fit together will hopefully further your understanding of Citizenship.

      1. OURSELVES 
    • narrations
    • maps
    • narration entries
    • progress of a bill
        4. POETRY
    • commonplace entries/quotes
    • striking words/definitions
    • narrations of other great lives
    • notes of historical events 
    • magnanimous folk
I bounced many ideas for this off of Bonnie and Jen a few years ago.  I thought I might share with you in order that you might develop your own Citizenship notebooks. I would love to know your thoughts on this and perhaps what you have used with success in your homeschool.

Autumn blessings,


P.S. - more of my thoughts on Citizenship can be found here.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Autumnal News and a Book

I want to recommend a book I recently discovered that is full of whimsy and charm.  In fact, my dd(15) keeps taking it up to her room to read and I keep asking her to bring it back down.  More on that in a second.

Exciting news for Living Education Lessons!  First, there is now open registration for a new Season 2 that begins mid-October.  I always like to begin new studies in unison with my children's new studies. It's an autumn thing. Second, the LEL community has grown and I am excited to share a new website for members.  It will be a quiet place on the web where we can concentrate and encourage one another without the distractions and noise so often found on social media. It will be ready in time for this new class coming up. Visit the LEL page to read more or to sign up for the email notice list.

Also, I presented a new pin design with a little talk on the history of the original P.U.S. badges this past weekend at the Delightful Living Seminar in Menahaga, MN.   This one doesn't have "Living Education Retreat" on it and is smaller. These pins will be available for purchase soon and I will certainly let you know.  Here's a peek:

Finally, on October 1st and 2nd, I will be at the Weekend of Living Ideas in Okoboji, Iowa. The trees should be gorgeous!  This is a small, quiet gathering with big ideas and inspiration.   I will be presenting 4 sessions, including a new talk on habits, Getting Rid of Weeds and Fostering Flowers: The Vital Role of Habits. Sign up soon if it works for you to join me!

Okay, so back to this sweet book I wanted to share with you*. "It's my job with a picture book to slow children down, " said Shirley Hughes in this article. I love that.  I have a small collection of her picture books.(Every child should read Dogger.) While I was at Loganberry Books last month, this title tumbled into my hands and didn't leave - Year Round Things to Do.

For each month of the year, there is a lovely title page with a poem and then:
  • About
  • Bird
  • Flower
  • Pet
  • Out of Doors (games)
  • Indoors (games and crafts)
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Games
  • Saints
...and other categories all specific to that month. September brought us Conkers and Acorns, Quarter Day, and Budgerigars. Very British. And the best part is that right now you can see them on Amazon for about 15 cents. Woot!

I hope your new school year is flowing along nicely.


*Year Round Things to Do was first published in 1966 as Something to Do. My copy follows the 1975 printing. While not compiled by Shirley, she did the illustrations in 1966.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Planning post 2016! Should You Have Your Child Reread Books?

Occasionally, I hear from a mother who wonders if she should have her student reread a book by assigning the same book again the following school year or having him reread it during his free time. Usually,  the parent feels like her student didn't "get it" and the concern is that there may be a gap or a lack of understanding if the child just moves on to the next book. I understand this, as I am fairly certain that there have been a few of these situations with my own children when a book didn't seem to be really understood by the student.

My response is to not redo any book. Let me explain.

First, do make sure you are scaffolding the child into the book properly.  This could be a simple introduction to what he is reading and maybe the why behind it, as opposed to handing the student a book and just telling him to read it without the proper scaffolding, narrating, and subsequent exam.

Second, does having a child reread a book respect his personhood?  Do we not think that he won't take from it exactly what he needs at this point in his life?  How would you feel if you read a book, did the work (narrating),  and  took a few thoughts away from it just to have someone say you didn't get the things out of it that the teacher thought you should have? Could this be an example of not cooperating with the Holy Spirit as He educates your child?

Thirdly, if the feast is rich and vast, moving on will ensure fresh thoughts and ideas will come his way that might inspire him to dig deeper into subjects and books they have previously been acquainted with.  If they choose to reread on their own time, that is a different and wonderful thing than assigning it as a school book or even assigning it as a  free read.

Two years ago, I assigned my daughter Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, a book that explores how a modern day Inspector from Scotland Yard becomes obsessed with a portrait of Richard III.   No scaffolding or anything, just handed it to her. (It was a rough year for many reasons.)  She didn't like it, didn't understand it and hasn't picked it up since.  Fast forward to this year as I am preparing Richard III for our Shakespeare play this term. She notices the picture of Richard III I have on my planning sheet, mentions some book she  read that had something to do with this, finds it on my shelf and states that she needs to reread it, as it didn't make much sense to her before. (Silent "YES!" from mom!)

Large room, big banquet, rich feast.  CM knew what she was doing.

Here we have Miss Mason talking about repeating lessons and how, if everything is in place, this should never be necessary if the student understands that the onus of the work is on him (the student), not us (the teacher). While books are not lessons, they are part and parcel of the lessons and ideas are ideas.
All school work should be conducted in such a manner that children are aware of the responsibility of learning; it is their business to know that which has been taught. To this end the subject matter should not be repeated. We ourselves do not attend to the matters in our daily paper which we know we shall meet with again in a weekly review, nor to that if there is a monthly review in prospect; these repeated aids result in our being persons of wandering attention and feeble memory. To allow repetition of a lesson is to shift the responsibility for it from the shoulders of the pupil to those of the teacher who says, in effect,––"I'll see that you know it," so his pupils make no effort of attention. Thus the same stale stuff is repeated again and again and the children get bored and restive, ready for   pranks by way of a change. - Volume 6, p. 75
So move on and keep the frequent changes of books happening in your household.  If you need a reason, Miss Mason gives you one here:
"One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child's intellectual life. We need not say one word about the necessity for living thought in the teacher; it is only so far as he is intellectually alive that he can be effective in the wonderful process which we glibly call 'education.' " - Volume 2, p. 279
And please don't overlook the fact that YOU need to be intellectually alive, too.


Here are some previous planning posts you might enjoy: