Posted by: Brian Glass | August 4, 2010

Classical Education Part 4 – Miscellaneous Observations

In my reading on classical education I have comes across some interesting tidbits that I am not going to take the time to expound upon in depth, but are worth making known.

On Sentence Diagramming: I found a book with some of the most remarkably complex sentence diagrams I have ever seen. The one I’ve included here is by no means the most complex.

On Phonics: Most of the books on classical education you come across these days make a point of criticizing the modern look-say method. They instead favor phonics. While phonics is actually quite a bit older than the look-say method, it is not particularly ancient. It was in fact invented by Blaise Pascal circa 1655. Prior to that full syllables were memorized by students. I’m not suggesting we dump phonics and go back to the syllabic method, but perhaps Dick and Jane weren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. “Is Russia about to forget the lesson of Blaise Pascal?” is an interesting read.

On Composition: For at least 1500 years and probably significantly longer, students have learned pre-rhetorical composition using a Greek approach called the Progymnasmata that is attributed to Aphthonius of Antioch. This basically involves a fair amount of imitation of text and method of excerpts of classic authors. While originally written in Greek, the Latin translation has been used for much of that time. You can actually have a look at the Progymnasmata in Latin. An example of an old English based text using this approach is A booke called the Foundacion of Rhetorike. Both of these are quite impractical for the homeschool, but we did find three hand-holding homeschool programs that are based on these methods in varying degrees:

On Spelling: Noah Webster’s famous speller is also an interesting option for spelling. However, as we found with the composition materials, it is somewhat impractical for the busy homeschool teacher since it doesn’t come with a hand-holding teacher guide.

Posted by: Brian Glass | July 31, 2010

Classical Education Part 3

If you have been following this short series you will recall that I started my study of Classical Education reading The English Grammar Schools to 1660 by Foster Watson. I think I will still come back to finish this book but I have since made a number of detours and not really lost my way, but changed course a bit. I felt there was some sense of urgency since we will be starting a new school year in a few short months.

I acquired a copy of Climbing Parnsassus by Tracy Lee Simmons. I haven’t quite completed it, but it did give me a whirlwind tour of the history of education and a sort of vision of what the purpose of a classical education was at various times. In addition to this I have been spending time helping Shari to sort out where we want to go in a more practical and less theoretical way. While a solid theoretical understanding is important, it eventually comes down to practice.

I have come to realize that what I was really looking for was a “traditional” education. And in the sense that classics are books that have been approved by time, it is very much rooted in tradition. That is, it is passed down from one generation to the next or “traditioned” to the next generation. But alas, what I found in this regard is that much of the living tradition has been broken and consequently lost. My suspicion is that there are little pockets of this important tradition hiding in small schools or monasteries as it happened through the middle ages, but I don’t have access to this. The best I can do is reconstruct from books or follow the example of others who already have. We are The Civilization that had to Teach Itself with its own Books. And in the spirit of tradition I think joining those who have already begun is wisest. This is the reemergence of an ancient tradition.

I have never been humble, but I have finally come to understand that I am truly ignorant. What people took for granted 200 years ago is unknown to me. Yes, I can develop software with the best of them, but does that really make me a better person? Has it taught me to strive for excellence? Do I even know what excellence is?  We stand upon the shoulders of giants and I barely even know who they were and what they thought. This will be mine and Shari’s education as well as our children’s.

In compiling our curriculum for this coming year and tentative plans throughout high school we have found four key curriculum sources that are exemplary models of classical education. By far the most influential in our decisions is Memoria Press and Highlands Latin School. These are essentially one organization. One half is an actual school and the other half is a publisher. We have used their materials and find them to be of high quality. We have talked with their people and found them to be knowledgeable and intelligent. The skeleton of the plan we have developed is based on the Highlands Latin School curriculum with some adaptations for our home-school environment and for Orthodoxy.

Other sources of import have of course been The Well-Trained Mind and The Latin-Centered Curriculum. WTM has been and continues to be very useful as a resource guide. We very much like the philosophy of LCC and appreciate the purity of his program, but we have found it to be a bit over-ambitious. If your kids are geniuses then LCC might work just fine, but we think that Highlands Latin School’s sequence is more practical and age-appropriate. It still functions well as a resource guide. We have also found Kolbe Academy’s curriculum to be useful.

Shari and I will continue to post on this topic and likely post the details of our choices over the coming weeks and months.

Posted by: shariglass | July 28, 2010

Chicken Mummy Day 6 and Day 12

Day 6

Day 6

Day 12

Day 12 - Don't you wish you could give it a bath?

Day 12 - Don't you wish you could give it a bath?

Our chicken mummy has lost a bit of its excitement, but we are (or at least I am) still persevering.  We made it from Day 3 to Day 6 before we changed the “salts” again.  Truth be told it probably should have been done again on Day 5…but that is the way things go around here.

I was asked at church this week if it was smelly.  While double ziplocked in bags and under all the salt it doesn’t.  However when you take it out there is an odor.  Not really a rotting odor…but you can still smell the rubbing alcohol that it was last washed in, along with a unique odor.  Not bad, but not entirely pleasant either!

I haven’t made it to Sam’s to look for salt yet (we live in the boondocks and Wal-mart’s 20 min. away; Sam’s is another 10 past that).  But I did discover $0.38 cylinders of salt at Wal-mart.  Problem was, apparently everyone else had discovered them to because there were only 6 containers left.  We originally used the larger boxes of pickling salt.  The table salt is finer and it seems like it takes more of it to cover the bird.

We stretched the next change from Day 6 all the way to Day 12.  Again, it probably should have happened on Day 10.  Some of the salt was starting to look wet by then.  By Day 12 it was all wet.  Every time I take that bird out and dump it’s current salt I have this great urge to wash it off, which would probably NOT be helpful since the whole point is to dry it out.  So I continue to resist the urge to clean the thing up a bit and limit myself to shaking and scraping off as much salt as I can.  (I have this horrible vision of a leg or wing popping off as I’m doing this one day!)

Living in Florida makes one think about bugs more often than some other states, at least the ones I’ve lived in.  Yesterday it dawned on me that these lovely bugs would like nothing better than to get at our mummy.   I decided I was immensely glad that no bugs had made it through the two ziplock bags.  Not that they would…but it was one of those thoughts one thinks as one is shaking salt off a dehydrating chicken carcass.  (And we don’t really have a lot of bugs in our house.  Our Bug Maintenance people – we don’t have exterminators down here because the act of exterminating is apparently impossible – do a great job.)

Technically we should be at the “check once a week”  stage of our chicken in salts.  About 4 more weeks to go.   We’ll see how THAT works out.

I was having trouble getting the lighting right with our camera and yesterday (Day 12) I discovered the perfect setting…the FOOD setting 🙂

Posted by: shariglass | July 19, 2010

Lawnmower ramblings

by Shari

Noon on Saturday and I’m out pushing (yeah, we still use a push mower) the lawn mower, mowing the side of our house.  Noon in Florida in July is not the most enjoyable time of day to be out, but that’s how it goes sometimes.   I walk past our next door neighbor who’s riding his mower up and down his side.  I smile and wave.  I wonder if he’s thinking why in the world is she out mowing the lawn and not her husband?  Maybe it doesn’t even cross his mind.

I’m mowing and not Brian for several reasons.  One is the fact that it IS now noon and Mr. Red Head doesn’t do so well out in the sun at this time.  Two is the fact that he’s already been outside longer than I have since I was in with the baby part of the time.  And third and MOST important is that I’ve traded with him.  He watches the baby while I mow!  I rather enjoy the change.

(When I get back inside Brian wonders how I get anything done during the day, because all he’s managed to do while I’ve been mowing is watch the baby…nothing else.  I say that’s my point exactly!!!)

Earlier that morning Micah mowed most of the front yard.  He made his father proud a couple months ago by deciding that he was big enough to do some mowing.  His assigned task is the front yard, not too big since our house happens to be the closest to the road on our street. When he was almost done (which was much longer than it should have been because he kept taking breaks because he was sweaty – umm that’s sort of unavoidable) the lawnmower starts making a horrible noise.  Brian, who can fix any computer, but isn’t too good with mechanical things, proclaims the mower is probably done for.  At least as far as our collective talents go.  He tinkers with it for a while and but doesn’t find a problem.  We all stop for breakfast, because we really had been TRYING to get our yard work done before noon.  Brian blesses our food and I add a blessing for the lawnmower.

Over breakfast we dream about a riding mower, which was not in our budget, ponder the quality of push mower we ought to get, and wonder if there might be a resale store for lawnmowers somewhere in Naples.  Brian goes back out to have one last look at the mower.  He’s back in shortly for a hammer (which doesn’t sound at all promising for the poor mower).  He thinks perhaps the blade is hitting on something.  And indeed that is the problem.  A few minutes and some well placed hits later, the lawnmower is up and running.

Hence the other reason I am mowing at noon, in July, in Florida.

Throughout our ponderings during breakfast, I had a feeling God would take care of our lawnmower problem.  And He did!  God even blesses lawn mowers.

Posted by: shariglass | July 18, 2010

Chicken Mummy Day 3

by Shari, July 18

So, we were not suppose to have to do anything with the chicken today.  We were SUPPOSE to be able to go 2 days now without changing her salts.  Such was not to be.  Wet chicken mummy salt = chicken mummy needs new salt.  So out she came, maybe looking a tad bit more wrinkly, and in went my last big box of salt.  Tomorrow I think I’ll head to Sam’s in hunt of a large amount of salt.

I’m awfully glad I didn’t take up mummification as my profession.  I’m beginning to have doubts as to whether or not we will be successful chicken mummiers.  But alas, only day 3 of 6 weeks…only time will tell.

Posted by: shariglass | July 18, 2010

Invisible to make God visible

by Shari

This was on the back of our church bulletin today.  I found it very profound.  An incredible snapshot of what church should be like.  And if we take the liberty to extend it a bit further…to what our own lives, everyday, should be like.  Me – invisible – making God visible.

Quote from a Maryland TV Newscast Recently on The Glory of the Liturgy of the Orthodox Church

“We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides.  It’s an austere ritual, in the sense of – there’s nothing new here; it’s sublime, in the sense of creating a clearer view into Heaven.  The priest can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what he thinks matter little.  He hasn’t written the service that he officiates.  It isn’t about him or his prowess. He’s an interchangeable functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such, never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the Perfection of the Mysterious Divine.

That is the role of every priest or preacher – invisibility, while making God seen.”

Posted by: shariglass | July 17, 2010

Chicken Mummy – Day 2

Day 2 - cleaning off the mummy

by Shari, Saturday, July 17

Re-Salting

Today the salt mixture around our mummy-to-be was definitely wet – especially at the bottom.  Next conundrum: How do you take a chicken-turn-mummy out of it’s wet (rock solid) salts and ziplock bags?  Very carefully!  I had visions of a leg or wing popping off as I was holding on to it through the plastic bag.  We had to chisel the salt mixture out of the middle of the bird.  But it was a successful operation and said mummy bird is now relaxing in it’s 2nd salt mixture.  (It didn’t look much different from yesterday, and thankfully, it didn’t smell either!)

Posted by: shariglass | July 17, 2010

Chicken Mummy – Day 1

by Shari, Friday, July 16

This chicken has no idea what's about to happen.

Today during our Egypt Day we began the lengthy process of mummifying a chicken.  The kind of chicken you by at the grocery store, already plucked, gutted, etc.  This one didn’t even have the little packet of innards that so often meet you when you prepare a whole chicken.  That was o.k. with me.  I wasn’t planning on doing the canopic jars anyway!  The entire process will take 6 weeks or so, and that’s all BEFORE we actually wrap the thing up.

We used the “recipe” from the Story of the World: Ancient Times activity book.   After thoroughly washing the bird, first with water and then with rubbing alcohol, we proceeded to stuff it with a mixture of Salt, baking soda, baking powder and a few herbs…today we used basil and rosemary.  After it was stuffed we covered it with the mixture (all in a ziplock bag).  Put it into a 2nd ziplock bag and there it sits, the beginning of the drying cycle.  We are suppose to change the salts tomorrow (day 2) and then progressively more days apart, whenever the salt appears wet.  After about 6 weeks we will stuff it with something – they suggest sawdust, material scraps, etc. and then wrap it.  I’ll be amazed if we make it the whole 6 weeks

The salting process begins.

without forgetting about the thing.  And if I’m really good I’ll update here each time we do something to it!

Day 1 - completed

Posted by: shariglass | July 17, 2010

Egypt Day

Creating Egyptian goddess Bastet

by Shari on Friday, July 16

Most of the time we’re pretty boring homeschoolers.  We do our work, try to find interesting books and activities for history and science, but never enough “fun” projects to satisfy Hannah.  So every once in a while the kids talk me into a special “day”.  This past spring we had a “castle day.”  Today we had “Egypt Day.”  These are fun days, because we spend the whole day learning about one subject and doing several little (or not so little) projects.

Here’s what we did today:

  • Read much of the book Curse of the Pharoahs: My adventures with Mummies by Zahi Hawass and National Geographic.  This is a very interesting book by the man who is in charge of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt.  We got this book from the library.
  • We watched a video that we got from Netflix called “Egypt Eternal: The Quest for Lost Tombs” also by National Geographic.   One of the archeologist featured in this movie was Zahi Hawass.  The coincidence between the book and the move wasn’t intentional but it worked out very well, since the two were talking about the same excavations.
  • We began the mummification of a chicken (see the next post for more on that!).
  • We made clay tablets and wrote in them with hieroglyphs.
  • The kids created an Egypt god out of clay…both chose to do the goddess Bestat – which is a cat.
  • Hannah set up an art station with several projects including: punch a pyramid, paint a picture, make a mummy, and a couple other things.  (Micah’s make a mummy included a drawn dude about 2 inches high with googly eyes popping out of its head.)
  • We had several other Egyptian library books we looked at throughout the day.

    Two versions of Bastet

It’s amazing how fast the day goes when you’re doing projects like this.  We even went into the evening, playing a game called Pyramid, that we didn’t get to during the day.  That worked out well, because Sarah was in bed and Brian could play with us as well.

On a sort of side note, Hannah and I have been reading about Egypt, Egyptian gods, and myths all summer.  Then the other week in Bible class we read the story about the Israelites making the golden calf “god” while Moses was up on the mountain with God.  It was interesting to be able to put the fact that the Egyptians made their gods look like animals with the Israelites making a god in the form of an animal, the calf.  It was a sort of “ah-ha” moment.  A “hey, we now know why (sort of) they did that” moment.

Posted by: shariglass | July 10, 2010

Birds we’ve seen recently

Limpkin

Limpkin

I haven’t been nearly as faithful at posting about our birding as I had intended (no surprise there!)  So here’s what we’ve seen or heard over the past few months…at least as much as my memory is currently functioning 🙂  Hannah and I have discovered that a big part of birding is listening.  Once we know a bird call we are much more likely to find it when we are out in the woods.  And there’s been a few birds that I haven’t seen but have heard.

At Corkscrew Swamp (overheard a kid the last time we were there “Are we in the Everglades?”…yep…5 miles away from our house):

  • Limpkins – which are quite rare around here and hadn’t been seen there for a couple years, or so the dude at the desk told us.
  • Owl – we think it was a Barred Owl and it was way back in the woods.  We didn’t spot it, we NEVER would have spotted it on our own!

At Our House

  • Chuck-will’s-widow – This is the one I only heard.  Amazingly I had an inkling that the weird bird call we were hearing around 10pm might be this just from reading about it in my bird book.  I finally got around to checking out it’s call and there it was!
  • Common Nighthawk – These I had only heard as well until this past Friday morning when I saw two fly overhead while I was out jogging.  We here these all the time when we go out in the evening.
  • And of course there’s always the plethora of mocking birds, grackles, boat-tailed grackles, mourning doves, and the blackheaded and turkey vultures.

At Tigertail Beach (on Marco Island):

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Reddish Egret (White Morph)

Reddish Egret (White Morph)

  • Snowy Egret – I LOVE their feet!
  • Great White Egret
  • White Ibis – saw a young one of these as well as adults.  First glance we weren’t sure what the young dude was, but you can’t miss the Ibis beak!
  • Black Skimmers (very cool birds that fly just above the water with their mouths open and the bottom half of their beak “skimming” through the water)
  • Least Tern
  • Reddish Egret: Dark Morph and White Morph – There was a guy there who clued us into the fact that we were seeing a White Morph.  Apparently they are pretty rare.  It looked like it was possessed the way it was dancing around in the water.  Pretty crazy, but common behavior.
  • I know we saw more birds than these, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind… There were various gulls, and the little beach birds.  This is an AWESOME place to go birding if you are ever in SWFL.

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