Monday, May 21, 2018

Norms and Nobility--prologue

As part of my continuing teachers education I'm taking a course next year through Circe Institute's Atrium program. We will be working through the book, Norms and Nobility by David Hicks. This book on offers a compelling argument in favor of classical education and how true education involves so much more than the small areas we have relegated it to in modern thought. Education involves the whole person, not just a body of facts that must be learned over the course of 12 or so years.

I'm going to try blogging my way through the book, chapter by chapter (or, likely, section by section. It may not be entire chapters at once) over the course of the next year. I'm starting my read through a bit early as I find that I have a bit more time on my hands for reading now than I had expected. (More on that in a future post, possibly.) So, without further ado, here is my summary-with-thoughts of the Preface

 Norms and Nobility--Preface

Written ten years after the publishing of the book in 1981, David Hicks seems to have mellowed a bit. I found it interesting that he said, if he were to write this book again, he would make fewer sweeping claims for the ancients. They did not have all the answers, and the answers they had were not unified. They did not all come to the same conclusions. Rather, Norms and Nobility is "about an ancient ideal expressed as "classical Education" against which the modern school is weighed and found wanting."

The ultimate aim of education, he goes on to say, is not thinking but acting. It isn't knowing what to do, but doing it. "The sublime premise of a classical education asserts that right thinking will lead to right, if not righteous, acting." Children do not just need to be trained into rational, logical thinkers. Facts are not enough. They need to be able to act in a wise and noble way.

From my commonplace:

Those who believe as I do that teaching students to reason well is not enough threaten, Alder would argue, to turn education into indoctrination while placing a greater burden on the teacher and his lesson than either can bear. Yet it seems to me that the difference between indoctrination and education is more one of degree than of kind, and my teaching experience has lead me to believe that unless my aims are more broadly defined than to make my students rational thinkiers, I will surely fail to achieve even that. Education must address the whole student, his emotional and spiritual sides as well as his tational. The aims of education, the teachers methods, the books and lessons, the traditions, and regulations of the school--all must express not just ideas, but norms, tending to make young people not only rational, but noble.
 This is why the high value that modern methods of teaching place on skepticism is, perhaps, misplaced. In modern thought, dogma is bad but skepticism is good. Students are encouraged to accept nothing, question everything. These adolescent students are, as yet, untrained and inexperienced and yet they are expected to have the capability of being able to distinguish for themselves right and wrong. Skepticism rejects the idea that anything deserves our wholehearted allegiance--everything must be questioned.

The emphasis placed on skepticism and analysis has likely come from those who watched these tools used in the field of science, and saw the wonders that were discovered as a result. The tools were taken and applied to the areas of traditional wisdom and morality to grave consequences. Surely it is possible to both accept that there are certain areas that are simply right or wrong, and other areas where the use of skepticism and analysis is a useful tool.

Perhaps, though, it is not the schools curriculim, but rather the teachers themselves that are most in need of reform. A teacher must first be a student, and as soon as a teacher stops learning he or she can no longer truly teach. The greatest value in the curriculem he proposed, David Hicks continues, "is that it sustains and nurtures teachers as practitioners of the art of learning while discouraging nonlearners from entering the profession."

Only a school (and by extension a curriculum) that encourages teachers to be always learning will keep its teachers fresh and fearless and its students happy and motivated in their studies, ready to test their lessons against life. 

I have to admit, as I enter my fourth week of first grade homeschooling my oldest, I am so excited to read this book. As I see her eyes light up as she comes into contact with the Great Books and makes her own connections makes me fully believe that this is true. There is so much more to education than passing a series of tests.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hallelujah: An Advent book by Cindy Rollins

When I found out that Cindy Rollins had written an advent book I was so excited!! I first heard of her when my hubby directed me to her blog right before it was closed. He wanted me to look it over before all the good stuff was put away (It's up again, so take a look!). Later she published two books, Mere Motherhood, and A Handbook to Morning time. These books were so wonderful to read in the immediate postpartum after Robert was born--in fact, I'd finished both of them within his first week! Her writing style is easy to read, and I felt like I was growing and learning right alongside her as I read the story of her homeschooling years.

Hallelujah is her plan for listening through the Hallelujah chorus throughout the advent season. She's broken the piece down to daily sections with corresponding scripture readings that make daily listenings very manageable. They run from about 3 minutes to about 11 minutes long, and we typically listened to it over dinner while lighting our advent candles. It was such a joy to hear my daughters singing along with it--even though they are not reading quite yet there was enough repeat in the piece itself that there were many parts they were able to sing along.

In addition to the daily guide to listening to the Messiah, Cindy has included some recipes and thoughts on celebrating the advent and Christmas seasons, weekly hymns, poems, and suggestions for the smaller holidays in the season of celebration and anticipation. There was more material than we could cover in a single season, but I loved it so much I am not planning on moving on to a different book for some time. I expect as we use this book over the years the rhythms will become more and more familiar.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Church Calendar

This year I've been making an intentional effort to embrace the traditional holidays and celebrations. In our church tradition there is not much talk of the Church Calendar, other than the major holidays (Christmas, Easter). But as I learn more I've found so much rich church history to draw from. The Advent season this past year, for example, was such a joyful anticipation this year as we slowly, day-by-day checked off the days until we reached the Messiah's birth and All Joy broke out in glorious light!

I know this is an unseasonal time to write about Christmas on a blog, as proper blogging means writing about it in advance rather than after-the-fact, but I was busy savoring the season. And I want these thoughts to be available for next year.

My inspiration this year started with an advent devotional by Cindy Rollins. Cindy Rollins is a mom of 9 (8 boys!) who schooled her children at home and blogged about it through the process. You can find her blog here. Sadly, the paper copies of her advent book were sold out by the time I was ready to purchase it, but fortunately it was available on Kindle so I still was able to read it! My other inspiration for this year was a cookbook recommended in the back of her book, A Continual Feast. I think I'd like to give each of these books their own book review, so I will leave this here for now.

I'm going to write about several posts about different parts of the season this year, and update this post as a directory:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Blessings abound

We've had a lot of pans on the fire the last couple months, some of which will be the subject of future posts. But perhaps the biggest news for the moment--we are expecting! Another baby is due next spring--three now with us, one with Jesus. Our arms and our hearts are very full. Thank you, Lord, for your blessings! 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gardening exploits

It happens every spring. The weather gets pretty, the plants start growing, I start seeing the occasional flower, and I get the bug to grow things. Every time. I'm not a particularly skilled gardener (yet). I'm not sure what color my thumb is (probably not green). But I make up for what I lack in skills and experience with a bushel of enthusiasm combined with a few hours on pintrest and long conversations with people who do garden.

There are two things I like to grow--flowers for my own personal enjoyment (whether as cut flowers in a vase or in my yard) or fruits and veggies to eat. Unlike my hubby, I'm pretty unenthusiastic about landscaping as an art form, or "curb appeal." I just want to see things grow.   That said, I was outlining my rather ambitious plan for a HUGE square foot vegetable garden and HUNDREDS of flowers in the back yard, when hubby told me we really should do something with the front of the house before we planted our entire acre with tomatoes and gladiolas.

I had to admit, he had a point. While the front of the house does have three really pretty arched windows that I adore, everything else is overgrown and ignored. We have a couple bushes obviously intended for some sort of sculpturing, but they've been growing wild and free since we moved in. Those overgrown ugly bushes are the only nod to "landscaping" around, and I actively dislike them.

So, we put our heads together and came up with a plan. It's going to involve ferns, and I might have used the words: wild, fairy, elf and garden as I planned it. The old ugly bush/trees are coming out, and good riddance. Pictures to follow once we get the project started (the plants arrived yesterday, so that should be soon!)

The vegetable garden is still happening--we have a lot left over from last year, and so will just expand a bit on what we already have. I'll be posting updates on the veggies as well. I think I learned a lot last year, and should be able to make it more productive this year.

Monday, February 22, 2016

My favorite sprouted bread recipe

I make this sprouted bread recipe several times a week, and we all enjoy it. The bread comes out with a good crumb, and makes excellent sandwiches. I haven't had to experiment with the recipe at all, which is a major bonus for a mom of toddlers!

• 4 tablespoons room-temperature butter
• 4 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 1/2 cups room-temperature water
• 4 cups Essential Eating Organic Sprouted Flour (wheat or spelt)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
• 2 teaspoons yeast

Combine all ingredients in the bread machine, in the order listed: wet ingredients first, followed by the dry ingredients. Set bread machine cycle to "quick bread" and press start. On my machine it takes about 2 hours, and the house smells amazing the entire time it is cooking!

When I ran out of butter I successfully made this recipe with avocado oil.

I have also used this bread for pizza crust, by starting the "dough" cycle instead of the "quick bread" cycle. I usually sub olive oil for the butter, and add some Italian spices to the dough.

I purchase sprouted flour through my monthly Azure Standard order. It is also available on Amazon, though the price is not quite as good.

This recipe works just fine with regular flour, though I prefer both the flavor and health benefits of sprouted flour.

I'm sure this will work just fine if made by hand. I prefer the machine, and so have never tried it. If you do, please let me know in the comments how it goes!!

Recipe Credit: I found this recipe on Essential Eating, however because they have changed their website I can no longer link directly to the recipe. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chicken update

Well, the last four months have been full of LOTS of learning about chickens. I guess I knew adding a totally new animal to our mini-farm would be challenging, but the biggest challenges we faced were totally not on my radar.

Challenge #1:  AKA Heinz. The best, most trainable dog in the world. It took 4 chickens, 4 incidents, before he really figured out that he MUST NOT play with chickens until they stop playing back. He knows it now. I trust that, if exposed to a chicken, he will resist as long as his still-semi-puppy nature will allow. Think the kid and the marshmallow test.  I think the chicken would have at least 15-30 minutes unmolested. Not that I'm willing to test that theory and risk another Incident.

Challenge #2: Random possum attack. One chicken down several months ago. Hasn't been back. My theory is the dogs might kill the chickens, but they also scare away predators. So that's sort of a win, right?

Challenge #3: This adorable puppy, RollyPoly. You wouldn't know he's a chicken killing machine, would you? He looks all adorable and sweet. He's cuddly and fluffy, too. And he REALLY likes to play with the chickens. Until they stop moving. Because really, they are just fluffy squeaker toys, right? Oh, man. He got in the pen with a new batch of chicks through a hole in the fence we didn't know about. It was truly awful. Our fences are so much better now. He's also starting to respond to training, so there is hope he'll calm down once he gets out of the young puppy stage.

 Challenge #4: Random chicken stupidity. I forget what all the chickens have done to get themselves killed.  We've lost at least a couple to sheer birdbrained stupidity (and that's not including the ones that flew over the fence to play with the dogs. Fence is taller now). I'm ALWAYS sad. I ALWAYS cry when I find one. But at the same time--seriously? How many crazy things can a bird do?? That said, we always fix whatever it was that the chicken did and never loose two to the same stupid thing. At least we are learning, even if they are still birdbrains.

And, for all that, we still haven't gotten our first egg. Though it is really hot here right now, and they are still a couple weeks out from normal egg producing time.