Education is a Lifetime Pursuit

May 31, 2019 at 3:36 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“Education is a lifetime pursuit.” I tell my daughter this constantly. It is our household motto, so much so, I would not doubt if I had already posted something with the same title before. I even hope that my readers already have read this phrase.

I am a homeschool mother. I am, in the deepest parts of my soul, a teacher. I always have been, and have been overzealous about it since I discovered the classical model. What I have loved about the classical model most is the ease in which I can continue my own education while I educate my daughter. She memorizes facts and dates in the grammar stage and not only do we supplement with rich literature to help her remember, but I get to pluck out related reading material for myself. Individually, I learn and teach the classical model… as a household, we are constantly involved in “unit studies” that are structured chronologically throughout history.

While she was memorizing history sentences about Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims, and eventually the colonists dumping tea into the Boston Harbor, I was reading Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon.

First published in 1983, Changes in the Land is the earliest book I know of written directly about environmental history, not part of a political movement. Everything I’ve read published prior to this book are either beautiful transcendentalist nature essays (Emerson, Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, etc.), geological science books (Lyell, Stenson, etc.), or solely activist tree-hugger type stuff. In fact, I think it paved the way for books like the one I read recently (and thoroughly enjoyed) while she learned about the gold rush called Hard Road West: History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail, whose author also crossed genres by highlighting the land, and all the things that make it what it is and the men who mar it, as the main character in the book’s story.

The biggest thing the two books have in common, for me, is at the end of each I thought, “This must be required reading for high school students.” After all, how do you learn history of a place without comprehending the blood, sweat, and tears, that was shed on it and ALL the reasons why, not the just the wars, but trails cut, deforestation, farms, dustbowls, mining… and not just focus on what it did to the people, but what it did to the land and how all that affects us today. Books like these are a beautiful marriage of history, social science, science, and more.

I love finding these gems as I sort through piles and piles of potential reading material, planning out lengthy lists of things to shape my kiddo’s mind. I love that my mind is also being shaped. I love that I am 35 and never done studying. I love that, in addition to growing my relationship with Jesus Christ and my daughter, education is my lifetime pursuit.

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Robinson Crusoe

April 20, 2019 at 5:08 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

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Title: Robinson Crusoe

Author: Daniel Defoe

The only memory I have of my father reading to me is when he read me Robinson Crusoe. I was ten. I don’t remember why, of all the moments, he chose to read this particular book to me – when I was already reading at a post collegiate level on my own and had been for awhile – when my sister and my mother had previously done most of the read-alouds in our family. Maybe it was good timing with work, maybe he was excited I was interested in it, who knows? Neither of us remembers at this point, twenty-five years later, but what we do know is this: It mattered.

So it was a pretty big deal to me when in February of 2018, I found myself in the car on a cross country road trip to the Creation Museum with my daughter, my dog, both my parents, and began reading Robinson Crusoe out loud in the car.

Robinson Crusoe was first published on April 25th, 1719, and even though we know it to be a novel now in 2019, it still has elements that lead first time readers to believe it to be a true account of a man’s travels. It was mistaken as such during its early release, an intentional marketing ploy by Daniel Defoe, because even in the 1700’s, sensational stories are sold most efficiently if we think they’re real. Look at James Frey and his Million Little Pieces “memoir.”

The first edition of the book touted Robinson Crusoe as both author and protagonist, but now we know that Crusoe is merely a character. In my personal opinion, not even the best character, I have always been most drawn to Friday.

There are many things inherently wrong with Robinson Crusoe if you look at the story from twenty-first century eyes: Robinson Crusoe works hard and then God blesses him to become a king-like fellow. One, that’s just not how God works, and many 1700’s boys and girls were then encouraged to be like Crusoe with this lordship at motivation. Two, it highlights the slave trade, and if you ask most modern Americans they’ll tell you this is a story of white supremacy, white privilege, oppression of all others, etc. etc.

Despite these hang ups, I love it. I think it’s a story that starts conversations. We need to be having conversations with our kids. What makes a protagonist? What makes a hero? What’s right? How do you feel about Crusoe and Friday’s relationship? Do you think this is appropriate? Do you think its duplicatable? Should it be duplicatable?

Kiddo was only seven when we read this together, but I think she got a lot of out of it and it definitely gave us a better view of the 1700’s as we studied all aspects of history. We got to the travel the world through the eyes of an author who lived during the times, and whether his worldview was good or bad, right or wrong, Defoe described it all vividly.

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Beowulf

September 13, 2016 at 1:33 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have a confession: I never read Beowulf in high school.  Or college.  I read Canterbury Tales more times than I can count (yet only remember a handful of the stories).  I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ad nauseum – and I like that story.  But no Beowulf.  How did I miss it?

I’ll tell you how, we tried to cram so much into such a short amount of time.  We spent hours and hours in school, but spent very little time actually studying.  Somewhere along the way, Beowulf was lost to me.  I’m not sure if I was ever really exposed to it or not.  It might have been something I breezed through in a Norton Anthology and regurgitated the next day for a pop quiz, only to be quickly forgotten.  I couldn’t tell you.  I only know that I had a vague idea that it was an epic poem involving something named Grendel when I began working at a bookstore as an adult.  Even then, I couldn’t tell you if Grendel was the monster or the man.

unknownAs we began our Middle Ages/ Early Ren. (450 AD to 1600 AD) year while classically homeschooling, it dawned on me that this was the year for Beowulf. I had already read the picture book by Eric A. Kimmel to kiddo when she was a wee one, but I’m sure she was so tiny she had fallen asleep; now was the time to embrace the story.

And we did.  I read her the picture book shortly before my trip to Atlanta. It fit right in with all the Celtic and Norse mythology we’ve been reading to bridge the gap between the ancient times and our exciting year ahead.  “What a guy! He tore off the monster’s arm! I can’t even do that,” she exclaimed. She was very pleased that this particular picture book could give the story in “one-sitting, all today” as opposed to the stories of Odysseus and Troy which all took weeks of chapter by chapter to finish. I foresee reading this again and again over the coming months, she loved the story so much; I have to admit, I did too.

4cf814193a0I liked it even more when I discovered there was a cartoon made in 1998 starring Joseph Fiennes as the voice of Beowulf – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKjcoFZmKuA.  We got to watch that and call it school.  It was a lot of fun.  (There’s one for Don Quixote we’ll be watching next year when we make it into the 1700s.)

Naturally, I was curious as to the accuracy of these versions.  I won’t ever truly know, because everything is a translation, but I thought I’d give an adult version a go.  There’s so many versions out there, I think I’ll just try a different one every Middle Ages cycle.  So I took the Constance B. Hieatt version with me to Atlanta and enjoyed it immensely, especially the little extras at the end.

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The kiddo, of course, keeps asking me why we are using “fake stories as lesson books, they aren’t real stories mother!” I keep telling her, very ineloquently, that these stories help us understand the people who told them.  Read them to her as bedtime stories and naturally she’s thrilled at the excitement of them.

We’ll collect more versions over the years and by the time she is grown she will know the story well – and remember it.  Next go around we’ll even tackle it in poem form, and eventually we’ll read Gardner’s Grendel.

Do you have any favorite versions of Beowulf?  Or, more importantly, do you know any great stories of the time period that should not be missed?

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To Be Indiana Jones…

September 11, 2016 at 4:46 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

2359468Title: Babylonian Life and History

Author: E. A. Wallis Budge

Genre: History/ Archeology

So, I want to be Indiana Jones when I grow up. Who doesn’t? Although a friend advised me that to be Andi “Tex” Klemm would be far cooler, and I have suggested that I just might have to embroider this onto a fedora.

In the meantime, I study as much history as I can.  I also subscribe to the Archeology magazine.  And the way I go all fan-girl at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, well, it’s part of what makes me awesome… right?

So my “grown-up reading time” during my 5 year old’s ancient history year was Babylonian Life and History by E. Wallis Budge.  It was neat teaching her the bare bones of the Babylonians and Assyrians out of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World, and memorizing tidbits from the Classical Conversations curriculum, while getting a deeper dose for myself. I’ll continue this effort of furthering my education while I begin hers as long as I can. If you don’t have time for that, I understand completely; but if you do, this is a worthy book to select.

E.A. Wallis Budge never ceases to amaze me. Every time I think I have everything he ever wrote I think I find 3 new titles. He’s so prolific and seems to be the end all be all on Ancient History. Found some tidbit of from the ancient world you’d like to investigate? – there’s probably a Budge book for that. His prose is nothing special, and at times even a little boring, but I love reading his work and hope to read it all before I die.

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Archimedes and the Door of Science

August 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

517SvkV79rL.jpgTitle: Archimedes and the Door of Science

Author: Jeanne Bendick

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Genre: Children’s Biography

I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library.  My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book.  At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.

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Fever Dreams and Egyptian Myths

July 16, 2016 at 9:05 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

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This sweet boy, so sympathetic and comforting.

I’m playing hooky from work. To be fair, I have what I’d like to call the plague. It’s not the plague, but the green crap I’ve been coughing up out of my chest, the high grade fever, and the over all attack on my body has made me contemplate the potential peace of kicking the bucket.  Instead, unable to physically kick anything at all, I’m home wrapped in blankets when it’s easily 100 degrees outside.

Briefly, between fever dreams yesterday, I thought it would be amusing to read Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and chronicle my own impending doom – but alas, I passed out about two seconds after the thought, slept for a few hours, and arose only to hack more crap out of my lungs, cry a little, and crawl back onto the futon… the bed was too high to climb.

As amusing as a post on Garcia’s work would be while I drink my calories in the form of honeyed tea and chicken broth, I have no desire to spend the energy it takes to walk across the room in search of it. Instead, I reached to my right where I had been cataloguing my ancient literature collection, prior to plague, and plucked up a thin little piece called Egyptian Myths by George Hart.  It took me two days to read all 80 pages, because – you see – I’m dying.  But I made it.  And my laptop, conveniently in arm’s reach to my left, said “Hey, You have been USELESS for days. DO SOMETHING other than sleep and troll Facebook.”  Did I actually hear the computer speak to me? It’s possible. After all, fever dreams.

All in all, I am surviving, and this little George Hart piece has helped me feel as though I didn’t entirely fry all my brain cells with my 2 day fever.  I learned some things I didn’t know, refreshed some previous mythology tales I hadn’t heard in a while, and found a cool list of suggested further reading.  It was a great addition to the Ancient History stuff I’ve been studying with my kiddo over the last many months, and it went hand in hand with the arrival of my Archaeology magazine subscription.  If you can get your hands on one, it’s a great addition to any library.

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Our Own Little Walden

June 1, 2016 at 4:01 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This spring has been all about chasing sunshine, growing green things, and avoiding floodwaters.  Since moving to Walden we’ve been attempting to create something closer to Thoreau’s version than the golf cart variety of Houston… But mostly we’ve been tackling our Classifications of Living Things, getting our kitchen garden going, learning to fish, and  dipping our toes into the world of museum membership at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Kiddo helped me plant teeny tiny tomato plants, acorn squash seeds, cucumbers, and green onions.  Marigolds galore, mints, parsley, basil, lemon balm.  We’ve got lots of blooms for the butterflies and the hummingbirds, a variety of lilies, roses, and snapdragons.  We’re in love with our little patch.

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All this, but we’re not yet living the heaven of the picture book we just discovered this week: On Meadowville Street by Henry Cole; because, frankly, I want my backyard to look like this:

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How cool would it be if everyone’s back yard looked a little bit more like this? Ponds, birds, trees, overgrown grass and wildflowers… yes, please.

We also fell in love a little with Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails.  Kiddo is pretty fascinated with bees, so even while surrounded by gorgeous butterflies around the world in the Cockrell Butterfly Center, she finds the bee hive and watches them the most.

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So now that spring has passed and summer is upon us, we’ve burned up all the vacation days I possibly could trekking around, established our garden, and purchased a fishing license for my days off.

Fishing mostly looks like kiddo playing with a pole, naming earth worms, sinking our toes in mud, and me lounging lazily in the sun, but we pretend we care about catching things – sometimes.

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Bowls of Happiness

December 10, 2015 at 7:02 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

bowls-of-happiness-9780989377645_hr.jpgTitle: Bowls of Happiness

Author: Brian Tse

Illustrator: Alice Mak

Translator: Ben Wang

Genre: Children’s Picture Books/ Education/ Cultural Studies

As the kiddo grows older, she’s becoming more apt to share her opinions on things.  She’s at the phase where not only is she becoming more articulate, she’s realizing that people will listen to her when she is.  She’s five, a just turned five, but five nevertheless.

That being so, I like keeping her in the habit of thinking about what she likes and dislikes about what we read.  I enjoy having her reiterate what we’ve read, to know that she is listening and understanding.

“I like the way the flowers are pretty and I like the way Piggy sits in the flowers and sun.  And the part where the birds sing.  But when Piggy and the bats run away from the rain, that wasn’t really fun.  When Piggy’s bowl was finished with the flowers and the bats, that looked really pretty.  I like the yellow bowl, and the yellow bowl with Piggy on it.  And I like the way there is a picture with flowers with no words.  I like the yellow bowl with pictures of just flowers and leaves, it’s really pretty to me.  I like the bowl with Piggy inside that is blue and branches and flowers and one bird. I like the white bowl with the pond and two birds.  And I like the yellow bowl with flowers and blue kind of moons and patterns on it.  I learned about love and Chinese and the way people love people and I learned ALL about bowls.  I think all of it is cool.  And at the end with the hand with the hole and the piggy nose is pretty cool to me, the one that comes from the other page.”

Then she proceeded to find all the capital I’s in the letter from Chiu Kwwong-chiu at the end.  I’m pretty sure she likes the letter I as well.

All in all, I think this book was a huge success in our house.  Mostly because stud81Bm+U4um7L.jpgying Chinese culture has always been important to us (I grew up in a Kung Fu studio) and the color yellow is kiddo’s second favorite color.  There’s a lot of yellow in Bowls of Happiness.

I don’t think we’ve ever read a book laid out in this fashion, this size, separated almost in a chapter-like manner.  (Story book first, then a detailed nonfiction section that could have easily been published as a separate title.)   We’ve definitely not encounter one on this subject.  It’s lovely.

71hQ8vEZyHLCultural and artistic studies are important for tiny people and teaching them about the artistry found in every day objects as well as museums is a key part of showing them the beauty of the world.  I want my child to see beauty in her world, not through rose-colored lenses, but through intelligence and empathy.

 

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Learning Dangerously

November 24, 2015 at 5:31 am (Education, Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , )

Title: The Year of Learning D13542507.jpgangerously
Author: Quinn Cummings
Genre: Parenting/ Education/ Humor

I found The Year of Learning Dangerously tucked on a clearance shelf at work as I was cleaning the last hour of my shift.  I bought it that night on my way out the door, and spent the following day off reading it.

I laughed.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t breath.  I loved it, every page, every moment, every encounter Cummings had with fellow homeschool families as she tried to find “her tribe.”

I couldn’t sit and read silently, every few lines I had something to share with whoever happened to be sitting next to me.  I laughed, they laughed, we laughed until we cried.  We felt for Cummings, all her quirks make her endearing to me.  Her anxieties and personal electro-magnetic field make her my spirit animal.

While I laughed and felt camaraderie with Cummings in all her panic attacks, all her self doubt, but ultimately in her absolute decision that this was the lifestyle for her – my husband, apparently, spent that time doubting our educational plans.  Plans we’ve had in place since before kiddo was even born.

It’s interesting how everyone’s life experience can be so different despite living and breathing the same air and being part of the same bubble.  I see the world for what it is and find more determination for our lifestyle choices.  Others look at the exact same thing and come to a completely contradictory conclusion, and give up.

Whatever your life choices, whether you are a homeschool family or simply people who love to laugh – Quinn Cummings’s memoir is fantastic.  I couldn’t put it down and my abs thank me for it.

On a kick for parenting humor, I picked up It Sucked And Then I Cried by Heather B. Armstrong.  I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far her snark is outstanding.

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Moby Dick

October 10, 2015 at 4:00 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

61YmF0KEKoL._SX444_BO1,204,203,200_We’ve all read Moby Dick – I think – unless you’re a very small child, like my child.  As a classical homeschool Mom, I like to expose my kiddo to classic literature early, even before she’s redy to read it for herself.  So, finds like Eric A. Kimmel’s picture book Moby Dick with paintings by artist Andrew Glass are gems.

My four year old had a lot to take in – the enormity of the whale, the importance of Ahab’s obsession, and why anyone would kill a sperm whale anyway.  This picture book has a neat educational page in the back regarding Melville and the ship Essex and how that true event played a role in the cultivation of the original novel.

The illustrations are gorgeous… we love paint work, MobyDick14-700x395as the kiddo considers herself a painter and has been mastering her technique since she was 15 months old.  (I vote to always give kids real paints and actual canvases, if you can.  It’s helped her to be much more adventurous in her artistic pursuits.

We can’t wait to read this one again and again, and hopefully, by the time she reads the novel, she’ll have these beautiful images so ingrained she’ll fall in love with Melville – despite the fact that it takes forever to even get to the whale.

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