Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meaning vs. Technique

Yesterday S-16 started Jensen's Format Writing which her older sister had loved a few years ago.  She had asked me for something that would shore up her writing skills in case she decides to go to college.  The first assignment was to take a sentence and using the various parts as a connection write  second sentences to go with it.  For example if the subject of the first sentence was Sam you would write another sentence starting with Sam, then one with a pronoun and perhaps one using the predicate or a second noun.  She asked if the sentences had to be about the same thing and I said that technically they didn't need to - they just had to have the same subject.  I gave a random example where the topics were completely unconnected except that Sam was the subject of both.  She dissolved into tears - very frustrated because there was no meaning, no real connection.  I told her it was better to make more connection - that is how it would be in real writing so that is how she did the exercise.  For me this was "just an exercise" - I grew up following the directions, getting by, not caring about the meaning (there often was no obvious meaning in my public education), doing the exercises as a game, (I did get good grades) but S, having grown up with a Charlotte Mason education feels that the meaning is the point.  Thinking about this makes me glad for her frustration and insistence on real meaning.  Her sentences were good and interesting besides. This morning I realize that I am perhaps more "successful" than I deserve to be in educating my children.  God's grace giving benefits I wouldn't have known to seek.  Maybe it's just her personality, but I think probably it has a lot to do with using a Charlotte Mason style of education and a God who is bigger and better and gives us more than we could ask or think.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bequest of Wings

Someone recommended Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff so I ordered it in through our state interlibrary loan program.  It is a wonderful book!  She says what I feel about books and reading with children, but in such beautiful language!  Here are a couple of sample paragraphs from the first chapter.
     "The dictionary defines education as the 'cultivation and development of the various physical, intellectual, aesthetic, moral and social faculties; instruction and discipline.'  The responsibility for all of this is laid on the parents.  Nature, in effect, simply hands over a parcel of assorted energies, and says, 'Here, see what you can do with this.' And all that two blissful and bewildered people have in the way of preparation for the job is what they have been able to learn from life, up to that point, and what they go on learning as they grow up with their children.  We were as awkward a pair of parents as ever launched blithely on a career of exploring and developing human personality.  But we knew without much discussion what our hope was for our children--that they should grow fully and robustly and merrily into a fine abundant life, rich with all the things that had brought so much joy to us as individuals, and to our relationship as friends.  We had no clear idea of how we should show them the way, except that we must give them as much of ourselves as we possibly could."

"...It includes all the honest books, that are written with knowledge, insight, humor and imagination, and put together with the skill and artistry that respect for language and style demand.  These are the books that come to live in the family library, especially when the need for careful spending dictates fastidious choosing.  Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows can rub shoulders with The Crock of Gold and the Plays of William Shakespeare, without incongruity; for they are made of the same permanent stuff, laughter and pain, hunger and satisfaction, and an infinite love of all the bittersweet ingredients of human life.  These are the books that I mean when I speak of coming closer in sympathy and understanding, through reading, to the whole of the human family."...

And from chapter two, "So, from the sharing of books in intimate family pleasures with the smallest of bairns, comes, for the family as a unit, stability and kinship of spirit; and for the little child, the dignity of the persistent striving of humanity toward the Good Life.  So, too, from these early beginnings comes the growth of the mind in perception of 'that which cannot be thought about in words, or told or expressed...all the secret and quiet world beyond our lives, wind and stars, too, and the sea, and the endless unknown.'"

That's as far as I've read so far, but I'm excited about this book. Reading is such a part of family life for us. Annis Duff refers to lots of titles we've also enjoyed together as a family!  It's like having tea with a kindred spirit talking about favorite books and getting recommendations for new ones.