Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Scaffolding as Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life

When we think about lesson planning and curricular development, we can easily become overwhelmed by the vast amount of resources and approaches to any given lesson or study.

But by using scaffolding in planning both the short- and long-term, we can make a plan that is reasonable and approachable without being overwhelmed.

What is scaffolding? Scaffolding is a tool used in construction, repair, and cleaning to help workmen reach the work at proper elevation and location. It supports and protects them so they can focus on the work at hand, not their balance or safety. It analogizes beautifully into the work we do in education. We build a scaffold – whether in a lesson or a course of study – so our students can learn at appropriate levels and locations.

Charlotte Mason, an educational philosopher in the early 20th Century, posited that because children are born persons we have three instruments available to us for teaching said persons. These instruments teach without prodding, bribery, or guilt trips. She says,

Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments--the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. The P.N.E.U. Motto is: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life."

Taking these two ideas together, we can see Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life as the scaffolding to help your students learn and grow into maturity.

Hop over to the True North Academy blog to read the rest - some application of how scaffolding is Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life. I plan to revisit and add to this series in the coming weeks, too. I'm excited to be a monthly contributor to their blog - and have this be my first entry.

Here's the series so far:

  1. Scaffolding is Atmosphere
  2. Scaffolding is Discipline
  3. Scaffolding is Life
  4. Scaffolding in a Lesson
  5. Scaffolding Under Conditions
  6. Scaffolding Q&A

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Using Scripture for Copywork

We've done a lot of copywork in our homeschool.

My kids all taught themselves how to print before I taught them to write, so we used Cursive First for our writing program. It corrected a lot of their printing issues, which was great.

They copied some random things until M-girl was third grade or so. That year I found a free pdf someone had put together of C.S. Lewis quotes and as we were doing Narnia for school, that was perfect. They had to do their very best for 5 minutes every day. Set the timer.

After our C.S. Lewis experience, I decided to do the Westminster Shorter Catechism which we were learning. I chose the book with the cursive that most looked like mine as a pdf and printed out three copies. They also had 5 minutes per day for this task.

Once they had finished that, I set them to copying scripture.

I bought them their own notebook. I like this one because it has big pages, is not too thick, and lies flat. R-girl has more of a journal, and I notice that the binding is broken.

I purchased a fountain pen for each of them. Nothing fancy, disposable but with ink that can be replaced. Some of these have been better pens than others. But overall I've been pleased. I even have the set of colored pens for myself.

I allowed each child to choose what book of the Bible they wanted to copy. M-girl started with 1 Peter. N-boy chose to do the Psalms. R-girl wanted Esther.

I assigned 1 verse in their best handwriting per day. I don't care how long it takes. They're all old enough to sustain that amount of writing.

So, they copy a verse daily.

M-girl finished 1 Peter last November. She has since finished 2 Peter and is working on 1 John.

N-boy will never finish the Psalms. That's why he chose it. That way he never has to choose again while he lives at home. He also thought it looked like it had short verses. You, know.

Today, R-girl finished copying Esther. She chose Esther because she loves the story. She loves the story because of a book her Grammy had given her. She says she's going to do Jude next. Because it's short.

I see value in copying scripture. It is easy to assign and keep up with. And, as my friend said, what a great way to hide scripture in their hearts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Book Review: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

I like my cover better than the one GoodReads assigned
Murder in the CathedralMurder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've never read any Eliot before and reading this does not dissuade me from reading more. I loved this.

I didn't get most or all of it, I'm sure, but the parts I did comprehend are good and true and beautiful.

All men seek peace. We seek peace wrongly, we seek wrong peace, we misunderstand the peace that is given in Christ. Eliot shows us glimpses of this as he looks at peace - temporal and eternal - through temptation and death. The hinge of Becket's Christmas Day sermon shows us this.

The first half - with the chorus awaiting his return after seven long years - reminds us that life is both static and dynamic. The seasons change and go on and work continues in its repetition. But going back for repetition of situation is not possible. The chorus is waiting for Becket almost as we wait for Jesus to return; almost, but not quite. I think we're supposed to consider that, though. Waiting is not the peace that is left for us.

The temptations are sent to destroy Becket's peace, even as Jesus was tempted in the desert. If the test fails - particularly the last tests - both would fail in the work they've been given. Becket's temptations - memory and nostalgia of a good life; secular power over the church; ecclesiastical power over the state; and the final, most spiritual battle with himself, when being humble is the highest virtue how does one avoid humility for gain?

You only offer
Dreams to damnation


Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kinda gain
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.


To become servant of God was never my wish.
Servant of God has chance of greater sin
And sorrow, than the man who serves a king.
For those who serve the greater cause may make the cause serve them,

Becket defeats the temptation, not in the same way as Christ who used scripture against his tempter, but through reason. And so he can preach,

A martyrdom is always the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. It is never the design of man: for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, and who no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of being a martyr.

And then the knights arrive.

The second part goes quickly. It's action and violence, accusation and pulling away. Becket stands open to what is in store for him, refusing even to bar the church closed. His priests are afraid for him - pulling, hurrying, pleading, attempting to protect. They're rushing him from here to there to avoid the fate he's expecting. If the chorus was waiting for his return, he is expecting the events. What is the difference here between waiting and expectation? And which gives us peace? Which fear?

Thomas: Peace! be quiet! remember where you are, and what is happening;
No life here is sought for but mine,
And I am not in danger: only near to death.

Emphasis mine.

Becket is at peace because he is expecting the events to unfold as they do. He knows that the church stands not as the world does and that Christ's peace is not as the world gives. He demands the doors unbarred. He demands,

You think me reckless, desperate and mad.
You argue by results, as this world does,
To settle if an act be good or bad.
You defer to the fact. For every life and every act
Consequence of good and evil can be shown.

He knows that

Not to fight with beasts as men. We have fought the beast
And have conquered. We have only to conquer
Now, by suffering. This is the easier victory.
Now is the triumph of the Cross, now
Open the door! I command it. OPEN THE DOOR!

The knights kill him. The chorus grieves.

Then they return to their work, because time marches on and there's nothing they can do.

The knights return to try to excuse their complicity - with arguments of honour; loyalty and duty ("only following orders"); reason and law; and, finally, victim blaming. They leave with warnings of possible riots and the dire consequences thereof. They have not brought peace.

The priests return. They don't really understand, either. One waits for the potential consequence of atheism in the country. Another is not so fearful, but is certainly cynical about martyrdom and its cost. They have no peace.

Eliot weaves many themes - waiting and expectation, peace and fear, and the march of time together to create a whole. Eliot's time moves ever forward. It is inexorable. How will we use it? Will we, like the chorus wait, endlessly striving at vain work in fear? Or will we work in peace with expectation toward the Kingdom coming? What will tempt us away from patient expectation? Who will attack? Are we seeking peace, peace where there is no peace? or are we receiving from the Prince of Peace the peace that only He can give?

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Book Review: Jacob's Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill

Jacob's Room is Full of Books: A Year of ReadingJacob's Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I've enjoyed Hill's memoirs, although my favorite is, I think, The Magic Apple Tree. These bookish ones are both very readable and she mixes in so many ideas from the world at large.

This one, based on a year of reading, is interesting from its solitude. She remembers times and places from before, she is in places but never with anyone other than the books, pets, or strangers - the man on the beach who points out the finch. There is a odd detachment from people. Her observations of the natural world stand out here and her obvious enjoyment of nature lore and especially of the birds.

As an educator, I found her regular contemplations on why we read, why some love to read, why some write in certain ways, and how we engage with ideas very interesting. Her thoughts on things learned by heart were heartening - especially as she references a poem my children have learned (and therefore I have learned) and I recognized it before she revealed it. Her obvious interest in inspiration and where the stories come from is a repeated refrain. The influence of other writers on tone and style and writing is another. How do we learn these things and use them rightly or wrongly.

It's interesting to me as she doesn't care for Austen - who I love - or Pym - who's work I've enjoyed when I could find any - but I'm fascinated by her other opinions even when I've not heard of many of the authors or characters of her life.

I started reading this in January and was trying to keep up month by month. That was good, but I found myself losing threads that she weaves by taking so much time between. It is the kind of book that you can read in the small places of life - browning the beef or half-time at a soccer game (er, football match), but for all that it does take some consistent small places. And, so, I ended up reading it pretty straight through. I notice that the writing changes with the season. The excessively hot holiday in France in September sounds and feels different than December and the cozy days between Christmas and the New Year.

If you like books on books and the reading and writing life, this and Howard's End is on the Landing are books to read. I enjoyed them but find myself hesitant to recommend them while I loved The Magic Apple Tree and recommend it often.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Simple Woman's Daybook for July 16, 2018

For Today...

Looking out my window ... it's been rainy and now will just be hot and humid.

I am thinking ... about some upcoming blog posts - adding to my scaffolding series and one on the "riches."

I am thankful ... for the Set Your Feet Retreat and how well it went last week and that I got to spend a great deal of time with Karen Glass.

One of my favorite things ... spending time with like-minded mamas and thinking about important things.

I am wearing ... khaki shorts I forgot about and one of my favorite tops - navy blue peasant style with light blue embroidery.

I am creating ... a couple of guest posts. I finished the easy one this morning and still have the hard one to go ...

I am reading ... Consider This by Karen Glass because I never quite finished it. I'm so close to being done, I just need to finish it. It's so good.

I am hoping ... to read Know and Tell next.

I am learning ... to try fewer things at once. I get so excited and start something when I should stick with what I've already started.

In my kitchen ... I need to get back to cooking. Baseball/Softball season is over, soccer season has yet to begin I need to make a plan.

In the school room ... everyone is having a hard time being serious about lessons today - the first day after camp.

In my garden ... we still need to plant R-girl's flowers. And check the plants from my brother.

Post Script ... I'm very excited to attend Brandy and Dawn Duran's day-long webinar for Vibrant CM Communities on 7/28. Should be informative and helpful! Our community is working on a fuller day, so I'm excited to see what they have to say.

A moment from my day ... Saturday night dinner was Zucchini Pizza thanks to my brother's over-abundance :)

Closing Notes: CharlotteMasonIRL is hosting the second week of our Planning Festival. Last week was fantastic and today's posts so far have continued in that vein. Join us?

Linking up with The Simple Woman.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Comparison, Worry, and Fear

[This post is a devotional I wrote for a baby shower. I hope it's an encouragement to you.] 

One of the biggest struggles I faced as a new mom was wanting to do everything exactly right and being certain I'd do everything exactly wrong.

This self-doubt led only to comparison, worry, and fear. I compared myself and my children to what I perceived of others and always found us lacking. I worried that I was too harsh, too lenient, to strict, too lax, and always that I was failing my kids. I feared that others saw just how lacking I was -- I had never even changed a diaper before -- and would judge me and see me as the fraud I thought I was. Worst of all I feared I would ruin my relationship with my kids and husband and theirs with the Lord. 

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." 

My fear was misplaced -- often still is -- but in this parenting role the Lord has tasked me with, I do it best when I look to Him first.He comforts me with his love, not a list of "do this."

Educational Philosopher Charlotte Mason says children are born persons -- they are whole, able-minded, fat souled persons. We know this from the Psalms. But they are immature persons and require guidance, support, and love to reach maturity. Even our Lord grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and with man.

As your new little one is in your arms to love and protect to guard and guide, to feed body and mind -- trust the Lord. Look to Him. As I was writing I kept thinking of the Sara Groves song, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, which is, of course, Paul enjoining us to not compare but run the race set before us - looking neither to the right nor to the left but straight toward Jesus.

I'm certainly not saying to not ask advice or read books or ask for help from your brothers and sisters, family and friends -- we have been given to you by the Lord. As a community we support and help one another. But I encourage you to be wise: look first and last to Christ the Author and Finisher of our faith. Compare all advice to Him. The Holy Spirit is yours; trust Him when he prods. Cast your cares on Him.

This little child is a blessing -- love him bountifully, show him your faith in deed and word. Jesus came to make you free -- trust Him. Be confident that you are on the rock and He will help you. Trust your husband as he works with and supports you.

Sift through the advice together and look for love; do not be constrained by the "right" or "only" way to raise a child, to educate a child, to discipline a child. Do not be afraid. The Lord is for you. Look to Him.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Simple Woman's Daybook for June 18, 2018

For Today...

Looking out my window ... it's getting dark. I heard a rumble of thunder a bit ago - hope it cools things off overnight.

I am thinking ... about Mason's three tools actually, I'm stewing about my son's baseball game tonight and how adults ruin things for kids.

I am thankful ... that he's taking it OK. We've worked for years on "the ref is always right, even when the ref is wrong the ref is right." They were definitely wrong tonight, but N-boy is controlling his emotions and not letting them control him. He knows things can't change at this point. I should follow his example.

One of my favorite things ... is watching my kids play. N-boy pitched tonight. It was a shaky first inning, but a good second and third. I was proud of how he pulled it together and did his best.

I am wearing ... pink tank top and jeans shorts - it was scortching hot at the game!

I am creating writing ... about scaffolding and finding pictures as I go. I'm starting to get excited (and nervous) for the Set Your Feet Retreat.

I am read ... How the Irish Saved Civilization.

I am hoping ... N-boy's next outing goes even better. He'll probably pitch on Wednesday again.

I am learning ...

In my kitchen ... I need to empty the dishwasher. I did make chocolate tres leches cake for Father's Day yesterday and it was a hit.

In the school room ... the school books are all in the kitchen :p

In my garden ... I planted seedlings from my brother. I should check them. R-girl watered the herbs today, at least.

Post Script ... This week at Charlotte Mason IRL, we're talking about the Discipline of Habit. We'd love for you to check it out.

Shared Quote ... my favorite CS Lewis quote:

A moment from my day ... we started school outside this morning

Closing Notes: Summer school is in full swing - but that doesn't mean we're doing full days. I really want to get back to doing Morning Time, but when the evenings are so late with baseball, the mornings are hard. We'll do what we can and count it all a blessing.

Linking up with The Simple Woman.