Friday, January 18, 2019

If the Stars

If the Stars by Dawn Garrett

If the stars could talk
what would they say?

I like to think they'd be friendly,
passing on their way.

Glory in light shining,
effervescent and bubbly in community.

with enthusiasm for acquiring
the acquaintance of the other.

They'd ask after one's mother
and how the family does.

They'd listen intently
to all the tos and froes.

Continuing the conversation,
the second replies in kind.

Seeking consolation
as uniting mind to mind.

If the stars could speak
they'd sing out the Lord's praises
After the example of the rocks and ages.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Book Review: How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at OddsHow to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle read.

Alan Jacobs is one of my favorite internet people - his various blogs and mini blogs and the sole reason I used to go to twitter have long provided interesting ideas, visuals, and social commentary that was worth reading. A number of years ago I LOVED his book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. This book is written in that vein. It's a personal exploration of the whys and hows of - instead of reading - thinking.

I had little investment in the last Presidential campaign and election, but found myself on election night watching the returns and not able to turn away. The absolute shock of the cable commentators to understand what was happening and how people could vote in the way they did was worth watching. It was demonstrative of much of what Jacobs talks about here in How to Think: the Repugnant Cultural Other, the failure to listen, to empathize, to see past the filters, myths, and metaphors that hold thinking together. Jacobs' instructive defining would go a long way to help us all not only listen to each other, but hear and understand - to not speak past one another but to know.

The worst part of this review is that while I'm sure I didn't understand everything in the book, I didn't really disagree with anything ... which means I wasn't thinking about it as I should. I do think that seeking community is different from desiring membership in an Inner Ring, that being able to switch interaction as appropriate to the social setting is important, and that I care way too much about what others think. I do think that ideas held loosely yet firmly is wise, but that employing empathy toward the situation of others is wise. I do see how the myths and metaphors I surround myself with are helpful and harmful.

I suppose I do disagree that both/and instead of either/or isn't necessarily the lazy way out. I don't really have good explanations for that, but I see so many false dichotomies espoused that could be resolved by seeing 'both' as viable options that his argument there fell on deaf ears.

Overall, this is my favorite kind of Jacobs books. It's well written with many references and -be still my soul- footnotes, yet it's very personal with many stories and narratives to keep it going. It's conversational, yet formal at the same time like Pleasures of Reading ...

Definitely recommended.

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Friday, January 04, 2019

Audio Book Review: Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Till We Have FacesTill We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this and for a long time I wondered why. Then, today, I listened to the last two chapters of Part One and all of Part Two because I had to know.

Oh, before today, there were thoughts and ideas that I contemplated: ideas about friendship, honor, beauty, love, duty. But Lewis opens the reader's eyes so much more fully in Part Two that the veil, as it were, is pulled away. And when it is, it is both glorious and agonizing ... relief and conviction. "Dreadful and Beautiful. The only dread and beauty there is." Yes.

I've tried several times to actually READ this book, but the audio is what got me through. I'm thankful for it. Now I think I could read the book from the beginning and I'm certain that it improves with repetition ... which is difficult to imagine.

View all my reviews


by Dawn Garrett

We are told that the heavens declare
the glory of God.
Yet, transparent encircling air
seems medium odd.

When brightness brings to bear its presence
praise doesn't need aid
ilum'ning aerial polutants
or creation's shade.

The mornings dawn with oranges, pinks,
rosy, reds, and golden
light diffusing white which slowly slinks
across earth frozen.

Ever evolving blue, light, and cloud
kaleidescopes o'er
and 'bove human heads showing aloud
awe for the seer.

Sunset tugs down past the horizon
light fights the good fight
to finally grasp man's attention
displaying prism bright

The heavens aren't finished even
as this unrained bow
sprawls, reaches aback the wide heaven
slowly sliding low.

Still, still splendor becomes manifest
stars shine overhead;
moon in her courses wanes and waxes
ruling at His stead

Day after day and night after night.
the Artist's canvas
crafted and drawn; a joy of delight.
Note we the brilliance.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Cacophony by Dawn Garrett

Teeming with confusion;
the world called to origins ancient.
The roads bustle in one direction
by proclamation sent.

Tempers flare. Exhaustion
trudges at the pace as set in front.
Identified as mere possession;
selfish aggrandizement.

Greeting, welcome, discourse
Argument, curse, invective, yelling.
Immobility for ass and horse.
Impatience revealing.

Rivers run to the sea
and yet the sea never spills over.
City boundaries act as levee
bulging without rupture.

Manger holds beast and man
Searching any shelter from the skies.
Jostling for position under heav'n
Creation, groaning, defies.

Glories boom o'er hillside!
Angels sound joy and sing shalom.
Shepherds question, seeking far and wide.
Caravans quest from home.

Crowding at the doorway;
Peace is not stillness but wholly right.
Echoes wave through the cosmos today
This was no silent night.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2019 Word for the Year

I'm not in love with the word I've chosen for my 2019 Word for the Year, but I can't seem to get away from it. That generally means it's the right one.

There were a lot of contenders: Commit. Pray. Engage. Speak. Interact.

All perfectly good words in themselves and a lot to consider over the course of the year ... and a lot to do.

You probably know I like verbs for my Word for the Year. They're active, there's something to work toward, to do. In the past, I've had words like *revel* ; Attend! ; }pacify{ ; and [conform] .
In 2018, I found my word, [conform] has an active sense - we actively try to become more like Christ and less like the world. But! It also has a passive sense - we are conformed to Christ by the Father, by renewing our minds, but the work of the Spirit. We become what we behold. We will conform to something whether we like it or not.  Our action, therefore, is often putting what is good before our eyes so we can Attend!

}Pacify{ had this active and passive sense, too. In many ways, it is the work of the Spirit and not mine at all. But somehow, some way, I'm trying to bring peace into my home. Most days this seems to be an abject failure.

Attend! I have a tendency to retreat into my own world - or the internet world, rather than knowing what is going on. Even reading, I don't always engage with the ideas on a deeper level. This one is a pretty active thing because it's a habit leading to it being a passive thing. It's related to becoming what we behold, too.

The first, *revel*, was a step too far. I should've started with Attend! because you have to notice to rejoice with exceeding great joy. I do tend toward the melancholy, though, and I do want to enjoy my kids and them know that I enjoy being with them.

So, you see, it is not that I have obtained these things! My Words for the Year tend to stick around and become enveloped in the newest one.

And they're all related; they're facets of a gemstone. They intersect with each other; they influence each other. You can see how the other words I was contemplating fit in with them ... sorta.

I was talking about Words for the Year with my friend Betsy from Redeemed Reader and some other friends early in November. I couldn't quite get my mind around what I was seeing with the ideas I was coming up with. Betsy actually ended up choosing my word. She looked at them and said, it sounds like you want to "commune." I looked for a synonym that had the same senses and just couldn't find one, so: commune.

commune. hits all of the ideas (commit, engage, speak, pray, interact) with a dose of some others that are important. I don't want to speak at people or pray at God. I'm not some imparter of wisdom, although sometimes I tend to be ... reticent to speak when I ought. Rather, I want to be in community with people and God. I want to communicate with them - which is an idea with more give and take. I want to be less isolated from the people in my sphere.

That said, I'm not in love love with the word. Its noun form has some associations I'm not trying to imply or wrap my arms around. Ahem. So I'm thinking I'll write it with the (v) marker a lot of the year.

So, here's to 2019.  commune. With God, people, ideas. The old words will continue to make their presence known, I assume.

Do you have a Word for the Year?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Scaffolding is Life

We ended the last post in the series with, "Good habits matter to the life of ideas."

Mason's third is tool:

“Education is a life. In saying that "education is a life," the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.”

We give our children living ideas to feed their minds. First, it is much easier to teach the habits of attention and interest with living ideas. The atmosphere is more electric and there are more Eureka!s when ideas can bump into each other or connections can be made.

In In Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte Mason the Honorable Mrs. Franklin uses a slightly different metaphor (pg 117):
“There is a saying of King Alfred's that I like to apply to our School,--'I Have found a door,' he says. That is just what I hope your School is to you--a door opening into a great palace of art and knowledge in which there are many chambers all opening into gardens or field paths, forest or hills. One chamber, entered through a beautiful Gothic archway, is labelled Bible Knowledge, and there the Scholar finds goodness as well as knowledge, as indeed he does in many others of the fair chambers. You see that doorway with much curious lettering? History is within, and that is, I think, an especially delightful chamber. But it would take too long to investigate all these pleasant places and indeed you could label a good many of the doorways from the headings in your term's programme.
But you will remember that the School is only a 'Door' to let you in to the goodly House of Knowledge, but I hope you will go in and out and live there all your lives--in one pleasant chamber and another; for the really rich people are they who have the entry to this goodly House, and who never let King Alfred's 'Door' rust on its hinges, no, not all through their lives, even when they are very old people."
That beautiful House of Knowledge where there are nooks and crannies, corridors, secret passageways between galleries ... isn't that what we want for our children? For ourselves? We give them entree and a little help navigating during their school days, but it is a place of delight for the whole life. They learn to wander and love the halls and passageways of that vast House under our care, but it soon becomes a place of exploration and where they desire to be. Nothing in Mrs. Franklin's metaphor seems to me to be aimless wandering,though. It is always purposeful.

Scaffolding is helping our students set foot in that big room through the intimidating door. It's walking them carefully and intentionally through the galleries and introducing them to the wonders. It's showing them where and how to connect galleries together. It's making a map. But they'll outgrow the need for the map - or they'll start to draw their own. "I know, I know, mom!" Sometimes they do know. (Admittedly, sometimes they don't)

Remember how we're aiming at maturity? This is the stuff that childhood is made of: wonder, imagination, aha! Jesus told us that we had to be childlike to enter the kingdom. Living ideas are the ones that last a lifetime but help us remain childlike in our joy at learning and wonder. They're the ones that help us to learn about man, the universe, and our God – Mason's curriculum.

Ideas are the building blocks of the curriculum. They're placed within easy reach in the right place on the scaffold – but they're gathered by the child and mortared in place by the child. They pick the one that fits the space they have – which means you cannot pick for them. Whether they pick the William the Conqueror, 1066, or Battle of Hastings block – or all three of them – It's less important which idea your child chooses that that he chooses. When children narrate they're making relationships with the ideas and between the ideas in their own mind. (You still have to listen, though)

We talked about how atmosphere affects the meta and the minute. In the meta, the ideas of a curriculum can be scaffolded. It matters that in AmblesideOnline Year 7 we're reading Beowulf, Birth of Britain, the Venerable Bede, and Asser's Life of King Alfred together. Does it matter that we read about the Story of the Romans and a biography of Churchill before we read about the Birth of Britain? Of course It does. The curriculum provides context within itself and repetition of ideas helps to cement them into place. Making connections is making relationships.

Which reminds me. We talk a lot about the so-called“riches” in Charlotte Mason circles. Those true and good and beautiful things that man has made over the course of history. Those very things of humanity, those things that add depth and breadth to our understanding of Man, the Universe, and God. So often, though, the way we talk about them is backwards; if we have time, we'll do picture study. We'll just listen to our composer while we do other work. Folk songs are extra, we can skip that. This should not be; rather than being “extra” to the curriculum, they are foundational to both inspire a learner's heart and give something to aspire to. A piece of music, a beautiful drawing, a poem with words that bring tears. The “riches” are what we can love. They exude lifegiving ideas and in my opinion should take precedence of importance because they drive us to write a well turned phrase, or learn about the Fibonacci sequence and the golden mean, or understand fractions on first introduction, or a myriad other ideas in the standard curriculum. Why would we treat these as secondary or less?

We talk about living ideas. Ideas that animate the imagination. Are there dead ideas? Old ideas are not necessarily dead. They may have been proved wrong or may be outmoded, but it's important to understand geocentrism before heliocentrism. Seeing how ideas were thought plausible but then were disproved and reworked is an idea in itself. Alchemy is an interesting, if wrongly applied idea. But is it a dead idea, or is there something we can learn from it? Even a disproved idea supports the need and reasons for a corrected idea so we and our children can apply and connect ideas – and so we can see how to change course when we're disproved in our own thinking.

Some ideas might seem uninteresting at first glance, but when we give the structure, the scaffold necessary to it, the idea can capture the imagination. From Volume 1 Mason gives this example:
Children easily simulate knowledge, and at this point the teacher will have to be careful that nothing which the child receives is mere verbiage, but that every generalisation is worked out somewhat in this way:––The child observes a fact, as, for example, a wide stretch of flat ground; the teacher amplifies. He reads in his book about Pampas, the flat countries of the north-west of Europe, the Holland of our own eastern coast, and, by degrees, he is prepared to receive the idea of a plain, and to show it on his tray of sand.
Do you see the structure – a fact, narrated, compared, reconstructed. It's the same scaffold. Perhaps older children wouldn't reconstruct in a sand tray but in a nature journal. It may be that this is the step where we talk about the flat parts of Ohio

and compare them to the hilly parts animating a discussion of glaciers and how they work and have worked in history.

And, later, the idea of a “plane” is taken into our studies of geometry

Scaffolding takes living ideas and, when mingled with atmosphere and habit, teaches us how to live. I referred to it before, but from Essex Chomodeley's biography of Charlotte Mason, she said:
On my arrival at Ambleside I was interviewed by Miss Mason who asked me for what purpose I had come. I replied: "I have come to learn to teach." Then Miss Mason said: "My dear, you have come here to learn to live.
Supporting our children in their learning, we are teaching them how to live. The learning procedure is the same for children and for teachers … and for parents because we are all born persons and this is just how persons learn anything.

  1. Scaffolding and the Homeschool Mom
  2. Scaffolding Provides Safety in Transparent Fashion
  3. Scaffolding is a Trustworthy Standard
  4. A Mother's Scaffolding is Temporary ... It's for a Season
  5. Scaffolding is Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life 
  6. Scaffolding is Atmosphere 
  7. Scaffolding is Discipline 
  8. Scaffolding is Life ← You Are Here
  9. Scaffolding in a Lesson
  10. Scaffolding Under Conditions
  11. Scaffolding Q&A