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

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Scaffolding is Discipline

Scaffolding also utilizes the discipline of habit. Scaffolding is evenly spaced, carefully layered, intentionally constructed. Mason's habit-building is so done, too. Mason says,
By "education is a discipline," we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.
Habits are skills that follow those neural pathways so they are done without thought or intent; they're just what we do. They're taught intentionally, but naturally in a Charlotte Mason context. It's almost the opposite of Atmosphere in emphasis. While the atmosphere is just kinda there, discipline is imposed; whereas the atmosphere can be intentional to some extent, habit can be caught.
The same general outline of a lesson follows a habitual order: we start with what we know, add to what we know, recreate it, and leave clear the pathway to add more in the future. The thing with Charlotte Mason is that she observed how people learned, studied it more in depth, and told it. It isn't magic. My friend's husband said – this just how people learn. Agreed. But it isn't how people generally teach. For scaffolding, the discipline of habit is to take what good learners do and teach others to do that. 

So we start with, perhaps, my favorite metaphor. Andrew Kern of the CiRCE Institute says we start by playing with the puppies.

We introduce a lesson with what we know or by introducing what we ought to know.

We get our hands on the geometric solids or go looking for different kinds of columns or visit a historical place or listen to a piece of music or look at a beautiful painting.

We teach our kids to observe: look, listen, touch, feel, notice. This is all habit. We teach them to pay attention to the world around them, to the pencil and paper so the letters are written just so, to feel of the breeze or the smell of the flower, to the wriggle and softness of the puppy. There are millions of ways to “play with the puppies” because there are millions of ideas. Next time we may not have puppies but we can re-mind what it was like with some gentle open-ended questions. We can ask them “What did we read last time?” or “Where did we leave off?” This establishes or reestablishes the grounding support.

We can prepare students to read with some support. After pre-reading – or even skimming – we can help them notice proper nouns with a white board or even a post-it note. We can teach them to watch for proper nouns so their narrations have depth, are complete, and – written - have proper spelling. We aren't trying to set up the ideas they're going to narrate, but helping with people and places, dates and active ingredients, we are teaching skills for good reading.

When they come to the 're-creation' step - whether that is narration or do the math problem or play the piece – we can pay attention. With a smile on our face and our listening ears on. Are we treating them as an interruption or a person. (oops! Atmosphere snuck back in there).

Many scaffolds are tied into the building itself as a safety precaution; in fact, I watched a crew do this on our recent vacation.

Can you see the tether to the roof?
I think of the practice of Keeping like this, it's a layer that ties the lesson, the scaffold, to the building. It's not an extra, it gives extra support and stability, though. So, after we've narrated or recreated the lesson, in our keeping – be it a nature journal, book of centuries, commonplace, or any of the myriad notebooks one can keep – we have that final step to help tie everything together firmly. Are we interested in the children's Keeping? Are we keeping ourselves and comparing and discussing? It is important, not adjunct or extra.

As we discuss, we give respect to their ideas without shutting them down. We leave doors open for them to add or change course in their understanding. Leave them their Aha! moments. That joy is what drives future seeking out of ideas. But do you notice that a large part of the habit here is, um, yours?

Preparation, pre-reading, listening attentively and interestedly to narrations, keeping, participating in discussion? These are all habits the Mason educator should be cultivating because they contribute to the atmosphere of the schoolroom and the habits of your students.

If you aren't interested in Aethelred the Unready, why should your student be? If you refuse to see the beauty in 3x=12, how will your student? If their ideas aren't valuable to you, you cannot expect yours to be valuable to them. There's that atmosphere again – but it's your habits that are affecting the atmosphere. The instruments are tied together.

The student's habits of diligence, attention, tidiness, observation, wonder, keeping, and interest, all of those must be taught, yes, but they're also caught from the way you scaffold your homeschool. Tidiness is not one of my best habits. I can tell every time I walk into my homeschool room and see how my children have left it. May need to focus on that for all of us soon: these are habits for life.

Habits affect the social life, home life, school life, and lesson life, just as atmosphere does. Good habits build relationships with people outside and within our immediate sphere. This is part of learning and you teach this as surely as you teach phonics.

Habits within the home affect relationships with the people within the home. Just as my husband would very much like me to habitually care for the laundry more consistently, and teaching my children homemaking skills would behoove us all, Habits of attention and focus and narration are all important during lessons for continued upward growth in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man. Habits define our manner which simply expresses how we love God with our hearts, souls, strength, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves.

You probably like to have a conversation with someone who is listening attentively to you, more than looking for the next conversation. Someone who can listen to your problem, and empathise and or advise you. When we learn to focus our attention on the work at hand, we do so habitually in other arenas. In his book, Beauty for Truth's Sake, Stratford Caldecott says,
“For Weil prayer consists of attention to God and the concentration required to solve (or even attempt mathematical puzzles is never wasted, since it develops the soul's capacity for the higher attentiveness-- not to mention (in the case of those who find mathematics difficult) humility.” pg 89
Googling, I found this quote from Weil herself when looking for that passage,
“[the] faculty of attention […when] directed toward God, is the very substance of prayer.”
You can see how the evenly built layer upon layer of a scaffold helps a student to add to their building carefully and consistently, but it also helps them learn to love God and to love others. The habituation of scaffolded lessons both supports children as they learn to live this way and teaches them to build their own scaffold for lifelong growth and learning.

As their understanding and their relationships grow through the use of good habits, the routine of learning becomes ingrained and established. I was talking with a friend who said that during summer break without the structure of routine she really struggles to continue with her own study and learning. Good habits matter to the life of ideas.

  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 ← You Are Here
  8. Scaffolding is Life
  9. Scaffolding in a Lesson
  10. Scaffolding Under Conditions
  11. Scaffolding Q&A

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Scaffolding is Atmosphere

As I've written this series and thought about it over the last year, I came to see how Scaffolding is just Mason's tools of Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life. I started out planning to write just the first four or so posts, but as I actually wrote them I kept bumping up against atmosphere - how construction scaffolding provides a sense of safety and protection for the men using it. This connection led me to think a little about Discipline and Life, which are also connected. I'm excerpting from a talk I gave at the Set Your Feet Retreat this summer taking each, then, in turn over the next weeks, but starting with Atmosphere.

Scaffolding has to do with the atmosphere of your home, of your school, of each individual lesson.

In a lesson, we aren't simply providing intellectual safety for our students, although safety should be part of it. The atmosphere should be one of joy, wonder, interest, and a desire to keep meeting with new ideas and connecting them to old ideas. Remember the sheeting and solid footing? The atmosphere of the scaffolding is transparent – the workman doesn't even have to think about his balance, because of the construction and his safety harnessing to it; he can put all of his mental and physical effort into the work at hand.

My friend Celeste Cruz says it this way, “Atmosphere involves anything that the child takes in through his environment without direct instruction. It molds not just his receptivity to lessons, but also his development of virtue, which is why it is one of the three tools of education. And here's the most important bit: we are using it -- to our advantage or disadvantage -- whether we're meaning to or not.”
In the same way as the workman, our children should have the support of a home life that doesn't whip around with the wind or change temperatures like some great swinging pendulum. This is hard! I know I can blow hot and cold depending on the time of day, time of week, or -dare I mention- time of month?

Children should know that they are loved – not simply by words (please do say the words!) but by the ambience of the home and the treatment they receive therein (even when it's hard). I tell my kids that it isn't obedience when they do what they already want to do what they've been instructed – it's obedience when they submit their will to the direction of their authority. It's the same for me. Parenting and loving take the same kind of concentrated effort (we also are in obedience to an authority, after all) By taking care - when we want to lash out harshly - to control our own emotions we show love.

They should know that learning is valued and valuable. They should know that we are stewards. They should know a great many things simply by how we live our lives and do our things.

They should know the atmosphere they're surrounded by is one that they don't have to pay attention to, but can take for granted as being for them and for their growth toward maturity. This is definitely for parental sanctification.

What in the environment tells our children learning is important? What in the math lesson tells your child that math is important? That they can do fractions? That algebra isn't scary? What in the family lifestyle gives children the freedom to try new things, to learn on their own time, to want to learn on their own time?

Have we prepared the base plate of our homes, our homeschools, our lessons, our attitudes to support our students by placing it all on Christ, or are we unintentionally throwing their footing off before we even begin?

Charlotte Mason says, “When we say that "education is an atmosphere," we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's level. “

Here's the thing, though, Atmosphere can be intentional, but it has to be natural. There's a tension. We can tell when something is put on awkwardly, like a tshirt backwards or a skirt askew. The atmosphere in your home or school reflects a way of life. What we do as homeschoolers – and as Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, in particular – is counter-cultural. It takes effort.

This lifestyle, this atmosphere we enjoy in our home is a radically different, but completely worthwhile way. As we learn to love it more and more, that great room in which we set our feet grows. It seems like it should be smaller, but it's so much wider than we can imagine. That's what intentionally changing our atmosphere does.

My son fell in love with the organ when he was 3. We had enjoyed the Mr. Bach Comes to Call CD at home during quiet time, but when our church put in an organ, he fell completely, irrevocably in love. Every Sunday, during the Postlude, he'd walk right up to the front and wait for it to finish. He'd scoot around to speak with Mr Brown, our organist and look at the organ. When he was 8 and taking piano lessons, out of frustration he exclaimed, “Who cares about piano when there are organs?!”

That post incited a Facebook friend to tell me there's an organ academy for kids in our town. The rest is history.

The thing is, while one of my daughters takes organ too, she doesn't love it like he does. She enjoys it, but it isn't consuming. My other daughter's gifts lie elsewhere and she and I decided that 5 years of piano lessons were enough for her. The atmosphere of what we brought into our home, his personal experience, and his natural inclinations led to an enthusiastic practice of what he loves, but it's for him, not for all of my children. By spreading a generous feast of ideas and arts, they can still appreciate each others' interests while delving into their own. They may delve deep in one area, but they still are served from the wide tableau. That generous feast is part of the atmosphere we're bringing to bear.

The atmosphere portion of scaffolding is not just the meta, the lifestyle. It is also within the schoolroom. Is it welcoming? Joyful? Is school a job for you or the children? Is it drudgery or vivacious? How do you approach the whole concept of the lessons at hand. The atmosphere of the schoolroom isn't necessarily based on the d├ęcor of the schoolroom. Remember, Mason says, “we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared," Your attitude is part of the scaffold.

When we set up our schoolroom, it should be comfortable for all of us, warm and inviting, but not dumbed down. It should be natural and like a home. One of my favorite CS Lewis quotes is

It's the same thing – aim at maturity and you will get maturity and a childhood; aim at childhood and you will get perpetual childishness. How can you make your homeschool room welcoming yet not stultifying? This is part of scaffolding the lesson.

Atmosphere doesn't only matter in the household or in the schoolroom. During the lesson, are we just trying to get done, already? Are we powering through so we can finish? Are we shutting down interest and wonder with poorly chosen materials or even our own seeming disinterest as we are busy with many things – kitchens, laundry, phones? (preaching to myself here). While Masterly Inactivity is important, do we leave children too much on their own (which is not masterly)? How can we be more engaged with our children in their lessons – that they and learning are our priority? Are we prepared for the lesson?

What about the end? Do we leave the pathway open to expand upward with questions to seek out more depth and more interest, or do we shut those down because we have so much to do or the questions don't “fit” in the curriculum? That discussion at the end of a lesson often forms the connection to the next lesson.

The science of relations helps a student have a relationship with the subject at hand, yes, but one of my favorite questions after a narration is, “Does this remind you of anything?” tying ideas to other ideas. It's especially exciting when it ties to another discipline. My daughter was recently excited to realize that a double negative in math is akin to a double negative in grammar but not in life – two wrongs don't make a right. Discussion out of a lesson led to that understanding.

The discussion may bring up questions and ideas that are important to our children, but not in the ensuing lessons. A suggestion I read on Instagram is this little spiral notebook where we can capture those “I wonder ...” questions and have them for later.

This way we don't shut down the ideas and thinking, but can continue to move forward without distraction. And we can think more about the idea at a more appropriate time.

Scaffolding uses the tool of atmosphere – we foster a lifestyle, we make the school room comfortable and inviting, we prepare in order to encourage careful attention and interest, we seek out relationships and connections.
  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 ← You Are Here
  7. Scaffolding is Discipline
  8. Scaffolding is Life
  9. Scaffolding in a Lesson
  10. Scaffolding Under Conditions
  11. Scaffolding Q&A

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Simple Woman's Daybook for October 1, 2018

For Today...

Looking out my window ... it is dark. Late.

I am thinking ... it's a little crazy to post this now because there's a scheduled post at 6am tomorrow.

I am thankful ... for blogging as an outlet.

One of my favorite things ... my washer and dryer. I've run a number of loads of laundry today and I'm glad they're pretty automated ;)

I am wearing ... jammies. Almost ready for bed.

I am creating ... an embroidered piece from Clementine Patterns. I'm thrilled with it so far! I've made my first real French Knots - so accomplished!

I am reading The Gospel Comes With a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield ... I'm thinking about the place of the internet and social media (and blogs) and how that intersects with living in community.

I am hoping ... Jason gets home soon. Long day for him.

I am learning ... about appetites and affections. I enjoyed this Forma podcast episode when walking the dog.

In my kitchen ... I cleaned out my freezers today and am prepping for Baking Day later in the week.

In the school room ... I have a kiddo doing makeup work from his camping trip last week, and M-girl has Latin every day over PREP week. We have co-op Wednesday. That seems enough for "break from academics week."

In my garden ... R-girl's flower garden is still going strong!

Post Script ... I see a lot of mamas homeschooling but stumbling along because they lack confidence. It's a really important factor in homeschooling well, so I wrote about How to Homeschool with Confidence.

Shared Quote ... "God declares our identity ..." Rosaria Butterfield from pg 33 of The Gospel Comes With a House Key.

A moment from my day ... it's a busy week!

Linking up with The Simple Woman.

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 Discipline
  2. Scaffolding is Life
  3. Scaffolding in a Lesson
  4. Scaffolding Under Conditions
  5. 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?

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