Excellence in Education.

Last night, Anthony (youngest son) and I had a discussion on education and excellence.

We were cleaning up together after visitors.

Some of our conversation with our visitors had been on educational excellence.

While cleaning the kitchen , Anthony mentioned his thoughts. To his mind, the most important goals in education were to “have a love for learning and to know the basics.”

If by basics Anthony means the tools of learning, then I am right there with him.

The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers.

Sometimes, Anthony reminds me of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes – he says the most amazing things!

My Story

We are reading the novels in the My Story series.

Published by Ashton Scholastic, each novel is a personal account of a fictional character living within a time period of Australian history.

Currently the books in the series span Australian history from the 1770s to 1975.

We also have the three accompanying Teacher’s Guides.

Reading these novels is my idea – living literature for Australian Studies . Gerry ( dh) and Thomas read some of these novels last year and found them to be both interesting and informative – learned more about Australian history via reading.

I’ve asked some of the kids to choose a novel, read it and we’ll follow up with discussions and narrations and activities.

This week, Alexander finished the novel on Sir Donald Bradman.

This novel not only remembered the cricketer but also the man and his almost iconic status. Alexander pointed out that Donald Bradman was often a hero, a ray of hope and a positive distraction to those suffering during the Great Depression – so, naturally, this novel looks at the Great Depression and at life in Australia at that time.

All of the My Story books are written in the form of either diaries and journals or personal letters. We have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to write in such a style.

And why choose fiction? Can fiction enable us to understand another’s life more easily? To become enveloped in the story? Does it whet our appetite for more serious history study?

What about the problem of bias and interpretation?

The educator Charlotte Mason saw value in teaching history as the story of one person. She wrote,

“The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn ‘outlines’ of the whole history… just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

What is education?

At the 4 real learning forum, we have been discussing unschooling.

What is unschooling? Is it another form of education, of homeschooling?

To a certain extent, one could say that our family is a family of unschoolers. Especially if one uses the quote below from educator John Holt, to describe our unschooly homeshool.

However, I do hate labels – we never quite fit the parameter of any one particular box, be it the unschool box, the homeschool box, the Catholic box… I suspect this is true for most.

The quote ~

Any child who can spend an hour or two a day, or more if he wants, with adults that he likes, who are interested in the world and like to talk about it, will on most days learn far more from their talk than he would learn in a week of school. ~John Holt

This quote describes part of our homeschooling life and our philosophy of homeschooling.

So, what is education?

A poster at the 4 real board posted a link to this article ~ What Does It Mean to be Well Educated?

This article makes me cringe .The example used by the author – his wife – is the example that causes me to grimace. The author points out that his wife does not know literature, for example, but is a deep thinker, a physician, well educated, etc. I am sure she is all these things.

So, why does this make me cringe? I think because the author does not give us the impression that his wife is continuing to learn – to realize “Hey, I know a lot about some things and I enjoy thinking about them and contributing to society. But when people talk about literature I have no idea. Maybe I’m missing somethng here? I’ll continue with my self education and read literature and broaden my horizons.”

There is a self satisfaction promoted by the article, a postmodern view that all learning is equal, all things are good….

To me, education and to be educated implies having a thirst for knowledge and for thought and/or discussion, self learning, never stopping learning…throughout life.

In part, that is why I like unschooling – it tends to encourage and feed this thirst for self learning.

And in part, that is why I am no longer a radical unschooler – I wanted to add to our life, to add some “let’s do” to our days and weeks – rather than just an reliance on strewing.

For me a “let’s do” has a bit more emphasis than strewing. It has a stronger encouragment for areas for which my sons may not naturally feel an attraction , even when we strewing and set examples as role models.

Areas that are important, that we parents see as having value ~ areas that are noble and good.

I like this essay ~ C. S. Lewis on a Liberal Arts Education.

Lewis describes a liberal arts education as an education that makes one free. Free from the slavery of appetite and free to choose to be self disciplined. To learn from the past, to think , to fulfill one’s humanity, to become a better person and a better citizen.

“Most of all, perhaps, we need an intimate knowledge of the past.” C.S. Lewis

Perhaps we are liberal arts unschoolers?

A few quotes

I found these quotes while searching for appropriate quotes , for a piece that I was asked to write, on older children leaving the home. On how mothers deal with the separation.

The quotes stand alone. They speak volumes .

“That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike!” Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis

“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus


A little Science.

Funny. January must be a Science month.

I read Theresa’s blog and noted their bacteria exeriments.

Jennifer and her daughter have embarked on a study of birds.

We also undertook Science activities this last week – on Thursday.

It all began with a clearing and organizing project. January is good for these sort of jobs!

We re-organized our “school boxes”, the containers in which we keep projects and notebooks and drawings and writing and anything else we can stick into a file folder and call a portfolio for the Board of Studies.

We tidied up some homeschooling shelves. I threw into the recycle bin a pile of papers – notes and ideas and themes and units. No point in hoarding..

In the process, we came across a few Science textbooks, primary and secondary level.

I asked Alexander, Thomas and Anthony to each select a book of interest from this group, to pop into their school boxes for possible reading.

Straight away, Thomas and Anthony became interested in the Science activities in the books.

Anthony made a water lens – see the pic above. You can make a similar

Thomas attempted to create and observe static electricity ~ do you know how difficult it is to create static electricity when you want to? Or how easy it is to create and exerience static electricity in every day life, when you could care less? There must be some sort of Murphy’s Law applicable to this situation..


Vision. Oh, and Pollyanna!

I have spent the morning and part of the afternoon at a Kumon meeting.

This is extra volunteer work that I do , extra to my day to day work as a Kumon Education Supervisor.

I take part in these meetings because I see the importance of the Kumon Vision – Supervisors helping each other and building a community and thus making a positive change in the general community; Kumon centres helping children not just with academic skills but also with confidence and goal setting and other life skills.

Our Kumon motto for this year is “One by One.”

IOW, we will look at each parent and child, each Supervisor, each staff member as an individual and remember to do what is best for each person. Making a change one by one.

As I was driving home, I thought about this vision in relation to my family.

(Where are the kids, you ask? At a parish related picnic and outing. So, I have had time for the meeting and to ponder..).

What would be the effect in my family of remembering to see each member as individual, one by one?.

Over Christmas my motto was to see only the positives in my husband and in my children.

Can I continue to look for positives in 2007?

P.S. Reminds me of one of my favourite books as a child – Pollyanna. I loved Pollyanna’s character and her way of looking at adversity . I have tried to live a more positive life myself.

The influence of books on children!

An Addendum or two..

First, a delightful addendum to the Loveliness of New Years resolutions – read
Paula’s post on A Year of Abundance.

And, an addendum to the post on blogs – lest you think I agree with the writer mentioned in the blogpost “Are Catholic blogs an occasion of sin?”. I strongly disagree and simply posted the link for information and food for thought. It occurred to me tonight that I should clarify.

In fact, in my comments I wrote ~ I think the writer and the blogger take themselves way too seriously! The whole blog does. 😦

Basically, I don’t think we bloggers should be “guardians of the language” – there is a difference between formal and informal language, isn’t there?

And, to be honest, I don’t see the purpose of my blog to be the bastion of orthodoxy ( con, neo-con, trad or whatever label the original writer may like to attach – I hate labels). It is just a means of sharing our life with family and friends. I also meet new friends along the way.

This can hardly be ” an occasion of sin” – unless I neglect other things. Hah! As if I could! I have too many other things to do! 🙂


The Loveliness of New Years Resolutions…

Let us be firm in our purposes and unswerving in our resolutions. Perseverance will prove whether we have sincerely sacrificed ourselves to God and dedicated ourselves to a devout life

St. Frances de Sales from Introduction to the Divine Life

My hope is that this Fair will encourage us all , as homeschooling mothers, to be firm in our resolutions.

I begin the fair with a photo of our family’s public New Years Resolutions. This poster currently sits on our refrigerator, as a visual reminder of our individual decisions. A poster , in eye catching colours and open for all to view, certainly helps with encouragement and accountability.

You can read about our resolutions and ideas for families and resolutions here and here.

Sarah from Canada writes ~ I don’t usually believe in getting too caught up in New Year’s Resolutions as it concerns me that it can be a way of setting ourselves up for failure to comply with our own resolutions if we change the way we feel or think before the next year’s beginning. On the flip side of that a year does allow a nice length of time for gradual changes to be made towards new goals. Therefore the goals might then be more long lasting.

In light of that I also think that New Year is a nice time to review and reflect on how we do things in our lives and a great time for renewing, whether it be physically, spiritually, intellectually, socially.

That said my commitment to myself is to once again look at the essential elements for healthful living. Being in a new environment for me has brought it’s challenges. I have had a plethora of new experiences all year and a smorgasbord of new foods to indulge in. Looking at the scales perhaps a little less indulgence is warranted. So I am actively working on being conscious of the healthful foods that tickle my taste buds.

Fitness and health form part of the resolutions of many.

Margaret reminds us that our resolutions are often shared by many – and includes the New York Times best seller list as proof. I admit to having read some of those books!

Cindy writes about her aim to exercise more – for 30 minutes at least three times a week. And she has made many other worthwhile resolutions – way to go, Cindy!

The three times a week fitness goal is also shared by KC from the Cabbage Patch ~ and I like her resolution of being more diligent with read alouds, too!

Elizabeth has resolved to give up dieting forever. This resolve is close to my own heart and, I suspect, close to the hearts of many women. What a healthy resolution – to focus on health and good nutrition without the need for unsettling body images. A good resolution to pass onto daughters ( and sons).

In addition to fitness goals ( two ab workouts a day!) My Thoughtful Spot (Cheryl) tells us the importance of writing down goals. She gives an example from her life, of achieving written goals…Very helpful.

Mary, from St Athanasius Academy shares her experiences, too – and how goals or resolutions must be flexible, as life circumstances change. Spontaneity in our resolutions?

This reflection on last year’s resolutions is not restricted to Mary. Read My Domestic Church , where Elena reflects on resolutions for 2006 and on her progress, while considering resolutions for 2007. I especially like the photo of the FIRM workouts! Kira, too, is reflective and she resolves to return to making New Years Resolutions. And Maria gives us her wise Thoughts and Plans for 2007.

Don’t feel disheartened by all this talk of goals – Suzanne shares her blog post on not being defeated and on the importance of consistency. We also read at Lettres de mon Moulin about remembering that we are all “works in progress.”

A very thoughtful post from Heather reminds us once again of the important things in life – what can we resolve to do this year, to help our spiritual life and our family? More ideas are here.

For more on a similar vein, read about Jenny’s Core Values Exercise.

Willa categorizes her resolutions – what a good idea! Her categories are ~

Very practical. As are Dawn’s resolutions, neatly listed under the banner of “The Year of De-cluttering.”

More practical resolutions come from causa-nostrae-laetitiae ( Cause of My Joy) – linked to a quote from St Basil. And Ruth shares her resolutions list,too.

Helen is generous in sharing her resolutions ~ Resolutions with Our Lady. While Katherine shares her resolution of praying the psalms.

Genevieve reminds us that resolutions can be monthly ideas…..

Sarah provides an uplifting post with her resolutions based on A New Year of Faith, Hope and Charity. How much better would my home life flow if I concentrated on these three virtues? Thank you, Sarah, for your post.

Soul of the Home gives us her motto for 2007 – I love mottoes! Read how a motto can form your resolutions for the good of all.

And I love Taffy’s resolution – Be happy. Be the best me. Take a peek at Taffy’s blog and I guarantee you will come away with a smile .

Laugh with Mary as your read her very do-able resolution – I, too, may resolve not to dust!

So, there it is. A Fair of New Year’s Resolutions.

Lest you feel overwhelmed – read this article at Catholic Online and remember to just take five. Five minutes to work on resolutions. That’s all.

Remember, in the words of the article ~ Rather that feeling a sense of failure to resolve or complete everything on the list, make this year’s list an “evolution” list. By making an evolution rather than resolution list, perspective shifts from completing items on the list to taking small steps to create change, to evolve.