Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Itches and Inertia

We travelled the 300 plus miles to Missouri this weekend for a dose of grandparents and cousins.

While I was there, I caught an itch, similar to hers.  My itch is a dissatisfaction caused by comparing myself, an object at rest, to my mom, an object in motion...always...always...always in motion.

She cooked (no, 'let's just eat out tonight'), straightened, laundered, hulled, swept and wiped all weekend long.  Of course, I pitched in, I just didn't maintain her pace.

Her bustle is in contrast to my nose-in-a-book, head-in-the-clouds, hand-folded state of being.

I've inherited so many of the physical traits, even the temperament, of my mother.  Why, oh why, did I not get that crucial trait of busy-ness?  I'm merely a sloppy charicature of her and her hard-working ways.

I have an itch for a different kind of inertia....more like my momma's.  One that doesn't rest until it gets done.  One that says 'no' to the inclination to quit for now.  One that's a little more thorough and complete and attentive to detail.  One that's a little less beholden to good enough.    

Incidentally, the kids got an itch too, but theirs came from the chiggers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

August Rain

Today as my boy and I worked on fractions, we stopped and listened.  It was rain beginning to spatter on the window pain.  For an hour or more, the rain fell and the thunder gently rumbled.  I love these kinds of days.

They've been frequent this year--so unexpected yet so welcome.

Since I moved here twelve summers ago, I've come to dread August.  It's just so hot.  And dry.

Not so, this year.

Even in April, I noted in my journal that we were getting daily temperatures in the fifties, when normally, by then, we are usually well into the seventies.

I remember the weather man in June warning us not to get used to it, the heat and the dry would come with the summer.  I suppose in weather (as in investing) past performance is not an indication of future results.

The weatherman was wrong.  Throughout the summer, the days have stayed down right temperate.  Sure there have been waves of heat but they're gone as soon as they come.  When the heat leaves, the rains come.

The rain is particularly welcome because we have suffered through a draught over the past years, and this state has been a dry and thirsty land where no water was.

With the extra moisture, the humidity has increased.  When I go on my morning jaunt, my body turns into a human condenser and sweat drips from my elbows.

But I'll take it!  I'm a farmer's daughter and I'll celebrate each August raindrop in famine or in plenty.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Our Curriculum: Part 1 - Cursive

I'm going to go subject by subject to document our curriculum for the 2013/2014 school year.  I'm starting with cursive even though it really isn't its own subject.

I'm starting here because it's a hot-ish topic.  The buzz began when a witness for the prosecution in a certain sensationalized criminal trial admitted before the viewing public that she could not read a piece of evidence because she did not know how to read cursive.

I'm confident she's not the only one.

It seems cursive is no longer a priority in some schools, in part, because there simply isn't time to teach it and because it is not considered so important when communication these days is primarily done with a keyboard.

My husband and I have had the discussion before.  Is cursive relevant in an electronic world?  To me it's an emphatic, "Yes!"  No respectable signature was ever printed.  Cursive is what love letters are made of.  It's how your mom writes messages to you in greeting cards.  It's the print medium of the Declaration of Independence AND the Constitution!  Turns out, it even helps your brain.

No, for me, it wasn't a decision about whether or not to teach my kids cursive.  It was a matter of what font.  This:

or ****THIS****:

Okay, for now we're settling for the more standard version.

Right as I was pondering how to teach cursive, Classical Conversations came out with their PreScripts line.  I ordered all four books as soon as they were available because my kids were at or nearing the cursive age and because the books tied in with our memory work.

It's going well.  My son started in the second book, Cursive Words and Drawing, which features scripture, this past spring and is two-thirds of the way done.  It's still a laborious process for him, though.  He's getting faster copying the passages, but it's very tedious to both of us for him to use cursive in his other work.  We both give a sigh of relief when I let him switch back to print.  I need to develop the guts to have him go cold-turkey off the printing.  I just can't decide at what point that will be.

I'll have him finish this book but will start him on Cursive Sentences as soon as possible because it incorporates this year's history sentences.  I also like the accompanying art lessons in this book, which feature art from our Classical Acts and Facts History Cards.  I'm looking forward to entwining penmanship with history and art.  And, truly, the timing of this products release could not have been better.

As for my daughter, I'm going to start her on PreScripts Cursive Letters and Coloring next year when she's in second grade, but we'll do the coloring sheets this year because they correspond with our current-year memory work.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Month in Books - July

Here are the books I finished in July:

The Art of Civilized Conversation:  A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace by Margaret Shepherd

Turns out that there is a difference between civilized conversation and the other kind.  I've been guilty of relying on sarcasm and gossip to prop up weak conversational skills.  This book has made me more aware of what I say and how to be more gracious saying it.  As I was reading, this Bible verse kept jumping into my mind; it sums up civilized conversation as described in the the book quite nicely:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

The book is full of do's and don'ts for a variety of social situations.  It is really quite thorough and would be a good reference to have on the shelf.  

Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly

This was my book club's book for the month.  In July, we traditionally read a book of a political nature.  It was very fast-paced, sticking mostly to documented facts and leaving out the speculation.  It was a simple account of a very complex time.  

Letters to a Young Scientist by Edward O. Wilson

I read this after hearing an interview with Wilson on NPR.  I listened to the interview on the heals of reading Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.  Being a fan of Esolen's book, I was taken in by the similarity of their messages regarding the importance of unstructured, contemplative time for children.  I was also smitten by Wilson's voice, which reminded me of my Great Uncle Martin's.

Not being particularly young or a scientist, I am not the intended audience for the book.  I'm also what Wilson calls an 'ideologue.'  Alas, I believe in creation, and the book is heavy in evolutionary content.   I recall reading somewhere that people tend to read books with which they expect they'll agree.   Here's an article expressing the viewpoint that it can be a good exercise to read opposing viewpoints.

I did in fact benefit from reading the book even though I believe in Biblical creation. I gathered some ideas for teaching science and obtained insight into how real scientists approach experiments.  I was inspired by Wilson's enthusiasm for his profession.  He is over 80 years old and still passionate about his life's work (ant research).  I also plan to pass along some of his advice to my children whether they end up to be scientists or not because it applies across disciplines.