Friday, January 16, 2015

Grapple Them to Thy Soul: Resources for Hamlet

The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
                    Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel.- Polonius, from Hamlet, Act 1.3

Great advice, despite coming from Polonius.  Last semester we read Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  Charlotte Mason quotes from Hamlet quite often, including the lines above.  She prefaces the quote by telling us that "most of us carry in our minds tags of verse which shape our conduct more than we know." (Vol. 4, p. 10) It's so true. Because these "tags of verse" help shape our conscience, selecting only the best becomes paramount. And the quote above speaks deeply to me.

It has become a thing here at Sage Parnassus for me to share the resources that we used after each Shakespeare play.  You can access all of the past posts about the plays we've experienced here under the heading "Shakespeare in Our Community".

Oftentimes I introduce the play with a pre-reading activity at our TBG Community meeting. These serve as a sort of retelling, if you will.  Here is a great intro to the play that involves acting -   Pantomime Pre-reading Activity

I use the tried-and-true, affordable Folger's editions of the plays.  Each student who can read has their own copy.  It has become a rite of passage in our community to be able to have your own text.  In addition to that, each student now has a sizable library of the plays, marked up with their own notes and underlines.

As the teacher, I have a few favorite resources.  First, Shakespeare's Hamlet (Christian Guides to the Classics) by Leland Ryken is excellent.  Read World magazine's review of it here.

Another fabulous resource that I mentioned over 4 years ago is worth mentioning again.  That is, Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All . She brilliantly analyzes the plays with insight and depth that is astounding. And now you can take her class at Harvard - for free! Sandy tells me these lectures are well done so I 'm excited about this resource.

Finally, we did something fun with narrations this term.  Each student did a drawing narration for each act as we went through the play.  They were to draw the scene that struck them on paper 4.25 x 5.5.  When we met, they shared their drawings.  They were to design a book cover and place their 5 drawings in them.  Here are a few pictures of them.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Slow and Beautiful Work

"The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription, slow and beautiful work..."                             - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 238
Transcription is copywork.  Often it is just something we do quickly and check off our list.  But it shouldn't be.  When we do our Work at Table, I remind myself to take a breath and slow down. Then I remind my children to take their time and do "slow and beautiful work" with their copywork.

Mason had some other ideas that I don't see mentioned very often when it comes to copywork.  One is that the student should look at the word, visualize it in their mind's eye, and then try to write it from memory.  This takes time!
Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory. - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 238
Above is a favorite copywork resource, The Boy's Book of Verse by Helen Dean Fish . It is, of course, perfectly appropriate for girls, too.  My 15 ds is presently copying "Ultima Ratio Regum" by Stephen Spender.  Read the one review at Amazon for a great endorsement. Which leads to my next point about letting the student select his own copywork.

Mason tells us to let the child choose the verse that he likes.  Mason tells us that if you make them always write the entire poem, it will "stale" upon the children. It's as if the copywork is almost to be thought of like a commonplace entry...or a nature notebook entry...or a Book of Centuries entry... - the student's own choice. 
A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favourite poem, an exercise which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure. - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 238
All of this reminds me of this Wendell Berry poem:

Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly,
leaving nothing out.

- from New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry


P.S. - Jen Spencer brought this interesting technique idea to my attention.  Mason suggests that the student should, from the beginning, hold the pencil between the first and second fingers, steadying the pencil with the thumb. This would seem to indicate that the pen would then sit comfortably between the knuckle of the middle and the index finger. 
It would be a great gain if children were taught from the first to hold the pen between the first and second fingers, steadying it with the thumb. This position avoids the uncomfortable strain on the muscles produced by the usual way of holding a pen––a strain which causes writer's cramp in later days when there is much writing to be done.  - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 239

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Simple Living in the New Year

"Wise men are feeling strongly that prudence requires of us, ... to live simple lives, to avoid excesses, even if they come in the way of athletic or intellectual toils, and to eschew possessions more than are necessary for fit and simple living. Perhaps it is lawful for us to allow ourselves, in our furniture and implements, beauty of form and colour, and fitness for our uses; but it may be our duty not to accumulate unnecessary possessions, the care of which becomes a responsibility, and whose value lies in their costliness. These things interfere with that real wealth of a serviceable body and alert mind which we owe to the service of our country as well as that of our home." - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 4, book 2, p. 54

The above quote is Mason musing on some lessons from Plutarch.  The whole section is interesting and I encourage you to read the entire passage. Her thoughts fit right into the simple living ideas that are popular today.  I am reminded of the William Morris quote, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be  useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Just a little interior design advice from Miss Mason herself!

Looking forward to a New Year with you,


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reader's Journal 2014

People are naturally divided into those who read and think and those who do not read or think; and the business of schools is to see that all their scholars shall belong to the former class; it is worth while to remember that thinking is inseparable from reading which is concerned with the content of a passage and not merely with the printed matter. - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 31
It's time for one of my favorite posts - the Reader's Journal! I will be busy with life over the holidays and thought some of you might want some recommendations before Christmas.  I will highlight my top picks at the top and then just list the rest.  These do not include the Bible, many books I read for our school, or Charlotte Mason's 6 volumes.  If you please, let me know what your thoughts are about some of these or link to  your own list down in the comments.

1. Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More— Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
by Karen Swallow Prior
 Karen is the author of another favorite book of mine,Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me.  But this book is very different. Hannah More, someone I had never even heard of, is now one of my heroines. From a not-very-convicted youth to a firebrand for abolition and truth.  She worked with William Wilberforce, was an original Bluestocking, started Sunday Schools, rubbed shoulders among the most important writers and actors of her day, and so much more. Karen's passion and precision for her subject matter simply glow.

2.Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children
 by Sarah Clarkson
I really didn't expect to like this book.  I am always reading books about books and I thought that this would be more of the same.  I was  pleasantly surprised. What I liked was that Sarah shows us what stories did to help her with life, how they comforted her, how they formed her moral imagination.  I felt like I was reading about my own children as they have told me many of the same things.  This will be one of my recommendations to new moms and teachers who need to understand what stories can do for you.  Her book lists are excellent and manageable and I applaud her restraint in listing only the best.  Her thoughts on Wendell Berry and his ideas on fidelity and assent are worth the price of this little gem.

3.Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books
by Tony Reinke
I know, I know - another book about books and reading.  This one is for those who might find How to Read a Book and other tomes in that genre a bit too heavy.  Tony is urging everyone to read and tells us why it is so important.  He quotes from Adler, Ryken, Socrates and others.  As I read it, I kept thinking about  some teenagers that I would like to discuss some of his points about reading and choice of reading material. I found his chapter on why he doesn't use an e-reader very interesting.

4. The Tall Woman
by Wilma Dykeman
I was in the Knoxville airport and was looking for something to read.  Maybe something regional?  I picked up this book and was captivated. It takes place in the Appalachians during the Civil War and beyond.  Great story and great writing.

5.The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book
 by Wendy Welch
Who wouldn't love a story about an attempt to start and sustain a little bookstore?  Interesting book recommendations at the end.

6.A Fine Romance: Falling in Love With the English Countryside
by Susan Branch
I read this before I went to Ambleside this past spring.  I'm not a huge fan of her style, but I loved this!  I then read it again after I went and enjoyed it even more, having been to the places she talked about.

7.Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination
 by Vigen Guroian
Since the CM philosophy uses many classic stories to awaken a child's moral imagination, I knew I would like this one.  Plus, Vigen will be a keynote speaker at the CMI conference this year. Woot!

8.Lila: A Novel
by Marilynne Robinson
I'm still thinking about this one.   Her characters are so deep and spiritual without being typically religious and they rarely act like I think they will.  Don't devour this one, it's a beautiful, strange, slow read. Lila is obsessed with Ezekiel 16, copying it over and over again - made me think about how the physical act of writing can help us understand things and may comfort us.  Here is an excellent book review of Lila.

1. Ambleside Remembered - People & Places, Past and Present by Rose Steele
2. A Fine Romance - Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch
3. A Passionate Sisterhood - Women of the Wordsworth Circle by Kathleen Jones
4. Tending the Heart of Virtue -How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination by Vigen Guroian
5. William Wordsworth by Natalie Bober
6. Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read
7. The Armitts - Sophia and her sisters by Barbara Crossley
8. The Eternal Argument by Robin Finley
9. The Illumined Heart by Frederica Mathewes-Green
10. The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman
11. Inheriting Paradise by Guroian
12. Education for the Kingdom by Benjamin E. Bernier
13. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
14. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch
15. Monk Habits for Everyday People by Okholm
16. Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan
17, Friends at Thrush Green by Miss Read
18. Celebrations at Thrush Green by Miss Read
19. The Silver Answer by Burnett
20. Lila by Marilynne Robinson
21. Consider This by Karen Glass
22. When Life Comes Undone by T.J. Addington
23. Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior
24. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
25. Lit! by Reinke
26. Above All by Brennan Manning
27. Cotton in My Sack by Lenski
28. Watt Matthews of Lambshead by Laura Wilson
29. Caught up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson
30. Goodnight, Sugar Pie by Winsett
31. Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason

Lists from the past:
Reader's Journal 2012
Reader's Journal 2013

So, what have you been reading?