Thursday, July 30, 2015

High School Chemistry, A History Resource, too.

I'm starting with a chat. Scroll, if you wish to immediately get to the product reviews.

covered bridge in Pennsylvania

Often, when we are driving together, "the back-way" to avoid Lancaster tourist traffic and road construction on the main roads, I'll quip to the Man-of-the-House, "Oh, can you pull over here? I'd like a photograph." He does. Then I lean out the window to point-'n-shoot." This time it was a covered bridge. One of our married daughters used to live down the road just through it.

covered bridge in Pennsylvania

In spring the Man-of-the-House drove me to my favorite nursery- Ken's on Old Philadelphia Pike.
We bought two pots of cilantro. Last year's new plantings were mysteriously eaten. I also picked out two handfuls of zinnia. The cilantro and red zinnia, marigolds were planted around the patio near the watermelon phlox. I like how these flowers stand up to the mid-day sun.

I learned something new about our wild rabbits (all 4 of them). It is apparent what their main diet is. We watch them feed on the clover flowers and plantains in our lawn, regularly. But I've surmised that they secretly find cilantro a delicacy. I blame them for nibbling my new plants as soon as they went into the ground - the second year in a row! Not a leaf is left for the cook's use. What brought on my suspicion? The usual caterpillar evidence is absent, firstly.

Our oregano around the back patio

And secondly, the rabbits come to the patio at breakfast time, like clockwork. From the kitchen French doors, I spied one rabbit tasting the oregano. Only a taste, mind you. Then it moved on.

"We have a new visitor," the Man-of-the-House said pointing through the French doors. A curious little bunny was, at that moment, nosing the thyme. Just a sniff. Off it hopped to forage elsewhere.

I cannot see the cilantro through the French doors, nor have I caught any rabbit in the act of eating it. However wise I consider myself to be to their herbal preference, I don't know what to do next year. I like cilantro as much as they do. Can't they leave me just a little?  This is what comes of no longer having cats around the place.

Oh, well.

I agree with a long-distance gardening friend who kindly sent me her hollyhock seed through the mail - seeds I sowed last autumn. She is a conscientious, attentive teacher and in her opinion it is perfectly fine to retreat outdoors, throw our cares (and seeds) to the wind, and be refreshed by flowers - yours or another gardener's - during off hours.

The fairest flower soonest fades. Traditional Saying

Flowers, like good fiction are a lovely momentary escape. They help relieve our minds of the gruesome and distressing national news, for instance. I need flowers. This week, on the way to the doctor's office I paused to gaze on the red roses blooming there. Their beauty helped steady my nerves. I breathed in their scent and marveled at their indescribable pink-red-orange color. This year my hollyhocks have big healthy leaves but are flowerless. They are supposed to be flowerless. I was warned that they are a biannual bloom and look forward to their flowering next year.

hollyhocks in their first year
Hollyhocks on the south side of the house - gaining sun for next summer's bloom.

After a peaceful escape with flowers you might be prepared to reel in your thoughts again. I know some of you have been making big decisions for the school year. These two resources have our vote. I linked each to Amazon.

"Time Travelers" - history resource on CD 
Review by Karen Andreola

It was 2012. I was walking the isles of a homeschool conference when I first laid eyes on a display of projects from Time Travelers. I stopped abruptly. I had to get a closer look. “Ooo,” I thought, “My [now adult] children would have greatly enjoyed going on these hands-on history adventures - had they been available. So would I.”

Time Travelers Lap Book

It’s on the tip of my tongue to say, “These kits are cute” - however, a more telling word is impressive. Amy Pak's Time Travelers supply 50 carefully thought-out activities to choose from. The masters, for constructing them, are expertly rendered. A photo gallery shows you all the finished pieces. Read the day’s lesson (1 of 25) then choose a project to work on over the next couple of days.

time line notebook

The text, with its reading and project schedule, can be used as a backbone to whatever living books you choose for narration.

Students study the people, major events, and lifestyle of the times. This includes the influence of Christians. A resource list points you to living books, music of the period, and relevant films to watch.

Time Travelers Lap Book

You are supplied time-line figures, a map or two, a board game to construct, multiple Lap Book™ projects.

Created for a range of ages, some projects require composition, others neat penmanship only. The student might write headline news onto a life-like newspaper printout. Girls can sew authentic crafts such as a yo-yo quilt or a penny rug in the Great Depression. Boys construct a model suspension bridge and a Wright Brother’s Flyer.

 In Colonial Life girls can stitch an alphabet sampler, lavender sachet, or stencil a Shaker box, while boys make a punched tin lantern, candle holder – and more. Printout pages can be kept in a three-ring binder.

Time Travelers History Study
Time Travelers makes me want to go back and do homeschool history over again. Suitable for upper elementary to junior high but younger siblings can take part.

And high school ages will appreciate the activities in “America in WW II.” It would lend itself to fabulous co-op projects.

It is the experienced homeschool or private school teacher who is likely to come up with innovative material for supporting the love of learning. She has the creative freedom to do so. Government schools are tragically constrained by standardization as they stay inside the “core.” It is with a thankful heart that a home teacher exercises her choice of materials.

Time Travelers History Study

Time Travelers on my chair rail. The silhouette is of my grandson. 

Review by homeschool dad Dean Andreola
"Chemistry 101" on 4 DVDs 

It was the 1970s. My high school chemistry teacher was giving his first lecture of the school year. While his chalk scribbled symbols on the blackboard, he mumbled. As soon as he turned to face the class I raised my hand.  He nodded. I approached his desk and politely handed in my textbook.  I left the classroom, walked down the long empty hall and into the guidance office. There , with a click of my ballpoint pen, I calmly signed up for 4 English electives.  “You can’t do this,” the counselor cried.

I stood my ground. I had long hair, a draft card for the Vietnam War in my wallet and said, “Sure I can. It's either English or I drop out. Anything but chemistry.”  English it was.  If Wes Olson had been my chemistry teacher, the outcome of my life might have been entirely different.  Hmm . . . Doctor Andreola . . . has a nice ring to it.

With the vitality Mr. Olson packs into this DVD course you won’t believe its chemistry!  Even my wife sat watching what she called “the next episode.” He makes some bold claims right from the start:

1. You can learn a great deal about chemistry without knowing the complicated math.

2. You can become good friends with the periodic table; understand what it means, how to read it, and how to explain it to somebody else.

How does he pull this off? Wes Olson obviously has a love of knowledge – in particularly, chemistry. And he takes care that your students find it interesting too. He begins with compelling dramas of the men behind the science. Students may be surprised to discover that some of the fathers of modern chemistry were also men wit faith in God.  Who were they? What did they discover?  Why was it important?  The Christian faith of these men is mentioned matter-of-fact, without any preaching.

These narratives are seasoned with story, light humor, colorful visuals, different locations, and recreations of original experiments.  Students are drawn into a private world that once only yielded up its secrets to a privileged few. What follows are clear and approachable introductions to the Periodic Table, quantum mechanics, neutrons, compounds and molecules, balancing equations, the elements and more. It concludes with a glimpse into the future of chemistry.

Homeschool dad Mr. Olson respects his viewer’s intelligence. He concentrates on the quality of the material, without resorting to gooney slapstick or monotonous repetition. He moves along holding viewers’ attention, sometimes with experiments to drive the message home. Students can view the 4 DVD’s as a supplementary or introductory elective, or opt for the full Course Accreditation Program for an entire year’s worth of science credits. Simply print out the program outline and the 34 page illustrated student Guidebook, and follow the assignments.

Around the time my adult son Nigel and I were viewing this course, a church friend sat at our dinner table. He was in the middle of taking a college level chemistry course given by the local hospital as necessary credit for becoming a respiratory technician. We asked him about his course and mentioned the inside scoop of what we were learning. But we had nothing in common to talk about. He said, “I'm learning none of those things.” His course amounted to dry memorization, nothing more. Since he is smart and good at the tricks of memorizing he would ace the course but he admitted that there was really nothing at all interesting about it. Too bad. By strong contrast Chemistry 101 - An Overview of God's Chemical World is a blast.

Eating peaches.

Until next time,
Karen Andreola

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Truth Telling - A Delicate Part of a Child's Education - Karen Andreola

Truth Telling - A Delicate Part of a Child's Education
I was at my daughter Sophia's. She telephoned her husband. My grandson and I were close by. We couldn't help overhear something interesting Mom said to Dad. According to the neighborhood's online community group, two bear cubs were sighted in the vicinity. "That means a mother bear is somewhere nearby, too," Mom said.

I could tell my daughter secretly didn't like the idea of bears rummaging around. I didn't either. But to my 7-year-old grandson this news was exciting. Although the family are suburbanites the house feels like "country." It is backed by woods and borders an expansive Christmas tree farm. A large wooded park is not far away. "Let's keep a watch out for the bears today," my daughter said to me, "and stay close to the house."

My grandson jumped up to the picture window. "I see them! Back there in the trees! The baby bears!" he said.

I got up to have a look."Where?" I said, being mindful to not sound as pessimistic as I felt. I stood beside him at the window. "I don't see them," I said. My grandson was quiet. "You'd like to see them, wouldn't you? The truth is: they're not there," I had to add. This was spoken gently. The subject was closed. We turned our attentions elsewhere. Yet this was not the first time that during her stay, Grandma heard her grandson tell a lie. 

Saturday came and I was leaving. My son-in-law was loading my bags into the back of the van. Meanwhile, I was in the dinning room with my daughter's copy of Home Education in my hand, leafing through it. I was bookmarking some pages for her and leaving the book in a conspicuous place: on top of the buffet.

"What's this?" my daughter exclaimed.

Closing the book and giving it a friendly pat I said, "Oh, just a few helpful words. You might want to read them later."

"Mom. You don't have to beat around the bush with me. What's up?"

"Okay," I said, picking up my purse and turning to go. "I found a page on truth-telling. It's good to understand the different reasons why a child lies, not to be horrified by it and to know how to remedy it. Charlotte Mason's advice reflects a deep sympathy for children. At the same time she stands on high moral ground. I think it will put things in perspective for you."

To my own ears I sounded like a magazine article so I must have to hers. She smiled at her bookish mother. But heavy with unborn baby, and with the stress and anxiety of its complications, I thought she looked weary. I put her on the spot - but tenderly. "Will you read it?" I said. After all, she did ask for it. And I knew it would help - along with her usual method of searching online, with a finger on the tiny screen of the phone she carried around with her. 

"The training of the child in the habit of strict veracity is . . . one that requires delicate care and scrupulosity." *1  

More Tall Tales

The following week she telephoned me. Evidently, while the whole family were in the van, Dad said, as they were about to cross a railroad track, "Look, a train engine is parked on the line."

The seven-year-old loves trains, has an elaborate track set up on his bedroom floor, and is well-versed in Thomas Tank Engine. One glance down the track and he said excitedly, "The coal car's spilled over. The men are shoveling the coal back in the car."

Dad let him down easy. "I don't think so Bud."

Upon hearing this scenario I asked, "Did you read your Charlotte Mason?"

My grandson's cat is funny enough 
"Yes," she said. "And in the car I made my first attempt at correction. She told her son, "You have a wonderful imagination and that's a good - but - we must tell what we see - and nothing more. That's the way we tell the truth."

During the drive home she took advantage of an opportune moment and gave her boys a narration (from memory) of Aesop's fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf," because it demonstrates the importance of honesty. The boys were unusually quiet. They listened intently. (Sophia was a dramatic narrator during our home school years. Therefore, I imagine she told the fable with suspense.)

My grandson continues to inflate the truth (boys like to blow things up bigger) adding immediately afterwards, "Just joking."

"Just joking" is a step in the right direction.
He still needs to learn that "it is possible to be humorous without any sacrifice of truth." *2

One of 6 Causes of Lying

Miss Mason's book, Parents and Children has a larger supply of paragraphs on the duty of truthfulness than Home Education. In it she talks about what she gleaned from an article by an American, Professor Stanley Hall, published in 1891, She must have found his six causes of lying to be enlightening and immensely practical. 

She says:

"Lying arises from secondary causes. . . It is no longer a case of - the child has lied, punish him; but where is the weak place of his character."*3

I found that Cause 5 - "Deceptions of Imagination and Play" particularly suited to my grandson's needs.

A Child's Gesture to Make Life More Interesting

Nothing less than a close observation, and a sympathetic understanding of children could have guided Charlotte Mason's words here:

Let us believe of the children that 'trailing clouds of glory do they come' from the place where all things are possible, where any delightful thing may happen. Let us believe that our miserable limitations of time and space and the laws of matter irk them inconceivably, imprison the free soul as a wild bird in a cage. If we refuse to give the child outlets into the realms of fancy, where everything is possible, the delicate Ariel of his imagination will still work within our narrow limits upon our poor tasks, and every bit of our narrow living is played over with a thousand variations, apt to be more vivid and interesting than the poor facts, and, therefore, more likely to remain with the child as the facts which he will produce when required to speak the truth. *4 

What is the Cure?

The tendency might be to believe that these fanciful children live in a world of too much fiction. And therefore, it would be best to restrict them. Yet, Miss Mason recommends the opposite. Broaden their knowledge with facts, yes. But do not bar them from make-believe, day-dreaming and adventure. Why?

Free Entrance to the Land of Make-believe

How beautifully sensitive I find Miss Mason's discernment to be here:

Give the child free entrance into, abundant joyous living in, the kingdom of make-believe. Let him people every glen with fairies, every island with Crusoes. . . . Let us be glad and rejoice that all things are possible to the children, recognizing . . . their fitness to . . . believe . . . as alas! we cannot do, the things of the kingdom of God. The age of faith is a sowing time, . . .  designed in the Divine scheme of things, especially that parents may make their children at home in the things of the Spirit before contact with the world shall have materialized them.*5 

Narrating Exact Truthfulness

. . . [T]he more imaginative the child, the more essential is it that the boundaries of the kingdom of make believe should be clearly defined, and exact truthfulness insisted upon in all that concerns the narrower world where the grown-ups live. . . . Daily lessons in exact statement without any righteous indignation about misstatements, but warm, loving encouragement to the child who gives a long message quite accurately, who tells you just what Miss Brown said and no more, just what happened at Harry's party without any garnish. Every day affords scope for a dozen little lessons at least, and gradually, the more sever beauty of truth will dawn upon the child whose soul is already possessed by the grace of fiction. *6
Yolanda 1987, New Jersey

In A Charlotte Mason Companion I mention how I needed to provide my little girls the practice of informal narrating, to tell exactly what they observed (outdoors) and nothing more. I mention "girls" plural (on page 137) but I remember it was little-sister Yolanda (age 4-5) who especially could use some truth-telling practice.

Her chance-experience of watching a hungry squirrel (that we had fed with our cookies) run up a tree with a gingerbread man in its mouth helped teach her that truth can be interesting all on its own - and something to smile about.

"You can tell Daddy about it when he gets home," was the invitation I gave to her older sister Sophia. But it was little-sister Yolanda who would benefit,  too.

End Notes
*1  Charlotte Mason, Home Education, page 164
*2  Ibid, pg 166
*3  Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, page 207
*4  Ibid, pg 210
*5 & *6  Ibid, pg 211

Paintings: Morning in a Pine Wood by Ivan Ivandvich Shishkin, Hide & Seek by Fredrick Eduard Meyerheim, Red Riding Hood and Day Dreaming by Joseph Guy Seymour.

Dean helps tidy up and size all the images for my posts. This time I couldn't resist adding another photograph of Yolanda - one from her wedding day. She hold lilacs in her bouquet. Our children are really with us for such a short time.
Yolanda 2007, Pennsylvania
Post Script
Could your student use practice in narrating exact truthfulness?

I know my readers are gathering ideas. Mindful of this, I prepared this post with chunky quotes, to point out an aspect of character training. I'd like to think that, in some way, this blog is a helpful shoulder to lean on. The desire to disciple our children is what gives many of us the greatest courage to home teach. For further reading see Chapter 16 of A Charlotte Mason Companion, Chapter 19 of Parents and Children. Also "Mrs. Sedley's Tale" page 77 of Formation of Character. 

I wish you steadfastness in love and duty, with rest and Mother Culture mingled in.

'Til We Meet Again.

Opinions are Invited,
Karen Andreola