Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dorothy Sayers and TLTOL (part fourteen)

Time for another installment from "The Lost Tools of Learning" by Dorothy Sayers:

The grammar of History should consist, I think, of dates, events, anecdotes, and personalities. A set of dates to which one can peg all later historical knowledge is of enormous help later on in establishing the perspective of history. It does not greatly matter which dates: those of the Kings of England will do very nicely, provided that they are accompanied by pictures of costumes, architecture, and other everyday things, so that the mere mention of a date calls up a very strong visual presentment of the whole period.
Geography will similarly be presented in its factual aspect, with maps, natural features, and visual presentment of customs, costumes, flora, fauna, and so on; and I believe myself that the discredited and old-fashioned memorizing of a few capitol cities, rivers, mountain ranges, etc., does no harm. Stamp collecting may be encouraged.

I want a world history timeline. I really do. I just can't decide where in our new house to put it. Also, I can't decide how exactly I want to do it. I'm leaning towards stringing up multiple colors of yarn to signify different parts of the world. Maybe Pinterest can help me in the quest for an aesthetically acceptable (but doable for a mom who doesn't do crafts well) timeline. Whatever we end up doing, it needs to be where the children frequently see it yet out of reach of the destructive fingers of the smaller ones.

My mother bought my children a great flannel world map for Christmas. It has country names, labels for major rivers and geographical features, and flannel animals such as camels and polar bears for them to put in the proper regions. We already put it up in one of the bedrooms on a prominent wall, so hopefully the children will learn all the information on it over the product's lifetime.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughts on Humility

Yesterday evening a phone conversation with an emotionally-volatile family member turned into a fight. Even staying home at Christmas doesn't mean that one escapes these conflicts completely. My peace-loving husband helped me step away from the argument (because, of course, I was in the right, and the other person was bound to recognize it eventually!) and end the call (rather abruptly, it must be told).

My husband later mentioned to me that when he was younger, he and his family had obtained some family counseling. He said that it didn't seem to have made any difference. But his parents, particularly his father, really do seem to have changed over the years; they are kind, loving, and supportive of their children, even while not agreeing with everything done by said children. My in-laws can also calmly discuss parenting mistakes they made in the past. My father and mother, on the other hand, would never have taken us for family counseling; to my mother, counseling was something other people (especially my dad) needed, and to my father, counseling was a waste of time and money. Time has not made it easier to be my parents' child. (Although distance certainly has.)

Is it the counseling that made the difference? I doubt it. I think this is one of those correlation-causation confusions. Rather than counseling helping many parents, I think it is likely that those who are humble enough to seek help from outsiders are the same parents who eventually listen to their children as though they are people with their own valid thoughts and experiences and allow themselves to learn from their children.

Not that I'm against counseling per se. But it might be a tad oversold. How much good can a counselor do someone who is not teachable? Someone who thinks that they know best and no other viewpoint can be admitted as more correct?

I value humility. Great accomplishments require a certain balance of confidence and humility, else one will never start a task nor change direction when falling into error.

The greatest responsiblity of my life is to raise my children well. In undertaking to teach them, I am fairly confident that I am doing the best thing for them, given our situation, talents, and temperaments. However, I must also constantly re-evaluate whether what we are doing is optimal or a mistake. That's not easy. Pessimistic second-guessing can be debilitating, but arrogant mulishness on a given path might lead to even worse consequences. What to do?

At present, I read. A lot. Education books, blogs, and news. Fortunately, I like to read. :) I regularly ask for divine help to be a good mother and teacher to my children. I run my ideas by my husband and others who know my children. I put them in a public charter school setting part-time, which allows me to get feedback from professional teachers. And this year, as required by Colorado law, I will have dd8 take a "nationally standardized achievement test". (I know some homeschoolers are vocal in their dislike for testing, but I see such testing as necessary to know whether I'm doing as good a job as I think I am relative to public schools. If my teaching methods are better for my child than full-time public education, then the results of the test should be gratifying.)

By striving to always exercise humility in my parenting, I hope to give my children the best start in life that I can. If, in turn, I manage to teach some humility to them through a good example, perhaps in twenty years we'll all be able to enjoy holiday phone calls that don't end in harsh words and an abrupt disconnection.

"True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us."

— Tryon Edwards

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving

Local schools were off all last week, so it was a bit of a struggle doing schoolwork. But the distractions were worth it: my children have good friends, and I enjoy seeing them play happily with them.

We had relatives over for the holiday. They are relatives with whom we get along well, so we had a great time. However, at this time of year, I am reminded that not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy occasions where they are forced to spend time with their relatives. This last week was horrible for a family member of mine; from what I hear, it included suicide threats and public criticisms of a spouse in connection with recent serious threats to divorce.

Families need kindness all year round. Holidays aren't a magic fix for long-running problems, contrary to Hollywood portrayals.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Almost done moving in

Just one box left to unpack in the house! It's so nice to be mostly moved in. I love being able to spend more time thinking about my family and its needs than about stuff that's in the way. Sometimes I watch the show "Hoarders", and it makes me so sad to see how the people on the show have let papers and things become obstacles in their relationships with their loved ones. I hope that never happens to me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Moving

It turns out that even an in-town move is a big project. With four growing children (their clothes take up more room as they grow, especially the jeans!), it was time to consider moving out of our easy-to-clean 1000 sq. foot home. A house in a desirable location became available, and it was in our price range, provided we purchase it via lawyers (it never got listed, so we were able to take 6% in real estate agent commissions off the price) and accept it "as is".

Well, the "as is" part has been challenging (no bathing facilities are functional at present), but the location really is worth the hassle of moving all our stuff. Stuff. To quote Helen Parr, "Why do we have so much junk?" We don't like having had to move all these things that we haven't used for years. Why spend time cleaning around and storing things we never use and don't enjoy? Maybe someone else will want them. Now that we actually have a garage, we are seriously thinking of having a garage sale.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dorothy Sayers and TLTOL (part thirteen)

Although I very much like the classical philosophy of education, I have been scared of requiring memorization from my daughter (age 8) because I didn't want her to fail at it or hate me for making her do it. I recall having been good at memorization myself when I was younger, but now I think of memorization as a difficult, unpleasant chore. I regularly slaughter song lyrics unless I'm singing along with someone else who knows the correct words, and I am not interested enough in memorizing anything to do the necessary repetition work. Frankly, I've been lazy about memorizing anything in English for the past 20 years. Yet I'm always grateful when a long-ago memorized quote or poetry snippet comes to mind at an opportune moment. I think I deny my daughter a blessing when I don't require her to learn anything by heart.

Dorothy Sayers is clear on the need to do some memorization during the Grammar stage. Here is the next excerpt from her essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning":
During this age we must, of course, exercise the mind on other things besides Latin grammar. Observation and memory are the faculties most lively at this period; and if we are to learn a contemporary foreign language we should begin now, before the facial and mental muscles become rebellious to strange intonations. Spoken French or German can be practiced alongside the grammatical discipline of the Latin.
In English, meanwhile, verse and prose can be learned by heart, and the pupil's memory should be stored with stories of every kind--classical myth, European legend, and so forth. I do not think that the classical stories and masterpieces of ancient literature should be made the vile bodies on which to practice the techniques of Grammar--that was a fault of mediaeval education which we need not perpetuate. The stories can be enjoyed and remembered in English, and related to their origin at a subsequent stage. Recitation aloud should be practiced, individually or in chorus; for we must not forget that we are laying the groundwork for Disputation and Rhetoric.

Thanks to Susan Wise Bauer's First Language Lessons curriculum, I finally started doing serious memorization work with my daughter. She has memorized two poems so far and seems to enjoy the process of memorizing almost as much as her feeling of accomplishment from having successfully learned the poems. Bauer makes memorizing almost easy in her First Language Lessons. She introduces the poem, does a little dictation exercise from it, and has the teacher read it aloud 3 times a day or so for a couple of weeks, eventually having the student recite longer and longer portions of the poem together with the teacher. My daughter does well with this method, and my fears about imposing detested memorization work on my daughter have been put to rest. Clearly I am the one with the issues about memorization, not she.

As to the other things mentioned in this excerpt, we are raising our children to be bilingual in English and German, and we surround them with all sorts of enticing library books full of "stories of every kind". One of the best parts of homeschooling for us is that the children have so much time to read and love those books.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Speaking of Latin...

My kids crack me up! A while back I joked in a family newsletter that I'd taught them enough Latin to not get shanghaied in Vatican City ("Non sum nauta." = "I'm not a sailor."). Just now, I was explaining how languages change over time and pointed out that Latin is a dead language which is only learned in school but not spoken by any groups of people. Dd5 piped up that Latin is spoken in that place where they kidnap people to work on ships. Ah, the cute misunderstandings of a kindergartner.

Dorothy Sayers and TLTOL (part twelve)

Today I examine this segment of Dorothy Sayer's essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning":
Let us begin, then, with Grammar. This, in practice, means the grammar of some language in particular; and it must be an inflected language. The grammatical structure of an uninflected language is far too analytical to be tackled by any one without previous practice in Dialectic. Moreover, the inflected languages interpret the uninflected, whereas the uninflected are of little use in interpreting the inflected. I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this, not because Latin is traditional and mediaeval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least fifty percent. It is the key to the vocabulary and structure of all the Teutonic languages, as well as to the technical vocabulary of all the sciences and to the literature of the entire Mediterranean civilization, together with all its historical documents.
Those whose pedantic preference for a living language persuades them to deprive their pupils of all these advantages might substitute Russian, whose grammar is still more primitive. Russian is, of course, helpful with the other Slav dialects. There is something also to be said for Classical Greek. But my own choice is Latin. Having thus pleased the Classicists among you, I will proceed to horrify them by adding that I do not think it either wise or necessary to cramp the ordinary pupil upon the Procrustean bed of the Augustan Age, with its highly elaborate and artificial verse forms and oratory. Post-classical and mediaeval Latin, which was a living language right down to the end of the Renaissance, is easier and in some ways livelier; a study of it helps to dispel the widespread notion that learning and literature came to a full stop when Christ was born and only woke up again at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Latin should be begun as early as possible--at a time when inflected speech seems no more astonishing than any other phenomenon in an astonishing world; and when the chanting of "Amo, amas, amat" is as ritually agreeable to the feelings as the chanting of "eeny, meeny, miney, moe." 

Hurrah! We have actually started doing Latin in our home school. We are approaching it with a very beginner-oriented text, William Linney's Getting Started with Latin. It's made up of tiny, sequential lessons, but after just three weeks of occasional Latin study, we can now say sum (I am), es (you are), est (he/she is), et (and), non (not), nauta (sailor), agricola (farmer), and poeta (poet). We throw in other words that we think are Latin (or not necessarily Latin) when we want to say something outside of what those few words allow. It's great fun. For example, thanks to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou, we can all say to Daddy, "Es pater familias." This morning, we were telling each other we were dinosaurs like this: "Es dee-no-sore-us." I'm sure there's a good Latin word for dinosaur; in fact, isn't the word dinosaur from the Latin for "terrible lizard" or something? Time to go Google.

Update: Silly me. Dinosaur comes from the Greek words for terrible ("deino") lizard ("sauros"). Dead Latin doesn't have a term for dinosaur, but apparently we can use the word "dinosaurum" if we must, according to Google Translate.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In which I understand the Tiger Mother

A year or two ago, I read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and participated in a great discussion of it with a book club. I remember being fairly appalled at her description of the time she forced her daughter to practice a difficult piano piece until she got it right, making her stay at the piano and threatening to do all sorts of things if the child didn't get the piece down, including burning her stuffed animals. Thought I, that would never happen in our home, for I don't value musical achievement that highly. Ah, foolish woman, thought the universe...there is something that you value quite a bit: mathematics.

Yesterday was one of the those days that make a mother wonder if she's entered an alternate reality. The day started with the usual happenings, and then we began our math page for the day. Horrors! This one had sixty-four subtraction facts to accomplish. Never mind that they were all simple ones where the highest minuend was ten. No, the whole assignment page was numbers. Not a story problem about candy on the entire page! Dd7 (almost 8 years old now) hit a mental roadblock at the sight of that appalling exercise page. And I, tormented by visions of a daughter unable to subtract 2 from another number and sentenced to a life of English editing (not that there's anything wrong with that, but dd7 absolutely loves science), proceeded to force her to do it, making her start the page over every time she got a glazed look indicating that she was no longer doing math in her head and had instead turned her thoughts to her mother's meanness, the difficulty of the task, and the weave of her pants. Meltdowns, drama, tears, pouts, and occasional voice raising ensued--I think I was only guilty of the last, but I can't be sure. I found myself thinking of Amy Chua's threats to burn stuffed animals and understood where the threats came from. I'm happy to say my thoughts about threatening destruction to stuffed animals were never uttered aloud to dd7...but it could have easily come to that. What seemed to snap her out her stubbornness about the math page, after nearly two hours of Theater (a useful German word describing interpersonal drama, especially from tantrum-throwing children), was asking dd5 to do the subtraction facts aloud in front of dd7, which dd5 did in about five minutes.

After a lunch break, dd7 finally did her math facts in just a few minutes and her face wore a relieved smile. I was too exhausted to smile normally for hours afterward.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to School

We were slowed down in our start of the new school year by an unpleasant respiratory illness (which hit this nursing mom hard enough that she got prescribed antibiotics for possible pneumonia), but today we finally did a regular, whole day of school!

Dd5 did a 15-minute block of reading (using an old Lippincott I got from my mother's textbook collection), writing (Handwriting Without Tears), and math (BJU's Math K5 worktext). Then she played and overheard dd7's academic instruction for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, she went to a charter school for recess, playtime, and music with her kindergarten class. She is delighted to be in a formal school setting for part of the day.

Dd7 has a lot more academic work now that she is in third grade. We do schoolwork for about 2.5 hours each morning: reading (from both scriptures and a secular textbook), spelling (an Evan-Moor workbook), math (an old A Beka grade 3 book until I get the BJU grade 3 math worktext), First Language Lessons (for grade 3), Latin (using Linney's Getting Started With Latin), music (piano and recorder on alternating days), history (Story of the World, in which we are still finishing up volume 2), and German/science (reading short segments of a German book about the earth). I often put on videos relating to anything we've been studying in any of the subjects; today it was a DVD on Portugese explorers. Dd7 loves her time at the charter school in the afternoon, where she is making new friends in a new class.

Dd2 likes being the "oldest kid" at home in the afternoons when her older sisters are at school. She seems to really enjoy getting to have the computer to herself to play on www.starfall.com.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Second Amendment Rights

In the wake of recent terrible shootings by clearly disturbed men, the issue of gun control is alive again. Everyone seeks immediately to find a cause of the shootings that we can control in order to prevent future mass shooting murders. Guns are an obvious target for the sentiment, "We've got to do something!" That is normal and understandable, but I do not agree with a knee-jerk reaction to suddenly ban all guns. (Semi-automatic assault rifles, well, there I would happily see more restrictions like mandatory drug tests and psych clearances.)

Columbine, Fort Hood, Aurora movie theater, Virginia Tech, New Life Church in Colorado Springs, yesterday's Wisconsin gurdwara, and the 2011 massacre in Norway--what did they all have in common? The perpetrators were mentally disturbed males. And they were using guns. But when such creatures don't have guns to carry out their twisted goals, they build bombs (e.g., Timothy McVeigh, using fertilizer and a truck) or use knives (see the Osaka School massacre entry on wikipedia if you want to be appalled). What typically brings an end to their violence? Return gunfire, or at the very least armed policemen.

We can't keep weapons away from all the aggressive, mentally ill men out there. No matter how many restrictions we put on gun ownership, some of these often very intelligent, disturbed men will slip through the restrictions via military/police/security employment or illicit means. What are the rest of us basically sane people supposed to do to better protect ourselves from these predators? Never go to church, school, cinemas, or work again? Not really an option. We can arm ourselves and learn how to use those weapons safely and properly. So it shouldn't be nearly impossible for the average Joe (or Jane--there's nothing like a gun to equalize the sexes in a fight) to get a handgun for defense of self, family, and home. Otherwise, only those with criminal intent or a lot of money will be able to obtain and carry guns.

So for those who wonder why I and so many others in the USA do not embrace gun control after massacres like yesterday's, I hope the above clarifies it a little. We're not callous gun-lovers putting some abstract right over innocent victims' lives. Rather, we see gun rights as a way of helping limit the success of monsters' evil plans.

My sympathies are whole-heartedly with the Sikhs in Wisconsin today. May they know the bravery of their fallen men is appreciated and their loss mourned throughout the country.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer vacation

Family reunion last week, ongoing floor tiling in the kitchen for the past month....we could use a vacation from our vacations!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Yesterday, I took my children to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We visited 4 exhibitions:
1) Gems & Minerals - We all love rhodochrosite, the beautiful rose-colored state mineral of Colorado.
2) Space Odyssey - One child's favorite part was making her own star, and the other child was fascinated with the huge globe showing Earth's continents drift over millions of years. Mom liked it when the little ones dressed up in space jumpsuits and pretended them were a spaceship crew.
3) Prehistoric Journey - Extinct animal skeletons...what's not to "oooh" over?
4) Expedition Health - BEST part was a lab experience (complete with lab coat, goggles, and gloves) where we looked at our own epithelial cells (taken from inside the mouth) under a microscope and saw daphnia (tiny crustaceans, of which ours happened to be pregnant) be affected by caffeine and alcohol. The smaller kids enjoyed a tot area with a little slide and toys.

What a great museum!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Firefighters

The end of June was hot, dry, and windy in Colorado. We had some very bad fires here. In case anyone related to one of the many firefighters (civilian and military) from across the country who helped fight these fires should happen across this blog, I want to say "thank you". Your efforts in protecting lives and property are greatly appreciated. The next time someone bemoans the lack of heroism and leadership in today's materialistic, soft US culture, I'll remember that there are still brave, hard-working firefighters like you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Homeschooling Carnival

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling (the theme is Flag Day in honor of today) is up at Consent of the Governed. It's so nice of bloggers like her to put together these carnivals, so that homeschoolers have a quick, enjoyable way to get ideas from each other.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sum, sum, sum-mertime...

Dd7 just finished her Math 2 worktext on Friday, and we celebrated by going out to Sonic for shakes. When her charter school's year begins in the first part of August (yes, August - summer is awfully short these days), she'll start working on Math 3 (I should probably order that....). In the meantime, I will only be assigning her short practice worksheets on sums and differences. It took so much work to help her memorize her math facts in the first place. I'm certainly not going to let her forget them over the summer!

Dd5 does a page or two in her Math K5 worktext when she feels like it. She knows most of her sums already, having overheard back when I was teaching them to her older sister.

Our summer learning schedule is very light:

8:15 a.m. - Scripture reading
8:30 a.m. - Math practice worksheets
8:45 a.m. - Story of the World Volume 2 lesson read-aloud (we're due to start Vol. 3 in the fall, and we're only halfway through Vol. 2)
9:00 a.m. - garden/park/hiking time
11:30 (ish) a.m. - lunch/picnic lunch
12:00 p.m. - quiet time indoors reading/playing/Netflix/educational movies and/or shopping/errands
4:00 p.m. - work/play in garden (depending on the weather)
5:30 p.m. - dinner
6:00 p.m. - 5 minutes or so of piano/recorder practice

And even that schedule is flexible. It's working out well so far. Here's hoping that the Colorado hail doesn't destroy our gardening efforts, though. We have already had some destructive weather this season, but our garden has only been lightly damaged so far.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Side Effects

Warning: Constantly getting animal books from the library and showing your children nature videos can result in comments like this from five-year-old daughters:

"If I didn't have any hair, a mate would not be attracted to me."

Plumage, bangs, it's all for a good cause...eventually....don't grow up too fast, dear.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Plants

I live in Colorado, and we have crazy weather here as well as high altitude and low rainfall this year. Last year I had a horrible yard and garden, but this year I'm not pregnant and I am ambitious to make some of the yard productive.

Yesterday, we planted grapes. Three grape varieties - Concord, Edelweiss, and Himrod grapes. By faithful watering this year, I hope to harvest yummy grapes for years to come. 

Besides sunflowers and marigolds for attractiveness and bug concerns, we're going to plant pumpkin, squash, basil, and some other vegetables. Unless tomorrow is bad weather for it, I'll let the children plant their seeds in their individual garden beds tomorrow afternoon. 

Here's hoping our gardening efforts pay off this year. There is nothing like growing one's one garden in problematic soil and Colorado weather to make one appreciate modern agriculture and the trucks that bring its products to nearby supermarkets. A locavore in Colorado would have a hard time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Newborns and Homeschooling

Life is busier, but homeschooling is one of our very highest priorities, so it is still getting done. I do nearly as much work with dd7 as I did before the baby was born. Dd5 is lucky to get a few minutes of "schoolwork", but I don't feel too bad about that--the girl can read and she doesn't start kindergarten until August!

One key to being able to work so much with dd7 is staying with the newborn constantly. Who knew breastfeeding and teaching academics could be such compatible activities? I think I first went to the bathroom at noon yesterday, and dd7 is getting good at retrieving her homeschool materials upon request.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Math Update

Twice in the past (at least) I have bemoaned dd7's not having learned her addition facts. I'm happy to say that she has learned them. They are all firmly in her head now. Hurrah! Although sometimes the recall speed could be faster, I think she is mostly just bored by strings of subtraction and addition problems. No computer game has been able to make practicing math facts fun for her, so nothing in that line of tools has worked to increase her speed, which is unfortunate, as I think that her boredom would be much less if she could quickly calculate multi-digit sums. We're plugging on ahead in her math book, covering beginning multiplication (she likes singing skip-counting songs, so this has been easy so far) and easy fractions, while doing short reviews of other concepts, including addition and subtraction, as the text dictates.

Dd5 and I haven't done much formal schoolwork in the past 6 weeks because I'm dealing with postpartum fatigue (love you, new baby, even if I've been up for over an hour in the dark and it's now past 5 a.m.!) and she isn't officially in kindergarten until next fall. But when we do pull out her math book, a kindergarten-level worktext from Bob Jones University, she does well at it. She gets the answers right but often writes the numbers backward; I find it cute that when I point out where she has written a "3" backward, she'll draw a correctly-facing "3" right next to the incorrect one and announce that it's a butterfly!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

One month

Baby is one month old now. She wakes up 3-4 times per night, but I'm getting enough sleep to function properly most days. I do find I often crave carbohydrates for fast energy, though, which is a signal that I'm really not getting enough rest. I'm thankful my husband has been been helping out so much. He's been back at work full-time for almost 2 weeks now, and I'm so grateful he was able to take the time off that he did.

I've nearly gotten back to a normal homeschool schedule with dd7, which is necessary for her. If she spends too many days in a row without doing schoolwork with me, she starts acting up in unpleasant ways because of boredom and lack of stimulation. And that is with part-time school attendance and a house full of library media, books, craft supplies, toys and games, and the computer (with Netflix!). I can tell that unschooling would not work for this child. Lots of time to work on her own interests and projects--yes, absolutely. But never requiring her to sit down and spend some time on parent-chosen subjects in an organized fashion--no way!

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Birth Story

37 week checkup - 1 cm dilated.

38 week checkup - 2 cm dilated, 50% effaced.

39 week checkup - 3 cm dilated, OB did membrane sweep. Five days of irregular contractions followed.

40 week checkup - 4 cm dilated, 80% effaced. That evening (February 9), contractions seemed to get regular and frequent enough, so we went to the hospital for a check. Not in active labor yet, so we were sent home.

8:00 a.m. February 10 - I spent most of the night drifting in and out of sleep because of contractions and periodically using the toilet. At some point in the night, I started using the deep breathing techniques I'd read about in a book on hypnobirthing as contractions started, and the contractions seemed to (but didn't really) take less time and were less painful. I think the cervix is probably dilating, due to increased mucus ("bloody show"). Also, my bowels seem to be cleaning themselves out this morning (no diahrrhea, though, thankfully). Asked husband to stay home from work because I'm periodically incapacitated; contractions are currently about 7 minutes apart.

10 a.m. February 10 - Still contracting. I took a shower and ate some breakfast. Also drank plenty of water. Currently contractions are a little over 6 minutes apart. They are not enjoyable, but I'll get through.

2 p.m. February 10 - So glad husband took off from work today. He took the children out for lunch over two hours ago, and I woke up not too long ago from a wonderful nap. Contractions have mostly stopped for now, but over the last 8 hours, I think (or hope) the mucus plug came out.

10:40 p.m. February 10 - For most of the past 8-9 days, I have had intermittent contractions that haven't turned into active labor. Last night, they were quite painful and interrupted much of my sleep. Being an invalid in my own home today plus the cumulative effect of the contraction pain brought me to tears for a while this evening. The emotional release helped me feel better.

2:11 a.m. February 11 - Painful contractions every 9 minutes, waking me up and requiring me to visit the toilet. Lots of bloody show.

3:00 a.m. February 11 - Sitting on toilet turned into transition. I shakily struggled to the bedroom to wake my husband with the announcement that I was in transition and we needed to get to the hospital very quickly. We called our next door neighbor, who was over in less than five minutes. We made it to the hospital birth center by 3:20 a.m. The hospital valet service was greatly appreciated.

3:25 a.m. February 11 - Triage nurse checked me and said I was dilated to an 8 or 9 and completely effaced. They found me a room quickly.

3:50 a.m. February 11 - Upon my request, doctor broke bulging amniotic sac during internal exam.

4:04 a.m. February 11 - Baby girl born! It took around ten big pushes, mostly in side-laying position. She weighed in at 9 lbs, 2 ozs. She needed some assistance with oxygenation and blood sugar issues. I had a second degree tear and lost a lot of blood from the uterus. I received methergine, a shot of pitocin, Cytotec, and aggressive uterine massage. It didn't help that it took three tries to get an IV line in me for intravenous pitocin. Between baby girl and my issues, we're spending most of the first post-birth hours apart, but I'm OK with that. We're both getting the care we need for unavoidable problems. Did I mention how cute and pink Baby Girl is? :)

4:02 p.m. February 12 - We just arrived home from the hospital. We are both doing well.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Smart phones overhyped when it comes to their actual use in academic settings

I just observed a very interesting presentation at a liberal arts college near my home. The College Republicans club (all six of its members) had invited Bay Buchanan to come speak, and she spoke about some of the ways in which second wave feminism has failed women. She gave credit to second wave feminism for opening many doors in education and careers to women, but she said that it had hurt women by encouraging them to be "the same as men" as far as reproductive behavior, specifically via noncommittal sexual "hookups" and abortion.

(Buchanan is firmly pro-life. Her positions on the issue were a combination new to me. While she favors a complete ban on abortion--no exceptions for rape, incest, etc.--and punishment of those doctors who do abortions, she said that she is against any legal penalty for women who have abortions because the women are already second victims of abortion in that they will one day wake up and realize that they killed their own children and will suffer the rest of their lives with the knowledge of that irreparable mistake.)

Many students lined up at the microphone to ask questions, mostly unsurprisingly antagonistic towards Buchanan's ideas. The event went overtime, and there were still over 40 college students in the room with a few still waiting for their turn at the microphone. When the issue turned to abortion again, Buchanan mentioned the existence of organizations that help provide pregnant women in poverty with financial support and living accommodations to enable them to carry a child to term and give it up for adoption, rather than aborting it. A student behind me called out that those organizations must just be for white people and that she had never heard of such help available for black girls from south Chicago. Buchanan talked about her own experience helping out an unwed mother in the Washington, DC area by having her live with her for six months and repeatedly affirmed the existence of nationwide networks to assist unwed mothers who wanted to give their babies up for adoption; the student repeatedly yelled that she'd never heard of such an organization in Chicago, so there couldn't be one. Their argument went on for far too long.

You know how we are always hearing that today's youth are so digitally connected? That they can find information so quickly using their iPhones and the internet? That the way they process knowledge is so different because of the technology available to them? Well, out of all the students in that room, no one pulled out a phone to see whether there was indeed an organization in Chicago that assists unwed mothers financially in order to allow them to choose adoption over abortion. I did see one male student looking at pictures on his phone, but otherwise cellphones were out of sight and the students in the room generally seemed incapable of doing anything about this lengthy--though easily resolvable--disagreement despite the late hour and repeated yelling by an apparently agitated student.

How hard would it have been for a student in the audience to do an internet search on "adoption help chicago" or something similar? The campus has wireless internet access for the students. When I got home (no smart phone for me, due to budget reasons), I did three Google searches and found The Adoption Center of Illinois at Family Resource Center in less than four minutes; it appears to be exactly the kind of organization about the existence of which Buchanan and the student were fighting. Did no one in that whole room besides me think to do a Google search to answer the question so the discussion could move on? (I assume from the college's demographics that most students had smart phones or internet capable devices of some kind. It's not a cheap school.) I fear new technology is being wasted on college students, at least with respect to knowledge acquisition and analysis, for they do not seem to realize when and how to use the technology at their fingertips to search out relevant facts.

The next time I read about how today's students are so smart because of the technology they have available to them, I'm probably going to make a very impolite noise.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Selective ability to memorize

Dd7 has watched the movie Barney: Jungle Friends twice in the last few days. As far as I know, she never saw the movie before this week. Now she is singing songs from it that she memorized after just two viewings. WHY, oh, WHY, are we still struggling through addition drills together every morning? There needs to be a Barney (or Blue's Clues or Disney) movie with songs on all the basic addition facts! She'd have them learned in a jiffy with little effort and struggle.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dorothy Sayers and TLTOL (part eleven)

Wow! This is a really long essay. But I'll keep plowing through since I've already done so much of it.
Let us amuse ourselves by imagining that such progressive retrogression is possible. Let us make a clean sweep of all educational authorities, and furnish ourselves with a nice little school of boys and girls whom we may experimentally equip for the intellectual conflict along lines chosen by ourselves. We will endow them with exceptionally docile parents; we will staff our school with teachers who are themselves perfectly familiar with the aims and methods of the Trivium; we will have our building and staff large enough to allow our classes to be small enough for adequate handling; and we will postulate a Board of Examiners willing and qualified to test the products we turn out. Thus prepared, we will attempt to sketch out a syllabus--a modern Trivium "with modifications" and we will see where we get to.
But first: what age shall the children be? Well, if one is to educate them on novel lines, it will be better that they should have nothing to unlearn; besides, one cannot begin a good thing too early, and the Trivium is by its nature not learning, but a preparation for learning. We will, therefore, "catch 'em young," requiring of our pupils only that they shall be able to read, write, and cipher.
My views about child psychology are, I admit, neither orthodox nor enlightened. Looking back upon myself (since I am the child I know best and the only child I can pretend to know from inside) I recognize three states of development. These, in a rough-and- ready fashion, I will call the Poll-Parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic--the latter coinciding, approximately, with the onset of puberty. The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things. The Pert age, which follows upon this (and, naturally, overlaps it to some extent), is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to "catch people out" (especially one's elders); and by the propounding of conundrums. Its nuisance-value is extremely high. It usually sets in about the Fourth Form. The Poetic age is popularly known as the "difficult" age. It is self-centered; it yearns to express itself; it rather specializes in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence; and, with good luck and good guidance, it should show the beginnings of creativeness; a reaching out towards a synthesis of what it already knows, and a deliberate eagerness to know and do some one thing in preference to all others. Now it seems to me that the layout of the Trivium adapts itself with a singular appropriateness to these three ages: Grammar to the Poll-Parrot, Dialectic to the Pert, and Rhetoric to the Poetic age.
To apply this to my children, they are all three (ages 2, 4, and 7) in the Poll Parrot stage, although I can already see seeds of the Pert age in dd7. I haven't caught any of them memorizing license plates or poetry, but they absolutely repeat and mimic movies they like. Dd7, while taking longer than I would have liked to memorize addition facts, is actually learning them and for the last two or three years has exhibited a very good ability to memorize facts about random animals. Dd4 has picked up many addition facts just from observing me work with dd7 and hearing addition fact songs in the car occasionally. Dd2 is frequently a copycat, as one might expect of someone trying to navigate a world that's still quite new to her.
Dorothy Sayers may not have been a recognized child psychology expert, but based on what I have seen with my children so far, I think she seems to adequately describe children as learners. I would only say that she underestimates the ability of children in the Poll Parrot stage to reason things out on their own. As an academic undertaking, I think expecting critical thinking from dd7 would be a lost cause because she still lacks the ability to quickly process complex causes and abstract concepts. However, she does like to think things over and come to her own, sometimes unexpected conclusions. At this point in her life, I choose not to formally exercise this developing reasoning ability for fear I'd unintentionally quash her independent use of it. Reasoning should be a lifelong practice that a child engages in for his/her own goals and not just for school assignments.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

SOTW update

We finally finished Volume 1 of the Story of the World yesterday. While it was fun to study the ancient world, it's going to be GREAT to study the middle ages. What little girls don't want to learn about Grendel, dress up like princesses, and draw dragons as part of a study of heraldry? There's a renaissance festival each summer in a city near us, and I think we're finally going to go this year.