Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dorothy Sayers and TLTOL (part sixteen)

In this next segment of "The Lost Tools of Learning", Dorothy Sayers finishes her description of the Grammar stage and discusses the subject of theology for the student in that stage:

So far (except, of course, for the Latin), our curriculum contains nothing that departs very far from common practice. The difference will be felt rather in the attitude of the teachers, who must look upon all these activities less as "subjects" in themselves than as a gathering-together of material for use in the next part of the Trivium. What that material is, is only of secondary importance; but it is as well that anything and everything which can be usefully committed to memory should be memorized at this period, whether it is immediately intelligible or not. The modern tendency is to try and force rational explanations on a child's mind at too early an age. Intelligent questions, spontaneously asked, should, of course, receive an immediate and rational answer; but it is a great mistake to suppose that a child cannot readily enjoy and remember things that are beyond his power to analyze--particularly if those things have a strong imaginative appeal (as, for example, "Kubla Kahn"), an attractive jingle (like some of the memory-rhymes for Latin genders), or an abundance of rich, resounding polysyllables (like the Quicunque vult).
This reminds me of the grammar of Theology. I shall add it to the curriculum, because theology is the mistress-science without which the whole educational structure will necessarily lack its final synthesis. Those who disagree about this will remain content to leave their pupil's education still full of loose ends. This will matter rather less than it might, since by the time that the tools of learning have been forged the student will be able to tackle theology for himself, and will probably insist upon doing so and making sense of it. Still, it is as well to have this matter also handy and ready for the reason to work upon. At the grammatical age, therefore, we should become acquainted with the story of God and Man in outline--i.e., the Old and New testaments presented as parts of a single narrative of Creation, Rebellion, and Redemption--and also with the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. At this early stage, it does not matter nearly so much that these things should be fully understood as that they should be known and remembered.

I don't have much to add on the first paragraph. I ask very little in the way of memorization from my children. Sometimes I worry that my laziness in that realm will hurt my children, but most of the time memorization is just not on my mind at all. They already learn all sorts of facts and songs from multitudinous library books, church, part-time school, library videos, various websites, language arts textbooks, and so on, but I feel I might be missing a valuable opportunity to help them commit to memory verses and sayings that will enrich their entire lives. I hereby resolve to print out something profound and put it on the refrigerator tonight and have my children read it three times a day until they have memorized it. OK, actually, I'll be putting up "A Purple Cow". A mom has to start somewhere on the Gilbreth path.

As to theology, that's easy to teach. Every school day the children who can read are assigned a set amount from the scriptures (one page for dd8 and a half page for dd6), and I discuss with them or have them narrate what they read. Because we are LDS, "scriptures" means The Book of Mormon, The Holy Bible, The Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. I don't use secondary materials (i.e., purchased lesson plans and activity books and such), and the Bible is the King James Version. I explain archaic words and confusing situations to them as needed, and they learn both doctrine and older English. 

They also go to church on Sundays and learn in Primary (the LDS Church's program for children) from great teachers and leaders. In addition, I tell them a scripture story every night. We just started making our way through a terrific Children's Illustrated Bible that I got at a garage sale for only $1 on Saturday; the stories are paraphrased in a straightforward way, and they are accompanied on the side by related maps and pictures of historical artifacts.

We also briefly cover the beliefs of non-Christian religions and cultures as we get to them in our history and geography studies. Greek gods and goddesses are a fount of fun stories. When we were studying ancient Israel, we had our own Seder, or Passover dinner. I've also been able to introduce my children to some Hindu religious dance and music through a nearby college's Balinese Gamelan performances.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Successful experiment for dinner!

Ever since we were newlyweds, my husband and I have often had funny and/or disappointing culinary experiences due to my tendency to dispense with the straitjacket of a recipe in favor of experimentation. The first time he really suffered from it was when I cooked one of his favorite dishes from his mother's recipe collection: Turkey Tetrazzini. Except I altered it to use olive oil instead of butter. For health reasons, you know. He was not amused.

But tonight I went complete recipe-less and made up a new dish that borrowed a little from chicken adobo (the Philippine national dish). I used the crockpot, so it required minimal labor. And my husband really liked it! He happily served himself seconds. He complimented the dish without my having to ask him how he liked it! Whew! After the avocado shakes last week that no one liked and which I had to turn into avocado chocolate cake (not too bad, actually, thanks to numerous chocolate chips and chocolate frosting), it was great to have a culinary success. :)

Here's my recipe if you want to try it -

Put the following in a crockpot:

  • A big bunch of bok choy, cleaned and sliced into bite size pieces
  • 1-2 lbs uncooked chicken (I used three chicken thighs)
  • 1 can water chestnuts (drained)
  • approx. 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • approx. 2 tsps minced garlic
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 2 ginger tea bags (I've had ginger herbal tea bags floating around in my spice drawer since I tried them for nausea relief during my last pregnancy)

Cook on high for 4-5 hours.

Serve over cooked rice.

Super simple, very tasty. And that's according to a guy from the Midwest who doesn't generally appreciate spicy food or untested food combinations involving exotic ingredients.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A new blog in town

Dd6 has decided that she wants a blog, too, so she started Space Facts. Feel free to comment here on anything you think she would find good fodder for her blog!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thoughts on Benghazi

Background: I left the Foreign Service in 2007 to take care of my growing family and because I'd been told my career would be harmed if I didn't do a dangerous, unaccompanied tour in Baghdad or Kabul. I was told this while a breastfeeding, working mother doing all I could to meet both family and work obligations. In joining the State Department, I signed up for a civilian job, not to work in a war zone. I accepted "worldwide availability" and served with a good will in two polluted, high-crime cities during my time with the State Department. In my resignation letter to Secretary Condoleezza Rice, I noted that Foreign Service career requirements were no longer within the bounds of what one expects in a civilian job. State's bureaucracy chose to categorize my resignation as "for family reasons" and not deal with my complaint about sending diplomats to overly dangerous areas.

Forward to six months ago: We had State Department personnel in an under-protected consulate in Benghazi, Libya who were attacked, and we lost some dedicated people. For some unknown but likely political reason, administration spokespeople (specifically Susan Rice from State) tried to blame the attack on a spontaneous crowd protesting a video on YouTube rather than telling the truth about it having been terrorism (on September 11th...imagine that...). The previously unknown maker of that video was quickly arrested and is still sitting in jail in the USA for a probation violation.

Few in the mainstream media have kept talking about what happened in Benghazi because it is clear that the Obama administration doesn't want to talk about it. A White House spokesperson recently said "it happened a long time ago" (six months), and Hillary Clinton in January passionately said in a Congressional hearing, "What difference at this point does it make?" (right after again downplaying the terrorism aspect of the attack by trying to make the Benghazi attack sound as though it could have been spontaneous). I admit to having started to think that maybe those still talking about Benghazi were just doing it for political reasons. I was wrong. Benghazi is a big deal in that it reveals 1) ineptitude and dishonesty at the highest levels of the current administration, and 2) a lack of courage at the highest levels of the current administration when faced with an urgent need and then a failure to protect individual Americans at our diplomatic posts abroad.

My change of mind on Benghazi came from reading this CBS article from November 1, 2012. No, this isn't Fox news or Glenn Beck. Yes, somehow, I missed it back in November. Apparently, we had an interagency task force designed to deal with events like the attack on our Benghazi consulate. But it wasn't convened. Apparently, we had an ability to send a rescue team to the consulate within four hours, but we didn't use it. Instead, the administration dithered. Apparently, counterterrorism officials knew almost immediately that the attack was a terrorist attack, but Susan Rice fed the nation a lie about it being a spontaneous crowd reaction to a video.

I have many former colleagues whose service in dangerous areas I respect and honor. I fear that our President and his highest officials do/did not similarly honor them. They have shown they cannot make tough decisions quickly to protect State Department civilians under attack. They have shown that they will lie about the circumstances of such attacks to the nation. The State Department definitely leans left and Democrat, but that didn't get its employees treated right by Obama or H. Clinton when it really counted. Of course, our executive branch should meet its responsibilities to all its employees, no matter their political leanings, but if even a supportive department like State gets its employees abandoned during a terrorist attack and then is used to disseminate lies domestically for political reasons, the current Presidential administration deserves to be the recipient of greatly diminished trust in its integrity and abilities.