I quoted recently from _Circle of the Seasons_ (The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year), by Edwin Way Teale

There is an entry for each day of the year, sometimes describing something he
saw that day, or something he did (once he brought home a swallow’s nest and
took it apart and counted all the things in it, there over a thousand items,
including 718 grass stems, 34 chicken feathers, 34 coal fragments, and 18
pieces of brick), or just things he’s thought about that day.

From the back of the dustjacket: Edwin Way Teale is a literary naturalist
who has been awarded the John Burroughts Medal for distinguished nature

Sometimes we’ve used it for copywork. We’d do part or all of each day’s
section on that day. Then we’d compare anything he said about the date to
what’s going on in our area that day. Or I’d read it aloud day by day at
lunch time, or over an afternoon snack out in the backyard. Or we’d utilize
the index to look up some nature journal entry and copy a quote or two into
our journals.

I have another book by Teale, North With the Spring. I have had it for years, part of my ongoing legacy of family ‘stuff.’ I come from a long line of people who never have thrown anything away, and my bachelor uncle periodically managed to loosen his death grip on a few of these family possessions and send some to me, his favourite niece.

Sometimes they were just junk. Sometimes they were useful (he sent me my grandparent’s pasteurizer when we had dairy goats, and he sent me my grandmother’s
cast iron dutch oven still in the box when I mentioned I liked cooking with cast iron). Sometimes they are treasures, although it might be some time before I realize they are gems.

_North with the Spring_ is one example. I didn’t even know who Edwin Way Teale was when my uncle gave me a copy, so I gave the book an affectionate pat (a nod toward the giver), packed it away in a box under the bed and forgot about it.

A few years ago I noticed that when reading book recommendations from Charlotte Mason homeschoolers whose judgment I respected, I kept seeing his name pop up. I looked him up at the library and saw that he wrote one of those books gathering dust
under my bed. I pulled it out, dusted it off, and wrote down my thoughts about it. I said something like:

“So I have yet another precious little legacy from my grandmother, who died around my 13th birthday. My mother is ten years older now than my grandmother ever got to be. Grandma died young because her doctor told her the lump on her breast was nothing to worry about. He was wrong.

I miss my grandmother. She was a remarkable woman. She had studied botany and she taught school before she had children. She loved nature, and she was on a first-name basis with most of the plants and animals in her area. She was a kind and gentle woman, who read widely and thought deeply.

The older I grow, the more I value her, and the greater my sorrow that my children never knew her, nor she them. I am often bitterly grieved that a doctor’s carelessness deprived us all of her participation in our lives. But it occurred to me today that through her books, she still participates in my life, and contributes generously to our homeschool, even though she died over three decades ago.
By passing on those books to my children, I am doing what I can to put them in touch with the woman who was their great-grandmother. I am helping to pass on her passion for God’s creation, her interest in a wide variety of subjects, and her love of well-crafted writing. Through using the very books she held in her hands, savoured, and read, I am able to communicate something about her to her great grandchildren. They may never know the warm comfort of her hugs, but they will know something of the grace and elegance of her mind.
Thank-you, Grandma.

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The Plot Thickens. Or Not

The FYB is participating in a library program where the prizes are books to select from a table full of books, and the person who selects the books on the table does not quite have our taste in books.

He picked up Fire Star, by Chris D’Lacey (unbeknownst to me), and now I have to preview it for him because I’ve never heard of it. I am finding it slow, tedious, slogging. I realized part way through that this is partially because this book is the third book in a series, and it doesn’t really quite work as a stand alone title, but that wasn’t enough to explain just how disjointed this work feels to me. Then I found an interview with the author and all was explained:

Q. Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

A. Only one: trying to work out the plot. Actually, I’m not sure the book has a real plot because it’s so multi-layered and complex.

Apparently the books are quite popular in many places, and for all I know my Boy would like them as well, but I am quaintly fond of books with plots.

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President Obama Says He REALLY Prefers a "Light Touch" in Governing

He does. Apparently with a straight face.

More at Reason Magazine.

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What Do You Do For Poetry?

We read it. We pick an era and a poet from that era, then we read poetry by that poet every day for several weeks. We talk about the poem a bit- I might read it to my youngest two and ask them “What was that about?” And then I might ask, “What do you think it means when Emily says ‘how public, like a frog to tell your name the live long day to an admiring bog?’ “What does she mean when she says ‘zero at the bone?’ That’s about it. Years of reading, and then more reading.

I think it’s more important that our young students first build up a background where they spend years simply reading and learning poetry than that they too early spend their time making uninformed judgments about which poet has the ‘keener eye’ for nature than others, and why they should spend more time reading and writing about what they are reading than in creative writing exercises where they ‘express themselves.’ Children (like the rest of us) express themselves as a matter of course. What they don’t usually do without help is inform themselves without a little practice and guidance as to what to read and how to direct their attention.

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Boys and Their Toys

Via Reason Mag:

The program was streamlined in 1997 when Congress created an agency called the Law Enforcement Support Program to facilitate the giveaways. National Journal reported in 2000 that between 1997 and 1999 alone, the office handled 3.4 million orders for military equipment from 11,000 domestic police agencies, and gave away $727 million worth of stuff designed for use in war to be used in American streets and neighborhoods, against American citizens. That included…

“…253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, and UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters), 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles.”

The transfers have only picked up since then. The program is also how Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff Leon Lott acquired his M113A1 armored personnel carrier, which moves on tank-like tracks, and features a belt-fed, turreted machine gun that fires .50-caliber rounds.

I realize the appeal of this stuff, just as I realize the fascination my son has with things that go sploidy. But that doesn’t mean it’s a fascination that should be rewarded.

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