In Childhood, the Prelude, William Wordsworth refers

“To those first-born affinities that fit
Our new existence to existing things,
And, in our dawn of being, constitute
The bond of union betwixt life and joy.”

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary gives several meanings for ‘affinity:’

1. The relation contracted by marriage, between a husband and his wife’s kindred, and between a wife and her husband’s kindred; in contradistinction from consanguinity or relation by blood…

2. Agreement; relation; conformity; resemblance; connection; as, the affinity of sounds, of colors, or of languages….

According to, it is more than merely a synonym for liking. It involves bonding, forming a connection, a relationship:

…3: kinship by marriage or adoption; not a blood relationship…
5: a close connection marked by community of interests or similarity in nature or character; “found a natural affinity with the immigrants”; “felt a deep kinship with the other students”; “anthropology’s kinship with the humanities” [syn: kinship] 6: inherent resemblance between persons or things 7: a natural attraction or feeling of kinship; “an affinity for politics”; “the mysterious affinity between them”; “James’s affinity with Sam”
Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University (see for more, much more)

Charlotte Mason referred to Wordsworth’s poem when she said that one of the chief duties of parents is to help our children

“make valid as many as may be of – –
‘Those first-born affinities
That fit our new existence to existing things.”

She says that

Education is the Science of Relations;’ by which phrase we mean that children come in to the world with a natural ‘appetancy,’ to use Coleridge’s word, for, and affinity with, all the material of knowledge; for interest in the heroic past and in the age of myths; for a desire to know about everything that moves and lives, about strange places and strange peoples; for a wish to handle material and to make; a desire to run and ride and row and do whatever the law of gravitation permits.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 2, pp. 222-3)

Elsewhere in her six volume series she explains that that part of the idea that education is a science of relations entails an understanding that

“fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of…
Every child is heir to an enormous patrimony, heir to all the ages, inheritor of all the present.”
(Volume 3. pp.185-6)”

Towards that end, she says that

“[Every] child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination, to say nothing of great buildings, sculpture, beauty of form and colour in things he sees.”

School didn’t do that for me. My parents did a wonderful job of introducing us to poetry, literature, classical music, nature, history, and song, but we didn’t ever visit an art museum or discuss art that I remember. We had, however, one picture hanging on our walls that was not department store home decor. It was a print of a young girl in profile. She is reading a book. We did not know the name of the picture or the artist, and we never really talked about it, but I looked at it often while I curled up on the couch reading my own books.

A few years ago I was working on an art project for our homeschool, and I discovered my picture. It is ‘A Young Girl Reading’ by Fragonard. I was thrilled. I emailed my mother to tell her about it. I printed out a copy from the computer to look at. I excitedly told my children and husband that I had ‘known’ that painting from a child. Simply by seeing it on the wall of my childhood home, I had developed an affinity for it, and I believe that painting acted as a door to the world of the visual arts when I grew to woman’s estate. That print became a connection to a whole new world. How thrilling.

Even more thrilling was standing before the original in Washington, D.C. last week at the National Gallery of Art. I was unprepared for the emotional response. The HeadGirl and JennyAnyDots went ahead of us through the museum and found the painting first. They came back for me- “Mother, mother, we’ve found your painting.”

We rushed to the gallery where ‘my’ painting resides. I stood in front of it in wonder and profound happiness. I choked back tears. I tried to explain to my husband how much it meant to me, that this was the first, the very first painting I had loved, and how long I had loved it. I was incoherent.

We saw many wonderful things at the NGA, most of them far superior in quality and subject matter than my girl reading. As it turns out, Fragonard could produce paintings like this in about an hour, using broad, sweeping brush strokes. The girl’s collar is produced by first globbing on a thick mass of white paint, and then using the pointed end of the brush to quickly scratch the lines of the ruff through the wet paint. I don’t care. I love it. I love it because of the connections I made with it as a child and the connections it made for me as an adult.

It keeps on making connections for me. Today I read this post on Rembrandt over at Suitable for Mixed Company. She says,

“Many years ago, I was broke and bored, and wandering around Vancouver, British Columbia. The Vancouver Art Gallery had a free day (or cut-rate day, I forget which) and was advertising The Dutch world of painting and it was handy. Expecting nothing more than a half hour or so’s diversion, I went in. And changed my life. Honestly, I was floored by what I saw. I was astonished to find that some of the Dutch Masters were drop-dead funny in their art. I wandered into another room and found myself in another exhibit, where I lingered over a case with da Vinci drawings, grasping for the first time the difference between good drawings and great ones. But Rembrandt. My gosh. I lost myself in Rembrandt and the other Dutch Masters.”

I got all choked up all over again just reading about somebody else getting choked up at an art exhibit. She has much more to say about Rembrandt, art, and books, so please read the whole thing. You won’t regret it. Bookmark her, too, she’s worth a regular place in your reading schedule.

There are several ways into the world of art appreciation- by which I mean the world where a piece of art has the ability to move you, touch your life, hold your attention, to matter to you. It probably doesn’t matter so much how you get there. But do go, and take the kids with you.

For Further reading on CM and the science of relations, see here.

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Ordinarily our children get along.

Today, however, the First Year Boy is In A Mood. The First Year Girl is not far behind. One of their morning chores is to make my bed- the reason this is their morning chore is that one of them is usually still in my bed when I get up in the morning. They make it together. For some reason, one side is preferred over the other (I have just learned the reason and it is so silly it is worthy of another post at a later time).

Today the FYG came to me in tears because she called the favored side of the bed first and so the FYB was calling her names. This is provoking. What, I ask, did he call you?

She sniffles, “He called me a liar…”

This is very bad. He shall be reprimanded.

She continues in tears, “and a joker…”

This is, um, interesting, but I maintain a straight face. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

She sobs out the last and most vile insult, “And he called me a peanut butter sandwich!”

Oh. Wash the child’s mouth out with soap, a peanut butter sandwich, indeed. Let the beatings commence. Let there be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I am horrified. Reprimands and scoldings are in order.

The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth begins- that would be me, trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. The harder I try, the more I laugh.

I am not taking this seriously enough for the First Year Girl. The First Year Boy has been made to apologize for his intentions, which were to hurt his sister’s feelings.

I rashly tell the First Year Girl that there are much worse things to be called than a peanut butter sandwich. Naturally, she wonders what those things are.

Parenting is not for the stupid and shortsighted, either. My poor children.=)

Welcome Karnival of the Kidz viewers. You can read more about these two yahooligans here (our young lad thinks he’s a rajah), here (we have a tea party), and here (the First Year Boy and Girl are introduced to the Common Room blog audience).

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Obfuscation For Fun and Profit

This item reportedly turned up on a hospital bill recently: “Mucus Retrieval System, $75.” After some questioning of the accounting office, it was identified as a box of tissues normally used to blow one’s nose.

The entire article is worth a read, and the author raises points deserving thoughtful attention.

I haven’t had my coffee yet this morning, so I’m not really up for thoughtful. I’m pondering what other items could conceivably be on a hospital bill alongside Mucus Retrieval System.

dihydrogen oxide- water
dihydrogen oxide personal delivery system- a cup of water
dihydrogen oxide receptacle- a pitcher of water
crystalline sodium chloride free nutritional system- salt free meal
textile sanitation device: a washcloth

Fie upon it- I really need that cup of coffee. Can you think of any?

For those who find this sort of obfuscation attractive, visit this website.

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Parental Involvement a Legal Requirement?

Here’s an idea so bad that I don’t even know where to begin. It’s an excellent illustration of what’s happens when government gets its hands on a good premise, I suppose.

The starting assumption is sound- parents should be involved in their children’s education. I think everybody agrees with this, with the possible exception of some people’s children. The disagreement begins when we examine that involvement more closely and determine what it will look like. My own observation is that for the most part what the people on one side of this proposition mean is that parents shall be involved as helpers- they will do what they are told, cheerfully and without question. I suspect that most educationists and politicians who tout the need for parental involvement do not mean that they want parents involved as equals.

In Tennessee this is demonstrated by a bill proposed by Democrats John Ford and Lois DeBerry:

A proposal making its way through the General Assembly would require parents with children in kindergarten through grade 4 to ”volunteer” at least 12 hours a year. And they couldn’t just show up — they’d be expected to get involved in the teaching process by tutoring, chaperoning lesson-related field trips or helping students play educational games

Notice that none of these things requests parental input in decision making. Neither does such a proposal treat parents as equal partners, or even grown-ups. I do realize that far too many parents do not act like grown-ups, but that is a different issue. This is a proposal which would codify into law the school tendency to treat all parents as though they were lackees to the local school district.

The legislative proposal, which appears to have temporarily stalled in the Senate, is moving ahead in the House. However, lawmakers on the House Education Committee softened the language a little last week before approving it and moving it to the next step.

”We’re working toward the goal of 12 (hours) but not having any sanctions,” said Bruce Opie, the legislative liaison for the state Department of Education. ”We might not reach that goal with every parent.”

Lawmakers quizzed Opie about what types of activities would count toward the 12 hours. They directed questions to him rather than the sponsoring lawmakers because it’s the Education Department that would be expected to carry out any change approved by the General Assembly.

Classroom, lesson-related activities and academic field trips would count, among other things, but attending sports events or school plays probably would not.

”Part of the bill is that parents, in some shape, form or fashion, be in the school building,” Opie said. ”There are a variety of ways they can get in and participate.”

State Education Departmen Liason Opie seems to acknowledge that the alleged desire for parental involvement isn’t exactly universal among educators:

A law would go a long way to further parental involvement as a priority, he said, and send a message to teachers that parents should be welcome in classrooms. Typically, some educators are more open to the idea than others.

Does he really mean that we need a law to convince teachers that parents should be welcome in their childrens’ classrooms?

And at least one teacher inadvertantly reveals what role she wants from parents- that of teacher’s little helper:

”It’s always wonderful to have an extra set of hands,” said Melanie Stacey, who teaches at Marshall Elementary.

Apparently there are still a few bugs to work out- like how to handle parents who might have a criminal record. Parents will probably be able to receive an permission slip from the school to miss their mandatory 12 hours of involvement if they can present to the school a good enough reason why they cannot spend 12 hours at the school.

Kids do better when parents are involved in their education, but the kind of involvement that helps most is the kind where parents are deeply engaged in their children’s lives. It’s the kind of involvement that comes from the heart, not a law.

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Fairest Lord Jesus

Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

2. Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

3. Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.

4. Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be thine.

Listen to it here
Find out more about the song here

apologies for the delay, but I attempted to post this several times late last night and early this morning, and blogger just would not function.

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