Books Read in September

Dragons of a Fallen Sun, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, 619 pages long. Egad. Dragons, mages, knights, minotaurs, elves, humans, dwarves, missing moons, missing magic, and dying elves and a strange shield maiden and girl warrior, a Joan of Arc character called Mina.  IT took me about 200 pages to get into this one, and it was sheer force of will and stubborn-ness, and the fact that one of the teachers at the school who I have found a tough nut to crack really likes the series that made me continue.  It’s a trilogy within a trilogy within a series from what I can tell.  And I’m irritated that it’s one of those trilogies that just kind of ends without really resolving much of anything at all so I’ll have to read the next two books if I want to know what happens.  I mostly don’t really care much about any of the characters except the kender.  Kenders are a sort of Puck-like species, mischief makers, lighthearted and light fingered.  I am sure that my lukewarm appreciation for the book has as much to do with my age and the length of the book as anything else.  I mean, it’s not Tolkien, but who is?

 

How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster My favourite chapter was the chapter on how every journey is a quest (except for when it isn’t).  I liked the general ideas, but individual chapters weren’t uniformly successful. The general idea is that writers are readers, and they put a lot of time into their writing, and when you incorporate elements like a disability or type of death (or illness, or, or, or….) you have to keep that going through the rest of your story, so there is usually a reason for it.  He also talks about the need for the reader to also be familiar with fairy tales, myths,legends, Bible stories, and so on and be able to read widely and start to spot patterns and think about them.  I particularly liked his point that while Freud and his whole Oedipus complex and similar theories are probably wrong and no longer widely accepted, he was so influential on our culture that you have to remember even if you think it’s all hogwash, almost every writer from Freud up until the last ten years or so was familiar with Freud and didn’t think he was full of hogwash.  Therefore, they often are incorporating Freudian ideas into their works.  It’s probably not legitimate to read them into works before Freud, however (odd that everybody since Freud sees Hamlet and his mother having inappropriate feelings for one another, but nobody thought so before Freud).   I think it’s a useful book for parents and for college students, but a lot of the illustrations are from books you may never have read.

 

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton, (399 pages)  I never saw the movie, and I thought I was going to have to supervise a class where the students were watching this movie for science while their regular teacher is off-island.  I don’t have to supervise that class, which makes me happy.  It was an interesting read.  I see why he was a popular author.  He’s a bit heavy handed on the moralizing and Malcolm the exposition fairy was obviously only there to preach Crichton’s warning to the readers.  I agreed with most of the warning, it was just contrived.  Also, has anybody else read this and gotten the feeling that somewhere, somebody in Crichton’s sphere had a really bratty and obnoxious spoiled brat of a little girl that Crichton wished to torture a bit so he wrote her into the story?  I personally would not have minded if that child had been eaten by the raptors early on, but I guess we needed her to keep causing disasters.

I started a lot more books and didn’t finish them, and I kind of regret forcing myself to finish the 600 page monster about the dragon world.  I wish I’d read something more worthy of my time.

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“So long as they are reading?” Content matters.

“The habit of casual reading… is a form of mild intellectual dissipation which does more harm than we realise. Many who would not read even a brilliant novel of a certain type, sit down to read twaddle without scruple. Nothing is too scrappy, nothing is too weak to “pass the time!” The “Scraps” literature of railway bookstalls  (and airport bookstores) is symptomatic. We do not all read scraps, under whatever piquant title, but the locust-swarm of this class of literature points to the small reading power amongst us.

The mischief begins in the nursery. No sooner can a child read at all than hosts of friendly people show their interest in him by a present of a “pretty book.” A “pretty book” is not necessarily a picture-book, but one in which the page is nicely broken up in talk or short paragraphs. Pretty books for the schoolroom age follow those for the nursery, and, nursery and schoolroom outgrown, we are ready for the lightest novels on the library shelves of new books; the succession of “pretty books” never fails us; we have no time for works of any intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes.

We have reached the point where to most readers, Scott is dry as dust, and if you can believe it, even Kingsley is “stiff.” We remain weak and poor readers all our days. Very likely these strictures do not touch a single reader of this page, and I am like a preacher inveighing against the ways of the thieves and drunkards who are  not in the pews. But the mischief is catching, and the children of even reading parents are not safe.

 

Guard the nursery; let nothing in that has not the true literary flavour; let the children grow up on a few books read over and over, and let them have none, the reading of which does not cost an appreciable mental effort. This is no hardship. Activity, effort, whether of body or mind, is joyous to a child. Those f an oolder generation who went out of their Robinson Crusoe into our Scott did not find the strong meat too much for them.”

 

Volume 5 of Charlotte Mason’s series, somewhat adapted by myself

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Stumbling into a world you don’t know

Here’s an article on the work that archivists do. It’s on the long side, but I found it very interesting. I especially appreciated this:
“Lannon said that Google had changed the way people sought information. “They only want information based on the information they think they want,” he said. As a rule, he said, archivists at the library should give you the box you’ve asked for — but also suggest another box. There are fewer opportunities, now, to stumble into a world you don’t already know. “It’s important to look outside of your own existence.”

I supervise study hall at the high school library every day. There are a lot of rules about what the kids are supposed to be doing or are not supposed to be doing, and most of them are related to the desire of the leadership that the kids not waste their time, but be working productive, school/education oriented tasks. One student had recently been violating them fairly regularly while goofing on the computer, and I had him step away from the computer and sit at a desk and start copying words and definitions from a dictionary. I chose an older dictionary. It wasn’t entirely arbitrary, English is his second language and he speaks well but sometimes has surprising gaps in his vocabulary. He’s a funny kid, by which I mean entertaining, clever, smart. I like him. the feeling is undoubtedly *not* reciprocated.

Anyway, he accompanied his dictionary work with illustrations and commentary. The first side of the page (a small page, I tore one out of my own notebook which is half-sized) had comments like, “Is this related to school? No. It’s stupid.” “Peter Pan, a boy who never grew up. Ha. Really educational, right?”
The second side of the page he got engaged in spite of himself, and to illustrate a definition related to boats, he drew a lovely fleet of ships and wrote, “Maybe this is interesting and educational after all. Why don’t we learn about boats in school? That would be interesting.”

He would still rather use google, a single exercise that was more or less a kind of punishment isn’t going to make him a convert. Still, I hope that some day he looks back and remembers that spark, that moment when his interest was engaged by something he stumbled across by accident.

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Some quirks of life here in the Philippines

As I have mentioned, we have two different household helpers who come, not on the same day.  One of them is because we need her.  Well, we really, really do better with her here, and also, now that I am working in the high school library four hours every day,and the Cherub and I walk there and back unless we catch a Trike,  it’s tremendously helpful to have her handle the laundry.  Somebody needs to be here to rush it all off the line in the not uncommon event of sudden rain showers, and a household help who can do a lot of the produce and meat buying at the panlingke instead of the grocery store can save a family the cost of her wages, so it evens out.  The second one is a young man from church who filled in for her briefly when she was off island for a church conference, and he really needs the work, so when she returned, we asked him to come once a week on a day she doesn’t come.  He isn’t as skilful with the grocery shopping and he can’t cook, so it doesn’t even out, but we still are grateful for the things he can do for us.

So here are some quirks, which could be just their personaities, but since they don’t know each other, it’s interesting that they do the same thing:

  1. They both will wash and iron my husband’s thin cotton pajamas and hang them up on a hanger.  But my skirts don’t get ironed, nor are they hung up on hangers. The get folded and left in the laundry basket.
  2. We have two twin beds, one was the Boy’s, one is the Cherub’s, and we have several sets of sheets for them, along with some extra twin sized top sheets we bought from a transferring missionary family.  We also have two sets of sheets that fit our bed.  One set is in a solid colour, a sort of light green, fitted sheet, regular sheet, and two pillowcases.  The other set is a blue and pink pattern that is impossible to describe, but elements remind me of 1960s watercolour and calligraphy giftbooks.  The patterns are weird to my eyes, and not duplicates, but they clearly *match*, a fitted sheet, a top sheet, and two pillowcases.  The sheets get laundered by one helper every week, and sometimes, if it’s been particularly hot, if the Cherub has  spilled something, etc, they get washed a second time.   Neither helper *ever*  puts the matching set back on my bed.  They take a twin flat sheet and use it for the bottom sheet, tucking it in tightly and well, with excellent hospital corners, and then any random top sheet or two.   Last week, I started remaking the bed before I left for work, but I only got as far as putting the fitted sheet on the mattress before the Cherub needed attention and I didn’t finish.  When I came home, the bed was made, but not with the matching sheet and pillowcases I had left on a nearby chair.  Two random twin sized top sheets were on it, and the clean matching topsheet and pillowcase were folded neatly and put away.  I don’t get it.  It wouldn’t puzzle me so much if I didn’t know they do sell matching sheets (because we bought some) in the grocery stores and department stores.
  3.  we have a dog again.  He has been passed around among missionary families who moved abruptly. We’re the third family to own him since I’ve been here, and we haven’t been here a year.  He’s a pretty good dog- an outside dog, a good watchdog, a friendly soul, he does not bark at nothing, and he doesn’t chew things, and he poops in the same place in the back of our concrete yard.  The one thing I don’t love is he marks his territory in two places- our front gate, and the entrance to our patio.  IT’s incredibly strong smelling and unpleasant, and I cannot stand to sit out on my patio any more because of it, and I’m embarrassed to have visitors as they have to walk through this haze of dog pee odor.  We spray the area down with a hose repeatedly but it didn’t help because he just goes back almost immediately to recreate the same nasty miasma.  So then my husband had the brilliant idea of putting his food and water bowl in one of those spots to discourage him from peeing there.  I don’t know how effective it would be, because three times a week one of the helpers clears them away to a totally different part of the concrete yard.  I explained to both of them that we put them there so that it might discourage the dog from peeing where people have to walk to enter our front patio, but they still keep clearing them away.
  4. When the Cherub and I leave to go to the school, each helper will stop whatever he or she is doing and walk us to the outside gate and give us a somewhat formal good-bye.

    Except for moving the dog bowls, none of these are complaints, just observations.  We’re kind of amused by the ironed pajamas, and bemused by the consistent making of the bed without using matching sheets.  It really stands out since only the Cherub has a blanket. we just have a top sheet.  So sometimes the bed is very piebald – a pink patterned bottom sheet, a green twin top sheet and a navy blue twin top sheet sort of overlapping each other for the top.   And I have learned to be very appreciative of being walked out to the road, since they can also make sure the dog stays in the yard and I don’t have to juggle the Cherub, my backpack and parasol, and close the large metal gate and drive the bolt home at the same time.  But it still feels like I’m play-acting lady of the manor, especially when neither will call me by my first name.  I”m Ma’am to one of them, and the one from our church has compromised and will call me Sister.

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P.N.E.U. Principles As Illustrated by Teaching, 2

We educate children.

P.N.E.U. Principles As Illustrated by Teaching
by Miss R. A. Pennethorne, Ex-Student, House of Education
Volume 10, 1899, pgs. 549

I wrote part one of this set a little over a year ago. Nobody can say I was hasty, right?  If you want to brush up on that, you could read part one here.

She’s talked about general principles and practices, and now she’s going to break down the time-table, or the schedule, which the PNEU schools used and explain what is important about it

“We must now review our time-table and justify the choice of subjects, while touching upon the actual manner in which each is taught.”

What’s that?  It’s the subjects that matter here.  Hmmm.  And they are: 

Scripture.–True wisdom being only to be found in the highest of our relationships, we put the greatest first and begin the day’s work with a “Scripture” lesson, by which we hope to give the children some comprehension of the most perfect and progressive scheme of ethics known, and whereby they may be led to more intimate relationship with their Father, gaining “new thoughts of God, new hopes of Heaven.”
We therefore read the appointed passages of the New Testament with them and of the Old Testament to them.
There are many reasons why children should not read the Old Testament for themselves, for phases of life are there dealt with to which children need never hear allusions, and also because a stumble over some difficult word or name will spoil the whole beauty of some striking passage.
We do not, even for tiny children, advocate “Bible stories,” but actual passages from the sacred text, for the wonderful grand old English in which it is written has been more than one great writer’s school of language, and will, with necessary explanations, be far more impressive and likely to carry the contained idea, than the paraphrase of some well-meaning but common-place teacher.
No, we must respect the Bible, not only as a channel for Divine teaching, but also as a classic.
One other point must in these days be touched upon, namely, the difficulties which arise in teaching from the Bible.
My own personal opinion, if I may obtrude that upon you, is that these should be boldly faced in the “age of faith,” and all possible light and elucidation thrown upon the text by modern research, exploration, and science, given to the children.
Surely it is their right to have belief made as easy and not as difficult for them as possible!
The moral lessons drawn from the stories, that is the definite idea which each contains, should not be too personally enforced upon the child.
With many children an indignant sense of self-justification instantly springs up.
We want them rather to gain such a habit of mind as will lead them to reject the evil and choose the good and cling to it, for its own sake.
The narration of the story at the close of the lesson will generally show whether the salient idea has been grasped, while allowing the children to become accustomed to the use of beautiful and measured language, instead of our every-day slip-shod irreverent habit of speech.”

In sum- read the NT *with* the kids, the OT to them, with judicious omissions.  Read the real Bible to these young scholars, not Bible story books.  Where necessary, make explanations (I personally would caution you not to assume explanations are necessary.  Children reared on other classics are going to be pretty good at making inferences and having a good feel for the gist of the story).   Don’t be heavy handed with the moral lessons and personal inforcement.  Please, please, please do not go strident and say pointedly that this story reminds you of Jane’s represensible behaviour yesterday at breakfast.  Note, too, that narration after the Bible reading is absolutely assumed. It’s not optional.

So we have Bible as a subject, and we use the Bible, with tidbits of science and archaeology which may elucidate the text, they are reading along with you when it’s the New Testament, listening for the OT stories, and there is always narration.  Next we have: 

“Next in order let us consider Profane History.”

This is merely secular history.  Why are we studying history?  What are our goals?  As Miss Mason said in her own volumes, the point is not that they should know who did what in the age of whom, and Miss Pennethorne explains:
“What do we ask of it that it should do for our children?
Surely, that it shall give them heroic ideas, hearts full of fraternity, patriotism, and the desire to do and be for the good of others!
That the past shall for them be peopled with noble examples, dear friends, and awful warnings–not for nothing did “Boney” take the place of “bogey” in the nursery. [Note: for those who don’t know, this is Napoleon Bonaparte, would be world emperor, dictactor, accomplished general, failed in his ambitions, became scourge of the nursery used to frighten naughty children into being quiet little mice].
“We want the children to learn their history lessons, not “William the Conqueror, 1066,” but God’s dealings with humanity, the sequence of cause and effect; we want to train their moral judgment, that they may put the motive before the deed, nor dub all men with neat little labels of good or bad.
In short, we want them to see peering out through the mists of long past times “the purpose that is purposed upon the earth,” so that they may bear their part in forwarding, and not retarding, the ultimate development of God’s world.”

That is a very tall order, is it not?  We are looking at the big picture, we are looking at why, motivations, events in motion, and the people involved, and we are not to be dubbing people with those tidy little labels, so limiting, so narrow, so childish.  Not child-like, which is usually a good thing, but childish.  Children want to know who were the bad guys and who were the good guys, mature thinkers understand that while sometimes one side or the other may be the more noble when looking at the big picture, individually, people are more complex.

So how do we go about this lofty ambition?
“In order to do all this we give the life stories of great men, the first great writer of which, Plutarch, has left us a wonderful store-house of great ideas and examples, showing how the life of the individual is the life of the state, and that where private standards are high or low, public morality is upheld or falls; thus it would be possible to trace much of the gradual break-down of the Roman military colonies to the example of “Mark Antony,” and two such lives as those of Cato the Censor and Alcibiades will do much to teach future generations what good or evil one man can do for his times.”

Plutarch.  Not optional.
“We take all historical stories, as much as possible, from original and contemporary or standard and classical sources, for an oral lesson by a teacher, whose views on such a subject as the Great Civil War have a strong personal bias, will not give the children half such inspiring or just ideas as passages from _Clarendon_, Carlyle’s _Life and Letters of Oliver Cromwell_, or Guizot’s history of that worthy.
It is for the teacher to choose and select from the best authorities such passages as will most vividly leave with the children the spirit and ideas of the time, not teach naked facts from a miserable text-book, which contents itself by calling Queen Elizabeth “great,” or Robespierre “cruel.””

Use original writings as much as possible, choose such as illustrate the times.
“Every possible aid should be given to the children’s imagination, the ideas being given simply and the pictures vividly, so that the children may be able to make a chart of the century they are studying, and fill the small square allowed for each year with little pictures, drawn by themselves, of the events which have struck them most, anecdotes, pictures, connection with places familiar to them, reference to events in their own experience illustrating the same forces at work, and an incidental coupling of some great man with some great epoch should help the children to get a grip of the world’s progress from Alexander the Great to the Right Hon. Cecil Rhodes, as a catholic comprehends his whole faith by the beads on his rosary.”

A century chart is not a timeline and it’s not a book of the centuries.  It’s a graph, each box representing a year (or ten years if you like) anrranged in order, and the children illustrate it *themselves.*  They also *choose* what goes in the century chart.  

I think the ‘incidental coupling of some great man with some great epoch’ indicates the use of well written biographies as well. 

So we have Bible and history on our school schedule or time-table.  What else?

“Literature.–The passage from teaching history through contemporary sources to literature is practically imperceptible.
It is a nice question whether the history of a country makes its literature or its literature the history!”

In order to allow the children free access to literature, we begin by teaching them to read, and one of the ways to do that is to have them make up words and sentences from a letter box: 
“The child’s first introduction to the study of words is through the medium of learning to speak and then to read, for the written characters are the key to what we understand by “Literature,” the legacies of great minds, and it largely depends upon the ease and fluency with which a child can read whether he will naturally turn to books as wells of knowledge and gates of a new world peopled for him with many friends.
Our method for that “battle”–learning to read–is, teach by the eye as well as the ear.
Choose words which convey an interesting idea to the child and he will as readily learn to recognize robin-redbreast, as one-syllable words like “cat.”
Then if he knows the sounds, not the names of his letters, he can build up Bobbin, Dobbin, or any number of words from those already familiar, and put the words he already knows into different and yet sensible order, and the sense of power gained will be tremendous!
There will then be (supposing the child to learn to recognize five new words a day, build up others on them, and finally make them up again out of loose letters and put them into sentences of his own) no gap between reading, spelling, and composition, they follow one another in natural and reasonable sequence.”

I did something like this with my children before I read Mason’s works, only once we got to the point of making sentences, I had entire words on stacks of index cards, one word per card.  We played a simple game with them.  I laid out a sentence and the child read it, and then the child got to lay out a sentence for me to read.  The delightful thing about this method is how much work the child is doing without realizing it.  Their favourite part was always making sentences for Mom to read, imagining that this was fun and a break from school, while the sentence I made for them was the tedious school assignment.  In fact, in order for them to choose word cards to make up a good sentence, they had to do ten times more work. They had to read many more cards in order to find the ones they wanted and put them in order. In order to put them in sensible order, they were also performing an early form of grammar and composition study.  They are using grammar without realizing it.  It’s a fantastic way to have kids practice reading and learn about sentence formation without ever realizing that they are working so hard.  Miss Pennethorpe explains some of the details as she tells us that the natural progression of reading, spelling, and sentence formation is then grammar:
“Then comes the science of words, namely, “Grammar.”
Here we boldly abandon that academic nightmare, “the first grammar book” and arrange our course rather on the sequence of ideas natural to a child’s mind.
Let him first discover that he speaks with words (a truly wonderful discovery) then, that when he puts these words together to make sense, behold he has a sentence!
Next, that every sentence has two parts, the thing we talk about–the subject, and that which we say or predicate about it–the predicate.
Things are generally spoken of by their name words (or nouns), and we cannot make a sentence without those most valuable words of all–verbs, which tell us what the name words are, or do, or suffer.
So that analysis and parsing do not loom up suddenly as awesome tortures, but simply become habits of mind when dealing with words and their uses.”

We’ve got Bible, history, literature, and then it seems to me reading, or phonics, occupies the same space in the time chart as grammar and composition (and spelling) will later. They flow into each other.   As I have said before, and Miss Pennethorpe alludes to here, with this type of education, the books are the curriculum, the real books, the living books, the stories, the books are the curriculum, and they are chosen with care:

“If the child learns his history at first hand from the writings of the times, whether they be the Saxon Chronicles or _With Kitchener to Khartoum_, the phraseology will help him as a model on which to form his own, as well as a key to the spirit of bygone ages.
In studying the masterpieces of literature we do not learn about them in text-books (though we must concede a point by using the invaluable little Stopford Brooke to show us in what constellations the bright peculiar stars shine), but we introduce the children to the first sonnet, or to Malory’s _King Arthur_, or Tennyson’s _Idylls_.
We choose the children’s books, not on the score of “prettiness,” but on account of the score of their true literary flavour; _Robinson Crusoe_ and _Don Quixote_ are quite as much literature as Macaulay’s _Essays_ or Gibbon’s _Decline and Fall_.
We therefore choose sundry really valuable books, which are to be read to or by the children every term, not leaving their literary taste to be formed by the first story-book which catches their fancy.
As we study the history of many nations and of many times, the Hebrew race, the Ancients–Greek and Roman, and the modern peoples of Europe, so we must also study their literature; older pupils will work at the “classics,” works crowned by the French Acadamy, the masterpieces of Goethe, etc., in the language in which they were written, while for younger pupils there is the wonderful classical library now published by which we can enjoy Plato, Virgil, Petrach or Racine in our mother-tongue.”

Bible, history, the subjects we would currently call Language Arts in the U.S., and literature.  Next, foreign language:

“Language.–But if we are to study untranslated literature we must know the language in which it is written, and in which the lessons on it will be given.
We believe in the necessity of learning as many languages as possible, because we believe in that “open-door” policy, and though a language may not be learned fully during school-days, even a slight familiarity with Italian, for example, may lead to –Dante?
Tongues are valuable, not only as an end in themselves,but as tending to give us wider interests and sympathies with our fellow-men, and a more cosmopolitan insight.
We would have children learn Latin certainly, but so that translation and grammar should go hand-in-hand, and the mind get the severe logical training which its rules of accidence afford, but neither for boys nor girls would we devote a disproportionate time to its study.
But all living spoken languages should be taught–at first, at least–orally, from the lip to the ear, as we learn our own.
Such a method has been provided for us my M. Gouin, whose exponent Mdlle. Duriaux is so well known in our midst.
Not only does it teach the child to think and speak in a foreign tongue, but it trains the lips to produce and the ear to catch foreign vocables, training at the same time the understanding while cultiviating clear and beautiful speaking.”

Foreign languages, Latin (but not undue time in our schedule), and living languages.  Why?  So children can read in the original, and ‘to give us wider interests and sympathies with our fellow-man.”  It helps make us less narrowminded and rigid in our thinking, in a good way. Language, my Visaya language teacher tells me repeatedly, is a key to the heart.

Moving on:
“Geography.--Foreign tongues naturally suggest foreign countries.
If we know the history and speech of our neighbours, we shall also need a pretty thorough knowledge of their surroundings.
The educational value of geography, both as alone helping us to understand all the intricacies of the former (how Holland’s dykes kept her free, and how France had her two languages–the Langue d’oc and the Langue d’ocil) and as enlarging our conception of the wonderful, beautiful world in which we live, and of helping us to understand and sympathize with the imperial spirit of our times.
“What do they know of England who only England know?”–and we see in geography that older spirit of emigration which is ever driving men Westward Ho!
“The world’s our oyster”–through the medium of the map; this must be known and studied so that its every line and dot are familiar, and this, not as a mere mechanical recognition, for our lessons must furnish the children with graphic pictures so that they can describe any part of the map to which their attention is drawn, or describe the course of a given river from its source to the mouth. Comparison with what they know at home, on a smaller scale, or comprehension by contrast, as for example, “Imagine those green fields to your left reared straight on end, and they would be like the South Downs, etc,”–are valuable as bringing facts, very remote in themselves, within the children’s experience.
We should teach children what we ourselves need and care to know about foreign lands, read them good books of travel, and link the passing events of the day into their lives by lessons on the places whose names are on everyones’s mouth–Manila and the Philippines are more important to the child than “the area of the German Empire is so many thousand square miles.”

[Note: at the time she wrote this the Spanish-American War had just ended, Spain ended its 300 year colonization of the Philippines and conceded the country to the U.S. and not all Filipinos were happy about that. The Philippines declared war on the U.S.in 1899 and it lasted three years]

“The first beginnings of geography–its foundations will be laid long before the schoolroom days, at home, for geography is essentially a subject which must progress outwards from the circle of the child’s experience, he begins by learning to know a hill, a river, a field, a village, and to reproduce them in sand or clay.
Then, in the early days of the definite instruction, he hears about the round world and her seven sisters–the planets, he learns that part of the earth is very hot and part very cold, he learns that the sun does not go to bed at night but that the earth turns round, while at the same time his knowledge of the earth’s surface has spread to the neighbourhood of his home, his county, and his country.
He will then go from the sand try to the plan of his schoolroom, actually measured by himself, parts of inches being taken for feet so that he knows what is meant by “measuring to scale.”
Then he learns how the globe is measured and maps made to scale, and then he is ready, map in hand, to explore the earth, sitting comfortably at home the while.”

Geography begins well before schooldays, when you and the children are outside playing and the children learn, in passing, really, names for places- hills, streams, puddles, valleys, swampy, dry.  They are given things to imagine- imagine this puddle was all you could see, as far as you could see was water, and it tasted salty. That is the sea.  Imagine that hill was 20 hills just like it piled on top of each other. That still would not be a mountain.  They play in puddles, they use the hose to make streams and paths in the sand.  you talk about what they see, about directions, about the sun, you compare what they are seeing with other parts of the world you know.  In school, he learns of the sun and the planets and how they revolve and so it is night on one side and day on the other, and he learns to measure and map his room, his school, learns scale and size, and then works from maps and globes and real stories of real places.

“Science.–Geography is a science both mathematical and natural, embracing as it does through the magic words “flora, fauna, and production,” the sister sciences of botany, zoology, and geology.
We want our children to learn all these, for they will draw them more closely to mother earth, but they need not at first ever hear their names.
One of our maxims is “teach the thing before the name.”
“Go out,” we say, “into the country, learn its sights, its sounds, its smells, learn the flowers by sight and by names, the creatures in their homes and by their customs, the stones of earth by their look and from touch, and the configuration of the country.”
Then you will have learnt at first hand from the most wonderful books, and have something to classify and amplify in your later studies.
From their earliest babyhood children can and should be given interests and pursuits, therefore we encourage them to note their observations and to reproduce, however roughly at first, in their nature note-books, the treasures they have found, and above all we want them to have that loving interest in “birds, and beasts, and butterflies” which will teach them that life is a sacred cycle, not be tampered with, so that the protection of an apparently valueless lady-bird means fewer green-fly and therefore more roses and therefore more pleasure in life.
Our science lessons are therefore largely incidental.
A few words about the stars they can see walking home from evening church for example, dealing with the things most of interest on the spot, and as children get older we use this knowledge of their own as a basis for our further teaching, which must as yet be largely oral, for as yet the “literature of science” is only “in the making.”
I think I have intimated rather than said what it is we want science to do for our children’s characters; for example, what ideas of awe, wonder, reverence, and our own insignificance, should astronomy give them, and so in every branch they will be led to see the Creator in the created, to reverence life and enjoy it, and to gain that largeness and sympathy and catholicity of interests, which an open-air life or the love of it seems to bring.”

I am always astonished when people claim that Mason’s approach to science is not good enough for today and won’t help children pursue interests in STEM topics.  Astounded.  I don’t know what else to say, except if this be so, then somebody’s vision of STEM is far too small.
Mathematics.–We turn from the sciences of facts as we see them to the science of facts as they must be.
Truth is the key-note and core of mathematics.
There is no “nearly right” or “probably is so” or “certainly may be” about 2+2=4.
Logic, the putting of two and two mentally and inevitably together, and truth in all her majesty and tidiness are to be the mental acquisitions gained from arithmetic, Euclid and algebra.
How then do we teach them?
Why we try to crystallize the idea of numbers by treating each fresh number that the child learns to count to an analysis comprising the four great processes, for example, 6=5+1, 6+2×3, 6=8-2, 6=3+3, 6=4+2, 6= 12/2, 6=2+2+2, 6Ö2=3, etc.
We teach those awful tables much as we teach reading, by sight, the child gets a mental photograph of 2×2=4, and by thinking of its position on the black-board can readily recall it.
For tiny tots we, of course, teach first of all in the concrete and then translate their thoughts in the abstract.
When the children are far enough advanced in abstract arithmetic, they can begin algebra, which would certainly be more interesting to them if they knew something of its history–the very name is meaningless for them without–how many school-boys know what it means or who Euclid was!
In teaching algebra it would be well to let children see something of its uses, how it helps for instance in astronomy, and the measurement of curves, so that they may not feel they are “ploughing sand,” whilst they are gaining in abstractive power and true ideas of equality, etc.
The application of algebra to curves, etc., brings us to its meeting-point with geometry.
Nothing can help children better to understand that abstract logical reasoning is not unreal than the mental discipline of going from figure to proof and proof to figure in what we term “propositions.”
Geometry trains the mind to severe reasoning, the hand to absolute accuracy, and it lies at the root base of many important and honourable professions, which is a real though utilitarian reason why we should teach it.
The child begins to learn geometrical truths when he finds out that the top of the table is a flat thing with edges (a plane surface) and that the parallel hedges of the high road do not meet together in the far distance.
It is on this common and already existing knowledge on which we must base our first lessons on geometrical definitions and axioms.
Geometry is especially remarkable in that it converts each idea it gives into a habit of mind or action in construction, and a base for the next idea to rise upon.
Thus when we give a lesson upon a proposition we make clear the idea (equality perhaps of two triangles) to be conveyed, and then help the pupil to discover the logical as well as the obvious proof of its reality, and never make the children learn by heart without comprehension a chatter of ABC=Q.E.D.
Having gone over with the pupil the method of reasoning, we ensure that it shall become habitual by giving exercises (riders) on that particular truth before proceeding to the next.
There is an article in the _Parents’ Review_ for April which proposes a way whereby the reductio ad absurdum proof may be avoided and so one of the greatest mental difficulties of geometry done away with.”

My own recommendation is that if you cannot help your child with the facts and mechanics of math, you should hire a tutor, possibly for both of you.  
Art.–Via geometrical drawing, which is the ground basis of architecture, we find ourselves in the “Palace of Art.”
The recognition of the beautiful and the cultivation of taste are, we hope, to form part of our children’s education and character.
It is only what we have truly seen that we can truly reproduce; hence, observation is enormously trained by art-teaching.
Personally, I believe every living soul can learn to draw from actual objects, if the eye has not first been vitiated by seeing copies of them.
We want the children to get form, colour, and gesture, so we sit them down before some flower or object, already interesting to them, and teach them to boldly block them in, and catch first their main characteristics, and afterwards (long afterwards) their details.
The use of the brush and the wonderful variety of marks which it can make (although the children will be sure to call them “blobs”) gives a mastery of material and a sense of colour before more difficult work is attacked, then in the Nature Note-books, which we hope every P.N.E.U. child keeps, the flowers, twigs, insects, etc, that they see the (?) now doubly observe in trying to reproduce.
But execution is only one side of art, appreciation is the other, and this we try to give the children by putting them in the way of seeing beautiful pictures which convey noble ideas.
The child to whom Millet’s “Angelus,” Carpaccio’s “Vision of St. Ursula,” Durer’s “Good Knights,” or Fra Angelico’s “Hospitalitus” are familiar, will at least know true art when he sees it, and demand something better of the next generation of artists, than endless “Little Girl and Fox Terrier” pot-boilers.
Who shall say that more educated public taste, by creating a demand for what was truly great and inspiring, would not call forth a supply?”

Art here incorporates both drawing and picture study. 
Manual Training.–But art is a wide word, covering many fields, of which painting is only one.
The child is only truly educated who can use his hands as truly as his head, for to neglect one part of our being injures the whole, and the learned book-worm who is ignorant of the uses of a screwdriver, also lacks that readiness and resourcefulness, mental neatness and capability, and reverence for labour and its results, which a knowledge of practical matter gives.
We want the children to be neat in mind as in body, to have clean-cut ideas and be capable of producing good work of all sorts; so we set them to fold paper, while their fingers are still tiny, and they will soon find how much better one clean fold is than a crumple (and simplicity than duplicity).
Then we set them to model the familiar pear or apple in clay, and their conception of the fruit rises above mere “taste,” while the fingers learn how much one light touch can effect.
Then we would give them the joys of cardboard sloyd, employing the creative instinct which is in every man, craving to be given a means of expression.
Here truth and tidiness go hand in hand, for an error of a centimetre here or there will render a morning’s work useless. If you ever want to see how untruthful, lazy, and depraved and fallen human nature is, go yourselves and see how you fare over a first morning at Sloyd–it is a revelation of one’s own inner blackness and want of intellectual truthfulness; to the children, however, who are not yet fully cursed with our self-consciousness, it is a great treat and a great education.
Any work which employs the creative instinct to good purpose and produces a reputable and artistic result (not mere exercises which waste the children’s time and material for nothing) finds favour with us.
Basket work, wood carving, etc., all so adapted to the children’s age and capabilities that they may be able to attain a habit of perfect execution, and that sense of the mastery of our spirits over matter which is surely part of our divine heritage.”

Handicrafts- notice these subjects are not considered ‘extras?’
“Music.–But there is another art which certainly requires some manual dexterity, namely, music.
Here we plead that children may be taught its wonders and its history from the first, and get idea of key, scale, etc., by ear as well as by mere telling and teaching.
We therefore advocate the adoption of Mrs. Spencer Curwen’s method by which the child learns to read by sight, write from ear, make his own scales, and transpose simple tunes, before attempts to play more than simple duets or the most rudimentary solos, for though every child cannot be a great performer, all may be taught an intelligent appreciation of the beauties of music, and it is a wicked shame to clang the doors of music, and therefore of endless channels of delight and inspiration, in a child’s face, because we say he has “no ear,” when perhaps his ear has never been trained, or because he never will be able to “play.”

Bodily Training.–Thus far we have spoken only of the mind, or of the mind as applied to matter.
Now we must speak of the training of our whole bodies by exercise.
Pestalozzi tells us that he found an upright carriage and a straight glance means of acquiring, as well as expressing, self-respect.
Good physique is a great help to good character, lounging in body being a sign of lounging in mind.
Grace, and health, and development are the children’s right, and necessary if they are to have healthy bodies and healthy minds.
We would also have that prompt obedience to command, that quick self-discipline which, when they become habitual, will influence the whole, not merely the physical life.
Swedish drill, military dumb-bell exercises, and the old Greek deftness and grace with the ball, will clear away mental cobwebs by their delightful alertness, and prepare fitting temples for the beauty of character.”

Regular work, every week in the subjects of Bible, history, language arts (using real books), literature, foreign language, geography, science, math, musical instruments, art (picture study as well as drawing), handicraft.  This is a magazine article, not a comprehensive and deep examination.  There are things omitted.  We know from looking at the exams that the children didn’t just learn to sight read, they also learned to sing.  We know they had hymns, folk songs, and songs in foreign languages they were studying.  We know they did use some textbooks in history after all, or at least, lesson books like Island Story and other history books which were not strictly first person accounts.

What is success?

“Our principles thus applied to teaching are fully worked out in the programmes issued every term for the work of the Parents’ Review School.
Here, on a definite syllabus, for an uncompetitive but nevertheless searching examination, working from interest and a sense of duty, and not from any desire to “go one better” than their fellows, are now some 300 children engaged in their own home schoolrooms–a proof, if any were needed, that all we plead for is eminently practical and possible.
And what, it may be asked, are the results as seen in those children?
Well, as far as I am capable of saying, they are distinctly encouraging.
But we do not look for results, we don’t train “prize pigs,” we educate children and that, not after our own ideal, but keeping the national type in mind, after the ideal for each child which we dimly discern in God’s gifts to them of especial environment, circumstances, talents, and disposition.
The personal influence that one good life may have, widening out from generation unto generation, testified by so many instance–Wonderful Walker, the lake country priest, or the old servant and nurse of Pestalozzi, and many another almost unknown saint of God–these show us that if by all our work we can help one nature only to expand to the utmost limits, if such there be, of its relationships, and be what God meant it to be, we shall be amply rewarded.
We cast our bread upon the waters, and often sow in tears of discouragement, but we believe that after many days we shall find it again and return rejoicing, bearing the sheaves of a higher national character with us.”

Success is hard to measure with this form of education.  We want test scores and properly spelled words. Good character is more nebulous, but I believe that done right, we will see all of the above.

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