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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Once when I was babysitting, I threw a deck of cards on the floor.  Then I sent the various children on scavenger hunts.  The younger ones were sent for colors or shapes.  Then I could send some kids for certain numbers, or odd numbers, or even numbers.  The siblings who were old enough to know addition or subtraction could be sent for “two cards that add to nine”, or “three cards that add to thirteen”.

 

For more flexibility or to mix it up, ask for kids to bring you however many cards, as long as they add up to an odd number, or to a number greater than ten and less than twenty.  You could have the kids bring you one card, and then send them for a card that could be added to that specific card in order to reach a specific other number.  You can have kids of similar abilities race for the same answer, or you could give each kid their unique assignment and then say “go” to see who can complete their task first.  If the kids you’re working with don’t like messes, you could lay the cards out on a table in rows (it would be fun to sometimes have the cards in order and sometimes not).

 

This kind of activity helps kids to realize things about numbers and math that they wouldn’t necessarily if they were just memorizing tables.  I like it for the additional reason that it uses supplies that many people have around the house, and that it can incorporate younger and older children.  It is active.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I spent some time recently thinking about how I would help someone evaluate whether public school or homeschool is better for their family, especially coming from a perspective, like most American Christians do, of public school being normal.  In this I don’t want to be attacking public school or defending homeschool, but this article is informed by many of my reasons for preferring homeschool. 

 

What are your kids getting from public school?

What useful? What positive? What harmful?

 

What impact do their peers have on them?

When they’re getting along?  When they’re not?

 

Would your kids benefit from being in a smaller class size?

 

What is in the curriculum that would affect their worldview?

 

What other things are they being exposed to without wise guidance?

From peers? From libraries? From field trips?

 

What is the impact of being bound to a school’s schedule?

On sleep? On nutrition? On transitions between environments and authorities? On routine?

How much of their time at school is actually being used for education?  (Why do they still have to come home and work on their scholastic education via homework?)

Is a day structured around expectations and performance healthy for them?

 

Would they benefit from more interactive education?

Do they need more time to be active?

Do they need to slow down on only one or two subjects?  Could they benefit from forging ahead on a couple of subjects?

Would you like them to learn something that is not in your public school’s curricula? (Cooking, shop, business, Bible)

Would you like them to get a different perspective than what is being offered?

Would you like them to learn in a different way (more hands-on, more interactively, more self-study, more memorization, subjects integrated with one another)?

 

What message does it send them to be sent away for long parts of each day? How does your attitude impact their perception?  How should parents maintain honesty (for example, about being grateful for the break when kids go to school) with their children, while not burdening the kids with the shortcomings of their parents?

What message would it send them to be kept at home, unlike most of their peers?

 

What are they getting from time not in school?

What useful? What positive? What harmful?

 

Do you have enough time to give them what they need?

Do you have enough time to teach them what God has entrusted you to teach them?

About Him? About character? About how to flourish in the story God has given them?

Do you have enough time to build your relationships with them?

Do they get a (patient) chance to build their relationships with their siblings?

 

What are your reasons for not homeschooling?  Time? Focus on younger kids? Financial? Focus on other people? Focus on personal improvement? Stress? Intimidation? Inadequacy? Cultural normalcy? Influence culture? Perks of props and facilities and extra-curricular activities in public schools? Child’s socialization? Child’s practice with exposure to the world? Less strain on the mom-child relationship (not being teacher and mom)? Incorporating other adult influences for example and discipline? Hassle of truancy or curriculum laws?

Are your reasons based in truth, idealism, fear, selfishness?

 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I used to wonder why parents and teachers and snobby kids a year ahead of me in school insisted against “ain’t.”  We used to chant to an offender, “Ain’t ain’t a word, ‘cause it ain’t in the dictionary.”  We lived in Texas, where they have their own brand of contractions and substitutions and pronunciations.  This probably resulted from the cultural blend of Mexican Spanish, rogue English, and a bit of patriotism to boot.  Some slang words were enshrined in Country Western Music, a segment of the arts arguably as qualified as Shakespeare to introduce expressions (and evidence says that Shakespeare did a lot of word-inventing).  For the most part, I imagine parents and teachers were doing a more mature version of our parroting chant: they just repeated what they’d been told was good and right.

 

As I’ve grown up, and denouncing slang has become less and less popular, I’ve formed some ideas about why it’s so bad.  What I have identified is: association, exclusion, comprehension, and preservation.

 

If you go to slang dictionaries like “Urban Dictionary” online, you will find some unsavory histories of words we use.  Prisoners and gangs will start to use a word differently than everyone in the outside world.  Maybe they’ll use it as a vivid metaphorical reference to some coarse or irreverent thing.  Or they can use it with a sort of morbid sarcasm where what is dreadful to decent people is celebrated by them.  As the usage of the word spreads (and why it may spread I’ll discuss in a following section), the original vulgarity is dulled because the new speakers don’t realize the origin.  This happens with respectable poetic quotes as well, so we shouldn’t be surprised.  It is sloppy to make the mistake whether the origin is noble or base.  However, parents don’t usually want their children to have a lot in common with criminals and gangs, so they discourage language associated with them and derived from their lifestyles.

 

Most of us have had experience with inside jokes.  A few people in the room know a story no one else does, and someone mentions it, and they all laugh while you feel left out and clueless.  Slang, especially when it starts, is like that.  People begin to use a word in a way that most people won’t recognize or understand.  They can’t go look it up in the dictionary.  There’s no history of literature by which to decipher the code in which the other individual is talking.  This could be intentionally deceptive on their part, like parents spelling words in front of their young children – or the individual using slang may be so unfamiliar with cultures outside his own that he doesn’t realize how specialized his speech is.  Slang uses words that already belong to English – words that have a meaning to most people.  It may not even be immediately apparent to either of you that misunderstanding is taking place.

 

Unlike learning a second language, where there are grammars and translation dictionaries and classes to take, picking up this exclusive language involves a sort of immersion.  You have to find out what that speaker is feeling and thinking, what experiences have built his past, to determine what he means when he uses a word that you and the rest of the world know means something he does not mean.  While I am an advocate for relationship and community, I value the ability to skip these elementary steps of familiarization to move on to benefiting each other by what you know, by being able to express feelings of approval or displeasure, the ability to share an experience side by side and know there is commonality because you can communicate it.  Language is a wonderful tool for these things, a tool being undercut by the prevalent use of slang.

 

Finally there is preservation.  This point may not carry as much weight with most people, but I believe it is important.  A conservative language is one that has access not only to the ideas in one’s own society, but also to far-distant and different cultures: geographically, socio-economically, and even over time.  Imagine if you didn’t have to learn Old English or endure the mediation of a translator to enjoy Beowulf.  What if the Bible read by the Puritans still made sense to us today?  As our language evolves, isn’t it possible that we are gradually losing the wisdom and values of the past, constantly innovating and evolving our identities and beliefs?  Aren’t our people crying out for peace, for stability, for the ability to commit to something and have it mean something?  Do we want to feel so isolated and lonely?

 

I’m not advocating that we all learn Old English now, or go back to the King’s English spoken by the colonists of the United States hundreds of years ago – though I support members of our present population studying the expressions of the past so that we can keep hold of what those ancestors have to offer us today.  I am not going to militate against poetry, or to fight new words for new inventions and discoveries.  If you use the word “nice” to mean “friendly,” I probably won’t think too much about whether you actually meant “precise” and “orderly” as a man used to mean when he used that word.  I will keep in mind that “might” has to do with strength and ability at least as much as “can” when mothers ridiculously correct their children from saying “Can I?” to “May I?”  My fascination for words and their meanings and histories will continue to hone my vocabulary, my ability to communicate with strength and economy.  And I suspect that when my children are tempted to adopt the street language of their days, I’ll join the ranks of parents past by discouraging the use of slang.

 

What will you do?

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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How to Make a Big Banner

Banners and Signs can be expensive to print. Obviously if you’re interested in a permanent sign, you may want to invest in one of these. Also if your sign needs to have graphics or reflect on the image of a business or organization, the cost can be worth it. But if your message is more important than your image, and your money can be better spent on your mission than on your signs, consider using this technique.

Go to a Wal-mart with a Fabric Center. Other fabric stores will do, but will cost a little more. They have a section where you can buy tablecloth by the roll. Choose a light colored vinyl with felt on the back. This can be bought for about $3 a yard. Good size signs are 2 to 3 yards.

Next go to the Home Improvement Department, and buy painter’s tape. The blue works pretty well on a white background. You can also use black. (Or if you happen to have a black vinyl back, use the off-white painter’s tape.) Do not use anything but painter’s tape.

Plan out your sign, checking your spelling. Use box letters 6-12 inches tall. Try to keep the wording simple. I’ve seen where some people have smaller words and larger phone number or website. Or do it the other way around.

Don’t stress too much about layout, though, because you’re using painter’s tape, which is removable. If you mess up, peel it off and fix your mistake. Test letter size. Stand back and see if your sign is readable at a distance.

When using your sign, hold it up by hand, one person at each end. Or sew the ends into a loop and insert PVC pipes. The felt back makes the banner a little heavier to resist wind and hang properly.

Roll or fold to store if you want to reuse your sign. Or peel off the painter’s tape and store the fabric to use again for a different message.

If you do a good job, from a distance no one knows your sign was made with tape, and when they’re closer they’ve already gotten your point. Use for protests or church organizations. Advertise a garage sale or party. Make a welcome home sign for a special occasion.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I’ve been curious of late about the variety of fruit suddenly available.  Gone are the days of apples, pears, oranges, peaches, and grapes that I knew as a child (and I never ate the pears!).  There are far too many fruit to keep up with.  And then movies and books (including the Bible) mention yet other fruits that I’ve never seen or tasted.  How do you choose a ripe one in the supermarket?  In what family is the fruit?  Is it sweet like all fruits should be?  What do you do with it once you get it home?  Are there any poisonous parts of which I need to be aware?  Wikipedia may not answer all of these questions, but it gives a start. 

 

Fig – a false fruit, actually a flower that blooms inside the bud.  Grows natively in Iran and the Mediterranean. 

 

Sycamore – in the Bible, a fig tree: “mulberry-fig”

 

Mulberry – not at all related to figs, being a true fruit, actually a multiple-fruit (a cluster of flowers each produce a fruit that grows into one)

 

Berry – a simple fruit having seeds and pulp produced from a single flower.  The entire ovary wall ripens to produce the edible fruit.

 

Date – grown on a palm tree, contains one seed.  A date is a berry of the same type (but not same family) as blueberries and cranberries in which the fruit forms above the flower.  Drying does little damage to the flavor or nutrients.

 

Plum – a sweet fruit related to apricots, peaches and cherries. 

 

Prune – a dried plum

 

Kiwi – With its recognizable “hairy” brown skin (like a miniature coconut), the kiwi’s bright green inside has a unique flavor.  The rows of black seeds are edible. 

 

Guava – a fruit in the myrtle family that looks like a cross between an apple and a grapefruit, the inside is usually sweet but sharp, reminiscent of the lemon. 

 

Mango – When ripe, the sweet fruit is eaten.  The taste does not vary between orchards, and is strong and resinous.  Inside is a single seed. 

 

Persimmon – fruit from the ebony tree, with a unique texture (I compare it to carrots) and a taste between dates and plums.  Eat only when fully ripe, and peeled. 

 

Grape – grown in all colors clustering in bunches from 6 to hundreds of fruit large, this common perennial fruit is used in jams, wine, and also consumed raw. 

 

Olive – a naturally bitter drupe (type of fruit) processed to taste better.  They are harvested green or left to ripen into black olives.  Obviously we get olive oil from them.

 

Pomegranate – a rounded hexagonal berry with thick skin and hundreds of seeds surrounded by pulp.  The skin is usually reddish.

 

Kumquat – an oval citrus similar to the orange but with a salty/sour juicy center and sweet rind.  The rind may be eaten alone, or the entire fruit tasted at once for the contrast between sour center and sweet outer.

 

Avocado – a large berry containing a pit, it ripens after harvest.  The fruit is high in fat content, and not sweet.

 

Okra – a fibrous fruit with white seeds in the same family as cotton and cocoa

 

Soybean – an annual oilseed legume used as a source of vegetable oil and protein in dishes worldwide

 

Pepper – chilis, myrtles, and peppers.  Most commonly “pepper” brings to mind the black peppercorn. 

 

Chili – technically a berry, often used as a spice.  Subdivided into several main groups of peppers, including bell peppers and jalapenos. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The Empty Cradle, by Philip Longman, is a wide-scope book delving into a truth much more inconvenient than “global warming.”  It is a fact that birthrates are falling all over the world, and that in many countries, particularly Western nations, the rates are already below replacement.  In this well researched book, the author logically lays out a history of birthrates – particularly in the modern era (since the founding of America), the economic consequences of labor shortages, and some suggestions for stimulating a rise in birthrates again without relinquishing secular equalitarianism.  The author’s worldview is specifically secular, and he expresses some fear that religious fundamentalists (that would be me) may inherit the earth by default of having more children.  He describes the overcoming faith that such people have, enabling them to go ahead and have multiple children despite cultural and economic pressures that depress the birthrate among pragmatists. 

 

Once upon a time the government was concerned to see birthrates falling (they fell in the United States for about a century between the Civil War and the end of World War II).  In the 20th century, however, prominent voices began sounding an alarm of overpopulation – a myth, since the population of the world has multiplied magnificently in the ensuing decades and managing an ever-increasing productivity.  Quality of life has improved significantly since the middle ages, when the population of the earth was but a fraction of the present 6 billion. 

 

A few pages are devoted to the causes of declining birthrates.  Accessible and legal and socially acceptable birth control (the Pill) is mentioned, along with abortion.  Mostly the author discusses the “liberating” policies of equality and the economic forces of increasingly technological jobs.  There is also the cultural/materialistic glamorization of adults free of the burden of children. 

 

How important is the birthrate?  The middle of The Empty Cradle describes the devastating economic situation we can anticipate when 1) birthrates fall steeply and 2) birthrates fall below replacement levels.  The population ages.  Aging populations reproduce less even than their parents did.  This is a downward spiral with drastic consequences.  Most attempts to deal with these results depress the birthrate even more. 

 

Economics effect social structure and the type of government people find acceptable and necessary.  As he builds toward the concluding recommendations for turning these trends around, Mr. Longman incorporates a good tutorial on economics, the examples of history, and some political theory.  If you’re interested in the power of taxation and laws, read this book. 

 

In Chapter 7 is a discussion of the economic implications of having children, including “opportunity cost.”  At one point the author states that “cheaper by the dozen” is true, but he minimalizes this.  He is exaggerating when he uses the phrase, really only calculating for two or three children, not by a larger number like a dozen.  In a broad economic sense, one woman raising and educating 6-12 children, cooking for them at home, growing her own vegetables, etc. would be a much more efficient means of producing a crop of laborers than the present one.  Also the data he uses in calculating the cost of a child is an average, representing the values of a society that prefers things to people.  Priorities change (people whose priorities have not changed consider this a sacrifice) and thrift is employed when you really wish to invest in having many children.  What the author does not do in analyzing whether all the costs typical of raising a child are necessary or even beneficial, he does for the elderly.  There are many pages describing the extension of life expectancies, the ineffectiveness of healthcare, and environmental excesses that cost money to produce and to remedy but which could easily be avoided with a bit more prudence. 

 

The final chapter of the book (none of this book is superfluous; there is not even a summary conclusion – a concise style I appreciate) lists three primary recommendations the author has for making the most of the labor we have and for encouraging adults to invest in the future through bearing a next generation.  In keeping with his worldview, the recommendations avoid appeals to virtue or self-responsibility, instead increasing the role of governments wielding taxes and laws to corral the people to a preferred socially beneficial behavior (including more healthy lifestyles and diets).  My favorite recommendation is one that would be difficult for a government to force, but which may be the inevitable social response to increasing economic and political pressures from the declining population: return to smaller communities in which production is less efficient but healthier and more viable long term. 

 

All the facts, observations, and analyses of this book had the ring of truth (included are multiple sources and footnotes).  I disagree with interpretations in some places, and with prescriptions in others, but benefited from reading the author’s different point of view.  This is a book I want to own, to keep on my shelf and to use in home educating my, God willing, many children.  The information presented in The Empty Cradle is important for every person to know, and the writing and layout are superb.  Therefore, I recommend this book to you, and to all of my friends. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’ve just been thinking about the website I started a few months ago called When the Pen Flows. There have been a few contributions, and I am excited to have at least some people reading my old stories. My writing has been encouraged, as well.

The idea of the title comes from those moments when writers get an idea, and they can’t eat, sleep, or do anything else. If they must put the pen down, they pick it back up at the first opportunity so that they can finish getting the story on paper before they forget. Maybe math geniuses like those in Proof experience the same urgency.

Inevitably, the pen will stop flowing. The idea will hit a wall, and the writer can rest. In my experience, many of those great ideas were bursts, windows into a world of a story that I can never visit. Another window will catch my attention, and I’ll put it onto paper. The glimpses are no less beautiful than the whole. Is it lazy to stop when you hit the wall?

Writers need practice. I can see this in the folders and journals full of my old stories. The oldest are the worst. They reflect the limited education and experience and imagination I had at the time. And lack of practice putting images onto paper using words.

That means that the later ones are better. Putting the little windows onto paper, rather than ignoring them forever in search of the one idea that will be a complete novel, is important. Without that practice, when the book plot hits our imaginations, our skills will be unequal to the task.

Michael Card, in his book Scribbling in the Sand, writes that creativity flows from community. I have noticed that when I read a good book, I become inspired. So the dream I have for When the Pen Flows is that it would be a community of aspiring authors (whether they aspire to be better at expressing themselves or if they dream of being published) who read each others’ little works, and share their own, in order to benefit from the shared genius.

Let us hope that the world will be bettered by noble-minded people equipped to share their ideas with it, through training and practice, encouragement, criticism, and inspiration.

I close quoting Mansfield Park on the topic of communication: “The subject of reading aloud was farther discussed. The two young men were the only talkers, but they, standing by the fire, talked over the too common neglect of the qualification, the total inattention to it, in the ordinary school-system for boys, the consequently natural – yet in some instances almost unnatural degree of ignorance and uncouthness of men, of sensible and well-informed men, when suddenly called to the necessity of reading aloud, which had fallen within their notice, giving instances of blunders, and failures with their secondary causes, the want of management of the voice, of proper modulation and emphasis, of foresight and judgment, all proceeding from the first cause, want of early attention and habit; and Fanny was listening again with great entertainment.”

To God be all glory.

Thanks to Snapshots of Joy for the graphics.

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