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The Abolition of Man, ch. 1, Men Without Chests

C.S> Lewis begins this essay with his thoughts about a textbook that he has received for review and that he thinks is pernicious in its influence and teaching. He calls the textboook’s authors by the pseudonyms Gaius and Titius.

“The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.”

Yes, indeed, schoolboys and girls are unaware of the subtext and foundational assumptions of their textbooks and their literature assignments—even when I try to make them aware. I find it harder to put assumptions into children’s minds, however, than Lewis assumes it is. Most of the books I use, at the younger levels at least, have “good assumptions”; however, I have found that the students are not thinking about the assignments at all unless I deliberately provoke them to thought, again and again. They are not taking in the assumptions in school assignments, good or bad.

Now the assumptions and implicit messages in song lyrics and television shows and movies are a very different matter. The students I know share many of the assumptions that Hollywood and the music industry are selling:

Sex is the most important part of a romantic relationship. No one waits until after the wedding to have a sexual relationship.

You should always follow your dreams, and ignore or demolish anyone or anything that prevents you from doing what you really want to do.

Marriage is confining and generally unhappy.

The universe exists to make me happy.

My conclusion is that bad assumptions that appeal to our sin nature are easier to sell and implant than good assumptions that make us into people of good impulses and decisions.

Read Aloud Revival

I haven’t managed to post much here on Semicolon this week for two reasons:

1) I’m reading a really long and somewhat discouraging biography of Florence Harding, and I don’t really know what I’m going to say about it. The book itself and the writing are fine; it’s the people and events that the book chronicles that are discouraging and sad. I can’t believe that anyone could be as sexually promiscuous and dishonorable as President Harding and still live with himself, much less become president of the United States. No wonder the twenties were roaring.

2) On a more encouraging note, I have been gorging myself on a podcast, listening in the car and at home every available moment. I don’t do audio-books, and I haven’t done podcasts. I’m not an auditory learner, and I find that with audiobooks, my attention tends to wander off into some foreign pasture when I’m supposed to be grazing on a good book. But this podcast! Others have tried to tell me about it; Amy at Hope Is the Word has mentioned it several times, but I probably saw the word “podcast” and skimmed over with glazed eyes.

Anyway, the podcast is Read Aloud Revival, produced by Sarah MacKenzie at Amongst Lovely Things. I found it on iTunes and began by listening to the interview with Sarah Clarkson, On Living a Story-formed Life, because Ms. Clarkson’s website, Storyformed.com, is where I actually tuned in and the podcast registered in my brain. So, Sarah’s interview with Sarah was lovely, and quotable, and I went around thinking about living a story formed life and and creating a family culture of books and stories.

Then, I saw that Sarah MacKenzie had interviewed one of my favorite people, Melissa Wiley of Here in the Bonny Glen, so I had to listen to that episode of the podcast. Melissa made me remember all about how I love her philosophy of tidal homeschooling and how I want to just slow don and read more, but also more slowly, and quit worrying about getting all the subjects covered. And I thought about how I really want to meet Melissa someday (and now both Sarahs, too).

If you give a mouse a cookie . . . I just had to next go back and start at the beginning of Read Aloud Revival podcast and listen to every episode. So far there are eighteen episodes, and I’ve listened to numbers one through eight, plus number seventeen, the Sarah Clarkson interview. Thus far, I’ve been inspired to read aloud and read aloud some more by Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, even though my youngest child is thirteen now and could read everything for herself, although she doesn’t want to read anything by herself (another story). And I’ve been drawn to a whole list of audiobooks and storytelling recordings that I would love to beg, borrow, steal or buy if absolutely necessary, not for me, but for my youngest and for my library. And I’m determined to make more time for Shakespeare in our days. And I want to have more in-depth and interesting conversations with my children about the books we’re reading.

Oh, flibbertigibbet, you don’t want to listen to me talking about this podcast any longer; go thou, and listen for yourself. I am inspired and replete with homeschooling read aloud goodness. Thank you, Ms. MacKenzie and Read Aloud Revival for the shot in the arm that my homeschool year needed.

Finally, after I listen to the other ten or so episodes of Read Aloud Revival, does anyone have any other podcast suggestions for me? They don’t have to be about reading or homeschooling, just any podcasts that I can subscribe to and listen to in the car that you think are insightful and engaging.

I think I’ll start a list to refer back to.

Sarah MacKenzie has her own list of podcasts and other listening stuff:

Quiddity: CIRCE Institute podcast.

Homeschooling IRL with Kendra Fletcher.

Links From My Blog Friends

Melissa Wiley: “Blog first. Blog freehand. Write it down today, while the thought is fresh.” I grok this post from Here in the Bonny Glen.

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Cara at Little Did She Know:

“I would like to meet and marry someone lovely, but truly, I am seeking a companion with which to do life, someone to whom I can recount everything I ate during my day, my excitement over an email, and my concerns about road construction. I am looking for someone who will contact me first when you can turn on your phone after the airplane lands.”

So beautiful and vulnerable. I’m praying for Cara and for all those best friends who haven’t found each other yet.

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100 Actual Titles of Real Eighteenth Century Novels. I found this list by way of Maureen at By Singing Light. Thanks, Maureen.
Examples:
The Affecting History Of Two Young Gentlewomen, Who Were Ruined By Their Excessive Attachment To The Amusements Of The Town. To Which Are Added, Many Practical Notes, By Dr. Typo.
Socrates Out of His Senses.
The Three Perils of Man. Or, War, Women, and Witchcraft.
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Rod Dreher writes about what he’s been learning lately from Dante’s Divine Comedy.

“All the damned dwell in eternal punishment because they let their passions overrule their reason and were unrepentant. For Dante, all sin results from disordered desire: either loving the wrong things or loving the right things in the wrong way.”

Mr. Dreher is working on a book titled How Dante Can Save Your Life.

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Melody at Life in the Mommy Lane has a post about homeschooling, Why Homeschool?. I think she has a great perspective on the education of Christian children.

“I’m not too concerned with whether my son can read or multiply or if he ever goes to college; I am concerned with his soul and his character. Don’t worry, I do want him to learn to read, but it’s a secondary priority to the desire that he passionately and humbly pursue his Creator, that he lead courageously with mercy, defending what is true and just.”

Everybody Paints by Susan Goldman Rubin

Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin.

This family biography grabbed me enough that I had to go look up some of the paintings and illustrations that were mentioned, even though many of them are included in the text.

N.C. Wyeth, the patriarch of the family, was known mostly for his illustrations for children’s and adult classic books, such as Treasure Island and The Boy’s King Arthur. He always wanted to be a fine artist rather than “just an illustrator” but as he grew older and his work received many accolades, he began to see that his youthful aspirations had been achieved after all.

Andrew Wyeth, the son, was the youngest of five children in the Wyeth family, all of whom painted and drew and dabbled in artistic endeavors to some extent. Henriette, the oldest, became a well-known painter of portraits and still lifes. Carolyn, the second child, was also a painter and taught art classes in her father’s studio. Nat, the third child, was a successful inventor. Ann was a musician and a composer. Andrew “considered himself the least gifted. However, he was the most dedicated.” Andrew Wyeth was homeschooled because of his bad health, and his father taught him both art and self-discipline. Andrew Wyeth’s paintings became some of the best-known artworks of the twentieth century, including the one below called Christina’s World.

Jamie Wyeth, the grandson, is the younger of two sons of Andrew. His art tends toward portraiture, jack-o-lanterns, domestic animals, and tree roots as subjects, more modern but still in the photo-realistic style of his father and grandfather.

I found Ms. Rubin’s book informative and readable. Young people who are interested in artists and their family life and working habits will find a lot to think about in Everybody Paints! Homeschoolers, too, will find the book and the Wyeth family of interest since their aversion to formal education and their near-obsession with the artistic life is compatible with the “unschooling” philosophy of some homeschool families.

30 Bits of Wisdom and Advice from Mostly Cybils Sources

Last year when I was reading Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy for the Cybils, I made a collection of wise sayings and proverbs from the books I was reading so that you could choose your own “philosophy”, a la Charlie Brown’s sister Sally, for the new year. This year I made another from the Cybils nominees I read.

1. “Do not expect to find all your answers in the first asking.” ~The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck.

2. “Economy is a poor man’s revenue, and extravagance a rich man’s ruin.” ~Nobody’s Secret by Michaela MacColl.

3. “Be the cockroach.” ~A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer. (Meaning: survive like a cockroach.)

4. “There are no coincidences. Just miracles by the boatload.” ~Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.

5. “Sometimes it’s best not to see your whole path laid out before you. Let life surprise you.” ~Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.

6. “The reward for working hard is getting to do more work. And better work.” ~Andrew Jenks: My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker.

7. “These days may not be the best days of your life, but like it or not, these days will define you. Live them.” Katherine Longshore in Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves.

8. “One failure often sparks another success.” ~The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore by Kate Maddison.

9. “Always be truthful to yourself and your beliefs.” ~The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore by Kate Maddison.

10. “Leading a very public life can be injurious to your health.” ~Bad Girls by Heidi E.Y. Stemple and Jane Yolen.

11. “Just because you make it up doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” Bad Girls by Heidi E.Y. Stemple and Jane Yolen.

12. “It’s wrong to believe a thing till your mind has examined it.” ~Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison.

13. “Life always goes on . . . even in Troy.” ~Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison.

14. “Unexpected things could even be good.” ~Listening for Lucca bySuzanne LaFleur.

15. “Words matter . . . What we say about ourselves matter[s]. The words we use to represent ourselves matter. We have only so many ways we can express ourselves, and words are the most powerful.” ~Lena Roy in the essay “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.

16. “A single story can change many lives.” Craig Kielburger in the essay of the same name, Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.

17. “When no one knows you’re there, they say all kinds of things, and you can learn from what they say.” ~Maile Meloy in the essay “Invisibility”, Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.

18. “Sometimes you have to dig deep.” ~Alane Ferguson in the essay “Death Is Only a Horizon”, Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.

19. “It’s always worth making new friends in new places.” ~Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg in the essay “Death by Host Family”, Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.

20. “We need our imaginations. There’s a part of us that hungers to be creative.” ~Joshua Mohr in the essay “Creative Boot Camp”, Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.

21. “Sometimes . . . [you] just gotta break the rules. And I mean BRAKE the rules. No, I mean BRAKE. I put my foot on the brakes. NO MORE RULES.” ~Ellen Sussman in the essay “Break the Rules”, Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.

22. “Words are free and plentiful. They’re for choosing, admiring, keeping, giving. They are treasures of inestimable value.” ~Hold Fast by Blue Balliet

23. “Hold fast to dreams. You can do this. Not as hard as it seems.” ~Hold Fast by Blue Balliet

24. “Secrets can be lovely. They give you a chance to surprise people you love.” ~Hold Fast by Blue Balliet

25. “Always go to the funeral.” Cindy Rollins at Ordo Amoris.

26. “Waste nothing. Be always employed in something useful. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” ~Benjamin Franklin in Becoming Ben Franklin by Russell Freedman. (originally from Franklin’s Autobiography)

27. “She who hates, hates herself.” ~South African proverb from A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk.

28. “Children are the reward of life.” ~Congolese proverb from A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk.

29. “[E]veryone has some evil inside them, and the first step to loving anyone is to recognize the same evil in ourselves, so we’re able to forgive them.” Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

30. “Life damages us, every one. We can’t escape that damage. . . . But, we can be mended. We mend each other.” Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller, sixth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Trinity Meadows Intermediate School in Keller, Texas.

Ms. Keller’s thesis can be summarized in two sentences: To make children into lifelong readers, surround them with books and let them read whatever they want to read. Treat them like readers, and they will become readers.

I’ve been following this plan in our homeschool for about twenty-five years now, with mixed results. Most of my eight children are readers. Several of them are voracious readers, the kind I am and the sort Ms. Miller describes herself as:

“I am a reader, a flashlight-under-the-covers, carries-a-book-everywhere-I-go, don’t-look-at-my-Amazon-bill reader. I choose purses based on whether I can cram a paperback into them, and my books are the first items I pack into a suitcase. I am the person whom family and friends call when they need a book recommendation or cannot remember who wrote Heidi. (It was Johanna Spyri.)”

However, even with all this reading environment and encouragement and, yes, pressure, I have one child who does not see herself as a reader (she reads, just says she hates to read) and another who has quit reading for pleasure for the last two or three years at least. Unfortunately, Ms. Miller’s book gave me very few ideas about how to re-awaken the love of reading in my son or how to instill a love for reading in my daughter. I already let them read pretty much anything they want to read. I already suggest books for them, buy books for them, borrow books for them, encourage them to read about subjects they love, and show them daily how much reading means to me by reading as much as I can, anywhere I can. Our house is full of good books.

The Book Whisperer is a very public school, teacher-ish, kind of book, but it is a good resource for teachers of reading in school settings. It did spark a couple of ideas in this homeschool mom mind of mine: I could have a time (half an hour? an hour?) each day when we participate in ye olde public school D.E.A.R (Drop Everything and READ). I could require them to read 40 books for the school year (a requirement Ms. Miller has for her sixth graders) and see what happens. I could keep giving my daughter piles of books that I think she might like until she finds one she loves. It hasn’t worked yet, but it might still click one day.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliet

Betsy-bee loves Blue Balliet’s books–Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game— which incorporate art education and mystery and adventure to make up a lovely, colorful mixture of a read. She might like this one, too, even though it’s different. It’s set in Chicago, but it’s not a Chicago of art museums and art thieves. Instead Hold Fast is about a family of four, Dashel and Summer, the parents, and Early and her little brother, Jubie (short for Jubilation). Dash works as library page at the Harold Washington Public Library, and he’s “a man who love[s] language almost as much as color or taste or air.”

“Words are everywhere and for everyone. They’re for choosing, admiring, keeping, giving. They are treasures of inestimable value. . . . Words are free and plentiful!”

51tNF5vxWjL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The above quote is an example of the way Early’s father, Dash, talks about words and books and learning and, well, life. He’s a whimsical, poetic, word-lover sort of guy, and unfortunately he gets mixed up with a rough crowd by mistake. Early and Jubie and Sum end up separated from Dash and living in a homeless shelter. Everyone, including the police, thinks Dash has run away because he might be involved in criminal activity. But Early knows her father is a man of honor and responsibility. Dash will come back to the family, and they will prove his innocence and fulfill their family dream of having a real house someday.

The book is confusing at first. But if a reader can get past the first couple of chapters, this one is a keeper. Early has a voice that shines, or resonates, or whatever the right word is. And she’s quite as concerned about words and how to use them and treasure them as her father is. I doubt there are many families like Dashsumearlyjubie (yes, that’s what Early calls her family in the book), but I doubt there are many families quite like mine either. Or yours. Happy families are not all the same, no matter what Mr. Tolstoy said, and unhappy families are only happy families that have given up in some way or another. Quirky, unique, eccentric, whatever you want to call us, our families have personalities, too. And I really enjoyed the author’s portrayal of Dashsumearlyjubie and the plot of how they were pulled apart and eventually knit back together through faith and perseverance.

Eliminate the B-Word

What do you do when the kids start singing that good old summer song, “Mom, there’s nothing to do! I’m bored!”

A. Get out the math books.

B. Threaten to find them something to do, and it is a threat. Scrubbing baseboards is not a desirable or treasured substitute for boredom among my urchins.

C. 100 More Things to Do When You’re Bored: Summer Edition.

D. Wash their mouths out with soap–no b-word around here.

Take your pick, but summertime boredom can be a useful educational tool. I told one bored urchin that she should do something for someone else when she’s feeling bored, but this idea didn’t go over too well. So I tried to make this list to be fun and reflect that idea. Maybe some concrete examples will help. I do believe my children spend way too much time worrying about how to entertain themselves, and that goal invites boredom. Joy really is found in service, but it’s a hard lesson to learn. (It’s also a hard lesson for me to model sometimes since I tend to be as self-centered and entertainment-seeking as the next person.)

Ah, well, back to the lazy, lovely days of summer!

What I Learned from My Daddy

My daddy died in 2009. He lost his leg a few years before that, to diabetes, and then he “lost” his home because he was no longer able to live there in a wheelchair and with only one leg. He and my mom moved into a senior living apartment complex near my home, and they started again. My dad was stubborn, and he made himself work hard and come back from the losses he had sustained with grit and determination.

When I was growing up in West Texas, my dad displayed the same obstinate spirit and tenacity that enabled him to start over in a new city with only one leg at the age of 70+. Here are a few of the things he taught me:

1. Work hard. I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as my daddy did most of the days of his life, but I know what’s right. I saw him do it for all the years I knew him.

2. Take care of your stuff. My daddy took care of the cars, changed the oil, got things fixed, bought new tires, watched for problems. He took care of our yard, or later when he was older, he hired someone and supervised them while they did it. If something broke, he fixed it, or hired someone to do it.

3. Know the right people. In my hometown of San Angelo, my daddy knew the best person for almost any job or purchase you wanted to make. He knew who to buy a car from. He knew where to take your car to get it fixed. He knew where to get your taxes done and which doctor was good for which ailment.If you needed something, from coffee to home repairs, my daddy knew the best place and the best person to ask.

4. Listen to country music and sing anyway. Daddy couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but when Charley Pride or Ray Price was singing on the radio, my daddy sang along, in his pick-up truck, with a smile.

5. Pay your bills. My daddy always, always paid his bills, on time, and he insisted that I and my sister do the same.

6. Shut the front door when you come in the house. He’d say, “I don’t have the money to air-condition the entire neighborhood.”

7. Respect whoever is in authority over you. This lesson was usually expressed in two ways: first, I was never allowed to sass my mama or my daddy. Second, my daddy never disparaged his boss or the other authorities in his life in front of me.

8. Balance your checkbook. This one kind of goes with #5, but when I got my first bank account, Daddy sat down and showed me exactly how to keep a record of the checks I wrote and keep a running balance in my check register. I think he’d be appalled at the way I now just check my balance online and don’t write down and subtract every single expenditure.

9. Credit cards are only good for people who don’t need them. Pay as you go. The only store account my mama and daddy ever had was at Myers Drugstore, where they figured they might need to buy medicine on credit in an emergency. They didn’t use credit cards. Period.

10. Let out the clutch slowly. Daddy taught me how to drive a standard transmission, stick-shift VW bug. I never liked driving, and I still don’t, but thanks to my daddy I can do it—in just about any car.

11. If you don’t like the meal Mama served, supper’s over. I was a picky eater, but my mom and dad didn’t cater to that pickiness. I skipped a few meals, but I came to the next one hungry.

12. Measure twice, cut once. I’m not sure he actually taught me this one because I tend to be impatient, but I get the concept.

13. Read the directions. When we got something new or tried something new, Daddy read the directions and then put it together or set it up. Then, he put the owners manual in a file in case he needed to refer to it later.

14. Take care of your parents. Daddy went over to his mother’s house almost every day as she got older, to check on her, get whatever she needed, just take care of her. When she had to move to a nursing home just before her death, he went to visit and took care of her until she went to be with the Lord.

15. Even grown-ups need the Lord. I asked Jesus to save me and was baptized when I was seven years old. My daddy was baptized in our Southern Baptist church the same week. We never talked much about spiritual things, but after he was baptized Daddy attended church with our family every Sunday. He served Jesus and depended on Him with a stubborn, determined faith that wouldn’t let go—even when the discouragements of old age and poor heath made him question what the Lord was doing in his life.

Thanks, Daddy. I hope it’s a happy Father’s Day in heaven, and I hope you know how much I love you and appreciate all the things you taught me.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking, ch. 4, Painting, Sketching, Sculpturing

I have zero, zip, nada, no talent or ability in the areas of painting, sketching, sculpturing or creating visual artwork in any form. Nevertheless, I love this chapter of Hidden Art.

“Ideas carried out stimulate more ideas.” So true. My most recent obsession, other than watching K-dramas, is opening a small library for homeschoolers in my area who could use the books and curricula that I have collected over the years, much of which my own children have outgrown. I have a LOT of books and curriculum materials. I would like to gather these resources into one room in my house, and allow homeschool families to pay a small yearly fee to become “members” of my library. (This idea has almost nothing to do with the chapter we’re reading, but everything to do with where God is leading me in the area of hidden art. My giftedness, such as it is, has to do with reading and recommending “living books” and other educational resources.) Anyway, my idea of opening a full-fledged library is thwarted right now by the season my family is in and by the logistics of devoting an entire room to the purpose of a library. Still, I need to figure out a way to start small, and to carry out my idea in some limited way until I can get to the complete vision of a private homeschoolers’ library.

“A sermon can be ‘illustrated’ and thereby ‘translated’ at the same time, to a child sitting beside you, provided the child has any interest at all in understanding.” I used to do this , despite my lack of artistic ability, with my older children when they were preschoolers. I also sometimes had them draw a picture of what the pastor was talking about in his sermon. In fact, as they got older I had a page long form for their “sermon notes” that had a space for the date, the pastor’s name, the Biblical text, a sentence or two about the sermon, and a picture illustrating the sermon. Sometimes on the back of the sheet I drew stick figures, or Engineer Husband drew more detailed illustrations, helping the children to understand the sermon.

How the Semicolon family is expressing “hidden art” this week:
Engineer Husband is designing the program for the upcoming production of Singin’ in the Rain that two of the urchins are starring in. One of my adult children, Dancer Daughter (23) has done much of the choreography for the production.

Karate Kid (16) is in the living room playing the guitar for his sisters to sing along, as they record a a birthday gift song for a friend whose birthday is tomorrow. They’re singing this song by the group He Is We.

Betsy Bee (14) has been decorating and straightening up her bedroom, ironing the pillow cases (?!) and generally making her space beautiful.

My 80 year old mom, who lives in an apartment behind our house, makes beautifully designed cards for birthdays and anniversaries, using her computer and the artwork that she finds or purchases on the internet.

I continue to write my little blog and to try to figure out how to start a library without a designated space.

I’m looking forward to reading the posts that others write about how they incorporate the visual arts into their lives and homes.