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Magnanimity--Volume 1, Issue 6

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  • Karen Glass
    *~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~* MAGNANIMITY *~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~* Who aimeth at a star, Shoots higher, far, Than he who means a tree. *~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 10, 2002
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      *~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*

      MAGNANIMITY

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      "Who aimeth at a star,
      Shoots higher, far,
      Than he who means a tree."

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      A Charlotte Mason and Classical Education Newsletter
      *~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~*

      Volume 1, Issue 6--December 10, 2002
      karenglass@...
      Copyright 2002 Karen Glass
      All Rights Reserved

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      FOOD FOR THOUGHT

      --A Word from the Editor
      --E-text of the Month, by Leslie Noelani Laurio
      --Narration: Getting Started, by Karen Glass
      --A Living Conference, by Athena Reedy-Danoy
      --Ordering Tapes
      --Poetry Corner
      --Educational Quote



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      Dear Readers,

      Best wishes and joy to you during this Christmas season! Magnanimity's
      focus is on education and philosophy, and we've kept that emphasis in this
      December issue. However, you will find that this month's "e-text" will
      bring some holiday cheer.

      Earlier this year, I shared the information for a special classical
      education conference that was taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina.
      CiRCE Institute held their first conference. As promised, this issue
      includes information about ordering tapes, but we also have a first-hand
      account from one of those who were fortunate enough to attend and enjoy this
      terrific event in person!

      When you can find time during this busy season--read and enjoy!

      Karen Glass
      Editor

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      E-TEXT OF THE MONTH

      As my children are getting older and outgrowing picture books, I thought it
      would be nice to have something more substantial to share with them during
      the Christmas season. The first place I looked was online, and I found a few
      promising texts. The best so far has been "This Way to Christmas" written by
      Ruth Sawyer in 1916.

      It is the story of David, a nine-year-old boy during WWI whose parents send
      him to stay with the Irish nurse, Johanna, who once cared for him as a baby.
      She and her husband live on a mountain but have never met their few
      neighbors because, as Johanna says, they are "outcasts, speaking strange
      tongues and worshiping other gods and quite unfit to cross the doorsteps of
      honest Christian folk."

      But, in his loneliness, David visits these people. He meets a young South
      American man with a lung disease and his aged mother; an old Negro cook
      staying in a lumber camp that's been deserted for the year; a German
      railroad flagman who has been regarded with suspicion ever since WWI
      started; and an Eastern European trapper. As they tell David Christmas
      stories remembered from their native homes, and as David retells them to
      Johanna and her husband, the realization grows that these people are not the
      heathens Johanna had thought, and barriers of misunderstanding begin to
      break down.

      With the help of a painter friend who blames Christmas for perpetuating a
      bad economy with its tradition of buying unneeded gifts while others have
      nothing, David brings these outcasts together and what David had anticipated
      as a sad, lonely holiday away from home becomes a chance to share the true
      spirit of Christmas with new friends.

      Besides being a wonderful story of overcoming prejudice, the book is
      interwoven with Christmas stories, about both the nativity and Santa, from
      around the world. Ruth Sawyer is a wonderful storyteller, and the story
      draws the reader in from the first sentence: "I wonder if you know that
      sometimes stories have a way of beginning themselves? Sometimes they do even
      more than this. They tell themselves -- beginning and ending just where they
      please -- with no consideration at all for the author or reader..."

      It's online here:

      http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/sawyer/christmas/christmas.html

      Copyright 2002 Leslie Noelani Laurio
      Used With Permission



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      NARRATION--GETTING STARTED

      Reading about narration as a natural, powerful educational tool can be
      exciting. Reading what Charlotte Mason says about narration, what other
      educational writers have to say about narration, or hearing the glowing
      testimonies about families who have used narration can build up our
      expectations. Narration sounds deceptively simple and in truth, it is
      natural. We listen to our children narrating as a natural part of their
      lives, and it seems as if it would be a simple matter to channel that
      chattiness into use in a more formal setting.

      Then reality descends. An expectant and unsuspecting mother reads a page,
      or perhaps a few paragraphs, to her bright, talkative six-year-old, and
      sweetly invites him to retell what he has heard.

      At this point, anything can happen. He might repeat the last sentence
      verbatim. He might say, "I can't remember." He might ask, "Why?--you
      already know what it says." He might offer a bit of legitimate narration
      amidst a blur of "ums" and "ers." He might give a two sentence summary that
      covers the main information--"It was about a man who rode a horse in the
      night," but leaves the poor mother wondering if he recalls the details of
      names and places, such as Paul Revere and Lexington. In short, the average
      six-year-old sitting on the couch can dash an educational theory to pieces
      in a matter of moments. In spite of admonitions to the contrary, the mother
      is reduced to asking questions about the material in an attempt to ascertain
      if the child really was listening. The happy mother of the six-year-old who
      narrates fluently from the start will immediately feel the benefits of
      narration, but this mother will soon be wondering if narration is really the
      best thing to be using with her child.

      However, regardless of the initial difficulties to be overcome, narration is
      too important an educational method to be lightly set aside. We must not get
      discouraged! The incoherent ramblings or cryptic monosyllables of the
      beginning narrator could be compared to the early crayon-and-paper
      explorations of a young child. When you give your two-year-old a red
      crayon, you do not expect the marks on the paper to resemble a rose.
      Similarly, you should not expect the beginning narrator to gush forth
      eloquent re-tellings of history and stories. Simply lowering those initial
      expectations will make the early narrations less frustrating.

      If you think of narration as a child's oral "picture" of what he has heard,
      you can compare his progress with that of a budding artist. The chubby
      two-year-old fist gripping a crayon is happy to be getting color or lines on
      paper. In the same vein, beginning narrators should simply be encouraged to
      use words--their own words--to "tell" a picture. If the result is as
      impressive as a two-year-old's scribble, it is no more than we should
      expect. While a child may be accustomed to chatting or telling his own
      thoughts, narration is a different skill. Asking a child to narrate a
      specific story is similar to asking an unskilled child to draw a tiger.
      Transferring the information from his brain into a form that someone else
      can recognize is a daunting task. A two-year-old knows what a tiger looks
      like, but probably can't draw one. A six-year-old may know the story of
      Paul Revere, but may not be able to communicate the material in a lucid,
      consecutive fashion.

      But practice and familiarity will make the process comfortable. The young
      child who scribbles with glee today will be drawing flowers, trees,
      airplanes, cars, and the family dog within a few years. We would not dream
      of eliminating crayons, papers, and pencils for young children, even when
      their early drawings show little promise. The very action of drawing and
      using their fingers makes them more "fluent," and the desire to do better
      grows with their skill. A child will draw the same picture again and
      again--a horse, or a helicopter--refining their techniques in search of a
      perfect reproduction.

      Even so we must not set the practice of narration aside because the first
      attempts do not yield masterpieces. If narration is encouraged and required
      frequently, it will become easier in time. Charlotte Mason tells us to
      allow as much as a term--three months--for young children to get used to
      narrating. But they will not grow into this skill if it is not required of
      them. Even at the end of a year, a young child may not be giving the kind
      of full and complete narrations that we envision when reading books about
      education. Each child is, of course, an individual. While some children
      will quickly catch on and narrate fluently within a short time, others will
      struggle to produce a fluid narration for several years. It may be that the
      discipline of narration will be of greater benefit to the child who
      struggles.

      While drawing is a skill that involves the visual arts, narration is an
      exercise in the skillful use of words--nothing but words. There are ways of
      narrating that involve play-acting, drawing, or modeling, but these are
      bridges and stepping-stones to lead us to the ultimate goal--the facile
      command of language. For those children who narrate easily from the start,
      the regular practice will refine and polish their "compositions." For those
      who find expressing themselves with words more difficult, this kind of
      consistent practice is the only thing that will make them more fluent and
      comfortable.

      You don't expect your crayon-wielding preschoolers to produce fine art, and
      there is no need to expect extensive or comprehensive narration from new
      narrators. Feel free to allow them a year or two to "grow into" the
      narration process when you begin at age six.

      If you introduce the practice of narration to an older child, it is
      important to start with oral narration first, even if the child is otherwise
      old enough to attempt written narration. The mental discipline of narration
      takes time to establish, and while you might expect an older child to
      improve more quickly than a six-year-old, he should still be allowed time to
      develop the skill.

      It is likely that even within one family the children will narrate at
      different levels of fluency. A younger child may be more articulate than an
      older brother or sister, or there may be just one who finds narration
      especially daunting. Difficult as it is to refrain from doing so,
      narrations should not be compared. Each child brings something of himself to
      a narration--narration is personal--and the length or fluency of a narration
      is not always an indication of the mental effort involved.

      Suppose you asked all of your children to draw that picture of a tiger.
      Perhaps the oldest has a flair for drawing, and shows a realistic-looking
      tiger stalking through the jungle. The next child has a vivid imagination,
      and draws an identifiable tiger in a circus ring, jumping through fiery
      hoops. The youngest doesn't much care for drawing, but obliges you with a
      rough sketch that is unmistakably a tiger.

      You wouldn't compare those drawings, labeling one "better" than the others.
      You asked for a tiger, and you were given tigers--each one, in part, a
      reflection of the personality of the child. Provided they were orange, with
      four legs, a tail, and stripes, you would be satisfied that each child knew
      what a tiger was. When you ask for narration, your children will "draw" an
      oral picture that reflects their own personalities, as well as narrative
      abilities. A talkative, imaginative child might make a detailed narration
      that is longer than the original material. A child who prefers concrete
      facts might select the salient points only, and summarize the main events in
      a few terse sentences. However, the mental discipline of recalling the
      material, choosing the important points to narrate, and organizing their
      thoughts into a rational order, and finally communicating them to you, is
      what makes narration valuable. One narration is not "better" than another
      simply because it is longer or even more creative in the manner of its
      telling.

      If a child is initially reluctant to narrate, or resists the necessity of
      it, there are ways of making it more immediately palatable. Acting out a
      scene with dolls--or lego men, or stuffed animals--appeals to some children.
      A child who likes to draw might prefer to draw a picture, and if he can tell
      you about the picture, the drawing becomes an intermediate step which leads
      to the use of words. Any tool that can be used to encourage children to
      express themselves is a legitimate narration tool. We simply want to be
      certain that we keep in mind our ultimate goal of teaching children to use
      words to express themselves, so that we do not let the secondary narrations
      forever keep us from our primary purpose.

      Narration is a skill, and like any other skill, practice alone will make its
      use polished and easy. We know that our beginning learners will move on
      from painstaking printed letters to flowing cursive over time. We
      endure--and even enjoy!--their clumsy, uneven letters for a long time,
      noticing and praising visible progress when it occurs. Some day, our
      children will write fluent cursive, and we will scarcely think twice about
      it, because their acquired skill will require little effort on their part.
      But one cannot arrive at that point without the many, many opportunities to
      practice writing which they have had.

      If we want our beginning narrator to reach a similar level of fluency with
      words, we must provide and insist upon plenty of regular "practice." We
      must consider each narration in light of the bigger picture. If narration
      is a struggle today, it need not always be so. Even the most perplexing
      six-year-old on the couch, rather than dashing an educational theory to
      pieces, can become a sparkling example of its efficacy. Charlotte Mason
      reminds us often that one-third of education is a discipline, and this
      practice of narration is a discipline which pays many dividends.



      Copyright 2002 Karen Glass


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      A LIVING CONFERENCE, by Athena Reedy-Danoy

      The CiRCE conference drew a small, eager-to-learn group consisting of
      homeschoolers, private school teachers, head masters, and school board
      members. The workshop and colloquy leaders and plenary speakers
      were well chosen, and chosen not only for their experience and wisdom, but
      also -- I couldn't help but notice and acknowledge favorably -- for
      their eloquence.

      My expectations and reasons for attending the conference were, simply,
      to be fed by those more knowledgeable than myself, those able to open
      the door in helping our family understand the purpose, essence and
      practice of a classical education. Much was said that confirmed my
      intuition that what we were undertaking, or had been attempting, was
      not an educational fad. There were however ideas that I had not yet
      explored that we look forward to employing, and some other concepts
      presented that I admit to not being able to grasp, such things that
      will take time for me to understand.

      The memory so very vivid in my mind that I carried back with me from
      the conference is the acceptance speech given by David Hicks, author
      of Norms and Nobility, and recipient of the CiRCE Institute award for
      lifetime contribution to education. Mr Hicks' speech brought and
      meshed together everything which the conference stood for,
      "Celebrating the Word," and, being rich in meaning, was one that drew
      everyone within hearing clinging to every word.

      Mr. Hicks began with the statement, "It is easier to celebrate the
      Word, than it is to comprehend it." There's truth in that, more so as
      I search for words, WORDS, to relay back, at least intelligibly, what
      Mr. Hicks, and other speakers from the conference, articulately
      expressed while directing us through the Greek "logos." One could say
      the same for the Hebrew word "dahbar." English translates both,
      "logos" and "dahbar," as "word" though our understanding of "word"
      gives little real meaning in itself. Just compare at face value what
      we think of a "word" to that which is viewed by the Greek philosophers
      as their highest form of thinking and to the Hebrew prophet as a dynamic
      and passionate thought that moves one to act.

      We further learn from Mr. Hicks that the goal of a classical education,
      and what Quintilian would agree when describing the ideal orator, is a
      good man speaking well. In ancient times the art of speaking well,
      or the study of language, was pursued diligently if not religiously as
      an essential part of life next to breathing, for language was and is
      the means by which thought is expressed. How admirable to have
      wonderful thoughts, more so to have words to describe them. Our four
      year old son brought this fact to me while I was reading his favourite
      book to him. On finishing he wanted to tell me something but with
      arms waving and an angry sigh said, "I know, but I just can't find the
      words!" Have we at any time ever felt this way?

      We were made aware that teaching one how to think, speak and write
      well were achieved two ways, dialectically and didactically. The
      dialectical method has been accredited to Socrates and is hence
      what we have come to know as the Socratic method, a method that seeks
      to draw out knowledge by engaging students with critical questions.
      "This method teaches the great truth," said Mr Hicks, "that one can
      not build a house of knowledge until the ground of false opinion is
      cleared." This statement got me thinking, not about Socrates,
      however but thinking about my finished sewing projects. Yes, I know
      I know, how can one be thinking about sewing in times like this!
      While Mr Hicks was making analogies of this truth to home building
      (and an excellent analogy it was), I confess my mind wandered into the
      realms of dressmaking, the preparational tasks I had often wished I
      could bypass but knowing well that if patterns were cut incorrectly I
      was headed towards making a smaller sized dress than I had first
      anticipated, or even a potato sack with armholes smaller than my
      wrists! The preparations, though considered somewhat tedious, were
      crucial to the progress and end result of a dress looking like a dress
      fit to put on for whom it was made for. Having since thought
      considerably over this, a trusted scripture bounced its way into my
      mind: Through wisdom is a house of knowledge built and in
      understanding this can it be established.

      Then there's the didactical method which seeks to instill knowledge
      by exposing students to ideal models for "mimesis", or imitation. This
      method is accredited to Isocrates for refining and establishing
      oratory as a literary form, for prior to this, oratory, or the study
      of language, was learned in a time when oral teaching was the
      preferred method, or the only method. Although oral teaching greatly
      improves the memory, I'm so very grateful nonetheless for recorded
      words of wisdom, writings from scripture to Jane Austen novels,
      available to learn from and model, realising not only how imperative
      to continue preserving them -- some of which may be collecting dust in
      the corner of the library -- but that they be pulled off those shelves
      and studied. As parents we are made fully aware the impact of what
      our actions and language can have on our children, we notice this more
      especially, in dismay, when the unfavourable ones are displayed in
      public! Needless to say, our children will imitate what they see and
      hear the most. "Mimesis" can be a powerful tool.

      These were just some of my impressions taken from Mr. Hicks' speech --
      his taped speech of which I most highly recommend obtaining and
      listening to repeatedly, along with his book, Norms and Nobility.
      There were also many opportunities for attendees to speak at leisure
      with those intimate with the ideas, of which Mr. Hicks spoke about,
      along with practical ideas that were learned from participating in
      their classes. It is ALSO providential to realise that one no longer
      has to travel vast distances in order to hear another speak, as they
      did in times of old -- oh to recorded words of wisdom! Fortunately for
      those who were unable to attend there are taped session available for
      purchase and are without a doubt worth every penny. For more
      information please see below.

      From all this I came away rejuvenated ready to "put the shoulder to
      the wheel" but also felt a sense of urgency to continue learning and
      modeling that enthusiasm and perseverance for the sake of our own
      children. All in all, I'm grateful for all the hard work of those
      associated with the CiRCE Institute and wish them all the best for the
      next conference in July 2003--it can only get bigger and better!

      Copyright 2002 Athena Reedy-Danoy
      Used With Permission


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      Ordering Tapes

      We are so blessed to live in the "Information Age," when missing a great
      speech, concert, or conference does not mean we can never share the
      experience. Many of the sessions from the CiRCE conference were taped, and
      are now available to be ordered. Christmas is a great time to indulge
      yourself, and ordering a few of these tapes would be a treat--something
      inspiring to listen to when the "January blues" descend.

      Although Magnanimity has no direct affiliation with CiRCE Institute, a copy
      of the order form may be downloaded in different formats from the shared
      files of the home page.

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Magnanimity/files/

      For more information about the CiRCE Institute:

      http://www.circeinstitute.org/



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      POETRY CORNER


      On Teaching

      by Alexander Pope


      'Tis not enough, your counsel still be true;
      Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do;
      Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
      And things unknown proposed as things forgot.
      Without Good Breeding, truth is disapproved;
      That only makes superior sense beloved.
      But where's the man, who counsel can bestow,
      Still pleased to teach, and yet not proud to know?
      Unbiased, or by favour, or by spite;
      Not dully prepossessed, nor blindly right;
      Though learned, well-bred; and though well-bred, sincere;
      Modestly bold, and humanly severe:
      Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
      And gladly praise the merit of a foe?
      But some there were, among the sounder few
      Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
      And here restored Wit's fundamental laws.
      Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell,
      "Nature's chief Masterpiece is writing well."
      Such late was Walsh -- the Muse's judge and friend,
      Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
      Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame;
      Still pleased to praise, yet not afraid to blame;
      Averse alike to flatter, or offend;
      Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.



      Contributed by Dr. Robert Einarsson

      Dr. Einarsson's website contains more poetry, along with sound files of
      classic English poetry being read aloud.

      http://www.artsci.gmcc.ab.ca/people/einarssonb/eloc.html




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      EDUCATIONAL QUOTE

      The proper education of the young does not consist in stuffing their heads
      with a mass of words, sentences, and ideas dragged together out of various
      authors, but in opening up their understanding to the outer world, so that a
      living stream may flow from their own minds, just as leaves, flowers, and
      fruit spring from the bud on a tree.

      --John Amos Comenius

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      I hope you enjoyed this issue!

      If you would like to read back issues, they may all be found at:

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Magnanimity/

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