Monday, September 30, 2013

Some Favorite Things at the End of September

* Learning German with

*Audubon Field Guide apps  on the Kindles

*Crockpot brown rice cereal:  2 cups long-grain brown rice, 4 cups water, some frozen fruit, vanilla. Cook overnight in crockpot. Makes a supply that will last as long as a week, depending on how many people you have to feed, and how many of them will actually eat hot brown-rice cereal. Enjoy with coconut milk, plus honey if desired. You could make it with milk and it would taste even better, but we're on an elimination diet right now on behalf of a child with persistent stomachaches, so things are rather bland around here . . .

*Art of Problem-Solving Geometry -- the 10th-grader is doing the actual online class, which is pricey but seems worth it, so far, in terms of the challenge it presents. He's done Saxon Algebra 1/2, Algebra I, and Algebra II, and my hope is that the creative-mathematical-thinking bent of AoPS will be a good brain-stretch. He seems to think it's pretty hard, anyway, and that's something.

*Writing for a new, soon-to-be-unveiled Catholic Charlotte Mason group blog. I've written one essay on the Thomist bent of Charlotte Mason's philosophy -- not that I am a Thomist in any formal, credentialed, credible way, you understand;  I'm as accidental a Thomist as Charlotte Mason herself might have been -- and there's more to come, as well as contributions by Michele Quigley, Mary Ellen Barrett, and MacBeth Derham. Stay tuned for more details!

*Life of Fred:  Ice Cream

*The dog's new cooler-weather bursts of energy, which make him, at intervals, hit us up to play the stomping game. We stomp on the floor; he levitates and comes down on his elbows, snorting, and then freight-trains it around the house several times. This game tends to leave the rugs all cattywhompus, and the floors are something worse for the wear, but it's funny to watch. To siphon off some of that energy, Aelred and I took him for a long walk late Saturday afternoon:  down the rail trail to the baseball field and back up to Main Street and the square, where we stopped for a sidewalk-table beer at Osama's. They brought the dog a bowl of water, too. Add that experience to my list of September favorites -- possibly it's one that could extend into October as well.

*Mary Poppins, even if she is so unpleasant that it's hard to see just why Jane and Michael adore her so much.

*Mother Dolores Hart, and Benedictines in general. A friend just lent me Mother Dolores's book, The Ear of the Heart, which means that I can stop rereading In This House of Brede for a little while.

*Otherwise I'm reading Nabokov's King, Queen, Knave. As far as I can tell, I've vanquished all the Agatha Christie in the house.

*Fiction writing. I'm at a bit of an impasse with The Gift Girl -- Maris stuck in tower, how will she get down, where are the good guys all this time? -- so am working on some short fiction as an exercise in going against my own grain.

*The Litany of Humility. Always.


Laura Rydberg said...

Dying to read about Mother Dolores Hart, but was delighted to find that OUR LIBRARY HAS A COPY! Now I just need to be patient, as I'm no. 17 in line.

Your curriculum choices always look so fascinating and fun (cf. Life of Fred). Can I ask, what curriculum did you use for littles? We'll hopefully start with Liam next year.

Sally Thomas said...

Hi Laura --

I know, I need to get. out. of. my. bag. and read it.

I really didn't ever use any curriculum at all with my children until they were 5 or 6, and then only minimally. "Preschool," for my children who didn't go to preschool (my oldest two did), was just a LOT of reading aloud and play. We did count together, and my youngest had a couple of mathy storybooks (One Odd Day, about odd numbers, stands out in my mind), but did no formal math at all before kindergarten.

We went places -- not just field-trippy places like museums (which frankly were sort of wasted on my younger set, who just wanted to run through them at top speed), but the grocery store, the doctor's, the dentist's, the vet's -- and called them field trips, because we were talking to people and observing what they did. And we spent as much time as we could outside. Coloring, drawing with sidewalk chalks, playing with sand or "goop" helps fine motor/pre-writing skills.

I let mine play around some on learning websites like and Chateau Meddybemps, though I can't really see that they made much difference in anyone's learning to read . . . My older son at 5 did spend a lot of time playing computer math games, and he is quite good at math to this day.

What I did do, and what I would encourage anyone considering home education to do, was to spend about a year researching philosophies and methodologies of home education before we ever began. Knowing what resonates with you philosophically -- how a given approach views the child and the learning process, what that approach thinks about methods and resources and what makes a good book -- helps more than anything with decisions about what to use. Having a baseline reading on who you believe the child to be (both "the child" as a category and *your child* as an individual member of that category) and what you believe education to be, and to be *for* helps you more or less immediately to eliminate whole ranges of possibly enticing curriculum choices, because they don't speak to that baseline reading that you have.

I of course really love Charlotte Mason, though I don't replicate her methods and materials exactly. I'd encourage you, if you're interested, to read her sixth volume, Towards a Philosophy of Education, which puts her whole vision together. You can find it here: And if you're looking for good booklists and guidelines for early stages of education, check out the Mater Amabilis Prep Level:

If you want to try some more directed (I hate to say "formal") math at 4 or 5, I highly recommend the free MEP curriculum, which begins with Reception (English kindergarten): We have not done Reception, though we've dabbled in MEP through the years, but friends who have describe it as fun, hands-on, and the kind of thing you can do with the child cuddled up on your lap. It's not an intense schooly-school experience, but the program is very rich.

Charlotte Mason recommended delaying formal academics until after a child is 6, and while you don't have to wait that long, I wouldn't be in a hurry to do much formal school with a little one. At this stage, so much of school is composed -- when it isn't taken up with age-inappropriate emphases on academics -- of habit-training and the replication of experiences that would happen naturally in a healthy home: imaginative play, cooking, reading aloud, and so on. So, just being a home where those things happen will make you more like the right kind of school!

Sally Thomas said...

Sorry, I was too lazy to make hyperlinks!

Amanda said...

Ooh! I'm very excited about the new blog! Can't wait. :)

Anne-Marie said...

Last spring I reread all the Christie in the house, and was repeatedly surprised to find her a poor writer--I hadn't remembered that at all. Now circumstances take me weekly to an unfamiliar branch of the public library, where I have found a whole shelf of Ngaio Marsh. Much better! I love Roderick Alleyn!

Diana said...

Love your blog, Sally, thanks for keeping it real. I just had the elimination diet talk with my fifteen year old, we are in great need to calm down his reflux to then calm down his asthma....but he still needs some carbs, and wheat was the major source. So....your brown rice breakfast cereal is PERFECT! And....I had just read a few weeks all of the quotes from CM in your last post, quietly validating what is in my heart.
Thanks, Friend.

jenna angle said...

Mind-blowing..... presently I'm running with a local project, I hope it must be help me out.

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