Category Archives: Blog

Something old, Something new

(Yes, I promise I will get those main pages updates and sorted really, really soon.)

In the meantime…

I just have something I want to share, and right now is the time to share it. When Consider This was first published two years ago this month (!), I shared a bit about how I came to write the book. I mentioned Sheila Atchley, a long-time friend, whose art and writing were particularly helpful and encouraging.

Sheila’s journey as an artist gets more exciting all the time, and I’m especially pleased that she’s releasing her first book! It’s called The Women of Advent: A Gathering of Scattered Hearts, Past and Present. Her beautiful art–I love the art, AND devotionals on the women in Jesus’ genealogy, as well as space for journaling…and a free gift with pre-orders, which she’s taking now.

woacover

I ordered mine and am looking forward to what I know will be a blessing during the upcoming Advent. Sheila has a way of touching hearts–especially women’s hearts–which is a rare gift. She encourages you. I can’t even explain it–you have to read it for yourself. She has a way of both making you content with the gifts and work that are yours alone, but with a no-nonsense approach that will not allow you to wallow in slackness. Be who you were meant to be. And do what you were meant to do. That’s the message I’ve taken away from Sheila’s writing, which truly celebrates women and their work, and I’m looking forward to what she has to say in this new book. (Which I hope will be only the first with more to come.)

“Something old” is the story of the women in the Bible who are named among the lineage of Christ.

“Something new” is Sheila’s unique and insightful devotional (I say this with confidence, though I haven’t even seen it–I just know) which will give you a whole new appreciation for them.

You won’t regret getting a copy–tell her I sent you.

 

What caught my attention at the National Gallery?

Yes, I know all the primary pages of my website need to be updated. Yes, I know I need to share a bit about upcoming plans and projects. I know all that, but I’m still making my first post in months a blog post about something completely out-of-the-blue, because education is the science of relations, and sometimes it’s messy and unorganized. But “take time to smell the roses,” right? And take time to share a fascinating painting most of us are unlikely to encounter.

My primary purpose for being in London, of course, was to conduct the “Large Room” seminar, and that was a wonderful day for everyone there, including myself. I had a few more days in London to see things, and of course the National Gallery was a don’t-miss visit. I have been there before, but my family had not, so most of our visit was focused on allowing them to see what they most wanted to see (Da Vinci paintings for my daughter, and all the Impressionists for my husband). I just wandered along behind them with no particular agenda of my own, but one painting arrested my attention and left me thinking about it for a long time afterward.

It’s kind of gruesome, but this was the painting:

wright_airpump-720288

It’s called “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump” by Joseph Wright of Derby, and it is not the art/style that interested me, but the subject matter. A scientist, who looks for all the world like an archetypical “mad scientist” is performing a demonstration/experiment in which a bird in a globe is being subjected to a vacuum–all the air (or most of it) has been removed from the globe, and the bird is expiring. Science! Look at the attitudes of the people around him–the sensitive girls who are in obvious distress but are urged to look anyway, the youth who is working the bellows, but casts his eyes back to see, because he can’t suppress his fascination. There are the two young men watching intently, one of them holding a stop watch to measure the length of time the process takes. There is the older man with his head in hand, pondering something to himself, and that couple in the background who obviously have eyes only for each other and couldn’t care less about the whole thing. And that mad scientist? His hand is on the apparatus–the bird’s life in entirely in his hands–and he’s looking straight at you, the viewer, as if to ask, “and what do you think about all this?”

“All this” of course is science–new and fascinating, and educational, with so much potential to bring new knowledge and new technology into the world. This was painted in 1768, just on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The whole question of whether or not the knowledge to be gained by science is worth the price that has to be paid is asked in this picture. What should our attitude be?

I was captivated by it. I don’t think there is an easy or simple answer, and I don’t think the world has stopped asking this question yet. But I also don’t think it had ever occurred to me that the matter could be expressed by a painting.

So, of all the amazing paintings in the National Gallery, this is the one that caught my eye and gave me the most to think about. Not admire, exactly. The painting as a work of art didn’t even enter into my thoughts. It was the painting as an expression of an idea that made me stop and think and look. I don’t think you can ask much more of an afternoon at an art gallery than that.

A “Science of Relations” Moment


Don’t you love it when the books talk to each other?

I’m still immersed in Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling by James Sire. It’s a particular pleasure to read a book on this subject by a modern author who has a profoundly Biblical perspective on the life of the mind.

So when I read that virtue must be expressed in action, I think “That’s just what David Hicks said in Norms and Nobility.” When I read that acts of the conscious will form our character, I think, “That’s what Charlotte Mason said, and what Anne White focuses on in Minds More Awake!” And when Dr. Sire makes a special point of focusing on humility as vital to intellectual development, I even think, “That’s what I said in Consider This!” (Whew–I wasn’t veering wide of the mark after all.)

I particularly like this:

We simply can’t know what we can’t know unless someone who knows we can’t know tells us. God has done that, of course. He has told us that we cannot penetrate his mind to the depths.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD
.

…But there is little else he has told us we cannot know.

And I’m a little excited about what’s coming next, because he has promised to begin talking about how to practically go about becoming a thinker. And for that? Oh, that’s where the humility comes in. He gives us a little chart of (some) of the different kinds of intellectual virtues. They fall under four headings:

Acquisition virtues (passion for truth), such as inquisitiveness
Application virtues (passion for holiness), such as love and fortitude
Maintenance virtues (passion for consistency), such as patience
Communication virtues (compassion for others), such as clarity of expression

Each list includes only four or five key virtues, but only one virtue appears on all four lists–humility.

I am fascinated by a discussion about thinking and learning that devotes so much attention to the role of humility. This, I think, is a hard-won virtue, since the mere suspicion of achieving it is fraught with pride, and there we are, back at square one again. And yet, without that humility that makes us teachable, well…how are we going to learn all those things that are possible to know?

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John Henry Newman and Synthetic Thinking

Upon further acquaintance (albeit still far from thorough), my opinion of John Henry Newman is improving. I was terribly disappointed by his thoroughly analytical approach to grammar. However, I’m getting a little better acquainted with him at second hand as I read through Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling by James Sire.

Dr. Sire is a great admirer of Newman, and makes him the focus of his attempts to define Christian intellectualism. I’m not even halfway through the book, but this is one of those that you read slowly and mark up heavily. (I’m pretty sure marginalia counts as a contribution to the Great Conversation.)

Because Newman’s prose is typically Victorian, Sire is selective about what he quotes, and he gives us seven suggestive excerpts from Newman’s seminal work, The Idea of a University. Since I’m pretty comfortable with Victorian prose, the language isn’t really a problem.

What was fascinating to me was that every single one of the selected quotes, which are meant to convey the general overview of Newman’s ideas, is basically advocating synthetic thinking. Much more eloquently and thoroughly than that, however. Here are some of the snippets I underlined:

…when we not only learn, but refer what we learn to what we know already.

…a truly great intellect…is one which takes a connected view of old and new, past and present, far and near, and which has insight into the influence of all these, one on another.

It [intellect] possesses the knowledge, not only of things, but also of their mutual and true relations…

…so intimate is it with the eternal order of things…

…he observes how separate truths lie relative to each other…

I suppose Science and Philosophy, in their elementary idea, are nothing else but this habit of viewing, as it may be called, the objects which sense conveys to the mind, of throwing them into system, and uniting and stamping them with one form.

[Raciocination] is the great principle of order in our thinking; it reduces chaos into harmony…

I was really quite enamored, myself, with Newman’s thorough comprehension of synthetic thinking and all that it entails. James Sire says that these excerpts take his breath away, and asserts “They awaken our sleeping minds.”

Which immediately put me in mind of Anne White’s new book, Minds More Awake, which I reviewed here.

Charlotte Mason caught that vision of synthetic thinking which had been the province of intellectuals like John Henry Newman for centuries and devoted her whole life to bringing that vision to the sleeping minds of parents, teachers, and of course, children. James Sire lauds John Henry Newman, and rightly so, for awakening sleeping minds, but I think Charlotte Mason’s influence has been very little less, though her audience was ordinary folks, and not ivory-tower intellectuals. Certainly, I suspect Charlotte Mason continues to be more widely read than Newman in the 21st century. Although I suspect I will have to delve more deeply into Newman, eventually. Maybe after I finish James Sire’s book.

Now she tells me…

I have read all six volumes of Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, and I have read them more than once. Even so, I have not read all of them from cover to cover recently. Since I spent most of the last year very engrossed in the sixth volume, A Philosophy of Education, because of Mind to Mind, I decided recently to read through another volume afresh, and so I began the second volume, Parents and Children, which I have read from but not through for a good while.

And there, almost right in the very middle, I found the clearest statement I can remember reading in which Charlotte Mason makes it plain, herself, that her philosophy of education is rooted in the past. If I ever have occasion to update or revise Consider This, I’ll be sure to include quotes from this section, and I’m sorry they are not there already.

(all quotes are from Chapter XII of Parents and Children)

Charlotte Mason laments, “Probably the chief source of weakness in our attempt to formulate a science of education is that we do not perceive that education is the outcome of philosophy. We deal with the issue and ignore the source.” That, of course, is her recognition that why we pursue education along certain lines is more important than how.

She makes reference to the tradition of studying Greek at the major universities and observes the fear which existed then that something was in danger of being lost, as there was a struggle in educational circles at that time between classical studies and scientific studies. But she is unafraid, because:

…we are beginning to recognise that education is the applied science of life, and that we really have existing material in the philosophy of the ages and the science of the day to formulate an educational code whereby we may order the lives of our children and regulate our own.

Looking backward…and looking forward. This quote really belongs somewhere in Consider This. But she goes further, and emphasizes the fact that educational practices are sound only when they rest solidly on a clear and comprehensive philosophy, and there are two main schools of thought which seek to dominate.

Will education be based upon the premise of naturalism, in which only the material considerations of brain will be given attention, or will education be based upon idealism, in which non-material ideas are given precedence? She has quite a lot to say about this, which I will not attempt to summarize, but if you know Charlotte Mason, you know where this is going to conclude.

You cannot have it both ways (which is why an eclectic mish-mash of philosophical ideas is ineffectual).

Either thought is a process of the material brain, one more ‘mode of motion,’ as the materialists contend, or the material brain is the agent of the spiritual thought, which acts upon it, let us say, as the fingers of a player upon the keys of an instrument.

She goes on to explain the the practical implications of this, and I will not repeat all of that here, but the chapter ends with a call for a unified, synthetic approach to knowledge which I can’t resist quoting.

We must introduce into the study of each science the philosophic spirit and method, general views, the search for the most general principles and conclusions. We must then reduce the different sciences to unity by a sound training in philosophy…

Yes, I really wish I had read this chapter before I wrote Consider This. It doesn’t say anything new, but it certainly does confirm everything I wrote there.

Just one more day…

Well, tomorrow is the big day! I’m looking forward to finding out who the two winners are, and then seeing if there will be a couple more!

There’s still a little time left to share and post if you want to enter to win one of the free copies.

I did send out a number of review copies, and one of the those early readers posted a review today. Check it out! Her interaction with Mind to Mind is exactly what I hoped readers would find there. She’s giving away a copy, too, so there’s another chance.

Mind to Mind en Español

I haven’t really had an occasion to talk about this yet, but there is one exciting development surrounding the abridgment of Charlotte Mason’s Volume Six that I want to share.

Native English speakers are not the only homeschoolers who are interested in Charlotte Mason’s ideas, but the length and difficulty of her books make the full volumes daunting to read. Silvia Cachia is a bi-lingual homeschooler (and AmblesideOnline user!) who read an early version of the abridgment, and immediately wanted to translate it into Spanish. She has assembled a team of native speakers who will be working together under her direction to translate Mind to Mind. When they are finished, Spanish speakers will be able to connect to Charlotte Mason’s ideas directly–mind to mind–without the barrier of a foreign language.

I’m quite excited about this project; however, it is an on-going project and it’s too early to predict exactly when it will be available. If you can read Spanish, you can read more about it here.

 

September’s Hot New Release?

During the first week that Consider This was released, it had a brief moment in the sun (figuratively speaking) at Amazon. It was featured, to my amusement, as a “hot new release” in the sub-sub-sub-sub category of “Education Theory.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 5.59.02 PM

So, just for fun, I thought we might make an attempt to put Charlotte Mason into the limelight and give Mind to Mind the same “hot new release” status in its sub-sub-sub (I really don’t know how far down it goes) category. Amazon updates its status hourly, so things move fast. I’ll announce the winners of the free books at noon on Friday, Eastern Time, and if you are planning to buy a copy soon, why not make your purchase on Friday afternoon? If enough people decide to do that, Charlotte Mason will rise to the top of the charts, and maybe a few teachers doing some back-to-school shopping on Amazon will notice and be introduced to her for the first time.

Well, we can hope. Wouldn’t it be a breath of life for children in public schools to have a teacher influenced by Charlotte Mason?

In any case, if we achieve this fleeting status by purchasing enough books to feature Mind to Mind as a “hot new release,” (originally published in 1925!) I’ll give away an additional two books. Why not?

This is release week for Mind to Mind and we have winners!

I used a random number generator to pick our two winners:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

22
40

Timestamp: 2015-09-04 16:10:21 UTC

And I thought the comments were numbered, but they are not, so I had to manually count down (the first comment you see is #1, the last comment is #50) to find the winners, but I triple checked it, and the winners are:

Krista and ChristineH!

Congratulations to you, and thank you everyone for participating. I’ll keep an eye on Amazon, and if Charlotte Mason achieves “Hot New Release” status, I’ll generate numbers for a couple more winners!


And I’m going to be giving away two free copies. (Sadly, not signed, because that involves shipping them to Poland first. But still. Free.)

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post letting me know why you’d be interested, or why you think someone else might be interested, in reading an abridged copy of Charlotte Mason’s final book. Any reason will do, including “I can it finish more quickly.” Each comment is one entry, and I’ll use a random-number generator to select the two winners on Friday, September 4th–the official day of release, although Amazon might be ready before then.

A goodly portion of Mind to Mind is my work, but the bulk of it is still Charlotte Mason’s. For that reason, the Kindle version is priced a little lower, and if you purchase a physical copy, the Kindle Matchbook will always be free.

In honor of launching Mind to Mind, the Kindle Matchbook for Consider This will be free all week as well. If you’ve ever purchased this physical book through Amazon, you can take advantage of the free Kindle version this week.

And don’t forget: if you plan a book study and want to do a bulk order (at least 5 copies), I can offer a discount. Just use the contact form to let me know.

If you’d like additional chances to win a free copy of Mind to Mind, share this post on Facebook, on your blog, via Twitter, or anywhere, and leave a separate comment for each one, telling me where you shared it: “I shared on Facebook!” Each comment is an additional entry for you, so don’t combine them. (And don’t worry if they don’t show up immediately–I have to approve comments, and only if you’ve commented before will they show up without approval.)

Entries close at 12:00pm (that’s noon!) Eastern Time, on Friday, September 4th. I’ll announce the winners shortly after.

 

Education and Humility

Another lovely bit from Mark Van Doren’s Liberal Education:

The educated person, says Pascal, is one who has substituted learned ignorance for natural ignorance. That is valuable because it keeps ignorance in the picture, which otherwise would be false.