Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wednesdays with Words: Break time

You have likely noticed that I've been inconsistent here despite the best of intentions.

I think I'll take a summer WwW break and pick back up after Labor Day.

Feel free to link posts here in the comments through the rest of the summer and continue sharing with one another. I am going to pin this to the top of ladydusk.

Love ya all.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Scaffolding is a Trustworthy Standard

Last week we thought a lot about the basis for our scaffolding: a base plate set on a firm foundation. We wanted to provide a sturdy, non-rickety form of scaffolding for our children. This is so that our kids can work Safely in Transparent Fashion.

This week, I want to think more about the structure of the scaffold. Wikipedia tells us that,
The key elements of the scaffolding are the standard, ledger and transoms. The standards, also called uprights, are the vertical tubes that transfer the entire mass of the structure to the ground where they rest on a square base plate to spread the load. The base plate has a shank in its centre to hold the tube and is sometimes pinned to a sole board. Ledgers are horizontal tubes which connect between the standards. Transoms rest upon the ledgers at right angles. Main transoms are placed next to the standards, they hold the standards in place and provide support for boards; intermediate transoms are those placed between the main transoms to provide extra support for boards.
 While I don't want to go so far as to analogize each and every part described above, I do think it's important to note how much care is put into each part and think about it's purpose and how we can analogize *that.*

Carrying on from the base plate and a foundation for learning, we have to make sure the up and down parts and the side to side parts (technical jargon, y'all) are plumb and level, respectively. We need to make certain that the scaffolding is square. Only then can our students trust it as they go about their work.

What do I mean by plumb? Google defines it: 1. measure (the depth of a body of water).  2. test (an upright surface) to determine the vertical. Let's think about the second.

When the up and down parts are plumb, they're vertical. They slide into the lower support with easy, no pushing, no WD-40, no hammering, no jiggling to make it fit. They just fit down tightly and rightly.  Our lessons should be like this. They should fit over the previous lesson without a lot of hassle for us or the child. They shouldn't be so top heavy that they tip and take the structure from plumb, perfect vertical. They shouldn't be so light that they drag us the other way.

These vertical uprights, standards, are so important because 1) they bear the load of the structure down to the foundation and 2) their alignment affects the alignment of the horizontal surfaces.

Remember how we laid that base plate on the foundation? Let me remind you what the Wiki said above, "transfer the entire mass of the structure to the ground where they rest on a square base plate to spread the load." This is what our carefully built lessons do. They transfer the weight of each lesson to the base plate. Which in turn, transfers it to Christ. This is why it is so important that He is the sure foundation of the CM school. Without him, the whole structure of our scaffolding is on unstable sand.

But the second reason is that the work surfaces our children are using are attached to those upright, vertical, plumb standards. (Don't you just love how English words work and have meaning ... so cool) We have standards on a firm basis. Because we know they are not precarious or slightly off or soon to fall, the horizontal ledgers and transoms can be added on the square. When we're careful, they're level - not angled, not one higher than another - but perfectly square to the support and level for the worker.

If they aren't level, the work your child will do could be slip-shod. They could start to have one end of the course of bricks higher than the other ... and being off a little bit here will put a deeper angle in future courses. Not so beautiful.

(I have plans to come back and talk about scaffolding starting mid building, asynchronus development, and other objections to the metaphor in later posts. Lets start with the ideal, though.)

I've been reading Anthony Esolen's book Out of the Ashes and he touches on this. He says
I have said that grammar is an architectonic thing, and I mean it in all seriousness. Consider other areas of learning that are like grammar or that have a deep grammar that informs them, that rules what you can do and what you cannot, that gives you the beams and joists of the building of knowledge.
By scaffolding, we're giving our students a place to stand while putting in the beams and joists. He continues (italics his)
To be adept at grammar, to learn how to think in structures of meaning, to be able to map out a sentence, is to be on your way to making maps properly speaking, and to be on your way to mapping out many other things too. All human sciences are grammatical in structure. 

At this point we might well wonder whether as great a thing as existence is not grammatical. Our ancestors thought so. That was the insight behind their great scale or ladder of being. God is the sole necessary being; all other beings are created and contingent.
Dr. Esolen tells us that there is a structure to knowledge and that knowledge adds upon knowledge as bricks lay upon bricks. Scaffolding for our students allows them to progress in a controlled, even pattern to make a beautiful mind.

But it isn't just knowledge that we're trying to build in our children (and ourselves) but right acting. Mystie Winckler's post Math is the Best Character Building Program. Yes! Day in, day out building the virtue of doing the work whether hard or easy is what is needed. So we're building virtue in building up the will.

Sara Masarik in the Potato Peel Pie Society Facebook Group recently commented, "I am also reading Charlotte Mason who says that Reason is not golden. Reason can be manipulated to suit any whim if we are creative enough. Will must be disciplined and rooted in principle. If that is done correctly, then our logic will support our principles rather that justify our emotions."

When I asked her where she was reading in Volume 6 about Reason not being the standard, she gave me a whole host of quotes:
"...reasonable and right are not synonymous terms; that reason is their servant, not their ruler..." p. 142
"...well reasoned arguments are brought into play for a wrong course as for a right." p. 142
"For ourselves and our children it is enough to know that reason will put a good face on any matter we propose; ad that we can prove ourselves to be in the right is no justification for there is absolutely no theory we may receive, no action we may contemplate, which our reason will not affirm." p. 143
"What are we to do? Are we to waste time in discussing with children every idle and blasphemous proposition that comes their way? Surely not. But we may help them to principles which should enable them to discern these two characters for themselves." p. 148
This is why we must make sure that our Standards are build firmly on the base. We want our children to stand firm in knowledge and will - in thought and act - in trust and faith. By building the scaffold to the standard, our children can trust it as they work. They trust not just because it's safe but they can trust that it won't lead their work astray. They can trust that the building will be sturdy, strong, and beautiful - not blown by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-16) - ideas that don't line up won't affect the building.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
So, how do we do this?

First. Foremost: Pray. Ask the Lord to help you build carefully. Ask Him to ameliorate any mistakes you may make.  He is faithful and His mercies are new every morning.

Second: Think carefully. When you're preparing for a lesson, whether that's pre-reading or seeking out other lesson aids. Know your students and what they know. Help to make careful bridges from prior knowledge into the new lesson and future lessons.

Third: Give your students freedom to add the bricks they need to their building. What? I know. You've provided the Standard. The Students find them Trustworthy. But it's their job to incorporate what is needed for their building. Forcing them to use the 1066 brick when they prefer the William the Conqueror brick is foolhardy. This is why you can't be looking for specific things in a child's narration. You present the feast of ideas, they are selecting how much of each bite to take. (Not that you shouldn't require some bites of everything LOL)

So, build your scaffold plumb and level. Give your children a Standard and Transom. Let them build.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

Ah. I'm so happy to see that "Book Review" heading. It's been too long! I hope to return to the "Books. School. Life" intent of this blog.

Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey, #12)Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Own on Kindle.

I finished Gaudy Night last night. It was wonderful. I had started and abandoned it a couple of times, but finally forced myself to keep on into the story. I wouldn't say it was un-put-down-able, because it was heady and there were places that I found quite difficult and needed a break. I suspect that this is a book that's best read multiple times for it's many-faceted levels. I think I was trying to follow too many facets at once.

My biggest complaint was all of the names - too many names and sometimes two names for a single character (I never did quite get straight which Miss was the Dean, Bursar, or other office holder). (view spoiler).

I was pretty proud of myself that I figured out early on who was the villain of the piece, and to some extent the motive, although I didn't piece together all of the elements to have actual proof.

What I really found fascinating, though, was the philosophical discussion of what makes a good marriage? Why would a man and woman tie themselves together in such a relationship? What does a good marriage look like? What can we learn from a bad marriage?

Sayers did a great job of returning her heroes to college where so many of us meet our spouses. By putting the story in Harriet's perspective, she challenges the reader with her own doubts and feelings and the whole story turns on this investigation of hers. The arguments from all sides - learned, uneducated, wealthy, poor, old, and young, and the misconceptions of what marriage can be, force Harriet to concentrate on the thing which in turn helps to make her own ultimate decision. (view spoiler)

I would like to read it again as the mysteries are now taken out of the equation. I think there is at least another level - philosophical and pyschological - that Sayers is discussing in this book that I just never got to. I caught glimpses of it from time to time and they left me a little confused (thus the 4 stars). Wimsey's dinner with the SCR is part of it for sure. I rarely felt I was on firm footing with conversations between Lord Peter and Harriet.

There's enough British inter-war intrigue and allusions to British culture and Oxfordian culture that I don't understand that I'm concerned about my comprehension of that other level. I spent a lot of time in this book Googling for books, quotes, and phrases I'd never heard of. I found a very helpful page where someone has done translation work for me.

I appreciated that Sayers brought up so many of the previous entries in the series as it had been some time since I'd read them. Those inclusions were helpful reminders and salient to this story.

I can see why this is the favorite of so many people. I'm quite certain that it would only improve upon re-reads, and that's saying a lot because I liked it so much on this read and am ready to finish the series.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 11, 2017

Scaffolding Provides Safety in Transparent Fashion

A scaffold, we learn, is set on a firm, level base plate. This plate is the firm foundation upon which the scaffold is built and provides stability for the whole structure.

Does anyone want to stand on a rickety scaffold? I can't think so (although I have no practical experience in this matter)

The metal forms for the scaffold go up and across and appropriate lengths to be a solid, secure platform from which workers work. As the levels go up, so go the building.

Mama, your job is to make certain your child can build on prior knowledge in appropriate increments with a sense of safety and security.

We all know that there are ideas and directions our minds may go to make connections that are healthy and reasonable ... and there are ways that lead down paths that are less than salubrious. I once heard Andrew Kern talk about learning the right pathways to make connections rather than allowing the mind to be filled with so much disconnected flotsam and jetsam. I admit that's how my mind feels much of the time, I would that I were more careful and directed in my thought patterns.

That's what the scaffolding does. It helps your children learn how to make fitting connections, laying brick upon brick of ideas. It gives them a platform to stand on - or tie off to if they're too high up - that doesn't wriggle and writhe with the wind, their own movements, or unforeseen forces.

When you build - counting the cost, for sure - you must first set your foundation. (Luke 6:46-49). The scaffolding, as we will talk later, isn't permanent and so it isn't drilled down into the bedrock, but set upon it with care. Those base plates matter. We want to set them just so, this way as the lesson - or years - proceed appropriately.

Many years ago, Andrew Kern, writing on the old Quiddity blog, wrote my first introduction to "scaffolding" it in his post Incarnational Teaching in Kindergarten.  He didn't call it that (and I didn't make the connection until just now; so much floating around up there, ugh) but between this article and his famous "play with the puppies" metaphor as the introduction to a lesson is exactly the base plate we need.

Incarnational teaching introduces kids to real ideas and real things. It builds from there relating back to real ideas and stretching forward, pointing in the direction the mind will go. This can work many ways in helping our students to focus their attentions in a proper direction and make their own connections besides.

We want each lesson to tie backward and look forward. (Like the already and not yet? I'll have to think more on that ...). When a lesson ties back into what your children know - the lower levels of the scaffolding - it stays on that foundation and gives them peace, not confusion or instability. When a lesson leads forward with questions it gives them a desire to climb still higher, knowing they'll be safe.

In the Incarnational Teaching in Kindergarten blog post, Kern showed:
This is why I often argue that, while the stages of a subject and of a child’s development are powerful concepts, the real glory of the trivium as three stages is in the individual lesson: grammar – present types; logic – compare types; rhetoric – express and apply the idea.
From him, I learned that these ideas can be great - across a lifetime - or small - across a single lesson. Scaffolding is like that. It can be great - across a curriculum or a single reading.

So a scaffolded lesson starts with a firm base - What do you remember from ...........?  What do you know about ................? Do you remember .................?

Then we start building: read the material, pull out the polygons, attend the event.

After the presentation and narration we ask: What did this remind you of? Does this remind you of anything? What connections to other ideas did you make? What questions do you have? (then leave some of the questions! But make sure you present something to answer them)

We let them narrate, recreate, reposit, reconnect, and ask new questions to be brought around at the next lesson. (look at all those re- words! Do it again. That's what we want!)

Your curriculum can be a good scaffold or a rickety one. Your lesson can be a good scaffold or a rickety one. A good scaffold is transparent to the student. They rely upon it, but they don't really notice it. They stand sure-footed as they work and the elements harm them not, but their whole focus is on the work at hand not the levels below them or all of the levels to be built above them.

The work you do in presenting types, drawing out connections, and providing space for expression and repetition ... all of your work is transparent to the student. A necessary transparency, but not seen by them all the same.

We provide safety for our children when we tie back to previous knowledge; when we ground the live wires; when we leave the tops of the scaffold open for a new level that is also firmly footed. When our kids don't even have to question whether they're on safe footing or not.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Simple Woman's Daybook for August 7, 2017

For Today...

Looking out my window ... the sky is unrelenting grey. Storms a'comin.

I am thinking ... about our school day and what all needs to be accomplished this last week of our term.

I am thankful ... that we have this full week to finish.

One of my favorite things ... quiet weeks with little on the calendar.

I am wearing ... pajamas. I'll dress for a walk soon.

I am creating ... new habits in my children. Even if they don't want to.

I am reading ... Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. I keep laughing, but it's hard to explain.

I am hoping ... to finish it or To Kill A Mockingbird this week.

I am learning ... about leadership. The Schole Sisters retreat was about leadership and I keep bumping into the idea elsewhere.

In my kitchen ... breakfast for dinner tonight.  I have some cherries that need to be dealt with - maybe those in the Dutch Puff?

In the school room ... I really want to get one good week in. Next week the kids will spend with Grammy in alternation, but if we can get through one more full AO week, that would be fantastic.

In my garden ... we've started to pick grape tomatoes and I picked a tomatillo. Fun!

Shared Quote ... "Miss Mason had the wonderful gift of revealing to parents, student, teacher and child their own innate powers and of helping them to use these to the full. She trusted and believed in us and so we dared not fail her." (In Memoriam, pg 36) How am I trusting and believing in my children so they dare not fail me? Am I helping them to apprehend their own innate powers? How can I?

I determined to read one memorial a day from this book and it has been a fruitful approach. So much to chew upon.

A moment from my day ... so, my phone up and died. No pictures :(

Closing Notes ... as many are returning to school - whether home or not - in the next weeks, it's my prayer that we would do so in service to God and His glory. All learning is from him and the fruit of all learning toward Him. Through Jesus were all things made, without him not anything was made. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He cares for you. May knowledge of that help us 'dare not fail' Him. And, oh, what assurance to know that when we do fail, He is gracious to forgive. Amen.

Linking up with The Simple Woman.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Scaffolding and the Homeschool Mom

I don't know where I first heard the term "scaffolding" as related to a Charlotte Mason style lesson. It was likely in an A Delectable Education podcast. I thought, "What a great metaphor." I've since come to notice it a number of times and places including articles pre-dating the podcast. I've also seen a lot of confusion regarding what is scaffolding and how does it work in the homeschool. While "scaffolding" doesn't seem to be a term Charlotte Mason herself used, it is a great picture of what makes a Charlotte Mason style lesson.

In this series, I'm going to explore what scaffolding does and how it relates to educational lessons. I'd like to consider scaffolding from both the mom's and the child's perspective. I want to think about how to better scaffold lessons in my homeschool.

Won't you come along for the ride?

What is scaffolding?

The summer I was taken to Europe by my parents - almost 20 years ago, now - there was scaffolding on buildings everywhere.  There was scaffolding on buildings both old and new. It stood around the exterior of buildings making wide, sure layers to walk upon. The scaffolding gave the workmen a place from which to do their work. Set firmly and levelly on the ground, the scaffolding tied onto the structure at differing points but was largely separate. It is secure to the building, yet easily removable when the work is finished. It ringed the exterior of buildings.
Pisa 1998

Scaffolding is made of metal frames: standard, ledger, and transom. These frames are set on firm base plates as a foundation. Sturdy boards are layered on the frames, level boards from which a worker can work in security; without fear. Often workers even 'tie down' to the frame for added safety. Because each level is -ahem- level, they are aided in making the courses of their work - concrete block, brick, stone, or wood - even and of high quality craftsmanship.  This assures that the structure will remain beautiful and solid when the scaffold is removed.

Scaffolding is meant to be temporary. It is removed when the season of work - building, or cleaning, or repair - is complete. Scaffolding itself is not beautiful, but Michelangelo wouldn't have produced beauty without it. That summer I traveled in Europe, the Sistine Chapel even had scaffolding within as the paintings were repaired and cleaned. That was a bummer for us, but it meant that future generations will have the opportunity to see its beauty without the scaffolds. The long run is something to be thankful for.

Scaffolding and the Homeschool

Homeschool Mama - as you think about your child's childhood and education: YOU are building a scaffold.

  • You provide safety and stability for your child's thought life by providing a firm foundation: level, and plumb layers on which he can stand to build. Sometimes, it's even draped with plastic or canvas for the worker's further protection. Frankly, your child shouldn't really notice the standard, ledger, and frame of the scaffolding. He shouldn't notice the ties to the building. It should be transparent to him. Scaffolding Provides Safety in Transparent Fashion
  • You provide a standard for his thought life by assuring that she is comfortable reaching out and adding to the building of her mind layer by layer. This is how her thinking becomes beautiful. While it should be transparent, the child should not doubt it's support. The scaffold should be completely trustworthy to her. Scaffolding is a Trustworthy Standard
  • You provide these things for a season. Scaffolding on the Pantheon or Sistine Chapel wasn't going to last forever; your child should outgrow their need for your scaffolding (but not their own!) It is a temporary structure that lasts for a lesson or a childhood after which a child can build on their own.
Charlotte Mason said, 
"Therefore, teaching, talk and tale, however lucid or fascinating, effect nothing until self-activity be set up; that is, self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child's nature."  
True. The child had to grasp hold of the "teaching, talk and tale" and incorporate it into his education, but Mason trained teachers as guides to help students accomplish the work. Building a scaffold for them is how we do it.

Pisa 1998 ... Who knew at the time that I'd want pictures with scaffolding some day ... I cropped it from most of our trip.

I plan to write, at the very least, a post on how scaffolding is safe and transparent, stable and trustworthy, seasonal and temporary. It's not impossible that I'll write more on the series, but this, at least, is where I intend to start. I'd love to hear your thoughts as we go along.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Simple Woman's Daybook for July 31, 2017

For Today... Monday July 31 - The August? Seriously? Edition

Looking out my window ... it's pretty warm and sunny. Actually, I can't look out the window because the blinds are drawn to keep the morning sun out.

I am thinking ... very little. I'm resting after a wonderfully enriching weekend.

I am thankful ... for my friends, for their generosity, for the weekend we had together. My heart is full.

One of my favorite things ... safety in travel, modern technology that connects people whether in virtuality or reality.

I am wearing ... Buckeye t-shirt - football starts soon!

I am creating ... a new design to the layout. The graphics needed a little refresh - what do you all think?

I am reading ... In Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte Mason recently republished by Brandy Vencel. Actually, I was reading it in May but I couldn't tell you then; I read a handful of the tribute pieces in the new typeset comparing to the old as a small part of a team helping Brandy bring this to the community sooner. She brought me a copy to Portland; I didn't expect to see my name though and was surprised this morning!

I am hoping ... to re-watch and listen to Saturday's Schole Sisters Retreat so I can soak the wisdom without distraction. So thankful I could serve, now I get to learn :)

I am learning ... about how to lead withing my own conflict avoidant nature.

In my kitchen ... I have no idea. M-girl made grilled cheese for lunch.

In the school room ... we'll not spend much of our week. This week we'll do Whatchamacallit, Swim Lessons, and Math this week. That's all!

In my garden ... my kiddos watered while I was away; I haven't checked how things look yet.

Post Script ... so many exciting things on the horizon. I am so blessed to be a part of the homeschool community and so thankful that I have the opportunity to serve.

Shared Quote ... from Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony Esolen:

A moment from my day ... OK, so it's not every day that I meet these amazing ladies - Brandy, Pam, Mystie, and Kortney ... but it was a very special moment. The internet has truly shrunk the world.

Closing Notes:
I suppose it's very obvious that my mind is full of the weekend I just spent. I couldn't have done it without the love and kindness of my husband, Jason, and my wonderful children; the travel expertise of my brother, Kevin; the generosity and friendship of the ladies above; and, most of all, my heavenly Father who showers blessing on His children even what they dream but don't ask.

Linking up with The Simple Woman.