Thursday, October 30, 2008

Confessions of a Book Junkie

I offered an implied complaint last week, when I posted this picture of my itty bitty closet.

I must confess though, that my lack of clothes storage is not because we live in a small house...or because the house contains inadequate closet-space.

No, it's really because this:

And this:

And this:

And these:

Don't provide enough book storage for me, so I was forced to commandeer these spaces...which just happen to be our two largest closets:

So now you know. Hey, we all have our priorities.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's That Time Again

Time For:

Hearth fires

Fleece throws

Good port

Miles Davis' Love Songs

&

Great books

Ahhh...life is good!

The Case for Grammar

Learning the rules of grammar constitutes more than rote memorization which students will remember 6 months from now. It's more than terminology and definitions which we no longer recall. Richard Mitchell explains as well, or better, than anyone, the necessity for extensive instruction in English Grammar. He argues, rightly, that there exists an inseparable connection between the structure of language and the structure of thought.

Even if I don't remember the definition of an appositive, but was required at some point to understand what it was and to practice using it correctly, then a logical connection between word and function remains. Though I may not rehearse the rule or definition as I speak or write (just as I don't rehearse the rules of phonics as I spell or read...it has become second nature), the very process by which I form thoughts has been shaped by my instruction in grammar.

Since I claim that Mr. Mitchell explains it better than anyone else, I'll let him speak for himself:

People who have learned even a little about how English works have all heard about modifiers. They know that a modifier is something that tells us something about something, and that there are many kinds of modifiers, some with tricky names. The way we teach things like this, as though they were subject to arbitrary rules like the rules of basketball, is so stupid and tedious that most people block out modifiers as soon as possible. The English system of modification, however, does not exist in a set of paltry rules that do what they can, and fail, to describe some very elaborate operations not simply of the language but of the mind. To say that an adjective modifies a noun is worth nothing unless we see that sticking adjectives on nouns is the outward equivalent of some mysterious inward process that goes on in the mind. It's not entirely absurd to think that somewhere in the past of mankind someone, for the first time, did in his mind the equivalent of putting an adjective to a noun, and saw, not only a relationship, but this special relationship between two things of different kinds. That moment was more important to our history than the flight of the Wright brothers. In sum, all the seemingly complicated kinds of modification in English are just ways of thinking and seeing how things go with each other or reflect each other. Modifiers in our language are not aids to understanding relationships; they are the ways to understand relationships. A mistake in this matter either comes from or causes a clouded mind. Usually it's both.

Just think what happens in the mind of the person who knows the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. Anyone who understands the distinction is on the brink of seeing the difference between simple fact and elaborative detail and may well begin to make judgments about the logic of such relationships. He may start bothering his head about the difference between things essential and accidental, a disorder that often leads to the discovery of tautologies. Furthermore, anyone who sees the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses is likely to understand why modifiers should be close to the things they modify and thus begin to develop a sense of the way in which ideas grow from one another. From that, it's not a long way to detecting non sequiturs and unstated premises and even false analogies.

Unfortunately, we just don't know how to teach skillful reading and writing without developing many undesirable and socially destructive side effects. Should we raise up a generation of literate Americans, very little of the America that we know would survive. We depend on a steady background level of ignorance and stupidity. A skillful reader, for instance, cannot be depended upon to buy this aftershave rather than some other because he is always weighing and considering statements that just weren't meant to be weighed and considered.

The next thing you know, they'll start listening very carefully to the words and sentences of the politicians, and they'll decide there isn't one of them worth voting for anywhere on the ballot. There's no knowing where this will end. (Less Than Words Can Say pp. 150-154)

Those final two paragraphs have more to do with his explanation of why we choose not to teach English grammar today, but they're too much fun to leave out. But the primary point to catch, is that the grammatical structure of language is directly related to the clear, logical structure of thinking. Neither one can be fully acquired apart from the other.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dazed & Confused

Last week, Grant finally got his opportunity to start a game at Quarterback...cool. Way to make your momma proud, Son.

But he didn't even last a full quarter...NOT cool. Not proud.

Things had been going along just fine, until he called a play, then on the snap, everyone went left and he went right. Maybe the guys misunderstood, I thought. Better yet, maybe it was supposed to be a "trick" play and somebody screwed it up. On the next play, it happened again! Grant ran to the sideline to talk to his coach (as he often does) and next thing we know....the kid was benched! C'mon already. So he made a mistake...or two. Give 'im another chance!

After about 10 minutes of watching the boy pace on the sidelines...I sent in my better half to do some investigatin'. Turns out, after being swung and slung to the ground like a child's plaything a few plays earlier, he had sustained a concussion. The boy was dazed and confused...he'd call a play but then couldn't make his body do what it was supposed to do. Thankfully, he recognized something was weird and told his coach he was dizzy and couldn't see real well. Oh, dear.

The joys of football. One more game to go....

Oi-Vay!!

I am not blogging until this mess is cleaned up! Yes, this is my house as of Tuesday afternoon. The Mother-in-Law arrives tomorrow...

Family Room: Junk I hauled to 2 parties to help out...everything from the back of the station wagon which will NOT be transferred to the newer car...shopping for Riesa that has to be returned...bedspreads I bought that have to be returned:

Front Room: More junk from the parties...All the mess from going through Fall/Winter clothes, trying them on, ironing them and changing them out.

Some day I'll have a closet big enough that this will become unnecessary! In the meantime, this is my clothes closet:

The Kitchen: Cook, run out the door...cook, run out the door...cook, run out the door... Oh, and throw everything that has to be dealt with later on my desk...

Ahhhh...then there's the basement. More "deal-with-it-later" stuff:

These last 3 are of my "craft room," which is where everything gets stuffed when company comes over. Alas, I can't even walk into the room...I have to CLIMB!! This is a serious project all by itself!

Oi-Vay!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No "Busy Work": Part 1

In order to avoid time-wasting, pointless activities in the classroom, I commend to you a set of questions that I used when generating daily lesson plans. A beginning-of-the-year lecture by my previous headmaster led to formulation of these questions.

Do today's lessons and assignments:

Equip the students with any Tools?

Teach or refine necessary Skills?

Build the Worldview Framework?

Convey & foster Love of Learning?

Tools are those overarching means which must be at every students' disposal in order for them to do the job of learning anything. There are 3 essential tools: Language, Critical Thinking, and Communication.

The tool of language encompasses all aspects of words: reading, handwriting, vocabulary, etc.

Critical thinking is the ability to observe, analyze and evaluate anything: physical matter, words, ideas, etc.

The tool of communication equips our students to listen and respond carefully, whether in written words, spoken words, or actions taken.

Skills provide the effective means for our students to use the tools. Therefore, every skill we teach should directly relate to developing one or more of the three tools. In determining what skills need to be taught, it is helpful to start from the end and work backwards.

At what level of efficiency and dexterity do we want our graduating Seniors to use the tool of language? We want them to read and comprehend advanced literature, speak and write with clarity and grace, and listen carefully and thoughtfully. Then what skills must they master in order to arrive at that destination?

With the tool of critical thinking we desire that the students observe carefully with all their senses, that they analyze by parsing, (words, sentences, arguments, ideas, plants, rocks, wars...everything can be broken down into smaller parts in order to understand it more thoroughly!!), and evaluate wisely, making sound judgments and decisions about that which they have observed and analyzed. What skills do they need to accomplish that?

With the tool of communication we may expect our students to write persuasively and engagingly, with coherence, perspicuity (that was for you, Joanie!), mature structure and eloquent style. We want them to articulate confidently and gracefully with finely-tuned words, phrases and ideas. Think about what it takes to get them there.

When we think these things through, we more easily eliminate wasteful and superfluous activity. We need never resort to busy-work in order to fill the day and to appear that we are accomplishing something!

I'll talk about Worldview and Love of Learning next time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Decisions! Decisions!

When I have nothing intelligent to say (which may be all the time...but sometimes I think I have something intelligent to say!), I journal about "fluff" in hopes of not losing my regular visitors. So, get ready for fluff:
I drive a 1997 station wagon that I really like (in spite of its beat-up appearance), but my husband insists she's on her last leg. I know he's right and she is rapidly becoming a Money Pit, so it's definitely time to make a change, but it's not easy to go pick out a car when you're already satisfied with what you have.
At least I was satisfied until I started test-driving these other guys! I had no idea what I was missing out on! Here's what we've narrowed it down to:
2005 Dodge Durango / 8-passenger / V-8 Hemi

This baby definitely has the market on POWER! For that reason alone, it is my absolute favorite!! And in spite of its monstrous size, it drives small and turns on a dime. The Consumer Reports are less than favorable in one or two areas, though personal testimonies we've read are highly positive. It's also a bit of a gas hog...

2005 Chrysler Pacifica / 6-passenger / V-6
This little guy is pure luxury inside and carries a few extra amenities, but even though he has 3 rows of seating, he only holds 6, which is our minimum requirement. The 2005 seems like it may have some serious issues, according to Consumer Reports, but it sure offered a smooth, smooth drive.

2005 Honda Pilot / 8 passenger / V-6
This gal is only in the mix because of her reputation...well, and her super high rating with Consumer Reports...well, and her excellent MPG. But that's all. Apparently there are absolutely NO problems with her. I took her for a spin as well, and though she's not as powerful as the Dodge or as luxurious as the Chrysler, she still offered a pretty nice ride. The only downer is that in spite of higher mileage than the other two, she's pricier.
Hmmm...what to do? Power? Luxury? Or Practicality? Darn! I think I just answered my own question.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Playing Dress Up

For normal adults, there's only one legitimate time during the year to don a costume and pretend to be someone you're not. That would be...every Sunday? No, no...I'm just kidding, of course.

Now, even though it's considered legit, it's been 18 years since I've done it myself. So, what did I dress up as 18 years ago? Glad you asked...I just happen to have a photo on hand:

Can you tell which one is me? :-)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jock or Poet?

I am finally sorting through the piles of papers, binders and books that my boys and I brought home from school last year. I put it off for two reasons: it is a very time consuming task and I had stacked all of it in baskets in my office, which made it easy to ignore.

One of the papers I found tonight and salvaged from the garbage bin, is a poem Grant wrote for Humanities class. It was supposed to follow a particular meter, although I don't know which one since it is irregular all the way through. In spite of that, I love this poem, because he wrote it as a memorial soon after Steve's friend, Shawn, lost his brief battle with cancer.

Away, away, away, he went
With the changing of the season
As winter turned to spring he went
And never will return again.

Away, away, away, he went
He will never be forgotten,
Forever loved, forever missed
But never will return again.

Away, away, away, he went
We fear not for his joy in heav'n
For the Lord our God hath promised us
That he will return again.

It's not the work of a Poet Laureate, but it's kinda cool for a barely 14-year-old to express his sentiments in that way.

That, in turn, reminded me of another poem he had written in 5th grade. His assignment was to imitate the style of some Indian poetry they had read. This is what he came up with (with a little help from our friend, Mr. Thesaurus!)

RAIN

I fall, I fall,
I, whose showers bestow plants and crops with life.

I fall, I fall,
I, whose vicious downpour distributes death.

I fall, I fall,
I, whose steady patter lulls infants to sleep.

I fall, I fall,
I, whose gray drizzle evokes melancholy contemplation.

I fall, I fall,
I, whose storms cleanse the air, yet muddy the ground.

I fall, I fall,
I, whose mists make flowers sparkle.

I still think it's beautiful every time I read it. Who says jocks have to be muscle heads? :-)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Grinch

Thanks for voting...did YOU guess correctly?

"The unmitigated gall" is from The Grinch with Jim Carrey. This movie is hysterical no matter how many times I see it. And by the way, the quote should have read, "The IMPUDENCE...the audacity...." (not insolence). This is a long clip...10 minutes or so. Just watch from the beginning, 0:00 - 1:49 and from 4:42 - 6:25. Funny, funny stuff...or maybe I just have a juvenile, warped sense of humor.

video