Friday, November 25, 2005

today




Thanksgiving 2005


It was hard to get a good picture of the feast because of the lighting. Mum and I outdid ourselves. Everything turned out delicious. The turkey was tender, the biscuit light and fluffy, the cranberry sauce scrumptious, the stuffing superb, etc.

I've got weird kids

Thanksgiving 2005

The kids, with help from Nana, made little name cards for everyone. They spent a long time on them and they came out so nice!


















Before dinner we were treated to the melodious sounds of a percussion band.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Back in Business




There is something scary about this one. I have a really weird expression.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Montessori

The other night Bernie told me she didn't love me. This did not exactly break my heart. Marcus had just told me he didn't love me because I wouldn't let him use my computer. It was bedtime and I don't get my highest popularity ratings at that hour. So I asked Bernie why she didn't love me. She said with a little pout, "Because all I do every day is watch Pokemon."

"Oh really?" I said, wondering how that was my fault. I'm the one who frequently turns off the t.v. I'm the one who says 'no' when she wants to watch t.v. "So what do you want to do instead of watch t.v.?"

"I want to go to school!" She blurted tearily. And then I did feel bad. She's the only one not in school. Last year she had Georgie and Marcus to hang out with. Life must be quite lonely for her now. Bernie is such a good sport. She happily accompanies me on errands. She rarely complains of the hours spent in the car driving the girls to and from school. She helps me around the house. She's been asking about going to school since September. The Montessori where Marcus and Lidia attended was not an option because the hours conflicted with our commute. And frankly, we needed a breather from paying tuition. Our original plan was that she would start preschool in January, but I had started to consider waiting until next year. I am teaching her to read with the Bob books. She has play dates. I was thinking of signing her up for a play group and calling it good.

I related to J what Bernie had said about school and he agreed we should start her in January. Today I visited a Montessori school near J's work.

I watched the children in their classrooms of which there are three. There are two teachers per classroom with about a dozen children. Within each classroom the children range in age from 2 1/2 to 5 1/2. This is something else I love about Montessori--the mix of ages. The younger ones learn how to behave and do their work from the older ones. The children were at their various stations, and all seemed quite intensely occupied.

The Montessori method worked so well for Lidia and Marcus. Georgie did not do Montessori. She went to one year of Spanish preschool. It was actually a community ed preschool for hispanic children, and we were invited to attend even though we didn't qualify financially. The two previous years I had helped with translating in a community ed program for hispanic mothers and children. I think it was an overall positive experience for Georgie. However, the teacher told me at a conference that she didn't think Georgie really fit in with the other kids, that she perhaps needed a more stimulating environment. This did not concern me because I felt that she had all the stimulating environment she needed at home. She was going to this preschool to help with her Spanish and get to know other hispanic children. However, when I look back now I think Georgie probably would have benefited more from a different preschool. Live and learn.

Lidia started at age 3 in a traditional preschool. You know, I hate to use the word "traditional" in this case. She attended a preschool that follows current educational trend. She was bored there. She loved her teachers, but often complained that she already knew her ABCs, numbers, and colors. She didn't want to learn them again. I heard from a friend about a little Montessori school that was new to our area. Her son attended there and he didn't like it much because it was "too hard." The following year I enrolled Lidia there without knowing very much about Montessori methods. She loved it. She was so much happier learning at her own pace. She flourished. She got tired of addition and subtraction. She was adding double and triple digits. She told her teacher she wanted to learn multiplication, and her teacher was happy to help her learn.

Marcus wasn't ready for preschool at age 3. We didn't start him at the Montessori until he was 4. He also had a wonderful experience there. He loved his school days. He went three days a week but would have loved to go every day. He is a very intense child, and I think the methods used at school were especially good for him.

Last Spring my neighbor suggested a few times that I sign Bernie up at the same preschool as her daughter so we could car pool. I tried to avoid telling her that I would never enroll my child in a preschool that wasn't Montessori, but she was persistent and she eventually got the picture. She told me that she didn't care about the academics at preschool because after all, it is preschool. She only wanted socialization for her daughter. (My neighbor's daughter is a super smart kid. She is starting to read and her handwriting is really good! She's Bernie's age.) I understand my neighbor's attitude and I have no problem with it. However, Montessori is so much more than academics. It's about teaching children to be disciplined and motivated. They learn to love learning and academic work at a young age. I found a site that has some good info on Montessori, and I love this quote: "Children are quiet by choice and out of respect for others within the environment - The Montessori classroom allows children to return to the 'inner peace' that is a natural part of their personalities."

I was very pleased with the school and I think that's where we'll send Bernie. It is expensive. But you know what? I saw that the preK tuition at Blake School is 10,000 bucks. My little Montessori is not that expensive!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

It runs in the family

My gorgeous niece...


Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? (I just heard that song yesterday for the first time. I'm a little out of the loop on the pop stuff. Shouldn't it be "Don't cha wish your girlfriend were hot like me? You know--subjunctive? Someone should let them know...)

Got dimples?

My handsome nephew...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Why I'm not posting many photos

I lost our camera. This was a while ago, actually. I lost it last May right before we went to Europe. It was the expensive digital one that I lost. I took it to the little park across the street. I remember nearly leaving it at the park and I ran back and picked it up. That's the last time I remember seeing it--who knows what happened. I still had an Advantix camera, but now I can't find that one either.

Most of the pictures I've posted lately were taken by the little digital camera in J's cell phone. That accounts for the graininess and blurriness, but it was still worth it to post them, right?

I've been trying to get J to purchase another camera for us since June or so, when I decided I wasn't going to find the lost camera. The camera I lost was actually J's company camera, and he said he would replace it. However, J is very methodical about electronics purchases. Many online reviews must be read, much research must be conducted. Naturally I don't feel at liberty to speed this process along much with frequent reminders (it's not nagging) because I'm the ninny who lost the camera. Also, J has been insanely busy with work since summer.

Well, today he bought the camera. (I love you, Mi Vida!) I haven't talked with him much today so I don't know when it will arrive, but I'm so excited! I've been too, too long without a camera.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The More the Merrier

When I was writing about I Know Where I'm Going, I remembered another gem I discovered recently--The More the Merrier (1943) with Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea, directed by George Stevens. It was nominated for six academy awards, and Charles Coburn won for Best Supporting Actor. This movie is hilarious. It is impossible not to fall in love with Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea. Even J really liked it. I think that for men, Joel McCrea is a little easier to take than Cary Grant. He's more of a manly man.

This is one of the best romantic comedies I've seen and I highly recommend it for a date.

I Know Where I'm Going

I had the enormous pleasure of discovering a new favorite movie last night. We saw I Know Where I'm Going, 1945. It was directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and stars Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey. A young woman is on her way to an island in the Scottish Hesperides where she plans to marry a rich, older man. She is outwardly very sure of herself. Her trip to the island is delayed by bad weather and she meets a young man who makes her begin to doubt her convictions. I don't want to say too much about it because everyone deserves to see it not knowing much more than that. It is absolutely delightful.

I really like the young Wendy Hiller since I saw her in Pygmalion. She is the most aristocratic, elegant lady I've ever seen. I like her unusual looks. Roger Livesey is quite nice, too. He does the kilt well.

It is obvious upon seeing this film that the person who made it had a deep love for Scotland and her people. It is a highly idealized view but not at all neauseatingly so, perhaps because the film was made so lovingly. Because of the careful attention to detail the film's message, which could seem trite, does not come across as overly broad.

Please see it.

Spanish immersion parent meeting

So we had this meeting for the parents with children in the new Spanish immersion program in our district. There was a speaker, a professor from the University of Minnesota's CARLA (Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition). This is the only applied linguistics center in the country that focuses on language immersion programs, which is why Minnesota is a leader in elementary school language immersion programs.

Dr. Fortune addressed issues that are evidently of high importance to most language immersion parents in the U.S. She showed research findings on different aspects of language acquisition, but a large percentage of the time was devoted to addressing the concerns parents evidently have about how their children's English skills are effected by language immersion. It was coincidental that I met a woman I know from church at the library the day of the meeting. She has a son in Marcus' class. I asked how she was liking the program, and she said she was not sure they would continue with it next year. She said she was concerned that her son would not score as high on standardized tests if all of his instruction is in Spanish. She worried that he wouldn't learn to spell correctly in English. I reminded her that the children do begin daily English instruction in second grade, and that the Spanish immersion school my daughters attend has the highest test scores in that district. She said she wasn't convinced, and didn't know if learning Spanish was really worth the risk of not excelling in English.

I was a little surprised by her attitude. She is well-educated and even fluent in Russian. I have heard similar concerns expressed by people in this community, but not by people who actually know other languages. From what I heard at the meeting, I realized that this is a widespread concern. I kept thinking of the children of Europe who begin second language and even third language instruction at tender ages. If I remember right, my aunt, who lives in the Netherlands, told me that to enter college they are expected to be fluent in English and have a high degree of proficiency in French and German. (Was that right, Auntie?) Dr. Fortune said that at a conference she heard two Europeans joking about how American think learning a second language is such a big deal.

Parents here in the U.S. definitely have misconceptions about second language acquisition. Rather than detracting from native-language proficiency, it enhances it. Children become more aware of the ins and outs of their own language when they have another to compare it to. Also, language immersion schools tend to focus much more intensely on language than other schools. People think that learning another language is difficult for children. It's not. It is natural to them when they hear it every day.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

favorite scriptures

I know I was going to post about my thoughts on that Spanish immersion parent meeting, but I have to comment on the favorite scriptures!

Athena--I also love "Jesus wept." It says so much. It brings tears to my eyes almost every time I read it. And yes, easy to memorize ;-).

Mainegirl--The original Mainegirl's blog is now here: http://mainegirl.typepad.com/the_brusselleans/
I have not read Psalm 8 for awhile, and it is delightful. I think that may be one of the psalms my mothers memorized in school--public school! It's funny to think that just a generation ago they recited the Lord's prayer every morning and memorized several psalms. Right, Mum? Anyway, I love "thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour."

ml cites several scriptures from the Book of Mormon, and I list them here for the benefit of those who don't have one:
Moroni 7:48;
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.

Moses (The Book of Moses is located in the Pearl of Great Price, an apocryphal work) 7: 28-33 & 37;
28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;
31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?
32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
37 But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?

Ether 12: 27 & 37 (start about half way through in 37--they go together);
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
37 ...And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.

Jacob 7:26 ("...the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream..." a beautiful and poignant epitaph).
26 And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Parthenon and the Optative

In Climbing Parnassus, Simmons quotes from C.S. Lewis' essay "The Parthenon and the Optative." The quote begins with the words of a "grim old classical scholar:"

"The trouble with these boys is that the masters have been talking to them
about the Parthenon when they should have been talking to them about the
Optative." [The "Optative" is one of the moods of the Greek verb.]...Ever
since then I have tended to use the Parthenon and the Optative as the symbols of
two types of education. The one begins with hard, dry things like grammar,
and dates, and prosody; and it has at least the chance of ending in a real
appreciation which is equally hard and firm though not equally dry. The
other begins in "Appreciation" and ends in gush. When the first fails it
has, at the very least, taught the boy what knowledge is like. He may
decide that he doesn't care for knowledge; but he knows he doesn't care for it,
and he knows he hasn't got it. But the other fails most disastrously when
it most succeeds. It teaches a man to feel vaguely cultured while he
remains in fact a dunce. It makes him think he is enjoying poems he can't
construe. It qualifies him to review books he does not understand, and to
be intellectual without intellect. It plays havoc with the very
distinction between truth and error.


I don't know that we even teach appreciation anymore. Do we appreciate things like classical literature, albeit vaguely and stupidly? I wonder what C.S. Lewis would say about our modern educational system with its emphasis on self esteem and practical skills, preparing children for the global marketplace. I heard all types of things like that last night at a Spanish immersion parent meeting. The speaker was a professor of applied linguistics at University of Minnesota, and she shared the findings of hundreds of studies done on language immersion schools. You know what? I may not have time to finish my thoughts about that meeting right now, so I will save them for the next post.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What's yours?

Last night the Stake Young Women's president gave a class to our Young Women's group on marking scriptures. She had a lot of good ideas, especially for youth and people who are not in the habit of marking scriptures. She said we should make our scriptures more visual and personal.

She said that we should all be frequently sharing with each other what our favorite scripture is. Now, at first this bothered me a little and I'm afraid I may have rolled my eyes (hope she didn't see me!). How could I possibly pick a favorite? And why should I? But then I remembered President Payne (our Stake president--for those of you who aren't Mormon that means he oversees about ten congregations) shared his favorite scripture in the last Stake conference. I admire President Payne, and I thought if he can come up with a favorite I suppose I can. President Payne's favorite is Isaiah 53. He told us we should all memorize it. I haven't yet, though I've read it many times.

I've decided that my current favorite is 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Actually the entire chapter 13 is a favorite, and that is one I have memorized. Georgie has, too. Why do I like that chapter? The poetry of it. I like how it defines charity, but I like equally well how the words roll off my tongue. I like that specific verse because I sometimes get frustrated that I don't know things I'd really like to know. It comforts me to read in this verse that some day I will see things clearly, truthfully, as they are. I suppose the verse points specifically to knowledge of the Savior, and in that sense it is comforting to know that He knows us much better than we know Him.

What is your favorite scripture?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Words of an anti-Mormon:

"The Mormons appear to be very eager to acquire education. Men, women, and children lately attended school, and they are now enploying [a] Hebrew teacher...and about seventy men in middle life, from twenty to forty years of age, are most eagerly engaged in the study. They pursue their studies alone until twelve o'clock at night, and attend to nothing else...They are by no means, as a class, men of weak minds."

-From "One of the Great Lights of the World" by John S. Tanner, Academic Vice President of Brigham Young University

One of the Great Lights of the World

This is how Joseph Smith described his idea of a Mormon university. Here is a pdf version of a speech by John Tanner I read in BYU Magazine last night. In it Tanner describes Joseph's passion:

He studied many subjects but had a particular passion for languages.
Entry after entry in his journal find him studying Latin, Greek, German, and
especially Hebrew. He was an avid participant in the Kirtland Hebrew
School, which met in the west room of the third floor of the temple. On
Feb. 17, 1836, Joseph exclaimed in his journal:

My soul delights in reading the word of the Lord in the original, and I
am determined to pursue the study of the languages, until I shall become master
of them, if I am permitted to live long enough.


What remarkable determintaion to learn language by study--and this from a
translator and seer! As Terryl L. Givens (BA '81) recently observed,
Joseph "consistently merged the gift of prophecy with the gritty work of
language study." To become "one of the great lights of the world" we
cannot afford to be less committed to learning by study than was the
Prophet.


I think that there needs to be a huge paradigm shift in the Latter-Day Saint community if we are to become this Great Light. I think we have a long way to go before we are following Joseph in prizing and pursuing learning for the joy and spiritual insight it brings. I think there are too many of us who would knit our brows in confusion upon finding that the prophet studied ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and then laugh in disbelief were it suggested that we might do the same.

interview with Tracy Lee Simmons

Here is an interview with Tracy Lee Simmons, author of Climbing Parnassus. Here is Tracy's response to the question, "What is a classical education?"

This was the Humanist's education, in the sense in which Erasmus and Thomas
More were Humanists. A classical education used to mean simply a curriculum
based upon Greek and Latin. Of course, that curriculum also included math,
history, and literature, but they were secondary; the two ancient languages were
primary. Greek and Latin were what made the curriculum classical, nothing else.
Unfortunately, as I say in the book, a classical education can mean lots of
things these days, practically everything from Shakespeare to phonics. But, on
the upper end, most definitions seem to have in common a fairly demanding
curriculum and a serious reconnection to the history of the Western world — but
often without the languages themselves. I think this is deadly, because it
excludes the rigor. Over time it gives us the illusion of knowing things we
don't. So I've tried to reemphasize Greek and Latin as being vital, in fact
central, to a classical education. It's not really my definition, mind you. It's
what everyone from T. S. Eliot on back for hundreds of years would have
recognized. A classical education forms the mind by classical models of thought
and language and gives us a past.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

From William F. Buckley Jr.'s foreward

"Simmons does not play the pedant in this graceful testimonial to the classical languages. He is the eager and eloquent reporter giving us some idea of what lies in those great repositories, so inexplicably neglected in modern schooling, and what pleasures await those whose curiosity he succeeds in awakening and how gratefully the mind repays itself when flexed on languages which are not dead because, as he quotes another author, they are no longer mortal."

Climbing Parnassus

Climbing Parnussus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin is by Tracy Lee Simmons, a journalist who hold a master's degree in classics from Oxford. Simmons laments the death of classical education in American schools. What does he mean by classical education? Simmons believes the study of Greek and Latin to the point of reading the great authors in these languages comprises the most important element of an education truly classical. It is the education that our founding fathers had. He would probably term the modern homeschooler's version "classical lite."

There have been many times I've wanted to post on this book and the many discoveries I've made in its pages. I haven't because I've felt intimidated. The book is not the kind that makes you feel particularly intelligent. I am not even sure I feel qualified to comment on this book! As I was telling Athena, the one who recommended it to me, I feel like all I can really do is post quotes and say, "I agree with this one. And this one is good too."

Reading this book has started a process for me. It is helping to define my ignorance. I've always had this vague, nagging feeling that I don't know enough or that I don't know the right things. I like to listen to people's opinions on politics, law, ethics, morality, history, etc. I listen to or read these opinions, and some I find ludicrous, while with some I find I might agree. But I'm not always sure why I agree or disagree--I'm always left feeling that I don't know enough to form an informed opinion. There are so few people I look to as really knowing what they're talking about. So very few opinions out there I truly respect. And I, myself, am not one of them! I am in some ways a product of our country's education system as described in A Nation at Risk: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves...we have, in effect , been committing an act of unthinking, unliateral educationl disarmament."

I am not saying that this book had all the answers for me. It is merely the best book on education that I've read. It is the most thoughtful, logical, reasonable. It is superbly written. If the man who wrote this book is a product of classical education, then a classical education is what I want for myself and my children

This book is very rich. There were many parts I had to read over several times before I thought I was beginning to understand what was meant. Not because it is not clearly written, but because it is nuanced. My thoughts on this book will have to come in a series of posts. I don't have time to sit down and write one long post on it, and you wouldn't have time to read it.