Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Young Chef Tuesdays

In the month of December, I began employing the kids to make dinner on Tuesdays, the only night we are all home and able to eat dinner together at the same time. Each child (except the 21-year old) made the menu and prepared and cooked dinner on their specific night.

The first Tuesday, my 9-year old made chicken tortilla soup, courtesy of Pioneer Woman, and ice cream for dessert. The next Tuesday, my 10-year old opted for French bread pepperoni pizza and ice cream for dessert.

9-year old making chicken tortilla soup

The following Tuesday, my 13-year old made Mongolian beef on white rice, Vietnamese coffee, and served Mochi ice cream. Dad had some Saké.

13-year old making dinner

Mongolian beef

Vietnamese coffee

Saké (Japanese rice wine)

Mochi (Japanese ice cream)

This last Tuesday night, my 18-year old took about three hours to make homemade chicken pot pie, including the crust from scratch. It was very yummy.

pot pie

Yum, all done.

Everyone agrees that it was a great experience and wants to continue taking turns making dinner on Tuesdays. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Parents and Children, Vol. 2, by Charlotte Mason

Parents and Children, Vol. 2
Charlotte Mason
Published 1904

Charlotte Mason began Parents and Children reproving and praising Rousseau, the French philosopher. She rebuked,
Jean Jacques Rousseau had not enough sterling character to warrant him to pose as an authority on any subject, least of all on that of education.
(I read his autobiography and the man gave away his five children that he had out of wedlock because he did not think himself - or the mother of his children - worthy to raise up their own).

Nonetheless, Mason stated that Rousseau "turned the hearts of parents back to their children" and realized "God placed the training of every child in the hands of two, a father and a mother." (Just not him or his woman.)

Charlotte Mason focused on the family unit. She demonstrated that families are a commune under absolute rule, and they must be social and serve their neighbors and the nation. Within the family, the parents represent the government. Parents must be able to rule their children because:
A ruler who fails to govern is like an unjust judge, an impious priest, an ignorant teacher.
It is good for the children to faithfully serve, honor and humbly obey their natural rulers.
Mason said that it is difficult to establish authority in these "democratic days," when everyone is demanding equality. (It was an issue in her times, too.) Everyone cannot be treated equally --- because they simply are not.

God forbid that we should ever lose faith in the blessedness of family life. Parents who hold their children as at the same time a public trust and a divine trust, and who recognize the authority they hold as deputed authority, not to be trifled with, laid aside, or abused -- such parents preserve for the nation the immunities of home, safeguard the privileges of their order.
Yet the autonomy of the child is just as essential as the authority of the parents. "It would be an encroachment on the rights of the child, and an transgression on the part of the parents," if parents did not encourage or teach self-government to the child.
The child who knows that he is being brought up for the service of the nation, that his parents are acting under a Divine commission, will not turn out a rebellious son.
Parents must inspire their children to spiritual life of intelligence and morality. While both parents are equally responsible to raise up their children to higher life, it is to mothers that children owe this second birth:
. . . great men have great mothers; mothers, that is, blest with an infinite capacity of taking pains with their work of bringing up children. - M. Adolf Monod

About that one-education-fits-all formula: the author stated that parents are protective over the individuality of their children and they rightly mistrust the plan to teach every child the same, or should we not "die of weariness of one another?" Individuality and personality are important to God and humanity, too.
In a word, we are very tenacious of the dignity and individuality of our children.

Are there children who do not wonder, or revere, or care for fairy tales, or think wise child-thoughts? Perhaps there are not; but if there are, it is because the fertilising pollen grain has never been conveyed to the ovule waiting for it in the child's soul.
Mason believed that children learn by ideas, and that parents must provide children with these ideas.  She believed,
The mind of the little child is an open field, surely 'good ground,' to plant the truth of the Word of God.
She stated: a parents' highest function is "To bring the human race, family by family, child by child, out of the savage and inhuman desolation where He is not, into the light and warmth and comfort of the presence of God, is no doubt, the chief thing we have to do in the world."

To educate children, they need opportunities to be inspired and directed, and they will "do their own education, intellectual, aesthetic, even moral, by reason of the balanced desires, powers, and affections which go to make up the human nature."


The formation of godly character is the ultimate object of education. 

End bad habits by promoting and encouraging good habits.  "The training of the will, the instruction of the conscience, . . . the development of the divine life in the child, are carried on simultaneously with this training in the habits of a good life."

A child who is taught about "giving and sharing, of loving and bearing, will always  spend himself freely on others, will love and serve, seeking for nothing again; but the child who recognizes that he is the object of constant attention, consideration, love and service,  becomes self-regardful, self-seeking, selfish, almost without his fault, so strongly is he influenced by the direction his thoughts receive from those about him." (Hello, SELF-ie generation.)

A child must be taught absolute humility, unconsciousness of self, fortitude, and altruism. It is not the responsibilitiy of the parents to make their child's life easy or happy.

The child's empathy and compassion must be broadened. "It is our part . . . to prepare these little ministers of grace for the larger and fuller revelation of the kingdom of heaven that is coming upon us."


Mason encouraged using [English] ballad literature to teach patriotism and heroism, like Beowulf. (I love Beowulf.)
But it is not only the ideas of a hero which we have in Beowulf, it is also the idea of a king, the just governor, the wise politician, the builder of peace, the defender of his own folk at the price of his life.
Children must be taught moral truth. Moral teaching must be effortless, candid, specific, and appeal to  reason, and with religious authority.  It is the responsibility of the parent to teach the child about the power of choice because some ideas may be evil and some may be good.


Mason states that today's education does not "produce reading people," and warns that we "should not get between books and our children." She says children must have living books, the best books, and "the frequent change of books for the constant stimulation of the child's intellectual life."

Subjectively, education is a life; objectively, education is a discipline; and relatively, education is an atmosphere.
Education is the training of good habits in which the child learns; a life, sustained and nourished by those ideas; and an atmosphere or environment, provided by his parents, where those ideas rule their own lives.


It may appear that Mason jumps from one topic to the other, but it is my review that jumps. There is so much to discuss that I cannot cover all of it, but rather I can only pull out a minor portion of a few topics. It is actually very fluid and connected, as each idea flows into the other.

Mason is a great encouragement to parents to love and inspire, correct and train up their children in proper godly discipline and obedience for His service, while encouraging the very good ideas that will make him or her noble and true. This is a book I wish I had read before I had children.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: Home Education, Vol. 1 by Charlotte Mason

Home Education, Volume 1
Charlotte Mason
Published 1906

My husband bought me the Simply Charlotte Mason reprint of Charlotte Mason's Original Home Schooling Series for my birthday last summer. There are six volumes, and I have already finished the first three books. This is a review of volume one. By the way, there is so much in these books that I cannot speak to everything; therefore, I will only paraphrase what my favorite parts are. Also, this first book is mostly directed toward children under ten years of age.

Charlotte Mason was an advocate of children, parents, and learning. There is no confusion over where her heart was. She believed bringing up and instructing children as most essential to society, certainly in school, but more so at home because home influences the character and calling of the future adult. She expected more from the mother in the early years because "mothers . . . have the sole direction of the children's early, most impressible years." 
Maternal love is the first agent in education.
At least for the first six years of life, mothers, " . . . are waking up to [their] duties, and . . . will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children . . .  is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own.  

Mason noticed that (even during the time of her writing) there was a kind of "child-worship," in which children were protected from physical exertion and discomfort. She believed "children should be trained to endure hardness." 

Charlotte Mason was a proponent of nature and being outdoors. She strongly encouraged parents to permit their children to live and learn and play outside in nature as much as possible. 
Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.
She said, ". . . a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, . . . spent for the most part out in the fresh air." This allows for sight-seeing, observation or perception, and expression. Being able to observe or perceive also leads to discernment with very little instruction or talk from Mother. In fact, least said the better. Children will make the connections on their own.

Mason made the case that education is based on natural law. She said, ". . . the chief function of the child - his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life - is to find out all he can, . . . by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge . . . ; the endeavor of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance . . . with Nature . . . ; the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power because the first stages of mental effort are marked by the extreme activity of this power; and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature . . ." (Where I said in the margin, "Wow! Public education has this completely opposite.")

There is a long section on habits and habit formation:
The formation of habits is education, and Education is the formation of habits.
She explained why it is important for the educator (Mom) to teach the child moral strength and purpose and self-control over his own nature. Habits that help a child are habits that work against nature because Mason knows that unruly human nature is contrary to God's law, which is written on a man's heart. Educators must teach them habits which "lead them in ways of order, propriety, and virtue."
The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.
Mason discussed the necessity of mental habits, like attention and obedience, and behaviors that affect other people, like gentleness, courtesy, kindness, candour and respect. Lessons should be short and worthwhile for young children, and their minds should rest after study and observation. A child can be taught to focus attention, and made aware that if he does not get control of his thoughts, they will wander and control him. A child should put his whole heart into all his work.

To ensure the habits of obedience, a mother must teach her child that it is "a noble thing to be able to make himself do, immediately and rightly, the very thing he would rather not do."
The children who are trained to perfect obedience
may be trusted with a good deal of liberty. 
If you wonder why someone else's child seems a spoiled brat:
The root of the evil is, not that these people were born sullen, or peevish, or envious - that might have been mended; but that they were permitted to grow up in these dispositions.
Mason next addressed lessons in general. She explained that children learn in order for mental growth, to get fruitful ideas, for valuable, interesting knowledge, and to exercise power for their minds. Since knowledge should come by way of a child's own investigation (under direction) in Nature, the schoolroom should not encroach on his right to long hours for physical exercise and investigation; his play should be vigorous, and he should be left to himself (with supervision), and the happiness of the child should be based on his progress.

This volume includes an in-depth section on spelling, reading, recitation, narration, writing/composition, dictation, Bible, arithmetic, nature science, history, geography and art/music lessons. Lessons and subjects should be linked, interlaced, and recall the last. (That's why I love teaching history in chronological order. It just makes sense.) It is better for a child to focus on real experience, like a primary source or a chronicle or biography from history by someone who was there and learned first hand, than to memorize names and dates and boring facts. And he should read really good books. (I like that very much.)

The last section, probably the most important, speaks to the will of the child. The three functions of the will are: controller of passions and emotions, direction of desires, and ruler of appetites. Mason explains willfulness, and that a disciplined will is necessary to heroic Christian character. To discipline the will one must change his thinking - have a change of heart attitude. Parents must teach their child that:
. . . there is a power within you, your own will, which will enable you to turn your attention from thoughts that make you unhappy and wrong, to thoughts that make you have and right.
Hence, a child must learn early on a habit of self-management to control himself. Mason believed the shaping of the will is far more important to the well-being of the individual than the education of the mind. She quotes:
. . . Theory and doctrine, and inculcation of laws and propositions, will never of themselves lead to the uniform habit of right action. 
If a bee can produce an apple tree, imagine what a child can do...

The section on conscience is beautiful. ". . . every soul is a 'living soul,' a fully developed, full-grown soul." Mason makes you think: if a bee can produce an apple tree, imagine what a child, made in the image of God can do. She pleads:
The parent must not make blundering, witless effort: as this is the most highest duty imposed upon him, it is also the most delicate; and he will have infinite need of faith and prayer, tact and discretion, humility, gentleness, love, and sound judgment, if he would present his child to God, and the thought of God to the soul of his child.
And finally she makes encouraging applications how to do this.

Charlotte Mason
Let me end here by saying, I wish before I became a new mom I read Charlotte Mason's books. She was more than a homeschool or learning advocate; her words are practical and common sensical and encouraging for parents of young children to love them purposefully, raise them up rightly, and train them in the way they should go that would most benefit their souls and society in general. She is highly intellectual, articulate, practical, feminine, and lovely, that I think of her as the Jane Austen of child rearing and early childhood education.

Coming soon: Parents and Children, Volume 2

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hiking: Dripping Cave Trail in Laguna Niguel, California

This hike we took in November near Laguna Niguel, California. I had to keep reminding myself that it was November because it was so hot, and many of us wish we wore shorts. There are so many different trails in Aliso Canyon, and this one we used is called Dripping Cave Trail, which leads to Dripping Cave or Robber's Cave.  This is our little group:

We chaperons:

There is a paved trail at the beginning. 

There were some gnarly trees on this trail.

In the cave:

More gnarly trees:

The creek was pretty cool, literally.

Sauntering for awhile:

We went up this steep trail called the Nature Loop, but it hardly looped, and there wasn't much nature to look at when you were climbing straight up. And once you got to the top, there was no where to catch your breath, like a bench or a bed to lie down on for an hour.

Much of the nature was dried up, being November. There were some lilies and lots of watermelon patches with little watermelons, but with no gardener to take care of all this, everything grows wild and looks overgrown or dead.

Heading back:

I couldn't resist. When we stopped for lunch, I had to put my toes in the creek. : )

Enjoy the sounds of the creek:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Age of Revolution: Uprisings, Slavery, and the French and Indian War


Age of Revolution:
Europe and Colonial America

Seeds of Rebellion:
"Many mickles make a muckle."


It was not even the 1700s, yet, and the Thirteen Colonies were filling up; colonists spread their wings and tested the limits of their new found liberties. 

Uprising in the New World: King Philip's War
Woodcut of Natives setting fire to colonists log cabin

But they were stepping on some toes. Metacomet (son of Massasoit), also known as King Phillip, fell upon the English colonists and some of their Indian allies, in 1675. The conflict began after three of Phillip's warriors were executed for the murder of a Native who had converted to Christianity, suspected of acting as a spy for the colonists. The underlying issue, however, was the encroachment of Indian territory by the colonists. Hence, a three-year war was fought between Native tribes and colonists. In the end, hundreds of colonists and thousands of Indians were killed or sold into slavery, more Native American territories were lost to the English, and King Phillip was murdered by another converted Indian. 

Bacon's Rebellion
Virginian Governor Confronting Bacon

Another uprising was Bacon's Rebellion, in 1676, in which a Virginia colonist, Nathaniel Bacon, led a rebellion against Virginia's royal governor demanding more respect of colonist's rights, and requesting more protection at the colonial-Indian border. Bacon also led attacks on local Native Indians. He successfully seized control of the Virginia government, but it was short-lived because he soon died that same year and the rebellion fell apart. The royal governor returned to power, arrested Bacon loyalists, and had them executed. 

Gang of Captives at Mbame's

In the background of early American history is the story of slavery. In the late 1600s, the importation of slaves from Africa was expanding. The capture of people in Africa to be sold into slavery had been practiced for a very long time. Stronger African tribes had coordinated with Muslim occupiers of Northern Africa to capture and force weaker tribes into human labor. Portugal and Spain took advantage of this practice, as well as England, who purchased the human labor in exchange for food and tools. It was not long before American colonists were purchasing slave labor for agricultural work and servants, too. 

French and Indian War
Washington as Captain in the French and Indian War - Stearns, 1851

Finally, a turning point of early American history was the French and Indian War, in 1754, which was a conflict between the French in North America and their Native American allies and the British, American colonists, and some of their Native allies. Again, this was a contest over disputed territory. Even the Spanish had an interest in this outcome.

The French had claimed much of the area the Ohio Valley and Louisiana, but so had the British. French and Indians began violent raids on colonial villages, which led to retaliation, lasting until 1761. Even a young George Washington was a major in the Continental Army against the French and showed great promise.

In the end, the French handed over the Ohio Valley and Canada to the British and the area of Louisiana to the Spanish (and Spain gave Florida to England). Meanwhile, the Native Indians lost more territories as well and were pushed further West. 


Amos Fortune, Free Man - Elizabeth Yates

The Matchlock Gun - Walter Edmonds


This month we studied the works of these individuals for enrichment. I try to stay in the time period of our history.


Alexander Pope (1688-1744)


Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)


One of America's first noted artists was John Singleton Copley, who is known for his portrait art of colonial Americans, such a Paul Revere.

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)

In November, we will get into the conflicts leading up to America's Revolutionary War.

Coming Soon:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hiking Gray's Peak at Rim of the World in Big Bear, California

This month's hike to the summit of Gray's Peak at Rim of the World in Big Bear, California, was an extraneous hike . . . for me. It is 3.5 miles up and 3.5 miles down. But it was a beautiful day, even though we started out dressed for snow. About five minutes in, we were removing layers of clothing. Supposedly the trail closes by October to allow for eagle nesting. We didn't see any eagles; but we did see some jays, baby lizards, and a couple of chipmunks. 

The Troop:

The Chaperones:

Early views of Big Bear Lake starting out:

Elephant legs:

Lots of rocks to climb for fun:

Big Bear Lake at a higher elevation:

I think . . . I do believe those are the mountains of Wrightwood or Mt. Baldy:

Almost there:

The Summit (we made it):

By the way, those winter clothes came in handy at the summit.

It's not hiking; it's sauntering (see A Parable of Sauntering):

My teenager. : )

The bright yellow leaves against the blue sky remind me of upstate New York in autumn. 

When we are on our way back down, I can no longer keep up with them: 

And when the parking lot is in view, it's a mad dash for the car.

And then it's a post-hike cherry-limeade slushy at Sonic. No wonder they cannot wait to get to the car.