As for emulation, a very potent means of exciting and holding the attention of children, it is often objected that a desire to excel, to do better than others, implies an unloving temper, which the educator should rather repress than cultivate. Good marks of some kind are usually the rewards of those who do best, and it is urged that these good marks are often the cause of ungenerous rivalry. Now, the fact is, the children are being trained to live in the world, and in the world we all do get good marks of one kind or another, prize, or praise, or both, according as we excel others, whether in football or tennis, or in picture painting or poem-making. There are envyings and heart burnings amongst those who come in second best; so it has been from beginning, and doubtless will be to the end. If the child is go out into an emulous world, why, it may be possibly be well that he should brought up in an emulous school. But here is where the mother’s work comes in. She can teach her child to be first without vanity, and to be last without bitterness; that is, she can bring him up in such a hearty outgoing of love and sympathy that joy in his brother’s success takes the sting out of his own failure, and regret for his brother’s failure leaves no room for self glorification. Again, if a system of marks be used as a stimulus to attention and effort, the good marks should be given for conduct rather than for cleverness – that is, they should be within everybody’s reach: every child may get his mark for punctuality, order, attention, diligence, obedience, gentleness; and therefore, marks of this kind may be given without danger of leaving a rankling sense of injustice in the breast of the child who fails. Emulation becomes suicidal when it is used as the incentive to intellectual effort, because the desire for knowledge subsides in proportion as the desire to excel becomes active. As a matter of fact, marks of any sort, even for conduct, distract the attention of children from their proper work, which is in itself interesting enough to secure good behaviour as well as attention.
~ Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, Vol.1
Another gem from Sister Adeela of River City Homeschoolers who has been ever so diligent and prolific, ma shaa Allah :)
She has put together a delightful six-week summer session nature study programme, suitable for all ages. It aims to encourage children to have direct contact with nature and to familiarise them with the Quranic verses and ahadeeth pertaining to Allah’s signs in nature. It is a wonderful way to bond as a family and your kids will also get some hands-on activities as well as try their hand in art and craft and journaling.
My kids just LOVE the outdoors and going on their “explorations” – they really take to heart Charlotte Mason’s words: “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” LOL! Anyway, I am looking forward to using Sister Adeela’s ideas.
She has kindly allowed me to share her ebook on my site, so click on the image below to save a copy for yourself.
I’ve so many books I want to write about but I’ve been really pressed for time. Here are a few gems we’ve been poring over this past month.
Dear Whiskers by Ann Whitehead Nagda is an endearing story – Bear loved it and we finished it in one sitting! Jenny’s fourth-grade class is assigned a second-grade class to write to as part of their English lessons. Each student is to assume the identity of a mouse and their second grade pen-pals are to write back to their mice friends. While all her classmates receive interesting letters, Jenny’s mouse, Whiskers, receives a disappointing one-liner (her second-grader refuses to play along) and then no further replies. Jenny discovers that her pen-pal, Sameera, is from Saudi Arabia and doesn’t speak English well. She tries to help but Sameera seems reluctant and indifferent. Jenny pushes on though and learns more about her younger friend’s religion and culture.
We had a blast with Dominic, another book we got through in one sitting. My kids love William Steig’s mad flights of fancy! This book tells about a heroic dog who travels in search of adventure. He meets with various characters with whom he forges deep bonds of friendship. It’s hilarious though that some of the names don’t really match with who/what they are. Bartholomew Badger (a pig!) is old and sickly. Dominic cares for him in his final days and he inherits the pig’s vast wealth, only to find the Doomsday Gang (oh how my kids love that wicked name!) “who robbed, ravaged, cheated, attacked innocent creatures at large and travelers especially, and did all sorts of damaging mischief.” He helps characters like Matilda Fox (a goose!!), Barney Swain (a hog who was robbed before his wedding) and eventually rallies all the oppressed creatures to rise against the Doomsday Gang. Dominic is completely likeable – heroic, philosophical, kind and generous.
Blue Willow by Doris Gates is a sweet book set in the 1930s about Janey Larkin, a ten-year-old daughter of an itinerant farmer. She longs to put down roots somewhere – so she can have a friend and attend regular school instead of makeshift camp school. Most of all, she wants a home where she can hang her most treasured possession – a blue willow plate that her mother had given her before she died. Things go well for Janey in San Joaquin Valley, California initially but then her stepmother falls ill and her father cannot work. She is then faced with losing her beloved willow plate.
My husband, who also loves History, is fascinated with many things Japanese. When I told him about The Samura’s Tale by Erik C. Haugaard, he urged me to order it. When it arrived though, Mars beat him to it and she’s been absorbed with the book. Set in 16th century feudal Japan, the story is about Murakami, whose parents are murdered by Lord Takeda’s soldiers. Kidnapped, he is then called Taro and becomes a servant in Lord Akiyama’s household. A cook named Togan befriends him but he too is murdered. Taro then decides that he will become a samurai and regain his family’s honour.
Another book by William Steig that Mars enjoyed – Abel’s Island. Abel (Abelard Hassam di Chirico Flint) is a mouse who, in trying to rescue his wife Amanda’s scarf, gets blown away during a storm. He is stranded on an island. Stripped of the comforts and leisure that his inherited wealth afforded him, Abel has to rely on his ingenuity and resourcefulness to return to his beloved wife. It takes him a year but he does rise to the challenge :)
I found The Defender by Nicholas Kalashnikoff quite compelling. Simply written, it is about Turgen, an old Lamut man who lives close to the Yakut people in Siberia. The Lamut are mountain folk while the Yakut live in the valley with their domesticated animals. Turgen is a healer and has an affinity with the mountain rams which he protects. The shaman, jealous of Turgen, spreads rumours about him, saying he consults with the devil who takes the form of the ram. Turgen’s loneliness after his wife and child’s deaths is compounded when the villagers shun him. Only Marfa, a poor widow and her two children offer him friendship. Turgen’s life slowly changes – his kindness gains him a family, returns him the good will of the village and even a heartfelt apology from the village shaman.
I’ve got loads more books to review but… in shaa Allah, another day :)
Is there such a thing as too many freebies? Not necessarily :)
I find these freebies from Simply Charlotte Mason too good to pass, especially “Smooth and Easy Days” by Sonya Shafer. Homeschooling days can become insanely hectic, especially for those who have numerous responsibilities and little help. Charlotte Mason said, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” Shafer’s work talks about how “habits produce character” and how to go about habit-training gradually but surely. She also reminds parents to look into their own habits and to address their shortcomings while at the same time making it a valuable learning experience for the children. I really needed this reminder! You can download the book here.
The other book available for download is “Getting Started in Homeschooling” also by Sonya Shafer. This book tells the difference between the five main homeschool approaches and will guide parents to find the approach that will help your children flourish, to create a rich, comprehensive, and engaging education for your children, to save time by teaching all your children together and to begin homeschooling with confidence. You can download this book here.
We’ve just finished “The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963” by multi-award winning author, Christopher Paul Curtis and we had a truly rip-roaring time with it. The story is about the “Weird Watsons”, a middle-class black family’s life in Flint, Michigan and their journey to the Deep South. Father Daniel loves “cutting up” and has an irrepressible sense of humour. Mother Wilona is loving but formidable enough to strike terror in her children’s hearts when laws are breached. Her Southern background is often fodder for her husband’s hillbilly jokes. Byron, the cocky (eldest) teenaged son, is on his way to being an “official delinquent”. Kenny, the narrator of the story, is an intelligent 10-year-old boy whose geekiness and lazy eye often cause him to be bullied. Joetta, the youngest, is a loyal girl who snitches on her siblings at times, but hates to see them punished.
Byron, by far the most colourful character, is the reason for the family’s journey to Birmingham, Alabama. Daddy Cool’s misdeeds include getting his lips frozen on the car’s mirror (it was cold and he was kissing his oh-so-handsome reflection), cutting school, using his parents’ credit at the store without permission, getting a conk (straightening his hair), playing with fire and assault. His parents make a desperate bid to save him from his self-destructive tendencies – they hope that a stint with Grandma Sands in Birmingham, away from the temptations and negative peers in the city will straighten him out.
The family makes preparations for the trip like refurbishing the car, getting a record player (the Ultra Glide) installed (because they want to avoid country/hillbilly music) and charting their proposed route, rest stops and expenses, all carefully and precisely noted by Mom in her notebook entitled The Watson’s Go To Birmingham – 1963. Dad however has other plans and saves money by driving practically non-stop.
In Birmingham, the family are caught up in the turbulent events of the emerging Civil Rights Movement. What begins as an interesting change of environment turns tragic when a Black church is bombed. This mirrors a true event in US history when a racially instigated bombing of a church led to 4 teenaged girls perishing – the book is in fact dedicated to these girls.
Issues like sibling rivalry, adolescent rebellion, friendship and bullying and racial prejudice are deftly handled – with a light touch that in no way dilutes them. I do have a few reservations – there are some cuss words, Byron’s unnamed trouble with a girl and references to ‘adult’ books. Since I was reading this with the kids, I censored these bits. I also skipped the part about Grandma Sands’ friendship with a Mr Robert. All in all, a good living book on history. An enjoyable read – wickedly funny but also deeply moving.
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