"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finally: A Review of 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

Late January, I mentioned this book. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, then 2/3 of my children got sick.  So, this review was put on hold until life started to resume some kind of normalcy.

Anthony Esolen has a biting style similarly adopted by C. S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters.  The premise of his book is to give you a list of 10 premises that will destroy your child's imagination.  Of course the book is actually full of bits and pieces of beautiful classical literature and ideas that one would never want their child to read should they want them to mature into a thinking adult!  Heaven forbid! 

What I think I loved most about this book was that it gave words to me to explain several things I have always inherently felt, but could not articulate.  One example is why, oh why, boys don't want to altar serve anymore now that girls are doing it (in a parish that allows both genders the opportunity.)  Really, I've always felt it was important for boys to be up on the altar and had even resisted the possibility of having my daughter serve.  Upon reading this and sharing it with my husband, we've pulled our daughter from that activity.  No spoilers, sorry.  

So here is a list.  I assure you he offers many ways to counter these methods throughout the book:
  • Method 1: Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible (or They Used to Call It "Air")
  • Method 2: Never Leave Children to Themselves (or If Only We Had a Committee)
  • Method 3: Keep Children Away from Machines and Machinists (or All Unauthorized Personnel Prohibited)
  • Method 4: Replace the Fairy Tale with Political Clich├ęs and Fads (or Vote Early and Often)
  • Method 5: Cast Aspersions upon the Heroic and Patriotic (or We Are All Traitors Now)
  • Method 6: Cut All Heroes Down to Size (or Pottering with the Puny)
  • Method 7: Reduce All Talk of Love to Narcissism and Sex (or Insert Tab A into Slot B)
  • Method 8: Level Distinctions between Man and Woman (or Spay and Geld)
  • Method 9: Distract the Child with the Shallow and Unreal (or The Kingdom of Noise)
  • Method 10: Deny the Transcendent (or Fix Above the Heads of Men the Lowest Ceiling of All)
I was initially drawn to this book after reading Wall Street Journal editorial contrasting this book with a book written by Amy Chu, Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother which I do not recommend if you  are looking to raise thinkers.  But perhaps it was more reviews like this that really drew me in:
"This book made me want to jump up (very high) and cheer, or run around (very far) and shout warnings. The best way I can think of to save Western culture, next to everyone deciding to become saints, would be for all educators to take this uncommonly commonsensical book to heart. A worthy successor to C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man." -- Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy, Boston College  
I started reading his book on Western Civilization while the kids were sick and LOVE IT.  I had no good education in history, so reading this book has  been both enlightening and entertaining.  I got my copy from the library, but the hubby insisted I buy a copy after reading a few selected sections.

When I get around to reading Dante, it is Esolen's translations I will seek.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Keeping Latin Interesting

We have five Latin students at our house.  The Kindergartener and Second Grader are no longer enjoying, but rather enduring Song School Latin.  The Kindergarter, who has an impeccable ability to memorize things, has all the songs memorized, but does not have the attention span to sit and do book work.  The Second Grader is still working through some other issues and has dropped doing the workbook in order to keep up on other things.  She's impetuous and loves something while it's new, but the second it becomes "work," she's over it.  That's life with a Second Grader.

The other three students are the Sixth and Seventh Graders along with me.  I have not had the ability to "keep up" with them.  One of my children is gifted and despises repetition and has found this Latin program (Latina Christiana I) to be extremely boring.  The other finds it an adequate challenge, although, I sense they, too, could progress much faster than I had planned.  I need to make time to get "caught up" because they are going to blow past me and I want to be able to help them.  I love learning Latin.

So, a good friend of mine, who is a smarty pants (and I love her for it), gave me some great suggestions for "spicing up" Latin.  Is that possible?  I thought it was pretty exciting, myself.  Here are a few suggestions:
  • Start a Latin Journal - give the child a translation assignment each day like "Write what you had for breakfast in Latin." Or, "Write the date in Latin and describe the day's weather."
  • Work on Latin translation - Find stories in Latin and work through translating them.
  • Get some of the kids' books written in Latin for them to read aloud to the other children.
  • Translate some popular current sayings into Latin.
  • Translate comics into Latin or vice versa.
She also pointed me to a great web site.  If you are interested in improving your Latin skills, check out this blog.
I will be doing these as well as exploring Our Latin and Greek Roots with all the kids (as a read aloud.)   It's actually a short, seven Unit book exploring the origins of many of our vocabulary words.  It will also look at Roman and Greek history, as well.

I'll also be throwing in a study of Gregorian Chant with Lingua Angelica from Memoria Press.  I love Gregorian Chant and this program has 4 prayers and 12 hymns for students to translate.  Lingua Angelica II has another 12 hymns.  I'll be looking for that on the used market.

Those children who are interested will be starting Orberg's Lingua Latina on top of LC I.  I'm not sure who will do it (me, and both the older students or just one of them.)  We'll start off with Familia Romana and work our way from there.  These are Latin texts that need to be translated, but don't require translation.  It's called the direct method whereby the child learns the Latin "per se".  The text and diagrams are almost self-evident, making the translation quite easy.  I think this will be a good challenge for all of us.  The kids loved Minimus  and have worked their way through translating the entire story by themselves, for fun.  I think this will be enjoyable and it was a recommendation from many parents who participate in a Yahoo! Group on Latin Centered Curriculum.  If I can find the money, we will also pick up Minimus Secundus.  The kids cannot resist Minimus.

Lastly, one of my children has asked me to do a "Latin Club" next year.  I don't know how I can say no when I relentlessly remind them how important learning Latin is for their education.  Said child came up with a list of things to do at club meetings from doing plays to translating fables.  I will have to see how I figure this in with schooling five kids next year (the soon-to-be Four Year Old deserves some preschool time.)  I'm not sure it will be of interest to anyone else.  We're kind of nerdy about Latin at our house.  In fact, the Seventh Grader memorized, "Rident stolidi verba latina" (Fools laugh at Latin language. -Ovid) so he could recite it to his fellow Boy Scout buddies who claimed Latin is a dead language.   Maybe someone can translate the following for me:  "Foolish mothers push Latin and then regret it when the kids ask for more!"