Charlotte Mason said that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life,” and she was right. An extensive study published in 2010 on “Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success” (PDF), reports that a family’s “scholarly culture – the way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read, and enjoyed” matters.
I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to homeschoolers, but just in case you need a reason to keep building your family’s home library, here are a few significant quotes from the report.
- A home in which books are an integral part of the way of life will encourage children to read for pleasure, thereby providing them with information, vocabulary, imaginative richness, and wide horizons. (p. 3)
- Because it generates skills and knowledge central to schooling, scholarly culture should enhance educational achievement in all societies, rich and poor alike; in all political systems, Communist and capitalist alike; and in the past as well as the present. (p. 3)
- In addition to providing skills and knowledge, a large home library is a manifestation of the family’s preferences: an indication that they enjoy and value scholarly culture, that they find ideas congenial, reading agreeable, complex and intellectually demanding work attractive. It shows a commitment to investing in knowledge, and perhaps in schooling. It suggests that conversations between parents and their children will include references to books and imaginative ideas growing out of them. In short, a large library reveals a preference for the scholarly culture. (p. 4)
- Biggest gains at the bottom: an increase in scholarly culture has the greatest impact on children from families with little scholarly culture. (p. 4)
- Each additional book is associated with greater gains in educational attainment in families with few books than in families where there are already many books. (p. 9)
- The difference between a bookless home and one with a 500-book library is as great as the difference between having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) and having university educated parents (15 or 16 years of education).
- Scholarly culture’s advantage goes back for generations, as far back as the memory of survey respondents can take us, and in all political systems [both pre- and -post WWII West, pre- and post Communist Eastern Europe, pre- and post-Cultural Revolution China, and pre- and post-Apartheid South Africa]. (p. 13)
- Thus it seems that scholarly culture, and the taste for books that it brings, flows from generation to generation largely of its own accord, little affected by education, occupational status, or other aspects of class. (p. 17)
- Parents give their infants toy books to play with in the bath; read stories to little children at bed-time; give books as presents to older children; talk, explain, imagine, fantasize, and play with words unceasingly. Their children get a taste for all this, learn the words, master the skills, buy the books. And that pays off handsomely in school. (p. 17)
- A book-oriented home environment, we argue, endows children with tools that are directly useful in learning at school: vocabulary, information, comprehension skills, imagination, broad horizons of history and geography, familiarity with good writing, understanding of the importance of evidence in argument, and many others. In short, families matter not just for the material resources they provide, not just because of parents’ formal educational skills, but also – often more importantly – because of the scholarly culture they embody. (p. 19-20)
Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. ~Henry Ward Beecher
Another article you may enjoy: How to Build a Quality Home Library Inexpensively
Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life. ~Jesse Lee Bennett
Find new books you might enjoy at GoodReads.com. You’re welcome to connect with me there;-).
The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression,
and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory
from which the image is never cast out
to be thrown on the rubbish heap of things that are outgrown and outlived.
Work cited: Evans, M. D. R., et al. Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratiﬁcation and Mobility (2010), doi:10.1016/j.rssm.2010.01.002
In last week’s post, I provided an overview of the Common Core Standards (CCS), with a video overview, and links to more information. This week, I am focusing on the literature portion of the Standards. I am not going to devote a great deal of time to these, as there are many others doing so. However, I do have a few initial thoughts.
I have not looked at the math standards, as I am not qualified to provide an informed analysis, but I have looked at the Language Arts Standards. A classically educated student would easily exceed all that the Standards mandate, but of course, returning to the classical model would be much too sensible for the Rube Goldbergs at the helm of education planning.
Instead of reading and discussing Plato or Petrarch, students will be presented with such gems as “The Cost Conundrum: Health Care Costs in McAllen, Texas” or “U.S. General Services Administration. Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.”
Those aren’t the only texts, of course, but two that struck me as particularly egregious. If the goal is to cause students to tune out and despise the art of reading, that is exactly the type of text that is needed. Rather than grappling with big, meaty ideas such as truth, justice, and integrity, students will be provided with the mental equivalent of rabbit pellets. Every trivial piece of nonsense students are forced to cover steals time from something more valuable.
Charles Dickens offers a remarkably prescient view of the CCS in the first chapter of Hard Times. A government functionary is visiting the class of Mr. Gradgrind, and in the course of a repulsively realistic classroom exercise in manipulation, the government representative admonishes:
“‘Fact, fact, fact!’ said the gentleman. And ‘Fact, fact, fact!’ repeated Thomas Gradgrind.
‘You are to be in all things regulated and governed,’ said the gentleman, ‘by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact.”
C. S. Lewis described imagination as ‘the organ of meaning,” and he was right. Great literature engages both mind and heart, evokes interest, and sparks connections in memory. A reduced focus on literature and story means a reduction in the understanding of metaphor, and the ability to think abstractly. What the Common Core proposes is to accelerate the drain of meaning from language, and for those who value truth, wisdom, and virtue, this is intolerable.
Here are a couple of articles that explain why literature is essential:
“Why Study Literature?” by Steve R. Hake, Ph.D. Professor of English Literature, Patrick Henry College (PDF)
“The Importance of Imagination for. C.S. Lewis and for Us” by Art Lindsley, Ph.D (PDF)
You’ll find other articles on literature here on my blog and at ExcellenceinLiterature.com.
Viewpoints on Literature in the Common Core
Sandra Stotsky provides a look at “Common Core Standards’ Devastating Impact on Literary Study and Analytical Thinking” on the Heritage Foundation website.
An article on Huffington Post reports that “Common Core Nonfiction Reading Standards Mark The End Of Literature, English Teachers Say.”
Here is an expert’s view on the Common Core Standards (CCS). Will Fitzhugh, founder of The Concord Review, offers a thoughtful analysis of the language arts portion of the CCS standards.
Hard Times: A Portrait of Modern Education
And here, for your reading pleasure (consider it a palate cleanser), are the first three chapters of Hard Times by Charles Dickens. His depiction of the essence of the Common Core and modern educational methods is spot on, though he wrote over 100 years ago. Ironically, students educated in this way would be sure to miss the point, as well as the humor in Dicken’s character names. I hope you’ll find this excerpt edifying.
THE ONE THING NEEDFUL
‘Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders,—nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was,—all helped the emphasis.
‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.
MURDERING THE INNOCENTS
Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir—peremptorily Thomas—Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind—no, sir!
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words ‘boys and girls,’ for ‘sir,’ Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.
‘Girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, ‘I don’t know that girl. Who is that girl?’
‘Sissy Jupe, sir,’ explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.
‘Sissy is not a name,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.’
‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey.
‘Then he has no business to do it,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘Tell him he mustn’t. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?’
‘He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.’
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.
‘We don’t want to know anything about that, here. You mustn’t tell us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, don’t he?’
‘If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.’
‘You mustn’t tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?’
‘Oh yes, sir.’
‘Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse.’
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)
‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. ‘Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.’
The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely white-washed room, irradiated Sissy. For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.
‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’
‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’
She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time. Bitzer, after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once, and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennæ of busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down again.
The third gentleman now stepped forth. A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other people’s too), a professed pugilist; always in training, always with a system to force down the general throat like a bolus, always to be heard of at the bar of his little Public-office, ready to fight all England. To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a genius for coming up to the scratch, wherever and whatever it was, and proving himself an ugly customer. He would go in and damage any subject whatever with his right, follow up with his left, stop, exchange, counter, bore his opponent (he always fought All England) to the ropes, and fall upon him neatly. He was certain to knock the wind out of common sense, and render that unlucky adversary deaf to the call of time. And he had it in charge from high authority to bring about the great public-office Millennium, when Commissioners should reign upon earth.
‘Very well,’ said this gentleman, briskly smiling, and folding his arms. ‘That’s a horse. Now, let me ask you girls and boys, Would you paper a room with representations of horses?’
After a pause, one half of the children cried in chorus, ‘Yes, sir!’ Upon which the other half, seeing in the gentleman’s face that Yes was wrong, cried out in chorus, ‘No, sir!’—as the custom is, in these examinations.
‘Of course, No. Why wouldn’t you?’
A pause. One corpulent slow boy, with a wheezy manner of breathing, ventured the answer, Because he wouldn’t paper a room at all, but would paint it.
‘You must paper it,’ said the gentleman, rather warmly.
‘You must paper it,’ said Thomas Gradgrind, ‘whether you like it or not. Don’t tell us you wouldn’t paper it. What do you mean, boy?’
‘I’ll explain to you, then,’ said the gentleman, after another and a dismal pause, ‘why you wouldn’t paper a room with representations of horses. Do you ever see horses walking up and down the sides of rooms in reality—in fact? Do you?’
‘Yes, sir!’ from one half. ‘No, sir!’ from the other.
‘Of course no,’ said the gentleman, with an indignant look at the wrong half. ‘Why, then, you are not to see anywhere, what you don’t see in fact; you are not to have anywhere, what you don’t have in fact. What is called Taste, is only another name for Fact.’ Thomas Gradgrind nodded his approbation.
‘This is a new principle, a discovery, a great discovery,’ said the gentleman. ‘Now, I’ll try you again. Suppose you were going to carpet a room. Would you use a carpet having a representation of flowers upon it?’
There being a general conviction by this time that ‘No, sir!’ was always the right answer to this gentleman, the chorus of No was very strong. Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes: among them Sissy Jupe.
‘Girl number twenty,’ said the gentleman, smiling in the calm strength of knowledge.
Sissy blushed, and stood up.
‘So you would carpet your room—or your husband’s room, if you were a grown woman, and had a husband—with representations of flowers, would you?’ said the gentleman. ‘Why would you?’
‘If you please, sir, I am very fond of flowers,’ returned the girl.
‘And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon them, and have people walking over them with heavy boots?’
‘It wouldn’t hurt them, sir. They wouldn’t crush and wither, if you please, sir. They would be the pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant, and I would fancy—’
‘Ay, ay, ay! But you mustn’t fancy,’ cried the gentleman, quite elated by coming so happily to his point. ‘That’s it! You are never to fancy.’
‘You are not, Cecilia Jupe,’ Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated, ‘to do anything of that kind.’
‘Fact, fact, fact!’ said the gentleman. And ‘Fact, fact, fact!’ repeated Thomas Gradgrind.
‘You are to be in all things regulated and governed,’ said the gentleman, ‘by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact. You don’t walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don’t find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use,’ said the gentleman, ‘for all these purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste.’
The girl curtseyed, and sat down. She was very young, and she p. 8looked as if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the world afforded.
‘Now, if Mr. M’Choakumchild,’ said the gentleman, ‘will proceed to give his first lesson here, Mr. Gradgrind, I shall be happy, at your request, to observe his mode of procedure.’
Mr. Gradgrind was much obliged. ‘Mr. M’Choakumchild, we only wait for you.’
So, Mr. M’Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety of paces, and had answered volumes of head-breaking questions. Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and levelling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers. He had worked his stony way into Her Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council’s Schedule B, and had taken the bloom off the higher branches of mathematics and physical science, French, German, Latin, and Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the compass. Ah, rather overdone, M’Choakumchild. If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!
He went to work in this preparatory lesson, not unlike Morgiana in the Forty Thieves: looking into all the vessels ranged before him, one after another, to see what they contained. Say, good M’Choakumchild. When from thy boiling store, thou shalt fill each jar brim full by-and-by, dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within—or sometimes only maim him and distort him!
Mr. Gradgrind walked homeward from the school, in a state of considerable satisfaction. It was his school, and he intended it to be a model. He intended every child in it to be a model—just as the young Gradgrinds were all models.
There were five young Gradgrinds, and they were models every one. They had been lectured at, from their tenderest years; coursed, like little hares. Almost as soon as they could run alone, they had been made to run to the lecture-room. The first object with which they had an association, or of which they had a remembrance, was a large black board with a dry Ogre chalking ghastly white figures on it.
Not that they knew, by name or nature, anything about an Ogre Fact forbid! I only use the word to express a monster in a lecturing castle, with Heaven knows how many heads manipulated into one, taking childhood captive, and dragging it into gloomy statistical dens by the hair.
No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon; it was up in the moon before it could speak distinctly. No little Gradgrind had ever learnt the silly jingle, Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are! No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on the subject, each little Gradgrind having at five years old dissected the Great Bear like a Professor Owen, and driven Charles’s Wain like a locomotive engine-driver. No little Gradgrind had ever associated a cow in a field with that famous cow with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who worried the cat who killed the rat who ate the malt, or with that yet more famous cow who swallowed Tom Thumb: it had never heard of those celebrities, and had only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous ruminating quadruped with several stomachs.
To his matter-of-fact home, which was called Stone Lodge, Mr. Gradgrind directed his steps. He had virtually retired from the wholesale hardware trade before he built Stone Lodge, and was now looking about for a suitable opportunity of making an arithmetical figure in Parliament. Stone Lodge was situated on a moor within a mile or two of a great town—called Coketown in the present faithful guide-book.
A very regular feature on the face of the country, Stone Lodge was. Not the least disguise toned down or shaded off that uncompromising fact in the landscape. A great square house, with a heavy portico darkening the principal windows, as its master’s heavy brows overshadowed his eyes. A calculated, cast up, balanced, and proved house. Six windows on this side of the door, six on that side; a total of twelve in this wing, a total of twelve in the other wing; four-and-twenty carried over to the back wings. A lawn and garden and an infant avenue, all ruled straight like a botanical account-book. Gas and ventilation, drainage and water-service, all of the primest quality. Iron clamps and girders, fire-proof from top to bottom; mechanical lifts for the housemaids, with all their brushes and brooms; everything that heart could desire.
Everything? Well, I suppose so. The little Gradgrinds had cabinets in various departments of science too. They had a little conchological cabinet, and a little metallurgical cabinet, and a little mineralogical cabinet; and the specimens were all arranged and labelled, and the bits of stone and ore looked as though they might have been broken from the parent substances by those tremendously hard instruments their own names; and, to paraphrase the idle legend of Peter Piper, who had never found his way into their nursery, If the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped at more than this, what was it for good gracious goodness’ sake, that the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped it!
Their father walked on in a hopeful and satisfied frame of mind. He was an affectionate father, after his manner; but he would probably have described himself (if he had been put, like Sissy Jupe, upon a definition) as ‘an eminently practical’ father. He had a particular pride in the phrase eminently practical, which was considered to have a special application to him. Whatsoever the public meeting held in Coketown, and whatsoever the subject of such meeting, some Coketowner was sure to seize the occasion of alluding to his eminently practical friend Gradgrind. This always pleased the eminently practical friend. He knew it to be his due, but his due was acceptable.
He had reached the neutral ground upon the outskirts of the town, which was neither town nor country, and yet was either spoiled, when his ears were invaded by the sound of music. The clashing and banging band attached to the horse-riding establishment, which had there set up its rest in a wooden pavilion, was in full bray. A flag, floating from the summit of the temple, proclaimed to mankind that it was ‘Sleary’s Horse-riding’ which claimed their suffrages. Sleary himself, a stout modern statue with a money-box at its elbow, in an ecclesiastical niche of early Gothic architecture, took the money. Miss Josephine Sleary, as some very long and very narrow strips of printed bill announced, was then inaugurating the entertainments with her graceful equestrian Tyrolean flower-act. Among the other pleasing but always strictly moral wonders which must be seen to be believed, Signor Jupe was that afternoon to ‘elucidate the diverting accomplishments of his highly trained performing dog Merrylegs.’ He was also to exhibit ‘his astounding feat of throwing seventy-five hundred-weight in rapid succession backhanded over his head, thus forming a fountain of solid iron in mid-air, a feat never before attempted in this or any other country, and which having elicited such rapturous plaudits from enthusiastic throngs it cannot be withdrawn.’ The same Signor Jupe was to ‘enliven the varied performances at frequent intervals with his chaste Shaksperean quips and retorts.’ Lastly, he was to wind them up by appearing in his favourite character of Mr. William Button, of Tooley Street, in ‘the highly novel and laughable hippo-comedietta of The Tailor’s Journey to Brentford.’
Thomas Gradgrind took no heed of these trivialities of course, but passed on as a practical man ought to pass on, either brushing the noisy insects from his thoughts, or consigning them to the House of Correction. But, the turning of the road took him by the back of the booth, and at the back of the booth a number of children were congregated in a number of stealthy attitudes, striving to peep in at the hidden glories of the place.
This brought him to a stop. ‘Now, to think of these vagabonds,’ said he, ‘attracting the young rabble from a model school.’
A space of stunted grass and dry rubbish being between him and the young rabble, he took his eyeglass out of his waistcoat to look for any child he knew by name, and might order off. Phenomenon almost incredible though distinctly seen, what did he then behold but his own metallurgical Louisa, peeping with all her might through a hole in a deal board, and his own mathematical Thomas abasing himself on the ground to catch but a hoof of the graceful equestrian Tyrolean flower-act!
Dumb with amazement, Mr. Gradgrind crossed to the spot where his family was thus disgraced, laid his hand upon each erring child, and said:
Both rose, red and disconcerted. But, Louisa looked at her father with more boldness than Thomas did. Indeed, Thomas did not look at him, but gave himself up to be taken home like a machine.
‘In the name of wonder, idleness, and folly!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, leading each away by a hand; ‘what do you do here?’
‘Wanted to see what it was like,’ returned Louisa, shortly.
‘What it was like?’
There was an air of jaded sullenness in them both, and particularly in the girl: yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened its expression. Not with the brightness natural to cheerful youth, but with uncertain, eager, doubtful flashes, which had something painful in them, analogous to the changes on a blind face groping its way.
She was a child now, of fifteen or sixteen; but at no distant day would seem to become a woman all at once. Her father thought so as he looked at her. She was pretty. Would have been self-willed (he thought in his eminently practical way) but for her bringing-up.
‘Thomas, though I have the fact before me, I find it difficult to believe that you, with your education and resources, should have brought your sister to a scene like this.’
p. 12‘I brought him, father,’ said Louisa, quickly. ‘I asked him to come.’
‘I am sorry to hear it. I am very sorry indeed to hear it. It makes Thomas no better, and it makes you worse, Louisa.’
She looked at her father again, but no tear fell down her cheek.
‘You! Thomas and you, to whom the circle of the sciences is open; Thomas and you, who may be said to be replete with facts; Thomas and you, who have been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas and you, here!’ cried Mr. Gradgrind. ‘In this degraded position! I am amazed.’
‘I was tired, father. I have been tired a long time,’ said Louisa.
‘Tired? Of what?’ asked the astonished father.
‘I don’t know of what—of everything, I think.’
‘Say not another word,’ returned Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You are childish. I will hear no more.’ He did not speak again until they had walked some half-a-mile in silence, when he gravely broke out with: ‘What would your best friends say, Louisa? Do you attach no value to their good opinion? What would Mr. Bounderby say?’ At the mention of this name, his daughter stole a look at him, remarkable for its intense and searching character. He saw nothing of it, for before he looked at her, she had again cast down her eyes!
‘What,’ he repeated presently, ‘would Mr. Bounderby say?’ All the way to Stone Lodge, as with grave indignation he led the two delinquents home, he repeated at intervals ‘What would Mr. Bounderby say?’—as if Mr. Bounderby had been Mrs. Grundy.
And to find out who Mr. Bounderby is, you’ll have to read the book!
I love wordy holidays. We spend time teaching our children that words matter, and how to read, write, and speak correctly (or at least I hope we do), and I think those home lessons are reinforced by national holidays that focus on these subjects. This week, we have two such holidays: National Grammar Day today, and Words Matter Week all week long. It’s a great opportunity to let your children know that you aren’t the only one who finds joy in beautifully written and spoken text!
The best way to teach them how to appreciate and use words correctly is give them books and let them read. Read and read and read and read . . .
But I digress. We are celebrating words and their usage, so I have a few resources, quotes, and links for you.
For Words Matter Week, you may visit WordsMatterWeek.com to find quotes about words, blog prompts, activity suggestions, a downloadable version of the cuttlefish poster, and more.
When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Vocabula Review is a consistent advocate for the written word. If you’ve never read an issue, you’re in for a treat!
There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.
The Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers is a very helpful resource for students, teachers, and anyone else who writes. It offers instruction on essay writing, as well as a useful guide to grammar, usage, and style. You can read more about it, see a complete table of contents, and purchase a copy at Everyday Education.
Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.
For National Grammar Day, a song:
One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. –George Orwell
A bit of history: National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World.
This year’s edition of National Grammar Day is hosted by Mignon Fogarty, the author of the New York Times best-selling book Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl (TM).
If you want to diagram sentences, Grammar Made Easy is the simplest way to learn how. It even comes with a couple of bonus items, including an audio workshop. Enjoy!
In the mid-Atlantic region, we’re battening down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Preparations include drawing water, gathering candles and oil lamps, and trying to get everything washable washed in case the power goes out. Once the basics are done and the power is out, life slips into another rhythm—slower, quieter, and in its own way, more peaceful. As soon as I hear a stormy forecast, I feel an almost irresistible urge to make chili, popcorn balls, and other delights so that we’ll be ready for whatever comes.
Books, board games, musical instruments, and hand-crafts are key ingredients for making these times memorable in a positive way. One of my favorite memories is of sitting around the dining room table reading Macbeth by flickering lamplight with trees lashing and rain pounding on the roof as the edge of a hurricane passed by. It provided a dramatic and memorable backdrop for Shakespeare’s tale of murder and mayhem and the semi-darkness encouraged even the most reserved reader to add a bit of drama to his parts. Read more
A library is a wonderful resource. Not just for thousands of free books, but also for access to a reference librarian who can answer almost any query, free use of a computer and internet, and more. The library was always a treat for our boys, though I most often went alone (so I’d have time to choose excellent books). When I was young, I went by myself, walking several blocks with as many books as I could carry. I learned to speak quietly in the library, put books back correctly, turn pages gently, and to generally be a good citizen– amazing what a civilizing force a library used to be!
I’m not sure if libraries realize it, but I think the statistic that circulation of children’s books has increased 17% over the past decade is at least partly due to homeschoolers who use the library to supplement purchased curriculum. If you have a local library, I encourage you to support it through regular visits, volunteering, and any other way you can.
As a homeschooler, you can help to shape your library’s collections and programs through strategic requests (nicely conveyed, of course!). You also have the ability to make librarians look forward to or dread your visits, so be aware of that, too, as the actions of one homeschooler affect all to one extent or another. Enough said on that;-). I hope you enjoy the informative infographic below. Read more
One of my favorite books of all time is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Even though I first encountered it in an edition so badly abridged it could have been more accurately described as butchered, it was a beautiful, moving story of love and justice. If you haven’t read it or seen the musical, please do. You’ll be in for a treat.
If you were going to choose one book as your Great Book of the year, what would it be? It doesn’t have to be classic, but rather something that has stayed in your memory and affected your thoughts in some way. Share it in the comment section, or blog about it and link back– I’m always happy to find more wonderful things to read!
Visit the Great Books Week site for a few ideas on how to celebrate, some quotes on great literature, and more. In a world of strife and turmoil, the classics remain beautiful and timeless. I hope you enjoy celebrating this week!
Here are few quotes, and at the very bottom, a video of the Les Misérables musical to inspire you:
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake. Victor Hugo Read more
Welcome to the September 18, 2012 edition of carnival of homeschooling. Time and what to do with it seems to be top of the mind for many of our contributors. After all, it’s the beginning of the year and there’s still a chance that you’ll be able to fit in everything you planned! In addition, you’ll find a few articles on words, nature, celebrations, and more. I hope you enjoy it!
[Note for Mid-Atlantic readers: There's a link at the bottom for the new location for Friday's Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop. There are a few spaces left if you have a student who will be taking the SAT or ACT this year.]
Matt and Kristen share their ‘Weekly Homeschool Plans 2012” at A Little Homie, saying, “We are back in the swing of things, as of mid-July. In fact, the girls have managed to complete 200 credits already this homeschool year! Here’s how the typical week looks for us.”
lindafay presents How to Recover from Homeschool Burnout posted at Higher Up and Further In, saying, “Burnout is a very dangerous disease that can lead to the death of a homeschool. If parents remain in burnout for very long, they generally end up sending their children to a private or public institution simply because the pain of this illness is too great to bear any longer. You need a cure, and you need it fast. Well, I have good news for you, the cure is at your fingertips and the medicine is pleasant.”
I believe that Charlotte Mason’s simple manifesto (public declaration of policy and aims) targets exactly the kind of education that many homeschoolers seek to provide. I know that it inspired me as I taught our boys.
One reason I think it rings so true is that this is the kind of knowledge I consciously sought for myself as a child. I went to public school, and must confess that I largely ignored most of what was taught (though I received high grades), and educated myself in the library. I vividly remember the frustration of hearing knowledge presented “in diluted form,” and many trips to the library to ferret out interesting details. (That’s one reason that Excellence in Literature doesn’t spoon feed students– I want them to have the experience of remaining engaged in the search for understanding.)
An Educational Manifesto
“Studies serve for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability.”
Every child has a right of entry to several fields of knowledge.
Every normal child has an appetite for such knowledge.
This appetite or desire for knowledge is a sufficient stimulus for all school work, if the knowledge be fitly given.
There are four means of destroying the desire for knowledge:–
(a) Too many oral lessons, which offer knowledge in a diluted form, and do not leave the child free to deal with it.
(b) Lectures, for which the teacher collects, arranges, and illustrates matter from various sources; these often offer knowledge in too condensed and ready prepared a form.
(c) Text-books compressed and re-compressed from the big book of the big man.
(d) The use of emulation and ambition as incentives to learning in place of the adequate desire for, and delight in, knowledge.
Children can be most fitly educated on Things and Books.
i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
ii. Material to work in–wood, leather, clay, etc.
iii. Natural objects in situ–birds, plants, streams, stones, etc,
iv. Objects of art.
v. Scientific apparatus, etc.
The value of this education by Things is receiving wide recognition, but intellectual education to be derived from Books is still for the most part to seek.
Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with ‘delight’ his own, living, books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum. children between six and eight must for the most part have their books read to them.
This plan has been tried with happy results for the last twelve years in many home schoolrooms, and some other schools.
By means of the free use of books the mechanical difficulties of education–reading, spelling, composition, etc.–disappear, and studies prove themselves to be ‘for delight, for ornament, and for ability.’
There is reason to believe that these principles are workable in all schools, Elementary and Secondary; that they tend in the working to simplification, economy, and discipline.
From School Education: Developing a Curriculum- Volume 3 in Charlotte Mason’s series. Page 214.
It’s Words Matter Week with its accompanying blog challenge and word-related reading, so I’ve been reflecting on the power and importance of words. One of the best ways you can teach writing is to share good models. I especially like working with excellent essays, as they tend to expand not only vocabulary and usage skills, but also because they expand thought.
I have an essay by Steve McClure bookmarked as a good model, and since the topic is the use of buzzwords, I thought it would be appropriate for Words Matter Week. The post, On the Rapscallions Who Misuse Word appears on the blog of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
“As journalists we have a special responsibility to watch out for this sort of thing. Forgive the hyperbole, but we should think of ourselves as being in the front line of the unending struggle to preserve the English language from the tide of cant, jargon and buzzwords that constantly threatens to drown the language in a sea of obfuscation and bafflegab.”
Bravo! McClure not only makes an excellent point about a journalist’s responsibility to the English language, but he also demonstrates that there is beauty and delight in a vast, vivid vocabulary. This isn’t the first time a writer has complained about buzzwords, but McClure has done so in a particularly memorable way.
Share Steve McClure’s post with your teenage writer and suggest he or she use the Benjamin Franklin method* for working with it. This should result in not only an expanded vocabulary, but also a deeper understanding of the art of writing. Enjoy!
A mind, once expanded by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
*If you haven’t encountered the Ben Franklin method, here’s a short excerpt from a longer article on the Everyday Education website:
“There are many textbooks available for teaching composition, but it is possible for a motivated student to become an excellent writer using what I call the ‘Ben Franklin method.’ In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin relates how, after his father pointed out his lack of “elegance of expression,” he taught himself to write more elegantly and expressively:
‘About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator – I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.
But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned then into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method or the language.’
As your posts were coming in over the past weekend, the weather seemed busy trying to decide what it wanted to be when it grew up. Friday was clear and chilly, but I woke the next morning to the beep-beep of snowplows. From my 40th floor hotel room, I could see snow blowing sideways, nearly obscuring the bright screens wrapping Times Square just a few blocks south. By the time I boarded a train for home on Monday, we had seen sun, snow, rain, fog, and wind, and the trip home held more of the same.
Looking through your posts, I see a similar variety (though more pleasant, of course), so like the forecasters who opted to predict “wintery mix” instead of trying to be specific from hour to hour, I offer you the Wintery Mix Carnival of Homeschooling. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Thanks to all who contributed.