Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good thought for Raising Boys

I read an article this morning with some great thoughts on educating boys, and the meaning of masculinity. I realized that some things we are doing well in our family, but some things could be tweaked. I was really struck by the thought that many of the things we do to encourage masculinity are big theme events where we drum up the idea of fighting the dragon and rescuing the princess. Although it is important for boys to know this, it's also not something boys are realistically going to do everyday. So what does it mean to be masculine when there aren't any dragons around (even metaphorical ones)? A good warrior begins with disciplined routines of small beginnings - a good farmer, a good tradesman, a good husband or father, a good son. Here's a quote from the article that illustrates this:

 "The masculine spirit, the thumos, is developed by habituation in the routine...the small things...everyday You can’t effectively swing a sword if you haven’t been swinging the sickle. We would never put a man on the battlefield that hasn’t endured a routine of discipline first. We should be connecting the dots for young men between their lofty views of manhood and the small things they encounter everyday: chores, lawn mowing, homework, picking up trash at school when they see it...not romantic in the least but highly effective in building masculine habits of the soul. The boys must understand that if you are not building these habits in the small things, they won’t be there in the big events." - James Daniels

Here's a link to the full article:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One of the Greatest Benefits of Homeschooling...

... is spending time with those older and younger than ourselves, rather than with our peers for the most part. Families provide the best opportunity for this. Edith Schaeffer understood this and wrote about it in her book What is a Family? And Charlotte Mason really illustrates it in the life of little children in this passage from Home Education:

"Let us follow the little person to the Kindergarten, where he has the stimulus of classmates of his own age. It certainly is stimulating. For ourselves, no society is so much so as that of a number of persons of our own age and standing; this is the great joy of college life; a wholesome joy for all young people for a limited time. But persons of twenty have, or should have [!], some command over their inhibitory centres. They should not permit the dissipation of nerve power caused by too much social stimulus; yet even persons of twenty are not always equal to the task of self-management in exciting circumstances [amen]. What then, is to be expected of persons of two, three, four, five? ... The clash and sparkle of our equals now and then stirs us up to health; but for everyday life, the mixed society of elders, juniors and equals, which we get in a family [emphasis mine], gives at the same time the most repose and the most room for individual development. We have all wondered at the good sense, reasonableness, fun and resourcefulness shown by a child in his own home as compared with a child in school life." 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thoughts on Willa Cather

I just finished reading through Willa Cather's best-known novels.

Why, you ask?

I've been trying to read (or re-read) the classics. I've found I missed some of them.

I couldn't decide how to begin. Should I read chronologically (The Odyssey before War and Peace before Things Fall Apart)? Start with favorites and read-alikes? Start with a list of 50 or 100 top novels of all time?

I decided to read like any good librarian. Alphabetically. So, on my dusty bookshelf I started at the beginning. I've read Alcott and Austen and skipped over Caldwell because I found I didn't like her...

And now on to Cather. I started with:

 Then, I read this:
Then, this:

Finally, I started, but didn't finish, this:

This was an interesting reading journey. I'm so glad I started with O Pioneers. I devoured that one, and loved it because it was like a grown-up version of a Little House book. Most importantly, I identified with the main character, Alexandra. I'm not a fan of thinking you have to only read books about people that are like you. In fact, that's one of the best things about reading: learning how other people think and what their lives are like. I have no problem when the main character is male, etc. But, just for once, I did see myself in Alexandra, so I enjoyed it extremely.

 I hurried to pick up Song of the Lark. I was into it for a while. Then I wavered. I didn't like the main character at all. Was this the same author? How many chances should I give this? I bypassed my new rule which is: don't finish something you don't like. I finished it. A strange combination of Swedes, the desert, and opera, with a girl who is stuck on herself. Whatever.

My Antonia was better. I liked Antonia, and I liked Jim. We were back on the Nebraska prairie again and among the farmers. Still, no one was a likable as Alexandra in O Pioneers. And My Antonia seemed to drag on a bit.

I couldn't understand Death Comes for the Archbishop. A story, or a bunch of random stories, about the life of Catholic bishops in New Mexico. Not much but some undramatic, unredeeming, events interspersed with descriptions of the desert towns and houses. Not much interested me except the lives of the Native Americans. I'm not thrilled about the desert landscape of the American Southwest (but write about the green hills of Ireland or the Appalachians, and I'll read for days). But - this was supposed to be one of Willa Cather's best-known, well-loved novels. What was wrong with me? Did I just not "get it"? I read commentaries, I read reviews, some good, some negative. Some people didn't understand the novel either. I was glad that when I saw no plot, others didn't see one either, even if they loved the book. Is it really possible I didn't understand good writing? Oh well.

Well, no one is going to judge me if I don't finish a novel. Even less will they judge me for not liking it. So I didn't finish it. I have a lot of reading years to make up for, not a lot of time really, and the whole alphabet to get through.

The moral of this little story is, just because you like one novel by a certain author, does not mean that you will like everything else by them. Neither does it mean that everything they write will be the same. So give yourself permission to like what you like and move on, without even having to explain. It's kind-of like food. I can't explain why I love fish and dislike raisins. It just is. 

And now, it's on to Chekhov.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Possessor of the world

"Which is more the possessor of the world - he who has a thousand houses, or he who, without one house to call his own, has ten in which his knock at the door would rouse instant jubilation?

Which is the richer - the man who, his large money spent, would have no refuge; or he for whose necessity a hundred would sacrifice comfort?

Which of the two possessed the earth - king Agrippa or tent-maker Paul?"

- George MacDonald