I am thrilled that our gracious hostess Amy Tuttle has invited me to write the Charlotte Mason blog carnival on my very favorite topic: mathematics. Of all people, our missionary friend, who lives in a valley between mountain ranges in Peru, understands why Mason called mathematics "a mountainous land which pays the climber, makes its appeal to mind." I encourage you to read Mason's actual words because what she wrote about this invigorating topic may not be what you expect: pages 230 to 232 in her sixth volume (the modern paraphrase of this section is here).
Once you have Mason's words firmly in mind, check out Nebby's consideration of Mason's warning about proportion and mathematics, which rings true in our STEM-obsessed society: Why Study Math? Barb McCoy, a veteran homeschooler who has graduated her children, describes in great detail what I mean by STEM-obsessed society in her post, Our Children Have Not Changed, Math Standards Have. The culture, wrapped in its Enlightenment thinking, has forgotten the point of education: "We homeschool to create a better person in our children. We all are not brilliant in math or science or art or whatever subject you can fill in the blank with. We can let our children be the best that they can be without looking at a standardized test score."
Children are born persons, not percentiles!
You may be scratching your head and wondering how math could offer joy and beauty. Read what Amy Marigold, who is starting to see math with her Maker's eyes, shared about her journey with math: "The natural world is filled with numerical and spatial relationships, that man has been discovering for generations. And God put it all there—to create it, to order it, to keep it running."
How does it look teach math in a way that invites children to appreciate its beauty and truth? Mason stated that "Mathematics depend upon the teacher rather than upon the textbook and few subjects are worse taught; chiefly because teachers have seldom time to give the inspiring ideas, what Coleridge calls, the 'Captain' ideas, which should quicken imagination." As Sarah points out in Math Lesson, good teachers like her husband use the textbook as a springboard and supplement with manipulatives when necessary. In Third Grade Math, Laura also offers real-life activities with concrete objects to go with a computer program and a free arithmetic textbook from Mason's time.
Good teachers present living ideas that inspire and engage and consult textbooks for problems.
Some of us in the Charlotte Mason community are exploring what Richele Baburina calls living teaching in her book on mathematics. I encourage you to read it since she had access to a short, but insightful publication that Mason quoted extensively: The Teaching of Mathematics to Young Children by Irene Stephens. Because the pamphlet is copyrighted by none other than His Royal Majesty, King of England, you cannot simply find it on a search engine nor can you find it on eBay. Thus, one cannot digitize it and post it as a free PDF. Richele drove to Harvard Library in researching Stephens' writing for her book. Richele filled in many gaps for me.
I met Richele at the Living Education Retreat where her talks on math inspired some of us to apply and blog inspiring ways to reveal the truth and beauty of math. In her blog carnival post, she explains how to teach children about multiplication. Bobbie-Jo also attended the retreat and posted her reflections on how to teach mathematics in a living way. I have also written about applying living teaching methods to a child in the autism spectrum who likes math as much as Sam liked green eggs and ham. Two blasts from the past at the Common Room offer ideas for teaching math through play and laundry. At LER, Bobbie-Jo introduced us all to paper sloyd, a wonderful way to blend mind, hands, and heart with math (a student made the envelope in a paper sloyd class) and Nancy Kelly, one of LER's founders, shares what loving eyes and patient hands in her home have done. And, if you still have not had your fill of math, check out another blast from the past: math week at Afterthoughts.
Because "education should be a science of proportion, and any one subject that assumes undue importance does so at the expense of other subjects which a child's mind should deal with," I am happy to share posts on other topics dear to this mathematician's heart. Why? As much as I love math, I love other beautiful things in God's creation. No life should be shut out of the living page, poetry, nature, and art!
Notebooking - Notebooking is integral to how Pamela lives and learns. Every time we visit a museum she draws at least one picture of her favorite item. Today, we joined our school away from homeschool, Harvest Community School, on a field trip to the South Carolina State Museum for the Tutankamun: Return of the King exhibit. Because our school follows Mason's principles, the students brought notebooks and sketched their favorite item (or two or three). If you want to learn more about notebooking from a Charlotte Mason perspective, The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater, is a must-have, even if it is the only book you buy for the rest of the year! She is the person who inspired my excitement about notebooking and now we have a whole school of children filling up living pages. For a lengthier review, check out what Dewey's Treehouse has to say about this new and worthy contribution to CM literature.
Poetry - One of the delights of this week was being able to hear every student in the elementary class recite. One young lady blew me away with nearly perfect recall of Joshua 1:6-9, which she memorized during the first two weeks of school! Several children chose "Autumn" by Emily Dickinson, the poem from last week, while one picked "Hope" and another, "If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking". For an example of students reciting poetry, read Bonnie Buckingham's thousand thoughts blog post. Ann at Harvest Moon by Hand also offers how her daughters react to the intriguing words of Walter de la Mare. You cannot help but long for beautiful words after reading these posts!
Nature Study - What would a Charlotte Mason blog carnival be without nature study? You are never too young or too old to become enchanted by God's marvelous handwork. Here, one of the scribes (recorders of oral exams) meets our classroom pets: Ben, the worm snake, and his friends, a frog and a slimy salamander. Our school has weekly nature outings to a nearby wildlife refuge as does Celeste, who documents her family's experience with pictures of their visit, collections, and notebooking (glorious living pages for you to see). If you are up for an Outdoor Hour Challenge, Barb McCoy offers some ideas for studying woodpeckers. I know it's cold out there, but get out and enjoy creation! And, if you decide to blog time spent watching nature, feel free to post a link at Fisher Academy International.
Picture Study - Our school just wrapped up a study of an artist whom they affectionately call "Rainbow Man" because of the colorful way he paints his hair and beard in self-portraits. During the term finale, I marveled at the wide and varied things our students remember about van Gogh. Of course, the salacious story about why his ear was bandaged is at the top of the list. One student thought his art was very messy, but another was fascinated how awful it looks when you are close to the painting and how it transforms into something beautiful as you back up. One child observed how sad he must have been when he painted the peasants because they were so dark. The three most talked about paintings were Starry Night,
Sunflowers, and Self-Portrait in Front of an Easel. We concluded our study with a two-sided puzzle and an alternative way to recall the painting of van Gogh's bedroom. For more impressions of what children have to say about art, read a post by Ann at Harvest Moon by Hand about a study of the work of Carl Larsson.
A hearty thanks to all contributors which made this carnival blog possible!