Wednesday, May 20, 2015

McGuffey 1848 "High School" Lesson: Character of the Puritan Fathers of New England

I recently won this gem on eBay for $5.20. The history of education in America has always fascinated me, but this historic book is like a time capsule from the era of one-room schools, organized and funded by the local parents in each town (what a concept, huh?), and also used in the homes of families on the frontier with no access to a school.

It was written in a time before God was expelled from the classroom; when Americans understood the true intent of "separation of church and state;" when patriotism was a trait to be desired, and oppression and tyranny were to be spurned at even the cost of lands and possessions.

The McGuffey readers were one of two series of textbooks used in educating children in those first days of America. The other was the New England Primer. This particular 4th reader was designed for the highest level of grammar school education. Keep in mind, grades K-12 had not been invented; when a student completed all of the readers, they were finished with school. It typically took about half the time to educate the children that it does in modern times. (For an example of this, see my post about Laura Ingalls Wilder's education here.)

Yet, some great minds were born in the schools that used these books.

"McGuffey Readers played an important role in American history. Most prominent post-Civil War and turn-of-the-Century American figures credited their initial success in learning to the Readers, which provided a guide to what was occurring in the public school movement and in American culture during the 19th century." (source)

I'm going to share Lesson XCVI with you today. It's just your average 1848 English lesson, complete with Rules for Reading and Words to be Spelled and Defined. (Punctuation is just the way it's shown in the reader.)


Character of the Puritan Fathers of New England

1. One of the most prominent features which distinguished our forefathers was their determined resistance to oppression. They seemed born and brought up, for the high and special purpose of showing the world, that the civil and religious rights of man, the rights of self-government, of conscience, and independent thought, are not merely things to be talked of, and woven into theories, but to be adopted with the whole strength and ardor of the mind, and felt in the profoundest recesses of the heart, and carried out into the general life, and made the foundation of practical usefulness, and visible beauty, and true nobility.

2. Liberty with them, was an object of too serious desire and stern resolve, to be personified, allegorized, and enshrined. They made no goddess of it, as the ancients did: they had not time nor inclination for such trifling; they felt that liberty was the simple bright right of every human creature; they called it so; they claimed it as such; they reverence and held it fast as the unalienable gift of the Creator, which was not to be surrendered to power, nor sold for wages.

3. It was theirs, as men; without it, they did not esteem themselves men; more than any other privilege or possession, it was essential to their happiness, for it was essential to their original nature; and therefore they preferred it above wealth, and ease, and country; and that they might enjoy and exercise it fully, they forsook houses, and lands, and kindred, their homes, their native soil, and their fathers' graves.

4. They left all these; they left England, which, whatever it might have been called, was not to them a land of freedom; they launched forth on the pathless ocean, the wide, fathomless ocean, soiled not by the earth beneath, and bounded, all round and above, only by heaven; and it seemed to them like that better and sublimer freedom, which their country knew not, but of which they had the conception and image in their hearts; and, after a toilsome and painful voyage, they came to a hard and wintery coast, unfruitful and desolate, but unguarded and boundless; its calm silence interrupted not the ascent of their prayers; it had no eyes to watch, no ears to hearken, no tongues to report of them; here, again, there was an answer to their soul's desire, and they were satisfied, and gave thanks; they saw that they were free, and the desert smiled.

5. I am telling an old tale; but it is one which must be told, when we speak of those men. It is to be added, that they transmitted their principles to their children, and that peopled by such a race, our country was always free. So long as its inhabitants were unmolested by the mother country, in the exercise of their important rights, they submitted to the form of English government; but when those rights were invaded, they spurned even the form away.

6. This act was the revolution, which came of course, and spontaneously, and had nothing in it of the wonderful or unforseen. The wonder would have been, if it had not occurred. It was indeed, a happy and glorious event, but by no means unnatural; and I intend no slight to the revered actors in the revolution, when I assert that their fathers before them were as free as they - every whit as free.

7. The principles of the revolution were not the suddenly acquired property of a few bosoms; they were abroad in the land ages before; they had always been taught, like the truths of the Bible; they had descended from father to son, down from those primitive days, when the pilgrim, established in his simple dwelling, and seated as his blazing fire, piled high from the forest that shaded his door, repeated to his listening children the story of his wrongs and his resistance, and bade them rejoice, though the wild winds and the wild beasts were howling without, that they had nothing to fear from great men's oppression.

8. Here were the beginnings of the revolution. Every setter's hearth was a school of independence; the scholars were apt, and the lessons sunk deeply; and thus it came that our country was always free; it could not be other than free.

9. As deeply seated as was the principle of liberty and resistance to arbitrary power, in the breasts of the Puritans, it was not more so than their piety and sense of religious obligation. They were emphatically a people whose God was the Lord. Their form of government was as strictly theocratical, if direct communication be excepted, as was that of the Jews; insomuch that it would be difficult to say, where there was any civil authority among them entirely distinct from ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

10. Whenever a few of them settled a town, they immediately gathered themselves into a church; and their elders were magistrates, and their code of laws was the Pentateuch. These were forms, it is true, but forms which faithfully indicated principles and feelings; for no people could have adopted such forms, who were not thoroughly imbued with the spirit, and bent on the practice, of religion.

11. God was their King; and they regarded him as truly and literally so, as if he had dwelt in a visible palace in the midst of their state. They were his devoted, resolute, humble subjects; they undertook nothing which they did not beg of him to prosper; they accomplished nothing without rendering to him the praise; they suffered nothing without carrying up their sorrows to his throne; they ate nothing which they did not implore him to bless.

12. Their piety was not merely external; it was sincere; it had the proof of a good tree in bearing good froot; it produced and sustained a strict morality. their tenacious purity of manners and speech obtained for them, in the mother country, their name of Puritans, which, though given in derision, was as honorable as appelation as was ever bestowed by man on man.

13. That there were hypocrrites among them, is not to be doubted; but they were rare; the men who voluntarily exciled themselves to an unknown coast, and endured there every toil and hardship for conscience' sake, and that they might serve God in their own manner, were not likely to set conscience at defiance, and make the services of God a mockery; they were not likely to be, neither were they, hypocrites. I do not know that it would be arrogating too much for them to say, that, on the extended surface of the globe, there was not a single community of men to be compared with them, in respects of deep religious impressions, and an exact performance of moral duty.

- Greenwood

What was one of the prominent traits of character in the Puritans?
How did they regard Liberty?
What was their conduct in support of liberty?
Why was the revolution a perfectly natural event?, or just what might have been expected?
From whence derived the principles of the revolution?
How were their systems of government formed?
What was the character of their piety?
As a community, how will they bear comparison for moral worth, with all other communities, past and present?

What are the pronouns in the 12th paragraph?
For what noun does "their" stand?
For what does "it" stand?
Parse "which."
Pars the last "as."

Articulate the "h" clearly: high, heart, happiness, heaven, hard, had, hearken, heere, have, happy, whit, howling, hearth, whenever, hypocrites,
Articulate the d: seem'd, talk'd, mind, call'd, preferr'd, England, land, launch'd, soil'd, round, intend.

Spell and define:
1. prominent, self government: 2. unalienable; 3. essential: 4. fathomless: 5. unmolested: 7. pilgrim: 9. ecclesiastical: 11. implore: 12. tenacious: 13. hypocrites.

There's too much good stuff here to comment on; that's why I shared the complete lesson. Imagine our students in the 21st century still practicing reading, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary with this kind of source material! I'll just leave you to ponder the possibilities.

And I plan to share a few more lessons from this "high school" textbook from 19th century America.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boys, Men, Warriors, and Duck Tape

Raising boys is an interesting pastime. I did not grow up with brothers, and my first 9 years of motherhood were spent raising girls. Then I had 2 boys in 3 years. That certainly changed the dynamic of our household! Now my sons are 7 and 9, and I have learned a LOT in the past few years!

One of the major things I have grasped is that the behaviors that sometimes drive me crazy right now are the behaviors that a great man (a great leader) needs. Men are designed to protect, defend, fight, and rule. It's part of who they are, and it's a good thing!

Century after century of world history demonstrates the need for warriors, defenders of freedom, fighters of injustice, and dragon slayers. Without these valiant men, where would we be? Where would America BE? The answer: it wouldn't even exist.

So, as much as I would like to have my little boys sit down on the couch with nicely combed hair and clean shirts, reading science books and quoting dates and timelines, I also need to let them act like boys. Because in that behavior, they are preparing for who God made them to be. They desire to wrestle, compete, fight, climb, jump, and yell.

Sometimes my house feels like this:

Mel Gibson as William Wallace

They pick up any object and turn it into a weapon. Swords are their favorite. But any object will do for swinging around and fighting imaginary dragons.

Beowulf (source)
It's easy to see that this is not a new thing. In biblical times, warriors were valued highly to defend the common people. God commanded the Isrealites to defeat entire armies with the sword. 

David and Goliath

So, you see, boys are just acting normal. Unfortunately, our society does not encourage this kind of thinking or behavior. I wrote about this in more detail in Displaced Warriors. If we do not encourage manly behavior in boys, we will continue to destroy our chances at raising a generation of real men, and we are desperately close to that even now.

Now, it's all really nice for me to say these things, but how does it translate to the real world? Well, there will be lots of noise and action. And weapons. But there is lots of passion, too. I see real excitement when my boys learn about a new book or story that involves a hero they never heard of. Give them lots of things to read, and not just superhero comics.

The Bible is a great place to start. Ditch the cartoon kiddie-Bibles and let the boys hear and read the real stories. David, Samson, Moses, Joshua, Caleb; there are so many exciting stories of warriors who served God. The only Children's Bible I really love is The Childs Story Bible by Catherine Vos.

History is packed with real stories of heroes, and literature adds even more. For every classic tale, there's an easy version for the young readers. My boys have some favorites (and these change constantly): Eric the Red, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, stories of samurai warriors and ninjas, Ivanhoe, Lord of the Rings, and Saint George and the Dragon. We recently read The Great and Terrible Quest and they couldn't stop asking for "one more chapter!" My favorite abridged versions are the Classic Starts Series. But full versions are not out of the question. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: let younger children listen while you read the unabridged versions, or get the audiobook for them to listen to. Later, when they grow older, they won't be afraid of classic books.

What do these stories have in common? I saw the best description in this article Toward Understanding the Moral Imagination, or Why Fairy Tales Are Necessary, that said, 

Good is good, evil is evil, and good always triumphs over evil.

When boys grow up with the conviction that they are powerful and strong and can by all means defeat evil, there is no stopping what they can do! C. S. Lewis said, "Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."

What else do we do to encourage the manly attitude? Ahem....costumes. When a boy dresses like his hero, he is reborn. There is no other way to put it. 

Shopping for weapons at the Fur Trader's Rendezvous

A Hobbit

A knight

A jungle hunter

A ninja

Cowboy, cowgirl, and Indian

Cousins protecting the princess

As often as possible, when we discover a new hero, we try to assemble a costume to let the boys "play." And we recently downloaded The Battle Book at Warfare by Duct Tape. This is a great starting point for ideas. After a little more online searching, I found this DIY post

And from there we went wild. It was so much fun, that I decided to teach a class at our homeschool co-op for a bunch more boys! Here is the result of 10 weeks' crafting:

It was a wild, fast-paced class, but I think they had fun! We made swords, daggers, sheaths, helmets, breastplates, shields, and gauntlets. A few kids made axes and throwing stars with their free time. Instead of giving you a list of links, I'll share my Pinterest Board with all the DIY links, real weapons pictures, and even some ideas we didn't get to (like bows and arrows, and armor made from foam). 

Now, I know that not all boys will grow up to wield swords, so to speak, but the spirit is the same. Warriors and fighters take many forms: fathers, pastors, teachers, coaches, and world leaders. If they grow up knowing that good is good, evil is evil, and good triumphs evil, they become men who know they can change the world. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Louis L'amour was an Unschooler {and a Giveaway!}

{affiliate links included}

As I've mentioned before, I am a lifelong fan of Louis L'amour. I have read ALL of his books, which are mostly westerns, and include a few works of historical fiction from other time periods. I'll talk about those in just a bit.

But first, I want to recommend his sort-of-autobiography, which basically illustrates my premise. He was an unschooler before unschooling had a name. This is from the cover:

"...his decision to leave school at fifteen. While his contemporaries attended high school, L'Amour skinned cattle in Texas, worked as a circus roustabout and a mine caretaker, won small-town prize-fighting exhibitions, hoboed across Texas on the Southern Pacific, and shipped out to the West Indies, England, and Singapore as a merchant seaman. Wherever he wandered, his pockets were always bulging with books."

If you've read his books, you know with what detail he describes locations, geography, people, and historical fact. Every full-length novel includes a map. You KNOW when reading that he actually walked the places he describes. His westerns make you feel like you're there. He was self-taught, and experienced. And he had a real knack for storytelling. Combine those qualities and you have the makings of an award-winning writer.

Of course, I have been sold on his books for years. But when I picked up his book Education of a Wandering Man, as a homeschool parent, I was fascinated!

Here are just a few quotes by L'Amour:

The idea of education has been so tied to schools, universities, and professors that many assume there is no other way, but education is available to anyone within reach of a library, a post office, or even a newsstand. 

No matter how much I admire our schools, I know that no university exists that can provide an education; what a university can provide is an outline, to give the learner direction and guidance. The rest one has to do for oneself.

Education should provide the tools for a widening and deepening of life, for increased appreciation for all one sees or experiences. It should equip a person to live well, to understand what is happening about him, for to live life well one must live with awareness. No one can "get" an education, for of necessity education is a continuing process. If it does nothing else, it should provide students with the tools for learning, acquaint them with methods of study and research, methods of pursuing an idea. We can only hope they come upon an idea they wish to pursue.

It is consistently reiterated that education begins in the home, as indeed it does, but what is often forgotten is that morality begins in the home also.

My own education, which is the one I know most about, has been haphazard, a hit and miss affair that was and continues to be thoroughly delightful.

I do know that when I was in the fifth grade my father told me he would give me a three-volume History of the World if I would read it. For the next few months, when my father came home, I would sit on his knee and tell him what I had read during the day.

This is all from Chapter 1! I think you see now the incredible story that is about to begin with his life. When L'Amour finally settled down to write books, they were amazing! Some may ask, "How did he get by without English I and II? He didn't stay in school long enough to write a research paper, or learn Advanced World History!" The incredible point to be made here is that learning doesn't just happen in a school room.

" was interfering with my education."

Anyone interested in education should read this book. Teachers, college professors, superintendents, and parents will benefit from this incredible story of an out-of-the-box type of education (know in the homeschool community as "unschooling").

And then go on and read his novels.

I mentioned his westerns. They are wonderful. Clean language and exciting stories. The Sackett series is extremely popular, but I love them all. Many of his stories include a character being stranded in the desert. L'Amour speaks from his own experience, outlined in Chapter 8. There are stories of Indian raids, battles, and scalpings. L'Amour's own great-grandfather was killed and scalped by the Souix. Numerous fist fights take place in his stories, and he describes each move from his own boxing experience.

Aside from westerns, there is a fabulous medieval tale called The Walking Drum that just may be the best display of L'Amour's extensive knowledge in world history. I first read this one as a teen, and then again as a young mother. With that first child, I knew this would be future required reading for all of my children. My second teen is currently reading it.

The Sackett series begins in the 1600s, tracing the Sackett family from England to the New World, where they settle and move further west with each generation. At least 4 books cover this period: Sackett's Land, To the Far Blue Mountains, Warrior's Path, and Jubal Sackett. Those are on our high-school reading list, as well.

Ride the River is about Echo Sackett, a teenage girl traveling alone in 1830.

Read these to yourself, read them to your kids or have your kids read them. If reading is not pleasureable, get the audio version. We own almost all of them on, and listen to them regularly. The narrations are top-notch. If you don't use Audible yet, oh-my-gosh what are you waiting for?  Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

*Note*  Louis L'Amour uses very occasional humanistic references, and in a couple of books discusses the belief that "we all worship the same God, just different in name" in books that involve American Indian beliefs in detail. It is not overt, and he does not "preach a doctrine" but as a homeschool mom, I appreciate this kind of information up front.

Now, for the fun part! Because I have two copies of Education of a Wandering Man on my bookshelf, I'm going to give one to a lucky reader!

Here are the rules:

For every

  • comment telling me if you've read Louis L'Amour's books
  • share on Facebook
  • share on Pinterest
  • share on Twitter
  • subscribe to 400things
you'll earn 1 chance to win. Leave your comment below telling how many entries you've earned. I will draw a winner on May 1!

Before you go, one last link: on education. I also write (okay, it's been awhile) about Laura Ingall's profound impact on our culture, society, and my own education at Prairie Sense. Hop on over there and read about another interesting take on learning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I Oppose the Tim Tebow Bill

In Texas, the Tim Tebow Bill is working its way through the State Legislature. It promises equal UIL participation for homeschoolers. On the surface. But it has problems. In a state where there is zero regulation for homeschooling, the bill actually inserts a testing requirement for students who participate in UIL. 

I do not support this bill, as I do not support regulation in homeschools. In a letter to the members of the Senate Education Committee, I shared why. I'm sharing that letter with you today. 

Texas is my home state, and I am thankful for the freedom we enjoy to Homeschool without regulation. Every single school day in our home is a joy to me, because I am spending the short years of childhood watching my children learn and grow.

As you are aware, Texas homeschools fall under the definition of private schools, giving us 100% freedom to direct the education of our children. No testing is required, no state curriculum must be followed. I believe that at some point in the future, the Tim Tebow Bill would lead to a loss of these freedoms. Right now we are THE BEST state in the country in which to Homeschool, and many, many families have made Texas their home state simply for this reason. It’s that important to them.

There are many Homeschool families who oppose this bill, because we all believe that it will lead to questioning of our curriculum, “passing” grades, and how we spend our day, all of which will lead down a path to regulations that we currently do not have. It will not take long for the parent of a public school team member, a public school teacher, or a coach to question the fairness of allowing homeschooled children to participate in UIL activities while not being required to follow all public school rules (curriculum, tests, etc.). This will open a new discussion, which will eventually end up in Austin as a bill requiring more intense scrutiny of how homeschoolers educate their children.

How do I know this? Two reasons. First, in the first year of our homeschooling in Oklahoma, my parents were arrested on charges of truancy. Who called the police? A local school official. Second, I am a local contact for families in my area who are interested in homeschooling their children. I get calls and emails of all sorts from new or current homeschooling families telling of trouble with the local school district. The majority of public school officials are not friendly to homeschoolers, but see them as a threat to their funding. The passage of the Tim Tebow Bill will most certainly heighten this problem.

I do not want or need a state curriculum or outline to educate my children. Many may see this as my having something to hide, but it’s actually quite the opposite. In fact I welcome any who read this letter to visit us in our Homeschool to witness how homeschooling benefits children.

Texas history is not limited to one grade level in our home. When we planned our last trip to the Alamo, all of my children learned Texas History together. We read several books together, including “A Time to Stand.” In that book we felt the determination of the Alamo defenders, the desperation of knowing that help wasn’t coming, and we all cried when the Alamo fell. But we thrilled together when Sam Houston and his band lead the battle of San Jacinto and captured Santa Anna. After these moving stories, we visited the Alamo as a family. It just happened to be the 175th anniversary of the battle. When we walked inside, the entire building was filled with funeral flowers from all over the state. Our family felt the respect, the awe, and the sadness inside that place as we stood where the defenders stood and fell. When we came around to the little room where Susannah Dickerson had huddled with her child, listening to the sounds of battle and knowing that her husband was among the dying, the tears flowed freely.

We did not use a textbook, and no one took a test. Neither was necessary, because they lived the story through real books and walking in the Alamo. Some books we read were far above the “reading level” of my younger children, but they were a part of our “curriculum” because they are exciting stories.

This same type of education takes place over and over in our home. If one child is slow to gain math concepts, we spend as much time as necessary to gain mastery. One math book might take a year and a half, and the next one might only take 4 months.

One of my children had the hardest time understanding pi, so we spent about 3 weeks on what the math book considered a one-week lesson. I sat by my daughter as she worked problem after problem, always with my help, until she understood it. On the very last day of that lesson, she said, “I finally understand, Mom. I can do this page alone.”

Another child has an advanced level of comprehension in every single subject (and every extracurricular activity he tries). He typically moves ahead in his work, even catching up to his older brother and sharing some lessons with him.

One of my children (age 9) has such a desire for learning that every new thing fascinates him, so as soon as he discovers a new topic, he follows every rabbit trail he can. A love of tigers led him to study where they live in the wild, which led to a fascination for Africa, which led to a desire to read maps, which led to an obsession with a high-school geography book, which led to an interest in the layers of the earth which all made sense because he plays Minecraft. I don’t even know what grades all those things would be taught in a public school, but it doesn’t matter, because he studied them all voluntarily. Again, no textbook was involved and no test was required. I knew exactly what he had learned because he kept telling me. : ) All of this was done alongside math, spelling, cursive, reading, and history.

I could go on, but you get the idea. This concept is not new to homeschoolers. THIS is why we in Texas highly value our regulation-free homeschools. The joy of learning is so exciting to witness in our kids when not hampered by a list of do’s and don’ts, grade levels, and passing requirements. Not every family structures their education like our family, but that’s the beautiful part! Some families DO use textbooks, tests, and standardized testing. Because they can, not because they have to.

This bill is not all it's advertised to be.There are a few common arguments against this bill, which I will address:

We pay school taxes. Why shouldn't we use the school in exchange?

Fred Watt, a homeschool dad and homeschool sports coach, answered that question best in his own analysis of the bill:

"I find it highly ironic and in fact a bit hypocritical that so many homeschoolers -- those of us who are quick to self-identify as conservative Christians, and profess a strong affinity toward a strict constructionist view of the Constitution -- would be jumping on the bandwagon to push something that effectively amounts to . . . an entitlement!"
My family pays $200 per month in school taxes for a school we don't use. I don't like it. I'd rather put $200 per month into my homeschool, But taxes are a necessary evil. For the county taxes I pay, I'd love to submit a request to have my gravel county road paved nice and smooth. But that's not how it works. The senior citizens down the street pay school taxes; what do they get out of it? Nothing. Because it's not an order form for goods and services. It's how government operates, whether we like it or not.

We live in a rural area, where there are no homeschool teams.

My short answer: start one. Every other homeschool team/association started with just one parent who was willing to do the work. These homeschool teams and groups are not limited to the large cities; our tiny community has a homeschool sports association, started by parents who wanted to give their kids a team sport. They went on to compete against public and private schools and even win tournaments. Just do a quick Google search of Texas Homeschool Sports Associations and you'll see that this is not a far-fetched idea.

My reeeealy personal (and controversial) opinion is that those who support this bill are not of the first wave of homeschoolers in Texas who fought for their freedom and value it highly. They are of the second wave who may not share the same convictions for homeschooling their children. Some of them do it because it's easy to do in Texas without realizing that this was not always the case. Some choose to keep the option of public school open for the future because they are flexible in their opinion of education options. 

That first wave (to which I belong) remembers that it was a hard and scary decision to do what no one else was doing, to be ridiculed by their own family members, to fear (and sometimes suffer) arrest, to stay indoors during school hours because any neighbor or passerby might call CPS, and to keep an attorney's phone number near the front door in case that dreaded knock should come. THEY (WE) are the families who oppose this bill because THEY (WE) know that freedom is precious, and for Texans it's like living in the promised land. We want the freedom, we have the freedom, and we will fight to preserve that freedom.

The one answer I don't have: Why the Texas Homeschool Coalition is pushing this bill so fervently. I cannot figure that out. But I disagree with them on this issue and I will reconsider my free recommendation of their association to the homeschoolers I speak with constantly.

To read about my parent's arrest, click here. To read about my family's part in the 1986 Austin TEA Party, click here.  As you can see, I take this very seriously. : )

For more on why this bill is not good for Texas, start here. Sign the petition and share, share, share.

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