Tuesday, January 31, 2012

There be Dragons!

I woke up today feeling a distinct sensation of panic. Tomorrow is co-op, Fine Art co-op, and I am teaching the "art" in that title yet I had nothing to go with. Usually I am pretty prepped--at least in my head. Recently though, my head has been a giant swirl of vendor lists, ship dates, and memos to myself in what I like to term my mental ticker tape. The ticker never stops and the feed keeps going and I have to keep up! 

So today I thought, Can I even pull this together?! I wasn't sure what I wanted to teach let alone what I wanted the children to learn, but this is often when I get my best work done--when I have a due date I Must. Meet. (At least that is what I tell myself!) I began flipping through my art instruction DVDs from Coyote Creek that I reviewed, Art Lessons for Children, and decided to go with More Fun With Watercolors. One of the lessons had a Chinese dragon that looked like fun for the kids and not too difficult for this art leader to pull off. ;) 

Not only do I lead the art instruction, but I also lead the art history lesson. I LOVE this part of it. Art instruction is something I do because we need it and I have the DVDs and I can do it, but art history is something else altogether for me. I LOVE it. It is my thing that charges up my synapses and gets me excited about learning. This is probably because it is so closely tied with history and I adore history. :) 

So. I thought, dragons...HEY! I can teach them about Chinese dragons! And then they can draw them! How extraordinary is that? (I know, just humor me. We all need these happy moments. LOL) So, I started with my trusty Google and I found so many cool things! Did you know that dragons have been in the Chinese culture for thousands and thousands of years? I mean I knew they were old, and I knew ancient cultures had their legends and even Draco the dragon is in the night sky, but still - some of the ancient jade finds have been dated to close to 6,200 BC! 

I thought I would share some of it with you. I hope you find it interesting because I sure did. :)

Chinese Dragons from the Nine-Dragon Wall

(If you click on the links, they should enlarge for you. Some of the detail is just fantastic.)

From Wiki: 
In yin and yang terminology, a dragon is yang and complements a yin fenghuang ("Chinese phoenix").

The next picture is an ancient artifact. I wonder what it was used for. What do you think?

From Wiki:

The origin of the Chinese dragon is not certain. The presence of dragons within Chinese culture dates back several thousands of years with the discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC from the Yangshao culture in Henan in 1987, and jade badges of rank in coiled form have been excavated from theHongshan culture circa 4700-2900 BC.

The coiled snake or dragon form played an important role in early Chinese culture. The character for "dragon" in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.

Ancient Chinese referred to unearthed dinosaur bones as dragon bones and documented them as such. For example, Chang Qu in 300 BC documents the discovery of "dragon bones" in Sichuan. The modern Chinese word for dinosaur is konglong (恐龍, meaning "terrible dragon"), and villagers in central China have long unearthed fossilized "dragon bones" for use in traditional medicines, a practice that continues today.

From this site

The dragon is a very revered creature in China that has many symbolic meanings in Chinese culture. Unlike the European dragon, the Chinese dragon is a creature that symbolizes auspicious omens and is a symbol of good luck, fortune, and power. The Chinese dragon also, according to legend, symbolizes control over water and bodies of water, such as rain, floods, waterfalls, rivers, and typhoons.

The following is just lovely and in an entirely different style from the other things we are studying.

From Wiki: Detail of an embroidered silk gauze ritual garment from a 4th century BC, Zhou era tomb at Mashan, Hubei province, China. The flowing, curvilinear design incorporates dragons, phoenixes, and tigers.

Below is a neat dragon from the 13th century.I love his expression! 

From Wiki: One of the dragons from The Nine Dragons handscroll (九龙图/九龍圖), painted by the Song-Dynasty Chinese artist Chen Rong (陈容/陳容) in 1,244 CE. Ink and some red on paper. The entire scroll is 46.3 x 1096.4 cm. Located in the Museum of Fine Art - Boston, USA.

Chinese culture isn't the only one with a score of interesting dragons. Bhutan has its own dragon stories. The country's flag is below. The dragon is holding gems as a symbol of wealth. 

Japanese dragon art is one of the most familiar in the world due to two artists; Hokusai (the first right below) and Utagawa Kunisada (the artist that created the dragon below with people on it). These are some of my favorites. I love the detail and the expression on the faces.

Below is a Korean Dragon. I think his face looks like a lion's face. 

The last is a Vietnamese dragon. I like the swirls in the metalwork here.

I think it might be neat to consider that dragons are not entirely fictional. There are certainly fossilized creatures we have found today that look an awful lot like some of these dragons. This video is a 3+ minute video of a compilation of several ancient creatures that we can only see in fossil format today, but this video brings them to life. As I watched this, I remembered that these are swimming creatures and would have been made by God on the fifth day of Creation. They are swimming reptiles and are really quite magnificent. I can't say the music is what I would have chosen, but the video had some interesting shots. 

Do you think they are similar to the dragons here? It is something to think about! :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

$275 Worth of Homeschooling Products for Only $20!

It is a Homeschool Fire Sale! I wanted to share this with you. What an exciting deal! I highly suggest you check it out. :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Anger and Mercy

In Ephesians 6:4, we parents are given quite the instruction: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." It is really easy to read over this verse quickly because it follows verses two and three that we parents like a lot. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Now I don't usually toss that out to my children, but I do know it is there and am grateful that the Bible gives our children this instruction. It is a bit of cold water in the face (if I am to be honest) that what follows is a correction for me. 

Our pastor preached a sermon on this verse a few weeks back and I have been mulling it over ever since. It is a good thing my children love me and forgive me because I am quite guilty of committing this sin. I do exasperate or provoke them sometimes. 
If we are not to exasperate our children, what ought we to be doing? My pastor shared some meaty things with us that made me take an entirely different view of this verse, and I hope something here helps you. 

We are to come back, day by day and week by week to evaluate how our children should best be brought up. Are we doing what we need to do (within our human ability) to be what they need? Are we bringing them up in the way of the Lord or are we scooting by? Are we doing spastic parenting or being impulsive in our relationships? 
Raising up our children is a special sacred duty given to us by God. What does it mean to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? 

We are to correct, discipline, instruct, warn, teach, admonish, chastise, nourish, shape, and model for them in the Lord. It is Christ who changes hearts. We are not the heart changers - the Holy Spirit does that. However, scripture tells us that we are to walk with Christ as an example for them. This is a hard calling, isn't it? It is so much easier to sin, to want our own way, to be a poor example, or to let the crazy busy aspects of our life influence our behavior. I know that I struggle with this all the time. 

Before we go to our children to admonish and chastise, to correct, discipline, and to shape them, we should be sure we have the planks out of our own eyes. This is such a powerful piece of scripture. I love the frankness of the Word of God. 
Luke 6:42, "How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?" Are we struggling with the same sins we are going to our children about? Probably! Maybe not in the same ways, but we do.

I think our children should see our humanness. (Not that we could keep it from them,
really, but they should understand that we know what it is to struggle with temptation or abiding sin, and that our Savior has paid for it all.) How many times have I just finished having our Bible time together in the morning and then not ten minutes later, I have gotten upset over something absurd? How many times have you seen your children arguing over some nonsense right after you were teaching about loving your brother? :) We humans are a messy lot, aren't we? We are to shepherd our children, to invest in them. 

How comforting is it when you know someone with deep faith? I know some of these people in my life and when I ask them to pray for me, I know they will and somehow I feel they will really get the message to God. :) I know that sounds silly because I know that God hears His people when they pray, but sometimes I feel that some people have a direct line or something. :) Our children need to see us before the face of God. They need to see that we need our Savior. They need to see that our lives flow from our sense of love for and from Him. They need to hear us talk about and really live our faith.

Lamentations 3:22-24 states some extremely powerful words that we often forget when we are burdened by our own sin.
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."" His love for us never ceases. His is unwavering and always faithful to us--even in our deepest times of need and when we feel lost in our failures. He knows our weakness and forgives our sins when we turn to Him!

It is by the always present, every day mercies of God, that we live and breathe and have our being. We can't do anything without Him. We don't and can't do God's will without the saving work of Christ in our lives. Jesus washes our sins away. We cannot do any of it for ourselves and something important to remember, we can't do it for our children. But our great hope, and the hope we have for our children is found in Ephesians 2:4-5: 
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved..." He is rich in mercy--to us and to our children. This is such a beautiful gift! 

While I want to be a shepherd to my children on behalf of Christ, to be the person Christ calls me to be, I know that I will often fail them. But even in my failures, Christ displays His perfect patience and forgiveness towards me as He did with Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:15-17

"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Exploring America - A Review

I was thrilled when Mr. Notgrass agreed to send in his Exploring America for review. It is a most excellent program and I am thrilled to be using it in our family and our history co-op. 

Exploring America
Notgrass Company

370 S. Lowe Ave., Ste. A
PMB 211
Cookeville, TN 38501

Exploring America, from the Notgrass Company, is a thorough and engaging high school American history, American literature, and Bible course. The complete course comes with two softcover student textbooks, (Exploring America: Volume 1 – Columbus through Reconstruction, Exploring America: Volume 2 – Late 1800s through the Present), another softcover book, American Voices: A Collection of Documents, Speeches, Essays, Hymns, Poems, and Short Stories from American History, a spiral-bound softcover Quiz and Exam Book and the answer key for the same. Volumes 1 and 2 have a combined total of 150 lessons that are divided into thirty separate units of five lessons per unit.

Exploring America fulfills three high school credits. From the website: Completing the full course provides your child with a year's high school credit in American History, English (literature and composition), and Bible. The History credit involves reading the lessons and the original documents and speeches (and answering the questions in the optional Quiz & Exam Pack if desired). The English credit involves completing the weekly writing assignments and one research paper; and reading the assigned literature, poems, and short stories in American Voices. The Bible credit involves reading the Bible lessons, completing the Bible assignments at the end of many lessons, and reading the hymns and other religious literature assigned.

The American literature portion of the curriculum is located within the Exploring America lessons. The titles to be read and studied are as follows:

The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)
Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (Crockett)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Stowe)
Co. Aytch (Watkins)
Little Women (Alcott)
Humorous Stories and Sketches (Twain)
In His Steps (Sheldon)
Up From Slavery (Washington)
Mama's Bank Account (Forbes)
Christy (Marshall)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
The Giver (Lowry)

A week (or unit) of study encompassing five lessons from Exploring America begins with the Unit Introduction. The Unit Introduction gives the student a concise write-up of what will be covered in the unit over the five lessons in the week. You will be given a memory verse to learn, a list of other books used (literature selection and American Voices when needed) in addition to the Volumes of Exploring America, and then a choice of writing assignments. For every lesson, the student will read the material in the textbook and then complete the assignments. Sometimes this involves answering questions given and sometimes it involves multiple days of writing for the same assignment. For example, Unit 8 has two writing assignments offered and the student chooses one.

·         Write a two to three page report on the contributions of the Adams family to America, especially John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams Sr., Charles Francis Adams Jr., and Henry Adams.
·         Write a two to three page paper in which you compare the religious experience in the Massachusetts Bay colony and that on the frontier during the Second Great Awakening.

As you can see, these assignments will take more than one day to complete so the other days they will do reading of the literature selection or American Voices, memorize Scripture, or answer the lesson questions found in the Quiz and Exam Book.

Throughout  the books, you will find many appealing side notes, graphics, photographs, maps, and sections that were especially interesting, What Was Happening In the World? This section gave world history events of significance and facts about individuals living at the same time to help with context. For example, did you know that Napoleon crowned himself Emperor or that Beethoven’s third symphony premiered one year after the landmark Supreme Court case of Marbury vs. Madison? It is helpful to see American history in the proper framework of the rest of the world.

The fifth lesson of every unit is a Bible study. Your child will study such interesting and applicable subjects as: How You See the World Makes a Difference; God is Sovereign; The Bible as Spiritual Constitution; Faith on the Front Lines; God and Freud; The Dilemma of Suffering; Were They Really the Golden Days?;  Public Leaders, Private Lives, and many more. Obviously there is some author opinion in these sections, but that is what makes it great for thinking and reasoning out. You can use these as opportunities for great family discussion too. There are questions to ponder and answer and Scripture to discover here.

The American literature selections are solid well-respected choices worth the time your student will take to read them. In the Quiz and Exam Book, there are questions for the student on the book. Each lesson has questions to ask and answer on the subject in that lesson. The quizzes and tests also found in this resource are multiple choice as well as paragraph format.

Probably the single neatest aspect to this complete curriculum is the book, American Voices. There is just nothing like reading an historical figure’s own words to get to know them and why they cared so deeply about whatever they were involved in. Their stories, poems, essays, hymns, speeches, and of course, the most important historical documents they created make the study of history come alive. You will find such treasures as excerpts of the New England Primer, saying from Poor Richard’s Almanack, George Washington’s Farwell Address, the response of W.E.B. Du Bois to Booker T. Washington and Others “…on the best path to take for black equality and opportunity” and his essay is shared here. The reason I love history so much is because it is a great compilation of peoples’ lives and thoughts. Many people view history as a bunch of dates and wars. While there are many important dates and too many wars, it is the people behind these events that lived during these dates that make it worth our time. We are living in our own historical time period, but we ought never to forget those that went before us. We have much to learn from them if we only give them the time. Notgrass History has been an exceptional way to do this. I highly recommend it!
-Product review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Director, The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, LLC, January, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Beautiful Hymn

A beautiful hymn was sung today at our church. It touched my heart. I wanted to share it here with you. I hope you find it as lovely and truth-filled as I.

O Father, You are Soverign

O Father, You are sovereign
In all the worlds You made;
Your mighty Word was spoken,
And light and life obeyed.
Your voice commands the seasons
And bounds the ocean’s shore,
Sets stars within their courses
And stills the tempests’ roar.

O Father, You are sovereign
In all affairs of man;
No powers of death or darkness
Can thwart Your perfect plan.
All chance and change transcending,
Supreme in time and space,
You hold your trusting children
Secure in Your embrace.

O Father, You are sovereign
The Lord of human pain,
Transmuting earthly sorrows
To gold of heavenly gain,
All evil overruling,
As none but Conqueror could,
Your love pursues its purpose—
Our souls’ eternal good.

O Father, You are sovereign!
We see You dimly now,
But soon before Your triumph
Earth’s every knee shall bow.
With this glad hope before us
Our faith springs forth anew:
Our Sovereign Lord and Savior,
We trust and worship You!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Tuesday Thoughts

Well. It has been quite a week. Many of you know that I have run the dynamic review team at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for over eight years. The team is merging with the TOS Homeschool Crew and I am taking the helm of the ship. It is exciting and daunting and thrilling and terrifying all at once. :) There are about 200 crew members that blog their reviews and link up to the TOS Crew site. How cool is that? I am feverishly learning all I can and there is much to learn. Whew!

If you are interested in checking out these fine families, just click the HERE. I have a LOT to read! :D

Our new year was a lovely mix of frenzy, friendships, and good food. We had *two* celebrations. One was on the Friday night before the eve of the new year and one was the actual eve. Both events were terribly delightful, but wow, I think I am too old to do that again next year! I was quite exhausted come Sunday morning and listening to the excellent sermon was hard for me even though it was aimed right at me (proverbially speaking) as he discussed not provoking one's children to anger. I really do appreciate such sermons. It is so important to keep learning as a parent, to love the children God gives us, isn't it? I am so blessed by them. :)

In our science/history co-op, we are wrapping up our study of the Civil War. We have been using a variety of resources (Notgrass History, Time Travelers, History Pockets, and important literature resources like Narrative Life of Fredrick Douglas, The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale, Across Five Aprils, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Rifles for Watie) but probably the most moving and the one that has left its mark is Ken Burns: The Civil War. It was such a tragic war in so many ways, but the loss of life takes my breath away. May we never know such loss.

We are also studying Jay Ryan's, Classical Astronomy. What an excellent excellent book! I remember posts by Jay on a board I used to frequent that discussed the making of this book and now we have it. We also own his book, Moonfinder, and it explains the phases of the moon so that someone as dull as I can understand it. :D I love the night sky. I love the moon. I love that the moon we see is the same one that Abraham looked upon in the desert and that Jesus saw from his home. There is something powerful to me about that--that sameness of light in the sky that speaks to the glory of God. Jay brings much of that to life. I can't recommend his books enough.

I must be off. I have had a good homeschool day even though we didn't get everything done. Some days are like that, aren't they? However, it was a really good day.