Notes from the Smithy... #63
Notes from the SmithyÖ
Hello again from Southern Oregon.† Locally we are in transition from winter to spring, so†its nice one day and cold and rainy the next.† The last lap of school is taking place. †
We are making progress on the DVD project.† Much of the writing is done.† We have yet to film anything, but we are getting close.† This one will be about the writing book.† If things go well, we hope to produce a DVD about the grammar book.†
More and more inquiries are coming in from Christian and private schools.† One school in Hillsboro, OR has had very good results over the years.† Their students have consistently earned high scores as a school on the standardized tests in the English; they beat all other schools in the greater Portland-Vancouver area.† The books work, and schools are slowly finding out about them.†
Wordsmiths is no longer taking manuscripts from others to publish.† It is time to concentrate on the DVD project and get some other details of the existing business a bit more fine-tuned.† The busy season will soon be upon us, and we try to get every order out within one business day.† Customer service is important to us here.†
†JUST FOR FUN†
There are 30 books of the Bible in these three paragraphs.† Can you find them?† This is a most remarkable puzzle.
†It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu keeping him occupied for hours.† He enjoyed it so much he passed it on to some friends.† One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat.† Another friend studied it while playing his banjo.† Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column.† Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving that she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves.† There will be some names that are really easy to spot.† That's a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam; especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized.† Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst.† Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph.† During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new sales record. †
The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen.† As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, the books are all right there in plain view hidden from sight.† Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown.† One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers.† Also, keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal.† A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers.† Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus; there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in the paragraphs waiting to be found.†
no deposit, no return†
The story is told of a circuit-riding pastor coming to a little church in the country.† A small lad was there when the preacher arrived, and he observed the preacher putting a coin in the tithing box.† People gradually filtered in; the service was held during which the preacher gave a lackluster sermon, and the people left.† The lad stayed behind, and he watched as the preacher retrieved a single coin from the tithing box.† The boy then said, ďPreacher, youíd have got more out of it if you had put more into it.Ē†
It is an apt remark to both teaching and learning.† Both parties are responsible in part for the outcome.† Teachers need to prepare and be knowledgeable about what is being presented.† Teachers need to clear about what is being taught and their expectations of the student regarding the material.† Teachers should also be enthusiastic about what it is they are teaching.†
If the teacher is unprepared or doesnít have a plan of presentation, the students can sense it.† They may think the teacher doesnít care or doesnít know the material.† If the teacher doesnít know or care, why should they?† If the teacher is scattered in the presentation, the students are asked to make sense of it all.† That is asking the students to do double duty.† They first have to figure what is being said and make sense of it before they can learn it.† In metaphoric language we can liken it to be asked to sift through all the dirt to find the nuggets and then decide what to do with the nuggets.† The worst-case scenario is when the teacher does not know the material; it becomes the blind leading the blind.†
Moms, I can sympathize with you on some of this as you get farther along in a curriculum.† Too many young moms are fearful of the future.† ďI never understood algebra.Ē† Give it time; there are local and online tutors, DVD programs, and other alternatives out there.† Research the possibilities when the time comes.† Donít fear it now.†
Getting back on track here, letís say the teacher knows the material backwards and forwards; it is his favorite subject.† If he or she does not communicate clearly both the material and what is expected of the students, the students are again left to figure it out for themselves.† At one point in college one of my teachers was reputed to be the brightest man to come from Cal Berkleyís math department in 20 years.† He could do ten steps in his head for every one he put on the board; thatís the way he taught and explained things.† He was brilliant, but he was not a good teacher.† Try as I might, I got lost many a time and did not understand what he was trying to get across.† I couldnít span the gaps he just assumed we all knew because he knew them.† Clarity in presentation is important.†
It is also important to be clear in what the student is to do regarding the material.† Are they just to read it for information; are they to know it cold?† Will they be required to write about it, to be tested over it?† Will it show up in further applications?† These questions need to be addressed by the teacher so the student will see the importance of the material.† Be clear and be definitive about assignments.†
Enthusiasm is another factor in teaching.† One of my history professors dearly loved lecturing and sharing all about his chosen field.† It was infectious; we students were all caught up in his love for the material.† One of my students commented to me upon leaving class, ďI never thought Iíd see anybody get excited about nouns and verbs.Ē† Students generally respond well to an enthusiastic lesson.† A boring teacher makes for boring students.†
However, as teachers, we can only do so much.† Yes, we need to do our part and do it well, and to some degree that sets up the proper responses for our students, but they have the responsibility to put something into the learning process to get something out of it.† They are not passive receptors.† They need to be reminded of their part; we need to make it as easy as possible for them to do their part.† Good students will be attentive, curious, interested, and willing to work with and absorb the material being taught.† Learning is work for most students, and it doesnít come easily all or even most of the time.† It takes concentration, commitment, and effort.† Robert Heinlein said it well, ďTANSTAAFL, there ainít no such thing as a free lunch.Ē
†FINDING FOCUS†† † †
In Jensenís Grammar there are two charts at the beginning of the book.† Those two charts contain the bulk of the material taught in the first half of the book and are integral to understanding what is covered in the last half.† Some basics are necessary to know in order to master the material.† †
In my writing book the seven basic methods of organizing thoughts for presenting an argument are taught.† Those methods are first applied to paragraphs, then to five paragraph essays, and then to longer papers.† A former student once told me that the papers he was writing in college were just longer versions of the methods he had learned in my class.† He was using the basics with upgrades.
When skills are taught in a traditional fashion by a good teacher, the learning process falls into a familiar pattern.† First, the basics are practiced over and over until most of the students are able to do the process with some skill and confidence.† A good teacher will make some of it fun, but it is repetitious work and rather routine most of the time.†
The second stage is when the student is introduced to a few techniques that go beyond the basics.† The student generally realizes that mastering these techniques will mean better and easier performance.†
Letís give an example at this point for clarification.† Knowing the inflectional forms of the verb is basic material.† Thereís the simple form, the Ės form, and the Ėing, -ed, and Ėen forms.† The student should be able to put any verb into those forms and be able to recognize any verb in one of those forms.† The next stage is the technique of putting those forms into sequence in a verb cluster, some of which can get fairly complicated.† However, all verb clusters contain just those five basic forms.†
At stage three the basics become automatic.† The student does not have to consciously think about what inflected form the verb is taking; the student just uses the correct form, and often the realization comes that the most complicated cluster and syntax in a sentence is based on the few fundamentals.† Everything is just an elaboration of the first forms and rules that started the whole process.† There is an obvious continuum from the basic to the complex, a series of building upon the fundamentals.††
Since the last newsletter, my reading has been somewhat erratic.† Hereís a brief review of the books I managed to read in the interim.†
Loral Langemeier has made a niche for herself in the motivational investment guru category.† While she gives speeches and writes books, she also offers a follow up program by joining willing readers up with some of her people to guide and direct new people into wealth.† Her book, The Millionaire Maker, comes with a CD and the opportunity to join her wealth making team and be mentored by those who have gone before and made it.† †
Older authors are often touted as great writers by some in the home school community, and many older books are a pretty good read. †I read Deep Down by R.M. Ballantyne.† I believe he wrote about the time of G.A. Henty.† The book told a story that dragged a bit in spots, and he was preachy at times.† He included some dialect that might make it tough for young readers.† I wasnít overly impressed with the author, but it is the only book by Ballantyne which I have read.††
Agatha Christie is a writer of some renown.† She is mainly famous for her mysteries.† I read one mystery, They Came to Baghdad, one book of Christmas stories and poems, Star Over Bethlehem, and a biography about the madame of murder, The Mysterious World of Agatha Christie.† The latter was by Jeffrey Feinman.† Dame Christie writes a good story, and her fame is well deserved.† Her characters are nicely drawn, and her plots are engaging.† At the end, everything becomes clear, but in the middle I found myself chasing some of the red herrings she slipped into my path.†
Chief Justice Clarence Thomas wrote his autobiography.† He titled it My Grandfatherís Son.† I found it to be generally well written, informative, and quite interesting for the most part.† For me it dragged a bit in the middle, but I liked the overall story of how Clarence came out of poverty and rose to a position of prominence through the ethic of hard work and good values.† The book reveals through personal experience the dirty politics of Washington DC and the news media.† Justice Thomas withstood the onslaught due to his faith and his upbringing, much to the credit of his grandfather.†
Dudley Pope wrote a series of books in the same vein as the Hornblower series.† Ramage is Popeís main character, and he is a man of noble birth in the British navy.† Ramage begins as a lieutenant and ends up commanding the Dido, a ship of the line.† The process takes place through 18 books.† Ramage and the Dido is number eighteen.† I enjoyed the book but with some sadness as it was the last in the series.† I liked Ramage as a character from the very first book, and this book did not disappoint in any way.† Mr. Pope knew his navy, and he wrote a good story with a strong cast of characters, Ramage being foremost.†
The Scalpel and the Soul is by Allan Hamilton, a neurosurgeon who specializes in brain surgery.† Dr. Hamilton writes well; it turns out he took a couple of writing classes from Rod Serling, the creator of the TV series, The Twilight Zone.† The book is a combination of his own personal experiences and some told to him by other doctors and nurses.† He is probing the idea that the spiritual realm has a great deal to do with health and healing.† It is both a thought provoking and an enjoyable book.†
I read three westerns by Louis LíAmour, two novels, Crossfire Trail and The Ferguson Rifle, and one a series of short stories, Lonigan.† I also had some fun with David Weber and Johnny Ringoís novel, We Few, the fourth in a military science fiction series.† Reading the first three, however, does help to make sense of the fourth.
1.† Excerpts of material from this newsletter may be freely used so long as proper credit is given as to the source.† Feel free to copy it and pass it along.
2.† This newsletter is no longer published in print form except to send to new customers when they order.† Tell others to sign up at the website.† The e-mail version is free for as long as you want to receive it as long as I continue to publish it.†††
3. Finding those 30 books of the Bible in the earlier part of the newsletter took me a while, but they are all there.† If you need help, email me.† I can give you a hint or two.†
4.† Thanks to all of you who use and recommend our materials, and thanks to those of you who have taken time to write and share your successes with the books.† It is most gratifying to know the books are helping so many.†
5.† The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution in mid-July.† Lord willing, Iíll be checking in with you soon after the 4th of July.
BY HIS GRACE,
Notes from the SmithyÖ
Well, it is raining again in Southern Oregon.† The busy season is past, so we are hoping to get to some of the other projects.† We trust you are well into the school year by now. †
We have done nothing on the DVD project during the busy season.† It is our hope to get back on that project in the near future.
†JUST FOR FUN†
Iíve put a few of these into the newsletter before.† I call them pretentious proverbs.† You will find a familiar, or hopefully so, proverb or saying disguised in unfamiliar language.† Sometimes the words will be difficult, but always the actual wording will be different from the original, that which you are used to hearing.† Your job is simply to translate back to the common phraseology.†
Hereís an example.†
PP: A lack of noise is considered aurous.
TRANS: Silence is golden.†
Hereís a bakerís dozen of these to have some fun with.† They are all taken from my book, English Fun Stuff.† If you need an answer, email me.†
DIRECTIONS:† Write the proverb in the words that normally express it.†
1. † Sorting on the part of mendicants is not to be allowed.
2. † Adequate surveillance should precede any distance covered with a bound.
3.† An adlepated individual and his specie divaricate with prematurity.
4.† Consolidated we remain upright; bifurcated we plunge downward.
5.†† Rectitude is not composed of dual offenses.
6.† That which does not conform confirms the general principle.
7.† Verification resides within the junket.
8.† That one who emits the ultimate guffaw by definition has the optimum guffaw.
9.† That which rings of the gospel is more exotic than that which is only imagined.
10.† Each of manís best friends possesses its single cycle of preeminence.
11.† Adorn yourself with those pedal encasements that are most comfortable.
12.† Every situation involving arbitration contains a dual set of reasons.
13.† Accouterments create the wight.
†Plusses & Minuses†
We are all different in some ways.† When it comes to education, we find some students excelling in a given subject while others get by or languish.† A common stereotype is that girls do well in English while boys do well in math.† The key for the teacher is to find out where a given studentís strengths and weaknesses are.† Letís look at identifying those and then what we are to do with the information.†
By the time a student has reached middle school, they have a track record, a history of their accomplishments and failures.† A teacher can access the studentís cumulative file.† It gives a running report of grades and standardized test scores and often some anecdotal comments from some previous teachers.† A home schooling mom can go by her observation and experience with the child.† Moms know their kids.† Some areas will be rather obvious.† The child likes and does well in subject A but not in subject B.† What about subjects C & D?† They may not be so clear.†
Susie loves to write poems and stories.† English is a breeze for her, but math and science are not very interesting to her, and she just gets by.† Joey does an acceptable job in grammar and writing, but he really likes to read about and study reptiles; in fact, he has two terrariums full of them in his room.† Mark is a poor reader and an indifferent student in most academic subjects, but he loves motors and mechanical things.† Good, weíve identified some strengths and weaknesses in all three children.†
Having done so, what do we do with the information?† Most of the time, the student is encouraged to work on his or her deficiencies in order to bring them up to speed.† The apparent goal here seems to be to produce a well-rounded student, one who can do most things passably well.† As my mother used to say, ďa Jack of all trades and master of none.Ē†
When I went to college and received a bachelorís degree in English, there were a number of required classes I had to take along with everyone else: music appreciation, art appreciation, psychology 101, just to name three.† I believe the idea was to turn out a generic graduate, young men and women who were at least acquainted with most of the liberal arts.† After all, it was a liberal arts degree.† At least that was the wisdom of the university system when I attended.†
Now letís get back to Susie.† Since Susie is rather slack in math and science, the prevailing notion is to have her work harder at those subjects, maybe extra assignments or more time spent on homework and doing practice problems.† She may continue to write her poems an stories, but much of the emphasis in her schoolwork is getting her math and science skills up to a higher level.† But letís examine the real life situation here.†
Do any of us think Susie will end up with some sort of math or science interest later in life?† Do we believe she will seek a job that requires these skills?† I doubt it.† Susieís science interests will most likely be very practical: kitchen, gardening, maybe some animal husbandry, all subjects she can read and learn about later as her needs and interests dictate.††
On the other hand, could we see Susie doing some freelance writing, or maybe writing up things for a church or club newsletter?† I would think so.† She has that strength.† What was done to encourage and hone her creative writing strengths while she was in school?† Was she just left on her own to develop her skills with maybe an occasional positive comment, or were certain techniques explored and explained?† Was she mentored in her strengths?†
Obviously Susie needs to know how to add and subtract and divide and multiply and do some fractions and percentages, but is it necessary for her to master algebraic equations or know how to figure slope and vector?† I donít think so.†
The point here is that most of the time, education is focused on getting people to some level of predetermined mastery in all subjects, and often this is done at the expense of their strengths.† Yes, there are basic levels of mastery that most people need to have.† An ability to read and to communicate, both orally and to a lesser degree in written form, are necessary to get along well in society.† Basic math skills are also helpful for a variety of common tasks.† But beyond the three Rís at a basic level, how essential is it to be able to know the difference between xylem and phloem or be able to pick out a gerund subject or to figure out the speed of train A if the speed of train B is known along with the times of departures, starting points, and intersections of both?†
In life, we tend to specialize.† Most folks arenít Jacks of all trades.† The focus of education should be to fit people to succeed in their given fields so that they will be productive people to the glory of God.† Itís good to get students up to speed in the basics; thatís a necessity to get by in life.† Itís also good to expose students to various subjects and disciplines because they might find interests they didnít already have.† However, the attempt to make everyone good in all subjects is unreasonable.†
Letís accentuate the positives, build students up in what they are interested in and already good at.† Maybe you will produce the next great novelist or chemist or a mechanic who can diagnose and fix anything with a motor.
†MEASURING SUCCESS†† † † † † †
†John was a police officer.† He was my friend.†
John was a police officer, and he was my friend.
John was a police officer, who was my friend.† † †
Hereís a brief review of the books I read since the last newsletter.† Summer slipped by pretty fast, but I managed to read a few books.†
Sometimes books get good press when they arenít that great.† At a friendís recommendation, I borrowed Philip Pullmanís Dark Matter series.† Mr. Pullman got rave reviews from Newberry Press and others.† I read all three titles: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.† He is anti-God, and his intensity develops over the three books.† I would not recommend them to anyone, particularly not to children as they can easily be drawn in to the story and in passing imbibe the philosophy.†
I read another of H. Rider Haggardís books, Pearl Maiden. What a delight.† The tale is set in the mid-East, mostly in Israel just after the time of Christ and consummating around 70 AD.† The main character is a girl who becomes a lady and goes through a variety of adventures due to the circumstances of the time and her faith in Christ.† I do recommend this book to upper age children, but adults would like it also.† These older books, or should I say, books written a hundred years ago, are experiencing a renaissance today.† G.A. Henty, Haggard, and others are being reprinted and circulated widely among home schoolers and others wanting a good story without all the modern trappings of todayís political correctness and debauched ideas.
†Gary Gilley has written two books about the modern church.† Earlier I read his This Little Church Went to Market.† This past quarter I read This Little Church Stayed Home.† This second book first spoke about our present cultural mentality and what a proper church according to him should be like today; then he spent a couple of chapters each speaking about the emergent church and spiritualism, both challenges the church must face today.† It is a short book but packed with ideas.
†I finished teaching through I Chronicles in Sunday School and thus finished a commentary on the same entitled A Family Tree.† Andrew Stuart authored it, and I found it helpful for my teaching of the class.†
Fantasy is fun for me.† I like certain authors, and this past quarter I had the opportunity to read two of them.† Terry Goodkind has a long series going; the lastest in paperback is Phantom.† I enjoyed it as I did Honored Enemy and Flight of the Nighthawks, two by Ray Feist.† Goodkind works a fair amount of free enterprise philosophy along with some firm views of right and wrong into his work.† Feist tells a good story and nicely portrays the good vs. evil struggle.† Both have good characterization and humor in their work along with enough action and subplots to keep their respective stories moving.†
Stephen Taylor, an author I was unfamiliar with, wrote The Caliban Shore, the Fate of the Grosvenor Castaways.† This book was based on histories and diaries and official records as well as some travel in the area.† In 1782 an East Indiaman wrecked on the southeastern coast of Africa, a desolate spot in those days and quite off the beaten path of shipping.† While almost everyone got safely ashore, only a very few folks survived the trek south and found their way back to England.† It was a tale of incompetence and resourcefulness.†
I did manage to squeeze in two Louis LíAmour books: The Empty Land and Fair Blows the Wind.† I had read them before but distantly enough so that I remembered little of either story.† I enjoyed them both.†
1.† Excerpts of material from this newsletter may be freely used so long as proper credit is given as to the source.† Feel free to copy it and pass it along.
2.† This newsletter is no longer published in print form except to send to new customers when they order.† Tell others to sign up at the website.† The e-mail version is free for as long as you want to receive it as long as I continue to publish it.†
3.† This past summer was pretty busy.† Thanks to all of you who purchased and recommended our products.† A couple of larger schools are now using the materials and reporting good success.† It is my pleasure to serve all of you.
4.† God in His mercy and grace continues to bless us as a family; we are healthy and are able to get most things done in a reasonable amount of time.† Praise Him for these undeserved gifts.
5.† The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution in mid-January.† I am looking forward to seeing you then.†
FOR CHRIST'S KINGDOM,
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