Study is Hard Work

We having just started reading “Study is Hard Work” by William H. Armstrong as part of our Morning Time.  I thought we could read one or two chapters a week and finish it by the end of the school year.  It will be help to JR, a senior this year, and also to JD, who is a freshman in high school.  The introduction contains the story about Ptolemy telling a prince that there are no royal roads to learning geometry but it also contains a quote that if I have ever read it, I don’t remember it at all.  However, it is well worth reading and pondering:

Though a little one, the master-word looms large in meaning. It is the open sesame to every portal, the great equalizer in the world, the true philosopher’s stone, which transmutes all the base metal of humanity into gold. The stupid man among you it will make bright, the bright man brilliant, and the, brilliant student steady. With the magic word in your heart all things are possible, and without it all study is vanity and vexation. The miracles of life are with it; the blind see by touch, the deaf hear with eyes, the dumb speak with fingers. To the youth it brings hope, to the middle-aged confidence, to the aged repose. True balm of hurt minds, in its presence the heart of the sorrowful is lightened and consoled. It is directly responsible for all advances in medicine during the past twenty-five centuries. Laying hold upon it Hippocrates made observation and science the warp and woof of our art. Galen so read its meaning that fifteen centuries stopped thinking, and slept until awakened by the De Fabrica, of Vesalius, which is the very incarnation of the master-word. With its inspiration Harvey gave an impulse to a larger circulation than he wot of, an impulse which we feel today. Hunter sounded all its heights and depths, and stands out in our history as one of the great exemplars of its virtues With it Virchow smote the rock, and the waters of progress gushed out while in the hands of Pasteur it proved a very talisman to open to us a new heaven in medicine and a new earth in surgery. Not only has it been the touchstone of progress, but it is the measure of success in every day life. Not a man before you but is beholden to it for his position here, while he who addresses you has that honor directly in consequence of having had it graven on his heart when he was as you are today. And the master-word is Work, a little one, as I have said, but fraught with momentous sequences if you can but write it on the tablets of your hearts and bind it upon your foreheads. But there is a serious difficulty in getting you to understand the paramount importance of the work-habit as part of your organization. You are not far from the Tom Sawyer stage with its philosophy “that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” A great many hard things may be said of the work-habit. For most of us it means a hard battle; the few take to it naturally; the many prefer idleness and never learn to love labor.  – William Osler, The Master Word in Medicine (1903)

If my boys learn the value of hard work and learn the tools of study, they will be able to master anything that their future education and jobs throw at them.  I’m sure I’ll be back again with more insights as we read through this little book.  I suspect I’ll learn as much if not more than the boys will.

Monday musing – The sweet aroma of God’s truth

“We’re looking for a kind of permeation of the sweet aroma of God’s truth in all that we do in our home and our children’s education, and we all need constant reminders to keep ourselves aware of that.  It’s too easy to become dull in our educational pursuits.” –Unknown

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Our educational pursuits become dull as we wander away from the beauty and the sweetness of the Lord and His Word in our lives and in our children’s lives.  Let us never forget the charge we have as mothers and teachers to teach our children about Christ and His great salvation before all other things.  As He becomes the center of our homes and our schools, the fragrance of His knowledge will fill our hearts and minds and all of the other subjects we teach.


I was reading an article on Barnacles and liberal education and how education can help us stop being barnacles by opening up our lives to new thoughts, new ideas, new ways of living rather than just sticking to our comfortable rocks and not growing.  I was especially struck by this quote:

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.

However, it’s not just a liberal education that can lead to growth and building meaning into our lives.  How many times have I clung to my comfortable rock of sin and had the Lord gently pry me loose so that I could live more fully and freely in obedience to Him?  How many times have I wanted to hide from being known and had a friend pry me loose and convince me to trust and be vulnerable so that I could have deeper fellowship?  How many times have I wanted to cling to my own idea of  the world and had a book, or more often, God’s Word open my eyes to my ignorance so that my life was enriched and new horizons beckoned?  The Lord Himself, the relationships He has allowed in my life, the books He brings across my path and other things as well pry me out of my comfort zone, give rich meaning to my life, open my world to great and glorious visions, and fill my days with laughter, goodness, beauty, and truth.  How thankful I am for learning to swim rather than to stay a barnacle.

“Something Like Perfection”

“In living, and moving and having something of our being in a home culture, even with its all-too-human fuss and bother, if we but smuggle in something of the simple cargo-sturdy, comfortable furniture, fresh food, home cooked meals, good wine, one set of fine china for special meals, paintings and ancestral portraits on the wall, an old upright piano, acoustic guitar, any non-electric instrument, a time set apart to read aloud before prayers and bedtime-if we but make a welcome hearth for the songs of the Muses, we too will know that even on this earth, now and again, a courage will visit among us in those comforting, beautiful reflections of the permanent things, quite surprising yet strangely familiar for us who are passing to and fro in these playful shadows, and we will begin to see as Odysseus recognized, “something very much like perfection.” — James  S. Taylor

from his article, “Something Like Perfection”  

Morning Time – Winter Term 2014

We’ve started school and Morning Time again now that the holidays are over. For the most part, we are enjoying our selections this term.

Here is what we are reading now:

All of us:

Hymn this month: “Trust and Obey”
Verses to memorize: 2 Peter 1:2-11
New Testament – 1 chapter a day (we are just finishing Colossians)


DS17 – we are reading from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry to go along with his studies in 20th century history and literature
DS15 – William Cooper (Ambleside Online’s selections)
Both boys are memorizing “If” by Rudyard Kipling

Read Alouds:
“The Greek Way” by Edith Hamilton
“All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot
“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

Then DS17 goes off to do his own work and DS15 and I continue with his other read alouds:

“Ourselves” by Charlotte Mason (I need to write a post of praise for this little book. It is excellent!)
“The Iliad” by Homer
“Histories” by Herodotus
“Life of Themosticles” by Plutarch

We are also, in a haphazard and hit and miss sort of way, listening to and looking at the Ambleside Online selections for art and music. This term’s composer is Tchaikovsky and the artist is Manet. We weren’t very faithful last term but I hope to do better this term. We’ll see….

Each boy also has books they are reading and discussing with me but that is separate from Morning Time.

I’m thankful for the couple of hours each day we spend on the reading, discussing, and memorizing together. It can be a struggle some days and the attitudes (mine included) are not always what they should be, but I think it is valuable time that will not be entirely forgotten by the boys when they are grown.