Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Am I Reading?

Krakovianka is always so good about telling what she has read. I enjoy reading her literary posts, and even find it a little relieving to know that she occasionally has her fluffy reading moments. Fluffy reading is one of the reasons I so enjoy previewing books for my young kids. Their books take so little effort to read, and are so obviously enjoyable. Kind of like a warm, cinnamon-laced slab of apple pie with creamy vanilla ice cream.

So, as an admirer of someone who has something to say about books, I am putting out my recent reads. I'm no book critic, but here is what has been on my bedside table in the past month.

[So, so, so. How many so's in those two paragraphs? But I'm going to leave them. Because I Am Not A Perfectionist. And yes, this is a disclaimer. :op]

_Skipping Christmas_ by John Grisham. I wanted to see what it was all about. It's not anything too exciting.

I already blogged about _Till We Have Faces_ and _The Great Divorce_ by C.S. Lewis.

Also _On The Way Home_ and _West From Home_ by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I just finished _Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry_ by Mildred D. Taylor. This was a very good book. I can't believe I never read it until now. Where was I in junior high and high school? Triss will read this for her historic fiction in the next couple of months (year 6 term 1).

I just started _Rob Roy_ by Sir Walter Scott. I had to read the first several pages three times before I could understand the setting and get into the book. I am so not educated. But I am into it now. I hope to finish it in the next couple of weeks because I want to use it for Triss' next literature selection since she has already read _The Hobbit_. We'll see. This is the first Sir Walter Scott I have ever read. No, I don't know where I was. Still living with the March family or travelling with Miss Eyre, I guess. I didn't even meet Miss Austen until after college.

_Introducing Philosophy_ by Dave Robinson and Judy Groves. I just started this last night. I am previewing it for Triss' use for debate club. It is comic-book style, and I'm not sure I like the authors' writing. I am trying to discern bias. I have to figure out the author's philosophy. ;o) I will not be handing this to Triss any time soon, but will use the blurbs on the different philosophers as crib notes for myself when visiting with her about the philosophies surrounding different debate cases that come up in tournaments.

_Quest for Kim_ by Peter Hopkirk. This has actually illumined the text of _Kim_ for Triss and I. I have only read the last couple of chapters and I will go back to the beginning and read it the right way now that we are done with _Kim_.

_Seasons of a Mother's Heart_ by Sally Clarkson. I read this through quickly last May, and now I am slowly savoring her autumn stories, wondering if they apply to my life.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Memory Binder

To find instructions for making a memory binder similar to the one we used with success this term, look here. These are the instructions I followed to make ours, which is different only in that I used a 3x5 card binder instead of a file box. My good friend who used to live across the street but now lives in Missouri came up with the 3x5 binder idea. She showed me how to put it together, as I had a hard time following the instructions online. The smaller binder is compact, has the advantage of being bound together in rings rather than loose in a box. We found our 3x5 card binders, tabs and cards on a bottom shelf in the office supply aisle of the local Wal-mart.

My friend's family has a fun game they play with their memory work. Any time of day or night, as long as it can be done respectfully, any member of the family, from Dad down to the 5 year old, can holler out "Memory check!" and everyone present must attempt to recite the daily memory work.

Another idea on how to memorize: my piano teacher taught me to learn and memorize the end of a piano piece before the beginning because it is usually more difficult and human tendency is to not practice the end as many times as the beginning. I applied this to memory work. If you have something long to memorize, memorize the end, and keep moving up sentence by sentence, so that you say the new sentence and then keep reciting to the end of the piece. The last part memorized would be the beginning sentence. Like this. Say you wanted to memorize Psalm 100. You would start with verse 5:

"For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."

Once verse 5 was memorized, you would go to verse 4 and work on it:

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."

Then you would put the two together:

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."

Then memorize verse 3:

"Know ye that the Lord, he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture."

Then put verses 3-5 together:

"Know ye that the Lord, he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."

Keep going like that until the entire Psalm is memorized.

I find it is good to know a variety of ways to memorize, because one way doesn't work all the time. The give-a-nickel-for-every-verse-memorized-in-ten-minutes method works pretty well too!

(And I never was good at memorizing piano pieces, even with the valuable advice and coaching of my piano teacher. It was quite frustrating for her.)


I shampooed the hall carpet tonight.

Oh, the virtue of it all!

Down, down, down with dirt

Down the drain it goes

Out upon you, fie upon you, bold-faced jig!!

Passing the Baton

"You can't teach a child to ride a bike until you let go." --Mr. Honey

Pursuing the Ideal

“Leadership is the art of pursuing the ideal in the midst of a world that is something less than ideal.”

(I think this was said by Theodore Roosevelt, but I am not sure...)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sweet Potato Harvest

Remember this?

Well, Cornflower and I planted the sweet potato vine in the front flowerbed when it got too involved for inside the house, and, seven months later, here is Cornflower's harvest:

Eighteen potatoes! That is an eighteenfold return on her one-potato investment. Guess who wants to plant something else?

We are making sweet potato pie for church tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ta-Da List

Today was the last day of Term 1, and we will have exams next week. Whew! We made it through with some things, got a little behind on others, and dropped still others by the wayside. We have plenty of time built in for the things that fell away, thankfully, as we will have a week of "grace" after exam week. I plan for us to read lots of poetry, continue our Bible reading, continue reading our character-building book (Charlotte Mason's _Ourselves_, paraphrased in modern English by Leslie N.-- thanks, Leslie!), a little math, singing and musical instrument practice (Mariel gets to participate in a violin adjudication at the local school), speech and debate assignments (the club is not taking a break), going to the zoo, and enjoying a long overdue visit by my grandparents-- yay!

Whew! Our break sounds busy already! I haven't even included the housekeeping projects and Term 2 planning I'm hoping to do in the interim.

It is hard to realize what all is getting done when you are in the thick of it, and so I made a "ta-da list" to help me get an idea. This post is pretty long.

What we have done since August:

Copywork (This ended rather abruptly two weeks ago when we ran out of quotes in our copywork jar; our printer is old and cantankerous and I just didn't want to fight with it. I could have had the kids copy straight out of their books, but I kept forgetting to assign them specific sections because it wasn't planned out already. This term I want to have all my copywork planned in advance, just in case.)


Rosetta Stone Spanish

Piano practice (Piano has been great this term! I finally bought the Faber books I've been wanting for awhile and they are really a good fit for our family. There are several books for each level. I got the lesson, theory and technique and artistry books for Triss and Mariel; and for little Cornflower, who would really like to play piano but is only almost six, I got the Kindergarten Pre-Writing Book and Pre-Reading Book which come with a CD. They are a lot of fun! It's a play way, but she is learning rhythm and how to sit and use her arm, wrist, hand and fingers to play, and enjoying every minute of it. She finally feels like I am giving her piano like her sisters. Mission accomplished! The Faber books are pretty jazzy and modern, but there is a lot of music theory and technique included, and I like the thoughtful questions sprinkled throughout the books, prompting the children to pay attention to key signature, note names, and encouraging them to compose on their own and transpose their pieces. We still use the Suzuki books also, but I have done away with the Thompson altogether. I really like the Faber. I have one piano student aside from my own children, and she is using Faber too. So~ this is one area I am very satisfied with.)

Grammar (Triss) and Spelling (Mariel)

Folksongs (We are still learning "Molly Malone" in three part harmony, and we started "Land of the Silver Birch" this week. Singing-on-purpose is something that sort of fell off the radar when life happened this term. We don't like to lose our on-purpose-singing. As opposed to the "accidental" singing that gets done when a song just bubbles up through your heart and out of your mouth. We still did that kind of singing, which is magical and lovely. But it's not as focused as singing-on-purpose, which is when voice instruction and learning to sing in parts can happen in a formal way.)

Hymns (Same deal as folksongs. We learned "In the Garden" in three parts the first few weeks, and are still working on "No More, My God, I Boast No More.")

Bible (We are about halfway through 2 Samuel and Acts)

Memory Work (They memorized, more or less: Matthew 5:3-12, the U.S. states and capitals, the U.S. presidents, Psalm 100, the 56 words of the Declaration of Independence--"We hold these truths to be self-evident...", and the books of the Old Testament and New Testament. This is the most memory work they have accomplished in one term ever, and I am so thankful for the memory binder system we just started using this year. The best part is, they are not going to forget these things next term because review is built into this system in a very functional way. Yay! Something that works!)

Mr. Honey continues to take us through the Chronicles of Narnia: he is currently reading aloud _The Horse and His Boy_.

Mariel continues her violin lessons, the girls are both in a speech club, and Triss also participates in the debate part of the club. We continue to work on habit training in the area of housework, and the girls take it in turns to do some sewing with their Grammy. As for field trips, we got to see Schoolhouse Rock Live, we went to the Creation Science Museum in Glen Rose, and right in the middle of the term we went to Missouri and were able to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder house and the George Washington Carver birthplace.

Here are the things Triss studied on her own or with me:

Poplicola by Plutarch (Yes! We actually completed a Life!)

Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare (Does anyone know of a movie version that is good?)

History from the Civil War through the end of WWI, using H.E. Marshall's _This Country of Ours_ and Susan Wise Bauer's _Story of the World Vol. 4_ )

_Carry A Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt_ (what a good book!)

Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels: The Orient

Christian Liberty Nature Reader 5

George Washington Carver biography

a very little bit of john greenleaf whittier poetry (we will be reading him during our break)

Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch

_Kim_ by Rudyard Kipling (just finished it today!)

Mr. Honey, Triss and I are also enjoying a read aloud of Jane Austen's _Pride and Prejudice_ in our spare time. I'm the only one who has read it before, and I am being so good not revealing what is going to happen! Lol! We are about halfway through.

Here are the things Mariel is studying with me:

History in the 1500s, using H.E. Marshall's An Island Story and This Country of Ours, and we have begun using Child's History of the World

A couple of chapters from Trial and Triumph

Da Vinci by Emily Hahn (This was a more challenging book than I realized at first, and it had no pictures of da Vinci's works, which I counted a disadvantage. We did seek out a few pictures online, and tonight we were at a new locally owned bookstore and found a lot of da Vinci books with pictures. We looked at those for a long time. There is even an art history book called The Annotated Mona Lisa, which includes art through the ages, and not simply Leonardo da Vinci's art. I wanted to get it so badly, but I resisted. Maybe I'll put that one on my Christmas list. Mariel wanted to get the Mike Venezia book on da Vinci!)

Minn of the Mississippi (we are about one-third of the way through.)

Science Lab in a Supermarket (I took Mariel to the grocery store with me tonight, and I was wondering about how much she actually remembers of the books she read this term. I asked if she thought she was remembering the things she read. She said she remembered some things, but not everything. Then she told me that in her Supermarket book, she doesn't remember everything, but she remembers staples-- you know, the foods people buy regularly or to cook from scratch-- flour, milk, eggs, etc. I said that was a pretty important thing to know. Then when we were in the store, we saw pomegranates, and she proceeded to tell me, in great detail, the entire story of Proserpine, and how the Greeks believed it was her mother who causes the seasons in her grieving and rejoicing for her daughter. LOL. I am a worry wart.)

All About Famous Inventors and Their Inventions

a very little bit of poetry by william blake. see above.

A couple of Parables from Nature

Tales from Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice and Pericles, Prince of Tyre)

The story of Perseus from _The Heroes_ by Charles Kingsley

She continues to listen to an audio version of Pilgrim's Progress

_The Princess and The Goblin_ by George MacDonald

_American Tall Tales_ by Adrien Stoutenberg (she is about a third of the way through it)

Here are the things Cornflower and I have been studying together:

Math (We have enjoyed implementing some of the "Math: The Play Way" suggestions the DHM has posted at The Common Room in the past. A couple of weeks ago I found a math workbook that looked good and now we work through that with frequent math manipulative breaks.)

Fifty Famous Stories Retold

Aesop's Fables

Catherine Vos' Children's Story Bible, Old and New Testament

Finding Out About Everyday Things (Usborne books)

We also listened to an audio version of _Little House on the Prairie_ by Laura Ingalls Wilder

a very little bit of robert louis stevenson.

I'm already excited about Term 2, and the kids are already asking what their new literature selections will be. We are going to do Pericles for Plutarch, and Richard III for Shakespeare, and I am previewing _Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry_ for Triss' literature book. She is bumping up to Year 6, and will get to read the fascinating Albert Einstein biography. Mariel gets to read Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat and the beautiful _Bard of Avon_ by Diane Stanley. I'm debating in my mind whether I ought to read an E.B. White to Cornflower in addition to her other books. She really enjoyed Little House on the Prairie.

:sigh: I'm so glad we are doing this. It's a lot of work, and scary at times, but so enjoyable. Like a roller coaster. ;o) I know we could be doing at least some (if not all) of this a lot better than we are, but I'm glad to even be doing it in an average way~ just to be doing it is wonderful.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fresh Air

"How many times must I tell you not to let the prisoners out to exercise in the open air! If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times that sunshine and exercise are tools of the enemy and only serve to increase their health and lift their spirits!"

--Diffidence, wife of Giant Despair, speaking about Hopeful and Christian, who are prisoners in Doubting Castle

(She doesn't sound very diffident to me...)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I have a pickle jar next to my "desk" (the dining table) that I like to keep filled with sharp, yellow number 2 pencils not yet deprived of erasers. I often find that they disappear as quickly as I add them, prompting cries of "I can't find a pencil!"

I enjoy the immediate gratification of giving up my personal pencil to an appreciative child who is despairing of ever beginning (and therefore eventually finishing) math. This often leaves me pencil-less, and so I have begun the habit of harvesting.

I find pencils on bathroom counters, under beds, used as bookmarks in schoolbooks, in the carpet crevices next to the baseboards, in the deep-down-bottom of my five year old's little desk. (I think she hoards them-- she who holds the pencils holds the power over the sisters...) On a routine trip to the laundry room I spot one choking in the lint atop my dryer. Pencils fall out of suitcases and backpacks after a trip, or else slide between the van seats, where we are virtually guaranteed an emergency pencil for a forgetful child who must address grammar on the way to the auto repair shop.

Clearly, we are not a family in the habit of putting things back where they belong. And so I continue to glean, finding pencils here, pencils there, pencils nearly everywhere. I may eventually teach the kids this trick of harvesting pencils... but maybe not. They are already figuring out Mama doesn't know everything. It's kinda fun to wow 'em occasionally by pulling pencils outta thin air.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Blessed Spirit

The blessed Spirit, like the wind,
Blows when and where He please;
How happy are the men who feel
The soul-enliv'ning breeze!
He forms the inward mind afresh,
Subdues the love of sin;
He takes away the heart of stone,
And plants His grace within.

He sheds abroad the Father's love,
Applies redeeming blood,
Bids both our guilt and grief remove,
And brings us near to God.
Lord, fill each dead, benighted soul
With life and light and joy;
None can the mighty pow'r control,
Thy glorious work destroy.

--Author Unknown

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Silver Lining

Our car had transmission troubles on Monday, and I drove to the Dodge dealership, going no faster than 45 on a 65 mph highway (and in Texas that means people are passing you doing 75) because the van would not shift into fourth gear. It took over thirty minutes to get there, and I wondered the whole time if I was burning up my transmission.

I got there safely, and when they found the problem, it was covered under warranty. I was surprised (and thankful!) because we have owned our van for almost three years and I didn't think we still had any valid warranties. I looked up the power train warranty tonight and discovered that it will expire at 70,000 miles.

We have 68,000 miles on our van.

Lemme hear ya say, God is good!
All the time!
Lemme hear ya say, God is good!
All the time!*

His timing is perfect.

*(This is Mr. Honey's song. There's a dance that goes with it. Those of you who know Mr. Honey can ask him to show you sometime.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

As The Ruin Falls

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love--a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

--C.S. Lewis

I don't know the history behind this poem. I found it while looking for reviews and commentary on his book, _Til We Have Faces_. I am rereading that book right now, and it is no easier than the first time.

My favorite line in this poem is, "I never had a selfless thought since I was born."

Mr. Honey's favorite is, "I talk of love-- a scholar's parrot may talk Greek-- but, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin."

While reading reviews and commentaries on _Til We Have Faces_, I came across one that referred to Eustace, of _The Voyage of the Dawn Treader_ fame. That has always been one of my favorite books, especially because of Reepicheep. But I identify more with Eustace. Layer after layer comes off, and yet I cannot make an end of it. I am Eustace, I'm afraid.

I do not yet know if that makes me Orual. I am definitely not Psyche, and I'm not Redival either. The subtlety of Lewis' writing in _Faces_ is difficult for me to follow, especially when compounded by unreliable first person narration. I wish I could read the story in the third person. I need a little more guidance through this book!

After I am done with this book, I am going to read _The Great Divorce_ again. I read that this summer, but was so surprised and befuddled by Lewis' devices that I couldn't understand the message. Now I think I will understand _Til We Have Faces_ a little better if I read _The Great Divorce_! I may be going in circles. I don't know. But I want to know.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cornflower Quote


I pounced on the unsuspecting Cornflower, who was quietly reading on her bed, and began tickling her. She laughed and laughed, gasped for breath, and I stopped and lay still.

"Do it again.... Mom? Do it again... Do it again! Mom?"

"Ah-ah-ow-rrr! I'm gettin' you, little monkey!" I tickled and tickled and she fell into hysterics, finally shouting something I didn't understand.

"Ant! Ant!"

I thought perhaps she was having trouble with insects.

"What are you saying?" I stopped tickling and gave her a kiss.

"Aunt! You know, like Uncle?" She snuggled closer. "Aunt-- I'm ready for you to stop."


Phyllis asked if I would subscribe to Feedblitz in order to make the blog accessible via email. This I did. If you want to receive this blog as an email whenever it is updated, subscribe using the box in the sidebar and follow the instructions given.

Thanks for the suggestion, Phyllis! This will make it easier for me to keep up with the blogs I read too!

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Leaves fall on the grass
Turning scarlet, yellow, brown
Autumn is coming


The End of the Matter

On philosophy and philosophers:

"When he who hears doesn't know what he who speaks means, and when he who speaks doesn't know what he himself means-- that is philosophy." --Voltaire

"There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied on to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers." --William James

"I have tried too, in my time to be a philosopher but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking through." --Oliver Edwards

And then there is the Preacher:

"Vanity of vanities, sayeth the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity..." Eccl. 1:1

"Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us..." Eccl. 1:10

"He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end..." Eccl. 3:11

Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroyeth much good..." 9:18

"Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring into judgment every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Eccl. 12:13

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I would like to officially stop kidding myself that I understand what I am reading. Can I just say for the sake of confession that I have no clue? I have been reading up on astronomy and physics, India and philosophy until I don't know what to do with myself. Between Albert Einstein, _Kim_ by Rudyard Kipling, Karl Marx and logical fallacies (of equivocation, no less), I am ready to acknowledge that what I truly know probably extends to about that of a bright high school sophomore. (Hopefully my wisdom and life experience extend a little further.) I am learning along with my sixth grader. I can do nothing less. I don't remember a lot of this stuff from the first time. I say, "I don't know," a lot lately, go rushing for the computer to look things up, shake my head and say things like, "Here's what it says. I'm not really sure what to make of it. We need another book."

_Kim_ is by far the most difficult book we are reading this term (unless you count Triss' debate textbook, which I suppose we should). Sometimes I want to throw it at the wall, and other times I am charmed by the humor and adventure. I am surprised how much Triss is comprehending. I will stop in the middle of a chapter and ask her to narrate, thinking she most likely missed the subtle nuance of this spy being that guy and all of them proceeding in company together; which group is fighting which; and who those five kings are. She gives me a look and accurately narrates the plot. It makes my head hurt when I am not laughing at Kim's antics.

Really, I would like to go back to the days of the Little House and Charlotte's Web. Okay, maybe not that far back, but the Moffats and Little Women would be nice. Actually, I have an interesting juxtaposition in that I am educating three girls at three very different reading stages, and so am constantly switching between picture books and easy chapter books, youth chapter books and then Triss' chapter books which I need Cliff's Notes on. No wonder I am addlepated.

We went to the fancy new library yesterday. (Note to self: never go to the library on a school day before beginning schoolwork. It encourages bad attitudes about schoolwork in both teacher and children.) It is three stories tall, and the children have a floor all to themselves. The teen books, however, are downstairs in a soundproofed room. There is a reason for this. We went to the teen section to find the Paul Fleisher science books we need for Year 6. By the time we left I could not think.

They were playing rock music in the library. Loudly. What would Marion say?

All was not ill, however. I got to visit with the children's librarian about purchasing new books, and it seems our library is currently "in funds." She encouraged me to send her a list of books I would like to have the library purchase. They have a budget for homeschoolers and are currently motivated to provide resources and programs. Exciting! I told her I had a long list of books I could send her and she gave me her email address. Bwa-ha-ha-ha. I wonder if I should organize it alphabetically or according to genre?

Monday, October 09, 2006

George Washington Carver National Monument

This is a quote from the official national monument brochure found at the site (published by the U.S. Department of the Interior):

"Carter was motivated by his love for all of creation. For him, every life-- a tiny fungus in healthy soil, the ever-present flower on his lapel, a forest bird, a human being of any complexion or nationality-- was a window on God and a mouthpiece through which the Great Creator spoke... Let the George Washington Carver National Monument introduce you to this humble man whose love of God and agriculture became a ministry to benefit humanity."

It was a good place to visit. We were under a bit of a time crunch, as we were supposed to be driving home and had taken the morning to attend church. But I am glad we stopped. The walk down to the replica of his cabin and the little farmhouse owned by the Moses Carvers was beautiful-- a forested area with a creek running through it, and a little pond about halfway through. There is a lovely statue of George Washington Carver as a boy, sitting in the midst of the woods. We found a turtle near the pond and watched it try to eat a spider.

The visitor's center includes a little learning area in a trailor in the back, hands on projects and interactive computer games and questions. We could have spent an entire afternoon there, but were only able to spare an hour and a half. The ranger was nice, and when he found out that Triss is studying George Washington Carver for school, he prepared a thick packet of freebies for us to take home.

This national monument was the first monument established for an African-American, as well as the first U.S. birthplace monument dedicated to anyone other than a U.S. President.

George Washington Carver was born a slave. His mother was kidnapped and he never saw her from the time he was a baby. He had to struggle in order to get the learning he so desired. He witnessed frightening things as an orphan on his own, was refused entrance to schools because of his color, and worked hard at anything he could put his hand to in order to feed himself and get his education.

"The opening of the school found me at Simpson College, attempting to run a laundry for my support... I lived on prayer, beef suet and corn meal... quite often without the suet and the meal."

He worked hard, and encouraged others to work hard:

"No individual has any right to come into this world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it."

Dr. Carver was an expert in botany, mycology, chemistry, music, herbalism, art, cooking and massage. He used his skills to worship his Creator and help his fellow man, believing that being of service to others was the ultimate measure of success in life. I wish I didn't use the word "great" so much, because I have bankrupted it. Here was a man that was truly great. He was greater than a trip to Missouri, or a meal out, or a well-done math paper. Why must I call these things great? I should save strong words for times that need them. Dr. Carver was a great man, and one who did not let his circumstances dictate his life, but looked to the Lord to provide answers.

"I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed at the moment I am inspired to create something new... Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless."

He asked the Creator,"'Dear Mr. Creator, please tell me what the universe was made for.' The Great Creator answered, 'You want to know too much for that little mind of yours. Ask for something more your size.' Then I asked, 'Dear Mr. Creator, tell me what man was made for.' Again the Great Creator replied, 'Little man, you are still asking too much. Cut down the extent of your request and improve the intent.' So then I asked, 'Please, Mr. Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?'" He developed over 300 uses for the peanut after the Lord agreed to answer this more appropriately-sized question!

"Our eyes and ears are always open. We must be patient and wait, as the old prophets. Isaiah and the old prophets always had their eyes and ears open. You know, Isaiah, listening, heard a voice. We have so much noise now that we hear nothing but noise. It comes and goes and that's all of it, just noise. We can't think very well now because there are so many noises of different kinds. But, Isaiah, he heard a voice."

(What would he think of the "noise" in society today? We have ever so much more than they had at the turn of the century!)

Dr. Carver studied, experimented and learned, and shared his knowledge with others through free Agricultural Bulletins, his professorship at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, travels throughout the southern farm country and even a visit to the U.S. Congress. He did these things simply, so that he could help those "farthest down."

"If I know the answer you can have it for the price of a postage stamp. The Lord charges nothing for knowledge, and I will charge you the same."

Work's Larger Purposes

An interesting perspective on why we should work.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Laura Ingalls Wilder Home

Our first full day in Missouri we went to the Wilder Home, Rocky Ridge Farm, in Mansfield. It was wonderful.

We were instructed to go to the museum first. There we saw Pa's fiddle. We also looked at lots of pictures of the family, letters, clothing, different beautiful homemade items, and other personal artifacts. We saw one of the nickel Big Chief notebooks on which Mrs. Wilder wrote her first Little House books. There were Little House books in many different languages. There was a carriage similar to the one Manly and Laura drove to Missouri. Lots of china. And a section of the museum was dedicated to Mrs. Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a writer and war correspondent, and initially encouraged "Mama Bess" (Laura) in her writing for the Missouri Ruralist, and later in writing her Little House books.

After the museum, we were permitted to go through the white farmhouse with a docent. After we all squeezed into the little kitchen, the docent explained how Almanzo had cleverly rigged indoor plumbing so that Laura would have not only running water, but hot water any time the woodstove was heated, as the water pipe ran through the stove! The kitchen was cozy and neat. There was an electric stove which was added in the twenties, but the docent said Laura rarely used it except in summer, as she felt food did not taste as good on an electric stove. After the kitchen came the dining room. Originally these were the only two rooms in the house. There was a little staircase to the side of the dining room, which led to a loft room where Rose slept as a child. The kids were disappointed that we couldn't go up and see. The clock Almanzo bought for Laura is still sitting on a shelf in that room. From the dining room we walked into the bedroom, which had a little bathroom off to the side. Then came the writing room, which contained a desk and a fainting couch. After the writing room we went up a few steps and down a few steps and into the music room/living room/library. They had an organ and a little alcove with shelves for books, as well as big windows in the living room.

The house reminded me of other homes I have visited that were simple, unassuming and neat. There were several items of furniture and lamps that Almanzo had made with his own hands, walking sticks made from wood he had found on the property, and pillows and other decorations made by Almanzo, Laura and Rose. I felt comfortable there, and a little ashamed of all the commercially produced items I have come to expect and desire where my own home is concerned.

After that we let the kids run down the hill and look into the next meadow; went to the bookstore and found souvenirs; ate lunch and had a rousing game of hide and seek; and then drove around to the Rock House, which Laura and Almanzo's daughter, Rose, had built for them in the 1920's, after she had achieved some financial success. It was simply gorgeous-- a little cottage in the 1920's style, built with native rock and all the "latest" amenities of the age-- insets in the walls for figurines and candles, tiled windowsills, even the closets were innovative for the 20's. Almanzo had rigged another water system at the back of this house, which would catch rainwater and transport it to the basement and then up through the house. The Wilders lived in the Rock House for eight years, while Rose occupied the original farmhouse, and this is where Laura began writing the Little House books.

There was a large meadow in front of the Rock House. After patiently walking through two different houses, a museum and a book store, the children were glad to run off a little energy. They had been more interested in the walking sticks (insects, not implements) on the back porch than any of the quaint innovations in the cottage. I admired Almanzo's red barn at the top of the rise, and looked for the little door to the springhouse down in the creek where he stored his milk. I watched the children gallivant and wished for a simple life.

And yet Almanzo and Laura's life was not easy. They had a lot of struggles-- Almanzo's health, constant financial strain until they were well into middle age, a seemingly difficult relationship with their daughter. Their extended family lived far away. But they disliked debt, tried to live within their means, worked hard to provide for themselves, loved each other and their daughter, and kept good thoughts. This may be simple, but it was not easy, I'm sure.

I felt a little like Laura on the farm tonight, baking a pumpkin pie to take to church and please Mr. Honey. (It's still acting like summer here, but we are going to pretend it's fall anyway.) I thought of her in her simple, tidy kitchen, putting together a pie to please her Manly. My pie is made with canned pumpkin and canned sweetened condensed milk, which I am sure she never would have used, at least prior to 1915. That was the year she visited the Del Monte plant while on a trip to see her daughter, and came away believing that, contrary to her previous thought, a factory could have as high a standard of cleanliness as her own kitchen.

Interestingly, my grandmother worked in the Del Monte factory after she and her family emigrated to California from Texas in the 1930s. She was fourteen, and at that factory she learned two things: one, that southern politeness is not always accepted in California (she was sternly reprimanded by her supervisor after saying "Yes, ma'am" to instructions, as her supervisor felt it was demeaning!); and two, that generic canned goods really are the same as the fancy brands (her job was to switch the labels in the labeling machines when it was time to make the fancy, regular or generic cans. Just the labels, not the cans.)

Visiting the Wilder home was one of my favorite parts of our Missouri trip, and strangely enough, it took me back to my Northern California roots. At the bookstore I was able to purchase a book of letters written by Laura in 1915, when she visited Rose for three months, who was then living in San Francisco.

From this book I learned that she and my girls both dipped their feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time at Ocean Beach near Cliff House in San Francisco. How about that.

Rose lived in a beautiful house on Russian Hill, near Chinatown. During my time in San Francisco I frequently babysat for a family who lived on Russian Hill. They had a picture window with a gorgeous view of the skyline, and Oakland and Berkeley across the bay. After I put the children to bed I would turn off all the lights and just sit on the couch and look.

Laura ferried to Sausalito like we did once, and fed the gulls that followed the ferry just like us. She enjoyed sitting in the back of the ferry so she could feel the spray on her face, as my children did.

She did not get to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, or any bridge, as they were not built yet, but she did get to ferry to Berkeley, which was a commuter town, a city of homes, and listen to a violinist who was raising money for children orphaned by the Great War (World War I, which the U.S. was not quite involved in yet). I used to take BART (under the bay rather than on it) to Berkeley for jazz piano lessons, and my granddad can remember when the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge were first built. (For that matter, he can probably remember when all the bridges across the bay were built, but I haven't asked him about all of them.)

Laura went to the Santa Clara Valley, which was then a farm community "with access to the sea breezes," to investigate farming methods. Nowadays it is better known as Silicon Valley. My dad had a sales office there when I was in school.

The sense I got from the Wilder home, and from reading Laura's letters, was that these folks were just that-- folks that we might have known had we lived in the time they did. I have a hard time infusing reality into my own thoughts about history, but seeing the Wilder's home, so similar to the homes of some of my elderly relatives and friends, and reading her reaction to many scenes and settings I grew up with, has helped me to better picture the reality of early twentieth century life in the United States.

Here is my Non-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-Canned-Pumpkin-And-Milk Pumpkin Pie recipe. I got it off of a can of Kroger pumpkin when I was a newlywed in Tennessee and it was an instant success.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground ginger
1/2 tspn ground nutmeg
1/2 tspn salt
1 9" unbaked pie crust (recipe follows-- I cheated tonight and used frozen premade crusts)
whipped cream

(oven 425)

1. In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients, mixing well.
2. Pour into pie crust, covering edges of crust with foil to prevent burning.
3. Bake 15 minutes.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake 35 to 40 minutes more, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Cool pie before cutting
6. Serve with whipped cream (Mr. Honey says it has to be real dairy whipped cream. None of this Cool Whip stuff).
7. Refrigerate leftovers

And a surefire recipe for two light, buttery pie crusts:

2 cups flour
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn baking powder
2/3 cup butter
6 to 7 tspn cold water

1. In a mixing bowl stir together dry ingredients
2. Add butter, dividing/cutting it with your fingers until pieces are the size of small peas.
3. Sprinkle 1 tbspn water over part of mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push to side of bowl.
4. Repeat until all is moistened.
5. Divide dough in half; form each half into a ball.
6. On a lightly floured piece of wax paper, flatten one ball with hands; sprinkle with flour.
7. Place another piece of waxed paper on top and roll into a 12" circle.
8. Wrap pastry around rolling pin; ease onto pie plate, careful not to make holes.
9. Trim pastry so that about 1/4" is hanging over. Tuck edges under to make a thick edge.
10. Repeat with other shell.
11. For a baked shell, prick pastry with fork, bake at 450 for 10 to 12 minutes.
12. For an unbaked shell, follow pie directions.


We came home from Missouri with a new little bunny. Her name is Thumper. She belonged to our friends who just moved to Missouri, and unfortunately they are not able to keep her right now, so we gladly took this housebunny. (Yes, she is housebroken!)

There is something surreal about going through our daily routine and seeing a little rabbit hopping through the house. "Oh, there goes a rabbit through the living room... Look, she's gamboling past the bookcases... Oh, what a charming little bunny!" We have quite gone through the looking glass. I'm keeping my eye on the chess pieces.

She is a sweet little thing, and comes and bumps against our feet, and sometimes she jumps, leaps and gives little thumps to add a little variety to her hopping. She is white with brown and dark grey markings and little lop ears. She sprawls out and relaxes wherever we are studying. She is a literary and a musical rabbit, though I cannot recommend her taste, as she enjoys nibbling on music, lesson books and post-it notes indiscriminately. We have prudently learned to place only the spiral bound lesson books on the bottom shelf.

Like Peter, she sometimes gets herself into trouble. We have barricaded the lamp cord and place floor plants on tables when we let her loose. We also have to guard the peat moss in the fake ficus, as Thumper thinks it is a delicacy worth stretching for.

If anyone had told me ten years ago that we would someday allow a bunny to live inside our house I would have said, "Never!" But that was before we knew Thumper. She makes us smile. It is very hard to maintain a bad mood when a fluffy little bunny hops past and just flips herself around for pleasure. In fact, it is hard to maintain a straight face when a bunny does that, because it looks funny. Sort of like Rabbit had a change of heart and became Tigger.

I will post pictures soon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Spiders and Crickets and Ants, Oh My!

It is a beautiful day, and I allowed the kids to carry their lunches out to the backyard and eat in their new fort. After about ten minutes, to my surprise, they all came in and settled at the dining table.

Me: Why did you come back inside?

Mariel: The terrors of the outside world were too much for us.

Triss: There were spiders out there.

Clearly, we need to be doing a lot more nature study than we are currently.


I have no inspiration to write at the moment. What is going on? Perhaps I am more in a collecting-of-thoughts mode and not an expressive mode. Anyway, here is another George Washington Carver quote. We are using these for copywork, along with some Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes that came in the paper doll book Mariel purchased in Mansfield.

"Selfishness and self are at the bottom of a lot of troubles in the world. So many people fail to realize that serving God and one's fellowmen are the only worthwhile things in life. It is service that counts." --Dr. George Washington Carver

(Side note: GWC did not patent his inventions because he wanted his ideas to benefit everyone. He died a respectable man, but not wealthy, and served God and his fellow man to the end.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Back Safe, Home Again

We made a short trip to Missouri last week. It was refreshing and relaxing, although we missed Mr. Honey, who had to stay home and work. We got home Sunday evening around 10:30 and leaped into regular schoolwork yesterday morning, as we had speech and debate commitments yesterday afternoon.

I have a lot I want to post about the trip. We got to go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder home on Rocky Ridge in Mansfield, Missouri; and we were also blessed to visit the George Washington Carver National Monument on our way home. Missouri is beautiful, both the city and the country. We saw trees and hills and even prairie. We stayed part of the time with friends who live in the heart of Springfield, and the rest of our time on the farm of friends in southeastern Missouri. There is good shopping too. Our friends in Springfield took us to one of the flea markets they frequently buy old books from, and I made some wonderful purchases.

I'm pretty scattered now, and I will be posting soon, but right now we are unpacking, doing laundry, reinstituting routines, and trying to do all with cheerful hearts, which is sometimes a struggle after a fun trip. So here is my favorite George Washington Carver quote and I will post more later:

"There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation-- veneer isn't worth anything."

I wonder if he knew or read Charlotte Mason?