Thursday, December 06, 2007

Taking a Break

I've decided that blogging is distracting me from things I ought to be paying more attention to. I'm going to take a break from it for a little bit and see if I can't get better focused on the important things in my life.

I thank you very much for reading!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Oh, Ella!

We watched this today instead of doing artist study. I think it was a fair exchange. She makes us smile, and even laugh.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Decking the Halls

I am typing this next to our Christmas tree, which sits in the corner of our living room. We finally got it lit last week, and what an adventure that was. It is a prelit artificial tree-- full, yet slender. We never had a prelit tree before this one, and I was pleased to acquire it. Hanging lights is my least favorite Christmas job, though I love the effect. But even as we pulled the tree out of the box four years ago, Mr. Honey and I wondered how long it would take for the lights to quit. They don't make 'em like they used to, and all that.

Well, it took four years on this prelit tree. That's a good long time by today's standard.

We left the tree standing undecorated for most of last week, which goes against our tradition-- basically to pull out and set up every bit of Christmas as soon as we can after Thanksgiving. I rearranged plugs. Triss rearranged plugs. Mr. Honey rearranged plugs. We read "How Christmas Lights Work". I learned more than I ever wanted to know about bulbs connected in series. I opened the tiny bags of replacement lights and began painstakingly replacing single bulbs. I did get a few (three) to light up. I called my dad. I emailed my mom. Repeatedly.

We still don't know what is wrong with those lights.

Finally, I began to consider alternatives. Should we go with a live tree this year and hang our own lights? Or should I listen to Mariel, who came up with an alternative idea-- one she has been dreaming of lo, these many prelit years.

See, the lights on the tree are all white. And Mariel lives in technicolor.

She suggested, over and over last week, that we simply string colored lights through our prelit tree and ignore the white lights. And later in the week, in a completely unrelated thought process, my mom suggested the same thing.

So that is what we did. We have a tree in full color this year. :O)

And, in keeping with the colorful, childlike tree, I allowed the children to decorate the house.

That is how our sweet Bob-doll exchanged his cowboy hat for a paper one inscribed with, "Santa Claus cowboy is coming to town!!!"

(Bob is a rugged and handsome boy china doll, around a foot and a half tall, that my Aunt Ruth made. He is dressed for the range: jeans, boots, bandana, vest, and even some fringed gloves. The girls have decided he is their adopted brother. He's very quiet for a boy.)

They set out our nativity scenes, draped with silver and gold curling ribbon; put the wreaths on the doors (wait, I did those); pulled out every Christmas book we own and placed them under the tree; and hung the stockings by the print of the Big Horn Mountains (alas, we have no fireplace).

Only one sad event marred the celebration of decoration: our beloved ivory china angel for the top of the tree had to be retired this year, as the plastic cone under her dress has come all to pieces. She can only sit. We placed a cat dressed in royal robes on the top instead, but it will never be the same. We appreciate the years of service our ivory angel gave-- 25 years topping a tree! She was my angel given to me when I was in junior high, and I gave her to Triss several years ago. She must continue to be a part of Christmas, even if she cannot occupy the highest place.

And on a lighter note, at Walmart tonight we saw a stuffed turkey that sings, "Deck the Halls". He looked like Thanksgiving and Christmas collided.

We used all of Mr. Honey's Christmas lights to light up our tree, and had to purchase some more so he could decorate the front of the house. We made his day with all-green lights. Mr. Honey likes green. A lot.

So now we are ready for Christmas, minus the presents and the cards. Those are forthcoming. We are using our housekeeping hour each weekday morning to work on them. We are doing a Christmas letter instead of cards this year, for the first time.

Since I want to greet all of you, but don't have the addresses of everyone who reads this blog, I will post a version of our Christmas letter here-- after I have mailed all our hard copies. I can't allow those of you whose addresses I do have to read the letter without the full benefit of stationery and presentation, now can I? (Whew, that *is* rather a clumsy sentence, isn't it?) Anyway, afterward, dahling.

We have only handed out three letters so far. You know who you are. :O)

Okay, I really need to get some sleep. Going to bed now.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Meanings of Things

"Memory overload, memory overload..." Triss murmured as she went through her box of ornaments.

In a house which becomes a home,
One hands down and another takes up
The heritage of mind and heart,
Laughter and tears, musings and deeds.
Love, like a carefully loaded ship,
Crosses the gulf between the generations.
Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies
Of our passage: when we wed, when we die,
And when we are blessed with a child;
When we depart and when we return;
When we plant and when we harvest.
Let us bring up our children. It is not
The place of some official to hand to them
Their heritage. If others impart to our children
Our knowledge and ideals,
They will lose all of us that is
Wordless and full of wonder.
Let us build memories in our children,
Lest they drag out joyless lives,
Lest they allow treasures to be lost because
They have not been given the keys.
We live, not by things, but by the meanings
Of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
From generation to generation.

--Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Multilingual Learning

Okay, that's a pretty ambitious title, isn't it? My topic does involve more than one language, and it is about learning, but isn't near as scholarly as all that. I simply want to share some Christmas carols we are learning in different languages.

I did not intend to get all multilingual with the Christmas carols this year. Except for the Spanish, it was a little tangent-- it just kind of happened in the good way tangents sometimes do, leading to where we were actually hoping to go all the time but were afraid we weren't well enough equipped to get to. I really like it when tangents do that. It is the saving grace of my children's education.

We discovered that we have the lyrics to some of these songs in more than two languages in our various Christmas books at our house. (Adeste Fideles, for example-- Latin, English and Spanish.) It is interesting to compare the three languages and note similarities and differences.

And here are some of the carols we happened upon (and I had enough background-- or enough friends with background-- to figure out how to pronounce!):

In Spanish:

¿Qué Niño Es Este? (What Child Is This?)

1. ¿Qué niño es éste que al dormir
en brazos de María, pastores velan,
ángeles le cantan melodías?
Él es el Cristo, el rey.
Pastores, ángeles cantan,
«Venid, venid a él, al hijo de María.»

2. ¿Por qué en humilde establo así,
el niño es hoy nacido?
Por todo injusto pecador
su amor ha florecido.
Él es el Cristo, el rey.
Pastores, ángeles cantan,
«Venid, venid a él, al hijo de María.»

3. Traed ofrendas en su honor
el rey como el labriego,
al rey de reyes, salvador,
un trono levantemos.
Él es el Cristo, el rey.
Pastores, ángeles cantan,
«Venid, venid a él, al hijo de María.

In Latin:

Adeste Fideles (Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful)

1. Adeste fideles, laeti triumphantes;
venite, venite in Bethlehem;
natum videte regem angelorum.
venite, adoremus Dominum.

2. Cantet nunc 'Io' chorus angelorum;
cantet nunc aula caelestium,
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
venite, adoremus Dominum.

3. Ergo qui natus die hodierna.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum.
Venite, adoremus Dominum.

In French:

Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes (Angels We Have Heard On High)

1. Les anges dans nos campagnes
Ont entonné l’hymne des cieux;
Et l’écho de nos montagnes
Redit ce chant mélodieux.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

2. Bergers, pour qui cette fête?
Quel est l’objet de tous ces chant?
Quel vainqueur, quelle conquête
Mérite ces cris triomphants?
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

3. Cherchons tous l’heureux village
Qui l’a vu naître sous ses toits,
Offrons-Lui le tendre hommage
Et de nos coeurs et nos voix!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

In German:

Stille Nacht (Silent Night)

1. Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

2. Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

3. Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

And one more Spanish song, because I think it is our current favorite. Guess what it is (hint-- clap out the syllables, as the words do not strictly translate to the same words in English):

Cascabeles, cascabeles,
Musica de amor!
Dulces horas, gratas horas,
Juventud en flor.
Cascabeles, cascabeles,
Tan sentimental
No ceces, oh cascabeles
De repiquetear!

Hmm, it sure would be fun to hear some of our international bloggers sing carols in, say, Turkish or Polish. Hint, hint.

(And I really would like an Italian Christmas carol to round out the group. Must do some research on that.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Negative Capability

. . several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously--I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason--

(written by William Butler Yeats John Keats, an excerpt from a letter)

(LOL!! Yeats, Keats, very little difference. I have to tell you that I didn't even realize my mistake until I was driving down the highway taking the kids to ice skating lessons, with no prospect of being able to correct my error for at least 4-5 hours. Why in the world I waited to edit my blog post until I was driving down the road, I do not know. This is a very interesting brain I am dealing with.)

A Summation

An excerpt from Mariel's most recent history narration:

"England and France are quarreling. Again."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


In order to rearrange life, in order to create, one must get comfortable with disarrangement for awhile. One must be able to live with the unfamiliar without, to use Keats' phrase, any "irritable searching for fact and reason." In bearing with the tension of the unknown or the unfamiliar, one can enable something new to come into existence. If one forecloses a thought too quickly, because it seems too weird or strange or disorganized, then the pattern or beauty that may be contained within the fantasy may be lost.

--from the book, Driven to Distraction

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Emily Dickinson

The Dust behind I strove to join
Unto the Disk before —
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
Like Balls upon a Floor —

My New Favorite Quote

Creative thoughts happen unscheduled.

(From the book, Driven To Distraction)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Home Again

We got back from our trip to California tonight. I wanted to write something profound and beautiful and surprising-- even worked for awhile on some ideas connected with We Three Kings and New Mexico and a dusting of snow in the desert and for He is like a refiner's fire and the Year of Jubilee... But nothing came of it except the desire to work on it more or delete it altogether.

I am not feeling beautiful or profound, or even surprising. I just feel very tired. We all put up with each other well, and even had some fun on the way home, playing in the spots of snow as we stopped for gas or food, laughing at Popeye and Andy Griffith, and analyzing each other's personalities. (Surprisingly, I am a Relating Director and Mr. Honey is a Socializing Thinker. I thought I was a Thinker, but evidently I only play one on this blog.) The kids took their dolls on a cruise in the backseat this afternoon, and I got some crocheting done.

But California to Texas is Really. A. Drive. And not a task for the feeble.

I am so glad we are home.

Note to self: When leaving for an extended Thanksgiving trip, please remember to throw out the decorative pumpkins before you leave. And please triple check that everyone has their thick jackets. (I thank the Lord for Triss, who brought a matching sweater and/or jacket for every outfit she packed this trip. She is the only reason Mariel and Cornflower stayed warm through the wind and the snow.)

(By the way, if anyone is looking for a way to resign themselves to the high price of gas in Texas, I recommend a trip to California. A few days of paying upwards of $3.40 per gallon, and you will think nothing-- nay, rejoice-- at paying $2.88.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Happenings

Hi, all!

We travelled over twenty-five hours this past weekend in order to be with Mr. Honey's new nephew and my 83-year-old grandparents this Thanksgiving. Thanks to the wonder of laptops and WiFi, I am able to make a blog post from beautiful Petaluma, California. We drove through San Francisco and had lunch in Sausalito yesterday. The weather was perfect, sunny and clear and in the 60s.

This past Sunday we attended church in Niles Canyon, at the meetinghouse I was raised and married in, and got to visit with all the wonderful church folks there. It is a precious thing to know beyond a doubt that there is a place where you are loved and made much of simply because you are there. The warm hospitality of these lovely people is demonstrated through love that is maintained regardless of your action, inaction or wayward thought-- unconditional and abundant. Ahhh. This is what I mean when I tell my children I will always love them no matter what. I am not nearly so good at it as my folks in California, though. A very nourishing and reassuring love. I am taking notes.

Our drive out was uneventful, unique in the fact that each contingent had its own entertainment. We had a dvd player in the car for the first time in our little family's history. I have always been adamantly against tv in the car (I really don't even like it so much in the home), but this time I reluctantly agreed, knowing that one of the kids began dreading the drive out from the moment we began talking about it early last summer. So the kids had their movies, Mr. Honey had his radio with headphones and I had The Silver Branch and How The Irish Saved Civilization, along with a blanket I am crocheting. It was a rather lonely trip, to tell the truth. And we barely sang at all.

Cornflower and I developed colds on the way out, and are still nursing our snuffledy noses and scrubbing down every few minutes to keep others from getting sick. (I wondered if we ought to call the trip off, but we were already so many hours down the road, I just couldn't see it.)

Our new nevvie is the sweetest and most remarkable boy ever (of course), and we have the whole rest of the day to play with him and visit with his parents. We are taking him to the park so he can gaze up at the light glinting through the leaves on the trees. Good times!

Tomorrow we will be having Thanksgiving with four generations of my family in my aunt and uncle's home, which they have completely redone on a large scale and barely finished in time for Thanksgiving. And then we will go home. Twenty-five more hours. I wonder if I can hide the headphones and dvd player before we start out again? I don't know if I can bear silence across four states more than once.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bloggy Thankfulness

Mama Squirrel is encouraging everyone to nominate some lesser-known homeschool blogs, and I want to get involved. Unfortunately, I cannot figure out where to place my nominations. (How someone as computer illiterate as I ever came to blog is one of the wonders of this desktop publishing world. I quite impress my friends, you know. I cannot function in Excel, I cannot open attachments, but, yes, this girl can blog. After a fashion.)

Oh, okay. I decided to try one more time, and realized this post is the form. Light dawns on Marble Head. You scroll down to the bottom of the post and leave your nominations in the message, right? That's what I have now done, so hopefully that is correct.

Here are the blogs I have nominated:

Best Curriculum or Business Blog: A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Best Family or Group Blog: The Common Room

Best Cyber-Buddy: Dewey’s Treehouse

Best Encourager: The Beehive

Best Teen Gal: The Heart of Flame Therein

Best Crafts and Projects Blog: The Heart of Harmony

Best Homeschool Mom Blog: Higher Up And Further In

Best Variety: Take Time To Smell The Coffee

Best Artistic Content Blog: Wittingshire

Best Unschooling: In a Spacious Place

Best Homemaking: Mrs. Happy Housewife

I have a Bloglines account and currently have 63 feeds on it, so these are just the tip of the iceberg. It's safe to say that these and a few others are the blogs I read every time I see that they have been updated. And sometimes I look at the unhighlighted blog name on my Bloglines list and wonder, "Is everything going well with them? I haven't seen a post in awhile." I don't comment on posts very often and, yes, I read from my feeds and not the blogs themselves a lot of the time. It's quicker. I do like to comment, but then I get stymied about writing just exactly what I want to say, and a lot of times I cannot figure out just exactly what I want to say in less than ten minutes. So I limit my comments to when I really cannot resist or when I know I have quite a bit of time (that happens rarely).

I really appreciate the ladies who take the time to share thoughts and ideas with the rest of us. Thanks so much for blogging!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe

Mariel used the picture on the cover of Sister Wendy's Story of Painting to help her envision this close-up portrait of Robinson Crusoe soon after he is shipwrecked.

Her exam narration on the story thus far:

Robinson Crusoe ended up on this island because he didn’t listen to his parents. His parents said, stay in England, but he didn’t listen to them and he ended up as a slave to the Medes[Oops, it’s actually the Moors], I think it was, and he escaped with a little boy named Xury. They got away on a boat and they went up until they came to Africa, and they killed some animals there, and the people on the shore gave them the meat of the animals, but one of them was fit for nothing and so they threw it overboard. Then they saw a Portuguese ship and they fired a distress signal and the captain let them in and he wanted to keep Xury and the boat and everything that Robinson Crusoe had on it, and Robinson Crusoe consented and they went to the Brazils and there at the Brazils Robinson Crusoe bought a plantation, but it didn’t go that well, but he thought to himself, “At least I’m not on a desert island!” And that exactly came to him! Because he was going to make his fortune and he got shipwrecked on a desert island, but he managed to get lots and lots of things off of the ship before it sank, and he’s been on there (where we are) for over a year, almost. And he hasn’t met Friday yet.

Homemade Christmas

Mr. Honey and I decided to skip the stress and cost and rush of purchasing gifts this year and go homemade with our Christmas, the only rules being that if we give it, it must be made by one of us using a limited amount of money for supplies; and we cannot force this change on any of our extended family.

(They wouldn't let us if we tried, lol!)

And since I cannot have you thinking my little family is blessed with superior virtue, I must reveal that a family trip has cleaned out the ol' Christmas fund-- we are making gifts simply to keep from perpetuating debt. We were a little depressed at first, but now that we are getting into the spirit of the thing, it is quite fun! I have all kinds of plans in my head, and projects going on in secret, which I really want to show you all, but I have to wait until after Christmas because my family reads my blog. What is really going to suffer this Christmas is the housekeeping, because we are going to use all our spare time in making gifts, lol! So if you come over, please ignore the dust. We'll try to keep the lights low so as to make it less noticeable. ;o)

Well, last week we were at the library picking up some things, and as I looked through the Christmas stacks I found some World Books that detail Christmas in other lands-- the traditions, the history, the music, the crafts, the food. What a gold mine!

(Do you remember the World Book Encyclopedias and Annuals? I relished our family's set as a kid, in those dark ages before Internet research.)

I just finished Christmas in Britain, which was even more interesting to me in light of what Triss is studying for history (ancient/medieval Britain). And Mariel and I read about the reign of Cromwell last year, but I hadn't thought about what a dampening effect the Protectorate must have had on celebrating anything, especially Christmas. And did you know Dickens had a lot of positive influence on Christmas once the Cromwellian years had blown by?

I started Christmas in Scotland last night, which is mainly about Hogmanay, their New Year's celebration. They moved their festivities from Christmas to New Year's during the time of the Covenanters-- those folks forbade (forbad?) Christmas as Cromwell did, for a lot of the same reasons. The Scots gradually turned their winter festivities from religious celebrations to secular, and now they have Hogmanay.

I'm really glad we don't live in a place where Christmas is forbidden. I know some Christmas festivities have their roots in pagan festivals, and I am not one to follow customs blindly; but I hope the traditions we indulge in are brief illuminations of the joy and goodwill that ought to be a part of the Christian life daily, and that our Christmas is just a special way to remind ourselves to "reflect redemption" in our everyday lives. (The Year of Jubilee Is Come, after all, and we do well to remember it.) The glow of it tends to linger and have an influence at our house for at least a couple of months after.

I only grabbed three of these books, the last being Christmas in France. These are the three countries, aside from the United States, that we currently read the most about in history at our house. After we are done with these three books, I'm going to get some of the others. There was a shelf full.

I find that reading about the traditions of the countries we have been studying is really bringing home the daily influence of historic events on the lives of these people. It is so easy to view history as a list of dates and battles. Reading about different historic events and their effects on the celebration of Christmas really illustrates for me the pervading influence of history on the lives and customs of regular people and its lingering effect on folks today.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thoughts on the New Term

(A partial list of what to keep and what to change, beginning after Thanksgiving.)

a. Continue Triss in Apologia General Science, following the prescribed schedule. That is working well.

b. Switch Mariel and Cornflower to Considering God’s Creation for Science/Nature—work with them together once per week, then have them complete the notebook pages during their independent time. Do one lesson per week. Need two new workbooks @ 13.95 each. This will eliminate It Couldn’t Just Happen for Mariel and help compensate for eliminating Madam How and Lady Why. She can read It Couldn’t Just Happen in 6th or 7th grade. If Triss is caught up on her school work, consider having her teach the lesson while I do chores and listen in.

c. Continue using Exploring His Earth for Mariel and consider having Cornflower listen in. It is more of a geography book and I am counting it as such rather than science and eliminating the other geography book.

d. Eliminate ice skating lessons and have nothing on Thursdays but staying home. The kids can ride their bikes around the neighborhood several times per week for exercise.

e. Mariel is doing fine on her history—moving a little slowly, but I think we will be able to compensate for that in the summer. Continue her history as before.

f. Have Triss do Grammar of Poetry during her independent time and discuss it with me during her hour.

g. I need to have a checklist of things to discuss each day with the girls regarding their independent work. The only thing is, the checklist will change each day, so I have to make it up the night before. I need a checklist template, which I can alter each night. I need planning time each night also. I need to be more dedicated to doing what I ought rather than what I want. Erg. How can I be dedicated to doing the regular, mundane things without being rigid and controlling? This is quite a challenge for me. Either I am a drill sergeant, or we float through life, airily neglecting essentials. Some of my friends think I am too rigid when I am trying to keep to what we should be doing. Perhaps I am, but I have to hold on to schedules and plans with both hands or else they easily slip from my grasp. Oh, why am I thus tossed?

h. Redo the schedule thus:

i. 8:00-9:00 Breakfast Meeting: breakfast, Bible, memory work, singing, Copywork, review Spanish, and read any articles I have found that I want to share with the kids.

ii. 9:00-10:00 Housekeeping Hour: For December, this will be when we work on our Christmas projects and I will do chores as I can between helping the kids with schoolwork later on. Beginning in January we will do dedicated Flylady-style and/or Large Family Logistics-style cleaning during this time. I would really like to fit in some Charm lessons once a week, but I need to think more about it and plan out all of the lessons in advance. That really fell apart this term. Also, wouldn’t this be a good time to write letters and thank you notes? I have been trying for years to get us going with regular correspondence and it has never worked out

iii. *10:00-11:00 Cornflower’s Hour: This is when I work with Cornflower on anything she needs help with—math, readings, phonics all happen during this time.

iv. *11:00-12:00 Mariel's Hour: This is when I work with Mariel on what she needs me to help with. This time is just not long enough. I can only fit math and part of one reading into an hour of help-time with Mariel. Where can I get additional time? If we eliminate ice skating, there will be a whole afternoon of additional time. I can add another hour each afternoon but Tuesday if necessary.

v. *Note on the two above hours: Do Considering God’s Creation and Exploring His Earth once per week from 10:30-11:30 with both children. Is this going to be doable, or will it be a challenge because it alters the weekly schedule? Flexibility is a quality to be desired.

vi. –During all of this time, Triss will be doing her work independently. She is very good at that, which is excellent. I can have her teach Considering God’s Creation once per week as long as she isn’t feeling frazzled and behind. I think she will enjoy it, and it will be good review for her.—

vii. –Also during this time, musical instrument practice will be rotating in and out, thusly—

1. 10:00 Mariel/violin
2. 10:30 Triss/piano
3. 11:30 Cornflower/piano (this is a change from 11:00 to accommodate the CGC and EHE lessons)
4. 1:00 Mariel/piano
5. Hey, I would like to have a regularly scheduled piano practice time, too! How to work that in, I wonder. Perhaps have it scheduled regularly, but give it over if one of the kids needs additional schoolwork help.

viii. 12:00-1:00 Lunch. We really enjoyed doing artist/composer study during lunch, and having poetry tea once in the week, but I wasn’t as consistent with that as I should have been, and so for the last few weeks we missed composer and artist study, and we have only done poetry tea three or four times (hey, that’s almost half the term, better than nothing.) What caused me to set it aside? Well, I ran out of my preparation, partly. I need to have everything ready in advance so I can simply pull it out at lunchtime. The other things that factored in were wondering what we would have for lunch, having places we needed to go at lunch, and the living/dining room tables being messy and in need of clearing. We stack books on them. So I need to have poetry, artist and composer completely prepped for the term ahead of time, and also need to be organized where decluttering tables, planning the lunch menu and prep is concerned.

ix. 1:00-2:00 Triss' Hour.

x. 2:00-3:00 Mariel's other hour.

xi. 3:00-4:00 Take a break unless we have evening plans and someone hasn’t finished schoolwork.

xii. 4:00-5:00 Chores.

xiii. 5:00-6:00 Dinner prep/relaxing

xiv. 6:00-7:00 Dinner

xv. 7:00-10:00 Evening activities, or relaxing at home until each person’s bedtime, or finishing what absolutely must get done for the next day (chores or schoolwork).

xvi. The Spanish lesson is on Tuesday during the time I teach piano, and Latin has been relegated to Triss alone, so she can do it during her independent time.

xvii. All music lessons take place on Tuesday, as well as nature study. We tried to have family geography lessons on Tuesdays as well, but we needed a little more wiggle room for piano lessons, so that fell by the wayside. Triss is reading the Brendan Voyage and doing mapwork for that and history on her own, and I will combine Cornflower and Mariel in EHE once per week. Cornflower is also reading some of the Holling books this year.

What's On My Desk?

Well, you have read what was in my cart this week, so I thought you might be interested in what is on my side of the big desk in the schoolroom. Triss and I share a very long desk, and recently Javamom and I were laughing at how high the piles have gotten on my side, covered in stacks of Useful Books.

We are tremendous book-stackers at our house. We pull books off the shelves at the drop of a hat, and hardly ever reshelf until we cannot get to our tables. (Update: Okay, I just realized this is not strictly true. We reshelf once a week, on Tuesdays, when we have people coming to our house for piano lessons. I don't always include my desk in the decluttering process, though.) Someone once told me this is an organizational style, but it doesn’t feel organized to me. You should see my half of the big desk right now.

(If anyone is wondering why in the world I am hyperfocusing like this, it is because I am trying to get organized for our Term 2, which starts after Thanksgiving. I have to reorganize before each new term-- The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, gang aft agley, Robert Burns, you know. This post started out as a tangent I took while laying out schedule variations for the new term. There is so much noisome thought in this head o' mine, it has to come out some way!)

Just for fun, here is a list of the books on my desk, dining table and coffee table right now (Update: Oops, I decided the list would be too long if I included the books on my dining table and coffee table, so this list is just for my desk):

1. Answer keys: Latin for Children, 6th grade SF Exploring Mathematics (what’s this doing on my desk? We aren’t even using this text this year!), 3rd grade SF Exploring Mathematics, Apologia General Science solutions and tests, UCSMP’s Transition Mathematics

2. Two copies of the essay, “I, Pencil,” graciously given to us by a good friend

3. The Mystery of History Vol. 1 (Creation to the Resurrection), lent to us by the same friend

4. Dover Coloring Book on Victorian Fashions, also given to us by the same generous friend (this one is sitting here because I was impressed by my friend’s habit of making copies of the Dover coloring pages rather than letting kids color directly in the books. I would really like to do that, but we do not have a copier at our house. So the book sits on my desk, pristine and unused. I should just hand it to Mariel. She loves coloring this kind of thing.)

5. Books for Triss' Girl Scouts Thinking Day projects on Greece: Black Ships Before Troy, The Odyssey, Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World: Ancient Times, Age of Fable, H.A. Guerber’s The Story of the Greeks, the d’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths (Why these are on my side of the desk and not her side, I cannot figure out. Also, Thinking Day isn’t until after Christmas. Surely we can reshelf these for the time being and dig them out again later.)

6. My old planning notebook (I transferred my last two months of the year from this book to my new planning notebook. I think I can file this old one away now.)

7. Truthquest History’s Dark Ages guide, borrowed from our kind Spanish teacher

8. The Grammar of Poetry (Both Triss' copy, which should be with her things, and my answer key)

9. KJV Bible

10. Our Island Story (this should be on Cornflower’s shelf)

11. A lovely advance copy of a book on masterly inactivity, which I am not sure I am supposed to be talking about yet

12. The d’Aulaire’s book on Columbus (I don’t know why this is on my desk. No one is studying Columbus. I think it is something Cornflower is reading in her spare time.)

13. A friend’s copy of The Writer’s Jungle, lent to me for two weeks. I am trying to read it from cover to cover in that time, and it is thick. I definitely want to get this for teaching composition.

Well, now that I know what I have on my desk, I think I can straighten it up. Several of these books belong elsewhere. Yippee!

What's on your desk?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Okay, I'll Play

Javamom has listed the contents of her grocery cart and asked what we got at the store this week. Frugal blogs and great deals have been absorbing quite a bit of my interest lately, so I decided to post my cart contents too.

The last couple of months I have doing a big shopping at the beginning of each twice-monthly pay period, and then just buying produce and maybe some dairy mid-pay period.

I have also been playing around with different ways to save money on my groceries the past few weeks. To make my list for this trip I referenced the Kroger flyer for deals, and also used the Everyday Bargain list from Hillbilly Housewife, as well as my own Master Grocery List that I keep on my computer in Word. I shopped at Kroger for deals only, and Walmart for the rest.

Here is what I bought:

1 package romaine hearts (lettuce)
1 thing of celery
2 heads of broccoli
1-4-pack of tuna
3 jars of peanut butter (I love the stuff)
Many cans of evaporated milk (we use this in our coffee)
Several cans of tomato sauce
4 cans of frozen concentrated orange juice
1 pound of turkey lunchmeat
1 pound of beef bologna
3 loaves of 100% whole wheat bread
1 package of turkey hot dogs
2 packages of turkey ham (I don't usually purchase ham for supper, but decided to this time)
3 pounds turkey bacon
2 cans of pumpkin
1 bag of fish sticks
1 container of dried minced onion
1 container of bay leaves
1 package of instant potatoes
1 package frozen mixed vegetables
1 package frozen strawberries
1 pound of butter
4 pounds of margarine quarters
1 package chicken thighs
2 lbs carrots
1 head of iceberg lettuce
1 package of peppermint sticks
6 dozen eggs
24 packages of ramen
1 dark chocolate candy bar
1 Sunday paper
several packages of sugar free pudding mix
many cans of green beans
4 cans of chili (no beans)
2 packages of graham crackers
1 container of canola oil
1 can of pears (in pear juice)
3 packages of storebrand mac and cheese
4 avocados
1 artichoke
2 cans of peaches (in juice)
1 can of coffee
1 bag of raisins
1 box of saltine crackers
2 pounds of cheese

And, for the grand finale, I purchased two 17+lb turkeys for .37 per pound.

So there you have it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

TCOO Ch. 36

Mariel has worked especially hard on written (typed) narrations this term. She has been retelling This Country of Ours chapters on the individual colonies of the United States. Today she finished this one on New Amsterdam (New York), and I think it is her very best so far, so I promised to post it on the blog. I hope you enjoy it!

TCOO cha.36

The change of Governors was not a happy change. Stuyvesant acted as though he was a king!! He shouted commands out to the people, and they were scared of what might happen to them if they didn’t obey. Stuyvesant was a tyrant*. There was a man who even dared to write to Holland! But when Stuyvesant heard about it, he foamed at the mouth! Can you imagine? He should have been put on the next boat to Holland, or London! But with all of his faults, he was a much better governor than the last one. He was Dutch, so he soon got mixed up in the Henry Hudson river thing. The Dutch said that both sides of the river belonged to them. The Swedes just laughed and hoisted their flag and sailed down the river-and then said that they would do it again too! Then the Dutch built a fort and the Swedes tore it down! Stuyvesant then &there decided that they went too far, and he gathered 600men, the largest number of men together and he beat the Swedes! Hooray!

Monday, November 05, 2007


"My thoughts are all folded up and put away for the night."


I got the kids to do some freewrites for me last week. Triss posted hers to Mossflower, full of exuberance and oddly proud to be misspelling and ignoring punctuation. (I thought about explaining that the point of freewriting was to really say what was in your head and not gloat about breaking The Sacred Rules of Language Arts-- that breaking the rules is sometimes an unfortunate but tolerated byproduct-- but she was having such fun I didn't have the heart to do it.)

They had a blast. And then they decided to read their writing aloud, and we laughed until the tears came. Who knew Mariel wanted to be a biscuit when she grew up?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Personalizing Bede

Triss: Last night I dreamed that Little Turtle [Triss' good girlfriend] and I went to Bede’s house. He was very nice, he was a lot more interesting than his books, and he had a very nice wife and two boys that were mine and Little Turtle's age, and we all played together.

Me: You know he was a monk.

Triss: Yes! But he wasn’t in the dream. He didn’t even live in that time period in the dream!

His house was in the same sort of area that the Adams' [friends from church] house is, kind of a wood sort of place, kind of like a forest, and it had an enormous backyard. The house itself was sort of like those Dutch paintings that are all reddish gold sort of light. It was a cozy sort of house. I think it was one story because that was the only story we were on. It was laid out a little like our old house. The boys and Little Turtle and I all played in the backyard and I vaguely remember that we had a play battle of some sort. Then we all went to the park and then Little Turtle and I went to the store where we found Bikkle [a young friend from church] in with the picture frames.

Me: Dreams are so weird.

Triss: Yes, they are.

Bede was sort of like Daddy and Goggy and Brother Chris all rolled into one. And he looked a lot better than the picture we saw of him on Wikipedia.

Me: This is so funny to me, because when I was planning your school, I was sure you wouldn’t like Bede, and I thought Birth of Britain would be much more to your taste. But you’re dreaming about Bede and dreading Birth of Britain. I guess I don’t know your mind very well.

Triss: I don’t know my mind very well! And I don’t really like to read Bede, but I liked him in my dream.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Working Willingly With Her Hands

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. -- Proverbs 31:19

(Dedicated to the ladies who use their hands to provide beautiful things for others.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

CM Blog Carnival

The CM blog carnival is up at Dewey's Treehouse!

Go check it out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
--Psalm 23:5

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. -Proverbs 3:5-6

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. --Isaiah 40:31

Seeking the discipline to place myself before God and wait.

The Washing of the Saints' Feet

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has an article on the Primitive Baptist practice of foot-washing. How about that? (The pastor interviewed was our pastor for years-- until we were able to help constitute a church closer to our home-- and he is one of our favorite people.)

Saturday, October 27, 2007


For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Benefits of Living Math

(This is a refining of a post I composed for on of the Ambleside Online lists. I realized some folks here might enjoy reading it, too. I apologize for some of the formatting, but I am in a hurry to get off the computer and on with my Saturday.)

"Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." --Albert Einstein.

We are certainly not math whizzes at our house, but I try hard to keep the door open. There are different kinds of giftedness in math, and who am I to stifle a gift that may not become apparent for years? I am comforted when I remember that Einstein, one of the greatest science minds *ever*, had trouble with math.

We read living math books for fun in our spare time. I have noticed that the living math books give us a touchstone when we come in contact with a difficult new concept in our schoolwork. I can reference a book, and the child will remember the book with
fondness, and it takes away some of the tension we seem to collect when learning math at our house. Another benefit is that some math storybooks help cement vocabulary, which is half the battle where math and science are concerned, imho.

Also, for my older child, some of the books have opened up the sheer excitement of math, some concepts of which she will not learn "officially" for a few years. Unfortunately, many kids who would excel at math "philosophy and analysis", I guess you could call it, are completely turned off in math by the time they get to these
exciting concepts in their traditional texts. I think living math books are to math study what "Tales from Shakespeare" are to literature study-- they provide a preliminary skimming of the concepts without the chore of mathematical figuring, just like "Tales from Shakespeare" provide a joyful introduction to the plot and
characters of Shakespeare plays without the chore of literary analysis.

Exciting concepts we have noted include the idea of a number like 'pi' existing, the thrill of exponential growth, the incredible mathematical order that exists in nature (fibonacci numbers), the hugeness of a googol (or even a googol-plex).

I like the lists at (under Math Reader Listings),but they are so comprehensive that they can be overwhelming. Our list of favorite living math books thus far is below.

For older kids we like:

Murderous Maths series by Kjartan Poskitt

The Joy of Mathematics by Theoni Pappas (I would buy any math book by
this author)

Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poetry for Two Voices by Theoni

Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales by Theoni Pappas

Math Wizardry for Kids by Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams

The I Hate Mathematics! Book by Marilyn Burns (I would also by any math
book by this author)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Power of Un by Nancy Etchemendy

Math Curse by John Scieszka

Mathematicians are People, Too! series by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury (on the HEO list)

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jeanne Merrill

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kevin Hawkes

And picture storybooks favored at our house for younger kids (but
help olders too!):

The Grapes of Math: Mind Stretching Math Riddles by Greg Tang
good math author)

Math Fables by Greg Tang

Math-Terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving by Greg Tang

This is the House That Jack Built (various)

Amanda Bean's Amazing Dream by Cindy Neuschwander and Marilyn Burns

Elsie Times Eight by Natalie Babbitt

One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes

There Was An Old Lady That Swallowed a Fly

There Were Ten in the Bed

The 512 Ants on Sullivan Street by Carol A. Losi

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Even Steven and Odd Todd by Kathryn Cristaldi

Bunches of Bunnies by Louise Mathews

One Hungry Cat by Joanne Rocklin and Marilyn Burns

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt

Monday, October 22, 2007

Math by Chocolate

The other day I had a math a-ha moment as I was correcting one of Triss' assignments. I think math a-has are my favorites, as I really didn't get math very well the first time around.

Triss just started the Transitions textbooks by Scott Foresman, and I read through the sidenotes in the teacher's guide as I was correcting. They have some neat features, such as Error Alerts for specific questions in the book that might give a child trouble-- they even tell *why* the child might be having trouble and how to remediate the concept. (I just love it when a book considers me intelligent enough to be "let in on the joke," so to speak. Especially if it is a math book. Makes me feel like thumbing my nose at the math books I had in school. Neener, neener, neener, I can understand math. But I digress. Ahem.)

I had been working with Mariel (not Triss) on converting fractions to decimals, and had run out of ways to explain it. Triss happened to be dealing with converting fractions to decimals in her book too, and the lesson overview from Triss' math program really helped me understand where my explanations might be falling short with Mariel:

Often a fraction is introduced via shading equal sectors of a circle, so that a/b means that a of b sectors are shaded. If this is the only way that fractions are presented, students associate the numerator and the denominator of a fraction with counting and they have no meaning for the fraction bar. [The fraction bar is the line between the numerator and the denominator for those of you who-- like me-- might have forgotten.] Thus, many students never think of the fraction as being a single number and it becomes more difficult for them to order fractions or rename a fraction as a decimal. Some students spend years of work with fractions before they are taught that a/b means dividing a by b. The changing of fractions to decimals and the graphing of fractions on the number line help develop the concept of the fraction as representing a single number.

Ohhhhhh. All of a sudden I was really excited about cornering Mariel for some more math. I knew we had to stop with the pizza math and work with.... chocolate bars.

Why is that? Why didn't I just do the number line and converting fractions to decimals thing? Well, that was a very good suggestion from Triss' math book, and Mariel's math book actually had her working like that, but it wasn't clicking for her. She kept forgetting that a/b is a divided by b, kept thinking that 1/10 was one out of ten *wholes*. And I realized that every time we have ever talked about fractions we have been dividing things in which each person gets a portion that is considered a fair amount, or a *whole* piece. Do you know what I mean? When you order a pizza, you don't expect to eat the whole thing yourself. You think each person will have a piece-- a *whole* piece. So, even though we call them pieces, they are wholes. Whole servings, you see? Same with pie. Each piece is a whole serving for one person.

Chocolate bars are different. When you have a chocolate bar, you expect to eat the whole thing yourself. So the bar is the whole. But if you have only one chocolate bar and nine chocolate-loving friends, the nice thing to do is break the bar into even pieces. And the pieces are little. It is easy to see that they are fractions of the whole, because after you eat your little piece you know it wasn't a whole serving. You could easily have eaten the whole chocolate bar yourself. The reality of dividing is thus brought into sharp relief. (Especially if you are very fond of chocolate.)

By the way, I curbed my urge to grab Mariel right that minute, and instead waited for the next day's math lesson. And chocolate bars really did help.

(And I still want to post about Elvis math. Maybe this week.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Strong Son of God, Immortal Love

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou:
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;
What seem'd my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ideas in Retreat

When I write a post, it is generally because I have something that I really need to say and I don't have anyone to say it to, other than those loved ones who are really so good about putting up with my one-track mind that I hate to overburden them.

Lately, nothing has been congealing into a blog post in my mind.

Often I will start a post, only to find that I am too dissatisfied with it to hit "Publish," and not sufficiently clear-minded to rework the post into something I am satisfied with.

So for the past several weeks I have been posting things that I am not thrilled with, or else putting up little "blurb" posts in order to avoid going more than a couple of days without a post to the blog. But my heart is just not in it right now.

I am done posting things just to post.

Originally, I only posted when I had something simmering so persistently that to post it was to free my mind, and I had a lot of ideas simmering persistently then. But now there is nothing that wants to be out in front-- the ideas are too unformed to desire the light of day. They are retreating in order to regroup, perhaps.

So if you don't see a post here for quite some time, don't worry. I'm still here, and I'm still thinking, and I will post again. I just don't know when.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

SCM Contest

Simply Charlotte Mason is holding a photo contest!

They will use the winning pictures to decorate the headers on their webpages, and the winning photographers in each category will receive a free SCM e-book.

(I'd like to have Hours in the Out-of-Doors.)

The three I chose to enter are all in the Children and Nature category:


(Sitting in a little brook, man-made or otherwise, with complete disregard for her clothing, is such a Triss thing to do!)

A Beautiful Bouquet

(Cornflower is so proud of her beautiful bouquet! I enjoy seeing her face peep through the blooms.)


(This off-beat and colorful picture is very Mariel!)

There are several different categories in the contest, and the deadline is November 8th. Go check it out!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Brainstorming Year 7

I gave Triss the task of brainstorming different writing topics, with the only requirement being that they relate to her school work. She came up with this list of possible titles. (I thought they were rather clever!)

1. How Merlyn’s Life Works
2. Government as shown in The Once and Future King
3. How to Be Diligent
4. The CM Mottos and what they Mean
5. Different Sorts of Spiders and What they Do
6. How to Write your Narrations like Fiction (and Keep them Believable)
7. Poetry: Different Rhymes and Reasons
8. Plutarch: History or Literature?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

She's Back!

And we are glad.

Together Again 2

(Thumper may be the happiest of all of us. She is just not satisfied with anyone but Triss.)

Mariel and Cornflower painted a "Welcome Home" banner this morning:


We had to wait until evening to go pick her and my parents up from the airport. The first thing I noticed when I saw her was how really long her hair is. (I'm sure it was that long when she left ten days ago, but sometimes being really close to someone causes you to not notice those things.)

After we got home we visited and looked at what Triss brought back with her.

And made towel animals.

It's a towelephant!

Lady and gentleman elephants, aren't they sweet?


I'm just waiting from Mr. Honey to get back from his work weekend at the singing school encampment, and we will be complete again. Ahhhh. Much better.

(Triss had a lot to tell, but I'm hoping to get a little composition mileage out of her trip memories, so perhaps I'll post some things in the next week or two.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

How It's Going

It is the halfway point of our school term, and the time when I begin saying of things that have fallen off the list, "We'll add that back in next term."

I thought I would say it here because it is more fun than contemplating it by my ownty-donty self. But I must warn you: this post is awfully long and detailed, and most likely only interesting to myself.

First, the things that have taken and flourished this term:

1. Bible. We have done Old Testament History twice a week, New Testament History twice a week and Proverbs on Wednesday with only a little variation. (Our variation has been to periodically switch to a character study on Determination or to do some catechism questions that I plan to work in regularly next term for Mariel and Cornflower. And we have skipped it completely a few times.)

2. Memory Work. This hasn't been done every single day, but we do it more often than not. We have hit on the clever (and fun) device of having each child take a turn being the teacher and reading out the memory work for others to follow. It enforces the teacher's learning as well as the students'! I have only rotated in one new mnemonic so far because we needed refreshing on our old work.

3. Home Ec. This has fallen into more of the cleaning and less of the life skills. I kind of thought that might happen. But it sure has been a relief to know each day has an hour in which all we do is think about the house. Yesterday morning we cleared the old plantings in our flowerbeds and it looks so nice. (I haven't given up on the general life skills as part of this hour; I am going to think them through a little more thoroughly before next term.)

4. Artist Study. We have made it through two Da Vincis in five weeks, and I'm pleased with that. We only played the picture game and read a very little about Da Vinci. Mariel read his biography last year, and Triss has it to read for free reading this term, so I think we're doing well in the Da Vinci department. (The two paintings we studied were The Last Supper and Ginevra da Benci.)

5. Composer Study. We are finishing up Rimsky-Korsakov, and I think his music has been one of our favorite parts of this term. We are loathe to leave him, but next week will move on to Borodin. We are comforted in the knowledge that we have Scheherazade in its entirety on CD.

6. Grammar/Phonics. This is going swimmingly, in fact, I think we will be able to discontinue phonics for Cornflower in the next few weeks to months; she just has a few more combinations to be sure of. And I am using Grammar Songs with Mariel and having her do the exercises in the book, which is a very nice fit for her. We almost lost Triss' Grammar of Poetry lessons through a miscommunication (she thought I was going to do it with her and I thought she was doing it on her own), but we got on track a couple of weeks ago and are doing a combination of independent/together work. (I really need to know that stuff-- I had never even heard of a trope.) I am not having her do a separate grammar book, although I do want her to finish Winston Grammar. I'm just not sure where to fit it. Perhaps next term.

7. Math. It's getting done. We are applying a little creativity to it, as well. Who knew Elvis could help with multiplication tables? (I am planning to blog about that but I want to post pictures first.)

8. Reading practice. Mariel and Cornflower have been reading aloud to me! Sometimes we sneak it in while we are doing an Ambleside reading and kill two birds with one stone, but occasionally we practice reading fluently by reading (from a non-school book) the same (interesting) paragraph over in turns. With expression. It's kind of fun.

9. Nature Study. Yay! Look at us doing nature study! Mariel has an early violin lesson one morning per week and we just spend the rest of the morning at the park. We adopted a lovely one that has a wooded nature trail, a pond and an extensive towered and turreted wooden play area. To make it more enchanting, there is a church nearby that rings bells (actually, I think it is a recording) to sound each hour. If you close your eyes slightly, you can imagine you are in a country shire. But I digress. I have to mention here that Triss and I have only missed nature journaling one time, and I just can't believe we have been consistent with it. This is The First Time it has happened.

10. Musical instrument practice. I had the bright idea of scheduling actual practice *times* this term so there isn't any discussion about whose turn it is to delight the rest of us with music. We have four people practicing piano and one practicing violin, and our house is basically a great room with bedrooms tacked on, so when one person is practicing, everyone else gets to enjoy it. The schedule has helped immensely. They are doing well in their piano. I am pleased to see progress. Mariel's violin teacher says she is doing well also.

11. Ambleside readings. These are going fine, for the most part. I have a few glitches to work out in Mariel's schedule, and I don't know how long it is going to take Triss to get all of her reading done this year, but the kids are reading and narrating at least two to three Ambleside selections each school day. Triss is doing Apologia General Science on her own as part of her Ambleside reading, and that has been a little intense, but she did fine on the first module and is into the second. Mariel and I had a sudden realization a couple of weeks ago that Robinson Crusoe is not someone she easily sympathizes with, so we decided to read that one aloud and have her do Abigail Adams on her own. I had a lot of fun this week demonstrating to her what a thirty foot wave would do to a person when she mentioned that she thought Mr. Crusoe must not be a very good seaman to have so much trouble getting to the island when he is shipwrecked. I even entertained Cornflower. (I can't really describe what I did except to say, "pkwsheahhh, spsssshhhhh, glurguhlurg, whoa-whoa, Argghhh!!! And just picture me running and tumbling back and forth in front of the bookcases in the dining area with my hands raised and falling to imitate waves. Our ceiling is one-third the height of a thirty foot wave, by the way. Hahaha, snuck some math in and they Didn't Even Notice.)

12. Weekly sketch. This is only happening because Barbara at Heart of Harmony blog has been encouraging us all with Sketch Tuesdays. We have only missed one Tuesday since we started our term. Thanks, Barb!

13. Home Geography. On violin-and-nature-study day (which also happens to contain an afternoon of piano lessons), we have a little time after lunch and chores, and before piano lessons, to do some family geography. We have studied the use of the compass and mapped the schoolroom. Triss even laid out the entire house on four sheets of graph paper. Next term I'm planning on making things a little more challenging for Triss by using Be Expert With a Map and Compass and the US Army Map Reading and Navigation Handbook to spice up her geography study a little. I've also insisted that they put down their books occasionally when they are in the car so they can figure out which direction we are going and what city we are in and where we should turn next. Turns out this is a big challenge for them-- it ought to be, as the girls generally have their noses in books, envisioning some parallel universe, whenever I am driving them someplace.

14. Spanish. Yay! Javamom is teaching the children Spanish! She arrives without fail once a week and teaches my kids Spanish while I work with her son on piano. It is so wonderful. I'm afraid the kids are having trouble remembering to practice their flashcards during the week, though, and I need to remind them to write that into their independent work.

The things that are getting done sometimes:

1. Singing. We forget to do this a lot of mornings, but when we remember, we have a really good time. We are learning some hymns, and some songs out of a funny little book called "A Singing Bee". Their favorite seems to be Katie the Kangaroo. My goal for the term is to have them sing two or three new songs in harmony for their grandparents at Thanksgiving, which is six weeks away. I think we can still do it if we remember to get our singing done each day!

2. Poetry. This started out getting lost in the shuffle, but then I realized we could have Poetry Tea once a week. We have done that twice, and really enjoyed it, so I am going to make an effort to continue. We did forget about it this week. There is so much good stuff to learn in this life, it just gets squished out the edges!!

3. Latin. We have done Latin at least three weeks this term, but are only on the second lesson. We haven't found the groove where practicing flashcards is concerned, and this makes it more difficult for the kids to learn the material. I'm thinking of using some of our car time for flashcards. We drive to regular activities two days per week.

4. Dictation and copywork. We have done this three weeks out of the five, but are only getting it done two to three days per week. We have been using pencil grips and being very strict about holding the pencil correctly during dictation and copywork. Because of this I have scheduled the kids to do these assignments all together rather than part of their independent work. The time of day is not convenient and that is why it falls off a couple of days a week.

5. Recitation. Each of the girls has memorized one to two poems (well, Mariel has memorized two portions of a long poem) this term, but we keep forgetting to practice. Practice is supposed to take place in the half hour when we do dictation and copywork, but that is just not the happiest hour of our day (those interfering pencil grips, you know) and by the end of it sometimes all we want is a little run outside, or a hug, or a cup of hot tea. I think it would be better for them to each practice on their own and recite their poems once a week at the Poetry Tea. (Ooh, yay-- an idea! I'll take it, thanks.)

6. Time Books. These come out whenever necessary at history, so it's not super consistent, but it is getting done.

7. Current Events. We got a late start on Student News Daily, but Triss is doing these daily now. Or would be if she were here. :sniff: (She's coming home tomorrow.)

And the winners for Absolutely Fell Off The Radar:

1. Shakespeare. We have done exactly one session of reading. It just got lost in the shuffle. It's scheduled on Fridays at the very end, and we only made it an Event that once. Next term.

2. Plutarch. We have not done one bit of Plutarch because I keep forgetting that I mistakenly scheduled it during ice skating lessons. This will have to take place next term also, I guess.

So there you have it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

News from the Traveler

My seafaring young'un and her Goggy won a ship-building contest.

Mr. Honey and I got to visit with her on the phone this afternoon, but she couldn't talk long. She was going to tea in the Amber Palace.

La, di, and very definitely dah. ;o)

Oh, but they did not win the yacht race. They let the other yacht win.

I miss her. Every time I talk to her she says, "Mommmmeeeeeeee!" I think she misses me, too. She's coming home soon.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Update: The folks over at Peakmore Academy have a wonderful series of posts on birds and birdwatching-- pictures, information, video, links! I highly recommend taking a peek.

fox sparrow

Cornflower and I are reading the sparrow chapters in the Burgess Bird Book. I found images of a fox sparrow, house sparrow, song sparrow and white-throated sparrow online. This is a good thing for us, as our book does not have color pictures.

And here is a site with audio for each kind (type the bird species into the search engine.).

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Cake That Crumbled

Another week, another cake; this is the way September seems to go for us. This time it was a lovely lemon layer cake for Mariel's Glitzy Princess Tea, to be served on my seldom-used cake stand.

Frosting the Cake 1

All began well. I baked the cake the night before and cooled it on a rack. Mariel frosted the top of each layer Friday morning. The frosting seemed rather relaxed, yet I saw no cause for alarm.

I took over when it came to the sides of the cake, as it is a challenge to frost the sides of a layer cake without dribbling frosting on the plate, and very difficult to clean a glass cake stand with a cake on it.

"Leave it to Mommy," I told Mariel. "I will keep it from getting messy."

I thought.

The frosting, unpreturbed by spreading, would hardly stay on the side of the cake. Each time I loaded the knife and ran it along the cake, the gooey topping paused, then oozed down to the plate, obeying the stronger law of gravity.

I began to realize that this was not going to be an easier cake than Triss'.

I wondered at the soft frosting. Was it the wrong kind for a layer cake? Called Rich and Creamy, perhaps it was only meant for cakes imprisoned in pyrex casserole dishes.

As I pondered cause and effect, and the deeper meaning of easygoing materials that cannot bear the liberty of scaling walls, Cornflower spoke up: "Mom, look-- it's sinking in the middle!"

Oh, dear. The silly cake had a crack.

Nevertheless, it was what we had. I decided to scoop up the puddles of lemon that had pooled at the base of the cake and try again after everything had sat in the fridge for thirty minutes, hopefully hardening.

After thirty minutes, we had this:

The Cake That Crumbled

Our interpretation of the San Andreas Fault, rendered in cake. I suppose it would do for a mini-study on plate tectonics.

San Andreas

I thought briefly about trifle, then broke the whole mess up into a casserole dish, covered the top with the remaining frosting and set it in the freezer for a future dessert which I will call Broken But Tasty.

We went to Kroger and purchased a cake for the Princess Tea-- a quarter sheet white cake with multi-colored icing streamers. All were satisfied.

The moral of my tale: "Easygoing materials require fortification-- or, Beware of canned Rich and Creamy Frosting!"


Pecans 1

Pecans 2

Trip Update

She boarded the ship this morning, and is moving from excitement to excitement with great fervor. Those of you who know Triss personally will understand what I mean.

Friday, September 28, 2007


This has been a Birthday Week. Quite a big one, actually. Triss has officially turned teen and Mariel hit the double digits. (Cornflower's birthday is in November, which she finds inherently unfair in September with her two sisters getting all the attention...)

We are adjusting to the new bigness of these two. They tell me they don't feel any different, and really all that has changed is a number. The growing takes place gradually, doesn't it?

And yet birthday events have a way of highlighting changes that have been gradually, quietly taking place. I got up at 3 yesterday morning to put Triss on a plane with her grandparents.

They will be in Florida until Saturday, when she will stand on the dock before the cruise ship that will take her and her grandparents out to sea and be faced with the reality of "952 feet long".

Living Math.

(Update, 9/29: Er, that should read "952 feet tall". I was corrected by my little jet-setter this morning when she informed me that the ship is actually over 11,000 feet long.)

(Later update: Okay, I looked it up, and it *is* 952 feet long. It has been awhile since she presented her research to us, so she must have forgotten.)

And after they sail, she will add to that understanding the knowledge of the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean as felt when out on a large ship with no land around-- a hulking vessel reduced to insignificance. Ah, yes, Living Geography. It really is a big, big world.

(I tried to explain this vastness after Mr. Honey's and my cruise a couple of years ago, but the kids just couldn't know it the way I did. There is something about the seeming infinity of water, unchanging for hours or sometimes days, that brings an understanding of the sea one cannot get from books, maps, or even the tales of travelers. And I'm talking about being out on a luxury cruise liner, hee hee. Just think what we would learn if we were on a small work ship of some kind!)

She called us last night, full of excitement and news about waves, bodysurfing and the beach. They were eating supper at a little restaurant overlooking "their" stretch of beach, a restaurant in which we ate during our trip to Florida six years ago. I could picture it all, and I am happy she gets this experience.

Meantime, those of us at home are following her journeys on a map and telling each other, "she's not here, remember?" It feels a little like part of the roof has caved in. She will be home in eight more days, full of new stories to tell and new thoughts to ponder.

But who's counting?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Earth Day for the Six Year Old

"Every day is Earth Day!" announced Cornflower importantly.

"Really?" I said. "What is Earth Day?"

"It's when you wake up and the sun is shining and the sky is blue or white and blue, and the grass is green or gray-green, and the flowers are blooming or they're wilting, and it's a beautiful day. Every day is Earth Day!"


A poem spontaneously composed by Cornflower.

I had nine dollars
My grandma gave me one
I spent my ten dollars
And now I have none!

:the mother looks on with pardonable pride:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ace of Cakes, Homestyle Edition

Triss wanted another Redwall party for her birthday this year. We decided to build the Abbey out of cake.

This web page was helpful, and Krakovianka's daughter's cake was an inspiration as well. (We had to have those malted milk balls!)

So, without further ado, here are the construction photos!


Triss baked two casserole-size cakes the night before, and after they sat overnight we cut and pasted (with frosting) the different levels together.


The sugar-cone turrets are my favorite part.

Middle of the Middle

The basic frosting and adding of candy done, and all that's left are the towers and turrets.

Building Complete!

The extremely chocolatey, triumphant result!

Redwall Abbey

The towers-and-turrets took over an hour. Totally worth it.

Licorice Notes

Licorice Notes

Mariel got creative with her candy.

I always thought music was fun, but this is ridiculous!!

Virtual Twizzler Pull-n-Peels for folks who can decipher the (poor quality) picture enough to name the time signature and key signature!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sketch Tuesday

Sketch Tuesday is up!

For next week, the extra credit at our house will include sketching something sweet (the new Sketch Tuesday challenge) and last Friday's freewrite at Bravewriter:

"When it might hurt their feelings, how do you feel about telling your friends the truth?"

(The girls have not attempted a Friday Freewrite yet, but they sure are enjoying Sketch Tuesday!)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Of A Truth

"Did this really happen?"

My six-year-old's current favorite question to ask.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

With Joy

Drawing water out of the well of salvation~

Praise the Lord, call upon His name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted! Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee!

--Isaiah 12:4-6

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Promise

After the rain:

New Promise

Rain Lilies..

I think these are rain lilies, but I could be sadly mistaken. I had a very hard time finding anything closely resembling them, but finally happened on this at the Preservation Society for Spring Creek Forest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sketching and Writing

It's Sketch Tuesday again at the Heart of Harmony. (Mariel let me know that Crocs do indeed float.)

The new assignment due next Tuesday is to sketch something yellow. And I am still gently encouraging my girls to attempt last Friday's Freewrite at Bravewriter-- the topic is second chances (don't we all need them sometimes?)...

Relative Temperature

My poor Texan children are begging me to get down the winter clothing. It is a "chilly" 67 degrees this morning, with a beautiful cool breeze. Mmm, delicious. I am in capris and a t-shirt, and Triss has on a T and leggings-- but Mariel and Cornflower are bundled in tights, long-sleeves, sweaters and mittens.

"Mama? It was so cold outside that I could feel it through my tights!"

"Me, too!"

I could not convince them that they would feel overheated in those clothes by the end of the day, when it reaches 82. We have been living in the heat too long!

Monday, September 10, 2007


It is rainy and somber this morning, with thunder rumbling in the distance. They say it will last all day and into tomorrow, and after the rain it will be Fall.

When I was in high school choir we sang a song that always come back to me when we have an all-day rain. The music is quiet, hushed, calm. It sounds just like a rain shower. I could not find the words or music online, and cannot remember all the words, but here are some I do remember:

Rain falls, soft rain at my window
Giving all the trees a quick, friendly bath
Washing afternoon dust from my wide garden path
And the columbine are bending their heads in the rain...

..While the rain is falling there's a quiet hush about the world...

While the thunder's calling there's a quiet hush about the world...

My parents have been purchasing raw almonds and seasoning and roasting them at home lately. Mr. Honey and I tried the same thing this weekend. Mmm, there is something so tasty about hot-from-the-oven almonds! I think we will make some today. They will go just right with the rain.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


My Flowers are Back

My flowers are back.

School Picture

We have finished our first week of school, and, in celebration, I share a picture of the girls on Day One:

First Day of School picture

Note the patched, cut-off and just plain holey jeans. We did not go back-to-school shopping-- but, at Mariel's suggestion, we did wear our CM Book Club shirts as a silent, day-long pep rally.

At the end of our first week my mind is vigorously spinning again. I am a mass of plans and questions-- ought we to do one more chapter in the old math book or chuck it and move on to the new? Ought Triss to learn formal notetaking at this stage or should we leave that for later? How should I rearrange memory work and recitation? They fell off our days this week. What is the best way to begin written narration for an eager but slow writer? Shouldn't I call the kids and have them get cleaned up for bed? I think our home might be contributing to our environmental allergies. I wonder if any of us are allergic to milk? When can we start that multiple food elimination diet?

Another time, when I confessed to Javamom about these racing mind-moments (whole evenings, really), she said that when she has been working so hard that her brain cannot shut off, she tends to watch a favorite movie or do some other easy, enjoyable thing. I began rereading Jane Eyre last night (for probably the 20 or 30th time). I have been reading books on learning differences, books on allergies, books on Ye Olde, Olde England and books on math, and I needed for a book that feels like a break. Thanks for the advice, Javamom.


Tea Supper

We had a tea supper. Early for supper, late for tea. I decided to do it that way so I wouldn't have to cook a meal, lol! It took about thirty minutes to get everything ready. The menu included:

* Red grapes and watermelon (in separate bowls)

* A very interesting attempt at elegant finger food (smoked turkey and lettuce on a toothpick, garnished with carrot slivers):


(You cannot see the carrots because I garnished the dish after the picture. It looked pretty.)

* Quick biscuits prettied up and disguised as scones:

Quick Biscuits Disguised as Scones

* Butter, peanut butter, jelly..

* A lovely tea from Tom Thumb called Evening Delight (on sale for $1.25-- I get extra points for being frugal!)

* Honey and half and half for the tea

* Popsicles for dessert

We quite enjoyed ourselves, and the girls looked spectacular in their costumes, but every picture I took of them turned out blurry. And we got through three scenes of Twelfth Night. (I was reading the No Fear modern version alongside the original and I'm not so sure I want to do that again. I had to keep reminding myself that the kids just had the original version and could not see what I was seeing.)

I think blog-accountability worked quite well in this instance. We got busy today, and I probably would have put off the Shakespeare and tea thing if Javamom hadn't asked this afternoon if we had had tea yet.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Tea and Shakespeare

I have a new use for this blog.

Tomorrow we are going to have a tea party and begin reading Twelfth Night by Mr. William Shakespeare.

I am putting this out on the blog ahead of time to reduce the likelihood that I will forfeit the treat in the interest of efficiency and just plain getting things done.

This is called blog-accountability. LOL.

(Hold me to it, ladies! Didn't I see a Tea Tuesday something-or-other going around the blogosphere? Perhaps that can be my deadline to post pictures.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Triss: Okay, Mariel, it's your turn to tell a story.

Mariel: Okay-- I'm just going to give you the basic plot.

Triss: Ooh, no-- don't give me the basic plot. Make it wiggle around and be complicated. That's the way I like it.


Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed,
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air,
His watchword at the gate of death--
He enters heaven with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice,
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, "Behold, he prays!"

The saints in prayer appear as one
In word, in deed, and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.

No prayer is made by man alone;
The Holy Spirit pleads,
And Jesus, on th'eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou by Whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way,
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray.

--James Montgomery, 1771-1854 (1818)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Habit is Ten Natures"

I think I have our basic daily routine down to what will work for all of us this year. I changed it a couple of times, trying to find a balance between needful duties and our own family and personal work-and-rest rhythms. This layout reflects what kept happening despite my efforts to manhandle the routine into something more rigorous. Some might say it is still too rigorous; to those folks I reply that we don't always keep to our routine (for instance, I am blogging this morning, which "ought" to be an afternoon activity!) but here is our track to run on. When things begin to go south at our house, we can look at this routine to remind ourselves not only to "do ye next thynge," but what "ye next thynge" is.

Evening Routine

5:00 Prep for supper and evening relaxing (includes zone and bedroom chores)
6:00 Supper and clean up; lay out necessary books, papers, equipment for the next
7:00 Family time (schoolwork if necessary; Girl Scouts and church will take up
some evenings
8:30 Mariel and Cornflower bedtime
9:30 Triss bedtime

Morning Routine

6:00 Get up, dress completely, make bed
7:00 Coffee, tea, Bible and journal
7:30 Make sure kids are up, start daily chores
8:00 Breakfast, family circle activities
9:00 Home economics
10:00 School
12:00 Lunch with artist/composer study

Afternoon Routine

1:00 School
4:00 Home activities if school is finished (includes phone calls, mail, chores,
baths, playtime, lesson planning, blogging—in that order. Some days we
have additional activities scheduled as well.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sketch Tuesday

Harmony Art Mom has a weekly drawing challenge, and Triss and Mariel participated this week. (I see that Mama Squirrel's daughter Crayons drew some colorful crayons too! We like them.) I am posting the Sketch Tuesday assignment in our family's schoolroom as "extra credit" each week.

I also decided the Friday Freewrites over at Bravewriter would be extra credit. (By the way, the extra credit thing is really a laugh since we don't do official grading at this point. Therefore, it cannot influence whether they get an A or a B in one of their subjects. But they get a lot of Mama-Sunshine for participating, lol!)

Next week's drawing challenge is to draw something that floats. The Friday Freewrite topic is Hands. I tell my kids to give me theirs by the following Thursday, and I will post their efforts to this blog. (No nibbles on the freewrite as of yet. But I'm hopeful.)

And how about a little math?

Homeschooling + Blogging = Fun!

(And for those of you on feeds, I apologize for updating so many times. My brain and fingers do not seem to be connecting very well this aftenoon.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Art and Encouragement

I have been enjoying reading the Heart of Harmony blog the past few days. Barb, the Harmony Art Mom, is very encouraging when it comes to pursuing fine arts with children. Today she pointed out an art website that looks like it will prove helpful where art history is concerned*. My favorite features of the website so far are the artist quotations. Here are some from Da Vinci:

"Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind."

"Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art."

"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself."

And read this one.

"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

Reminds me a little of Yoda, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

*Be careful allowing the kids to read over your shoulder; I was thankful my girls were playing outside as I read one page that alluded to unsavory topics!