Friday, June 29, 2007

Spotted Bee Balm

A palace for Thumbelina.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Little Folk

Have you ever stooped eagerly to pick up a miniscule bit of paper in the hopes that it would turn out to be the little boy paper doll your daughters have been missing? (Alas, it was just a piece of wrapper from a pack of gum.)


(I like her pretty dress.)

The Little Folk

Each paper doll measures around one inch in height, and all the clothes are custom fitted. This means if you go to Kroger with one of your dolls in your unzipped purse, and, unbeknownst to you, the tiny poppet falls out, not only will you never find your sweetest doll, but you cannot even pass her profuse wardrobe on to another. These are Very Valuable Dollies.


I was not allowed to take pictures of the town tonight because it was in disarray. Perhaps later. But as an eyewitness to this phenomenon, I can tell you that these Lilliputians not only have a Walmart-- they have Ikea, a hospital, a church, an airport (complete with airplanes), barns with animals, and a castle.

Meadow Pink

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Mind At A Time, Ch. 2

In chapter 2, Dr. Levine describes his theory. He starts with a story about Fritz, a boy he worked with who was very mechanically oriented. He once fixed one of Dr. Levine's medical instruments while on a visit, and the first thing he did was to look it all over and wonder, "Let me see, how is this supposed to work?" Dr. Levine calls this the Fritz Principle, and has applied it to figuring out how learning works.

Neurodevelopmental functions are the tools that allow us to learn things. They work in groups-- different arrangements for different kinds of learning. There are many different neurodevelopmental functions, and some are stronger or weaker than others in each person. Sometimes the weakness is so pronounced that the function is actually a dysfunction. He calls these neurodevelopmental dysfunctions. (Ta-da.)

A lot of times a neurodevelopmental dysfunction goes undetected. The parents and teachers see the child doing well in other areas and come to think the child just isn't trying hard enough when it comes to writing, or math, or remembering things.

There are eight neurodevelopmental systems in which these functions are categorized. Dr. Levine gives small explanations of each in this chapter, but I am just going to list the systems because he also devotes a chapter to each later in the book:

1. Attention Control System
2. Memory System
3. Language System
4. Spatial Ordering System
5. Sequential Ordering System
6. Motor System
7. Higher Thinking System
8. Social Thinking System

Dr. Levine calls the unique combination of strengths and weaknesses found in each child that child's neurodevelopmental profile. This profile determines what will come easy and what will be hard for the child. He also emphasizes that there is a niche for each kind of profile, but that niche isn't always going to be schoolish, and that is tough on kids in our society because we are so concerned with schooling.

He makes the point that not only is there a niche for each profile, but it is also possible for children to change their strengths and weaknesses over time. (Neural plasticity?) This is such good news, and is why I think that we do need to work on strengthening kids' weaknesses (without making it a moral issue if they fail at tasks or understanding, ie., he is just lazy). Dr. Levine says there may be ceilings where improvement in an area is concerned, however.

So how does a person come to have the profile he or she possesses?

1. Genes
2. Family Life and Stress Level
3. Cultural Factors
4. Friends
5. Health
6. Emotions
7. Educational Experience

(A lot of these may be closely guarded/guided by the parent-- family life, stress, cultural factors, friends, educational experience-- especially if the family homeschools. Education is an atmosphere...)

Dr. Levine then gets into how lifestyle may affect the way a child learns. He says, "I have been finding in all my clinical work that many aspects of contemporary life can stunt the growth of key neurodevelopmental functions." (p. 43) Some of the culprits:

1. Television. You're not surprised, are you?

2. Unsophisticated language, and he mentions modern popular music lyrics especially, and bemoans the lack of good lyricists today. (I'm thinking poetry and hymn study help alleviate this problem greatly!)

3. Modern popular music, which consists of simplistic lines and monotonous repetition. He believes the ability to recognize patterns in memory was once strengthened by listening to music, and because of the simplifying of music this is no longer the case. (So listening to great music can actually improve a child's ability to recognize a pattern in math word problems.)

4. Electronic games. He does grant that these games can improve eye-hand coordination and spatial ordering, but says that these skills do not improve intellect in a big way. (I am always confused about what the word "spatial" means. Here is the definition: pertaining to space. Of course. But what does that mean in clinical terms? Spatial ordering is the organization of information using spatial clues such as left to right, top to bottom, etc. Still doesn't help. Is it organization? Is it figuring out where you are in space?)

5. Internet. Dr. Levine calls it a mixed blessing. The downside to the Internet lies in its capability of presenting such huge volumes of information. Students can download and utilize information without really understanding or processing it-- a superficial skimming of knowledge rather than depth. (I can totally identify with this.)

6. Family life. He is talking about rush, stress and struggle here. He is really big on family discussion and sitting down for dinner together, and says it is crucial for children's language development.

7. Nightlife. In his observation, children are staying up later and later, and while this might benefit them in some future profession, it is not good when you need to get up on time and be alert in school the next day.

8. Visual-motor ecstasy, Dr. Levine's own term for the thrill that comes from intense physical activity. He believes the thrill can become addicting and cause the child to neglect academic pursuits in favor of rollerblading, driving fast, or even becoming too interested in sports. (We must remember that he himself has said he is inept at sports, so it is interesting that he sees so little value in them. The book is about academic development rather than physical, but, especially for some folks, lots of exercise is crucial to their thought processes.)

9. Visual appearance, or caring too much about the way you look.

10. Overly programmed lifestyle. Kids need time to think, be bored and entertain themselves. (Free afternoons, anyone?)

11. After school employment. A teenager may feel that school is unimportant compared to the work at McDonald's that is earning him enough money to buy a car.

12. And, of course, drugs and alcohol.

Our job as parents is to keep all of these things in check, to monitor whether one area or another is assuming undue importance.

Dr. Levine then talks about lumpers and splitters. Lumpers are folks who group kids into labels. Splitters are folks who detail each individual child's functions and dysfunctions in order to pinpoint exactly what is going on with the specific child.

He mentions as well that although early detection of a dysfunction is to be desired, despair ought not to set in if a dysfunction is detected late. It is always possible to alter weaknesses (or, alas, strengths), no matter your age.

In the next chapter he begins to deal in detail with the different mind systems in each person. I really like the way he has these next chapters laid out: he describes the system, describes strengths and weaknesses that can be inherent in the system, then lays out "normal" development of the system throughout childhood into adulthood, and then gives some practical considerations for the strengthening of the system. Very good stuff. The first system he deals with is attention. I will blog on that a little later.

A Mind At A Time, Ch. 1

This book has been recommended to me by several people, and I finally have gotten it. I am going to keep notes here on the ol' blog, in case anyone else is interested.

In chapter one, Mr. Levine states that kids have different kinds of minds that excel at different kinds of things, and that after years of working with children struggling to make their round minds fit into square pegs, he feels a lot of compassion for these children. He is a pediatrician who works in clinical programs and schools with "unsuccessful children."

The book is based on his observation of the kids he has worked with over the last thirty years. He states in the book, "Although I follow the research in the field very closely, I think it appropriate to write this book based purely on objective clinical observation.." So there are a lot of anecdotes and stories about kids and their struggles.

He makes the point that as adults we understand that we cannot be expert in every area; however, we expect our children to be good at everything. There may be some validity in this expectation, but Mr. Levine doesn't think so. I tend to think that if we attempt to strengthen our kids' weaknesses when they are children, they will be better equipped adults.

He is very concerned that children not be set up for failure, and I agree with him there. In the introduction, he seems to be pushing for children to learn only in their areas of strength, but as I have gotten deeper into the book, I see that this is not the case.

Friday, June 22, 2007


At least five times during lunch, Francie mentioned that she had a story published. At last mama said, "Yes, yes, I know. I saw it all coming. There'll be more stories printed and you'll get used to it. Now don't let it go to your head. There are dishes to be washed."

This passage from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn came to mind as I contemplated one scholar's opinion of the fantastic world of King Arthur. He noted that in Howard Pyle's Arthur there were no servants, no people to keep things running while the chivalrous knights and fair ladies experienced their adventures. I wish I could quote what he finally said here, but I have misplaced the book. (Erg.) The gist of it was that Pyle was attempting to make a beautiful world (he even went so far as to call it a new Eden) in which things like mucking out stables and washing dishes did not exist. The beautiful and noble took precedence over the commonplace and messy.

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world like that? But we keep bumping up against laundry and dirty walls and bugs and weeds to pull in the garden.

Triss and I were talking about the clash between prosaic and poetic in everyday life this morning, and so I invited her to post her opinion:

Triss: I think the prosaic world does not intrude on the epic world. If anything, it's the other way around. The prosaic world is much improved if while doing some menial or displeasing task you are able to do it well while your mind is in a 'parallel universe'. For example, even doing dishes is interesting, in my mind, if I change merely the location to somewhere out of *The Treefleet Band* or *Redwall*. Also I can follow Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's advice and change myself to her beautiful princess. The possibilities are endless - even for dishes.

MA: You are thinking in terms of Redwall! My thought is that if life is epic, it is the Epic of God's story.

Triss: Even God's Epic is prosaic to some measure. Part of it *is* everyday life.

MA: I agree. The Epic is prosaic as well as poetic. His Story has everything-- high adventure, romance, sacrifice, nobility. It also has the grinding, everyday life that is our due because of sin. (I am a little embarrassed to write about our life as "grinding," since we live in 21st Century middle class suburbia, quite comfortably, compared to others. But there are those things that repeat, ad infinitum, and, like Mr. Incredible, I would just like the world to stay saved for five minutes! I just cleaned this place! Not that I am a superhero or anything. But it would be nice to maintain an empty sink without washing dishes every few minutes.) The Epic is the story of the Lord making the world, and all the complex tales and adventures involved in His lessons to us and His saving of us-- and, difficult for us to understand, His bright purposes that ripen fast. It is sometimes hard to remember that when dishes are involved. I think the ideal Christian life is one that responsibly deals with the details of the prosaic, while simultaneously maintaining enough faith and imagination to embrace the high poetry of the Lord's love for us; and keeping our eyes on the Resurrection. Like Corrie ten Boom and her sisters as described in The Hiding Place; or Gladys Aylward leading her orphans to safety across the mountains of China; or even Francie and her mother, enduring hardness throughout turn-of-the-century poverty until a salvation of sorts occurs.

Triss: Go to the library, spin around three times and pick up a random book. I can assure you it will have some part of The Epic in it, whether you picked a cliff-hanging mystery or a how-to book on putting a bike together.

MA: That's a hasty generalization! But I do think the mark of a good story is that it reflects some part of the epic. There is a lot of well-meaning, yet mediocre, and even detrimental, writing out there, though, so I don't think you can pick up a book at random and be assured of finding a reflection of the epic.

Triss: I didn't consider that possibility. I agree. That is how you find the kind of books I like - by the book's "reflection of the epic". Shakespeare is like that. *Much Ado About Nothing* is romance and human nature; *Othello* is how jealousy can completely turn someone's mind upside down; *The Comedy of Errors* is how the senses are confused by several people that are exactly alike.

MA: Each story is a portion of the main epic of the ages. Even our lives are that. We are, like the Hobbits, a small part of a large story.

(Bonnet Tip to The Equuschick. I have been catching up on posts I missed for the last week or so-- that's a lot of Common Room posts, ya'll! And I dearly enjoyed all the discussion of words, and 24-hour days, and especially the Equuschick's post on organization and recalcitrant thoughts. Our post was prompted in part by her vivid description of the inner workings of her mind.)


"The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas."

--The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Random Thoughts on AO, Year 7 and King Arthur

Triss and I are preparing for a year in the Middle Ages, complete with Arthurian legends. I am prereading The Once and Future King. There have been a lot of emails on the Yahoo loop about this book, and I am very curious. Lindafay posted a link on her blog to the Cliffsnotes for the book, and I have been reading that as well.

The Once and Future King is supposed to have leadership themes. I am only on chapter three, but I can see the threads beginning.

I handed Triss Watership Down a few weeks ago, thinking it was an additional reader for Year 7, but as it turns out (oh, my fuzzy brain), Watership Down is a literature selection to be spread out among twelve weeks. She inhaled it, of course, and thought it as wonderful as Redwall. She has begun using all kinds of rabbit-speak terms for our Thumper-bunny's behavior. Watership Down is supposed to be about government, but I don't think she caught that. I told her this morning (after a little probing) that the book contrasts different types of government, and the light went on. She was able to apply that right off and told me exactly what she thought the contrast was, although she didn't realize there was a deeper theme until I mentioned it. Because the book was supposed to have been a contemplative-type school book (my bad), I asked her if she would write me a composition discussing the themes of government in the book. She was (surprisingly) delighted, and said it would be just like writing a paper on Redwall.

This makes me think of Leslie's post, about a seminar at a CM conference (was it the Child Light Conference?), which was on assessment. She talks about "guided instruction" as contrasted with predigesting, spoonfeeding, and expecting exact regurgitation. The contrast really sits well with me. Teacher guidance is not to be shunned. The trick is guiding without getting between the child and the book.

In The Once and Future King, Merlyn is Arthur's tutor. The morning of their first meeting, he asks Merlyn if he can ask him a question.

"It is what I am for," Merlyn replies.

(Has anyone else read A Hole is to Dig? A teacher is for a student to ask questions!)

Once Triss and I got on the subject of deeper themes this morning, we began discussing other Arthur books she has read: Howard Pyle's King Arthur and Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. She wanted to know in what order they were written (which one was first, etc.) and I wanted to know the deeper themes of the two books. When she and I read Howard Pyle's Arthur a year or two ago, I was so immersed in figuring out AO and CM that I didn't do any deeper research into Arthur at all, but just took the stories at face value, happy to make it through the pseudo-old English.

One of the things I enjoy so much about the books in AO/HEO is the way they build on one another. I come to certain books thinking, why in the world did they choose this book? How does this one fit? Or, my favorite, why are we reading another book on this subject/story? And then once the reading commences, I begin to see the pieces fall into place. It is a little like watching an epic unfold.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Children Are Born Persons

The ladies at CMSeries are discussing CM's 20 Principles one by one this summer. They are currently on Principle 1, and I popped over there last night to find a thoughtful conversation going on. (And put in my two cents. Of course.)

When I was growing up, my dad told me that every person is worthy of our respect because we are all made in God's image. I have always thought of this when it comes to CM's Principle 1.

Betty Smith describes a teacher with this mindset in the novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:

On a rainy day, she wouldn't give a lesson. She'd take a block of paper and a stick of charcoal and sketch the poorest, meanest kid in the room. And when the picture was finished, you didn't see the dirt or the meanness; you saw the glory of innocence and the poignancy of a baby growing up too soon. Oh, Miss Bernstone was grand.

So often moms and dads get caught up in their expectations of their children, what they want their kids to do, trying to get things done or arrive places on time, or even just trying to get a moment's peace, and then it is easy to deny the personhood of a child. Ask me how I know. I have found that if I want to really connect with my kids, to honestly acknowledge them, I have to slow down a lot more than folks generally do in American society, look them in the eyes and listen. It's amazing what I find when I do.

I am going off-line for a few days, and will write again soon!

Friday, June 08, 2007


"Many good deeds seem as common and unexciting as dandelions, and we may mistakenly discount their worth and impact."

--Jean Fleming, Between Walden and the Whirlwind

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's Summer Vacation...

...and for some reason, that means Christmas carols at our house.

I really don't know why, but three times in the last week I have turned off Christmas CDs set to play by my kids. The children, deprived of electronic means, have resorted to Jingle Bells on the piano.

Why, oh why?

(I am a strict adherent to the Carols-after-Thanksgiving rule. Unless you are preparing for Christmas concerts. In which case September is soon enough to begin practicing. Please?)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What I am Reading

Here are the books I am currently working my way through. I haven't done this in awhile because, while I generally have strong reactions to books, I frequently have a hard time putting my opinion into words. I know I like or dislike the book, but have a rough time saying my exact thoughts. It's funny, but in the CM book club meetings I go to, I don't have this problem at all. I think that is because I really study the books I know I will be discussing in a book group, but other books I simply peruse. Also, when I am just reading my Bible for the morning, I tend not to be able to formulate articulate thoughts about what I am reading, but when we are really studying something in the Bible, I am able to express my questions and thoughts more clearly. So here are some jumbled thoughts on my "perusal" books.

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book is at least ten to fifteen years old, and yet I have never read it until now. These two authors reveal some psychological principles where relationships are concerned. I tend to agree with their analysis of boundaries, although not at all completely. I take issue with a large portion of the book-- I think their strong emphasis on a supportive group of people to help you establish boundaries seems to suggest a God who cannot work alone. Don't get me wrong; I agree that we need folks, and the Lord certainly uses others to help us through things. I just would have liked to have seen the Lord's role emphasized more. Also, while I agree in principle with their ideas concerning boundaries and children, I did not agree with their application of those principles in every particular.

A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness. I am attempting this one again, after setting it aside for several months. I have gotten to the part where Lilias Trotter is in Algeria reaching out to others and trying to learn Arabic. The reason I decided to try to finish it is because I just read a review in which the person said this book is a good one for trying to understand Islamic societal structure. We'll see. As I said, we have just barely gotten to Algeria.

Between Walden and the Whirlwind by Jean Fleming. This one I found recommended on one of my favorite blogs, and I cannot remember which. (If it was you, will you leave a comment so I can give proper credit?) "Order in an overwhelming world" is something I want to understand. My favorite quote so far:

Seeking God first is not a matter of order, but of focus.

Exactly. Why didn't I see it that way before?

Here are the books I am reading either with the children or for next year (or this summer) for the kids' schooling. Actually, the Lilias Trotter book is a school book also, but I haven't yet decided to hand it over to Triss.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. We are almost finished, yes we are! Mr. Darcy is just about to propose. When we are done we get to watch the BBC movie. Oh, yay! Then Triss and I will read Emma. Maybe Sense and Sensibility ought to come next, but I like Emma best, and I feel a bit more justified in my liking since Clifton Fadiman listed it in his Lifetime Reading List as the other recommended Austen. Besides, Elinor's patience and Marianne's indiscretion tend to annoy me a little if I am in a peevish mood. Also, Edward frustrates me. Mr. Knightley would not behave like that. (Okay, don't get me wrong, Sense and Sensibility is a good book too. I just like Emma better.)

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Mariel and I just started this. We listened to it on CD when she was six or seven, but I asked her to share it with me again because the girls and Mr. Honey gave me a new copy for Mother's Day. My old copy is going to bits. Jo just met Laurie at the little New Year's party and all the fun is fixing to begin.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. The older girls and I are taking it in turns reading this book aloud to Cornflower. We are right in the thick of the web-writing, but before the fair.

Story of the Greeks by H.A. Guerber. This is a slow read for me. I just cannot sequence through Greek history for some reason. I had a better time with Augustus Caesar's World, which I finished a couple of weeks ago, but I like Genevieve Foster's style of jumping around all over the world in each successive year (I know not everyone does). The straight chronological telling of Greek history is difficult for me to focus on for some reason. I am already dreading The Story of the Romans, which I plan to plow through next. These are prereads, kind of, although Triss is further along in the Greeks than I am, and is already halfway through Augustus Caesar's World.

Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff. Triss has not started this one yet. I have gotten to the part where Achilles is pouting. It is as difficult as The Story of Greeks. I cannot connect with the ancient Greeks for some reason. I have the Andrew Lang version also, as well as a translation of the Iliad on CD. Maybe I should try one of those. But we enjoy Rosemary Sutcliff so much, I thought Black Ships before Troy would be best.

Genesis: Finding Our Roots by Ruth Beechick. I have finished reading this one, but I keep coming back to it, trying to figure it out. There are things I just don't know about in this book, but then there are other things that I find quite valuable. I purchased and preread Adam and His Kin as well, but set it aside as unnecessary and possibly detrimental. I just wonder how much of the beginnings of time the Lord wants to keep veiled, and whether conjecture and imaginings past what has actually been preserved is really good for us. It is so easy to project our own ideas and societal norms into the story when we try to figure out how it might have been. This is an area in which to be cautious.

Exploring Creation With General Science by Dr. Jay Wile. I appreciated Leslie's comment in the previous post when I mentioned I was reading this. I have gotten to the Applied Science module, and did enjoy reading about the difference between science, applied science and technology.

And here are the two things I am really studying right now:

Home Education by Charlotte Mason.

And a really fascinating series of articles on the meaning of Romans 8:28 by the minister who officiated at mine and Mr. Honey's wedding.

Ambleside Pondering

(Ambleside Online free curriculum)

Year 4
I have been looking over plans for the next school year, and have finally decided that Mariel should move from Year 3 to Year 4. I seriously considered using one of the Year 3.5 plans floating around cyberspace, but just could not reconcile myself to allowing the history chronology to remain static. Besides, we want to get on to the American Revolution! So we will do Year 4 this year, and I imagine when we arrive at Year 6 we will slow the pace a little, and take more than two terms for ancient history, and possibly more than one for 20th Century. (I don't know, the 20th Century is kind of depressing. I can think about that later.) It is hard to believe Mariel will be doing Ambleside Year 4-- the year that Triss started out with. We have been using Ambleside for almost three years!

I do plan to use C.C. Long's Geography for the Primary Grades instead of Minn of the Mississippi, because we did Minn this year. I want to read this aloud to all three girls, but I will have to see how heavy Triss' load is this year. She may end up reading the geography book on her own as a free reader.

I may substitute a couple of the additional books for the literature selections though, especially if I want Mariel to be doing a lot of this on her own. I will need to read the natural history and science books with her at least, and it would be nice if she could read her own books in literature. I think she will be able to handle her history reading on her own as well.

Year 1
Cornflower is reading short chapter books on her own, so she will do fine in Year 1. I believe she will be able to read a lot of the books on her own and come to me for narration. We will have to try it and see, because she has not ever done that before. I will probably need to read Paddle and Burgess with her, and her literature selections. Reading Paddle and having her participate in the Long geography book will mean a lot of geography for her this year, but I always feel like the kids don't get enough geography, so perhaps it will be a good thing. Really, they need to refer to maps (and time books/charts) for every subject. That is a habit all of us need to solidify. Just to have them by, and look at them at least once in each reading, would be sufficient.

Year 6-7
As for Triss, she will have a science class this year, which means I will not be looking over her science assignments as much as I might need to otherwise. I am currently reading the text, Apologia General Science. Very interesting reading. I am wondering about Dr. Wile's view that science cannot prove anything. I think he means science is not necessarily conclusive-- more often than not, another scientist comes along and alters or disproves theory or even a scientific law, and sometimes we cannot even prove theories via scientific method. But to say that science cannot prove anything at all seems rather shocking. Perhaps I misunderstand him, or perhaps I am too indoctrinated by this age's thinking where science is concerned. Or perhaps he stated his case wrongly. Nevertheless, this is Triss' science book for next year, as I understand that Apologia books are currently better than most creation science textbooks. We have been advised to read both creation and "regular" science books, and we do that, never losing sight of the 6-day, young-earth creation account put forth in Genesis. I'm not sure what I would like to see in a secondary level science textbook, but I know I haven't seen it yet.

Triss will be doing the third term of Year 6 in the fall, and then turning to Year 7 in January. I am having her do some of her history reading over the summer-- the ancient history terms move so quickly! She did an amazing amount of history reading this spring already. We are taking a break from school for the next couple of weeks, and then will get back into maybe an hour or so a day.

I am excited for Triss to begin reading How to Read a Book and Ourselves, and am thinking of starting those in the fall even though she will still be Year 6. She has already read a couple of the Term 3 Year 6 books, so I think we will have room. She has read part of Ourselves already, and understands the author's fanciful concept of the Kingdom of Mansoul already, so we may gloss over the introductory chapters and get right to the meat. The rest of Year 7 is a little intimidating to me, especially the "salad bar," pick-and-choose layout. I would really like to have all the books in my hot little hands, and have leisure to read every single one of them, and then have about a month for Triss' Year 7 selections to solidify in my mind before I handed her anything. This is dreaming, but I am going to read and think as much as I can before I decide what to give her in January. So, most likely, come Christmas I will be hurriedly putting together the rest of her program!

Then there is the issue of the books from previous years that we have never finished. The Burgess Animal Book, Robin Hood and Oliver Twist (Triss only). I keep thinking I am going to plug these in somewhere, but when we get down to brass tacks, there is no room! no room! (I am not overly fond of Robin Hood anyway. I'm not so sure I like him as a role model. Maybe I am missing something.) And then, I always wanted to finish out Considering God's Creation (science notebooking curriculum), but I don't know if that will ever happen.

So much good stuff to learn about, and learn with, that we cannot keep up! What a nice challenge to have. Making an overview like this helps me keep my eye on the big picture. I have to remind myself that we intend to go someplace with all of this, and not merely enjoy ourselves and revel in learning. Although reveling in learning is desired, I think we have that part down. My job now is to make sure the kids actually get what they need to go where they are supposed to in life, and for that, a track to run on is a helpful thing.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Blessings of the Year

I usually call this a Ta-Da List, but I have decided to change it to the Blessings List, because whatever good things happen at our house are by the grace of God. This list is one of several ways I have of talking myself down from trees where homeschooling is concerned. Whistling in the dark, so to speak. The Lord always provides for us, and I know He will continue in the future, but He only shows one step at a time and I have an inordinate love of control. (I'm working on it.) So this is my See-He-Did-Too-Bless-Your-Efforts list. (Disclaimer: I'm sure it isn't a complete list, either.)

First off, I Relaxed this year. I am told that this was the crowning achievement of the year. This means I hit the snooze button more often, didn't set the timer as much, and occasionally took the day off from school for things like May Flowers or Needing To Take A Walk Day. Unfortunately, in my relaxation I seem to have misplaced some of my proper care for details of daily living, so the pendulum does need to swing back a smidge.

Cornflower blossomed into a real reader. Yay! I love that part. She is reading small chapter books.

Triss competed in a speech tournament-- she did an Open Interpretation which was taken from the story of how Tigger and Roo Got Stuck, and also competed in the Impromptu category.

Triss wrote affirmative and negative cases for her debate class, and also had the opportunity of presenting one of them to our homeschool support group, and submitted to cross-examination by another speech and debate club member.

Triss, Mariel and Cornflower all completed their first round of ice skating lessons, and participated in a program at the end.

Mariel had another violin recital. Her teacher moved to Bolivia the first of this month, so we are in between violin teachers, and are very sad.

On Saturday, Triss bridged from Junior Girl Scout to Cadet with her troop and, after a bit of a mad scramble to meet requirements the other girls had accomplished in previous years, received the Bronze Award.

Triss and I read three Shakespeares and three Plutarchs this year. It is the first year we have done that-- before, we were managing one per year. Plutarch and Shakespeare are two areas where I can see real growth over the last couple of years. Used to be we had to decipher Plutarch one sentence at a time, but now we can read and (somewhat) understand an entire section without stopping.

Mariel joined us in our Shakespeare this term. It is the first time she has participated in reading an actual play. We did A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The children had a job this year. They cleaned their grandparents' home every couple of weeks or so, under the training and supervision of their Goggy. This opportunity has been quite enlightening to both the girls and their mother. The work has illuminated areas of strength and weakness for each child, and this valuable information has helped me focus my planning efforts for the next year where their education is concerned-- life skills and otherwise. Our house is staying a little tidier lately as well, now that they have been trained with brooms, mops, vacuums, etc. I have adapted the "zone" cleaning of a friend to fit our household, and each girl, in addition to keeping her own room tidy, is responsible for one-third of the house each week. I run around helping my "cleaning ladies" when it is chore time, or do some of the paperwork that seems to pile up needing my attention whenever my back is turned.

We had another music class, and got to share our love of do-re-mis and hymnsinging with friends. This time, Triss was my ablebodied assistant, doing such things as Sol-fa Hand Signs and Holding Posterboards and Leading The Alto Section. Cornflower was helpful entertaining the small siblings of students so the mommies could watch the class, and all three girls helped lead when we sang rounds. (They also kept their zones extra clean all week so the class would be comfortable!)

Next year I would like to be more organized in the type of music we sing. Since Mariel is beginning to be able to sing in harmony, we can do some ladies' three-part singing, and I plan to go to the local music store and see if I can dig out some girls' chorus-type music. The girls auditioned for and were invited to join a local children's chorus, but after considering the high level of commitment necessary to participating, Mr. Honey and I decided it would not benefit our family at this time. (Yes, I am dying inside about this decision, but I know it is right.) I would really like to work on this with them myself, since I have the skills to do it, and perhaps sing in retirement homes or something. Perhaps we won't be ready for that for another couple years, but it is an idea I have for the future.

In the third term, Triss branched out from straight summaries to more focused written narrations (compare/contrast, character sketch, poetry, note-taking, etc.). I plan to do a lot more of this in the next year, and begin to teach her more about essay writing. I am still exploring how to do this. I have been eyeing Brave Writer, and also plan to attend an IEW seminar in June. I think I might just be able to wing it using a couple of writer's guides we have around the house, but I want to see what these writing programs have to offer-- is it something I can figure out on my own, or would it be better to follow a program? A question to answer this summer.

All three girls did science projects this year. It was Mariel's first experience with the scientific method, and we have a foundation to build on now. Triss and Mariel participated in the local science fair, and all three girls participated in Science Night in our homeschool group. Next year, Triss will need to compete in a different fair in order to be eligible to go on to the regional fair. We have found a science class for her for next year and are working on finding a fair within our county.

They all trucked along in math, and we are going to continue with their books through the summer. This is necessary in order for them to be in their next books by September. Because this isn't customary (or reasonable, lol) in our family, I have made it a little more fun by offering ice cream cones for every five lessons completed. We just have to do the math slowly in order to understand it sometimes, and that means it will be extending into the summer this year.

We were dedicated to our Books of the Centuries this term, but our Memory Work fell off the radar. Our mapwork is still a little sketchy as well. I may have to break down and buy some kind of curriculum or workbook for the mapwork. Or maybe I should plan all the mapwork for the year in advance, and print everything out so it's just like a curriculum/workbook, only I didn't have to pay for it (except ink, which is a bit expensive, so maybe I will just buy some blackline masters and make copies at Kinko's...).

And today is the first day of there-really-isn't-a-whole-lot-to-do-in-the-day summer for me. Which, of course, translates into cleaning the garage, going through clothing, taking a look at the school/game closet, etc., etc. Things just might get into shape this summer. (Hey, I can dream, can't I?)