Friday, August 31, 2007

The First Week of School

The quiet tonight is so nice. It hasn't been super loud in our house, just in my head, with three educations to guide and homemaking and helping Mr. Honey. Knowing that I have nothing to do for the rest of the evening but go to bed, or perhaps to stay up, is very soothing. We have had two days of a full schedule, and it has been full. The kids are doing Year 7, Year 4 and Year 1. Years 7 and 4 are both leap years-- years in which the material takes a leap in difficulty and often requires an adjustment period on the part of the student. Triss came to me today having trouble with one of her history books-- the one I thought she would be able to handle no problem. I sat and read half the first chapter with her and finally explained that history is just very dry when it is prehistory, and once Mr. Churchill gets to recorded history it ought to be more engaging. She cheered up a bit when we googled "Windmill Hill" and came up with crop circles in addition to the enclosed earthen causeway we were looking for. On the bright side, she seems to be enjoying Apologia General Science. She did the first experiment this afternoon, and has been taking pains to make her notebook very neat. Penmanship and neatness is something we are putting extra emphasis on this year.

Mariel began Age of Fable today and said Mr. Bulfinch used too many big words in the preface, but she was glad to see that he briefly told some myths as well. Age of Fable is a work that shows how poets and authors of literature weave mythology into their work to pack more of a descriptive punch, and I have decided that I will read along with Mariel and help her discern Mr. Bulfinch's purpose. She didn't like this at first, but I told her that she and Triss know more mythology than I have ever learned, and that I am one of the people who "finds Milton 'harsh and crabbed'", and would benefit from adding to my "more solid acquirements the easy learning of this little volume" in order to increase my enjoyment and comprehension of poetry and literature. She felt very sorry to know my ignorance then (I wonder she has never noted it before), and solicitous of my education, sweet girl.

Cornflower's favorite book in Year 1 is James Herriot's Treasury for Children. She cannot get enough of it. She is not so excited about phonics, but is willing to put up with it since it doesn't take too long. I am trying to find some online phonics games, but what I have seen so far either is not engaging or is too basic. Sometimes I wonder if she even needs the phonics. She appears to be a natural speller and can read at around a third grade level already. Hmm.

We have an hour of home economics scheduled each day, and spent our hour today in the garage and attic preparing for a Girl Scout garage sale-- after I retaught How To Clean A Bathroom, which took about twenty minutes. It is really a combination of home ec and charm school, which I think is just right since a charming hostess (or four) is wonderful to have in the home. Here are some of my other home ec plans for the next few weeks:

*Manners when a guest in someone else's home
*Cleaning the entrance, front porch and dining room
*Manners in a crowd of people
*How to brush your teeth
*Cleaning the kitchen
*How to shelve books
*Fixing your hair using a blow dryer and curling iron
*Party Manners
*Conversation Manners
*Proper diet and exercise
*How to organize dresser drawers
*Packing for a trip
*Table Manners
*Cleaning a bedroom
*How to organize a closet
*How a lady stands, sits and walks

This may seem kind of funny, because they ought to be picking these things up by osmosis-- but perhaps that scientific principle does not function properly at our house. Just kidding. ;o) These are lessons that bear repeating, and habits that tend to fall into disrepair when we are not looking.

Yesterday we discussed how to behave in a learning environment. When I was teaching third and fourth graders at a singing school this summer I made the pleasant discovery that if you ask kids to come up with "class rules" they are more apt to cheerfully comply with them. So I applied that in our home, introducing the topic with a discussion of Emily Post's three principles of good manners: Respect, Consideration and Honesty. I liked the girls' list, too. Here is what they came up with:

1. Pay attention to your own work. Don't get distracted.

2. Help when someone is bleeding, bruised or ill.

3. Don't laugh when people make mistakes.

4. Be cheerful.

5. Put your hand on Mommy's arm when you have a question and she is talking with someone else.

6. When Mommy says no, refrain from begging.

7. Keep your hands to yourself (this applies to poking, grabbing, etc. Hugs are okay.)

8. Listen to whoever has the Talking Stick* during group discussions.

9. No bragging.

10. No freaking out!

11. Tell Mom if someone is hurt, in danger or is damaging property. Otherwise, work it out yourself.

(The last two are the kids' favorites from a schoolteacher's list of rules that we have had posted for a week or so. They were called "Mrs. H's Rules," and I cannot find them online now, so if you are the blogger who recommended them would you please post in the comments? I want to give credit where credit is due!)

It's going to take a couple of weeks to figure things out. I'm already making notes where I see that our schedules can fall more in line with the natural rhythm of our home life, and I am watching to see what needs to be altered or removed. I am reasonably certain the school load will prove too heavy, at least for the older two. Next week we add activities. That should be interesting.

* The Talking Stick is a stick around eight inches long, found on a nature walk. We are using it to learn not to interrupt each other. I need the discipline of the Talking Stick as much as anyone else in this house. We all have such scintillating ideas to share, and think we cannot wait because we might forget. We are going to decorate it next week.

On Being Fed Up With Phonics

Cornflower: I don't wanna do this phonics anymore.

MA: I'm sorry, you can't just decide you don't want to do it. Everyone has to learn phonics.

Cornflower: Do I have to teach my kids phonics when I grow up?

MA: It's highly recommended.

Cornflower (sighs): Well... Do I have to use this book to teach them phonics?

(I assured her she could use any book she thinks is a good one. This conversation took place yesterday, our First Day of School, you understand.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Completely Without Human Intervention

Javamom got some great pictures of the eclipse early yesterday morning!

It really does something to the ol' perspective when I look at something like an eclipse. To think of three spheres lining up perfectly so that the moon falls into shadow. Completely without human intervention. (We might have botched it, anyway.)

How orderly is the universe, when the cycles and rotations of the heavenly bodies can be mapped and predicted, when we can say with assurance, "Lunar eclipses occur twice per year." The heavens truly do declare the glory of God. Being able to watch something like this in my own messy backyard emphasizes the reality of it, too.

How can I sit here and feel sufficient unto myself, when I have seen with my own eyes evidence of the Creator? How can we justify the thought that Law is what we make of it, that we are free to do as we please?

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

--Psalm 19

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Total Lunar Eclipse

We awoke at 4 o'clock this morning to :yawn: see the total lunar eclipse.

We took pictures. Our camera was able to capture the first phases, but when the eclipse reached totality, our little digital was outdone, and the pictures were black.

A first shot while I was figuring out how to program the camera for Night.

Oops!  How do you use this thing?

The partial phase.

partial eclipse

The bunny watched too.


Lunar Eclipse for Beginners (that's us!)

It is now 5:38 am, and the moon is in mid-eclipse. We cannot get a picture of it with our poor little camera because it is too dark. So we are blogging about it instead.

Cornflower's narration: "First, the moon is whole. Then, there is a bite, then a big bite, then another big bite, then another, and then just a little bit is left. Then it's eaten!"

Her narration after Triss and I explained what was happening: "Mom said get a soccer ball and a softball. The softball is the moon and the soccer ball is the earth. And the flashlight is the sun. First, you see, the sun is in front with its light pointing to the earth and the moon is right next to it. The moon has some light on it, but when it doesn't, it's behind the earth."

Triss' narration: "The moon starts out looking like it does normally, and then slowly you begin to see all the phases of the moon. It goes from full to gibbous to half to crescent to nail sliver. Then it almost disappears. All you can see is this round orange hole in the sky. It looks like a dust-filled hole."

Mariel's narration: "It looks like a hole into Saudi Arabia at night. Or a big penny that hasn't gotten the picture of Abraham Lincoln and the White House on it. Triss mentioned being on the moon while the moon was in the lunar eclipse, and she said it would be neat, but I thought it would be scary. I don't really want to go out to outer space. I wish we hadn't gone to the planetarium. That guy told me things I don't want to know."

You can figure out the relative brightness of a lunar eclipse in totality by using the Danjon Brightness Scale. It was very dark in the early stages of totality, and gradually warmed to a dark orangish red. Right now, at mid-totality it is very dark again, almost invisible. We disagreed as to whether it was L=0 or L=1, so Triss said it must be L= 1/2.

From Sky and Telescope magazine online: "The reason a totally eclipsed Moon isn’t completely black is because Earth’s atmosphere scatters and refracts some reddened sunlight into our planet’s shadow. This is why the shadow’s umbra (its dark central portion) glows with a ruddy hue — anywhere from bright sunset-orange to dark blood-black."

NASA's official August 28th lunar eclipse website.

Update: Now it is seven minutes after six, and there is an orange glow on the top left side of the moon.

Update: Now, at 6:25, that sliver of faint orange glow is all of the moon that is visible as light diffuses in the east.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I just discovered tonight, and the Parents and Children section is especially good.

In the letter to parents we are reminded that children learn from their adults (ouch), and that unless manners are rooted in respect, consideration and honesty, they are "hollow rules to be memorized and soon forgotten." But if, as you teach the steps to good manners, you respect your children, show them what consideration is, and are honest, "the manners you teach will be meaningful, and your children will take them to heart."

Of Check-Boxes, Plans and Timetables

A friend asked me last night how the school planning is going. I responded that it is going very well. I allowed over a month for planning, and I have one more week to experiment and tweak before we really get started on a full schedule of work. As I spoke, I realized there is a very good chance these beautiful and exceptionally smooth plans will be taking some detours-- they are just so perfect. So I laughed and said, "In other words, we will probably be doing something completely different in a couple of weeks!"

That was a bit of hyperbole-- but we do have to be prepared to alter our plans. This can be frustrating to me because I have a peculiar fondness for finishing completely and at the time I previously decided we should be done. (It's that checking-the-box satisfaction, you know.) I am reading a book of speeches that C.S. Lewis gave during his lifetime, and found one that is apt for the beginning of a school year. This quote may help me keep my head in the right place this year:

A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God's hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment, "as to the Lord." It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received. --from "Learning in Wartime"

Friday, August 17, 2007

What Happened...

...when we let the children watch "Moby Dick".


"Don't go to seeeeeee!!"


"It's a Whale!"


"Stop! I'll do anything you want!"

(What they wanted was for her to dance with them. Unfortunately, I could not take a still shot of them jigging to "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.")

I really wish I could have gotten a better picture of Mariel's pirate costume: a patched vest, black and white striped belt, leggings and one of Mr. Honey's old t-shirts with one long sleeve and the other cut off. Truly a pirate ensemble.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Red Roses Mean Love Triumphant*

Fifteen Years Ago

Fifteen years ago today, in beautiful Niles Canyon, Mr. Honey and I got married.

We were given lovely gifts by the children this morning: a large rock, beautifully painted by Mariel, which will be good for stopping the door to Mr. Honey's office; a little tissue holder from Cornflower, ideal for me since I still have sniffles-- she gave Mr. Honey two little painted gingerbread people which now have a place of honor on the bookcase; and a Triss original manuscript entitled "The Hidden Valley" from Triss.

What we really have here is a large case of family love. I think something very good was started fifteen years ago.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Honey! I would be missing so much if I hadn't married you.

Your Honey

*Triss' card reminded us of this.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Prayer Needed

I would like to ask my readers to please pray for my good friend, Queen Shenaynay at The Beehive. She has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and is handling it with her beautiful faith and trust in the Lord intact. I would say she is handling it with aplomb, but I know Who is supporting her.

This lady is precious to our family, and especially to the girls, who regard her smiles and attentions as special treasures.

Please pray for her and her family.

School Supplies: I Hung A Few Things

Since one of my goals this school year is to be a little more multisensory, and since I have a whole schoolroom to decorate now, and full ink cartridges in the printer, I spent the weekend making and hanging maps, charts, little blurb-like biographies, a timeline, and the State Song of Texas. (In between coughing and naps. I am recovering from a cold.)

Please bear with me while I give minute and painful details as to what went up. I have been without a dedicated space for school, lo! this many (okay, only this past) year. (Will you put up with me if I provide some links?)

Triss is doing Year 7 this year, and since that is a lot of British geography and history, I hung maps of England, Wales, Scotland, and even Northern Ireland/Ireland.

I never feel like we know enough about our adopted state of Texas, so I hung several maps of Texas, including this one, and this one, and this one, and this one-- all conveniently marked with You Are Here dots. One map I am not linking to is the one of our specific city area, so the girls can see where we our home is in relation to the places we go regularly. I also put up the names of the different regions of TX, the state song, and the state flag.

Flushed with success, I took this timeline of Texas history and copied it into Word, reformatting it with clip art for each date. I hung that outside of the girls' bath. (They spend a lot of time there staring at the walls, waiting for one of their sisters to give up the bathroom. We have two Doorposts posters in the same hall for their reading enjoyment, the Go To The Ant Chart and the Brother Offended Checklist. These have had the same places on the wall for the past four years. I wonder how much the girls notice them nowadays. I nearly took them down, but then recalled that Cornflower has only recently begun that insatiable reading of anything posted phase-- she only just burst into reading this year-- so I will leave them up a little longer.)

Inside the girls' bath we have a map of the United States, showing state capitals, and a map-of-the-world shower curtain.

I relocated three large posters that help us identify trees by their bark, leaves and trees (order these for free), and moved a poster of our national anthem as well.

I redid our art study frame in the entry, and put the first painting of the term into it.

S4023932 Rotated

Not my best job of cropping and matting, but it'll do. We generally use the painting as wallpaper on the computer too. I put up Leonardo da Vinci's self-portrait and a portion of text from Sister Wendy's Story of Painting in the schoolroom, as well as the list of his works we will be studying this term. And maps of Italy (where he was born) and France (where he died).

I have a stack of biographical blurbs, pictures and lists of musical pieces to hang as soon as we get Mariel's room sign off the door to the schoolroom. Yes, The Mighty Handful will have a place of distinction, and I have Mrs. Happy Housewife to thank, as I used her composer study lesson plan to find resources.

I posted an official Policy for Unplanned Activity on the pantry door, in order to circumvent arguments when I must become the Cruel Queen and insist that rooms be clean, zones be presentable and schoolwork be finished before they take advantage of last-minute invitations anywhere. I also simplified the zone chore sheets and added clip art. I'm really having fun with the clip art.

We sit at the computer to read Plutarch (which for me is often like walking blind through an unknown land). On the computer armoire door we have a map of Roman Dominions in the Late Republic, and a map of Greek Political Alliances-- this is actually a better map than the one we have. These two maps have hung here for a year. Our current Greek map has the alliances of Sparta and Athens crossed and we have to remind ourselves not to look at the key to keep from getting mixed up.

To these I added a diagram of the Government of the United States-- a little small and hard to read, but better than nothing. I wanted to hang the list of Roman government offices, but decided our own government was more important. Instead, we will read them aloud and refer to the online list as needed..

Tonight I printed out pictures and definitions of geography terms, and am trying to think where I should hang them. (I printed my chart from Enchanted Learning, as we have a membership, but I cannot locate it outside the members' site. I think this will be a good resource for us when I need something "schoolish" to keep Cornflower occupied, or to reemphasize a skill or concept with Mariel. They have a very cool pirate map activity that I will be printing when Mariel reads about pirates this year.) I have a nifty idea for a special "Bird of the Week" display, since Cornflower and I will be reading the Burgess Bird Book this year. And I want to hang the children's recitation assignments in several prominent places as well, once I decide on them.

Can you say hyperfocus?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Just a Question

"Hi, can I speak to Charlene?"

"You have the wrong number."

"Well, can you take a message and give it to her?"


Uh, no.

If you ask a person at a wrong number to take a message for the person you are trying to reach, d'ya think it will get to her?

(Just for the record, I was very polite and with only gentle laughter did I say, "Well, this is a wrong number. I don't know any Charlene." The woman, and it was a woman rather than a girl, said an abrupt thank you and hung up.)

People are so funny sometimes.

Monday, August 06, 2007


How much do you suppose visual and auditory advertising, television, radio, internet, telemarketing, etc., contribute to problems with attention in this country?

When I went away to college I remember being overwhelmed by all the billboards on the freeways in L.A. (Oh my goodness, you should see them-- they overlap one another.) In a world like this, we are bombarded with messages and we have to decide what must be processed and what can be tossed like so much media garbage.

It is difficult to strike a balance between needful information, and the extraneous.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Art Gallery

Some precious things I found as I went through school papers (please forgive my poor photography skills):

The Fighting Temeraire

The Fighting Temeraire, by Mariel, inspired by the famous painting . It is much more vivid in reality. She used yellow, orange, red, green and blue to imitate Turner's sunset.


Bird by Cornflower

A Mockingbird, by Cornflower.


A Mysterious Lady by Cornflower

Another view of the Mona Lisa, by Cornflower.


A Free and Colorful Girl by a young friend

This is one of my favorite child-pictures. It was drawn by a young friend of ours (age 6) while she visited in our home. My favorite part is the way her colorful hair swings. You can't tell so much in the photo, but she has such a pleasantly impish face.


Modern Art (or Postmodern, I guess)

And this is a study in color, by Cornflower. She was experimenting with combining colors (see the red-and-white-make-pink?) and also using every color on her palette to fill up the page.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Twist Ties and Brass Fasteners

Two miracles of modern technology. We do not appreciate and admire them enough.

(Did you know you can make a doll out of twist ties-- or a basket*, if you have enough?)

*Later Note: I read this again today and it sounds like I might be saying you can make a doll out of a basket!! It should be changed to read: Did you know you can use twist ties to make a doll-- or a basket, if you have enough?)


Cornflower and Mariel gave me my schoolroom back this week, and Triss gave me a desk.

Last year we allowed Mariel to move into the schoolroom so that she and Cornflower could each have their own space. We moved the computer into the great room and did school in there, or at the kitchen table. I moved my supplies into the kitchen, the linen closet, the master closet. I hung posters in the children's bathroom, and put up the timeline in the hall. It was fine, if a little restricted.

But this week the girls asked if they could move back in together. At first I hesitated. Mariel's bed is heavy and must be taken apart and put back together. I am not good with tools, not at all. But Triss convinced me that she could handle it. She is good with her hands, and I knew she had watched when her Daddy took the bed apart last time. For some crazy reason, I agreed to try.

It took us all of yesterday, but we did it. Triss was able to identify the tools we needed (phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, an allen wrench and a mallet) and also use them resourcefully. (Yes, she had to teach me to use the long end of the allen wrench as a lever because it provides more torque. And she reminded me later when I again tried to use the short end. Did I mention I am not mechanically minded?)

We decided to take Triss' large desk out from underneath her loft bed and put it into the new (old) schoolroom, since we no longer have a table in there. It is the length of a twin bed and Triss and I plan to share it. She was extremely excited by this, because she has been trying to convince her father and me to let her rearrange her room for months, but because of the size of her room and the bulk of her loft-bed-and-desk, we kept refusing. She has now moved her non-loft bed next to the window, and is very pleased.

(Triss, who is reading this as I type it, says she is "very, very pleased!")

A couple of times that day I thought we were going to have to leave pieces of furniture, partially dismantled, throughout the house, but Triss came through, figuring out what we needed and how to work it.

Mariel and Cornflower, in a display of unity that did one good to see, arranged their room, deciding to sleep on the top full-size bunk and make the bottom full-size bunk into a playroom for their dolls and stuffed animals. They did not once complain about moving all of Mariel's things from schoolroom to great room and from great room to bedroom.

So today we moved things out of the kitchen, linen closet, master closet, etc., and back into the schoolroom. We have left the computer in the great room, however, because I really like it being out where everyone in the house can see. (It's kind of funny, because the TV is in an armoire on one side of the room and the computer is in a similar armoire on the other side-- dueling media, lol!)

(Triss, who is still reading as I type, says it is symmetrical. She likes symmetrical. She is a lot like her daddy. It does look nice.)

I made large colorful labels on all the bins and containers for those of us who forget where things go, and rejoiced in the fact that I now have a closet to store things in. I don't know what we were thinking when we had this house built without a closet in the schoolroom. We hung all the dress-up clothes in the closet, stacked craft supplies and extra posters on the top shelf and covered the mirrored front with posters.

Mariel and I cleared off a space on the bookcase in the schoolroom and put all of her schoolbooks there. It is now her own shelf. I made a similar one for Cornflower, and stocked it with her books for the coming year. She was suitably impressed.

I found the box with all the kids' papers from last year and the year before, and Triss went through and set them in stacks according to kid. These stacks are now on the floor of the schoolroom awaiting further attention. We are going to organize them according to subject and date tomorrow, and put them in folders or binders (I haven't decided). Then we will set them aside and continue our journey of education.

I feel a spaciousness in the house tonight, full of possibilities and hope.

Thoughtful and Scatterish

(Caveat for family members who worry when I post things like this: This is a very normal feminine thing I am doing, expressing aloud my thoughts and fears. I am not freaking out, I promise, just working through some ideas. And I love you too.)

Do you ever feel like not only what you have been doing has been inadequate, but that you are completely at a loss for the tasks ahead? That is the current climate of my mind. I have been reading about learning differences/disorders in an effort to understand some of the walls we have bumped up against this year. It looks like I will need to teach at least one of the girls a little differently than I have been. I have also been reading Triss' Year 7 books and making checklists to aid her in keeping track of the workload-- there is a lot of reading in Year 7! I get the feeling that I just don't know enough to continue with this.

I have felt this way before, and the Lord has always blessed. Here's looking forward to watching Him unfold events and thoughts in the coming year!

It does seem to be more pressure than usual, though. In fact, it's a little like we are just beginning. Sometimes I feel like I have forgotten what I know. I was reading our hs'ing group's newsletter today and as I came across an encouraging article and felt encouraged, a small part of me said, "And yet, I ought to know that already. I have encouraged others with similar words before!"

So that is where I am. How are you doing?


"I'm reading Kipling?"

Cornflower's response when shown the shelf on which her schoolbooks now reside.

(My thoughts exactly, sweetheart.)