Friday, February 29, 2008

A Birthday, Goggy-style

Tonight we celebrated my Dad's birthday-- and when Goggy has a birthday, his granddaughters get the party!

This year was no exception. He decided to celebrate at the local pizza-and-games emporium, and made sure to bring the girls some chocolate. They ate pizza and had slushies and did bumper cars and merry-go-rounds and carnival games and even drove a simulated eighteen wheeler.

There was a lady doing face painting.

Face Painting

Each girl chose her own style.


We gave him the mugs we had painted.

Sunflower Mug

Colorful Mug

Thumper Mug

Willow Mug


They will never forget that their Goggy always gave them the party on his birthday.

It Was The Best Butter...

The kids are such readers that they rarely look out of the window when we are driving, and that seems to have translated into no sense of direction. We live (in a subdivision) on a highway in the country between two cities, and are always going to one or the other for something. Often, our kids will ask if we can stop by a park in City B (west of us) when we are heading to City A (east of us).

Mr. Honey and I adore books so much that it never occurred to us to insist the girls take a break from reading in the car. After all, reading is such an important skill, and so many virtuous ideas come from books. We made sure they were only the best books.

"It was the best butter," the March Hare meekly replied.

Now we have "book-free" drives where the kids have nothing to do but look out the window or visit. (They sometimes use this time to play Twenty Questions with characters from books as the answers. Book obsession can be a serious problem.) We talk about the position of the sun and the time of day. We ride bikes in our neighborhood and get lost on purpose, relying on the sun and street signs (and a leader other than Mom) to get us home. We print out maps showing the location of violin lessons, church, the various grocery stores, friends' houses, all in relation to our house. We play road sign car games.

Since laying that groundwork, I have started asking the two older kids to direct me places as I drive. I follow their directions without deviation (following all traffic laws, of course). (This has led to some rather funny results! If you decide to do this, just be sure you don't have to get where you are going at a specific time.) We are still very much in this process, but both my older kids can direct me to and from church now-- although they continue to ask if we can go to the ice skating rink in City A after violin lessons in City B.

In writing this out, I have realized that we are missing a key component in learning a sense of direction: I have had them draw maps of faraway continents and countries, but I have never had them draw maps of their own community. Now I know what to do next.

Charlotte Mason said, "Children can be most fitly educated on things and books." We find books so fascinating, that the challenge at our house is to remember the educational value of things.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leader of the Band

Today is my Dad's birthday! In his honor, I post the lyrics to one of his (and my) favorite songs (I love you, Dad!):

An only child, alone and wild
A cabinetmaker's son
His hands were meant for different work
And his heart was known to none--
He left his home and went his lone
And solitary way
And he gave to me a gift I know
I never can repay

A quiet man of music
Denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once
But his music wouldn't wait
He earned his love through discipline
A thundering, velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls
Took me years to understand.

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul --
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.

My brothers' lives were different
For they heard another call
One went to Chicago
And the other to St. Paul
And I'm in Colorado
When I'm not in some hotel
Living out this life I've chose
And come to know so well.

I thank you for the music
And your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go --
I thank you for the kindness
And the times when you got tough
And, papa, I don't think I've said
I love you near enough --

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul --
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band

I am the living legacy
To the leader of the band.

--Dan Fogelberg

Spring Studies I

I am organizing our work for the spring. Since we took this week off, it is a natural break in our studies and an opportunity to revamp some of our less effective study practices. (I am calling it a grace week, but the term "jubilee" keeps popping into my head-- releasing the slaves, cancelling debts and beginning again!)

For Literature and Tales, I am considering moving the readings to the evenings and weekends. Triss and Mariel both are moving too slowly in history and Mariel is behind in science as well, and I hope that moving the literature readings to the evening will free up more morning time for history and science/natural history (and help us finish in the morning or early afternoon rather than late afternoon!). I think I will leave Cornflower’s literature readings as part of her weekly morning schedule, though, except for Parables from Nature. She is keeping up quite well with her reading assignments. I will ask Mariel and Triss for weekly written narrations on her literature readings, and will occasionally ask Triss for a more formal composition on hers. Their literature narrations are generally more vivid than their other retellings, so I do not think the delay in narration will be a problem. If it is, we can always change back. Plus, we will be able to have more family discussion on the books if we read them in the evenings.

Only-- I think I would like to keep the "online book club" format Triss and I have started with her literature selections. She reads them on her own, and then writes something into a Word document, and I write a response, and sometimes she responds back. So I guess for these books, I will have her read them on her own time rather than school time and continue to write narrations for me to respond to. Hmm. Can you tell I need to think this through a little more? Now it sounds like I am only moving Mariel's lit readings to evenings and weekends! I definitely need to think more before I decide for sure. I've got that Tevye thing going on-- "But on the other hand-- and on the other hand..."

I am also revising our approach to Memory Work. I am keeping the family memory work assignments, but reserving them mainly for scripture memory. There are other things the kids need to memorize as well, and I want those to coincide more with their science and history studies, so I will give each of them a memory assignment that fits their studies and they can “con” it as the one-room-schoolhouse kids used to, and recite it to me once they have it memorized, at which point I will give them another assignment. They have been memorizing poetry this way all year, and have done a fine job. My part, which is to inspect their recitations, has fallen a little to the wayside, so I need to mind my duty in this process! They also have math drill, which I count as memory work, and Ivey has Latin drill. I plan to start Mariel on Latin either next year or the next. It was just too much to add this year in addition to teaching her to do more independent study.

We have already changed the way we do Bible in the mornings. A few weeks ago, we were recalled to our Berean Duty (by both our pastor and our assistant pastor!), and so we are endeavoring to receive "the word with all readiness of mind" and search the scriptures "daily, whether those things [are] so." Monday and Thursday mornings, we reread the scriptures from the previous day’s preaching and then I ask for narrations. After that, we discuss the points made by the preacher, and sometimes, if a song comes to mind, we sing. Then we pray.

This means that our trek through the Old Testament is getting slower and slower. (We are currently in 2 Kings/2 Chronicles-- Elisha the Prophet-- if I remember correctly, we have been on this journey at least four years already.) We are reading Old Testament only once or twice per week, and doing Proverbs once per week. I think it is fine, though. Triss is reading through the Bible in a year (she will have that accomplished in August if she keeps it up, and then will begin again) for her morning quiet time, as well as reading through one of the Gospels for schoolwork, and a book on church doctrine. I need to get Mariel started on quiet time also, but haven’t yet found the right moment to begin. I think that will take place in the next few months, unless we lose our focus on the Lord, which I pray will not happen. I read to Mariel and Cornflower from the Catherine Vos Story Bible at bedtime a couple of nights per week— I skip around, reading stories that illustrate virtues the kids and I need to learn.

This seems like a lot of Bible study, but we need it right now! It seems we have strayed off the path in many ways and now have the challenge of finding it again. Also, some of this is devotional reading, and some is more focused as study. We had gotten to where we thought of Bible as "schoolwork," and while we do need to have Bible as a school subject, to think of it exclusively in that light is to lose daily worship.

I am also reading through the Bible in a year, though my personal reading is more sporadic. I have learned to sit and crochet and let Mr. Scourby read my daily readings aloud to me—sometimes I have to listen through three days’ readings because I let it go! But I am determined to read it through this year, especially because I failed in the attempt last year. Plus, I just miss that daily reading when I don’t do it. I was sitting in church last night during the song service feeling a little unfocused, disconnected and lost; and finally realized it was because I had not done my Bible reading for a few days. I have been praying, but that Bible reading really helps too.

I'll write more about the new term later. Right now I have to clean out my closet and find a new place for our freshly-laundered blankets. We used to store them under the bed, on the dust-mite-ridden carpet.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Excellent Blogs

My friend, Tim's Mom at Bona Vita Rusticanda Est, passed this award to me and several others this week. I am supposed to give it to other bloggers, so I am taking this opportunity to list some of my current favorite blogs. In alphabetical order (the way they are listed on my Bloglines feed):

Athena in a Minivan
The Beehive
Bona Vita Rusticanda Est (Back at ya!)
The Common Room
Dewey's Treehouse
The Heart of Harmony
Higher Up And Further In
Holy Experience
La Sopa Smith
Liberty and Lily
Pockets of the Future
Spilled Laughter
Take Time To Smell The Coffee

Update: Oops! I meant to include Mrs. Happy Housewife on the list! I never have been able to receive her blog on my Bloglines feed, so I make a special effort to go over and read every so often. She is in the process of moving elsewhere in cyberspace, so is not currently posting. I am looking forward to reading her posts again.

Thanks, ladies, for allowing me to peek into your thoughts. Consider yourselves awarded!

My Hiding Place

Hail, sovereign love! that first began
The scheme to rescue fallen man.
Hail, matchless, free eternal grace
That gave my soul a hiding place!
Against the God that rules the sky
I fought with hand uplifted high
Despised His rich abounding grace
Too proud to seek a hiding place.

Enwrapt in thick Egyptian night,
And fond of darkness more than light
Madly I ran the sinful race,
Secure without a hiding place.
But thus th'eternal counsel ran:
"Almighty Love, arrest that man!"
I felt the arrows of distress
And found I had no hiding place.

Indignant Justice stood in view
To Sinai's fiery mount I flew
But Justice cried, with frowning face:
"This mountain is no hiding place!"
E'er long a heavenly voice I heard
And Mercy's angel form appeared
Who led me on with gentle pace
To Jesus as my hiding place.

Should storms of thund'ring vengeance roll
And shake the earth from pole to pole,
No flaming bolt shall daunt my face
For Jesus is my hiding place.
A few more rolling suns at most
Will land me safe on Canaan's coast
Where I shall sing the songs of grace
And see my glorious hiding place!

--Jehoida Brewer 1752-1817 (1776)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's Nice to Have Friends

I found out why I like Athena-in-a-Minivan so much. She is a Comma, and I am a Question Mark! (I feel like a Question Mark most of the time-- isn't that weird?)

Update: My good friend Jubilee is a Comma also! What kind of punctuation mark are you?

You Are a Question Mark

You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.

And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.

You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.

(But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

I have a meme and an award I need to post about also. It gave me warm fuzzies to know that friends were thinking of me! As soon as I figure out how to post the award and the meme, I will. (I always have trouble posting those award buttons for some reason. And I would really like to allow all three of my girls to participate in the meme, but that would be a looooong post. So I am still thinking.)

Ships and Robinson Crusoe

The other day as we read Robinson Crusoe, Mariel stopped me to ask how in the world he could tell a Spanish ship from a Portuguese or English ship in the distance. I mentioned flags, but we decided to see if we could find a website that showed different 18th century sailing vessels. And we did:

Sailing Warships.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Preventing Allergy Triggers Indoors

Our Cornflower has always been a little sniffledy at times, and we have known for awhile that she has environmental allergies. but lately she has had more and more trouble with it-- the most recent manifestation being hives and angioedema, poor girl. We are taking steps to help her breathe more easily and itch less. Needless to say, I have been reading up on allergy triggers and prevention. In fact, this afternoon after a visit to the allergist and the lab (she was so brave) Mr. Honey and I decided that now is the best time for our spring break/exam week-- we were planning it for two weeks from now, but I just couldn't concentrate on helping the kids with their schoolwork anymore, knowing there were dust mites loose in my house harassing my baby. I gathered the kids, told them the plan and gave them free choice as far as how they want to demonstrate what they learned this term at the end of the week. We are going to have a recital of sorts on Saturday evening, so I do not have to administer exams. Dust mites, beware! I know where you live.

She has both indoor and outdoor allergies (dust mites, pet dander, molds, weeds, trees, grasses). Here are the steps we are in the process of implementing indoors, which seems to be the bigger problem at this point:

1. Launder the sheets in hot water at least once or twice a week. (I am not clear on whether we should launder the blankets, quilts or comforters that often, but I suspect we ought.)

2. Vacuum the carpet. Every day. (Every day? Every day.) Or, better yet, get hard flooring. (I expect hard floors need to be dust-mopped once a day. Or perhaps it can be done every other day?)

3. Encase the mattresses and pillows in dust-mite-proof mattress covers. (Not cheap, but it beats having to replace the mattress.)

4. Dust two to three times per week, using a dusting spray (these are sprays that attract dust to your cloth so it actually sticks).

5. Limit the number of stuffies in the bedroom (Cornflower shares a room with Mariel, so I let them choose three apiece, and the rest went in a sealed bag in the closet. This was a Trying Moment for the girls, as this multitude of dust-mite attractors are no mere stuffed animals, but People in their Games. This is why the loveys went into a sealed bag in the closet instead of to the local charitable thrift store, amid promises to switch them out at regular intervals.)

6. Purchase a reusable electrostatic air filter and clean it regularly.

7. Keep the temperature in the house cool and dry (dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments).

8. Keep the windows closed (We actually chose the model of home we have because of the position of the windows-- a lovely breeze goes through the entire house when you open the right ones. But Cornflower needs to at least be able to escape pollens inside her own home, and we can go outside if we want breezes).

9. Keep Thumper outside (there was great sorrow in our household when this was proclaimed).

There are other things we could be doing, but these will definitely keep us busy for awhile. We didn't clean our house nearly this much before (and that is probably part of the problem).


Jesus, Savior,
Help me each day
Fill me with hope,
Fill me with faith
Darkness retreats
At the touch of your hand
Jesus, Savior,
Help me to stand.

--Alison Krauss

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Spicy Chicken with Pineapple Avocado Salsa

Spicy chicken with pineapple avocado salsa from the Saving Dinner Cookbook.

(Mr. Honey, who is a Food Network aficionado, would like everyone to know that he plated and photographed the food. I was the chef.)

Free To Choose Right

In spite of the brave blog name I chose when I began blogging, I am often faced (often *smacked* in the face) with the fact that we don't follow true CM method around our house, but only something like it. This past week was no exception to that rule-- but I think I had an a-ha moment that will bring us a little closer.

We discussed CM Volume 3 Chapter 3 (Masterly Inactivity) at our book club Monday night. I have been working toward an understanding of masterly inactivity for months now, and it was helpful to hash it out with the wise women of our group.

Before I present my little epiphany, let me preface with this: often, things that are obvious to others are simply not obvious to me. I do not know why this is, but it is an evident fact. I expect that I am the only mom looking at this blog that needs this information-- most of you know intuitively what I am about to explain for those of us (me) who are a little dense. But I have to put it down somewhere, so here it is.

According to CM, masterly inactivity can be defined as "the power to act, the desire to act, and the insight and self-restraint which forbid action:

But there is, from our point of view at any rate, a further idea conveyed in 'masterly inactivity.' The mastery is not over ourselves only; there is also a sense of authority, which our children should be as much aware of when it is inactive as when they are doing our bidding. The sense of authority is the sine quâ non of the parental relationship, and I am not sure that without that our activities or our inactivity will produce any great results. This element of strength
is the backbone of our position. 'We could an' if we would' and the children know it––They are free under authority, which is liberty; to be free without authority is license. Vol. 3 p. 28-29

Another quote:

He is free to do as he ought, but knows quite well in his secret heart that he is not free to do that which he ought not... Is the distinction between being free to choose the right at one's own option, and not free to do the wrong, too subtle to be grasped, too elusive to be practical? It may be so, but it is precisely the distinction which we are aware of in our own lives so far as we keep ourselves consciously under the divine governance. We are free to go in the ways of right living, and have the happy sense of liberty of choice, but the ways of transgressors are hard. We are aware of a restraining hand in the present, and of sure and certain retribution in the future. Just this delicate poise is to be aimed at for the child. He must be treated with full confidence, and must feel that right-doing is his own free choice, which his parents trust him to make; but he must also be very well aware of the deterrent force in the background, watchful to hinder him when he would do wrong. CM Volume 3 p. 32

Being free to choose the right at one's own option, and not free to do the wrong, has been too subtle for me to grasp. ;o) But I think I understand it now.

There are two ditches that one may fall into, on either side of masterly inactivity. The first is taking a laissez faire approach, letting kids choose whatever and suffer natural or logical consequences*. This gives the child freedom to do right or wrong, which puts him in a very nervous position:

...He may choose either good or evil, he may obey or not obey, he may tell the truth or tell a lie; and, even when he chooses aright, he does so at the cost of a great deal of nervous wear and tear. CM Volume 3 p. 32

Don't you feel sorry for a child in this position? He has no one watching his back, guiding him, protecting him from going down a wrong path!

The other ditch is when the parent orchestrates the child's every move, rarely (or never) allowing the child enough freedom of movement or choice to strengthen his will to do right:

The child who is good because he must be so, loses in power of initiative more than he gains in seemly behaviour. Every time a child feels that he chooses to obey of his own accord, his power of initiative is strengthened. The bearing-rein may not be used. When it occurs to a child to reflect on his behaviour, he should have that sense of liberty which makes good behaviour appear to him a matter of his preference and choice. CM Volume 3 p. 31

I have been in both of these ditches.

How do we give our kids the freedom to choose right, along with the understanding that the way of transgressors is hard? CM says it is with masterly inactivity. This brings us back to the question, What IS masterly inactivity??

This is what I came up with:

1. The parent has to be obedient to the Person in authority over her. This means she is not free to use unkind speech, guilt trips, manipulation or other sinful practices to influence her children. (Yes, we know what is best for them, and they can be so stubborn sometimes; but using "whatever works" is pragmatism, plain and simple. To quote Popeye, "Wrong is wrong, even if it helps ya.")

2. The parent must be Parental, to have confidence in her ability to parent. This means she has to decide what is best for the children, and only allow them choices within those boundaries. (Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay-- no caving in to whining or wheedling!) And she must be honest about when there are truly very few right choices and when she simply has a personal preference she would like satisfied. We are not here to get our way: we are here to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If it really makes no difference whether the child wears her purple sneakers or her pink ones, we ought not to force our own preference. On the other hand, it is not good parenting to let a child decide whether or not she will eat her vegetables at lunch.

3. The parent must have confidence in her child's ability to do right, and give him the "happy sense of liberty of choice". This does not mean we leave them to themselves; after all, "a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." We are to train them in right-doing, nourish them on noble ideas, be a good example ourselves, be watchful. We must be sphinx-like in our repose (which description conjures up an image of someone who is watchful without being obvious). But we must restrain ourselves in order to let the children choose right. Sometimes they will choose wrong, and it is at those times we must step in to help the child learn about the way of transgressors. *This is where natural and/or logical consequences can be useful. Sometimes children are too stubborn to learn from any but Hard Experience! But to completely abandon the child to those consequences, absent any guidance, is negligence. Our guidance and protection is definitely needed, and must be balanced with enough freedom to strengthen their initiative toward good. As CM put it, "the bearing rein may not be used." The book Black Beauty has got a vivid illustration of what the use of a bearing rein does to a horse (read the whole thing if you can):

Day by day, hole by hole, our bearing reins were shortened, and instead of looking forward with pleasure to having my harness put on, as I used to do, I began to dread it. Ginger, too, seemed restless, though she said very little. At last I thought the worst was over; for several days there was no more shortening, and I determined to make the best of it and do my duty, though it was now a constant harass instead of a pleasure... --Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (Ch. 22)

We do not want to constantly harass our children, but to teach them the pleasure of doing their duty.

I hope I have come closer to understanding this concept in the last week. I am interested to know if all you CMers out there think I have got it right or if I am still off-base. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

And will you pray for me, and for all of us attempting to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? I find analyzing the writings of Charlotte Mason so much easier than consistently applying the principles. Let's remember each other in prayer as we go about our daily duties.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Protection and Guidance

"God never can't see us." -- Cornflower

O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.

For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

--Psalm 139

Tongue-in-Cheek (kind of)

Somehow I think when CM said, “We narrate and then we know,” she was not talking about Birth of Britain. With that book, it is rather: “We puzzle and map out and look things up online and refer to our Kings and Queens book and atlas and ask each others’ opinions and then we kind of know-- but hope that more light is coming later on in the book.”

(Triss and I came to this conclusion a few weeks ago-- we haven't done Birth of Britain yet this week because the girls and I have taken time out to go to the ceramics shop and paint mugs for my dad's birthday. We finished them today. It was fun! I'll post pictures after they are fired if I can.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Benefit of Composer Study

At the beginning of the year, I had elaborate plans for composer study. I found composer worksheets for the kids to write on, did research on the term's music and found biographies. I posted things on the wall. I planned to have everyone listen to the music, write on their worksheets and really learn some music analysis.

I was able to keep that up for exactly one term.

We haven't done a sit-down composer study in weeks. If we couldn't Do It Right I didn't want to do it at all. After all, I had Laid My Plans and needed to keep up the momentum. Surely we would be able to fit it in next week. Or next. Or next.

Before this year, I was content to simply play the music for the children while they lay on the floor and listened. For fifteen minutes per week. And we would talk about how the music sounded, how it made us feel, whether it was major or minor, loud or soft, what instruments we could identify just from listening. I would mention the era, and maybe we would read part of a biography. But mostly, we listened.

I don't know why I wanted to up the ante this year. Look at all the good simply *listening* to quality music can do.

Our previous music study was relaxing and focused, an oasis of time each week. Why do I so often feel the need to fix something that isn't broken?

(Needless to say, I have found the "permission" I needed to retreat into our previous easygoing music study!)

(Oh, and I am not faulting anyone who has well-organized and detailed lessons for music appreciation. I think analysis of music is a wonderful thing, and, obviously, I want the kids to learn it, too. Just maybe not this year. I was a music major in college before I even learned to classify music according to era, genre and composer. I think we have a little time.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Music Genome Project

Mr. Honey is always on the lookout for something new in the way of music. He keeps me informed.

A few weeks ago he let me know about the Music Genome Project's website, Pandora.

You can make your own radio stations based on the music of artists/composers you like. The station created will play music comparable to the artist's/composer's music you chose. For instance, our Handel station includes music by Handel, Bach, Telemann and Vivaldi, among others.

I haven't yet figured out how to convince the site to make a station including only one composer, a la CM, but one style/era of composer is nice, too! One more way to add music to the day.

Monday, February 18, 2008



A photo of Mariel taken by a good friend.

The portrait is Davy Crockett, who died defending the Alamo here in Texas.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Green Hour Challenge

Barb has begun a weekly nature challenge. She says:

Charlotte Mason knew what she was talking about when it came to nature study. Somehow in our modern life we have forgotten the simple pleasures of outdoor time. For this challenge, just go for a walk. Don't worry about taking any tools or supplies with you. Enjoy the outdoors and your children and then spend some time talking about your experiences together.

I am doing my preparatory reading, and decided to "highlight" pages 1-8 of the Handbook by quoting things I find helpful into this post.

"...The object of the nature-study teacher should be to cultivate in the children powers of accurate observation and to build up within them understanding."

What nature study should do for the child:

1. Give practical and helpful knowledge

2. Cultivate imagination

3. Cultivate a perception and regard for what is true (and the power to express it)

4. Cultivate a love for the beautiful

5. Personal knowledge that nature's laws are not to be evaded

6. Give an abiding love of and sense of companionship with the outdoors*

*"Let this latter be the teacher's criterion for judging his or her work."

What nature study should give the teacher:

1. Companionship with her children

2. Health and strength

"...The teacher, in confessing her ignorance and at the same time her interest in a subject, establishes between herself and her pupils a sense of companionship which relieves the strain of discipline, and gives her a new and intimate relation with her pupils which will surely prove a potent element in her success."

"In nature study, the work begins with any plant or creature which chances to interest the pupil... Nature study is for the comprehension of the individual life of the bird, insect or plant that is nearest at hand."

"Curiosity may elicit facts, but only real interest may mold these facts into wisdom."

curiosity: a desire to know and learn

interest: a state of curiosity or concern about or attention to something

(Not much difference there, but I guess she means idle curiosity vs. genuine interest.)

The Lesson:

1. Should be "short and sharp and may vary from ten minutes to a half hour in length.

2. Some believe it should be given regularly, while others find the most value in waiting until "the period of the school day when the pupils are weary and restless, and the teacher's nerves strained to the snapping point."

(Nature study is not my favorite, I'll be honest. If I wait until my nerves are at a snapping point, I am liable to be a grumpy nature teacher. I'll stick with the regularly scheduled lesson.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high!
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
O, receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee:
Leave, oh, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me!
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name;
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art;
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.

--Charles Wesley 1707-1788 (1740)

Art Harvest IV

Art Harvest I
Art Harvest II
Art Harvest III

I did a couple of drawings also. A mother's time is frequently interrupted, so only one of my two pictures made it to completion. I still haven't finished the quilt picture. Perhaps during exam week! It was soothing to sit down and think of nothing but making a picture for a few moments.


Something Warm

I also want to give a mention to Barb's newest encouraging endeavor: a weekly Green Hour Challenge!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.

--William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Charity... thinketh no evil.

--I Corinthians 13:(4)5

Art Harvest II

(Art Harvest I found here.)

This is Cornflower's Sketch Tuesday portfolio. She is seven and has had no formal art instruction.


Spiral Starfish

Daddy-Size Mug




Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Art Harvest I

Donna-Jean once said that "a passion broken down into something small, done consistently, yields a harvest." I feel like Harmony Art Mom has helped us to do that this year, and even though it is not May or June, for the next couple of days I am going to share the harvest the kids have reaped because we have given some time to drawing.

I hope no one looks at these posts and feels guilty if they haven't been having their kids draw. There are quite a few things falling off the schedule at our house this term! But drawing has worked, and I really credit Harmony Art Mom's unfailing ideas and enthusiasm with helping us "keep the faith" where sketch time is concerned this year. (Thanks, Barb!)

I decided to share the pieces of each girl in separate posts, as a slight nod to CM's method of focusing on one artist at a time. ;o) These are Mariel's.

(Click on the photos to enlarge.)

Something Made of Wood




"I Am My Kid's Mom" Mug

Genie in smoke

Robinson Crusoe

Daisies and carnations

Yellow Crayon

It's a Croc

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

True Wisdom

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

James 3:13-18

Monday, February 11, 2008

Shakespeare Movies

Two old Shakespeare movies we have recently enjoyed:

As You Like It (Laurence Olivier's first on-screen Shakespeare role. The actress who plays Rosalind is German, and her accent sometimes gets in the way, but she is so cute!)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (A very young Mickey Rooney as Puck. James Cagney plays Bottom-- he is hilarious.)

Both of the Shakespeare plays are lighthearted, whimsical comedies, and each of these movies use sets, costumes and pageantry to that end, I think. Not that I am an expert. You should watch them and decide for yourself.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lord, Didst Thou Die?

The Mysterious Meadow

Lord, didst Thou die, but not for me?
Am I forbid to trust Thy blood?
Hast Thou not pardons, rich and free?
And grace, an overwhelming flood?

Who, then, shall drive my trembling soul
From Thee to regions of despair?
Who has surveyed the sacred scroll,
And found my name not written there?

I own my guilt, my sins confess;
Can men or devils make them more?
Of crimes, already numberless,
Vain the attempt to swell the score.

Low at Thy feet I'll cast me down,
To Thee reveal my guilt and fear;
And, if Thou spurn me from Thy throne,
I'll be the first that perished there.

--Author Unknown

Fine Motor vs. Graphomotor Skills

A week or two ago, there was a thread about copywork on the AO yahoo group. I remember at the time one mother expressed her frustration at her child's poor penmanship, especially in light of the fact that this child was a talented artist. I vaguely recalled that I had read something about drawing and writing being two quite different skills, but could not put my hands on the complete thought, so I said nothing.

Well, I found it this morning in the book, A Mind At A Time by Mel Levine, MD:

Fine motor and graphomotor function are quite different. Graphomotor function is the highly specialized motor output used in writing. Many students boast superb fine motor abilities and unacceptable graphomotor function... [a young boy with poor handwriting] was a born graphic artist. From the age of two, Raoul loved to draw. At nine his cartoon creations displayed precise fine motor control. But somehow Raoul could not engage in the rapid assignment and activation of his finger muscles required for letter formation, a classic example of strong fine motor function accompanied by a stubborn graphomotor dysfunction.

Some of the reasons Dr. Levine gives for graphomotor dysfunction are:

1. Feeble connection between his memory and his fingers ("A very heavy flow of memory takes place when your child sets out to put things down on paper...that child needs to be able to recall letter shapes and the chain of tiny muscle movements he needs to execute them.")

2. Motor implementation problems ("Certain muscles are brought into play to grasp a pen or pencil with reasonable firmness, while other finger muscles are supposed to keep it moving in the desired direction... For some children this very precise assignment and mobilization of specific muscle groups on demand is all but impossible... He may exert far too much pressure, write with a fistlike grasp, or maintain his pen perpendicular to the writing surface."

3. Finger agnosia ("The need for feedback during writing never slackens. You have to know just where your pen or pencil is at all moments while you're etching those letters. Some students harbor a condition we call "finger agnosia." Believe it or not, they lose track of where their fingers are. When still quite young, they keep their eyes close to the page watching those digits diligently, substituting visual feedback for data that should be coming from the joints and muscles of the fingers themselves.")

Dr. Levine recommends that children with consistent struggles in penmanship be allowed to use word processing programs to write out their schoolwork (we do this at our house). But he also recommends that they keep plugging away at copywork: "...they also need consistent practice forming letters. Many require help developing a more workable way to hold a pen or pencil."

And my own two cents: With these kinds of issues, it is especially important to assign copywork geared to the child's skill level and not his or her "grade level". We want to challenge without frustrating.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Delightful Copywork

We have been applying too much pressure to copywork lately. The trick with CM method is to expect excellence without applying undue pressure-- that ever elusive masterly activity, you know.

I continue to overshoot and under-require, alternately, but hopefully we are getting closer to a balance.

As for copywork specifically, I responded to the sense of overpressure by breaking out some whiteboard-type sentence strips I purchased at the beginning of the fall, but have never used. Triss came up with this delightful phrase (if it can be called that) for practicing those pesky cursive r's:


We all tend toward Tigger at our house, so it is only natural that his words would make copywork easier to stomach.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nature Study

Once a week we dedicate an hour or so to the park-- nature study and running amuck (which are two different things and ought not to be confused). The running amuck part generally comes first, because it is difficult to squelch the enthusiasm of three exuberant girls presented with the freedom of grass, trees and stuff to climb.

And sometimes I even succeed in reigning them in enough to get some nature study done. "Our" park has a playground, a little wood, a meadow and even a large pond. Every so often we remember to bring our nature journals and draw a little something.

Last week I had the kids each adopt a tree in our park. My plan is to have them write about and draw their trees once a month for the next year. They have enjoyed watching our (one, poor, lonely) front yard elm tree go through its seasons for several years now. I thought they needed a change.

We had our nature journals, and they drew parts of their trees.

(This would be a really good place to show snapshots of the kids' sketches, but I haven't taken any. Maybe later.)

This week we didn't have any of our nature study materials with us. But I had my phone camera, so I let the kids take pictures:

Mariel's Tree
This is Mariel's tree-- a shumard oak?

Triss' Tree
Triss' tree. I think it might be an elm. The branches go up rather than branching out too far.

Cornflower's Tree
Cornflower standing by her tree-- a live oak full of green leaves! (Live oaks are evergreen.)

Here are some other pictures the kids took:

The Mysterious Meadow
The Mysterious Meadow by Triss

Two Outdoor Girls
Outdoor Girls by Cornflower

Climbing the Spiderweb
Oops-- I took this one! Cornflower conquering the Spiderweb.

Way to Go!

Triss (oops!) Mariel took second place in her division at the science fair!

What follows is her introduction and conclusion, interspersed with pictures of her procedure:


"My project is on friction. Friction is a force that slows things down or stops them altogether. Sometimes friction is good, and sometimes friction is bad. My mom and I once saw a video of cars slipping and sliding on the icy roads. The lack of friction on the road was caused by the ice. There were car accidents. One man could not control his car and rammed into the city truck that was trying to help. More friction would have made things better.

Collecting Materials

"But more friction is not always desirable. For instance, in order to ice skate, I want less friction so I can glide on the ice. In the book, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, Hans and his sister only had wood skates that Hans had carved for them. But the skates made them trip. Their skates provided too much friction.


"I decided to study friction because it was a new idea for me. I wanted to find out what had friction, and what did not. I decided to use two boards to make two different kinds of ramps: a dry ramp and an icy ramp. My hypothesis was that the icy board would have less friction than the dry board.


"In my project I learned that icy things do not have a lot of friction. This helps me understand more about ice skating. In ice skating, I cannot have friction or else I will not be able to skate fast. If I have friction I will stop suddenly and fall and that will hurt. In Hans Brinker, when Hans and his sister got metal skates, those skates did not have as much friction as their wood skates and it helped them skate a lot more smoothly. And I also understand more about the dangers of ice on the roads. If the roads are icy, the lack of friction will make the car slip and turn, and my mom will not be able to control the car. We could cause a car accident unless we stay home."