Saturday, May 31, 2008

Books Read in May

Some I finished and some are still in progress.

Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill (finished)

Guinevere's Gift by Nancy McKenzie(finished)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall(finished)

Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, MD (finished)

The Writer's Jungle by Julia Bogart (finished)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (finished-- this was a reread.)

From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun (in progress-- I have made it through the prologue, and I am excited: perhaps his writing will help me better understand the "ideas in the air" of our age.)

CM's Volume 3 (in progress-- we have made it through Chapter 10 in our book club)

Writing to Learn by Thomas Zinsser (in progress)

*Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel(in progress)

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (in progress)

Domestic Felicity

We had quite an enjoyable Saturday. It was really such a nice one that I wanted to make sure I put it down somewhere.

Mr. Honey and I spent all morning at home alone, which is pretty rare. (Triss spent the night with a friend, and Mariel and Cornflower went to help Grammy plant flowers this morning.) Mr. Honey worked on paperwork and the church newsletter, and fixed Outlook Express on my laptop. I decluttered and swept out and wiped down the laundry room, folded and scrubbed the corners, crevices and baseboards of my linoleum, getting rid of grime I have been glancing at and ignoring for a couple of months. Very satisfying.

In between scrubbing, I read emails and blogs, and made lists for the coming two weeks.

Mariel and Cornflower came home, and I sat and visited with my mom for awhile. We showed her the mysterious wildflowers that are coming up in the backyard lawn. Mom and the kids had gone to some garage sales, and the kids showed us their garage sale finds, which included a large blow-up wading pool. Mom left and I walked to the Walgreens with Mariel to purchase some size D batteries for our pump.

(If I ever write a book about mothers and daughters, I think I will call it, _Walking to Walgreens_. The walk to and fro is ideal for mother-daughter talks. It is even better than driving in the car. Not that I think I will ever write a book. But if I did.)

When we came home, Mariel inflated the pool and filled it with water, then she and her sister played and argued out there for a good hour and a half.

I cleaned the kitchen, started some beans for supper, and then looked through cookbooks to find something to make for church tomorrow. (Our church has potluck lunch every Sunday.) I decided to make a chicken casserole with biscuit topping and blackberry pie.

Mr. Honey sat in the living room working on his computer and eating peanuts. We shared a pot of coffee, and he informed me quite definitely of his intention to watch the Penguins tonight. He is even wearing his Penguins t-shirt in honor of the occasion. I asked him what was the big deal again?

"You know what the Super Bowl is, right? Okay, the National Football League has a championship game every year. It's called the Super Bowl. Remember that?"

Okay. Yes.

"Well, the Super Bowl is the championship game for football. The championship game for hockey is called the Stanley Cup. And the Penguins, the team I have followed since junior high, has not been in the Stanley Cup finals since 1992. They have finally managed to get all the way back to the Stanley Cup finals. They are three wins away from winning the Stanley Cup championship, which is just like the Super Bowl for football. So-- the Stanley Cup is to hockey what the Super Bowl is to football. Got that?"

Mm-hmm. (I knew what the Stanley Cup was. I just like to hear him talk. ;o)

I finished making the pie crusts and am now waiting for my frozen fruit mixture to thaw slightly. The girls cleaned their bedroom and are now playing store with the cash register Cornflower bought at a garage sale.

Mr. Honey is still working, but he stops every so often to explain to me how come Game Four is vital, or some such thing.

Aunt Bessie

Today is my great-aunt Bessie's funeral. (We live several states away, and are not able to attend.) She was my grandfather's sister, and a very dear mother in Israel. She was in her 90s, and had a peaceful home-going. My grandparents tell me that she prayed aloud for the Lord to take her home in the day or so before her death, and passed gently from this life while sleeping.

She was a familiar presence in my childhood, attending the same church and family gatherings.

She made Triss a beautiful baby quilt, pink and blue, little puppy-dog and kitty-cat ears flopping. And when Triss got bigger, I put the quilt away, wanting to save it for Triss' kids. Aunt Bessie heard about it. She sent Triss another quilt, this one big-person sized and colorful, one of the last she made before arthritis prevented her from continuing her crafts.

The message was clear: Gifts are for enjoying!

I received her instruction and got the baby quilt out again. :o)

God bless you, Aunt Bessie. We love you very much.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thanks, I Needed That

Tim's Mom posted this quote (except her quote was the modern paraphrase) on one of the AO lists today. Boy, do I need to read something like this! I haven't made it all the way through Volume 5 yet. It needs to go on my summer reading list.

This invective discovers a mistake in our educational methods. From the time a child is able to parse an English sentence till he can read Thucydides, his instruction is entirely critical and analytic. Does he read "The Tempest," the entrancing whole is not allowed to sink into, and become a part of him, because he is vexed about the 'vexed Bermoothes' and the like. His attention is occupied with linguistic criticism, not especially useful, and, from one point of view, harmful to him because it is distracting. It is as though one listened to "Lycidas," beautifully read, subject to the impertinence of continual interruptions in the way of question and explanation. We miss the general principle that critical studies are out of place until the mind is so 'throughly furnished' with ideas that, of its own accord, it compares and examines critically. (emphasis mine)

--Volume 5, p. 293-294

(I can remember reaching "critical mass" and beginning to do this sort of comparing on my own. It was only a few years ago. Hopefully, my kids will reach it earlier than in their thirties.)


I have been exploring for simple ways we can remember historical dates and things, and I came across this very cool and easy idea that can help with remembering dates from Bible history.

I only read the intro and the beginning paragraph of one of the chapters, and already I have the little anchor times and people in my head. I looked at our wall timeline to make sure what we have corresponds with this simple mnemonic and it does.

Leaves on the Trail

Leaves on the Trail

Sketched by Cornflower.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Celebrate With Us

Triss took the last test in her pre-algebra book today. Woo-hoo! Now we just have to do review this summer so she can start algebra in the fall.

We are using 33 Steps to Algebra Readiness for review, in case you are wondering. I am really going to understand pre-algebra by the end of the summer. All spring, I have sat through sessions with Triss and her tutor, and helped Triss at home, and corrected her papers. I will continue to help and correct all summer. The tutor was vital, Mr. Honey and I felt, since she couldn't be a part of a class. I didn't do well in algebra in school, and in fact only made it as far as Algebra 2 in my entire mathematical career, which was anything but illustrious. And Mr. Honey is a poet and not a mathematician.

Part of effective homeschooling is understanding your limits and knowing when to utilize outside resources.

We are going to try to go it alone this summer, with only occasional phone calls for help over the tough bits. I am still finalizing outside resources for next fall, as this stuff is getting beyond me. If I am to be effective at the things I *am* good at, I need to turn over to another teacher some of the stuff I am not good at. To free up brain space and mind time. Our challenge is that we are not willing to participate in co-op classes for the sake of two subjects, so we are looking for individual classes either online or in our community.

But Triss and I are both pleased at the ending of this math book. So, yay! All done for the moment. ;o)

The High Calling of Humble Living

I was blessed this morning by this article written by Ann Voskamp. A small excerpt:

I make normal everyday problems into a Garden of Gethsemane. I writhe at the thought of daily dying. I pray, "Give us our daily bread, my expected luxuries, but no, I'll pass on the cup."

If I pray for no hardship, do I really love?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Math for Today

This morning we realized we are completely out of butter. We live out in the county, somewhat away from shopping, although we have a new Walgreens within walking distance. Walgreens tends to be somewhat pricey on their food items. We decided to figure out just how much it would cost us to drive to the Walmart ten miles away.

For a round figure that represents about the cheapest gas in our area, we used $3.75. Our minivan gets around 22 miles to the gallon. We figured out that, for us, one mile driven represents around $.17 worth of gas. It doesn't sound like a lot.

Until you figure that a round-trip drive to Walmart to purchase cheap butter would cost $3.75. Not that we head to the store every time we run out of things. And we make other trips into town that take us right by the Walmart and tend to plan our shopping accordingly, although yesterday I accidentally left an important check at home and had to run right back out to deposit it (at the bank next to the Walmart) after we got back from violin lessons. A mistake that cost me $3.75.

I drive Cornflower into town three times per week for allergy shots. The doctor's office is around 15 miles away-- 30 miles round trip. $5.10 every time. (Unless we have to go to the allergist for a new vial, which is $6.02 round trip, and then we have to run the vial to the family doctor before heading home. I didn't do the figuring on that one, but it does add miles, and therefore dollars.)

(At this point Triss was sitting at the breakfast table realizing that maybe her math is good for something after all.)

So if I conquered my dislike of needles and learned to give her the shots myself, we would save an average of $15 per week in gas.

Our church is 53 miles round trip. We are not changing churches. There is a reason we drive 53 miles round trip, and there are others that attend our church who come greater distances. But just for the record, we spend $9.01 twice a week to attend church.

Mariel has violin lessons once a week. If we drive straight to Miss Corinia's and straight home (which we don't-- we always toodle around in town afterward), the cost round trip is $4.22.


The Down Side to Nature Study

I got chiggers this weekend. Ouch. I'm just glad it was me and not the kids. Actually, Cornflower does have one or two bites, but they don't seem to be bothering her unduly, which is a blessing. But she got a mosquito bite on her eye. It has swelled up and looks like someone punched her, but her eye is not swollen shut, so it is not as bad as it could be.

I now know that when we are heading into woods that have never been clear-cut, and are maintained strictly in their virgin condition, we should wear bug spray. Lots of bug spray. And tuck our jeans into our socks. And perhaps some kerosene around the ankles would not be amiss.

I have found that an evening regiment of warm vinegar bath, oral Benadryl, and clear nail polish on the bites, will enable me to sleep without scratching my ankles raw. It also helps to make a bed-tent and not let anything touch the bites.

I am filing this away for future reference when my kids are uncomfortable with bites or rashes. I am not naturally a ministering angel, and need these little reminders.

Here are a few more of the pictures I took as the chiggers chewed:

Turtle or Snake Eggs

We thought these were snake eggs when we found them. But now I wonder if they might have been turtle eggs.

Turtle or Snake Eggs III

The hollow around which the eggshells were strewn was just above the trail that followed the bank of the pond. When the girls were much smaller we came upon a turtle laying eggs in a similar hollow near a pond in our neighborhood, and the eggs looked a lot like these. These eggshells were perfectly round. A friend has a nest of turtle eggs at her house and said hers are oblong or egg-shaped. Are some turtle eggs round? I did not touch the eggshells, and in fact took these pictures rather quickly in case there was a snake around that wanted to bite me (now I see I should have feared the chiggers more), but I think they were leathery and pliable. I am not sure if turtle eggs are like that. I need to look this stuff up.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Donald In Mathmagic Land (1/3)

Pythagorean jam session and golden proportions.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chess in the Land of Brobdingnag


Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

A list of men our family knew who were killed in service to their country during the Vietnam War:

Steve Rodrigues
Ernie Garcia
Bob DeMello
Paul Thurkil
Mark Seedintof

My uncle, Jim Collier, also served in Vietnam. He died from cancer several years ago, the result of his contact with the chemicals of war.

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.

-Sir Walter Scott

How to Observe Memorial Day

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Experiencing Gravity

Last week when we were out picking blackberries with Javamom and our other friends, Mariel experienced gravity in a more startling way than usual. She fell out of a mesquite tree into a clump of blackberry bushes and tore her jeans.

That little story is for all my book club friends who laughed a couple of months ago when I said it was a good idea to get the kids outside so they could experience gravity. See? They really do experience it more fully when they are running and jumping and climbing outside.

There. I feel much better now.

I'm sure you all knew what I meant even as you laughed, didn't you? For two months I have been wondering how to explain myself. You know you have made some true friends when they poke a little fun at you, and you don't mind coming back for more. Thanks, ladies. :o)

For a Couple of Friends

I have a talented friend who takes pictures of bugs interacting with flowers. She recently sent me a photo that has become a huge favorite of mine: a little tiny bug looking over the edge of a pink evening primrose, with the caption taken from scripture: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." I just love that picture, and the quote speaks volumes to me. I know how the bug feels, lol!

Anyway, I said all that to say this: Here is a picture for you, my friend! Can you see the bug on the flower? It blends right in. I think it is a colorful stinkbug.

The flowers are also for another friend who emailed me a few weeks ago wondering what this flower was called. I found out today it is known as Mexican Hat, Thimbleflower or Longheaded Coneflower, as well as Lance-Leaf Coneflower. Its Latin name is Ratibida Columnaris.

Update: Javamom has bugs on her flowers, too!

Texas Corsage

Indian Blanket and Horsemint.

A Question

Does anyone know what this plant is?

It resembles a strawberry, but grows taller. And it has interesting little puffballs for fruit.

At least, I assume the puffballs are the fruit, since the flowers are white. Any help is appreciated. I wasn't sure how to search for this on Google...

A Bracket Fungus

"Many of the shelf fungi live only on dead wood, and those are an aid in reducing dead branches and stumps until they crumble and become again a part of the soil." --Handbook of Nature Study, page 722.

A Mushroom

There once was a mushroom who wanted to go to a birthday party. So he uprooted himself and went. As soon as the birthday boy noticed him, he said, "Hey, you can't be here!"

The mushroom said, "Why not? I'm a fun-gi!"

(Get it? Fun-gi, Fun-guy!!)

Mariel told me this one. She got it off of Webkinz World.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hold On

I loved this post at Wittingshire. Here is my favorite part:

We live and die in a broken world, its shattered fragments reflecting the beauty and glory and rightness of what once was and someday again will be--but only reflecting, and in its brokenness often distorting our perceptions. As people who live among the shards we can't assume that everything we see is what it seems.

A quote from Galileo that I found in one of Triss' books for next year:

"Whatever the course of our lives, we should receive them as the highest gift from the hand of God, in which equally reposed the power to do nothing whatever for us. Indeed, we should accept misfortune not only in thanks, but in infinite gratitude to Providence, which by such means detaches us from an excessive love for Earthly things and elevates our minds to the celestial and divine."

And here is the Apostle Paul speaking to Timothy:

"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day."

When I read the quotes over, they don't fall together the way they did as I came in contact with them one by one. Somehow, they sit in the same little mind-bin for me. I am too tired to figure out why. But, oh, they give such an assurance! This world is not my home. It is beautiful, and yet grotesque, and things are not as they seem.

We watched "Babe: Pig in the City" tonight, and it had such a dark, surreal quality. At one point we questioned whether it was good for the children to be watching it. But then, at the darkest moment, when we stared and Mariel cried and the little dog just lay there-- Mr. Honey said, "Oh, no. Don't worry! This just proves that the ending is going to be even happier." And it was.

Don't worry. Hold on. The ending is going to be even happier.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Germs of Another Generation

Our coreopsis is going to seed:


Thanks, Javamom!

A Meme by Tim's Mom

Tim's Mom has created a neat meme!

I am going to answer this in an of-the-moment fashion-- if you came at a different time of year, or when the kids are reading or thinking of different things, the answers might also be different. Also, I sit in this house every single day and probably don't notice the same things a visitor would notice. I would really be interested in hearing what an actual visitor to our home would answer!

If you came to our house--

You would see:

Nature paintings (Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt and Big Horn Mountains by Thomas Moran) nature photos with poetry quotes from William Blake and Christina Rossetti, Bible quotes, words, words, words... And lots of family photos (probably way more pictures of the girls than necessary, but I cannot take them down). Bookcases. A yellowish blond upright cabinet piano, circa 1960. (It reminds me of the practice room pianos at CSULB.) A very large chalkboard. Seeds on the windowsill, boxes in the entry. A time-out doll patiently waiting for parole in the corner. Ivy dishes, poppy wallpaper border and a very large clock.

We'd probably feed you:
Fruit and crackers, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or maybe oatmeal bars or cookies. (You would have to politely ignore the pathogens Triss is growing in glasses on the kitchen counter, as well as the paper cups Mariel has painted black and left in front of the coffeemaker.) Perhaps we would walk down to Walgreen's and get some Blue Bell ice cream!

And offer you this to drink:
Filtered water, or coffee or tea.

We'd undoubtedly ask if you'd read:
The Penderwicks
The Swallows and Amazons books

We'd want to play this music for you:
Each of the children would want to perform. Triss would probably play Amazing Grace on the piano. Cornflower would play Cuckoo Song from her Suzuki book. And then she would modulate it a third and play it again. And then she would play it in the minor. She would continue her variations until we asked her to stop. Mariel would play Jesus Shall Reign on her violin, or perhaps another of her pieces. Once I contained them, we would put Aaron Copland, Anonymous 4 or Bach on the stereo.

We'd want to tell you the latest about:
Triss would want to talk about Prince Caspian, definitely. Cornflower would want to explain her Lego creations. I don't know what Mariel would want to tell about. I would bring up my latest ideas about writing curriculums and ask your advice on the scrapbook I am making my parents for their 40th wedding anniversary (everyone has more scrapbooking experience than I). Mr. Honey would most likely talk about sports, home improvement and the Food Network.

We'd probably suggest a game of:
Wise and Otherwise or Sequence.

We might show off:
Triss' winning poem, which I cannot show off on the blog, much to my mommy disappointment. My new laptop. And, of course, all the musical showing off mentioned above.

We might get on the computer and show you:
The sweetest little girl singing songs on YouTube. Some gluten-free recipes over at the Treehouse. The newest members of Jubilee's family. Our favorite bird and flower identification sites. If Mariel would let us, we might show you her colonial girl stories (she hasn't even shared them all with me yet).

If it was a long enough visit, we might watch:
the children put on a play for us.

What would a visit to your house be like?

I tag Jubilee, Ginger, Javamom, TeacherBrit, Willa, J (at Journals), and Senora Smith! You're it! Ooh, and I tag Triss. Her answers might be different than mine.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nature Study Update

(NOTE: I am gradually adding photos to this post, but I have to run-- we are picking blackberries with Javamom today!)

I got a big bouquet of flowers from my parents for Mother's Day, and the kids and I examined them the other day while we ate breakfast.

I asked Triss to enlighten us as to the names of the flower parts, as she is the only one in our house who has them memorized. She obligingly pointed and named while we sat and listened. (Note: I realized this morning that it sounds like the next couple of paragraphs are what Triss said to us. They are really just my own further impressions of the flowers. Sorry for any confusion.)

One kind of flower in the bouquet is a composite flower I have never seen before. It looks like a small sunflower, but with such unusually shaped ray flowers! Like little tubes. We dissected one of the ray flowers and found the tiny pistil inside. I have a question: how can the bee get any nectar from such tiny tubelike flowers?

The other prominent flowers in the bouquet are tiger lilies-- just beautiful, and easy to label because the parts are so large and spread out. We shook one of the lilies to watch the anthers dance. (Later on I noticed this became a favorite activity for Cornflower. She was quite distressed when the last tiger lily had to be thrown in the trash.)

I saw that as the lily wilted, the petals opened further and further, while the stamens drew up to form a straight wall around the pistil. Then a day or so later I saw that the stamens had gone back to their position radiating outward. I meant to draw the kids' attention to it, but I forgot. Perhaps I will remember to tell them now that I wrote it in a blog post. ;o)

We pulled apart one of the fat coreopsis receptacles earlier this week and found the seeds. Also three little white worms. Triss put the seeds in a saucer of water and set it on the windowsill to see what would happen. Mariel carried the worms outside on a paper towel. She is our fearless rescuer when it comes to buggy things.

I was beginning to think the coreopsis seed receptacles were not going to open on their own and disperse their seeds, but today we saw two or three that have done just that. We have been spoiled by watching the Moody science videos (they speed up the process so you can see the seeds literally explode out of the pods and receptacles).

And in other news, we have been watching birds. We definitely have regular house finch visitors in our front yard, though we do not know where their nest is.

I have been asking the girls to see if they can spot a scissor-tailed flycatcher as we drive around lately. Today we were at a park, and Cornflower ran up to me and told me she had seen a mockingbird and a scissortailed flycatcher both.

Triss would like to be a barn swallow if she could be a bird, because of the way they swoop and fly.

We went to check on the kids' trees today and they played a long time at the park. Triss found a bug and drew it so we could look it up later. I said I thought it was a leafhopper, but Mariel said it was definitely a stinkbug. I didn't think so, but when we got home and looked, she was right! There was a collection of third graders from a local elementary school enjoying a field trip at the park, and several of the kids came over to see what we were looking at. We got the bug to crawl on one of the kids' hands, and then helped it onto a leaf. Then we got to see how it chose the leaf over the hand every opportunity it got.

That's about all the nature I can remember from the last week or so. Except that Thumper the rabbit will continue her escape attempts into the lusher green grass of the next-door neighbors' backyard. Oh, and she is running for President (in one of Triss' stories). I am not so sure I will vote for her. She worries too much that someone will take her carrots or usurp her portion of the yard to be a good world leader.

I do apologize for the lack of pictures. I had some of the tiger lily and the interesting mystery composite flower, but our camera batteries died before I got the pictures onto the computer. I will put some new batteries in the camera.

The Way of Royalty

We were talking about King Arthur yesterday at lunch, and Mariel mentioned that there was a prince named Arthur who never got to be king of England. We all put our heads together to try and remember who exactly he was, and whether he was done in by an uncle, and what the uncle's name was.

"Well, he was most likely a Henry, a Richard or an Edward," said Mariel, determined to cover all bases. "Why they couldn't choose a bigger variety of names is beyond me."

The girls stared at me when I couldn't stop laughing.

Reading, Writing, Reasoning

Look at these two statements:

"Much of our reasoning and so-called thinking is involuntary-- is as much a natural function as is the circulation of our blood..." CM Vol. 3 p. 115

"'Johnny can't reason.'" Said to William Zinsser by a college professor (Writing to Learn, p. 44)

I thought at first these were contradictions, but as I considered further, I decided perhaps we have so much trouble with reasoning ability nowadays because students aren't engaging with the content of their studies-- if they engage, the natural reasoning process Charlotte was talking about takes over, and as the students continue to commit their thoughts to paper, their reasoning ability increases.

One professor (in Writing to Learn) who had his students write essays on a values statement at the beginning of the year said, "Their papers were a disaster. They rambled all over." But as he encouraged them to write, and to present their ideas coherently and precisely, they improved. By the end of the year, "Their papers were clear and explicit. Their problems were in thinking, not in the mechanics of writing."

Writing, especially writing about what you are reading, really bumps you up against what you are thinking. There is something committal about putting your thoughts into visual form-- they are your thoughts, and there they are, in all their cock-eyed glory, reflecting the fog or the clarity of your mind.

"'Reading, writing and thinking are all integrated. An idea can have value in itself, but its usefulness diminishes to the extent that you can't articulate it to someone else.'" (Said to William Zinsser by a professor of history.)

"We think, and improve our Judgments, by committing our Thoughts to Paper." John Adams in a letter to his young son, John Quincy Adams.

"'Revising helps the students to rethink.'" Said to William Zinsser by a professor of Chemistry.

Watching someone do this can be fascinating.

"...the act of writing gives the teacher a window into the brain of his student. See Johnny reason! Watch him make a wrong turn! Follow his cogitations as he wonders what to do next!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Movie Reviews

Triss went to see Prince Caspian with some friends, came home, and wrote a movie review, all before I could even ask her about it. :proud mama beams:

There are also reviews up at The Common Room and Bona Vita Rusticanda Est (I expect we will have a more thorough one from Tim soon).

I have not seen it. I was rather disappointed in the first Narnia movie, and am afraid to see the next. I have my own ideas about Narnia and would like to keep them.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Triss Was In The Paper!

It was a pretty boring article, simply listing the names of the winners of the local library writing contest, but her name was there.

I cannot post her winning poem, because her sisters' names are in it, and she refuses to let me disguise them for the sake of sharing it with the blogosphere. These writers are so temperamental sometimes. If you want to see her poem, email me and I will send it to you.

Key Points for School Kids (and Everyone)

My notes on CM's Volume 3, Chapter 11, pages 114-115:

Two directions in which we commit intellectual offences against the law and oppose ourselves to authority:

1. We decide that everything is an open question and forget there are three facts no one can argue with--

a. God is.
b. Self is.
c. The World is.

These three are both "unprovable and self-proven." (?)

2.We do not recognize the nature and limitations of reason.

a. The process of reasoning an idea out is as involuntary as our blood pumping through our veins.
b. Our minds automatically prove logically any idea our minds accept.

This limits Reason to being helpful only in proving right ideas logically. It is the Will that must determine right and wrong and accept or reject ideas.

I Guess Less Really Is More

"The disciplined life has more power of fresh enjoyment than is given to the unrestrained."--Charlotte Mason

Amy Dacyzyn once wrote an article about her kids and ice cream cones. She said that if kids get an ice cream every time the family goes to the store, they soon come to view ice cream cones as commonplace, and desire something more. Mrs. Dacyzyn saw that as a signal to stop providing ice creams until they were appreciated again, rather than upping the ante to something more.

This principle can apply to more than just treats. Miss Mason wrote the above quote in a chapter on developing study habits. We can also apply it to activities, socializing, vegging out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Square-Foot Nature Study

As we came back from a walk this afternoon, Triss noticed an interesting new yellow bud on the coreopsis plant.

(The flowers on our coreopsis have mostly wilted and swelled and we are wondering when and how they will burst open with seeds. Since the square foot of ground around that plant is our "square-foot study", I thought it would be nice to make a little journal entry of what we saw.)

Triss reached down to lift the stem in order to give me a better viewpoint, and as she did, her fingers brushed the bud. Eight legs uncurled... It was a crab spider! (Needless to say, Triss was not amused. Weeks and weeks of reading The Life of a Spider has not endeared these creatures to her.)

We tried and tried to get a picture, but the camera would not cooperate. First Triss tried, and then she held the stem so I could try, and then Mariel held the stem for me, and then Mariel tried while I held the stem, and then Triss tried again. We got a halfway decent shot of a red ladybug in the midst of all this, but no spider. (I also nearly stepped on a red wasp wandering in and out of the coreopsis, while a mockingbird landed and took a short walk on the grass near us, so quiet and still we were being.)

I think the value of this nature encounter was that we stayed in place and looked for so long.

We also have a jumping spider in the artificial flower wreath on our front door. I have read that these spiders will wheel and jump toward humans, and have experienced that myself, but our jumping spider has behaved herself quite moderately, staying inside her tiny den whenever we open the door. We really should move her, but she hasn't harmed anyone.

crab spider

Writing to Learn Ch. 2

Intro/Ch. 1 here.

Here is my lazy woman's not-really-narration of Chapter 2 (okay, so it's just quotes I underlined as I read):

Writing is primarily an exercise in logic and words are just tools designed to do a specific job.

Writing is learned by imitation.

We eventually move beyond our models; we take what we need and then we shed those skins and become who we are supposed to become.

The essence of writing is rewriting...After a lifetime of writing I still revise every sentence many times and still worry that I haven't caught every ambiguity; I don't want anyone to have to read a sentence of mine twice to find out what it means.

Putting an idea into written words is like defrosting the windshield: the idea, so vague out there in the murk, slowly begins to gather itself into a sensible shape.

In my travels I have found that the teaching of writing is taken more seriously at little-known colleges and universities than at the big and famous ones.

Everybody loves a story.

Reasoning is a lost skill of the children of the TV generation, with their famously short attention span. Writing can help them get it back.

A lot of hope in this chapter. The teaching of composition, especially now that we have a middle schooler, is pretty intimidating to me. I appreciate the confirmation this author gives that the slow and steady way we are educating the children, the emphasis on process, is a remarkably good one. And I thank the Lord for Miss Mason and the AO/HEO Advisory and their God-given wisdom. I never could have put together a programme this good. Having stepping stones to follow is invaluable.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Creative Mothering

What type of Mother Hen Are You?
by Educational Resource

Well, this suits me just fine. Especially with summer just around the corner. :o)

Thank you to Mama Squirrel and Athena for the link!

Monday, May 12, 2008

What's Up With That?

Well, I guess I have struck the right balance where grammar is concerned. Or else I have strangely enthusiastic children. Triss' and Mariel's grammar books for next fall arrived in the mail today.

"Oh, goody! Mom, can I start my grammar right now?" This was from Mariel.

"Oh, great! Let me see. What a neat book!" Triss exclaimed. (It was Nancy Wilson's _Our Mother Tongue_) She then proceeded to tell Mariel how much she was going to enjoy Winston Grammar.

"Where's MY grammar book?" Cornflower pouted. I explained that she didn't have to do grammar yet, but that response disappointed her, so I shall have to get her a new Mad Libs next time we are at Cracker Barrel.

We started our summer schedule today, which consists of the Ambleside readings that have not been finished, some math, music and a few incidental things that haven't been completed yet (penmanship workbook for Mariel, Apologia for Triss, etc.) We eliminated all the little everyday things that we have tried desperately to be consistent at doing all year-- copywork, dictation, memory work, poetry recitation, grammar. The little things really add up after awhile. We felt at liberty today having such short lists. That must be why the children rejoiced at the sight of their new grammar books.

Yeah, that must be it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete. ~Marcy DeMaree

Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever. ~Author Unknown

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. ~Alex Haley

Happy Mother's Day, Grammy and GG Mom!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thoughts on Performing

In an impulsive moment I volunteered to help out with Mariel's violin recital by playing the accompaniments on the piano. I ended up with seven accompaniments to learn. This wasn't a really a big deal because most of the accompaniments were for little Suzuki pieces. But I had two concerto accompaniments to learn, and that was a lot of fun, a lot of adrenaline, and a lot of nervousness in the weeks before the recital.

Sometimes when I perform, my hands get sweaty and shake. This isn't too hard to hide when you are singing, but when you are playing piano it can really be disastrous. I have only performed on the piano three times in the last seven years, and in each one of those performances my fingers wobbled with nervousness. I remembered this after I had stopped patting myself on the back for being such a nice guy and volunteering to play the accompaniments. What had I let myself in for? What if I let down the kids?

I had four weeks to practice the Vivaldi concerto, and three weeks on the Rieding concerto. My kids were humming the accompaniments, and even the melody parts, by this week. And picking them out on the piano. Ad infinitum. In fact, Cornflower entertained us all with her *air violin* performance. (I didn't realize Vivaldi could be so raucous!)

I had practiced and practiced; but what if my mind messed up my fingers? I prayed God would not allow that to happen.

And thank the Lord, it didn't happen! My fingers were steady and my mind clear throughout the performance. I only had one anxious moment when, in the middle of the Rieding piece, my mind insisted on thinking about another one of the students. I couldn't remember if I had accompanied her or not and I knew she had already played. I told myself, "It doesn't matter at this point-- focus!" At first I thought my brain wouldn't do what I had told it to, but then the thought obligingly went to the back of the bus, and a good thing, too, because the pesky sixteenth note section was coming up.

I enjoyed accompanying the children today-- especially since I didn't louse the recital up for anybody! Oh, I made some mistakes, but was able to cover them, and even covered some tempo issues the kids had. We made it through together.

(Mariel did an excellent job, too! I got to accompany her on two of her pieces.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Writing to Learn by William Zinsser

William Zinsser never realized how interesting math and science could be until he, a liberal arts guru, began reading about a concept called writing across the curriculum.

He claims to have possibly been the only boy in his exclusive prep school to come so near to flunking chemistry (and ruining his school's rep) that they actually changed the testing requirements and had him take the Latin exam instead.

I found his book, Writing to Learn, at Barnes and Noble the other day. We already have On Writing Well-- we have owned it for at least two years-- but I haven't opened it. I'm a little intimidated. But Writing To Learn sounds a lot like written narration to me. I thought that surely couldn't be too hard.

His wonder and pleasure at finding sparkling prose in the math and science disciplines reminds me of the year my oldest and I took off into the exciting world of living math books. She told me later that the one thing that kept her in the math textbook when the going got tough was the thought of googols, fractals and fibonacci numbers she would earn the skill to maneuver through if she only mastered the basics.

I have yet to read the entire book. After reading the preface and chapter one it occurred to me that this book is a keeper and I ought to summarize it onto the blog. I recommend it to anyone who, like me, needs to improve her facilitation of writing and learning in the homeschool.

Consensus** Encyclopedia or Information Cabal*?

(Note: My apologies for those of you on feeds who have seen this post pop up in an altered state at least three times. See below.)

When Wikipedia first began and I found it irresistable for a quick-reference look-up tool, my dad said something like, "You cannot rely on a freely-updated encyclopedia for accurate information-- the stronger and more stubborn people will make the updates that remain, whether accurate or not."

Well, Dad, you were right.


And in the process of writing what I thought was going to be a fairly simple blog post about an interesting news article, I ran into all kinds of accuracy issues and word struggles myself!

*I orginally had the word 'junta' in place of 'cabal' in the title (the stories on Myanmar must be influencing me subconsciously), and then my hand stumbled over the square-mouse-replacement thingy, causing the post to publish prematurely. This has been a source of many mistakes for me in the last few weeks of getting used to this new laptop. I was just going to look the word up to see if my sense of it matched the actual definition, when the unfortunate stumble occurred. 'Junta' is a little strong in this case as no one is using an army to reinforce their repeated updates of Wikipedia so I thought perhaps 'cabal' would be more appropriate. I have never used the word 'cabal' in my life, so if you think it has connotations not acceptable in this context please let me know.

**After that, I had problems reconciling my use of the word 'democratic' and have completely removed it. I substituted the word 'consensus' for 'democratic' in the title, and 'freely updated' for 'democratic' in my memory of Dad's remarks. (See what happens when you hit publish too soon? All kinds of confusion can erupt.) The posts aren't really updated democratically, because no one is voting for them.

Some links to Wikipedia's ideas about itself:

The site does not promote itself as an experiment in democracy:

Wikipedia is not an experiment in democracy or any other political system. Its primary method of determining consensus is through editing and discussion, not voting. Although editors occasionally use straw polls in an attempt to test for consensus, polls or surveys may actually impede rather than assist discussion. They should be used with caution, if at all, and will not necessarily be treated as binding.

And in all fairness, Wikipedia understands that not all articles produced in this venue will necessarily be accurate or unbiased:

Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start. Indeed, many articles start out by giving one—perhaps not particularly evenhanded—view of the subject, and it is after a long process of discussion, debate, and argument that they gradually take on a consensus form. Others may become caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint and can take some time—months perhaps—to regain a better-balanced consensus.

In part, this is because Wikipedia operates mainly on an informal process to resolve such issues. When editors cannot agree on content and approach, it is likely to take a bit of time before more experienced editors enter the picture. Even then, on inherently controversial topics, those more experienced editors may have their own axes to grind. [emphasis mine]

Then what is it good fer? Well, apparently an 'official point of view' or 'censorship' are very difficult to maintain on an article.

Wikipedia is written by open and transparent consensus — an approach that has its pros and cons. Censorship or imposing "official" points of view is extremely difficult to achieve and almost always fails after a time. Eventually for most articles, all notable views become fairly described and a neutral point of view reached. In reality, the process of reaching consensus may be long and drawn-out, with articles more fluid or changeable for a long time compared while they find their "neutral approach" that all sides can agree on. Reaching neutrality is occasionally made harder by extreme-viewpoint contributors. Wikipedia operates a full editorial dispute resolution process, that allows time for discussion and resolution in depth, but also permits months-long disagreements before poor quality or biased edits will be removed.

What we have in the case of the article I referenced above may simply be the very messy middle of this process. The most disturbing thing about it is that the Kim-person appears to be someone with some authority where Wikipedia is concerned. (Do they have official authorities who monitor content?)

The moral of the story is to choose your references wisely. Wikipedia may be good for a quick-check, but the best policy is to verify the information with two or three reliable sources before using it in a post or paper.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Girl Meme

My daughter Triss has tagged me for a meme. I am to tell three of my favorite anythings. My answer may be a bit of a copout, but I think that is easy:

My three favorite girls:

1. Triss

2. Mariel

3. Cornflower

I tag Javamom, Senora Smith, Jubilee and Teacher Britt. And Lindafay and her daughter Raora. (Sorry for not embedding the links, but we have a busy day ahead. You know who you are ;o)

King Uzziah

Here is Cornflower's narration on one of the kings of Israel. She narrated orally while I typed her words on the computer.

I can tell you the story of Uzziah. Uzziah was a bad king. He was the son of Amaziah. He became king when his father died. He went into the priests' building and the priests said he couldn’t come. Then he didn’t have food or water for a long time and his body fell apart—his nose, and all of that stuff—I don’t know what it’s called. I think it’s called something that starts with a V.

(She means leprosy. King Uzziah got leprosy because was such a great and respected personage that it went to his head and he decided it was a fine idea to do the priests' office-- which was only lawful for someone of the tribe of Levi to do. He actually wasn't such a bad king until his pride got in the way.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Boston Tea Party

It is exam time at our house. I have transcribed Mariel's Boston Tea Party narration from her exam tape for your reading pleasure:

Hi, it's [Mariel] again, with Exams of 2008, and I am going to describe to you the Boston Tea Party. I'm describing it in the context of a girl who got to watch it and the Boston Massacre.

Okay, just a minute.

It was a cold March night, and a band of young men were coming, running over the hills with tomahawks. They had stained their skin brown, and their faces were hideously painted. Their heads were adorned with feathers.

Cheryl shivered in the night. Someone shook her. She looked up and saw the face of Mama. Together they went down to the entryway where Duncan and Samuel and Papa were waiting. And- and- they started walking towards the harbor.

"Mama, what's happening?" asked Cheryl.

"Well, [unintelligible]" she whispered in her ear. Cheryl snuggled close to her.

As they drew near to the harbor, they saw thousands and thousands of other lights bobbing and coming this way. When they had reached the harbor, quite a crowd of colonists-- and some Tories-- had gathered there.

(Um, P.S. A Tory is someone who is for more power for the king, and a Whig is for more power for the people. Okay, just thought I'd let you know that! Okay.)

And the young men, or, AKA, Indians, boarded the ship went down in the hold and brought out chests and chests of tea. They opened them with their tomahawks and threw each and every tea bag into the harbor. It was a terrible, terrifying waste, for there were over 350 boxes of tea.

No one stopped it.

When King George heard about it, he said, "The colonists now must either surrender or fight!" And the colonists had no intention of surrendering, so they fought.

Thank you.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Blog Business

Triss, my oldest, has started posting again. Go see!

(If you are The Queen, you must especially look, because Triss has tagged you for a meme.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mr. Honey

One of my faithful readers has let me know how much easier it would be for her to picture our family doings if she knew what Mr. Honey looks like. He declined to be photographed relaxing at home, but told me I could post a picture from our cruise two years ago.

Here he is enjoying the sushi. He is the tall, handsome one without the kimono. ;o)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Books, Books, Books, Books

I got to purchase books today (joy!). Here are the titles:

Writing to Learn by William Zinser
From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun
Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill (from his Hinges of History series)
Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD

Now how am I going to get anything done with these extremely interesting books staring me in the face?

Triss purchased The Penderwicks. She had it completely finished before we got home.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Art Appreciation On The Go

Did you know that the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) displays a famous work of art on each cover, with the artist named on the table of contents page?

Cornflower is undergoing allergy shots and we have been in the doctor's office quite a bit lately. Today Triss and I discovered that we could have fun guessing the era/school and name of artist on each cover. We were pretty good at naming era and/or school but only got one artist's name correct.

It was J.M.W. Turner and it took both of us to figure it out. I kept saying, "You know-- it looks like that guy-- with the train and the rabbit-- the Age of Steam-- do you remember?" And finally Triss said, "Oh, do you mean 'Rain, Steam and Speed'? That was Turner." And we turned the page and it was him. I forget the name of the picture though. Very desultory we are at times. Most of the time, really. Sometimes I feel as if I were a Bear of Very Little Brain seeing how much Eddication I can get into these three Tigger-girls. Wonderfully quick minds they have, if I can only get them to remain on one thought for a time. A little hyperbole, you know, to make a point. ;o)

We are going to miss the Turner exhibit at the DMA, I think. It is leaving in the next week or two. I wonder if we might still get to see it?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Working Schedule

In searching for The Perfect Schedule, I did a funny thing back in January. I didn't know if it would work, but it seems to be going well. I took the daily schedule of one of the weeklong summer singing schools we attend every year and used it as the basis of a daily school schedule for us. We have attended this singing school for more than a decade, and the schedule has made deep ruts in our brains. Since the routine I figured out has worked for us for more than a couple of weeks, I am sharing it:

* I get up at some point before 7:00 AM and have breakfast ready by 7:00. How early I decide to get up determines the kind of breakfast we have. Sometimes I don't get up until 7:00 or a little later, and then we have a very simple breakfast. But usually I am up by 6:45.

* I wake the kids when breakfast is ready. They eat and then get ready for the day. Sometimes one or more of them will get up earlier, but not usually.

* At 8:00 AM we have our morning assembly. This consists of Bible lesson and singing, and sometimes we look things up online that we have been wondering about. (Anything from the definition of a word to what a crab looks like to what other people think about the rule of Henry II.) Sometimes we get a late start and have to leave singing out.

* At 9:00 we have a fifteen minute break. This is for us to do whatever getting ready we needed to do that didn't get done before morning assembly. The kids sometimes go outside and play. Sometimes we don't get done with our morning assembly until after 9:00, and then we either don't have a break, or else we start the next block of time a little later.

* At 9:15 we have our first hour of work. I work with Cornflower during this time, and Mariel and Triss work alone.

* At 10:15 we have another fifteen minute break, just to stretch our legs. We have started taking a short walk at this time occasionally, but a lot of times the kids play in the backyard and I start some chores (laundry, etc.) or do a quick email check.

* At 10:30 we have our second hour of work. I work with Mariel at this time. Cornflower is pretty independent for a seven year old, and has a few things she does on her own. She generally does her math (we go over it during her hour and then she does the actual exercises on her own), her poetry and other memory work, italics workbook and copywork. Triss works alone.

* At 11:30 we either continue for another fifteen minutes, or else I insert composer study or artist study for fifteen minutes.

* Triss runs the girls through their Spanish lessons at 11:45 while I fix lunch.

* We eat lunch at noon and relax a little, then do a half hour of chores. Each of the girls has an chore area that is their personal service to the family, and they work on those things. I go through the house doing all the other things that pile up. I also look at what everyone has gotten done that morning and help the kids think about how to organize their afternoon.

* Our goal is to start our afternoon work at 1:00, but we generally don't start until 1:30. This is the hour in which I work with Triss. Cornflower is usually finished by this time and can play, while Mariel works on her schoolwork alone.

* At 2:30 we evaluate our progress and have a thirty minute break. If we have been running late all day (ie., if breakfast and Bible were late, and/or if other things have interfered with our regular routine) we skip the thirty minute break.

* After the break, we work on anything that needs to be done that hasn't gotten done already.

I have been using the Homeschool Tracker to keep track of assignments. I am able to generate assignment sheets for each child, and this saves me additional work. I hand the kids their assignment sheets and they check in with me at lunchtime and in the afternoon. They are working on staying on task without me hanging over them all morning.

They have certain assignments that are listed daily (musical instrument practice, memory work, poetry, copywork, etc.). My goal is for these things to get done at least three times per week. On the days they don't get done, I simply delete the assignment. Then they have reading and math assignments that must be done systematically. If they don't get one of those assignments done on the day it is due, the assignment pops up on the assignment sheet for the next day as a past due assignment. If one of these assignments is not done by the end of the week, I change the date due to the next week.

I can also copy old assignments and then alter them to suit the new assignment. This saves a lot of planning time.

I wish I could just go with a little general schedule, but running through the assignments mentally before the week starts helps me get my head in the game, so to speak. I do have to sweat over assignments and such beforehand in order to keep myself from sweating during the week. Mr. Honey says, "Plan your work and work your plan!" I do that and, with goals in mind, try to keep flexible enough to allow life to happen. My way of doing things may seem too rigid to some and too loosey-goosey to others, but it works for us.

A Habit

Mr. Honey started the sweetest custom when we were first married. He kisses me on my right cheek every night after dinner and says, "Good dinner, Mrs. Honey." He really does this every night, and has since we got married. He is a man of habit and routine. I would have gotten bored with the whole thing after a month or two and left off, but with his constancy he has started a tradition.

In the last couple of years, the kids have begun thanking me for the meal in this way occasionally as well.

And as they have become more and more interested in helping with the meals, they insist that Daddy kiss them too. It is understood to be the boon of the hands that prepare food, and is desired as such.