Thursday, July 31, 2008

How Narration Works with Memory

I appreciated reading the Simply Charlotte Mason series on evaluation. The series highlights the way to employ narration to best benefit short-term memory, intermediate (or working) memory, and long-term memory. We have not always done narrations this way, and it was helpful for me to have the 'hows' laid out so succinctly.

How Much Does My Child Remember?

The Charlotte Mason Method of Narration

Pre-reading Reviews

End of Term Exams in the Charlotte Mason Method

And while I am linking, I really enjoyed reading this post from Art on the 'whys' of CM education. His title is one of my favorite parts of the piece:

A Dangerous Adventure

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I saved $40 the other day by repurposing an old bookcase that has been used for storage in the garage for the past year or so. We have an Ikea Pax closet in the schoolroom that is used for game and school supply storage, but it had only one shelf. I desperately needed more shelving. We have no more wall space in the room for storage, since our schoolroom has two tall windows on one wall, a door opening into the kitchen on another wall, and double doors opening into the entryway on a third. Oh, and the wall with the kitchen door also has a large classroom chalkboard on it (we got that for free from the Baptist church in a nearby town a few years ago. I'm glad we got it. We use it *all* the time.) Anyway, not a lot of storage space. I had to make the closet more efficient. But to purchase three or four more Pax shelves from Ikea would be $40. So I thought, "There has got to be a solution in this house." I headed for the garage, and voila-- the little old bookcase caught my eye. It was just the right size to fit in the closet and hold supplies and games.

I used to repurpose, make do or do without a lot more, when the kids were smaller and Mr. Honey's paycheck was less. I'm not quite sure how I got out of the habit, but I think it had to do with getting more busy and moving away from trusting the Lord and into quick and pretty fixes.

One thing I can say for the past couple of weeks-- we have seen the Lord moving in our lives. And to remain calm and trust in Him is my goal. He has been providing all the time, but I often miss the blessing of *seeing* it. I don't want to miss that anymore.

Coupons, Cars and Stuff

I thought I'd post a little on how we are doing with the turning of the financial ship. We are halfway through our fiscal month.

We have been selling stuff and I have been doing a little networking for piano students. It struck me today that perhaps people don't want to start musical instrument lessons with food and gas expenses currently higher than folks are used to, so my thoughts have turned toward tutoring as another possible way to earn a little extra money. I'm not sure how to start, though. I am going to have to do some research.

Since groceries is an area I have some control over, I have been working on couponing a la The Simple Dollar. I have used coupons in the past, and when I try to save them all I end up getting confused. So I am clipping coupons for things we use and organizing them according to due date only, the way The Simple Dollar folks do. And I have some things I like to buy, but generally don't (this was true before we decided to attack the debt fiercely) that I will only get if I can get them free or for up to 25 cents:

Packaged cereal (I generally keep old-fashioned oats only)
Protein bars
Fancy tea (anything but Plain Ol' Lipton)

At least, this is always my intention when couponing (when I am not couponing, it is not a temptation because we just don't buy those things). But then when I see that the item is on sale and I have a coupon I sometimes take leave of my senses and don't do the math properly and end up spending more money than I am willing to spend. I get tricked by the coupons sometimes. So I have to be careful. I'm not even clipping the candy bar coupons this time, even though you can use them to 'pad' your CVS purchase and receive ECBs (Money Saving Mom is a good place to read about this if you are unfamiliar with it). I figure if it is too frustrating to quantify in my head while shopping, I am probably losing on the deal. Like Mr. Ramsey says, only do deals you understand. But it is a challenge to remember this when you see that something you have a coupon for is on sale. It's like getting a match in Go Fish, lol! You want to put it down and get credit for it!

We have also stopped buying coffee. We found we were spending at least $10 per week on coffee and accoutrements (cream and sugar). So we decided to forego the pleasure for the time being. Maybe after I get stockpiled a little we will purchase some. Or if I get some good coupons!

In other money news, we had to repair our car (almost $400 worth) immediately after beginning our new gazelle intensity. Isn't that always the way? But we were able to pay cash. The car has been running just fine since the repair almost two weeks ago.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another Link for Memory Work

Today I found this free e-book at Lulu , which contains history, geography, grammar, poetry and Bible memorization. Triss and I really enjoyed looking at it, and especially appreciated the history memory work.

I guess it is rather classical of us-- I believe CM recommended memorizing poetry and scripture, not necessarily dry lists of facts-- but I feel better also having the kids memorize the parts of the body, the twelve Apostles, the Presidents, the characteristics of mammals, etc. It takes so little time to chant through a list three times, and recalling is a good discipline to develop.

(Not that I have any problem with the classical approach. But since this blog is called CM, Children and Lots of Grace, I thought I ought to clarify for any CM newbies that this is not necessarily what Charlotte recommended.)

A lot of the info in the e-book really is arranged in dry-list-of-facts form. We use Grammar Songs, Geography Songs and the songs in Considering God's Creation for grammar, geography and science memory work. (So you can understand why the history lists are so appealing-- we have had to search painstakingly through the Internet for history songs!) Still, there were some lists in the e-book not on our tapes.

We use the memory system described here, the only difference being that our cards are bound into a little 3x5 card binder. That way they don't fall out. :O) Each girl has her own dry-list memory work, as well as a poetry memory assignment and a scripture memory assignment. They drill themselves on these during their independent time and come to me when they feel they have one of them memorized. If they can recite it, the memory work moves to the next slot in the system and they get a new assignment. They enjoy this as long as I don't critique their speaking style. (They cringe when I say, "Once more with feeling!" I need to improve my way of giving constructive criticism.)

Monday, July 28, 2008


Fire ants sure are big in Texas.

(Photo credit: Mr. Honey)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wisdom Without Education

I read today that we must not run after education as if it were a god. It has been that. But there is wisdom without education, and there is foolishness wrapped in an educated package.

I am reminded of _A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_. Betty Smith explained wisdom without education in her book. Francie's grandmother had it.

Back in the old country she had been honored for her wisdom and much sought after for advice. She was a blameless, sinless woman, yet she understood how it was with people who sinned. Inflexibly rigid in her own moral conduct, she condoned weaknesses in others. She revered God and loved Jesus, yet she understood why people often turned away from these Two.... Yet she could not read or write.

I have to wonder though. Francie's grandmother "had in her memory over a thousand stories and legends... She knew many old-country songs and understood all the wise sayings." In order to declare someone educated or uneducated you must first define the word, "education".

Lemonade Stand

Mariel came to me after lunch today and asked if she could have a lemonade stand in front of our house. After letting her know how much I thought she would make (less than $1), I finally said she could. The very excited girl went straight into the kitchen to make lemonade.

Her sisters got involved, too. I thought it was pretty hot to sit out on the driveway waiting for someone to stop, but it would keep them entertained for awhile.

They made almost $20. Score one more point for independence! (I really need to reserve judgment more than I do with the girls. I remind myself of the naysaying parents in The Carrot Seed.)

One lady gave them a $5 bill for one cup of lemonade, saying, "If you girls are going to sit out here in this heat, the least I can do is tip you well for it!"

About halfway through the sale I told the girls I was wrong. :O)

Their stand was very simple: a couple of boards laid across two old schoolroom chairs. Here is a more elaborate plan.

They made some new friends, too-- three little girls who just moved here from another town.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shaking Hands With Shakespeare

This is a book by Alison Schumaker that is designed to help teenagers get to know and perform Shakespeare plays. She makes some great points, and even recommends narration (oral and written) as a help in understanding your lines! (She calls it paraphrasing.)

Here are some quotes I particularly liked...

On his comedies:

"In a comic view, bad things do happen, but we are able to laugh at our mistakes and weaknesses because we know everything will turn out all right in the end."

"Shakespeare's comedies often comment on human nature and how funny it can be, and on the many obstacles that stand in the way of true love."

"He finds a way to reassure us that the chaotic world will come to order..."

On his tragedies:

"In a tragic view, we realize that no matter what we do (or even because of what we do) things are destined to go badly, and we are mere pawns in fate's plan."

"Shakespeare manages to show the inner turmoil of the human mind the way no other dramatist can."

On his histories:

"[Shakespeare] explores a lot of issues... he also uses history for great character studies, getting inside the minds of the great rulers and portraying the emotional turmoil that the rules must have gone through while leading their people."

There were some great quotes on Shakespeare's romances as well, but the kids had been patient with me long enough (we were at the library) and we needed to leave right then in order to make it to allergy shots.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Inspection Does Not Meet Expectations

For chores, the girls are each assigned to one "zone" of the house for a period of months: kitchen, living room/girls' bathroom, and laundry room. Each girl is expected to do the chores for that area after lunch every weekday. I give them a list of things to do based on age and ability (and height, lol). We pay commissions dependent on diligence, thoroughness, cheerfulness and initiative. (I am really strict about this, and only award the full amount when I feel the full amount has been earned.)

(For those of you who are wondering how in the world I keep track of this system, I use the Homeschool Tracker and call the assignments Life Skills. :O) It isn't so difficult because they each keep the same job for months-- I just have to click that they did it and award points for how well they did it. It might not work for everyone, but for us, at this time in our lives, it works surprisingly well.)


This system is not without its faults. We don't do much laundry on weekends. On Sunday morning I noticed I was down to my last pair of undies. So on Sunday evening I did a load of whites. When they were finished, I pulled them out of the dryer and left them sitting in the laundry basket (it was pretty late and I was tired). The next day, one of the girls (who shall remain nameless) took one look at the load of whites and cringed. (I am assuming she cringed, but I wasn't there.)

This child is required to fold and put away one clean load of laundry per weekday, and to run another load through the washer and dryer. Now, anyone who has done any amount of laundry will know that the load of whites, with its undies and socks, is the least desirable load of laundry to fold.

Ever the thoughtful child, she figured a way out of her distasteful situation. She took the load of clean whites (all my clean undies, you realize) and dumped them back into the 'dirty whites' bag in our laundry. She then ran a load of towels (which, as everyone knows, is the easiest load to fold and put away) and folded and put them away and counted herself done. When I found out, she told me the beautiful, clean load of whites had been 'stinky'.

(It is really funny now, but at the time I was chagrined.)

We are having a mini-laundry boot camp at our house this week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Under Construction

Triss saved all her money from working this summer to purchase this dollhouse kit from Hobby Lobby. We had an expert carpenter fly in from the coast to help with construction.

Just kidding, that's our Uncle Elbow. Triss has built the house on her own, and he was just helping her through a tough spot.

(I have been the mother hen in the background saying, "Honey, don't you think you ought to wait until Daddy or Uncle Elbow can help?" But she has done it herself, and it is coming together well. Score one for independence!)

Sunday, July 20, 2008


My soul doth magnify the Lord,
My spirit doth rejoice
In God, my Savior and my God;
I hear His joyful voice!
I need not go abroad for joys,
I have a feast at home;
My sighs are turned into songs,
The Comforter is come!

Down from above, the blessed Dove
Is come into my breast,
Witness of God's eternal love;
This is my heav'nly feast.
This makes me, "Abba, Father," cry,
With confidence of soul;
This makes me cry, "my Lord, my God,"
And that without control.

There is a stream which issues forth
From God's eternal throne
And from the Lamb, a living stream,
Clear as a crystal stone.
This stream doth water Paradise;
It makes the angels sing;
One cordial drop revives my heart,
Thence all my joys do spring.

Such joys as these, unspeakable
And full of glory, too,
Such hidden manna, hidden pearls,
As worldlings do not know,
Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard;
From fancy 'tis concealed,
What Thou, Lord, hast laid up for Thine,
And has to me revealed.

I see Thy face, I hear Thy voice,
And taste Thy sweetest love;
My soul doth leap, but O, for wings,
The wings of Noah's dove!
Then would I fly far hence away,
And leave this world of sin;
Then would my Lord put forth His hand,
And kindly take me in.

Then would my soul with angels feast
On joys that ever last,
Refined, full, and always sweet,
Delighting to the taste.
Blest be my God, the God of joys,
Who gives me here a crumb,
And fills my soul with earnest hope,
Till I arrive at home.

--Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Post for Mariel

The kids get kind of attached to the posters we hang on the walls. I took down some posters in the schoolroom and in the children's bathroom (a very good place to hang posters, they spend so much time in there) and tonight found them hanging in Mariel's little nest-- her top bunk bed. She has the Roman Numerals poster, the United States poster (with state capitals) and the Let's Learn to Sign poster, in addition to:

*numerous coloring sheets
*some painted plaster plaques she did at singing school
*a small painting on canvas that a good friend made for her
*a small string art plaque
*a calendar
*a couple of pictures

It looks festive!

And we found an old narration of Mariel's from when she was seven:

The whale started out as fast as he could. He didn’t like the hiccups that were taking place in his mouth. He saw the white cliffs of Albion. That was the name of the Mariner’s homeland. As soon as he saw the beach, he swam faster than ever. And the Mariner did something with his jackknife and his raft. And it was stuck in the whale’s mouth and that is why whales do not eat men or little boys or little girls or ladies.

So cute.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Link Likes

Some things I have enjoyed reading recently:

The Equuschick explains why the best is the enemy of the good.

Mama Squirrel thinks about the very last first time. Cornflower, our caboose, is doing Year 2 this fall as well.

Willa thinks about receptive reading and narration.

The boys sing their hearts out at The Rabbits Roundtable. So cute!!

And Javamom is growing things and mending things.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


We have a problem at our house, and I want to tell you about it. We owe approximately $17,000 to credit card companies.

I do not really know how to write about this.

We have been without credit card debt three times in our married life: first, when we were first married; then for less than six months when Triss was a toddler; and for less than six months around five years ago.

Two years ago we went through Financial Peace University. We cut up our credit cards, except American Express. We saved our emergency fund. (Then spent it. Then saved it again. And spent it. Then saved it. And spent it. You get the idea.)

We got rid of AMEX a little over a year ago. We even paid off the debt to American Express a few months ago. But the other credit card debt hangs on.

Our Achilles' heel has been the overdraft protection loan attached to our checking account. We tend to go into that every couple of months, because we don't have a good budget. We continue to try to apply Dave Ramsey principles to our budget, but just cannot get a handle on it.

Needless to say, we are treading water. At this point, over $400 of our income per month goes to credit card companies, and we are barely making a dent in the debt.

Mr. Honey and I decided we couldn't do this on our own anymore. We just don't have an intuition for this kind of thing. We took a class and tried and tried to apply the principles to our own financial situation and kept messing up. We read books and kept messing up. We asked for and received advice from friends and family and kept messing up. So this week we paid a Dave Ramsey financial coach to help us think through our specific situation and redo our financial strategies. Neither of us wanted to pay someone to help us, but we tried the other avenues first. We have been trying and messing up for over a decade, and we just need help.

There is a certain amount of shame involved in paying someone to help with basic finances. But it would be a worse shame to continue the way we are currently and not ask for help.

We spent three hours this weekend with the coach, unpacking and repacking our budget.

It was gratifying to hear him say that we are frugal in our spending. (I know, how can someone be frugal and run up $17,000 in credit card debt? I cannot answer that satisfactorily, but I will say that we are somewhat frugal in the way we buy groceries and shoes and clothing and schoolbooks-- nothing like these ultra-frugal families, but we try. We just have more expenses than income at times.)

He didn't tell us to sell the house or the car, so we are all right there.

Our problems are that we don't have a saving plan for the little 'life happens' moments, and that we need some extra income to apply diligently to the debt in order to shrink it more quickly.

With the Lord's help, we are going to fix this.

It is going to be hard. I can hear my inner spoiled child gearing up for a tantrum right this minute. I like things to be easy. That is another reason I am sharing this with you. I want to be a good Christian, and I want to be honest. I have this struggle, and it impairs my witness.

I will post occasionally and tell how things are going.

I can already tell you that no one will be playing in orchestra or chamber groups or going to extra PE-type classes this year. Or ice skating. I am going to try to significantly reduce our food bill. We have been advised to give up trips. I am adding piano students and looking for other ways to earn a few extra dollars. Mr. Honey is growing his territory at work (he is a salesman).

We are going to stop paying into retirement until we get the credit cards paid off. I really want to get the credit cards paid off quickly, because it makes me very nervous not to be paying into retirement. We figured out yesterday that we would have to pay $1400 per month to the credit card companies in order to have the cards paid off in a year. That is $1000 more than what we currently give them each month. I don't know if we can pay them off in a year. It certainly illustrates the seriousness of our situation.

The kids want to go on the radio and shout that our family is debt-free. Me, too. I always get tears in my eyes when I hear a family do that. Will it ever be us? It has to be. We cannot live this way forever. It is so guilt-inducing, so stressful, and so ungodly.

So now you know. And I ask you to please pray for us.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Stirring the Pot

I have been rearranging things at our house. The schoolroom got most of the change, but in reorganizing that poor catch-all of a room, I moved some things into and out of the rest of the house. I am still very much in the process, but I want to share the kids' reaction. They are discoverers-- wandering through the house looking at the walls, playing with nature finds they haven't noticed in months, talking to each other about the meaning of 'tundra,' 'atoll' and other geography terms (we got a new poster), exclaiming over their unfinished embroidery and crochet projects that came to light, looking at the selection of posters I keep stored in the closet, sorting through blocks and legos, and telling me things.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Piano Teaching Links

Here are some websites I have found useful as I teach piano.

Piano Pedagogy: In my initial months of research before I began teaching piano as a home business, this website was the single most helpful. Her philosophy of teaching jibes very well with my own thoughts, and as a person who had never studied pedagogy, I greatly appreciated the hand-holding.

How to Teach Beginners (Suzuki): Demystification of the Suzuki books for those of us who do not have time to study the method in depth, but would like an overview in order to make our own decisions regarding the use of those excellent books.

The Practice Spot: A fun website with interactive games, practice suggestions and even tips on how to make your own music studio website. There is a lot here, and I have not explored all of it.

I have found several websites that provide free sheet music downloads, but I haven't yet found one I can recommend wholeheartedly. Very often I disagree with fingering, or feel that the simplification of classical pieces has not been done intuitively enough. I tend to rewrite a measure or two in almost every free sheet music download I print out (or my students bring to me). I expect I will eventually get frustrated with this process and use my new Finale software to write my own simplifications.

It has taken me years to figure out where I stand in terms of piano education philosophy, and while I am still working some bugs out, I feel like I have finally developed a method of sorts. For the record, the two series of books I use with consistency are the Faber books and the Suzuki books. As I become more knowledgeable in teaching piano, I find myself moving away from method books and spending more time poring over sheet music and books at the local music store, and asking lots of questions of the patient piano lady there (she is a friend I made a decade ago, while I still had time to participate in Bach choir).

I plan to expand my business a little more this year and am in the process of putting out advertisements. Last year I had eight students in my studio, including my own three kids. This year I will have slots for twelve students.

Monday, July 07, 2008


I have gotten to page 59 in _From Dawn to Decadence_. It is enthralling if I am not too tired to process it. I thought about blogging today as I read his ideas on the beginnings of Humanism:

[Petrarch said] "Everyone should write in his own style." The theme to note here is Self-Consciousness. It is allied to Individualism but it differs from it in being not a social and political condition but a mental state. One can be in prison, individuality all but submerged, and yet be acutely self-conscious. Individualism has limits imposed by the coexistence of many other individuals; Self-Consciousness has none. Over the centuries it has dug ever deeper into the ego, with no boundary in sight.

Doesn't that sound just like blogging? Well, I don't mean that it *sounds* like blogging, but that blogging is a logical activity to have emerged from this pervasive idea.
Have you ever pondered the fact that a reformed perfectionist will never be perfectly reformed?

(Thinking about it conjures up a vision of two mirrors shone into one another, reflecting endlessly.)
I was previewing the pictures for artist study for next year and found this one. I immediately set it as wallpaper on my computer.

As I continue to look at it, my mind fills with questions: Who were the people? Why were they so far apart? Was the man in the middle looking at something, or was he beginning to fall? Is that phytoplankton in the water? Why were they on the island? Did they live there? What kind of trees are those? Could you break chalk off the cliffs and use it to write on a chalkboard? Are those cliffs just like the white cliffs of Dover?

When I think of Germany, I think of the inland cities. I didn't even realize Germany had a coastline or an island, or chalk cliffs. (I mean, when I look at maps, the coastline is there, but I never had it brought to my attention before.)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

July 4th

We spent yesterday singing the songs of grace with fellow believers, being exhorted to praise, worship and "let the redeemed of the Lord say so." The love and presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable and connected the congregation. It was a day of celebration.

We left church around 8:30 in the evening, and the children needed to see some fireworks. We turned on the local classical station, which was broadcasting the celebration in Dallas, and got to listen to the Dallas Wind Symphony and U.S. Army Brass Quintet as they played patriotic marches and the themes of each branch of the US military. The kids learned the words to most of the military themes at a singing school one year, so we sang at the top of our voices as we scanned the prairie skyline for fireworks.

Finally, ten minutes from home, I found a rise on which to park, and we counted ten separate fireworks displays over our part of the Metroplex. Very nice.

(I will not detail the fireworks madness we beheld on entering our subdivision because I do not want to end on a grumpy note. We live outside city limits, but our neighborhood is really a tiny suburb out in the country, and there were way too many rockets going off inches above houses for my comfort level. This went on well into the night.)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Post for Cornflower

This is a post for Cornflower because she says I have neglected her baby book. (She's right. I have neglected her baby book. I have also neglected to finish her needlepoint wall hanging that was supposed to be hung in her nursery when she was a baby. Cornflower is 7 1/2 years old. A little mommy guilt there.) She asked me today how come she doesn't have very many things written in her book. I told her that when she came along I had three children, and I had to make a choice between cuddling and playing with her and writing about her, and I chose the cuddling and playing. She still wants me to write more about her. So here it is.

Cornflower has always been a most self-sufficient and organized girl. She was content to play by herself when she was a baby, unless I left the room. Then she would get a little nervous that she couldn't see her mama and would cry. So I developed the habit of bringing her when I switched out the laundry, often carrying her back to the family room in the basket of clean clothes. This made her sisters scream with delight.

She liked her exersaucer. I set it outside in the backyard when the weather was nice and she jumped and jumped while watching her sisters play. She did not like the sandbox. Too messy. It gets on your hands, you know.

It was not unusual by the time she was two to have her come up missing and discover that her sisters had brought her along when they built a fort in their bedroom closet. They had large cutout people hanging on the walls in there, blankets, pillows, and lots of books. They wanted Cornflower in their world with them.

She early learned to desire her own math book, her own copybook, her own CM-style exam. I made the mistake of not creating an exam for her the first year we did them, when she was four. Her face fell and I realized my error. I sat down and quickly made up "Cornflower's Special Exam" with questions such as, "Sing your favorite song," "Count to ten," and "Tell me a story."

Her first "schoolbook" was a large volume of Beatrix Potter stories. She immediately took sole possession of it. It took a lot of convincing to persuade her that the sisters were indeed allowed the privilege of touching it, and even looking inside it.

For years she has sat on the sidelines and waited for her turn to do things. She pestered and pestered until finally, when she was five, I consented to teach her piano. I got her a fun little book and CD and played "piano lesson" with her once a week. The clever girl learned! At this point she can play the first nine songs in the Suzuki I book. This is more due to her insistence and perseverence than my teaching.

So now we have another post about Cornflower. I suspect the youngest child in a family always tends to feel gypped in the photo-and-journal department. But what she doesn't realize is this: I have a lot more experience now than I did when her sisters were her age. She may have a mom with less time and less energy, but she also has an older, wiser mom that isn't going to waste as much time fretting about nonessentials. Cornflower is not the overly-photographed and written-about oldest child, but she isn't the guinea pig either. Each position within the family has its good points.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Clean Windows and Cabbage

I am washing windows today. Yay! It is possible that these windows have been neglected for months, if not years. I do remember washing windows at least once in the five years we have owned this house, but it was a loooonng time ago.

The kids have been working on their summer school subjects. Triss just finished an experiment with red cabbage, and is now helping her sisters dye some First-of-July eggs with the cabbage water. We can't decide if the eggs are turning out purple, blue or a strange green.

I have two more windows to wash. Clean windows seem to invite the outside in. I can't wait until the afternoon sun shines through so I can see if I missed any streaks or smudges.