Sunday, September 28, 2008

Do Your Own Business, and Work with Your Own Hands

I found this quote at The Glittering Eye. It is from Candide by Voltaire, and echoes sound advice from the Bible (I Thessalonians 4:11), . It is particularly apt right about now:

Pangloss, Candide, and Martin, as they were returning to the little farm, met with a good-looking old man, who was taking the air at his door, under an alcove formed of the boughs of orange trees. Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was disputative, asked him what was the name of the mufti who was lately strangled.

“I cannot tell,” answered the good old man; “I never knew the name of any mufti, or vizier breathing. I am entirely ignorant of the event you speak of; I presume that in general such as are concerned in public affairs sometimes come to a miserable end; and that they deserve it: but I never inquire what is doing at Constantinople; I am contented with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with my own hands.”

After saying these words, he invited the strangers to come into his house. His two daughters and two sons presented them with divers sorts of sherbet of their own making; besides caymac, heightened with the peels of candied citrons, oranges, lemons, pineapples, pistachio nuts, and Mocha coffee unadulterated with the bad coffee of Batavia or the American islands. After which the two daughters of this good Mussulman perfumed the beards of Candide, Pangloss, and Martin.

“You must certainly have a vast estate,” said Candide to the Turk.

“I have no more than twenty acres of ground,” he replied, “the whole of which I cultivate myself with the help of my children; and our labor keeps off from us three great evils-idleness, vice, and want.”

Candide, as he was returning home, made profound reflections on the Turk’s discourse.

“This good old man,” said he to Pangloss and Martin, “appears to me to have chosen for himself a lot much preferable to that of the six Kings with whom we had the honor to sup.”

“Human grandeur,” said Pangloss, “is very dangerous, if we believe the testimonies of almost all philosophers; for we find Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Aod; Absalom was hanged by the hair of his head, and run through with three darts; King Nadab, son of Jeroboam, was slain by Baaza; King Ela by Zimri; Okosias by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehooiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity: I need not tell you what was the fate of Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Caesar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard Ill, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, and the Emperor Henry IV.”

“Neither need you tell me,” said Candide, “that we must take care of our garden.”

“You are in the right,” said Pangloss; “for when man was put into the garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it; and this proves that man was not born to be idle.”

“Work then without disputing,” said Martin; “it is the only way to render life supportable.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

News (and Views) Bloggers of Note

Sometimes I follow news sources myself, but mostly I follow links from these well-informed folks:

American Thinker

The Anchoress

The Bookworm Room

The Common Room

Spunky Homeschool

I thank all these wonderful bloggers for going beyond simply reading the news to doing syntopical analysis. They make me think. I try to give credit where credit is due, but I have been "posting and running" lately (I'm too busy to post but feel like I must say something) and I have a sneaking feeling I haven't always tipped my hat in the direction I ought to have.

McCain in Washington

Just read this account, from the Washington Post, of McCain's arrival in Washington. I'm still not super-enthused about this guy, but look-- he made sure the underdog House Republicans did not get shut out. They needed him to turn things around in Washington the other day.

I also want to say kudos to the House Republicans. I think they might be the heroes in all of this.

H/T Anchoress

Fanfare for the Common Man

I think the common man needs some fanfare encouragement right about now, don't you?

Aaron Copland had great respect for the common man, woman and child. He was an educator as well as a pianist, composer and conductor. He believed everyone had the ability to appreciate great music.

Click here and scroll down to Disc 2, selection 17 to hear Fanfare for the Common Man.

TOO Funny!

For those of us who do best learning manners from The Goops and How To Be Them and How to Behave and Why:

Hoops and Yoyo Demonstrate Manners!

(I think my kids would memorize the Periodic Table of the Elements if Hoops and Yoyo taught it to them. We relish Hoops and Yoyo.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Progress Report: Cornflower (Year 2)

Read the first part of the progress report here.

Here are the things Cornflower has been working on. She's a steady little busy bee, and can do quite a bit on her own. I work with her for an hour or hour and a half each day.

Citizenship: She has enjoyed Ben's Guide to Government, which has different grade levels of content.

Geography: She asked at the beginning of the term if we could read through the Usborne Book of Geography, and I didn't see why not, so we started out reading it together. She quickly took it over as her own free read, though. (Free readings are not narrated at our house.) She is also coloring in maps of England, France and other parts of Western Europe, and putting the names of people she comes across in her readings onto the appropriate country (Heidi in Switzerland, the little Duke in northwest France, Harold Godwinson in England, etc.). We have a new geography poster that has really caught her imagination as well-- in her free time, she sometimes makes little landscapes out of rocks, sticks, shells and dirt, and lets me know which item is the volcano, which is the delta, which is the plain. In fact, geography seeped into her phonics lessons as we learned the difference between a 'plain' and a 'plane' this week.

History: She is free reading the second volume of Susan Bauer's Story of the World series-- we have had the series four years and her sisters still read it over and over. AO's Year 2 focuses on the Middle Ages, so her history books all have to do with that era: Our Island Story, Child's History of the World, The Little Duke. She keeps a time chart in which she writes the names of people she comes across in her readings-- the people she has added in the past few weeks include Charlemagne, Haroun al-Rashid, Harold Godwinson, William the Conqueror, Hereward the Wake, Richard I of Normandy. I am starting to have her add events as well: The Battle of Stamford Bridge, the Battle of Hastings. We read the first chapter of This Country of Ours this week, and will add Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky to the chart on Friday.

Language Arts: She is in Book B of the Italics penmanship series and does one page per week (half one day and half the next). She also writes copywork twice per week. Sometimes she picks what to write and sometimes I pick. She is trying so hard to make her penmanship attractive and I think she is doing a great job. We haven't been consistent with doing two copywork assignments every week, and I want to improve. She is also in Unit 4 of the green Alphabet Island workbook-- she has been learning different ways to make long 'a', and what is meant by a homonym. We have also started a bit of phonics-related spelling work. We talk about the rules that necessitate a certain spelling, and then I use CM method to have her visualize the words.

Literature/Tales: We are reading Heidi aloud as a free read-- a chapter per day, which is kind of fast per CM, but we are so enjoying it! We have also done Lamb's tale of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona and two chapters from Parables from Nature. And we are four or five chapters into Understood Betsy. (Cornflower's personality is more Cousin Ann and less Elizabeth Ann, so she is having a little trouble understanding Betsy's breakthroughs. Sometimes I explain a little and sometimes I just let her mull it over.)

Math: She is working through the Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley 2nd grade workbook. She really likes math, and tends to do a lot most days. She works on her own mostly, with little helps from me when she hits a new concept. This is a spiraling text, so she is working on a little of lots of things. She is almost two hundred pages through the book, and when she finishes, I will move her to the Scott Foresman Exploring Mathematics series of texts.

Memory Work/Poetry: She has memorized three Walter de la Mare poems and also the Western Europe and British Isles songs from Geography Songs (and might actually be able to recite them on request-- she has worked on each until she could recite, but hasn't reviewed any of them yet. I want to build a memory work system for each girl like the one described at Simply Charlotte Mason but I haven't had time yet. I have a family memory system, but it became clear to me last year that the girls, with three years difference between each pairing, need to have at least some individualized memory work. Getting each of them their own memory binder is one of my goals for term 2.) We also read a Walter de la Mare poem aloud most days. I find it is necessary for me to read it aloud even though she could read it herself, because she needs to hear my inflection and rhythm.

Music: She has started Book One of the Faber series of piano books, and is working on hand-over-hand arpeggios as well as five-note scales.

Science: We are reading the Burgess Animal Book and she draws a picture of one of the animals for each chapter. We are also highlighting the category for each chapter in the animal taxonomy outline, and writing the name of each animal next to its official name in the taxonomy. We have also read the first two chapters of Pagoo-- she narrates orally and draws some of the pictures from each chapter. My favorite is her drawing of all the plankton Pagoo is with when he is a little guy. We had to start Pagoo because she and Mariel and doing Jeannie Fulbright's Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day (Apologia) this year, and she just didn't have enough of a literary picture of the ocean, if you understand what I mean. In the first chapter of the curriculum, Mariel and I kept saying, "That's just like in Nemo!" or "That's just like in Pagoo!" Cornflower got the Finding Nemo references but not the Pagoo references. I'm finding that much of her education at this point has to do with me making sure she has what she needs to be included in the family culture. (Hopefully no one objects too strenuously to me using the term 'culture' in such a simple way.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Progress Report: Together Work

We are in the fifth week of our new school year, and I am looking at the nifty "Assignments Completed Year to Date" report on the Homeschool Tracker, to see if my idea of what is going well and what needs tweaking jibes with the completed assignments list.

Mentally, we are a little tired after five weeks of gung-ho schoolwork. We always get started with tons of energy that peters out by about the third or fourth week. We need to pace ourselves a little better so we aren't dragging by the end of the term. We have a three week break coming up at the end of this week, and we are glad for it. I think it will give us a shot in the arm to get us cheerfully through the rest of this first term-- but I need to think about pacing for next term, definitely.

This post will only address our "Together Work"-- schoolwork we do as a family. I tend to do casual analysis as I list things done, and that makes for longwinded posts. So the progress report will be in four parts.

* Art: We have read a portion of Vasari's Life of Sandro Botticelli and examined his Fortitude and Primavera (a modest detail). We are currently in the process of studying his Madonna of the Magnificat. The kids have participated in Sketch Tuesday three of these five weeks.

* Bible: I had scheduled for us to go over our notes from Sunday and Wednesday sermons on Mondays and Thursdays, but that has only happened three times total thus far. We are having a difficult time getting started in the mornings, and our first two subjects suffer in consequence. We are also reading through the book of Amos, as that is where we are in the Greenleaf Guide to the Old Testament, and have made it through Chapter 3. Also, all of us listen in to Cornflower's assigned reading of Pilgrim's Progress each Tuesday, and are to the foot of the Cross already. We seldom miss the Pilgrim's Progress readings, which we all enjoy very much. That tells me the issue I face regarding getting Bible assignments done has to do with 'want-to' rather than external circumstances. Or it could have to do with difficulty of preparation. All I have to do for Pilgrim's Progress is get out the book and the CD. To go over sermon notes, I must first make notes on the sermon, and if we run late on our way to church, I often forget my notebook and have nothing to write my notes on.

* Music: We have had eight mornings in which we remembered to do some singing in the last five weeks. I think I have it scheduled too early, first thing in the morning after Bible. I might reschedule it for after lunch. The kids are learning a funny little piece called the Mouse Madrigal, Lord in the Morning, and an American folk song medley. We are also learning the words to Don't Be Anything Less Than Everything You Can Be (from the Snoopy musical) in order to be able to put movements with it. As for composer study, we listened to and talked about Bach's Magnificat, as well as digging out Mr. Bach Comes to Call for Cornflower.

* Nature Study: We had the whole Spunky Butterfly adventure, and have also identified and drawn some flowers. A little bird-watching too-- right before Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast, there were tons of little house sparrows in our yard looking for food. We have never seen that many outside our windows.

(I may come back through this post and embed some links if I have time later.)

Executive Branch Addition to Bailout Plan

Did you know that the Treasury Department added car loan, student loan and credit card debt to the bailout plan over the weekend?

h/t Deputy Headmistress

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Explanation on the Financial Mess

...from the Wall Street Journal Opinion section.

h/t The Anchoress


A description by Triss:

The sunset strikes the tree, turning some leaves copper and some golden. Olive-green sprouts are interspersed among them, giving the tree a variegated look. The trunk bends slightly, like an unstrung bow. A spider climbs up, and back down, and up, and back down, spinning and spinning her spiraling web. A sparrow darts to the tree. “Come here! Come here!” he calls imperiously to his mate.

“What for? What for?” she responds tartly. He shows her an old nest, deep in the branches and obviously unused. She picks over it and turns up her beak. Flying higher, she peers down through the tinted leaves at him and insists, “Up here! Up here!”

“Too high – too high!” he complains, but follows her. The tree stretches its branches to allow them room as they begin their long flights back and forth – will the tree win their favor or no?

Monday, September 22, 2008


A description by Triss:

An apple forms in my mind as I think of fall – rosy, shining and plump. The lumpy globe suggests many things to me as I turn it in my hands…a late afternoon under a lovely tree with a book, and an apple…an organized class, with apples on the teacher’s desk…a cheerful cluster of children, picking apples from trees. As I bite in through the thin red film, a concentrated taste and smell of early autumn envelope my senses. I suck at it and receive both food and drink from a single fruit. Closing my eyes is all it takes to completely immerse myself in an apple.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What Happened to the Financial Markets?

Well-intentioned people started the ball rolling - with a very noble idea; break down the wall of discrimination that was keeping middle class minorities from owning their own homes. That was a good notion; others exploited the good intentions, and also strong-armed banks to do more and more. Wall street got greedy. The folks funny Fanny & Fred got greedy. We homeowners and the general public got greedy. Everyone wanted easy money and lots of credit, and no one wanted to think to much about what was backing it up; whether there were sufficient securities behind all the loans.

Please, please, please, go read the Anchoress' commentary on the near-collapse of our country's financial system. Follow her links, and read more. Listen to the audio of last Friday's Mark Levin show-- he gives a sane, detailed run-down on how we got to where we are today. I have only listened to about fifteen minutes of it so far, but I am going to listen to the rest right now.

(Updated to add that Mr. Levin gets rather vehement, and yells, and indulges in some language as well. Perhaps listen without the children. Another update: You probably only need to listen to the first twenty minutes. After that he goes deep into shock-jock mode.)

As citizens of the United States, we ought to know, historically, how events unfolded to result in last week's meltdown. This is our future these politicians are messing with. Don't just listen to spin.

I know, I don't like to get political on this blog. But, ooh, these people are stirring me up so I cannot even wash my dishes. Let's not give in to bread and circuses, as the common people did during the slow collapse of the Roman Empire.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Menu for National Birthday Week

(Mr. Honey's family has a great tradition of celebrating birthdays with a National Birthday Week, which involves special treatment all the week long. Triss' and Mariel's birthdays are both this week, so here we go!)

Our menu for National Birthday week includes two cakes, one chocolate and the other strawberry with cream cheese frosting. Yum. National Birthday week is tasty. Although the girls' birthdays are just a day apart, we are spacing the cakes (one on Sunday, one on Wednesday) so we don't get overloaded with cake. We could just have one, but they each enjoy picking the flavor, and why not?

Here is our menu for this week (I did follow the menu for last week, although I changed the order around a little, and didn't fix the chicken spaghetti meal because we didn't end up needing it):

Sunday (lunch at church): Crock Chicken Spaghetti, green beans, salad, chocolate birthday cake

Monday: Basic Black Bean Soup from the Saving Dinner cookbook (page 84), salad and cornbread muffins.

Tuesday: Southwest Stew in the crockpot, from here (with some modifications) and carrot sticks.

Wednesday: Basic Baked Beans from the More-With-Less Cookbook (page 99), peas, rice, and salad if we still have any. (Making the rice ahead worked so well last week that I think I will do that again tomorrow night in preparation for this meal.) Also, strawberry birthday cake with cream cheese frosting!

Thursday: Leftover night. If we have eaten the leftovers already (for lunches, etc.) then we can have a breakfast supper!

Friday: Garlic lime chicken from the Saving Dinner cookbook (page 57-- using bone-in thighs instead of boneless breasts, and adapted for the crockpot), potatoes, green beans, carrot sticks.

Also, I was running out of inspiration for beans, so I went googling and found this great blog thread about beans and rice, rice and beans (and other things). (I googled 'non-boring bean meals', lol.) One commenter gives a complete rundown on how to make authentic New Orleans red beans and rice, which apparently is served every Monday all over that city. She even gives suggestions on what to do with leftovers.

My family doesn't like kidney beans. We might try the red beans and rice thing with pintos, great northerns or navy beans.

And finally, remember:

If you should ever choose
To bathe an armadillo
Use one bar of soap,
A whole lot of hope,
And seventy-two pads of Brillo.

--Shel Silverstein

Advice to Newbies

A friend who is writing an article for new homeschoolers asked me this week if I had any wise advice to offer folks just beginning. Since any advice I give tends to be presented in a somewhat haphazard manner, and with a good deal more idealism than realism, I really hesitated. Here is what I finally sent to her:

First, pray without ceasing.

And begin with the end in mind. Never, ever, ever, lose sight of the goal. Make sure you know what you are aiming for, and then do not allow yourself to be tempted by the latest shiny thing. Be deliberate in your choices, remembering your purpose. If you are not sure if some activity or curriculum or method will fit your goal, then leave it out. The Lord will show you the way to go if you will lean on Him.

And yes, for me this falls under the heading of Alice, who "generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it)..."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two Months: Baby Step 1, Check!

Well, we are two months into our renewed efforts to get rid of the debt. This month was dominated by efforts to refinance our house. Yes, we fell for the ARM advertising 3+ years ago. We got a 5-year ARM with a very good interest rate, but it was set to adjust in 2010, and I guess you can say we received timely warning from all the poor souls whose ARMs adjusted after three years. We won't be doing that again.

I am thankful that we were able to refinance, what with falling home values and all. We are now in a fixed mortgage with a good interest rate. Locked in, whew, and if anyone needs the name of a good loan consultant, let me know. We have had at least five closings in our sixteen years of marriage, and this was the best and smoothest loan process, with the kindest, most patient people I have ever worked with. I even accidentally scanned and emailed four or five blank pages to them among the other paperwork they needed, and they didn't even mention it. When I brought it up, the nice lady laughed and said, "I wondered what had happened!"

When we closed on the ARM a little over three years ago, we had a pushy loan consultant and a horrid title company that had us come and wait in their office for two hours one evening only to tell us to come back tomorrow; when we came back the next day, the person closing our loan got impatient and rude with us for having the gall to actually read the documents we were signing. (That should have clued us in as to the deal we were about to commit to.)

We have one less thing to worry about now. That feels good. I keep reminding myself, however, that this does not mean we are closer to being out of debt. We actually went a little further into debt. It just means we don't have to worry about interest rate where the mortgage is concerned.

In other financial news, we completed Baby Step 1. Yay! It feels like the bow of this financial ship is finally heading in the right direction. With all the struggle and time and other resources it has taken to get moving in the right direction, all I can say is, we'd better not turn back around!

Now we can start eliminating the credit card debt. I'm so excited that I want to do the budget for mid-October through mid-November right this minute, so I can see how much we are going to knock out of that debt.

Mr. Honey and I were talking the other night, and decided that when we bought our current house five years ago, we became frugal weekend-warrior types rather than dedicated soldiers. Back then, we were very good at spending little.

When we moved into this house (which I beg leave to mention is a beautiful yet modest home by the standards of our area) I had a sense that we had "arrived", that we were entering the American Dream portion of our married life, and I stopped being consistently careful with my spending. I think I misunderstood the concept of the American Dream!

Anyway, I always wonder how things get the way they are, and have been pondering our current situation-- two people who try hard to get things right, and yet sink into debt without any major crisis to point to as a cause.

It is a lack of self-government, that's what it is. Well, with the Lord's help, we will remedy it.

Nowadays, we worry about whether we are getting everything we can out of life, even if we go into debt to get it. But some things are going to have to pass us by if we are living within our means, and there is nothing wrong with that. This doesn't mean the Lord doesn't love us, nor does it mean life cannot be rich. There are so many beautiful opportunities for living in the simplest of situations, if your eyes are open to see them. Many days, mine are not. But I am waking up a little more. There have been a lot of teachable moments at our house lately.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cocoon or Chrysalis?

Barb at the Handbook of Nature Study blog found out these two words are not interchangeable. From the Butterfly Gardening Glossary:

chrysalis - the pupa stage of a butterfly. The chrysalis is often mistakenly called a cocoon. The chrysalis forms when the butterfly caterpillar sheds its skin for the final time, and a hardened outer covering forms to cover the changing pupa inside. Chrysalis means gold in Greek. Many - though not all - chrysalises have gold spots or markings. pl - chrysalides, chrysalises

cocoon - the pupa stage of a moth. The cocoon is a covering that protects the pupa inside as it changes into a moth. Cocoons are formed from silken threads spun by the last instar caterpillar. Some species of moths will also incorporate leaves into their cocoons. After the cocoon is formed, the caterpillar inside will shed its skin for the final time, and a pupa with a hardened outer coating will form.

So now we know! I'm glad she took the time to research it out. I should have done a little more research before posting that Spunky was in a cocoon. But I know now. Spunky was in a chrysalis.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Failure of Imagination

Why our kids' education needs to be broad and deep:

[Regarding U.S. failure to predict the 9-11 attacks] The commission concluded that "it was a failure of imagina­tion."[xiii] In the final analysis, the bipartisan group reasoned that as Ameri­cans, we failed to imagine such a thing happening, and so could not fathom it even as it happened. After hearing this conclusion during the prebriefing on the commission's findings, I exclaimed, "Yes, it was a failure of imagina­tion, but it was caused by a failure of education."

A failure of education, he says.

Had we been educated, our imagination would have been wider and greater. Had we been taught what jihad was, we could have predicted its drive. Had we been warned about jihadism, we could have devised a resistance to it. Had we been informed when the war first started, we could have defended ourselves thereafter. Education failed the public and the government.

From an excerpt of the book Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies in America by Walid Phares, a Lebanese-born teacher, speaker and advisor on Global Strategies. Emphasis mine.

Monday, September 15, 2008

History Fact Check

Read this list of people, events and ideas, and see if it jibes with your ideas of how political history has taken place. (If you think he is wrong, make sure to check his links.)

And read this August 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Lord's Sense of Humor

Last Monday, as I contemplated deep thoughts about government, I got a speeding ticket.

Civil government exists to protect us, its citizens, from our enemies-- whether at home or abroad-- so that we can get down to the business of making something of ourselves.

Yes, I did! Isn't that funny? Funny to the tune of at least $100. Ha ha.

Ah, well. It was a good lesson for the children, and for me as well. I was driving down a frontage road where the speed limit is 45 mph, cheerily going thirteen mph over that. It was very easy to do because there is nothing out there but fields of sunflowers. No houses, no stores, no parking lots with cars feeding out onto the road. Why they have the speed set at 45 mph on that stretch when it is 50 mph just a block or two further on, I cannot say.

Listen to me try and justify myself.

Why do we have civil government, then? Because not enough of us have personal government; we do not govern our own selves well. This is the reason for crime and war.

I was definitely speeding. It was wrong, and I deserve the ticket. There.

I didn't even have a defense to offer the police officer because distracted driving is against the law in Texas. That law supposedly targets cell phones and texting and putting on makeup, but I am sure my explanation of, "Well, officer, I was pondering a civics lesson and reasoning through your existence and didn't realize I was over the limit," would not have gone over well. I kept my mouth shut and said, "Yes, sir," and "Thank you." I did have to ask him to slow down once, because he was running through his spiel so fast I couldn't understand his directions on how to take care of the ticket.

I would hate to have to be a traffic officer, wouldn't you?

So now I have to take defensive driving. I haven't had to do that since before my almost 14yodd was born. It will be good for me, especially since she will have to learn to drive in a couple years.

I'll let you know how it goes. And I stand by my words on government. Lol.


(Does anyone else have a hard time remembering the definition of existentialism?) (philosophy) a 20th-century philosophical movement chiefly in Europe; assumes that people are entirely free and thus responsible for what they make of themselves.
A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

Merriam-Webster: a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad

Wikipedia: a philosophical movement which posits that individuals create the meaning and essence of their lives, as opposed to it being created for them by deities or authorities or defined for them by philosophical or theological doctrines.

Wiktionary: A twentieth-century philosophical movement emphasizing the uniqueness of each human existence in freely making its self-defining choices, with foundations in the thought of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and notably represented in the works of Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), Gabriel Marcel (1887-1973), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80).

All About Philosophy:
There is a wide variety of philosophical ideologies that make up existentialism so there is not a universal existentialism definition. It is necessary to remain open and realize that most existentialists have a different view and form.

(Hee hee. Of course they do.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Sword of Truth in the Scabbard of Faith

From The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, by Howard Pyle:

So endeth the story of the winning of Excalibur, and may God give unto you in your life, that you may have His truth to aid you, like a shining sword, for to overcome your enemies; and may He give you Faith (for Faith containeth Truth as a scabbard containeth its sword), and may that Faith heal all your wounds of sorrow as the sheath of Excalibur healed all the wounds of him who wore that excellent weapon. For with Truth and Faith girded upon you, you shall be as well able to fight all your battles as did that noble hero of old, whom men called King Arthur.

Menu for the Week

Tonight we are having spicy sweet potato soup, biscuits and salad. (I left out the tomatoes, cumin and lime juice/zest because we didn't have those items.)

Update: This was a new recipe for us. Mr. Honey had two helpings and said it is one of his new all-time favorite soups. The other two are Alsatian vegetable soup and Smashing Pumpkin soup.

Our menu for the rest of the week--

Sunday (lunch at church): Roast chicken, rice, peas and salad.

Monday: Caribbean beans and rice from the More With Less Cookbook-- needs time, not attention! and carrot sticks.

Tuesday: Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken from the Flylady website, rice* and salad

Wednesday: Beans and cornbread, sauteed zucchini, salad. (I have a meal's worth of beans frozen in the freezer from the last time I made beans.)

Thursday: Leftovers/clean out the fridge. If there isn't much to clean out, we will have breakfast for supper!

Friday: Crockpot chicken spaghetti, green beans, salad.

I got some all-natural boneless skinless chicken breasts from Sprouts yesterday for 1.99 a pound. Those form the base for my meat meals (except for Sunday, which includes a run-of-the-mill whole roasting chicken from Walmart). I need to buy carrots, a block of cream cheese, a head of lettuce, frozen green beans and three cans of tomato sauce.

Another update: That's a lot of rice. We only eat brown rice, so I am going to prepare it this weekend and store it in the fridge. I tend to forget I need to make rice until the last minute, and brown rice takes awhile. It will be easier on me this week if I make it up ahead of time.

Butterfly Homecoming

We released Spunky yesterday morning.

If you look in the center of that last picture, and use your imagination, you can see a little bit of yellow among the leaves. That is our Spunky, who fluttered and flew gracefully up to the trees as soon as we opened the habitat.

Farewell, Spunky!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Recipes

(Updated to add two eggs to the cornbread recipe. :blush: Thanks for letting me know, Senora Smith!)

The two recipes I can claim as truly my own (although lots of other folks serve them, too) are beans and cornbread, and biscuits and gravy. These are part of my family's culinary heritage, such as it is-- when you look at these two meals, you can see it isn't incredibly illustrious. But frugality can be found within it!

Beans and Cornbread:

1 or more pounds dry pinto beans, picked over (This means you made sure there weren't any stones in there.)
Water to cover (My grandmother taught me to put enough water in to cover your thumb knuckle when you put your thumb into the pot so that it is standing on the top of the beans. This way you don't have to refill the pot with water too many times during cooking.)

1. Add beans and water to pot, and heat to boiling. Boil for two minutes straight.
2. Drain the water. Add fresh water to cover. Add salt (you have to decide on your own how much salt you want. My grandmother puts in a tablespoon per pound. I put in about half that. Grandmommy also adds three slices of bacon or a ham bone if she has it. I like to do that because it adds flavor, but we usually don't have any to spare, so generally I leave it out. The beans still taste good.)
3. Bring the beans to a boil again, then reduce the heat to simmer (This is around level 3 out of 10 on my stove's heat dial.)
4. Simmer the beans at least an hour to an hour and a half. Check it every so often to make sure the water hasn't boiled down. If the water level looks too low (ie., the tops of the beans are in danger of peeking out of the water) add more. (I just add regular water from the tap. It soon heats up.)

My favorite cornbread recipe, with variations:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour (I have used only white, only wheat, and a combination. It turns out fine each time. Different, but fine. To keep things in perspective, this is a day-to-day kind of meal and not a special thing for holidays.)
1/2 tspn salt
2 tspns baking powder
2 tbspns canola oil
4 tbspns melted honey (Sometimes I only put in half the honey. You can even leave it out, but we don't like it that way. That is how the Ingalls ate it, though!)
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I have used dairy milk and soy milk and either is fine. I have also used reconstituted dry milk and evaporated milk. They all work.)

1. Combine all ingredients, dry first, and then wet
2. Pour into a greased pie dish
3. Bake at 400' for 20 minutes.


Biscuits and Gravy

2 cups flour (We use various kinds, which changes the taste a bit, but they are still good and filling.)
1/2 tspn salt
2 tspns baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter (Margarine is even better in this recipe-- makes the biscuits lighter and more fluffy. Traditionally, I make it with butter. However, a pound of margarine runs around .68 in our area, as compared to 2.50 for a pound of butter. If you are trying to turn around the financial ship, switching to margarine for awhile certainly helps. We go through around a pound of butter per week-- more if we are baking. You can also use oil if you are out of butter-type items. My family doesn't like it as much this way, but it still gets eaten.)
2/3 cup milk (dairy, soy, reconstituted dry, evaporated. They all work. I suspect you could even use water or broth, but I haven't tried it.)

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Cut in butter, then squish it around with your hands until the flour resembles coarse crumbs (I never can get that result with a pastry cutter.)
3. Add milk, a tablespoon at a time, and stir it in until the mixture becomes a dough ball (If I am in a hurry I just dump the whole amount of milk in and stir. It still becomes a dough ball. I hope this isn't too shocking for culinary experts.)
4. Knead gently five to ten times.
5. At this point, you can roll it out onto a floured surface and cut it into biscuits with a cutter or a cup, but I don't. Too much clean-up when I am in a hurry. I make it into a dough ball, smash it so that it is around a two inch thickness, and put it into an oiled pie pan. I turn it over once or twice to coat it with oil, then cut it into triangles, like pizza or pie. Or scones.
6. Bake at 400' for twenty minutes.

How to make Okie gravy (we call it Okie gravy because Grandmommy was raised in northeastern Texas, and apparently Oklahomans weren't always held in high esteem by Texans. Okie gravy is sometimes known as red-eye or country gravy. As I once read in a cookbook, this gravy would make cardboard taste good.)

Meat grease (Traditionally, this is grease from pork bacon, fried chicken, fried pork chops, or sausage. We only eat turkey bacon at our house, and try to stay away from fried items except for an occasional treat. I have learned that you can make Okie gravy from the minute amount of drippings left by turkey bacon if you add a tablespoon or two of oil. Not olive oil, that tastes funny. I use canola oil.
Milk (I have used soy milk as well as dairy milk. Dairy milk tastes the best, but original soy milk works too. Not vanilla, that is gross. Don't ask.)

1. Heat drippings and oil to medium, then add enough flour that it looks a little like batter. (If you add too much and it looks like dough, you can add a bit more oil. This will mean more milk and result in more gravy, so keep that in mind when you are estimating your flour.)
2. Scrape the drippings (you can add bits of meat here too) and flour/oil mixture and let it brown for a minute or two (I was once making biscuits and gravy with a dear old mother in Israel in the backwoods of Tennessee, and she scorned the white Shoney's gravy, saying country gravy ought to be *brown*. The way you get brown gravy is to brown the flour/oil mixture.)
3. Once it looks brown enough, add milk. (I generally add around a cup, then stir and let it thicken. If it is too thick, I add more milk. If I cannot get it to thicken, I put some flour and water in a cup, stir it well, and then stir it into the gravy to make it thicker. It's a balancing act.)
4. Turn the heat down to very low, and finish making the rest of your supper.

So there you have it. I also like to take a look at what we have in the house and then plug it into the Ingredients page at I did that last night and came up with a tasty mushroom and pasta dish flavored with red wine vinegar and garlic. I varied it a bit because we did not have portabello mushrooms, and it was still yummy.

I know it is still a little warm for soup, but soup is such a great frugal meal. One of my favorite vegetable soup recipes is from Saving Dinner. Sometimes I simmer it on the stove instead of making it in the crockpot, and sometimes I use extra potatoes if I don't have a turnip, canned beans if we don't have fresh, etc. I use the "What's in my hand?" method of cooking, a la DHM.

By the way, the DHM's blog and the Frugal Hacks blog are two excellent sites for frugal recipes. I also like Hillbilly Housewife. Her Family Bread recipe is a good one for making several loaves at once without the benefit of a mixer or bread machine. Some of her recipes seem a little on the unhealthy side, but I just adapt with substitutions when I see the need.

As you can see, these recipes are heavy on carbs and light on proteins. I have not found a good, cheap solution for proteins. Beans just aren't enough for our hypoglycemic-prone family. Lately, I have been focusing on providing proteins *first* when I shop, and then filling in around the edges with the cheapest healthy veggies, fruits, breads and grains that I can find. This means making a lot of breads from scratch and eating unimaginative vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. But you would not like to meet my family when we are not getting enough protein. Grouchy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


butterfly 001

Introducing Spunky Butterfly.

From larva:


To pupa:

caterpillar 007

Through mishap and adventure:

Spunky had a little Accident

Sunflowers 004

To adult butterfly:

butterfly 001

I'm walking in an open field
Looking for some space to fill
I believe there's something left to hold
So even when the sun goes down
And there's no one around
I'm standing in the freedom of my soul
And the truth of the matter is still the same
It's that you and I, we will not be here forever
The truth of the matter is still the same
I'm ready to stand
I'm ready to stand

--Bebo Norman

(Cornflower found Spunky this morning before 7 am-- she says we have an open house for butterflies. He had come out in the night and we missed seeing him emerge. We made that habitat just in time-- yesterday! I could tell by looking at the translucence of the chrysalid that he was coming out soon. Here is a good site for finding and nurturing your own caterpillars to butterflies. It even includes instructions for making two kinds of habitats from scratch. Our habitat cost us only $1.29-- the cost of the tulle.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Outdoor Challenge: Sunflowers

(Join the Outdoor Challenge!)

We did not grow sunflowers this summer, but there are fields and fields of them around our area right now, interspersed with snow-on-the-prairie. Beautiful. I forgot my camera as we left for the dentist and then a nature walk, so I have no photos of the fields. Perhaps Javamom will oblige us with a few shots, if she has taken some, hint, hint. ;o)

We also did not read out of the handbook or dissect our sunflowers. We were doing well to get out and find some flowers! Busy, busy week.

Here are our sketches. Triss has more on our nature outing at her blog, Mossflower. Also, here is a link to Mariel's guest blogger post about Spunky Caterpillar.

UPdate: Our Spunky is now a butterfly!

Sunflowers 008

Sunflowers 007

Sunflowers 006

Sunflowers 005

Guest Blogger: Spunky Coccoon Update

Hello. I am Mariel of Redwall, commonly known as Mariel.

Sunday, September 7th: a crash occurred in the kitchen. There was a scream. The caterpillar's jar had fallen off the counter. I regret to say who did it. It was myself. I was trying to make granola, and I could not reach the honey. So I screamed and my father and mother came running. I screamed, "Spunky! Spunky! Spunky!" Fortunately, he is all right.

The glass jar was swept up, and my mother mopped the floor and comforted me, and said that I should not have been climbing on the counter.

Wednesday: I still have not made granola.

Today my mother made a habitat for our dear little Spunky. He hasn't really responded yet. I found a twig for him and now he is happily sitting in his coccoon on a piece of blue cardstock.

The habitat is made of tulle and Cornflower's embroidery hoops.

Since he is not on the stick, there is a possibility that he will die because his wings might get deformed when he comes out.

Thank you, my friends, for looking at my mother's blog. Farewell-- what's that? Oh, and Spunky says so, too.

Botticelli's Primavera

On Monday, we examined (a modest detail of) Primavera by Sandro Botticelli. I had planned to read aloud from Vasari's Life of Sandro Botticelli and let the kids simply look at the painting online, but they couldn't stop talking about "the lady" long enough for me to read! Finally, Triss and Mariel asked if they could draw their versions. I put away the biography and said, sure.

Triss sketched the dress and the hands. "How does he do it!" she said.

Botticelli's Primavera (Triss)

Mariel's sketch emphasized the head, neck and face:

Botticelli's Primavera (Mariel)

Godly Women of the Bible.. Who Worked Outside the Home

A lot of people discussing Sarah Palin are pointing to Deborah and Esther as two examples of women working outside of the home, and even leading, in the Bible. It is very easy to shoot down these two examples because they are from the Old Testament, and also because both women rose to power at a time of extraordinary need in the history of Israel.

(Just briefly, although it is not the subject of this post, I want to rebut just a little of the criticism I have heard in comparing women today to Deborah. It is true that she was given command of an army because the men were too cowardly to stand up without her. However, the men were also cowardly in the time of David, Saul and Goliath. God did not *have* to raise up a woman to lead the Israelite army. He could have raised up a child, like he did with David. Or He could have commanded Barak to get over his cowardice, as He did with Moses. He didn't even have to make Deborah a judge, and yet He did.

I am not saying I think Sarah Palin is a modern-day Deborah. I do not know if she is. All I am saying is that God's ways are not are ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. Let's not pretend to understand what God is doing as events unfold. There will be time enough for that when all this is history and we can analyze with more leisure.

And now, back to the topic of this post.)

Two New Testament examples of ordinary women working outside of the home are Lydia and Phebe.

Phebe was travelling to Rome on business, and carried Paul's letter to the Romans for him.

Romans 16:1-2 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

Lydia was a seller of purple cloth, and also one of the first Europeans converted to Christianity. She influenced her entire household to be baptized and her home became the first church in the city of Philippi.

Acts 16:14-15 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard [us]: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought [us], saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide [there]. And she constrained us.

These were ordinary women with ordinary lives who worked outside of the home and were not condemned for it by Christ or His Apostles. Indeed, Paul commands the church at Rome to help Phebe, which is an excellent way to show Christian love and demonstrate what Christianity is all about. Far better than criticism.

Previous post on this subject.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sketch Tuesday-- School Supplies

(Participate in Sketch Tuesday.)

Cornflower's sketch of all the nice things she gets to play with (um, I mean work with, of course) for schoolwork:

School Supplies (Cornflower)

Mariel's sketch of her math book:

School Supplies (Mariel)

Triss' sketch of Homeschool Tracker (if you click on it you will be able to see more details-- I can only put small pictures on the blog):

School Supplies (Triss)

The Oil of His Grace

From Pilgrim's Progress:

Then I saw in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.

Then said CHRISTIAN, What means this?

The INTERPRETER answered, This fire is the Work of Grace that is wrought in the heart. He that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil; but in that thou seest the fire burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that. So he had him about to the back side of the wall, where he saw a man with a Vessel of Oil in his hand, of which he did continually cast (but secretly) into the fire.

Then said CHRISTIAN, What means this?

The INTEPRETER answered, This is Christ, who continually with the Oil of his Grace maintains the work already begun in the heart: By the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest, that the Man stood behind the wall to maintain the Fire; this is to teach thee, That it is hard for the Tempted to see how this Work of Grace is maintained in the soul.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Charcoal Still Life

(Updated to change the pictures from 'medium' to 'small'. The medium pictures were getting crowded out by the sidebar.

This summer the kids got a lesson in charcoal from a friend, and here are the results.

The first, by Mariel:

Charcoal Still Life (Mariel)

This next is by Triss:

Charcoal still life (Triss)

And here is Cornflower's:

Charcoal Still Life (Cornflower)

They were most fascinated by the teacher's ability to keep her hand off her paper as she worked, thereby avoiding smudges on her still life. They told me about it in amazement.

Thoughts for My Children on Government

Civil government exists to protect us, its citizens, from our enemies-- whether at home or abroad-- so that we can get down to the business of making something of ourselves.

It is also important to remember that, in its very nature, government is extremely vulnerable to corruption-- whether that government is red, blue, yellow, orange, or purple with pink polka dots. This is true at any level.

As Lord Acton (1834-1902) put it:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Almost always, okay? Not always. But very, very often. A great, good man is quite rare. (And I use the term 'man' in the universal sense.)

William Pitt talked about unlimited power in 1770:

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

This is why the founding fathers of the United States designed a limited government. They understood that power is terribly vulnerable to corruption by sinful men.

Why do we have civil government, then? Because not enough of us have personal government; we do not govern our own selves well. This is the reason for crime and war.

It has been my experience (and is my understanding from studying history) that the bigger civil government gets, the less individuals are spurred toward personal government. This is why I do not agree with big government.

We do not have a king, nor do we want one, because of the corrupting influence of power. The "Divine Right of Kings" was a myth. There is only one King who has a Divine Right. This is why a representative democracy, or a democratic republic (we can parse those terms later), is the best government model put forth thus far. None of us are trustworthy when given too much power (not even a mob of "ordinary" people). Therefore, we have a government that by its very nature discourages government action and encourages an individual's dependence on himself.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Woman At Work

When I was six weeks old, my mother went back to her job as a planner with a prominent trucking manufacturer. She has worked outside of the home for my entire life, except for one year when I was twelve. I was taken care of by my grandmother, and later on my brother and I were cared for by my father's first cousin, whom my brother and I lovingly refer to as our 'other mom'.

We didn't know it at the time, but the Lord was preparing my mom to be almost the sole financial provider for her family later on.

When I was in college and still dependent on my parents' financial support (my brother had just finished high school), my father was declared legally blind and had to give up his driver's license. His work as a sales manager was partially contingent on his ability to drive, and his company fired him. It was a very difficult time for both my parents. It was a blessing that my mother had such a good job with excellent benefits-- it kept us afloat. And within two years, Dad and Mom had relocated to another state to follow Mom's job.

When my brother and I were kids, none of us knew how important Mom's career was going to be later on down the road. But the Lord knew. He was preparing something none of us understood yet.

And yet, my brother and I both understood that Mom was the keeper of the home. She kept us clean, well-dressed, well-fed, in a tidy home. She kept up traditions; documented events with pictures; took us on outings; attended athletic events, plays, recitals; sewed clothes, costumes, curtains and pillows; prepared for vacations and church meetings; and was very hospitable. (So hospitable, that often I was kicked out of my bed for overnight guests! I didn't mind, though. I liked company.) She was an excellent housekeeper, wife and mother-- and still is. With a full-time job outside the home.

Dad's eye situation actually freed him to do more studying and writing as a minister of the gospel. He was without a church to serve for many years, and wrote two books during that time, providing blessings for God's people as he used his analytical and research skills to write a church history, and a commentary on the subject of repentance.

My parents are going to be fine financially after retirement because of the blessing of Mom's career. She and Dad did not know that when she continued working after I was born. They just knew it was what she needed to do.

I firmly believe it was part of God's provision for our family that Mom be a worker outside of the home, as well as in it.

I have been spurred to write this because of the astonishing articles and comments I have been reading by conservative Christian women about Sarah Palin. Sisters, we do not know what God's plan is for every person on the planet. God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.

I am not saying who to vote for. Perhaps a write-in would be appropriate. I am not super thrilled with Senator McCain myself. I am shocked and dismayed at Senator Obama. Senator Biden disgusts me. Governor Palin seems a strong, stalwart warrior of a woman-- and I don't know how she does what she does. I do know her husband stands fully behind her, and in fact took a leave of absence from his career when she became governor of Alaska. He stays home to take care of the children, so they are not being neglected. I think I would feel an strong obligation to stay home with the baby and the wayward teenager myself.

But, Sisters, let us remember that just because we know scripture does not mean we know God's will for all. We know what we would do. We do not know what the Lord has given her to do. That is between her and God. Our job at this point is to look at the chess game of the election process and decide which move will cause the greatest number of godly choices down the road. Maybe it is making a symbolic stand with a write-in. Maybe it is voting for the least harmful and most likely to be elected choice.

It is a tough election cycle, that is for sure. But let's not destroy the house with our own hands. We are where we are in this country. Let's look at where we are right now, and decide how to vote in order to get *closer* to where we ought to be in the next four years, rather than further away.

I realize I am probably opening a can of worms here. That is why I generally do not post political commentary on my blog. But I had to stand and be counted as someone who thinks it is sometimes appropriate and God-honoring for a woman to have a career outside of the home. I believe God sometimes provides blessings in that way. I have seen multiple evidences of that as I have journeyed through life thus far, of which my mother is simply one example.

Another post in which are listed some godly women of the Bible who worked outside the home.

Family Personalities

We took the Humanmetric personality test last night (found the link at Mrs. Happy Housewife).

Mr. Honey and I are INTJ Rational Masterminds. (I guess this is proof that married people really do develop similar personalities!) My Thinking tendency was very slightly expressed, though, so I guess that means I think only a little more than I sense.

Cornflower is ISFJ-- a Guardian Protector. (I can't believe she let me ask her all seventy-two questions. I interpreted some of them for her, so that might have influenced outcome.)

Mariel is ISFP-- an Artisan Composer. (A free spirit! We didn't need a personality test to tell us that, though.)

Triss is ESTJ-- a Guardian Supervisor. Her Extrovert and Sensing tendencies were only slightly expressed, so perhaps Triss is almost half-and-half introvert and extrovert, with a balance between sensing and thinking.

It always impresses me the way the Lord places people in families. We have so much to offer each other.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

J.S. Bach's Magnificat

Links for folks doing composer study:

Commentary on each portion of the Magnificat.

Wikipedia entry.

A short biography for kids.

I have been playing the piece for the kids some in the mornings, or around dinner time, the last couple of weeks. Today we listened to each section individually, reading the Latin text and English translation in between each. The kids kept their hands busy cutting and pasting old bits of calendar to cardstock while they listened.

I sang the music to the 'Sicut Locutus Est' in choir while I was in school, but the words were different. Does anyone know if Bach used this musical setting in another of his works? I can almost remember the words we sang, but not quite.

Update: I just remembered, the text we sang was "Honor and glory be to God in the highest, Hallelujah..."

Coming Up...

I have had several emails requesting inexpensive recipes, and there is a blog post (or two) developing in my mind on the subject, but what with it being the second week of school and the first week of fall piano lessons, etc., etc., I haven't had time to type.

I am very excited to say what is in my head, though, and expect to be able to get it down in the next few days. So, coming up, I hope to have a blog post on how our family balances frugality with health in eating (still very much a work in progress), in addition to a post with our favorite frugal recipes.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sketch Tuesday-- Something Pink

Here are the kids' Sketch Tuesday assignments.

(Update: We are a week behind on the Sketch Tuesday assignments, I found out yesterday! We were supposed to draw something in a tree this week. Oh, well.)


portraits 004


portraits 003

Monday, September 01, 2008


Updated (9/3) to add picture.
*Updated (9/17) to note that butterflies pupate in chrysalids, not cocoons. So Spunky was in a chrysalis!

Please forgive me for shouting. I didn't think it would happen. I was a little afraid the poor caterpillar would die. But no-- such a sweet cocoon. It looks like a green leaf. We missed it at first and wondered if Spunk had climbed out of the jar again. The cocoon looks like this, only bright green. The camera batteries died just as I was trying to take a picture. I will update this blog post when I get one.

I still cannot believe that we were blessed to have a caterpillar that made itself a cocoon!

Books *opened* in August

I didn't read as much this past month, as I was giving most of my attention to scheduling the kids' schoolwork and figuring out budgets and planning piano lessons and such. Some of the books I categorized as 'in progress' at the end of July were not even opened in August. So I will leave those out.

The book I have been enjoying the most for the past couple of weeks is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. It has been my down-time reading. With all the planning I did this past month, I did not want to read anything associated with the school year in the evenings, so I got this old favorite out and have been rereading it.

Here is a list of books I am currently reading with the kids for schoolwork:

The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
Understood Betsy
Parables from Nature
Tales from Shakespeare
Burgess Animal Book

Fairyland of Science
Abraham Lincoln's World

Love's Labours Lost by William Shakespeare
Utopia by Sir Thomas More
The Life of Alcibiades by Plutarch
Essays of Sir Francis Bacon
The New World by Winston Churchill

We just started these last week. It is conceivable that some may fall off the lesson plans as we get further in and I realize what is doable and what must be put off. Triss and Mariel also have some books they are reading and narrating on their own.

Triss and I are almost finished reading Emma by Jane Austen. After that we want to read another one, but which one escapes my memory at the moment. I think it is Northanger Abbey.

Mariel and I are reading The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle as a fun read aloud with no narration, because she already knows the Arthur story. There are a lot of good books in Year 5, and I only want the kids to have to narrate two to three readings per day. I still want her to hear his telling of it, though, so this is a free reader.

Cornflower and I have been reading a chapter of Heidi every day for fun in addition to her regular reading-and-narration assignments.

Hmm, what else did I read this month? A look at my bedside table, and the floor beside my bed shows the following:

How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger

(A friend gave it to me for a present! So I reread it.)

From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun
The Offshore Islanders by Paul Johnson

(Between these two books and Churchill-- and the Hinges of History series by Thomas Cahill-- I am beginning to establish a picture of English and European history in my head. But often I cannot remember which book I read which thought in! Triss and I were beginning our trek through Churchill's second volume the other day and I recalled something I had read about Luther and the Peasants' Revolt. I told her what I remembered, but couldn't remember where I had read it! Frustrating. I had wanted to confirm what I remembered so she could have an accurate account from me.)

The Tightwad Gazette III by Amy Dacyzyn

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan
Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller

(These two are picture-book biographies we got from the library and really enjoyed. I just love well-written children's biographies. They have a way of illustrating the time period that is very personal. As a caveat, I do not know much about Richard Wright beyond what was in this book, and I understand his writings were sometimes controversial. I greatly appreciated this biography though, because the author emphasizes the beauty and power of words throughout. The Marian Anderson book is strewed with the words of deep, rich negro spirituals and has moved the kids to new appreciation of the songs. The girls used to ask me not to sing them because they are sad.)

Here are a couple other biographies we got from the library:

Say It With Music: The Story of Irving Berlin by Nancy Furstinger
Ludwig van Beethoven by Mike Venezia

And finally,

CM's Volume 3

(I am reading this with our local book club.)