Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bloggy Housekeeping

Just a quick note to folks whose blogs I read: In case you have been wondering where I have been, I am working on catching up my Bible reading right now, so I haven't read any blogs for the last couple of weeks (I think it has been a couple of weeks). I plan on staying away until I am caught up. I really want to read what everyone is thinking about, but I promised I would read the Bible this year, and I just have to do it. I'm still in Leviticus in the OT, and am really getting a lot out of it, but the going is slow. So I'll see you all in a bit. (I'm reading the the NT, Psalms and Proverbs at the same time as the OT, so I have read more than just Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. But I am still behind schedule.)

Leviticus really brings home the fact that our God is a God of *order*, that it is important to Him that things be done a certain way-- we will never do things exactly the way they ought to be done, but doesn't it motivate you to work harder to achieve a semblance of order when you read Leviticus? I am trying to be more orderly by reading my daily Bible before I read blogs and news. This means I haven't read hardly any news for a week or two-- only the news magazine that comes to the house and the occasional Yahoo news article that pops up on my email. This is probably a good thing.

Oh, and I need to write a personal finance post soon-- that is overdue. Right now I will just say that God is good all the time.

Happy Thoughts

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

--Robert Louis Stevenson

Before Triss was born, Mr. Honey and I lived in Nashville, Tennessee. He worked at an electronics store and I worked for an insurance company days and at a dinner theater nights. (Mr. Honey worked a lot of hours-- retail hours, you know.)

Working at the dinner theater was certainly an experience. We were in character from the moment we arrived until we left, and when we were actually on the stage, we were dinner theater characters playing play characters. I would be a character in the dinner theater, and then my character would go get ready to perform and be *another* character on the stage. Layers and layers. It sounds confusing, but I thought it was great.

Anyway, at the dinner theater we served the guests in character in between shows and I was the hostess. I was Polly Doodle, an eternally optimistic and sunny young lady who spread cheer wherever she went.

It was a lot of fun.

I wore a pretty green and white striped fluffy dress (with crinoline), a light straw hat trimmed with ribbon and cabbage roses, and little cream-colored boots. And I carried a thick paperback I had discovered at the bookstore a few days after being cast-- The Happy Book. It was a huge list of reasons to be happy-- things like:

*autumn leaves
*baby laughter

You get the idea.

Folks would come into the dinner theater (which was pretty avant garde for Nashville), and surprisingly enough there were a fair amount of people who came looking stressed or unhappy. When that happened, Polly Doodle pulled out the Happy Book and found happy thoughts. Real Pollyanna-type stuff.

And you know what is funny? It worked.

I would find someone who looked not-quite-festive and say, "How are you tonight? You look a little down. I think you need a happy thought!" I'd flip through my book, skimming until I found something that looked like it might fit the person, and then say, "Oh, I have the perfect thought for you. "Shiny chrome on cars." Do you like it? If you do, you can have it. It's your thought for the rest of the night." And people loved it. Rarely did I meet a resolutely grumpy person. Sometimes they would say they wanted a different thought-- people would occasionally keep me at the table for awhile until they found the perfect one, even asking to see the book, which, as I said, was simply a large list. I stayed and visited with much cheer, laughing and smiling.

When the directors originally told me what I would be doing in my improv character I was kind of nervous, thinking I would be overbearingly annoying. But people loved it.

People just need to be reminded sometimes.

So here is my list for you. Do you like these thoughts? If you do, you can have them. They can be your happy thoughts for as long as you want them.

1. the moon on water.
2. eating a pickle.
3. the first daffodils of spring.
4. the water cycle.
5. Sharpie markers.
6. a piece of cake after a long diet.
7. the sun rising every single day. (It never stops that, did you notice?)
8. the cycle of seasons. (this also never stops. so cool.)
9. finding a caring bureaucrat.
10. your head hitting the pillow after a long day.

Of course, the number one reason we can always be happy is that the Lord is on the throne, He is in charge and He does all things well. All these other things are little side benefits-- but they are great reasons nonetheless. Every good and perfect gift is from above.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From Narration to (a Beginner's) Essay

Below I am posting an essay Triss wrote on prominent painters of the Renaissance.

We have been working on thesis statements lately, and as I watched her art narrations come through in the last couple of weeks, I realized I have been helping her all wrong. I have been suggesting she think of a thesis statement and then write about it, but that appears to be backwards. Writing on a subject first-- freewriting, or narrating-- and then watching a theme develop seems to be much more natural. So I suggested she combine two written narrations that had developed on one theme, pulling the thesis from their unity. I am posting the two narrations first to show what they originally looked like, and at the end I will post the final draft of the essay.

Here are the narrations on their own (her instructions were to summarize the pages she read:

1) Leonardo Da Vinci(this is a narration I already posted, so click on the link to read).

2) Michelango was a genius in sculpture, architecture, poetry and painting. He regarded man as something almost Godlike and so for him a painter of men was almost in competition with God for creating things. Michelangelo had a violent personality that was part hope and part despair. His figures are firm and full of light and darkness.

Raphael, on the other hand, was less complicated. His figures are more THERE and less allegorical. His drama is more action and less deep, profound thoughts. His pictures were alive and real, instead of superhuman people reflecting on things. He was influenced a little by Leonardo's paintings.

Here is the final draft of her essay.

Three Painters of the Renaissance

Everyone knows about the Mona Lisa, the roof of the Sistine Chapel, and other great works of the Renaissance period. All sorts of images were drawn, by all sorts of painters, in all sorts of places. Three brilliant painters drew people who all look different. Leonardo da Vinci drew them scientifically, Michelangelo drew them religiously, and Raphael drew them authentically. These three artists saw people in very different ways.

Leonardo da Vinci was an amazing man. Besides being a painter, he was an inventor, psychologist, scientist and doctor, just to name a few of his varied interests and skills. These helped with his wonderful pictures-- he looked at people as part of science and observed them carefully. For Leonardo da Vinci, a person was just like an animal or flower: a lot of lines, curves and shading to be examined and precisely copied.

Michelangelo was just as much of a genius as Leonardo, but he regarded people in a different light. Humankind was a race set apart, man a creature almost Godlike, and he who painted them was almost competing with the Creator himself. Michelangelo's figures are firm and full of light or darkness, reflecting his violent personality's strange turns from hope to despair.

Raphael was more lighthearted in his pictures. His figures were like those he would have seen around him. Not many of his paintings are allegorical, but they look real. His drama does not come from symbolic objects or deep expressions on faces, but from action jumping out at you-- almost like a photograph of someone in mid-movement.

There were many great painters and artists in the Renaissance, each with his own work of art and style of working. Everyone sees people in a different way, and these three artists-- Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael-- had their own way of viewing people which they incorporated into their art.

I like the essay a lot. I like the ideas she pulled from her reading-- the idea that Michelangelo drew human beings religiously-- he seems to have worshipped the human form. I like the idea of Leonardo as the scientist who observed and copied exactly, and even dealt a bit in psychology. I like the contrast of Raphael as lighthearted and uncomplicated in his renderings of people.

These ideas came from the book she read, and her thesis is really a statement of the unity of the High Renaissance portion of the book.

I notice that some of the sparkle that I enjoy so much in her written narrations fell out in the process of essay-writing, though. You can almost see her mental gyrations as she attempts to fit her writing into the mold of the five-paragraph essay.

Now I am thinking that I will sometimes ask her for the unity of what she reads-- ie., read the section, state the unity right off, and then give reasons why you think that idea is the unity. Or maybe write a summary, and at the end state the unity, since sometimes it is difficult to see it until you have articulated your thoughts a bit. What do you all think?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pittypat and Tippytoe by Eugene Field

All day long they come and go
Pittypat and Tippytoe;
Footprints up and down the hall,
Playthings scattered on the floor,
Finger-marks along the wall,
Tell-tale smudges on the door
By these presents you shall know
Pittypat and Tippytoe.

How they riot at their play!
And a dozen times a day
In they troop, demanding bread
Only buttered bread will do,
And the butter must be spread
Inches thick with sugar too!
And I never can say "No,
Pittypat and Tippytoe!"

Sometimes there are griefs to soothe,
Sometimes ruffled brows to smooth;
For (I much regret to say)
Tippytoe and Pittypat
Sometimes interrupt their play
With an internecine spat;
Fie, for shame! to quarrel so -
Pittypat and Tippytoel

Oh the thousand worrying things
Every day recurrent brings!
Hands to scrub and hair to brush,
Search for playthings gone amiss,
Many a wee complaint to hush,
Many a little bump to kiss;
Life seems one vain, fleeting show
To Pittypat and Tippytoe!

And when day is at an end,
There are little duds to mend:
Little frocks are strangely torn,
Little shoes great holes reveal,
Little hose, but one day worn,
Rudely yawn at toe and heel!
Who but you could work such woe,
Pittypat and Tippytoe!

On the floor and down the hall,
Rudely smutched upon the wall,
There are proofs in every kind
Of the havoc they have wrought,
And upon my heart you'd find
Just such trade-marks, if you sought;
Oh, how glad I am 'tis so,
Pittypat and Tippytoe!

Flannery O'Connor and Presumption

I have never read Flannery O'Connor, although I have wanted to for some time now. The Anchoress pointed out a blog post by Amy Wellborn that give hints on where to start, and I have updated my Amazon wishlist accordingly. :O)

But I really wanted to share a Flannery O'Connor quote that Ms. Wellborn shares, on the accuracy of literary analysis:

There is always the danger of over-analysis coming between the reader and author, a danger of which O'Connor was keenly aware.

(Read her letter of March 28, 1961, to a professor of English who shared with O'Connor his students' interpretation of "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Her letter begins: "The interpretation of your ninety students and three teachers is fantastic and about as far from my intentions as it could get to be." It ends: "Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it. My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.")

How would you like to find out that someone else presumes they know what you were 'really' saying? That strikes me as the height of arrogance, and ought to provoke us to caution when interpreting works.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sowing Ideas

(Some notes on Chapter 4 of Charlotte Mason's Volume 2: Parents and Children)

"...It rests with the parents of the child to settle for the future man his ways of thinking, behaving, feeling, acting; his disposition, his particular talent; the manner of things upon which his thoughts shall run."

Although children are born with personalities and bents, and the Holy Spirit also does work in them that we are not privy to, parents still have an awful lot of influence on their children. What we do on a regular basis, what we emphasize, the books we give them, what we allow, what we condemn or let fall by the wayside, all communicate our beliefs and principles to our children. They are immersed in our way of thinking and our way of acting, day in, day out, for years.

Charlotte Mason calls these beliefs and principles "ideas", and so they are. But what is an idea? Let's see how Miss Mason explains it:

An idea is not an 'instrument,' but an agent; is not to be 'handled,' but, shall we say, set in motion?

It is not one more item on our list of things to do, or one more tool in our parenting toolbox. It sounds more like a living entity-- it moves, it breathes, it influences.

In another of her books, Charlotte talks about the "ideas in the air" in a society at any given time: a philosopher or other thinker puts forth a new idea, which simmers among scholars for a generation or three or four, and is eventually assimilated into the public consciousness, becomes "conventional wisdom," whether the idea is acceptable or not. Triss and I are finishing up _Utopia_ by Sir Thomas More, which was written in the 1400s. Yesterday we found an idea, taken up by Sir Thomas, who has influenced untold millions with his story, that it is okay to disregard the lives of people who are barbarians in favor of people who have more to offer civilization. As Christians, who believe all human beings are created in the image of God, and are therefore of great value no matter what their contributions, we were shocked.

As we thought of events and writings that occurred after the 1400s, we could see this dangerous idea eventually permeating the thoughts of other scholars and eventually regular people, coming to fruition in the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, and, yes, even today. The treatment of native peoples as European explorers tramped through the Americas, Africa and Southeast Asia, for instance; the attempts on the part of Hitler to encourage (to put it mildly) the growth of the "Aryan" nation and the demise of Jews, gypsies, disabled people, and homosexuals; or, even today, the idea, already being applied in some socialist countries, that people with significant and difficult-to-resolve medical issues aren't as worthy of treatment as people whose illnesses can be healed more readily. .

Ideas have consequences.

Let me say it again: Ideas have consequences.

So, an idea is not an instrument, but a vital organism to be set into motion; not a task on the list, but something that pervades a life-- we are seasoned with ideas, so to speak, flavored by the principles and beliefs that we take up and live by.

How do you sow an idea?

Charlotte finds three ways: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

...subjectively, in the child, education is a life; objectively, as affecting the child, education is a discipline; relatively, if we may introduce a third term, as regards the environment of the child, education is an atmosphere.

In this chapter, she focuses mainly on atmosphere-- the inspiring of a child to those right ideas that he should embrace.

"Parents as Inspirers"--not "modellers," but "Inspirers." It is only as we recognise our limitations that our work becomes effective: when we see definitely what we are to do, what we can do, and what we cannot do, we set to work with confidence and courage; we have an end in view, and we make our way intelligently towards that end, and a way to an end is method. It rests with parents not only to give their children birth into the life of intelligence and moral power, but to sustain the higher life which they have borne. Now that life, which we call education, receives only one kind of sustenance; it grows up on ideas.

We are not in the place of God, and our work is not to crush personality and bent, or force all children into one mold. We do have a job, though, and that job is to inspire the child with ideas.

...supposing that education really did consist in systematised efforts to draw out every power that is in us, why, we should all develop on the same lines, be as like as "two peas," and (should we not?) die of weariness of one another!

How about that? True education cannot be reduced to a system! Shocking. Rather than systems, the life of education consists in the communicating of ideas.

Once an idea is accepted by the capable mind of a child, reason takes over and provides proofs. Therefore, we must be careful what we introduce to little children, and as they get older, we ought to teach them that the most important work they do in their studies is the right accepting or rejecting of ideas.

Thus we see how the destiny of a life is shaped in the nursery, by the reverent naming of the Divine Name; by the light scoff at holy things; by the thought of duty the little child gets who is made to finish conscientiously his little task; by the hardness of heart that comes to the child who hears the faults or sorrows of others spoken of lightly.

Ideas have consequences.

To excite this "appetency towards something"--towards things lovely, honest, and of good report, is the earliest and most important ministry of the educator.

This is also why it matter which books you hand your child, and I am not simply talking about whether the book is moral or not. Does the telling of a life put forth low ideas or bring the child to think nobly? For instance, one Lincoln biography for children ascribed the following worry to the great leader: "Abraham Lincoln knew that his men might not like him if he made that unpopular decision." Do you really think he worried about that? Sounds more like the bringing down of the thoughts of Lincoln to a schoolyard level rather than lifting up the schoolchildren's thoughts to the level of Lincoln. Which way do you think is better?

In the early years of the child's life it makes, perhaps, little apparent difference whether his parents start with the notion that to educate is to fill a receptacle, inscribe a tablet, mould plastic matter, or, nourish a life; but in the end we shall find that only those ideas which have fed his life are taken into the being of the child; all the rest is thrown away, or worse, is like sawdust in the system, an impediment and an injury to the vital processes.

So whether the child is two or nine or fifteen, the ideas "in the air" the child breathes matter. The kinds of books we require them to read matter. Our attitudes, and the beliefs we actually live out matter, oh they matter immensely. We do well to realize that it is only by the grace of God that we raise our children with beautiful and noble ideas, choosing right actions and materials, and praying for His redemption of our mistakes and His working in the heart and soul of the little child.

Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help, passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere which the child breathes; he does not think of these things, may never think of them, but all his life long they excite that "vague appetency towards something" out of which most of his actions spring. Oh, wonderful and dreadful presence of the little child in the midst!

That he should take direction and inspiration from all the casual life about him, should make our poor words and ways the starting-point from which, and in the direction of which, he develops--this is a thought to make the best of us hold our breath. There is no way of escape for parents; they must needs be as "inspirers" to their children, because about them hangs, as its atmosphere about a planet the thought-environment of the child, from which he derives those enduring ideas which express themselves as a life-long 'appetency' towards things sordid or things lovely, things earthly or divine."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more;
feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
be thou still my strength and shield;
be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.

--William Williams, 1745

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Notetaking: Summary and Response

Triss is taking notes on the book, _Whatever Happened to Justice?_ rather than writing summaries. I have asked her to divide her paper down the middle, summarize main points on the left, and write her responses on the right (across from the point she is responding to). I don't know how to show this on a blog post, so I will put responses in brackets after the corresponding main point. The item in quotes was taken word for word from the book. These notes are for Chapters 11 and 12. :

When force is introduced into a transaction, one person loses something he values more than what he's getting

Taxes are like this.

[For example, we would value the tax money we have to give to schools more than the benefit of the schools because we homeschool.]

"Scientific law permits effective economic calculation + progress."

[So political law doesn't?]

The West was actually more law-abiding than the cities because there are more people to attack in cities.

America is more of an idea than a place.

At the end of the book, I will have her look over her notes on all the chapters and write a paper on what she learned and what she agrees/disagrees with.

Scheduling and Ritual as Habit*

*I just realized that 'ritual' is simply formalized habit. A little slow on the uptake this morning.

We broke out of timers and strict scheduling of subjects a few years ago, but lost discipline in the process, the ramifications of which my oldest, making her way through high school requirements, is feeling the effects. For the last year I have been backing up, trying to have some kind of schedule, but more free flowing, while helping Triss to regain some of the self-direction that characterized her elementary years. (What she really had was an amazing and humbling love for me, and, because of that, a willingness to follow the minute schedules I laid out. Obviously, that didn’t completely translate into self-discipline or we wouldn't be having this struggle, although she does get started and work on her schoolwork in a good way—she just does it on her own terms, which do not always fit the requirements of the assignment.) Our school schedule now contains hour-long blocks of time, with very few subjects glued to one specific hour. Instead, my helping one or more people is glued to each hour-- first hour is all of us together, second hour is for Cornflower and I, third hour is for Mariel and I, etc. This is working better than strict fifteen-minute subject-by-subject scheduling, and also better than the loose, free-flowing, what-kind-of-learning-is-in-the-wind-today scheduling. Non-scheduling, really. Although we always had the spine of AO and the math books to keep us in line, and I really do grow anxious if we don’t meet the requirements of something I have committed to. (This is key as well. We all need to be committed to it, so how do you help a student commit to a program? Some involvement in choice of books, etc., obviously, but you can’t leave it all to the student. He or she is going to have to study some things that aren’t pleasing to him or her. Reading and discussion on why this or that subject is vital, and the reading of inspiring literature related to the subject help as well-- living math books to inspire the motivation needed for hard math classes, for instance.)

Something is still missing, though, and I wonder if it might be ritual. We have been pretty successful with chores this year, and I think that is because I decided to schedule chore time at the same time of day and in a similar way to the way the kids do chores at two beloved camps we go to in the summer. After lunch it is shades of singing school as we clean up together, provoking shared memories and encouraging the creation of more good memories attached to cleaning up. (Not that they just adore cleaning up or anything-- there are still grumbles. But it has gotten easier.) I need to find something like that to help them stay focused on their independent work long enough to get finished without distraction, but I don't know what it might be yet.

Willa posted this quote about Montessori, and it made me think about how doing certain things at certain times (not necessarily *clock* times, but in order—washing your hands *before* lunch, for instance—although kids do need to learn to function within clock time as well if they are to survive in this world) and in certain ways might be helpful worked into a home context:

When one of the participants, a Montessorian from Brazil, offered her observation that "the pedagogy of love" was that link, all of my attraction and perplexity converged into a single cluster of research questions: What is a pedagogy of love? What does it look like? How is it constructed, practiced, and fulfilled?

To answer those questions, I turned to a concept that had already figured prominently in my analysis of teachers and teaching in traditional classrooms ... That concept is ritual. From the precise way a child learns to roll and unroll a mat or the intricate choreography of a lesson in handwashing to the larger ceremonies of the Great Lessons or the Birthday Celebration, ritualized activity is among the most distinctive features of Montessori education. In marking time, shaping space, and communicating values central to the culture, these rituals help define the contours of Montessori practice and, in so doing, they illuminate the complexity as well as the unity of the method. They enable us to "see" the pedagogy of love.

(Emphasis mine.)

I understand this to be saying that one way children learn virtue is from being taught deliberate and purposeful actions. For instance, I sit typing on the computer this morning while my children rush through their morning routines in order to have a couple of minutes outside (enjoying the abrupt change from warm to cold weather) before Bible lesson. There is a conflict of values here, because I want them outside as much as possible, but we also have a lot of work to get done today, and I have learned the danger of allowing too many “floaty” days where we simply turn to this or that activity as we desire.

Two conflicting values, or, if you prefer, character qualities: love of the outdoors in all its variations, and finishing your work. I wonder what CM virtues/daemons would line up with these two qualities?

CM said, “One time is not as good as another,” (I'm paraphrasing and can't find the exact quote, but I know she said it and will keep looking**) and “We all stir our minds into action the better if there is an implied ‘must’ involved.” (Vol. 6 p. 17)

How to secure the ‘must’ without losing spontaneity, interest and love?

**Update: I found a Catherine Levison article that references the 'one time not as good as another' quote, and am looking for the actual page number. The article is a good one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So, like, I totally need to revamp my conversation, you know?

Okay. Mariel really enjoys writing her history narrations in the guise of a historic young person, but I about died of laughter when I received this one.

Dear Jack,

Have you heard about the Merrimac and the Mentor? The Mentor beat the third ironclad ship in the world! See, the Southerners found this half-made ship so they, like, finish up the ship, but they make it covered with iron!

So, like, the next day, they go over to where the Northerners have a port, and start sinking ships, and the Northerners are really scared 'cause they only have wood ships!

So this guy from Sweden (who's named Ericsson) finishes up his ship that looked like a cheesebox on a raft. And the little tiny boat beats this huge gynormous ship!

Senorita Gomez

Time for a little historical context, don't ya think?

True confession time: I grew up in California, and was a teenager during the days of the Valley Girl. That was the 1980s, for the spring chickens in the group. (Fer sure, fer sure.) And I knew how to talk like that.

Most of the Valley Girl slang disappeared from my conversation as I grew older, but unfortunately, the words "like" and "you know" have embedded themselves in my vocabulary. They have taken up residence and refuse to leave. (Oh, my children, and oh, the children of my heart, beware the habits you learn in your youth.) I have no one but myself to blame for this narration. Lol.

I'm going to see if we can rework some of this in a more 1860s context.

(Here is one of Mariel's more acceptable historic young person narrations.)

The Week in the News by Triss

"Unleaded" Isn't Just For Gas

Rebekah Wilson helps thousands of young girls learn to handsew through a series of storybooks. Her business, HOPE CHEST LEGACY, annually sells 8,000 books + 10,000 sewing kits.

Hope Chest Legacy shut down after selling as many products as possible before the "sweeping consumer safety laws" kicked in. There would have to be impossibly exspensive (sic) testing for her to check each of the books for lead in the ink, or lead in the needles of her kits. She can't afford it, because she runs a small business.

(Triss paraphrased this news story from the article, "Make That Unleaded," in the February 14, 2009 issue of World Magazine.)

The Uneasiness of the Time

"I am verily persuaded, God will bring some heavy affliction upon this land, and that speedily; but be of good comfort... If the Lord seeth it will be good for us, He will provide a shelter and a hiding place for us and others..."

--John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, writing of England in 1630

(The quote and the title of the post is taken from Churchill's _The New World_, Chapter 12)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Green Fields

How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus no longer I see!
Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flow'rs
Have all lost their sweetness to me!
The midsummer sun shines but dim
The fields strive in vain to look gay
But when I am happy in Him
December's as pleasant as May.

His name yields the richest perfume
And sweeter than music his voice
His presence disperses my gloom
And bids all within me rejoice
I should, were he always thus nigh,
Have nothing to wish or to fear
No mortal as happy as I
My summer would last all the year

Content with beholding his face
My all to his presence resigned
No changes of season or place
Would make any change in my mind
While blessed with a sense of his love
A palace, a toy would appear
And prisons would palaces prove
If Jesus would dwell with me there!

--John Newton

Friday, March 06, 2009

Two Anne Lamott Quotes

These are from her book, _Bird by Bird_. It is a book on writing, but as I read it I came to the conclusion that what she says about writing can be applied in other areas of life as well.

“And who knows? Maybe what you have written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don’t even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining."

I love that image.

"You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.”

I'd like to choose 'artist' in every job of my life. But I have to remind myself and consciously choose it every day, sometimes every hour, praying to the Lord for grace.

(Colossians 3:23-24)

Written Narration: A Letter

Mariel sometimes writes letters for her written history narrations, pretending to be a person living at the time of the great events she is reading about. I let her decide whether she wants to do this or a straight summary. Here is one she did this week on the marriage of Napoleon III of France (spelling, punctuation, etc., intact):

Dear Marie,

I must tell you that Napoleon III got married, to a Spainsh-Scottish lady named Eugenie. Her Father is a spanish count, and her mother is of scottish blood.

Napoleon III really did try to find a royal wife, but it seemed as though the royal houses of Europe were offering him SNOBS instead princesses! So he went back to France, and said, "I'm going to marry for love, even if she is a villiager."

A Marriage for love? The French were charmed. And Eugenie was a perfect choice. She gave her wedding gift of 240,000 Francs (I THINK THAT was the amount) to the sick, and her diamond necklace to be sold for the poor. Such a kind and gernous Empress never lived. But the gilded crown fell from the carriage, a bad Omen, n'est ces pas?*

Your Love,
Francisco Phillpe

*I copied that from book.

Bobcat Tracks and Pictures

As we read the Burgess Animal Book this morning, Cornflower wanted to see a bobcat in the hills of California, so we googled around and found this website.

Sinner's Friend

He dies! the friend of sinners dies!
And He died on the cross for sinners,
Lo! Salem's daughters weep around!
And He died on the cross for sinners.

I love my Lord, for He first loved me,
And He died on the cross for sinners.
I love my Lord, for He first loved me,
And He died on the cross for sinners.

(Isaac Watts, 1709/ J.P. Reese 1869)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Defense Against Depression

"A person slips into an hysteric state gradually, as a rule, generally beginning with slip-shod carelessness in personal habits, in the way of punctual rising, bathing dressing, etc., and that want of care extends to mental habits of reading, praying, thinking. Till anyone unhappily gets "off the line," it is perhaps impossible for him, or her, to realize what immense safe-guards are regular, well-acquired customs, carefully performed. If such fences be broken down, they must be restored with a greater number of firm supports, i.e., rules, than before. One of Miss Yonge's heroines speaks of self-made laws for study as being "so comfortable, a backbone for one's day"; and to carry the simile further, if rules are neglected from indolence and want of moral strength, we put ourselves in danger of spinal paralysis, which affects the whole frame. The first thing towards self-amendment would be to note wherein, during the day or night, one had become accustomed to fail or alter for the worse; habitual duties should be steadily gone through; if low spirits come at any special time, they should be guarded against by that particular hour being filled by some absorbing occupation; sometimes such feelings may arise from over-fatigue, or hunger, and a quiet reading or some food may be the required remedy.

"There are general rules of life good for everyone, but especially for the morbid, the vaguely dissatisfied, and the hysterical, type of mind; among these rules are, to put fresh life into old interests, and sometimes to branch out into new ones. Is it not Göethe who says there is always a fascination on the threshold of any new door? Life is so full of treasures, of beautiful sights and sounds, of friends, both our own personal ones, and those who are so, unknown to themselves, through our admiration and love for their character and works; of books, pictures, statuary, buildings, all which we can make ours by appreciation, of varied scenery to invigorate or sooth, that it seems a terrible waste if people wilfully shut their eyes to the joys of living, and only hysterically exist, self-absorbed in their own comfort or woes, saying of all higher things, if indeed able to perceive them, Cui bono?"

(from this Parent's Review article-- hat tip to Tim's Mom, who posted the link to one of the AO discussion boards.)

Written Narration: A Title

I convinced Triss to give me a current events narration this week, and she came up with the following title:

The Week In The News: In which the Presidency's connected to the Stock Market, and the Stock Market's connected to the Economy, and the Economy's connected to the Presidency

We have been reading _Oliver Twist as a family each day, and I think his long, descriptive titles are rubbing off on her.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Primeval Marine Reptiles

A joint narration by Cornflower and Mariel, after a reading from _Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day_ by Jeannie Fulbright. This narration illustrates the back and forth conversation that sometimes takes place when more than one child is involved in reading and narration.

Cornflower: We made a plesiosaur head in the front in our driveway and we made some teeth like miniature-sized bananas. And I think it wasn't a plesiosaur head. Plisiosaur? [She means pliosaur.]

Mariel: The pliosaur head we made was the size of a real pliosaur head and the teeth were the size of small bananas, but the teeth in real life were the size of bananas, not miniature bananas, or small bananas, but just bananas. Since you can see how long the head was, if the body was thirty feet long, we ought to draw it on the sidewalk to just see how big it would be. I would like to do that.

The plesiosaur itself was ovoviviparous and had a short neck and four flippers, and a lot of teeth. I would not like to run into any of these dinosaurs we are reading about while I was swimming

Cornflower: I kind of would. Not for the danger. So I could take a picture of them.

Mariel: What if you took a picture and your camera had no film and you were in danger? Why would you want to take that danger just for a picture?

Cornflower: I could be attached to a boat.

Mariel: Maybe you could go fossil hunting under the water and I might find some of those [pointing to a picture of gastroliths].

Cornflower: I wouldn't want to touch those.

Mariel: The gastroliths are probably clean by now.

Cornflower: Have you ever wondered if primeval monsters were really monsters?

Mariel: Well, they looked like monsters because the medieval sailors had never seen them.

Cornflower: Sometimes sailors are annoying.

Mariel: Let's go out later and make the body-- twenty-two feet long. We can turn his body onto the sidewalk, and make him running after little fishes.

Cornflower: And we'll make mermaids. And we'll each make a group of school fish, and a dolphin. You can make a shark.

Mariel: I don't want to make a shark.

Cornflower: Okay.

Mariel: It's only an hour until lunch break.

Cornflower: Let's make a great blue whale.

Mariel: How big are great blue whales again?

Narration of da Vinci

(As you may have noticed, I am posting more of the kids' narrations lately. I am trying to figure out some things, and posting the narrations is part of that. Here is one on Janson's The Story of Painting, written by Triss. She is doing notetaking for some of her narrations, but for this one I asked her to write a summary of what she knows of da Vinci. Spelling and punctuation are intact.)

In the Renaissance, it was not all painting + discovery (as some are led to think.) It was an age of great turmoil + unrest. My friend Mrs. Janson says "Perhaps this unsettled state of affairs gave men a better chance to stretch their minds."

Leonardo da Vinci thought of himself firstly as an artist, though he was nearly an all around genius. To him, "see" + "know" were the same. Now scientists put their knowledge in words, but in the Renaissance a picture was worth a thousand words. If you're interested in anything, Leonardo was too. He made flying machines + drew the inside of human bodies like a doctor + and was way ahead of his time in many fields. He even knew psychology!

Q- Why did the dumb blond doodle on her essay?
A- Because a picture is worth a thousand words!

(She also drew a sketch of the Mona Lisa.)

Shuffle-Shoon and Amber-Locks by Eugene Field

Shuffle-Shoon and Amber-Locks
Sit together, building blocks;
Shuffle-Shoon is old and grey,
Amber-Locks a little child,
But together at their play
Age and Youth are reconciled,
And with sympathetic glee
Build their castles fair to see.

"When I grow to be a man"
(So the wee one's prattle ran),
"I shall build a castle so
With a gateway broad and grand;
Here a pretty vine shall grow,
There a soldier guard shall stand;
And the tower shall be so high,
Folks will wonder, by-and-by!"

Shuffle-Shoon quoth: "Yes, I know;
Thus I builded long ago!
Here a gate and there a wall,
Here a window, there a door;
Here a steeple wondrous tall
Riseth ever more and more!
But the years have levelled low
What I builded long ago!"

So they gossip at their play,
Heedless of the fleeting day;
One speaks of the Long Ago
Where his dead hopes buried lie;
One with chubby cheeks aglow
Prattleth of the By-and-By;
Side by side, they build their blocks
Shuffle-Shoon and Amber-Locks.

Working Out Charlotte's Principles

This article by Art Middlekauff is one of the best Childlight blog posts I have read in awhile.

Unless you count this one by Lisa Caldera. She hits on some things that I can see are lacking (or are, unfortunately, included) in our own home environment.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Another Written Narration

Here is another of Mariel's recent narrations. I asked her to give me a complete retelling, including the main ideas and some details. (I have noticed that she gives me a complete retelling of the beginning of a section, and then peters out before providing the end of an episode. The reading that goes with this narration was three pages long, and she chose to read the entire three pages before beginning her writing.) It took her over forty-five minutes to handwrite her retelling. I'm leaving her spelling, etc., intact:

In the 1850's, there was a certain number of people that had to live in a place (they were called Territories) for it to become a state. Then they had to decide if the state was going to be a free state, or a slave state.

Now, California was full of people, mines for them to work in, and towns. These were hardworking people, so when the word came that the Californians wanted to be made into a state, there were no arguements about whether or not it would be made into a slave state. But now there were 31 states, and 31 doesn't divide evenly, so the slave states got up in arms about it. Do you remember Henry Clay? He suggesetted the Missiouri Comprimise. So he, now an old man, Suggestted another comprimise. I don't remember how, what it was called, but I do know that this was Henry Clay's last political act.


Monday, March 02, 2009

A Reader

Triss’ acting class is next door to a used bookstore. I had to bring her sisters tonight, and we spent the hour looking at books. I headed straight to the educational things as if compelled, thinking, “Do you *really* want to look at shelves that remind you of things you are not doing? Why not find something enjoyable to read instead?” As I struggled to walk away, Cornflower approached me with a Borrowers book.

“Can we get this?” She asked. “It’s only fifty cents.”

It was a thick book, thicker than she normally likes. She’s just eight, and does enjoy chapter books, but only slim chapter books. I looked into her face and was surprised to see her eagerness.

She is the kind of girl that enjoys clothes and hairdos and nail polish. She had had the same look on her face last night while begging me to give her an old container of eye shadow. I didn’t really think of her as a big reader, although she does enjoy books. She is more of a dolly and dress-up and active kind of girl. Recently, she had asked me several times to pick out some of our own books that would be good reads for her, and I had rejoiced to see her interest.

But I didn’t realize she had developed taste. Usually when we go to bookstores I spend the time telling her, “No, we are not buying a Dora the Explorer/Disney/Scooby Doo book,” or else trying to ignore her choices as she pulls ‘marketing ploy’ books off the shelf to read while in the store. Rather impressed, I said, “Sure, we can get this book!”

She handed it to me and walked off.

Turning from the educational section to the section on writing, I found a book I had wanted for two years, and sat down to enjoy it. It started out every bit as good as I had thought it would be. About halfway through the first chapter, Cornflower approached again.

“Mom, look what I found!”

She had a couple of other books. One was a reprint of an old book about a doll, the most wonderful doll in the world, it said. It looked promising. The other was a retelling of Gulliver’s Travels. It was abridged, but hey! she was recognizing classics. They were fifty cents apiece. Quality *and* thrift! Gotta love it.

“Where are you finding these?” I asked.

She led me to the clearance cart. I began going through one side, she went to the other, and in a moment, handed me a book through the cart. “Look at this one, Mom!” It was an abridgement of Heidi.

“It’s abridged, honey, but that is such a nice picture on the cover.”

“Here, Mom. Look at this one.” It was a retelling of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. “And look!” A thin Scholastic of one of the Orphan Train books.

I was finding a lot of junk on my side. I went to hers. It was full of junk, too. She was culling through the twaddle to pull out more acceptable titles. Eight years old.

She found a book by Astrid Lindgren and another little Scholastic book that looked pretty good for an easier chapter book. “Can we get all these?”

Well… I didn’t really want to spend the money, but look at the girl, full of hope and desire for good things. “Sure!”

We carried our finds to a couple of library stepstools and sat down. “Mom—can I get you a basket?” she asked. “Please, please, please!” she added under her breath.

I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. “Yes. A basket is just what I need. How thoughtful.”

She proudly went off to procure that Shopper’s Badge. She is such a girl.

When she came back, she sat down and laid her head on my shoulder. I read my excellent book, she read hers, and I realized it doesn’t get much better than this.

(Note: I asked the cashier if he had heard about CPSIA and he said, yes, that they had removed all the pre-1985 childrens books and were storing them in a central warehouse-- the bookstore is part of a chain-- until someone figures out what to do with them. He said that he expects they will have a huge sale on pre-1985 childrens' books eventually-- after the law gets fixed, he said. I didn't think to ask if they were accepting pre-1985 books, but they probably are not. A couple of the books Cornflower picked out were copyrighted previous to 1985, but I don't know how to tell what year a book was printed, so I don't know if we might have gotten some that slipped through the cracks. I would look them over more closely, but she is very attached to her books and has taken them all to bed with her.)

(Updated to add this link to a blog written by a Half-Price Books employee who had to personally pull all suspect books from her store's shelves a few weeks ago. Half-Price Books is the store referred to in my story above.)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

He Loves Us as His Eyes

A written narration by Mariel on an episode in the biography of Lilias Trotter (everything was spelled correctly! I am leaving in her punctuation, etc., this time.):

I think my favorite part is when L.T. came across a woman who was tightly hugging a little girl. L.T. stopped + said "You love that little girl." "Yes," she said, "She is as my eyes." L.T. said, "God loves us that way too." She passed on, but she heard a boy tell another, "God loves me like His Eyes! Hooray!"

I say hooray too.