Thursday, April 30, 2009

Looking 'Round

Well, I gave in. I started reading everyone's blogs again, although I am still not caught up on my Bible reading. I found lots to interest me, but the most interesting (and sad) thing about getting back to reading blogs-- aside from the fact that I broke a commitment*-- is how inferior I feel as a homeschooler after reading all the cool things everyone else is doing.

No matter that we are doing cool things too.

No matter that we are doing just what we need to do at this time.

No matter that NO ONE is doing it all.

Oh, that horrid, achievement-oriented mindset. I despise the thing. When will it go away? I sometimes think I have gotten rid of it, but it comes back when I am not looking.


Off to pray for a more humble, faithful way of thinking.

*(I haven't given up the commitment of reading the Bible in a year. I just really wanted to take a peek at what everyone was up to.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All Geeked Up

We enjoy the Bard. We like his plays, and we like his sonnets, and we think he is funny. And his people feel real.

We found out recently that there is a Brit in our area that goes around impersonating the great man and teaching about his life. This past week was Shakespeare's birthday, and when the kids and I learned that a local British grocery store was giving him a birthday party, complete with an appearance by Mr. Shakespeare himself, of course we had to go.

Triss and Mariel begged to be allowed to wear costumes.

Cornflower, who prefers to fly under the radar, did not dress up, but her two sisters went as Beatrice and Hero, and we got there a half hour early, thinking that with Mr. Shakespeare himself making an appearance, we would need that edge in order to get a close seat.

Surprisingly, not everyone in our metropolitan area felt the same eager enthusiasm to meet Mr. Shakespeare, and we were the first ones there. Aside from the store owners, of course, who were very friendly. We used the time to browse through the store looking at everything. Quite fun it was, too.

Finally, Mr. Shakespeare came out. A very nice man, he quizzed us on the location and date of his birth (1564 at Stratford-Upon-Avon), the name of his theater (the Globe), its location (it was south of the Thames in London). He showed us the church record of his baptism (a copy). He entertained us with a few quotes and some facts. The girls were enchanted. (We don't get many opportunities to hear Shakespeare quoted in a British accent.) They clutched their Complete Plays of William Shakespeare and eagerly attempted to answer his questions.

By this time a few other people had arrived. Some of the folks hurried up to him as soon as his presentation was done and asked him to sign his autograph, which he gladly did. These folks were teenagers. "How nice!" I thought, "That all these teens are so interested in such a great playwright." I beamed with pride for North Texas.

Then one of the kids said, "We need your autograph for extra credit in a class," and the entire group walked out, never to return. As they left, one of the moms said brightly, "Well, that was fun! And you learned some facts!"


I began to grieve a little within myself.

The girls had questions, and Mr. Shakespeare talked with us some more, about Hamlet and writing plays, and Shakespeare memorabilia, and the best Shakespeare purchases to make, and what his (the actor's) life was like when he lived in England, and what made him move to Texas.

He flattered me at one point, saying, "So you've taught them everything they know about Shakespeare, wow!"

I didn't know what to say then. Because all we do is read his plays. I think Shakespeare teaches them more about Shakespeare than I do.

We had a great time visiting-- everyone was very friendly. There was tea, biscuits, and a birthday cake, and we took the opportunity to purchase some British food for a tea party at home(marmalade, packets of blancmange mix, Devon cream and Eccles cakes).

He made another little presentation after a bit, which we missed because we had wandered outside to stretch our legs. But when we came back, he obligingly went through it again. He talked to us about the play, Richard II (which we are currently reading), and the Earl of Essex and Elizabeth I. He then recited a sonnet, and we thought it was very well done.

We finally left, but not before I realized something. We are real geeks. Shakespeare geeks. And I like it that way.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Seen on a binder in our schoolroom:

Do not oPen!
If you do The
Saxons + The normans
will attak


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jane, Helen and Charles the First

Triss has made it to the period of the English Civil War in history, and we are both reading _A Coffin for King Charles_ with much interest. As I sat with the book tonight, preparing for next week's lessons, I remembered a reference to King Charles made by Charlotte Bronte in the novel, _Jane Eyre_.

(I think I must have remembered the reference because Triss and I had been talking earlier about whether or not Helen Burns was a boring character, being chiefly good. I maintain that she is interesting; Triss disagrees.)

In order to tell about the reference, I want to give some background:

In the novel, young Jane is at a school for destitute girls, and meets a patient and quietly noble student named Helen Burns. Helen is a deep thinker, and frequently forgets to put her things in order, or to wash her hands and face, etc., and is frequently given grief by one of the schoolteachers, Miss Scatcherd.

Jane has just been brought to the school and placed in one of the forms, or classes, which all meet in one large room, each with a different teacher. (I wonder how that would work nowadays, as distracted as kids get sometimes.) She hears Miss Scatcherd get onto Helen Burns repeatedly, and her warm temper stirs within her. After classtime is over, she asks Helen how she can bear to be treated in such a way.

"And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist
her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand;
I should break it under her nose,

"Probably you would do nothing of the sort: but if you did, Mr.
Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great
grief to your relations. It is far better to endure patiently a
smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action
whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and
besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil."

"But then it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to
stand in the middle of a room full of people; and you are such a
great girl: I am far younger than you, and I could not bear it."

"Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it:
it is weak and silly to say you CANNOT BEAR what it is your fate to
be required to bear."

I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of
endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with the
forbearance she expressed for her chastiser. Still I felt that
Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I
suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the
matter deeply; like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.

This is an interesting conversation, is it not? But where is Charles I? After Jane asks for and Helen gives a listing of her faults, they speak of a lesson in which Helen was very attentive and gave every correct answer-- only to be reprimanded for dirty fingernails by the impatient Miss Scatcherd. Helen tells Jane:

"It was mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading had
interested me. This afternoon, instead of dreaming of Deepden, I
was wondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustly
and unwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought what
a pity it was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he
could see no farther than the prerogatives of the crown. If he had
but been able to look to a distance, and see how what they call the
spirit of the age was tending! Still, I like Charles--I respect
him--I pity him, poor murdered king! Yes, his enemies were the
worst: they shed blood they had no right to shed. How dared they
kill him!"

I find it very interesting that Charlotte Bronte decided to use this particular episode of history to illustrate Helen's thoughtfulness. The upheaval of Charles the First's argument with Parliament is a conflict in which it is very difficult to pinpoint who was in the right. And both sides thought that God acted with them.

(Personally, I think there is a great deal of history, I mean a GREAT deal of history, that the Lord does not reveal His 'side' on. This is one reason I dislike curricula that tell me "God in His providence ordained...", etc. How do they know? History is performed by sinful men, on both sides, and the lines of 'good' and 'bad' are not usually drawn clearly.)

Update: I don't think I am expressing myself very clearly on the above point. Something bothers me about it. I *do* believe that the Lord acts providentially, but I do *not* agree that He predestines events. I kind of wish I hadn't put my thoughts out there on this subject, but since I did, I guess I will leave it. I just don't like it when a publisher puts its own spin on historic events, many of which are determined by the ineptitude of man. I'm still not explaining myself clearly. :sigh: I think history should be reported and analyzed from the standpoint of human nature, and I do think that God intervenes in the events of man, but delineating that in a history book is a difficult path to tread, and is rarely done with restraint. Hopefully that is a little clearer.

Helen, although clearly a force for good in the novel, _Jane Eyre_, had many faults (most of which annoyed Miss Scatcherd). She did not know how to be careful not to offend. And she sympathized with Charles the First, who was really in the same boat-- with high thoughts of God and his duty as a Christian, he continually offended with his actions, and eventually was beheaded by men who thought highly of God as well.

I love what she says about Charles not seeing which direction the spirit of the age was tending-- this is addressed in the editor's preface of _A Coffin for King Charles_, the book Triss and I are reading:

Human beings caught in these concatenations of forces, these cataclysms, stumble along as best they can, but blindly, not knowing where they are being carried.

In the midst of dramatic change, it is difficult to see the forest for the trees. The steps of the movers and shakers (and the common people as well) become unsure and unsteady, treading ground that hasn't been gone over before.

How could he have understood the spirit of the age? I wonder if any of us could? But if you are a king, much is expected of you. Wedgwood, and even Churchill, state that Charles had history on his side, because the prerogative of kings had been honored for centuries, and even Elizabeth I, Mary I and Henry VIII, dealing with the stirrings of what Charles I faced, had successfully avoided the question of the divine right of kings. Charles did not. He wasn't the statesman he needed to be, perhaps.

Now, the Bible does tell us that God is no respecter of persons. That seems to take the royal prerogative off the table. But it also says "honor the king", and that the king's power is given (and taken away) by the Lord. Hmm.

And the question becomes whether or not he acted properly as king, and whether or not the Parliament acted legally, the English laws being based on the discovery of natural laws (English Common Law) and not on the whim of a governing body.

Okay, I'm rambling now. I'll be quiet. But I wonder what Bronte was saying about Charles I when she allowed Helen Burns to champion him in _Jane Eyre_?

Books referenced in this post include:

*Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
*A Coffin for King Charles by C.V. Wedgwood
*The New World by Winston Churchill

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thoughts on School and Wii Fit and Blogging

I haven't posted to my blog for a couple of weeks. I have been having lots of face time with my kids. ;o) You know, the kind where you actually look in their eyes while they are speaking to you? I am notoriously bad about trying to do several things at once and giving people half (or less than half) of my attention.

We are in the last four weeks before summer, and are slowly organizing the house now that extracurricular activities are gradually leaving the schedule. (I'd really like to paint, but haven't had the opportunity to do anything but the kids' bathroom. Perhaps this summer I can do more.) Our "books pending" shelf is almost empty of this year's schoolbooks, and I am beginning to load it with things for next year. Very exciting! Triss will be doing a year of American history and government, and my dad gave me quite a few books that fit right in, including three separate books on the Constitution! I will be challenged to select the best books for our situation and not overload Triss with too many assignments next year, there are so many excellent resources out there on this subject. I also found two copies of _Founding Brothers_ for a dollar apiece at HalfPrice Books last night. I bought both, because, more and more, the kids and I are feeling the need to each have a copy of the books we read aloud. We are all very visual. (I actually purchased two more sets of the complete works of Shakespeare a few weeks ago so we can all have our own copy of the current play without having to print a lot of material. Now we have three complete Shakespeares and I use the online Shakespeare, so each one of the four of us has the words of the Bard in front of us while we are reading.)

I received a Wii Fit program from my parents for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and have been working out every morning. I am feeling better than I have in awhile, and really appreciate the way the program is set up. The kids are working out on the program, too, although they are already in great shape. They motivate me to work harder so I can keep up!

I'm sure my friends irl are getting a little weary of my Wii Fit analogies, so I will share a couple of them here in the hopes that I can Stop Talking About It irl. (Our moms' book club was very forbearing with me the other night as I launched into my metaphors, lol.) This is one of the benefits of having a blog, imho.

First, the program gives you points for balance. There are four sections: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics and Balance Games. All but the Aerobics really focus on balance. It is so easy to get off balance! This has led to the kids and I talking about how when we try to compensate for something we know we are doing wrong, we often head too far in the other direction-- there is a subtlety to landing in the center. Also, focus is very important. If you aren't focusing on the muscles that are required for balancing on one foot, or walking with an even pace, your balance is going to be off. Also, that focus becomes automatic after you have worked on it for awhile. Habit training!! I hope these thoughts eventually flow over to our work on improving our habits in other areas.

On the exercise portion of the program, you are given Fit Credits for the amount of time you spend exercising. The goal is to collect 30 fit credits per day, which is 30 minutes of working out. But-- it is only the time you actually spend in exercise. (Do you see where this is going?) You don't get credit for the time spent switching, or doing the Body Test, or deciding what to do next, or getting a drink of water, or running to get something you forgot, or visiting for a moment about your great (or horrible) score on one of the games. You only get credit for your exercise time. When I first started, it took me an hour to get thirty fit credits, but now I have it down to about forty minutes.

This has excellent implications in terms of getting any kind of work done. If I need to do my dishes, and I get in there to do it, but first make myself a cup of coffee, begin emptying the dishwasher, then start looking at cookbooks in order to decide what to fix for supper, go back to emptying the dishwasher, realize I haven't put on makeup this morning and go do that real quick, get sidetracked by a book I was reading the night before and sit down to consume a quick chapter, go back to the dishes, stop and look outside at the huge roses my 8yodd wants to show me, then back to the dishes, and I realize it has been an hour since I started... I can't exactly say that it took me over an hour just to do the dishes, because I have been doing other things too, right?

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with stopping to smell the roses (or to decide what to fix for dinner). We moms often have 'the pace of a hen', and I think need to function in that way at least sometimes. But it is a good thing to realize that the actual act of doing dishes doesn't take that long, and this is true about many things.

And there is a problem with allowing students to think that one lesson in math or any other subject takes an hour, when they could have it finished in thirty minutes or less with complete focus.

On Wii Fit, every time you earn fit credits, a little time clock shaped like a pig falls down from the sky and little coins drop into it. The piggy shows you your accumulated minutes, and when you get to 30, it throws a little party, jumping up and down and showering confetti. Fun! So the other day the kids and I were working on something, and they were goofing off, and it occurred to me (for the nth time) that this is the reason four hours of work sometimes takes as long as six hours at our house. I asked them to think about the Piggy Minutes, and they loved the term, so now whenever anyone is dawdling at our house, someone is sure to say, "Look out! You aren't getting your Piggy Minutes!" which is easier to tolerate than saying, "Get back to work!" (I also say, "Focus!" but that is getting a little old.)

I think these benefits can be got with other types of exercise too, or drill, as CM called it. But I have been given this program, and am very pleased with it. I just love the yoga exercises. Sometimes I do the breathing for six minutes. I have had some problems with vocal production (in terms of singing) for the past year, and couldn't figure out what was going on, but after using the Wii Fit I realized my center of balance was off and I had begun breathing backward (tightening my abs as I breathed *in* instead of as I breathed *out*). I have had much better vocal production in the last week. Yay! I was beginning to think that I was getting over the hill in terms of voice, but I was just not focusing correctly.

That's all I have that's new at this point. I am getting so excited about next year's school, though. As I said before, Triss will be studying American history and gov't in depth, and Cornflower will be going into AO Year 3, which is one of my favorites-- full of discovery and invention and beauty. Mariel is maturing into Year 6, and I think will do well studying a bit of 20th century history and then two terms of ancients. All in all, next year promises to be fascinating, and I feel enthusiastic about planning it.

I have been staying away from reading blogs lately in order to catch up on Bible reading, and I am still not caught up, so I don't know when I will get back into the swing of keeping up with everyone. I went on a couple of blogs last night to get some info for a friend, and could feel myself being drawn into everybody's exceedingly interesting thoughts. I had to make myself stop, because it does take a lot of time to read, even on feeds, and I have been doing so much better at focusing on what is happening at our house, I don't want to lose that focus. Once I get completely on track with Bible reading, though, I will see if I can bring blog-reading back in-- with balance. :O)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Psalm 34

I cannot sleep tonight. Many things seem hanging in the balance, and I feel like I need to stay up and watch. Or maybe it is the junk I ate today. I've been catching up on my Psalms reading a little, and this one is so comforting.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul will make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.

The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.

Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?

Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Thoughts on Leviticus

I finished Leviticus. That is a challenging book to get through, but I wish I had read it all the way through earlier in life. Even though we don't have to go through all the ritual and sacrifice and extreme step-by-step cleansing that the Israelites were required to undertake, reading what the Lord used to instruct them into a knowledge of His righteousness is very convicting. It brings home even further the fact that one time is not as good as another, that small changes in procedure can make for big differences in result, and that little deviations in direction often result in missing the mark.

I am so glad we have Jesus for our Saviour, and are not dependent on our own righteousness!

It is humbling to realize that we cannot even reach the bottom of the requirements necessary to save ourselves from sin; it is also humbling to understand that the above principles apply not just in an eternal way, but also to the steps we take on this earth. Here on earth we *do* "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling", and reading the book of Leviticus has illustrated to me how much care and attention ought to be given to choosing the right way, and walking in it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Exam Narration: Reasons to Immigrate

By Triss-- a summation of a portion of the Mayflower chapter in Winston Churchill's _The New World_. I like the ideas presented. She had a little difficulty describing the English government and the nature of work in the New World, but also had some apt thoughts. I think we will work this up into a more polished composition in the next couple of weeks.

There were a lot of good reasons to head to the New World in the 1600s. One was religious freedom, one was more space, and one was more advantages.

Everyone knows the story of the pilgrims and how they left England so they could practice their own faith and not the Church of England's. A lot of people don't hear the background story. The Puritans had hoped that James I would support them when he came to the throne, because of his Protestant upbringing, but James wanted everyone to belong to the Church of England. The Puritans left for the New World because they wanted to make their own religious choices (but stay English, as they would not have done if they had stayed in Holland.)

In England, it was crowded! There were plenty of people who were English by birth and heritage, but also people who had come to this "America of the 17th Century" simply for what it was-- an amazing monarchy/commonwealth, where people had a say in what went on in their lives and what happened to the government. England seemed so inviting that it was overpopulated, and people began to move to the new England, America.

That brings me to my next point, because with so many people in England only a few could do anything with their lives. There was an enormous poverty rate because of too many people and not enough jobs. People figured that in the New World, there would be fewer people and more jobs, and therefore better chances and more advantages in whatever field of work they were in.

A lot of people moved from England to America, for a lot of different reasons. There were a lot of good reasons to move to the New World, aa few of which I have just explained to you.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Two Things

It may not seem like these two quotes relate, but they are simmering together in my mind:

The life of the mind grows upon ideas.

--CM Volume 2 p. 29


My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

--James 1:2-8

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pagoo's Adventure in Deep Hole

We have been doing mini-terms of six weeks each for the last few months, and I really like this format, as it gives the routines a chance to settle in, as well as allowing us to change up what is not working after six weeks. All of that to say we are having exams for the last three days of this week, and I want to share one of Cornflower's exam narrations. She considers _Pagoo_ by Holling C. Holling one of her "worst books", but did a detailed and dramatic retelling of Pagoo's adventure in Deep Hole-- just goes to show that even a book that a child isn't fond of may catch his or her imagination. (There are a couple of vocabulary mix-ups that we talked about later.) This was an oral narration recorded onto the computer-- I typed it out afterward.

I am going to tell you about Pagoo's adventure in Deep Hole. Now, Pagoo had-- there was a fish darting at Pagoo, and there was this big hole that the fish wouldn't go in, so Pagoo jumped into the hole, and the fish kept on staring at him for awhile until he got bored of staring at him!

Now, there was a cave in this hole, and in that cave was an octopus. And I will describe the octopus to you soon. And he-- the octopus had went-- there were a lot of shells there, and the one that Pagoo was wearing was too small, and Old Instinct said for him not to go over there to get some shells! But Pagoo was tired of Old Instinct! He did not want to listen to him anymore. He decided, "I will do what I want!"

So he went over and got some shells-- and picked out a shell-- and then he saw the octopus. He was eating a hermit crab [Mom's note: it was actually a snail]. Pagoo was very scared. Now, this is how the octopus ate the hermit crab. Now, you see, the octopus didn't just take its fin and grab the hermit crab. He took his tentacles on his arm-- little things that look like little-- I don't know what you call them, but they stick to your counter*. And they were on the inside of his arm, on the side where our palm is. They're little circle round things, and he caught him in one tentacle and gave the hermit crab to the other tentacle and he made the other tentacle give it to the other tentacle and so on and so on.

Now, Pagoo was very scared. He wanted to run, so he started, and he tried to climb up the deep hole, but the octopus caught sight of him and grabbed him. But he had a good getaway. He wasn't eaten.

*She means suction cups.