Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ice Skating and Fiscal Responsbility

A few years back, the local ice skating rink offered homeschool ice skating classes at a reasonable rate, and we took them up on it, along with several other homeschool families in the area. The girls and I both enjoyed visiting with friends every Thursday, and the kids got some exercise and training in a sport-- bringing their bodies under subjection. It was very good.

And Mariel was *very* good. I mean, she is talented at ice skating. Her sisters are good, too, but Mariel has the risk-taking and high energy needed to really excel at this sport, and she intuitively knows how to spin and when to jump. She and her sisters wanted to keep taking lessons after they passed through the levels taught in the homeschool classes. A beginning ice skating coach agreed to teach all three of them in one private lesson, and we were off.

There was a small problem, though. Finances. It is *expensive* to get into ice skating. You pay for the skates, and the rink fees, and the coaching tuition and the competition fees and the costumes. We kept up the semi-private lessons for around six months (I think) using rental skates and barely scraping up rink fees, and then the girls' coach said she would like Mariel to enter a competition in the spring. There would be a competition fee and she would require a costume, and it might be a good idea to get her some better skates-- the blades on rental skates are so warped that they interfere with performance.

It was then that Mr. Honey and I realized that pursuing ice skating for even one of our three was not sustainable in our current financial situation-- that no matter how good it would be for our girl, we would be sacrificing other, weightier matters, to give her this dream.

This is a sad story, isn't it? I mean, we all want to give our kids the best. But there are limits to what we can give.

We talked to Mariel and explained that we just couldn't keep paying for the sport. We explained that if she really wanted to do it, she needed to work hard and save up money so we knew she was serious, and then we would put in as much as we could. She would probably have to get her lessons, skates, costumes and competitions in fits and starts, but would still be able to do her sport.

Now, a wise person would have counted the cost before committing and not have broken her daughter's heart. I never said we were wise. But we do learn lessons when experience knocks us over the head.

It just struck me as I was reading this article on the sustainability of government entitlement programs, that our government needs to learn the lesson that Mr. Honey and I learned in the ice skating situation and that Europe is now learning: if you commit to spending you cannot sustain, something will have to give down the road.

Let's say, in theory, that passing one of the recent spending bills in Congress would be (or was) a good thing. If the United States was the responsible head of a family, it would need to decide what it was going to eliminate from the budget in order to fit this new good thing into the budget.

But, as the article points out, once a popular government starts handing out money, it isn't strong enough to repeal those entitlements.

No joke. It was incredibly difficult as parents to backtrack with the ice skating. We did it because it was necessary, and we were able to do it because our household is not a democracy, nor even a republic. But it made us unpopular for awhile. And in a popular government, it is very hard to sustain your majority when you are unpopular.

We can only be a republic if we as a people have the integrity to deny ourselves. We are not superhumans-- our government is not immune to laws of economics. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for what someone else gets for free, and eventually the people paying get discouraged.

(I understand that some folks are in horrid financial straits, and all I am saying here is that if our government is going to help those folks, it needs to cut programs somewhere else. Money, like time, is finite.* However, my personal political belief is that help and relief ought to come from the private sector as much as possible, and that government's job is defense and infrastructure. Mr. Honey and I give as much as we can to worthy causes because of this belief. Of course, we are also paying for government entitlement programs. Think what we could do if we were free to focus our giving on organizations we feel are doing the best job helping folks.)

*((By this statement I mean that when you are doing a budget, there is a finite amount of money you can reasonably count on. I realize that in saying that 'money is finite' I open up the argument of wealth creation vs. spreading the wealth. I haven't studied enough to know my position on that issue. But we can all agree that there is a finite amount of money an entity can reasonably count on when figuring out a budget.))

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Education: the Knowledge of Man-- History

This is a continuation of my narration notes on Chapter 5 of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book, _For the Children's Sake_. If you haven't read it yet, I highly encourage you to put down whatever other educational reading you are doing and read her book. She is the daughter of Francis Schaeffer and her children attended a PNEU school in England in the 20th Century. She articulates CM's ideas in a way extremely relevant to our era.

When Mr. Honey and I first began considering homeschooling twelve years ago, this was the first book given us to read, followed closely by the Clarksons' _Educating the Wholehearted Child_ and books by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. We were right on the edge of the explosion in homeschool publishing that took place in the mid- to late-90s, and so got the tail-end of "pioneer" encouragement, if you know what I mean. These books have served us well, and continue to provide guidance through the sea of choices, encouraging us to revel in the Christian liberty that homeschooling ought to celebrate.

On to the narration notes on history (my own comments on the reading are in brackets, Macaulay's own words are in quotation marks, and my paraphrase is written as the regular text):

Our aim in history, as in all subject areas, is honesty and the truth. An education in history ought not to focus on the teacher's own opinion or agenda, but present the ideas that have been acted upon in history, together with their consequences. In this way, we raise up citizens with the ability to discern properly the absolutes that ought to govern any people, and thus make wise decisions concerning government, both personal and civil.

"It is important for the young person to know that there is a great deal to be said on both sides."

[Several years back, my dad and I were having a discussion on the teaching of history. He was helping me to pick out some books for the kids. I will always remember his comment: "the best thing you can say about history is that it is interesting." He was making the point that history is not simple. There is a great deal to admire and deplore on both 'sides' of an issue.]

"A memory feat is not the first aim as we teach history. How do we awaken the child to the interest and fascination of this study?"

It is vital that the child read well-written books that give the flow of chronological history. Events do not happen in a vacuum, and a student needs to see what came before in order to understand what happened after.

The student must be allowed adequate leisure to immerse himself in an era of history, to experience the 'feel' of the time period. Let him read biographies of the great and small, and as much source material as you can. If the child cannot read well-written accounts himself, then read aloud to him. Discuss whether this person should have done what he did, what would have happened if he had done differently, and what happened next. These questions will most likely arise from the child himself.

Avoid cut-and-dried opinions on history as much as possible. Textbooks present dry facts and connect the dots so conveniently that the student's work is reduced to "swallow and regurgitate". Resist your temptation as teacher to 'become the textbook' in this way. Remember, we are not "oracles", but fellow pilgrims walking alongside on the journey. Allow the child to feel the tug of conscience that real people must have experienced in this or that conflict.

We must make use of the child's interest and what we find in the community around us as well as following a systematic study of history. Thus, a family living in the Philippines, or Ukraine, or other country, would make use of the culture around them to illustrate the truth that "other peoples are as we are, with a difference, that their history is as ours, with a difference, that they too have their literature and their national life." But even here in the States we have subcultures to explore.

A study of history ought to give the student a vision of the parade of people and events that has brought us to our current era. Have the child tell back a reading (what he got out of it), and then provide a book of time in which to write the names of people and events in order. Another great idea is to make a scroll of illustrations-- have the student draw one picture per reading. This gives the child an individual record of the book that has become a personal experience to him.

[I did this with one of my children with Pilgrim's Progress and Robinson Crusoe-- neither of which are actual histories, but both give a flavor of the time in which they were written. This particular child really loves drawing, while the other two tend more toward verbal expression. We still treasure her Robinson Crusoe pictures. I had forgotten about this type of timeline, and ought to use the idea again, even with my more 'writing-oriented' students.]

Conducting a study of history in this way will give the child a sense of man's place in history. The student will tend toward the view of history, literature, and geography, as ways in which man has put ideas into play, interacted with the world around him and with other people. Poetry, religious expression and scientific discovery will be set against the background of the historical moment. It will broaden his understanding in a way that facts-and-figures study simply cannot.

[As CM said, "Education is the science of relations." How does one event relate to another? How did an idea give rise to later ideas and actions? What were the consequences? Are we experiencing those consequences even today? Where do we fit in the flow of history?]

"Other aspects of human history will be seen in relationship to each other-- art, music, architecture, governmental forms, laws, social and economic history."

Thoughts on the New Term

Today is the day. I need to figure out what is going and what is staying for the remaining twelve weeks or so of school. (It is actually more like fourteen or fifteen weeks, but we are taking a couple of breaks in that time.)

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am reading Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book, _For the Children's Sake_. I plan on narrating out a couple more chapters, too, because evidently I just don't get it. I have sensed that I don't get it for some time now, and had started rereading Macaulay before I found this statement by Cindy, regarding Ambleside Online Years 1 and 2. We aren't in those years anymore, but the spirit of this statement exactly fits my situation:

You can read everything you need to read in a 1 to 2 hour period. If it takes longer than that or if you are tempted to add workbooks, you don't get it. Go back and read Susan Schaeffer MacCaulay or Charlotte's Original Series.
The hardest thing about the liberal arts or a Charlotte Mason education is: not adding the superfluous in order to make your mom feel better.

My job today is to discover and eliminate the superfluous, and purpose to sink our teeth into what is left.

I think one of the reasons I am not willing to leave well enough alone is that we are not having enough communication as a family where ideas are concerned. Thus, I crave "parlor tricks", rather than attentively and serenely tending the children's education.

I think doing more along the lines of Morning Time, a la Cindy, will help us reestablish lines of communication. So I am off to research this. But for now, I leave you Cindy's post on Homeschooling the Freeborn. Much food for thought there.

Zeal... or Fidgets?

I found this quote on the Ordo Amoris blog. I imagine Cindy has had it as part of her header for some time, but I usually read her posts through Bloglines. Shows what you miss when you don't go directly to a blog to read it!

Don’t be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn’t do. Each must do his duty ‘in that state of life to which God has called him.’ Remember that a belief in the virtues of doing for doing’s sake is characteristically feminine, characteristically American, and characteristically modern: so that three veils may divide you from the correct view! There can be intemperance in work just as in drink. What feels like zeal may be only fidgets or even the flattering of one’s self-importance. As MacDonald says, ‘In holy things may be unholy greed!’ And by doing what ‘one’s station and its duties’ does not demand, one can make oneself less fit for the duties it does demand and so commit some injustice. Just you give Mary a chance as well as Martha!

C.S. Lewis, Letters to An American Lady

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Exam Week: One Question, Two Answers

While I think it is important for kids to know the facts in a given subject area, I also want them to connect with a subject on their own terms. Kids' answers to open-ended questions often illustrate the individuality of their experiences with this or that resource. I do work on facts with the girls (and even drill memory work), because they need to understand the textbook difference between a major and a minor key in music, for instance. But I also want to honor the way God made their minds different from one another. For many questions, there is not one pat answer. As adults, we are called upon to think creatively in many situations. Life is not multiple choice. So I love open-ended CM-type questions.

Below is a music appreciation question I asked all three of my kids, followed by two of their answers (Aravis has been too sick this week to do much in the way of narrating, but she was feeling much better last night):

Question: Tell about Grieg's composition, "Piano Concerto in A".

Answer by Cornflower, 3rd grade-- It starts angry as if something bad happens. Then it calms down and kind of jumps, then gets softer, faster, louder, quieter, slows down, and wavers; but goes to major, then minor, and major, minor, major, minor, major, then starts going faster. LOUD! PERCUSSION! Simple piano, quiet. Loud! Really loud! Now it's major, minor, stays minor for awhile, gets louder, quiets down, but fast. Loud, soft. Louder, dribbles, then goes into minor... BOOM! Goes down, soft, with feeling. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Soft. Very silent. Gets louder, Goes down, then... the main theme! BOOM!

Answer by Mariel, 6th grade-- In the beginning, it sounds like a wizard, then he runs away and fairies come out and dance and sweep away all traces of the wizard. Then little imps come on and chase away the fairies. But then the birds chase away the imps and a nymph comes into the grove of trees and dances for a time and then all the birds and faires and imps come back and dance too, and the wizard is watching, and he then comes in.

And everything is quiet for the wizard, and everything is bowing to the wizard, except the nymph, and there are also dryads and fauns and naiads that have come in with little forest animals. Then at the end there is a wedding of the nymphs and the wizard, and they dance while everybody else quietly creeps away except the birds. They fly around the wizard and the nymph. Then the curtain drops.

I see a couple of inaccuracies in these narrations, and maybe a bit more fantasy than I would wish, but they aren't "wrong". The piece really does sound like that. I will visit with the girls about their narrations and correct any facts that went awry. But they have done some out-of-the-box thinking on a piece of music.

Exam Week: Bacon's Rebellion

This written narration is by Cornflower, 3rd grade, AO Year 3. I corrected spelling and punctuation for ease of reading on the blog.

Question: What do you know about the colony of Virginia?

The colony of Virginia was attacked many times, but rebuilt. Then one day they attacked but the governor ignored the Indians. So a man named Bacon went and fought the Indians. He won. But next thing he knew he was in the House of Burgesses. The governor asked, "What did you do?"

"Fight for my colony."

"WITHOUT PERMISSION!!!" [Caps in original]

So Bacon was thrown in prison and Mr. Berkeley, the governor, resigned. And many people were hung for helping Bacon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Education: The Knowledge of God

As I mentioned before, I am rereading Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book, _For the Children's Sake_. These are narration notes I took on a portion of Chapter 5, "Education: the Science of Relations". It has been very interesting to read this book again after studying Charlotte Mason's own writings and then reading Francis Schaeffer's book, _The God Who is There_ with my 15yo in the past couple of months. I feel like I understand Macaulay better than I did eleven years ago when I picked up her book for the first time, and I hope these ideas work into positive applications as I continue to facilitate the girls' education.

(FYI: These are rough notes, and some of the words are actually quotes from the book. I ought to have put quotes around them, but I wanted to hit 'publish' before picking Mariel up from orchestra rehearsal.)

Narration notes:

A child is not a piece of paper to load up with facts and figures, and a child is also not a weed to leave unattended. Education is about opening doors to relationships—providing opportunities for children to walk through those doors. Education should not be chancy. This will play out differently for different kids. Education takes place both in and out of school.

The most important knowledge is the knowledge of God. Parents who believe that God is there will almost unconsciously include the existence of God in the atmosphere they provide their children. Children shy away from too much sermonizing, though. It is important to respect the child and not act as if we have all the answers. We are fellow pilgrims, after all, and the child has just as much ability to commune with the Lord as we do. Children deserve to read an actual Bible, or have it read to them. They do not need it predigested. In CM’s schools, appropriate Bible passages were chosen, a few vocabulary words discussed, perhaps a map briefly consulted, and then they read.

Reading the Bible is like planting a seed in the ground. Understanding and comprehension doesn’t sprout all at once, but grows a leaf at a time. A child may grasp one aspect of the passage at one time, and, as he ponders afterward, other aspects are gradually revealed to him.

Before children care to be good, they must feel allegiance to their King. Parents unconsciously encourage this by their own allegiance to Christ—by living in daily reverence and loyalty toward Christ, the King. In this way, it is part of the air the child breathes, and the child is brought up in fealty to the Lord. [Not mentioned in the book, but the Holy Spirit has a lot to do with whether the child ‘cares to be good’, also.]

It is vital that we share the story of Jesus with children, so that they may know that they are saved from their sins—that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ. This knowledge saves them from guilt—allows the burden of sin to fall away. The child should also be told of the Holy Spirit, who helps us every day.

There is a fine line between sharing these things and being overbearing. We need to pray that the Lord will help us to be wise in discerning it.

How to deal with threats to Christian thought, though? Not by cocooning ourselves and the children in more and more ‘Christian material’, but by listening to the culture with our children and discussing the ideas put forth. Let them think about the dilemma of the non-Christian. They will want to talk and ask questions.

(This doesn’t mean we drag ourselves and our kids through degradation and evil. We have to be wise about what they are exposed to. Some things will have to be shut out, some things must be discussed and understood, and there is even a category we can enjoy.)

Certain aspects of childhood encourage a relationship with God: a foundation in the Bible, living with parents who trust God and share real life questions and God-sent answers with their children, and a wholesome child-life of play, imagination and liberty within boundaries. Also, listening in on conversations about things that matter, with people who hold a variety of viewpoints. Honest questions and honest answers. This kind of conversation teaches the child to bring all his power of thought in order to understand the depth and breadth of the truths he is called to believe. These conversations can take place around the dinner table, if you invite a variety of people to your home, and they certainly take place through the medium of books.

It is vital to invite this consideration. We hinder our children if we stifle their questions and limit their faith by emotional appeals. We ought not to compartmentalize our lives, closing ourselves up intellectually as soon as we begin to talk about faith. We can and ought to do better than that, because the truth of Christianity stands up to reality and reason. God is real. Christianity is true. It can take the questioning.

This means we can approach different subjects as Christian without slapping a Sunday-school song and dance on them. Math is Christian because it is part of the whole that God created. It isn’t ‘more Christian’ if we are measuring the dimensions of the ark. It is Christian for its own sake. It relates to the whole of truth. It fits the Christian framework in its own right.

“Do they know? All of this is ‘Christian education’. Seeing fallacies. Understanding. Knowing the Bible. Thinking. Judging ideas. Seeking and keeping ears open. Being in touch.”

Once you have presented the foundation, back off and let them have a private life. Some work belongs to the Holy Spirit only. Don’t push. Let the child be himself. Respect his individuality. We give the ideas, the experiences. The child thinks, reacts, and understands according to his own timetable. Leave the Lord and the child alone to work out their relationship. Individual personality is precious.

A Ta-da List, Rather Than a To-do List

When I was a new homeschooler and very anxious to do everything 'right' (and very stressed out when I perceived that I wasn't)*, a friend suggested that I make a ta-da list whenever I felt that we weren't doing enough in an educational way. A ta-da- list is a glance back at the activities and tasks that got done over a period of time. This process has served me well over and over again. Sometimes we need to look at everything we are doing rather than what we still have to do.

*(This is not to imply that I somehow have arrived at the life of peace and faith and no longer stress myself out. I still do that. But now I recognize it as a spiritual battle and treat it as such.)

So-- here is our ta-da list for the last three months-- months in which we left out composer and artist study more often than not; neglected copywork, dictation and grammar; got behind on several readings; registered little to no exercise/P.E. activities; and completely lost the concept of nature study.

I offer the preface because I know my tendency when reading a list like this is to think, "Wow. We aren't doing what they are doing. We must be slacking." Trust me-- you are probably doing exactly what you need to be doing, even if your list is shorter, longer, or otherwise different. I am putting my list out on my blog so that I don't rehearse it in the hearing of my longsuffering friends. (Getting a blog has been a boon in terms of conversational etiquette-- now that I have a place to vent my thoughts, I am less likely to dominate conversation. For some reason, I have to *say* something in order for it to feel real to me. This is my way of thinking things through. Out loud. Without annoying people. With this blog, I can say it here, and be a more thoughtful listener in social situations. In theory, anyway, lol.)

TA-DA LIST for December/January/February

1. Outside activities (I am listing these first because it seems that extracurriculars have dominated our life the last three months):

*Preparation for and participation in the homeschool science fair, which involved research, an experimental process, analysis of data, preparation of report and visual aids, and oral presentation for each child.

*Drama Club/theater troupe participation-- the older two went to rehearsals and took part in a variety show fundraiser, and all of us took part in publicity activities and ushered at a performance. Mariel has been working on the crew of an upcoming performance of Alice in Wonderland, and Aravis is taking part as a cast member. (Aravis is also slated to begin dedicated rehearsals as Charlotte in a production of Charlotte's Web to be performed at the end of April, but this is a ta-da list, not a to-do list!)

*Orchestra for Mariel. This has been such a great experience for her.

*Piano and violin lessons for Mariel and Cornflower and voice lessons for Aravis. They are learning piano/voice at home, and go to another teacher for violin.

*Driver's Ed for Aravis. She has completed the classroom portion, and we started the behind-the-wheel portion last week.

2. Books the kids are reading or have just finished (italics indicate books the student and I are reading aloud together). Note-- in CM method, many books are read at the same time, but stretched over a period of weeks or months:


A Child's History of the World by Hillyer
Da Vinci, a Landmark History by Emily Hahn
Marco Polo by Carol Greene
This Country of Ours by Marshall
Our Island Story by Marshall

The Landing of the Pilgrims by Daugherty
The Heroes by Kingsley
Caddie Woodlawn
Children of the New Forest by Merriat
Poetry of Sara Teasdale and Hilda Conkling

American Tall Tales
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Wheel on the School
Science Lab in a Supermarket by Friedhoffer
All About Famous Inventors and Their Inventions

Boy, Have I Got Problems by Kay Arthur


Beautiful Girlhood by Hale/Andreola
Augustus Caesar's World by Foster
Story of the Greeks by Guerber
Jungle Pilot by Hitt
Genesis: Finding Our Roots by Beechick
Jack and Jill by Alcott
Age of Fable by Bulfinch
Animal Farm by Orwell
Poetry of Carl Sandburg
God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew
Along Came a Dog by DeJong
The Sciences by Holder
Archimedes and the Door of Science by Bendick


A History of the American People by Johnson
Letters to His Son by Lord Chesterfield
Common Sense by Paine
The English Constitution by Bagehot
Following the Equator by Twain
Mozart by Davenport
War of the Worldviews
The God Who is There by Schaeffer

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
Expositional Theology by Holder (articles)
How to Read a Book by Adler
Essays by Jane Haldiman Marcet
Poetry of William Cowper
Poetry of Phyllis Wheatley
History of Rasselas
History of Henry Esmond
Essays of Elia
She Stoops to Conquer (play)
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Little Nugget
The School for Scandal

Books read as a group--

Trial and Triumph (Church history) by Hannula
Marcus Brutus by Plutarch (Anne's study guide which includes North's translation)
Macbeth (with Brightest Heaven of Invention as commentary)

3. Curriculums and other stuff:

*Math textbooks. Mariel and Cornflower both drilled math facts this past term as well.

*Map workbooks. Last year, I got some workbooks at Mardel, because I just didn't see the kids catching on to the more technical aspects of mapwork. They are still working through them at a page per week.

*Cornflower is working through Geography Songs and Grammar Songs, and she and I are also doing Considering God's Creation.

*Sketch Tuesday at Harmony Art Mom's blog. (The girls completed a sketch almost every week, but I didn't always get the sketches uploaded and sent to Barb.)

*Aravis is working through a logic program at home, and is attending a Biology class and a Spanish II class away from home.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Exam Questions

Two of my three students are under the weather (Aravis has definitely caught something), so our day has been low-key. I did finish writing the exams, and each girl answered some of her questions. (Aravis answered two questions and then went to sleep, poor girl.)

Here are some more exam questions, modeled after the vintage PNEU exams at Ambleside Online (previous installment of winter exam questions here):

Cornflower (age 9, 3rd grade)

1. (Science) Tell about the history of guns. How does a revolver work? Why is a rifle called a rifle?

2. (Science) Describe the video you saw in which the man made noodles by stretching dough. What was the dough made of? How did it turn into noodles?


Mariel (age 12, 6th grade)

1. (Current Events) What makes an athlete “great”? How much of an Olympic athlete’s success is derived from natural physical ability and how much comes from practice, mental focus, or character, or other qualities? (This question was adapted from this article at

2. (Science) What do you know of Archimedes’ study of numbers?

3. (Science) Describe two experiments with electricity. What is a magnet?

4. (Science) What is the difference between a chemical compound and a solution?

5. (Science) Explain what is meant by “affinity” in chemistry.

6. (Citizenship/Plutarch) Compare and contrast the characters of Cassius and Brutus.

7. (Citizenship/Animal Farm) Why did Napoleon first show contempt for Snowball’s windmill scheme and then endorse the project?

8. (Shakespeare) What were the consequences of Macbeth’s murder of Duncan?


Aravis (age 15, 9th grade)

1. (History) Should the colonists have rebelled against King and Parliament? Should the British have resisted the rebellion? (Give reasons both for and against each question.)

2. (History) The American Revolution is called the first modern revolution in history. Why was it different from any other war before it? Some say that the American revolution was different from any war before it. Do you agree or disagree?*

3. (Citizenship) Compare and contrast the English Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

4. (History/Virginia Declaration of Rights) How did the Declaration of Rights influence the writing of the Declaration of Independence?

5. (History) Show how Mozart’s “genius transcended all the concerns and burdens, the passing pleasures too, of a pitifully harried existence.” (A big thank-you to the HG at The Common Room for her discussion of this quote back in 2006. I remembered her point all this time and googled the post this morning.)

6. (Citizenship) ‘“There is a great deal to be said on both sides” of most questions.’ How does this statement apply to telling the truth?

7. (Geography) Write a letter from India, as if you were visiting there.

8. (Geography) Give some account of New Zealand, with map.

9. (Literature) Give some account of early American literature.

10. (Literature) What is a comedy of manners? Give examples.

*Altered to remove an assumption that I did not want to impose on my student.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter Exam Questions

CM-style educators often enjoy comparing exam questions, since there aren't a lot of CM-type examinations floating around. I have been writing questions this weekend, and here is a sampling-- it is a sampling because I still have quite a few to write! The kids generally answer three to six questions per day, so I will write the rest tomorrow while they work on the questions I have already finished.

CM exams are intended to celebrate what the student knows, and I also use them to assess strengths and weaknesses. I have been rereading _For the Children's Sake_ by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, and can see where my zeal concerning requirements has stolen some of the joy from our learning life. I am working on putting that back, and pray the Lord is in the effort.

I used the vintage PNEU exams as inspiration for the questions this time-- a humbling experience! It is interesting to see the progressive expansion of the questions, from basic retelling questions for the younger students, to questions of intent and application for older ones.


Cornflower (3rd grade)


1. Describe the solar system.
2. Tell what you know about the atmosphere.
3. Describe three types of rock and where they are found.

Artist Study (John Singer Sargent):
1. Describe Oyster Gatherers of Cancale, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, or Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

1. Tell one of the adventures of the Argonauts, or about Medea.
2. Tell about Davy Crockett, or Johnny Appleseed.
3. Tell how the Duke, disguised as Friar Lodowick, befriends Isabella and helps her rescue her brother.

1. Tell about the English Civil War.
2. Tell what you know of Leonardo da Vinci.
3. What do you know about the colony of Virginia?

1. What countries did Marco Polo go through on his journeys? On which continents?


Mariel (6th grade)

1. (a) “It is not good that man should be alone.” (b) “What is this that thou hast done?” (c) “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee.” On what occasions were these words used? Tell the whole story in two cases.

2. Describe the duties of the high priest in the temple. How did Jesus fulfill the office of the high priest in His sacrifice for our sins?

3. How is Christ superior to any angel, priest or human leader? How is the new covenant superior to the old?

4. (Beautiful Girlhood) Describe what kind of woman you want to be. (This question was taken directly from Lindafay's exams.)

1. Write four lines of poetry from memory.

1. Tell a story, in prose or verse, about one of the following—Herod, Octavian, or Cleopatra.

2. Give an account of the part played by Brutus in the slaying of Julius Caesar and the establishment of Octavian as ruler of Rome.

3. Give a map of the Mediterranean basin at the time of Octavian.

4. What was the “Terrible Prophecy” given to King Laius? According to myth, how did the prophecy play out?

5. List the Spartan laws of Lycurgus.

6. What do you know of the battle of Marathon and the battle of Thermopylae?


Aravis (9th grade)

1. “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Show the full meaning of this statement.

2. What was the purpose of writing the book of Hebrews? Mention (a) the circumstances under which it was written and (b) two themes contained in the first half of the book.

3. “An high priest after the order of Melchisidec.” To whom is this statement referring, and who was Melchisidec? How is one a “type”, or foreshadowing of the other?

1. Write a sketch of Lady Macbeth.

2. Compose a ballad, which must scan, based on History of Henry Esmond, The History of Rasselas, or She Stoops to Conquer

3. Compose some lines on a group of trees as seen by a painter.

Sketch the following:
a. An illustration from Macbeth (with title)
b. A study of a tree in winter.
c. A design in fruits for a book cover

Composer Study (Edvard Grieg)
1. Write a paragraph on each of the three compositions we have listened to: “Peer Gynt”, “Piano Concerto in A” and “Norwegian Dance No. 2”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Balance and Rest

The idea of a false balance being an abomination to the Lord has been running through my head lately. A just weight is His delight. I think a lot about balance. I have trouble balancing my life and my thinking, actually. A balance might be more than just a scale for measuring gold or produce.

A just weight and balance are the Lord's. All the weights of the bag are His work.

I want my life weighed in the Lord's balance, and I want His expert hand determining the weights. I want to stop trying to balance myself by adding a little escapism here, pressing a little harder there. I want to quit my attempts to balance in my own strength, which indeed is small.

Weigh me, Lord. Add and take away. Help me to surrender and accept what You have for me. Allow me to witness Your delight as you balance the lessons I must learn with Your gracious presence. Draw me to the mercy seat, lead me to Your rest.

References: Proverbs 11:1, 16:11

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tying a Windsor Knot

Or, Happy Presidents' Day!
(Those Presidents all wear ties, ya know.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Last night we celebrated Valentine's Day as a family with parmesan chicken and salad. Mr. Honey got *all* of his sweethearts special cards and big Hershey's bars. Then we watched several episodes of the first season of The Burns and Allen Show (from 1950!) and laughed and laughed at Gracie Allen. She was hilarious.

This morning we got up and went to church. Our minister preached on how we are to carry our crosses as Jesus carried His, and how we are to both give and accept help in carrying our crosses. It's funny that he preached on that, because I just spent some time yesterday doing a Bible study on why God allows difficulties in our lives. Here is my narration on that study:

Through trials we learn to have faith in God. We learn to wait on Him, we experience His provision in our lives, and our hope for His deliverance in the future gains strength, increasing our faith in Him. Our attitude as we go through difficulties ought to be patience, diligence, faith-- we are set apart for a particular purpose, and are being refined as gold in a fire. We have a high calling to praise the Lord with our lives. He allows us to go through trials in order to teach us obedience as well as increase our faith. Eventually we will reap the rewards of our struggles, if we are faithful. We will have a closer walk with God and more inward peace as we learn to obey Him.

You'd think I would already know that, but I keep forgetting. I really like being comfortable. It's good to be reminded that "there's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me", and that God uses the struggles we have to remind us to seek Him.

As my girls get older, I often think about the story of the butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, and how it *has* to struggle in order to build up its little butterfly strength-- if the burden of struggling is removed, the butterfly will be malformed, unable to fly, and may even die, not having exercised its body in the proper way. Children are like that, too, as they grow and emerge into the next stage, and the next. We are God's children.

Brother Mark talked about that at church today, how Jesus owned His cross-- it had His name on it (Jesus Christ, King of the Jews). Each of us also owns our crosses, our own struggles. Even if someone helps me carry my cross, the struggle is still my own. I am still that butterfly pushing and struggling to emerge from the chrysalis.

This is kind of jumbled, but I guess I am saying that the Lord knows what He is doing, and He loves us so much.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ideas That Had Consequences

Andrew Kern is doing a series of posts on the rise of Hitler in Germany, which I find terribly interesting. I have always been fascinated by the human aspects of World War II (as opposed to the military paraphernalia and strategy aspects) and have wondered about Hitler for a long time. I have a few half-formed thoughts on it, but Mr. Kern gives more thoughts to ponder on the specific situation in Pre-WWII Germany, as well as on the influence of ideas, and human nature.

He has posted three articles so far, and plans to write more. I have excerpted a portion of each post, but please go read them in entirety:

Coming to a Republic, But Can You Keep It?

But Franklin knew, and his confederates knew, that a Republic is a precarious form of government, for human nature always tends toward some sort of collectivism.

Either people turn toward populism, which always leans on the monarch or the Fuhrer or the Messiah or the dictator to protect it from the ravages of the plutocrats.

Or they turn straight to the One to be protected from the uncertainty of life and the market.

But few people want to be free for the simple reason that freedom requires hard work, wisdom, and risk.

Germany, Austria and the Beginnings of Hitler

The great question of the 20th century has to be, “How did regimes as cruel as the Nazi’s in Germany, the Fascists in Italy, the Communists in Russia and China, find acceptance among the people’s they ruled?”

To be honest, though, the Nazi question is more important for two reasons. First, the Chinese and Russians came to power through a ruthless cruelty that involved a great deal less acceptance by the people they dominated. Second, we are much closer to the mindset of pre-Nazi Germany than we are to the mindset of pre-Bolshevik Russia or pre-Maoist China.

The disturbing thing about Nazi Germany is that Hitler was not only elected democractically (in a parliamentary system), but that he was elected under circumstances that allowed plenty of time for reflection.

Preparing the Way for Hitler

An evil on the scale of Nazism, or Communism for that matter, does not come about without a long gestation. It requires enormous technological power, ideas about reality and human nature, a certain national spirit, political systems and assumptions, and probably a good dose of demonic involvement.

The same is true of a good on the scale of our constitution and liberties.

Life is the interchange of ideas and applications. It is not possible to determine which comes first for the simple reason that neither exists apart from the other. An idea not embodied is an idea not thought.

Practically, therefore, our lives are a dialectic between our ideas and our circumstances. We dream big and try to make it happen. We find that we can’t perfect it, so we have to make a choice.

We can love the dream enough to accomplish as muc of it as possible. Or we can replace the dream with a fantasy and chase the hobgoblin of our dream. Or we can abandon the dream altogether.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow and Gerbils

It is snowing again today. Three times in one winter! Wow. Our elm tree is beautiful with a dusting of fairy feathers.

But the real news is that we have two new little creatures at our house. Mariel and Cornflower got gerbils yesterday! Their names are Leonardo da Vinci and Sasquatch.

I ought to post some pictures, but I have misplaced my rechargeable batteries again. Amazing how those things just walk off.

I am going to try to convince Aravis or Mariel to take their cameras and go outside and take pictures of the elm tree and the sweet scalloped edging of snow on the back fence. I guess snow is old hat to us now, because the girls are not in the least excited about getting out in the cold and playing in it.

Correction-- they are now officially pleased, outside, and playing in it. The neighborhood schools are closed and their friends have come knocking. So we are having a 'friends day'. :D

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Only Hope by Bebo Norman

I want to run, it's my nature to run
And I want to fight, it's my nature to fight
And I want to live, but you tell me to die

I have resolved that I'm much better off
In your hands than mine

I'm begging you to hold on tight
Begging you to take my life from me

I want a crumb, but you are a feast
I want a song, but you are a symphony
I want a star, but you're a galaxy

And I have resolved that I'm much better off
In what you have for me

I'm begging you to hold on tight
Begging you to take my life from me

So tell me you won't let go
Tell me you won't let go
Cause you are the only hope for me

Friday, February 05, 2010

Grammar Links

Another set of schoolish links, this time for the parts of speech:

Games and online quizzes


Grammar Gorillas

Wednesday, February 03, 2010