Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Last Post for 2011

"I think it's important to have a good, hard failure early in life."
Walt Disney

"...human nature needs the discipline of failure 
as well as of success."
Charlotte Mason

"It is good for a man 
that he bear the yoke in his youth."
Lamentations 3:27

We visited the Walt Disney Family Museum on our Christmas trip home to California this past week.  The first quote is displayed in the museum.  Disney's story is inspiring.  If you are ever in San Francisco, you should take half a day to visit.

Look at the similarity of the three quotes.  The verse from Lamentations comes from a chapter that describes what I have heard termed the "dark night of the soul".  The CM quote comes from Principle 17 which deals with the Will.

At the Turning of the Year

A couple of weeks ago I sat down to list the year's happenings month-by-month, thinking that this year has been difficult.  No doubt it has.  2011 began with a warning that the Warrior Poet's job might be in danger, proceeded with disability and job loss, and is ending with spiritual battles I will not detail here.  But as I made my list, I noticed that the goods outweighed the bads.

Funny how the hard things always seem so much bigger than the blessings.  I tend to discount the good stuff and wallow in the bad.  I need to adjust my perspective!  We will be cleaning up this year's messes well into 2012.  I hope the Lord will bless us to flee temptation and focus on obeying and honoring Him. It is all raw material for glorifying God.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

List: Indoor Nature Study

I am not really a nature person.  Even when the weather is tolerable, I'd rather stay inside and improve my mind or my indoor environment than go on a trek down the hike-and-bike trail.  As a result, I have collected many ways to avoid going outside while still studying something from nature.  Since my kids are 17, 14 and 11, I am more oriented toward those ages, so some ideas are more suitable for older kids:

  • Observe the flowerbed, grass, tree, etc., out your window at intervals over the period of a year.  How does it change?
  • Grow a potato, avocado or carrot plant.  You can plant it outside in the flowerbed when it gets too big for the house.
  • Study rocks and minerals using pictures from a book or online and/or a collection of purchased rocks.
  • Purchase a flower (or a bouquet of flowers) from the store.  Note its features, sketch it, label the sketch, search online for poetry about that particular kind of flower.
  • Grow flowers from bulbs.  Sketch at intervals.
  • (Did you know that simply looking at something from nature, whether in real life or in a picture, actually reduces stress?)
  • Catalog and label photos from previous nature walks.
  • We live in Texas, and winter is a prime time for bird watching.  Leaves are off trees, and we live enough south that we still have a variety of birds.
  • When leaves are gone, it is also easier to pay close attention to tree bark.
  • Keep a record of the weather over a period of weeks, or note the weather once per week for a year.  What are the changes?  WHY are the changes?  Study the tilt of the earth-- its relationship to the sun at different times in the year.
  • Grow lettuce indoors.  It grows fast, and then you can eat it.
  • Catalog nature finds collected on previous nature walks.  We have leaves, rocks, cones/burrs/seed pods, dry flowers, dead insects, etc.  How are they the same?  How are they different?
  • Buy several different fruits and see what is inside.  Sketch.
  • Read books about animals you might never see in real life except at the zoo (ie., polar bears, elephants, emus, monkeys).  Note characteristics you didn't know about before.
  • Look at a map of your area.  Pay close attention to the waterways.  Do you have a lake or river nearby?  Where does it come from?  Where does it go?  Is it part of a larger system?
  • What is the soil like in your area?  Take samples from different places, mix thoroughly with water, and let each sit until clay, sand and silt separate.  Note the different combinations in each sample.
  • Choose a favorite piece of clothing.  What is it made from?  Where did the cotton, etc., come from, I wonder?  If the material is man-made, what natural things were combined to make the new material?
  • Make a terrarium from an oversized pickle jar.  Find instructions online.  Add plants and a bit of water, close up the jar, and watch the water cycle work.
Most of these ideas came from other people, books or our yearly foray into the science fair.  I will add to this list as I think of other things.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rules for Re-Solving

Some of the best times to begin with a clean slate:

*New Year's
*End of school year
*Beginning of school year
*On your birthday
*In the morning
*In the evening as you prepare for the next day

Whenever you realize that the day (or the week, or your life) has gone south, you are allowed to declare that you are starting over from that moment.  Just make sure you resolve with a hefty dose of prayer.  If you had been doing that in the first place, you probably wouldn't have gotten into such a mess.

I have a friend who, when her kids talk sassy and she has to get onto them and then they are sorrowful for forgetting themselves, says, "Okay.  Let's have a do-over."  It doesn't erase the sin, nor the earthly consequences, but it does lessen the discouragement.  

Jesus did that too.  "Neither do I condemn thee.  Go, and sin no more."

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning:  great is thy faithfulness.  (Lamentations)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cast Down But Not Destroyed

I worried this week.  The Bible says that we are to let our requests be made known to God (with thanksgiving) and "the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord."  (Philippians 4)  But instead of praying and trusting God, I became stoic.  I tried to endure through my own strength.

This results in worry.  Stoicism is not effective at either bringing peace or glorifying God.

Annie Dillard said, "Something is everywhere and always amiss."  That seems an accurate description of our life right now.  In the last week, our van broke down and needed significant repair, the additional vehicle my parents had lent us mysteriously stopped running, the WP got sick with a bad cold or flu and threatened to need the doctor (no health insurance since he lost his job).... and other things I won't list...  We are definitely cast down, despite his new job starting next week.  There are so many details to handle regarding that change, let alone other things that have cropped up.

Thankfully, despair is not something I engage in as a general rule.  I have seen the Lord's action in my life enough times to know He is going to take care of us.  But I do get tired of dealing with one thing after another.

In Hebrews 4, Paul instructs us to fear lest we come short of the promise of entering into His rest.  Some do not enter because of unbelief.  That would be me in the last week.  

"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.  Let us therefore labor to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."  (Hebrews 4:9-11)

God sees our hearts.  He can look inside me and know that I have not rested in Him this week.  Unbelief makes it hard for me to patiently work and wait, resting in the Lord rather than enduring through my own strength, in the face of continued hardship.  What am I not believing?  I know He will ultimately take care of us!

But maybe I lack faith to trust Him for the rescue of the moment when strength fails and I am tempted to cry in frustration.  He is sovereign over our moments as well as our entire lives.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

And Paul said in 2 Corinthians:

"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."  

This time is not forever.  That is hard to believe in the midst of struggle, but the difficulty doesn't make it less true.  These scriptures comfort me and point me toward my Saviour.  I pray the words of this old hymn:

"Now in Thy praise, eternal King, be all my thoughts employed
While of this precious truth I sing, cast down but not destroyed."

Lord, let me not be stoic.  Help me to depend not on my own determination, but to rest faithfully in my Saviour.  He overcame the biggest struggle I ever had or will have, and can handle the smaller ones too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exam Week: Fishergirls on the Shore of Tynemouth

Mariel wrote the following answer to the question, "Describe your favorite picture from this term's picture study."  She refers to this picture by Winslow Homer. She wrote her answer in the style of a newspaper article, and took imaginative liberties with unknown details. (I'm not sure what I think about that.)  If you will, imagine yourself as a citizen of Tynemouth:

In this wonderfully proportioned painting, local artist Winslow Homer has captured, in a sepia tone, the authenticity.  Homer, a 48-year-old American, has painted over ten paintings of the locals here in Tynemouth.  This one portrays our mayor's two lovely daughters.  As you know, Elisabyth (on left) is pregnant with her first child, but still loves to help her sister Magdolyn, with the knitting.  "it was a great pleasure and honour to be able to paint these two ladies," says Homer.  "They are the epitome of happiness.  I have given them prominent positions in other paintings."  We love Homer's paintings and hope that he will find the best picturesque places in our little Tynemouth.

Exam Week: Analysis and Synthesis

Here is another exam narration from Little La.  The book is Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley.  La gets a bit cute with her answer on this one, and had a hard time spelling "analysis", but I'm glad she understands the difference between analysis and synthesis and has begun to see the importance of each.  I corrected spelling for reading ease (emphasis hers):

Analysis and Synthesis were brothers and the grandchildren of Madam How.  Analysis took apart and analyzed.  Synthesis put them back together again.

One day, Synthesis captured Analysis because he wanted all the power.  He starved Analysis in the dungeon and forced him to tell him how things worked.

Madam How was not pleased.  Not ONE bit.

But after months Analysis escaped.  He analyzed, but no one could do Synthesis' job.  So, analysis and Synthesis made up and were nice.

Madam How LOVED this.  Many bits.

Exam Week: The Berry Pickers

(I removed the image because, although it appears to be public domain, I am not absolutely sure.)

Little La's narration of the above painting by Winslow Homer.  The question is, "Describe your favorite picture from this term's picture study:

There are four girls and three boys and they all have hats and a little silver bucket to collect blueberries.  It looks about 1 o'clock in the afternoon.  They are by the seashore and about to have a picnic.  I do not know what this picture is called.  One of the girls is leaning on a big rock.  There are big mountains and a village across the seashore.  There are a lot of flowers, too.

Exam Week: John Bunyan's Holy War

Last week the children took AO/CM exams for Term 1.  I am posting some of their answers this week.

This answer was written by Little La (formerly known as Cornflower).  The book is The Holy War by John Bunyan.  (It is recommended in Year 8, but the girls and I are reading it aloud together.  Little La is in Year 5.)  The exam question is, "Tell how Diabolus took over the kingdom of Mansoul."

Diabolus and his minions set up camp at Eargate, right outside of Mansoul.  Each day a new bad guy would go and tell a speech to the town of Mansoul.  Now, Mansoul was ruled by King Shaddai.  Diabolus was taking over, or, really, succeeding.  When Diabolus stepped up to talk to Mansoul, his speech was very convincing.

"My friends in Mansoul!" he started, "You are such kind, wonderful people!  So true to your King!  But, have you considered why he's not making you kings?  Greed!  Greed!  If you let us in, and help us defeat your King, make me King, I'll let you rule with me!"

Mansoul started cheering.  They were corrupted and let Diabolus in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great News!

Last Thursday marked one full month of unemployment for the Warrior Poet.  Friday, he received a written job offer from a very good company in his field.  Yesterday, he accepted the offer.  God is good!

This job is at least equivalent to the position he held at his last company.  The reimbursement for expenses is better, which is huge for us.  He was spending a lot on unreimbursed expenses at the old job.

The WP will start his new job on November 28th.  He will have been unemployed only six weeks.  Currently, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 57% of unemployed Americans are without work for 15 weeks or more.  (The current average is 39 weeks, which seems high to me.  But that's what the table says.)  What a blessing from God that his span of unemployment will be so short!

Over the last six weeks, the Lord provided for us in unexpected ways.  We prepared ourselves for deprivation, but instead we found abundance.  

The kids would probably tell you that we have eaten a lot of beans, and they would be right.  Good thing we all like beans!  But our fridge/freezer is full of vegetables and meat, and our cabinets full of canned goods.  Our other reserves have also been maintained.  I sat at the kitchen table and did arithmetic trying to figure out how it happened.  It did happen, and it works out mathematically.  But I still regard it with wonder!

Ten days ago, I asked for prayer on four fronts , and many responded, both in the comments and privately.  Here are the results of your prayers:

  1. Continued good health:  none of us has had to visit the doctor during this time
  2. Sustained driveability for our van:  it is still running fine.  The emergency brake light keeps coming on when the brake is not engaged, but we have dealt with that problem before, and it is not a big deal.  We will get it fixed next time we have to take the van in for something serious.  (Our van is completely paid off.  We are nursing it along until we get clear of our remaining debt.)
  3. Level heads:  we would still appreciate prayer for this as we make big decisions.
  4. And the biggie-- the Warrior Poet has found fitting employment!

Thank you so much for your prayers, friends.  My favorite blessing is the sense of peace and contentment the Lord gave us.  

As we appreciate His provision for our physical needs, we also see spiritual deficits in ourselves.  Our new prayer is that the Lord will abundantly provide for our spiritual needs as well as material needs, and help us to be faithful.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

LTW Journal 11/10: Defining the Ring

(Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)  

On to Lesson 4 Invention!

(Reminder of our practice essay issue:  whether Boromir should have tried to take the Ring from Frodo.)

We defined the Ring today.  It is a magic object, like:

1.  Merlin's wand
2.  H.G. Wells' time machine
3.  Frodo's light
4.  the nickel in Half Magic
5.  the metal horse from Arabian Nights
6.  the golden tablet of Ra from "Night at the Museum"
7.  the cake in Alice
8.  Lucy's cordial in Narnia

These are all objects that can be used to do something extraordinary.  The Ring is unlike these other objects in that it is immoral.  (The others are either moral or amoral.)

It has the following characteristics:

1.  it is round
2.  it has Elvish writing on it
3.  it is jewelry
4.  it is gold
5.  it was created by Sauron
6.  it is from Mordor
7.  it is evil
8.  it is hypnotic
9.  it is pretty
10.  it makes people invisible
11.  it corrupts its owners
12.  it is magic

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Learning About Integers

Here are some ideas for teaching positives and negatives.  This year we are using MEP Math, which is available online for free.  Some of these ideas are from MEP and some we thought of while working through the concept:

1.  Cutaway views of cities or buildings teach the idea of above and below ground.
2.  Talk about "so much cash on hand" and "so much debt" and then find the balance.
3.  How far above sea level is a mountain?  How far below sea level is a portion of the ocean floor?
4.  The physics of sound:  high pitches are positive while low pitches are negative (Little La thought of this one).
5.  BC/BCE and AD/CE on the timeline.
6.  Summer and winter temperatures.

(Discovering the "why" of integers captures the student's imagination, and then he is ready to learn the "how".  I always needed lots of this sort of discovery before a mathematical process would stick in my head.)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Explaining Our Current Situation

As our household economy has expanded by almost a third in the last several years, income has fortunately outstripped consumption.  The same factors that have allowed our income to grow have contributed to ballooning future optimism, promising to spur economic and spiritual progress.

(You have to read the above paragraph in your best intellectual-Scarecrow-with-Brains voice in order to get it.)

On October 10th, the Warrior Poet's boss told him the company that has employed him for the past fourteen years no longer requires his services.  WP has been unemployed for almost a month.  (I did not mention it earlier because I did not know if he wanted it mentioned online.  But he said it was okay.)

I keep bumping up against the fact that I am not anxious, which can only be the result of God's grace.  I am high-strung and tend to overthink things, which usually makes me worry.  I may be panicking next week or the week after, but right now I feel only gratitude for His providence in this trial.

One of the voices currently in my head is that of an old friend saying, "The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail."  Back in the 90s, our friend repeatedly brought up that scripture from the book of 1 Kings as his family went through a similar crisis.

So far, this has also been our experience.

We appreciate any prayers you feel led to offer up.  Specifically we need:

*continued health for us and the kids
*sustained driveability for our old van
*level heads as we make big decisions
*fitting employment for the Warrior Poet

Thank you, friends.

New Blog and New Name for Cornflower

The child previously known as Cornflower has started her own blog and now wishes to be called Little La.  :)  Her new blog is called One Little Dream.  Go visit!

Friday, November 04, 2011

LTW 11/4

(Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)  

I like Post-its.  I use them to remind myself of things I need to do, or ideas I need to internalize, or people I need to contact.  They are especially useful when beginning new habits.  A Post-it stating "Make your bed!" or something similar jogs me out of my default routine and challenges me to develop a better one.

The format of the LTW basic persuasive essay is like a series of Post-its.  When I wrote my own essay, I began to see the point of repeating the thesis in every paragraph. I had discovered so many interesting things during the research process that I kept abandoning my purpose and writing about something else.  Restating (and restating and restating) the thesis forced me to notice when my proofs and supports did not follow.

I was tempted to relax the requirement for my kids before I went through the essay-writing process myself.  Now I think I will let the requirement stand.  It is necessary in order to building better writing habits.

Here is my essay so you can see what I mean.


If you build a better mousetrap, will the regulators beat a path to your door?  John D. Rockefeller and his business partners experienced this very thing.

The Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust for three reasons.  The oil market regulated Standard Oil, the U.S. Government misunderstood the situation, and the Sherman Act contained vague terms.

The first reason the Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust is that the oil market regulated Standard Oil.  In 1882, more than 250 oil companies competed for business. Standard Oil gained market share and became wildly successful due to superior products and technology.  But by 1911, after forming the Trust, Standard Oil’s market share had fallen from 90% to 65%: it was in the process of losing its monopoly.

The second reason the Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust is that the U.S. Government misunderstood the situation.  Rockefeller and his partners formed the first ever holding company.  The government criminalized a business practice it did not understand.  After decades of observation and analysis, today’s antitrust experts believe that vertical integration usually does not damage competition. 

The third reason the Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust is that the Sherman Act contained vague terminology.  Congress did not define key terms like “exclusionary practice” and “restraint of trade”.  Congress meant for the Act to regulate business owners rather than workers, but President Grover Cleveland  invoked it against the American Railway Union to end the Pullman Strike of 1894.  The Supreme Court decision more narrowly defined the terms of the legislation, but it also introduced another vague term:  “rule of reason”.

The U.S. Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust.  The oil market regulated Standard Oil, the U.S. Government misunderstood the situation, and the Sherman Act contained vague terms.

Why Are We Doing This?

As my children get older, I am well aware that they have free will and that, despite all the training and loving we give them, at the end of the day all we can do is pray that the Lord will guide their feet. If that were not the case-- if we could follow a checklist and turn out children that love the Lord and seek virtue-- following Christ would not be a walk of faith.

Elizabeth Foss has written an amazingly honest post about teenagers and young adults and Christian homeschooling that I think all young Christian homeschooling parents (as well as seasoned homeschooling parents, and Christian parents that do not homeschool, and all other parents) should read. As we read, we should ask ourselves: "Why are we doing this, after all?" For 'this', plug in whatever you or I work hard to ensure our children receive. Then ask, "Why *should* we do this?"

She puts it so well:
Saint Peter walked with Jesus. Jesus was his teacher in the faith. Jesus was the Master Teacher. And still, Peter was a liar, a denier, a weak-willed wimp-- right up until the time that Jesus died. He was taught by God Himself, surely the best teacher of all, and he didn't get it at first...I think, dear ladies, that some of us will be called to wait in faith for the Second Act (or our own version of Acts 2). 
We need to encourage one another to walk this walk of faith, but we need to be very careful that we don't rally around a certain prideful arrogance. Sometimes, in our zeal to hold each other accountable to a Christian life of virtue, we step dangerously close to pridefully suggesting that if we just do prescribed things all the right way, we will turn out brilliant, holy children. And we forget that it is not mothers and fathers who make Christians of children; it is God Himself, in His own time, according to His own plan.
Wow.  Christ himself had a wayward son.  And the Lord wasn't even a sinner!

I vouch for the list she gives of things that might happen despite our best efforts as parents.  I too have either known personally or read about children who got the best upbringing their parents could offer and still egregiously sinned.  Because, just like their parents, they are sinners in need of a Saviour.

I love our lifestyle.  I believe the CM-method of Christian home education is loaded with benefits for my children, and I am so happy we walk this path.  I have high hopes for my kids, too.  But it is not a magic pill.

If anyone tells you it is-- if their description begins to sound like an informercial ("It slices, it dices, it even makes fries!")-- do not believe them.  Raising children is a human affair, and no matter what you do, the law of sin and death still applies (see Romans 7).

It is NOT all in our hands.  Not only is God involved, but so are the kids.  It may take them some time to do the right thing.  Wait on them, and especially wait on the Lord.

Read the comments in Elizabeth's post.  Her readers have contributed many encouraging words!  

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Tomorrow we are reading the scene that contains this beautiful yet sad poem.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Handicrafts: Yarn, Hot Glue and Fabric Markers

Aravis made this costume out of yarn, hot glue and fabric markers. It took her 7 months to complete!  Do you recognize her Cats character?  (Hint:  she is wearing pearls instead of a collar.)

For the past month, she has helped her sisters make costumes as well. She says they did most of the work. She mainly gave advice.  Cornflower's costume is a Cats-inspired Cheshire Cat.  Mariel's is what Rogue from X-men might have looked like had she been a Cat.

What will they do next? I am not sure. I showed them this post, hoping to inspire them. I would love for all of us to make house gowns! Utility, comfort and beauty!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Playing House

This weekend we got to visit in the home of a young couple from our church.  It was delightful.  I relished all the little loving touches I saw in their home. I kept thinking of the phrase "playing house" as I wandered through their little cottage.

I do not mean to imply that it is merely playing.  I'm sure my sister in Christ is keeping house in earnest.  She is an artistic and creative person as well as dutiful, and this comes out in her home decor.  I think play is a lovely thing to invoke when doing your duty, and something every true artist employs.

I felt inspired by her home.  It reminded me of a quote in Bird by Bird:

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.

After almost twenty years of keeping house, I admit I am tired of it. I have lost the art of dabbling, puttering and playing as I go about my chores! It is possible (dare I say necessary?) to combine beauty and duty. As I said in this post:
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.
Lord, I ask that you remind me of my first years of keeping house, and help me keep that fresh perspective as I go about serving my family. Amen.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Morning Classroom

First thing each day we work as a group, and then I work with each student individually.  The Warrior Poet installed an HDMI cable so I can project whatever is on my computer onto the television.  Very handy!  I project chapters of read-alouds onto the TV so the kids can follow along.  Sometimes I highlight sentences or words to illustrate a point.  We also project running lists of characters, etc., onto the TV using the Office program on my computer.  Homeschooling in the 21st Century...

(Note the Amazon box, coffee cup, and Legos-- all indispensible educational tools!  Also, please note the Oxford English Dictionary-- on the entertainment center table-- awaiting its usefulness.)

In this picture, Mariel and I have just finished sorting through her ANI for Lesson 3 of LTW.  We listed her main proofs and subproofs on the white board and now she is copying them into her notebook.

We study throughout the house, but the living room is always our morning classroom.  We enjoy the light that comes through the south-facing windows.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Idealism and Reality

The giant and the conjurer now knew that their wicked course was at an end, and they stood biting their thumbs and shaking with fear. Jack, with his sword of sharpness, soon killed the giant, and the magician was then carried away by a whirlwind; and every knight and beautiful lady who had been changed into birds and beasts returned to their proper shapes. --The History of Jack the Giant Killer, The Blue Fairy Book

Organizing stories are fairy tales, parables, etc., that help us "organize" our ideas about good moral character.  In organizing stories, good always wins. Young children need organizing stories. They realize early on that "something is everywhere and always amiss." They need to know that dragons can and will be slain.

The opposite of organizing stories are narratives that display the complex nature of real people.  Some folks never grasp this.  It is easier to believe that people-- especially people we do not know personally-- are perfectly good or certainly evil.  This is especially true when judging statesmen, politicians and economic leaders.  However, government officials grapple with their own selfish interests as well as governing principles.  New dilemmas arise in business and economics, defying empirical analysis and leaving leaders nonplussed.  Senators and CEOs are complicated, just like the rest of us.

 Today the world is exploding with children who think they can fix things. Young people come equipped with a sense of the ideal which struggles to rise to the surface whether it has been nurtured or not.  I think this is a good thing, although it can be exploited by evil.

We do not need to give up the idea that dragons can and will be slain. They can be. They will be. But we need to understand that human beings are fallible-- more than that, they can be stupid and greedy and even evil (in some areas) at the same time that they are kind and generous and good (in other areas). People are weird. They have blind spots. NO ONE is going to behave righteously every time. Sad, but true. It is just not going to happen. That is reality here on earth.

The broader reality is that the good is coming, and it will not be ushered in by earthly governments, or by pure capitalism, or by parents or teachers or students or bosses or workers getting everything "right".

These two truths-- the earthly reality and the broader reality-- are not commonly taught to children today.  (They are learned through immersion in great literature, especially the Bible.  But that is an argument for another day.)

Should we try to get everything right? Yes, we should. We won't make it, but we will get closer than if we don't try. Should we be surprised when others do not get it right? No, we should not. People are unrighteous. Should we work toward improving the likelihood that people will do right? Yes. (I'm sure I don't have to point out that we as individuals do not get it right either. We already know that about ourselves. Right?)

As a nation we need to understand that people sin. This is wisdom. We also need to learn how our systems work. Unfortunately, a lot of what gets passed off as teaching is merely a list of talking points for one agenda or another. When we learn to value mercy and truth more than we value our own 'side', we will be able to educate our children. Perhaps then our children will be able to articulate what they think is right and wrong about the world, and act effectively in the direction of right, instead of blindly following utopian promises or flailing around in anger. But only if they first understand that all have sinned, and do sin, and will sin.

An article that illustrates the impact of earthly reality on ideology.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

LTW Journal 10/27(b)

(Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)  

My exordium examples are done.  I enjoyed making these!  I suspect one cannot have too many examples of a writing "hook", so I am sharing mine here.  Also, here is a link to sample imperative sentences.  And a link to a hilarious joke that illustrates the vague nature of competition law.  It might be a bit long for an exordium, but I liked it.

My essay issue is whether the Supreme Court should have ordered the dissolution of Standard Oil.

(I don't know how to fix the weird bullet points. Apologies for the formatting.)

UPDATE:  Let me know which one is your favorite!

  • Where is the balance between liberty and justice?

  • Should a cartel be allowed to suppress trade?

  • If you build a better mousetrap, will the regulators beat a path to your door?

  • In 1890 the Sherman Anti-trust Act was passed. That year, Standard Oil possessed 90% of American refining capacity. In 1911 the Act was invoked against Standard Oil, but due to competition from other firms, Standard's refining capacity had already gone down to 65%. (Wikipedia.)

  • By 1890, the United States was transitioning from an agricultural to industrial society. In the midst of unprecedented growth, the Senate passed the Sherman Anti-trust Act, 51-1. The Act then unanimously cleared the House and became a law. (Wikipedia)

  • Label the good guys and bad guys in this story: In 1870, John D. Rockefeller started in the oil business. His shrewd success reduced kerosene prices for Americans, and also put many would-be oil magnates out of business. Rockefeller got rich. He and his cronies were condemned for suppressing the oil trade with their innovative business model.

  • You are a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The world is changing. New technology and production techniques have brought about new business models. Decide which are lawful and which are not.

  • In my twenties, I tried to sell Avon. Competition was fierce, and I never liked to persuade hesitant customers. I was terrible at it.

  • “If I never had a cent, I'd be rich as Rockefeller... Gold dust at my feet, on the sunny side of the street.” (old song) 

  • In 1952, a representative from the Rockefeller Foundation called leprosy specialist Dr. Paul Brand. “Your work with leprosy shows good potential. Why don't you travel around the world and get the best advice possible? See anyone you want-- surgeons, pathologists, leprologists-- and take whatever time you need. We'll foot the bill.” The trip gave Dr. Brand much-needed confirmation of his findings on the dread disease. (Brand/Yancy, The Gift of Pain)

  • "Nothing was left to chance, nothing was guessed at, nothing left uncounted and measured. Efficiencies down to the smallest detail of the business were the order of the day. Economy, precision, and foresight were the cornerstones of [Standard Oil's] success.” (Professor Keith Poole, The American Experience,
  • LTW Journal 10/27

    (Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)  

    Today we began the Arrangement portion of Lesson 3.  After introducing the types, we came up with some exordia for our practice essay.

    (The issue is whether Boromir should have tried to take the Ring from Frodo.)

    1.  If everyone was against you, would you still hold your opinion?
    2.  Can all tools be used for good?
    3.  Do you know the definition of pragmatic?
    4.  Imagine being in a forest, chased by a tall dude trying to take the ring you inherited from your uncle.
    5.  Consider having the fate of a world in the palm of your hand.
    6.  80% of Men are prone to greed.  Nine of these men are Ring Wraiths.  One of them is Boromir.
    7.  Only three Hobbits have held the Ring.  Two of them have been consumed.
    8.  "It is a gift, a gift to the foes of Mordor.  Why not use this ring?"  --Boromir

    (The kids thought of all but #3.  That one was mine.)

    Now I am off to work on my own essay exordium while watching the Texas Rangers with the Warrior Poet.  :)  Here we go, Rangers!

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    LTW Journal 10/25

    (Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)   

    Most controversies would soon be ended, if those engaged in them would first accurately define their terms, and then adhere to their definitions.  --Tryon Edwards

    We stayed in Invention today.  First we took turns reading our definitions.  The LTW way of defining a term causes us to look at both generalities and specifics.  We have to keep our focus on the actual issue, too.  At our house we tend to randomly include ALL the possibilities and go off on tangents, but definitions ought to discriminate.

    After definitions, the kids turned in their ANI charts.  Aravis was distressed because she only had around eighteen things on each list.  (We were going for thirty.)  She had detailed sentences for most of her points, sometimes several lines long.  I was sure she already had thirty things on each list!  I told her to list only one detail per bullet point.  She was relieved.

    On Thursday, we will move into Arrangement and learn about the exordium.  I am excited.  The exordium is the introductory part of the essay.  At our house we have always called it the hook.  This is the part where the writer reels us in and we as readers decide whether we want to stay.

    I started this post with an exordium.  I came up with several others, too:

    * Three out of five members of our family are learning to write using Lost Tools of Writing.

    * There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer.  When asked to define great, he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!"   
    He now works for Microsoft writing error messages.

    * Dare to define! 

     * I first learned about defining terms from Mortimer J. Adler in How to Read a Book.  He said to me, "Reader, you cannot understand where an author is coming from until you know his terms."  (Okay, I am paraphrasing a bit.)

     * Imagine a world where words have no meaning. 

    LTW Journal: 10/24

    Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)   

    While the Warrior Poet watches the Rangers in the World Series, I am keeping him company.  Well, sort of.  We are in the same room, but I am working on my ANI chart for the question, "Should the Supreme Court have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust?"

    I have been working on this ANI chart for several days now. On the one hand, I think it is terrific.  It makes me slow down.  I have a sense of leisure about developing my opinion since I need thirty items each for affirmative, negative and interesting.  (I might as well wait until I have all of them before deciding.)  I need that time and additional information to correct my faulty notions about the issue, too.

    On the other hand, it is torture.  It forces me to look at all sides of the issue! Besides being time-consuming, looking at all sides of an issue means I cannot get comfortable with a straightforward answer.

    If I had chosen an issue from an organizing story, in which good and evil are presented in black and white, it would be easier.  Perhaps this is what my middle schooler needs as she learns the concepts in LTW.  But my issue this go-round is one of the first debates between big business and government in the U.S.  And it just is not that simple.  My middle schooler's issue this time is "whether Mr. Elton should have married Harriet Smith."  Much simpler than mine, but not quite an organizing story issue!

    I learned about organizing stories in a book on learning differences.  Interestingly, I cannot find any info on it by googling. Organizing stories are fairy tales, parables, etc., that help us "organize" our ideas about good moral character.  Opposite are the more complex, mixed-bag stories in which people aren't only good or only evil.  In organizing stories, good always wins.  Children need organizing stories in their young lives.  They realize early on that "something is everywhere and always amiss."  They need to know that dragons can and will be slain.  And I am beginning to think issues from those types of stories are the simplest to debate when beginning to learn the persuasive essay!  Get all the messy issues out of the way while learning the process!  But I don't know.  It is wonderful the way these messy issues make us think.

    Some folks believe that an issue like the dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust does contain characters stolidly good or certainly evil.  That is not what I found, though.  John D. Rockefeller and his cronies were complicated guys.  People representing the U.S. government, whether politicians or statesmen, had to grapple with their own interests as well as governing principles. The world was exploding with new processes and unprecedented success in many areas.  Failure flew in the face of such possibilities.  And people tried to fix things.

    Today the world is exploding with children who think they can fix things.  Are these kids that did not have the benefit of organizing stories or never moved beyond them?  I wonder.  Probably the reason is something altogether different.  But they do seem to lack a sense of reality.

    Now I am rambling!  I will stop.

    Updated 10/28:  That last paragraph about lacking a sense of reality has bothered me ever since I published this post.  You mean we cannot fix things?  You mean we have to move beyond the idea that dragons can and will be slain?  That's not what I meant.  I was trying to make sense of my mind's intuitive leaps:  Katie, have you considered this?  Have you considered that? etc.  I need to be cautious about hitting 'publish' in the midst of ruminating!

    We do not need to give up the idea that dragons can and will be slain.  They can be.  They will be.  But we need to understand that human beings are fallible-- more than that, they can be stupid, and greedy, and even evil (in some areas) at the same time that they are kind and generous and good (in other areas).  People are weird.  They have blind spots.  NO ONE is going to behave righteously every time.  Sad, but true.  It is just not going to happen.  That is reality here on earth.

    The broader reality is that the good is coming, and it will not be ushered in by earthly governments, or by pure capitalism, or by parents or teachers or students or bosses or workers getting everything "right".

    Should we try to get everything right?  Yes, we should.  We won't make it, but we will get closer than if we don't try.  Should we be surprised when others do not get it right?  No, we shouldn't.  People are unrighteous.  Should we work toward improving the likelihood that people will do right?  Yes.  (I'm sure I don't have to point out that we as individuals do not get it right either.  We all already know that about ourselves.  Right?)

    As a nation we need to understand that people sin.  This is wisdom.  We also need to learn how our systems work.  Unfortunately, a lot of what gets passed off as teaching is merely talking points for one agenda or another.  When we learn to value mercy and truth more than we value our own 'side', we will be able to educate our children.  Perhaps then our children will be able to articulate what they think is right and wrong about the world, and act effectively in the direction of right, instead of flailing around in anger.  But only if they first understand that all have sinned, and do sin, and will sin.

    Updated 10/27 to add a great article that illustrates the impact of reality on idealogy.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Narration Excerpt: Mere Christianity

    And this is my favorite narration from Mariel this week.  "Jack" is C.S. Lewis:

    Jack found that some people were very disturbed that Jesus had said, “Be ye perfect.” They thought that that meant that “Unless you are perfect, I won’t help you.”
    Jack gives them an allegory. When he was a young boy, he had toothaches a lot. When he was in bed at night and he would have these toothaches, he would wait until the pain was terrible, and then go to his mother for pain killer. But when he did that, he knew that he was running the risk of his mother taking him to see the dentist on the morrow. And Jack did not like that dentist. All he wanted was immediate relief. But when he ‘gave’ his mother an inch, she took a foot, or an ell, as he says in the book.
    God is like that. In the 13th chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples the reason he tells parables. “I tell parables because the people who listen have no ears to hear with, no eyes to see with, and no mind to understand. And they don’t want to understand, because they are afraid that they will have to repent and reform. Only the willing ones can interpret my parables.”
    Jack says that God requires everything in your life to be surrendered to him, not just parts of it.

    Narration Excerpt: The Microbe Hunters

    Now I am reading Aravis' narrations.  Here is my favorite portion of hers:

     When Koch told [a famous researcher] of the new discovery, he laughed and said it was nonsense, and if Koch wanted to separate bacteria he would have to have a separate laboratory for each germ. Then Koch proved to be one of the most mature, so far, of the microbe hunters: instead of vilifying Virchow and making great sweeping oratorical speeches about how stupid he was, Koch went back to his laboratory – not in the least discouraged – and set out to find a cure for tuberculosis.

    Narration Excerpt: Isaac Newton

    I am reading the narrations Cornflower wrote last week.  This is my favorite part so far:

    Finally, Isaac was sure about the Law of Gravity!  The moon and AN APPLE obey the same law!

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Lesson Plan: Discovering Meaning in a Text

    Here is a lesson plan I wrote for Shakespeare class.  We are reading "As You Like It".  I want to show the kids that they already possess tools that will help them interpret the text.

    1.  What do you know of grammar? (Talk about nouns/verbs
    These two parts of speech can help us discover the meaning of a text.)

    2.  Using what we know about nouns and verbs, let's figure out these sentences from today's reading:

    "Your virtues, gentle master, are sanctified and holy traitors to you." 

    (Virtues are traitors. The rest of the sentence is Adam's praise of Orlando.)

    My master is of churlish disposition and little recks to find the way to heaven by doing deeds of hospitality.” 

    (Master is churlish. The rest is an example of his churlishness. “Churlish” is an adjective that describes Master, but we do not have to know that to see that it follows “Master is...”)

    3.  Here is part of a sentence from the Declaration of Independence. It even works for our governing documents!

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes...” 

    (Prudence will dictate. Governments should [not] be changed.  The rest of the words enhance or change the meaning of the sentence.  It is easier to see the changes when we highlight the main nouns and verbs.)

    4.  Briefly introduce selection to be read.

    5.  Read and narrate. 

    LTW Journal 10/20

    Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)  

    A thought I have been pondering:

    These rudimentary lessons bring essay-writing down to its lowest common denominator, enabling students to learn a process.  I hesitate to be happy about that.  As I work on my own basic persuasive essay, I find that I want to go deeper and explore the issue more than the form allows. 

    As an autonomous adult student, I can break out of the basic rules in LTW in order to explore the issue, but I wonder about students enrolled in a class or being taught this at home by their parents.  They will be brought back to simplicity if they want to include elements not yet covered.  I have already done this once or twice with my own kids.  The student may adhere to form while either struggling internally over what he wants to SAY or pacifying himself with his passing grade.   When lessons are made simple, it is tempting to believe that getting 100 means you have everything you need, when in reality it is only the beginning of understanding.  How do you teach simplified lessons without lowering the standard? 

    I have tried going from complex to simple.  I originally taught the Essay to my oldest by having her rewrite great essays-- a method described by Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography.  Franklin successfully learned to write by doing this, but I am not sure our attempts were effective.  Now I am going the opposite route, moving from simple to complex.  It is easier, but the temptation to lower standards bothers me.  I would love to hear from folks who have successfully used LTW and can explain how it actually raises both a student's standards and the quality of his writing.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    LTW Journal 10/19: Finding an Issue

    (Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.) 

    I realized this week that several posters on the LTWMentor group write essays along with their students, following the guidelines of their classes' current lessons.  I have not been doing that, although I consider our practice essay somewhat my own.  In this essay cycle, I decided to go through the process myself, doing everything I am requiring of my kids.

    We are in Invention this week, so I have to find an issue.  LTW does not give too much guidance on actually picking something to write about.  I told the kids that this essay needs to be about what they are reading for school.  I am reading several books with the kids.  Gathering fodder for an essay is tough, so I want to pick a book that fascinates me.  Here are the ones I find most interesting:

    1.  Plutarch's Life of Crassus
    2.  Paul Johnson's History of the American People (currently dealing with 1880s-1920s)
    3.  This Country of Ours (currently reading about the 1800s)
    4.  Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
    5.  The Bible (Matthew/Leviticus)
    6.  Emma by Jane Austen
    7.  The New World (Henry VIII just established the Church of England)
    8.  As You Like It by Mr. William Shakespeare

    Next I need to discover anything debatable in these books-- an issue.  In other words, a topic that can be turned into a 'whether', ie., "Whether Boromir should have tried to take the Ring from Frodo".  (That is our practice essay issue.)  I did not peek into the books to make my list because I want to pick an issue that inspires me to wonder.  Off the top of my head, I wonder:

    1. Whether Crassus should have decimated the legion
    2a. Whether Congress should have dismantled the Standard Oil Trust
    2b. Whether Congress should have enacted the Robinson-Patman Act (also known as the Anti-Price-Discrimination Act)
    3. Whether General Jackson should have conquered Florida
    4.  Hmm...
    5.  (Sort of hard to find a debate in the commands of God (Leviticus).  Ditto for Matthew, since we are reading Christ's sermons.)
    6.  Whether Harriet should have refused Robert Martin.
    7.  Whether Henry should have broke away from the Catholic Church.
    8.  Whether it is better to live at the ducal court or in the wilderness.

    Here my two favorites:

    *  Whether Crassus should have decimated the legion
    *  Whether Congress should have dismantled the Standard Oil Trust

    In the next LTW Journal post, I will let you know which one I picked. :)

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Little by Little

    “Little by little,” an acorn said,
    As it slowly sank in its mossy bed,
    “I am improving every day,
    Hidden deep in the earth away.”

    Around five years ago, a sweet lady in our homeschool group offered to teach us crochet.  We went to her house one afternoon a week for several months.  I learned single, double and triple crochet, as well as granny squares.  Aravis, then twelve, made a potholder.  Mariel, age nine, learned the chain stitch, but quickly lost interest and joined Cornflower, age six, watching Disney movies in the other room.
    I made a couple baby blankets and started afghans for the girls.  Although Mariel was fascinated by crochet hooks and actually bought several at a garage sale, the girls did not want to start projects.  After awhile I either finished or abandoned mine.  Whenever I thought about our foray into yarn crafts, I felt vaguely dissatisfied.  Evidently, my girls were not crochet-ers.

    Then early this year we watched the musical, "Cats".  Aravis was intrigued by the costumes.  She discovered a Cats-costume-making group online.  She practiced crochet stitches until she could make arm and leg warmers. She taught herself to make Cats wigs and tails, which involves fraying homespun, making wig caps out of pantyhose, and combining colors to get the proper cat effect.  A drama friend offered to teach her knitting, and Aravis taught her crochet in return.

    She is now officially obsessed with yarn crafts.  She visits Hobby Lobby at every opportunity.  She has almost completed her Cats costume and is instructing her sisters in making their own. There are yarn fragments all over the house, but especially in her room.  Her spending money goes toward more yarn, and her wish list includes homespun, Simply Soft, and don't forget bamboo silk...

    Tonight all three girls are listening to Chopin and working on their Cats costumes.  I hear them in there discussing the proper use of hot glue and whether it is better to be paid for babysitting in yarn or money. I am telling this because five years ago I felt like crafting with yarn didn't "take".  But apparently it did. It threatens to overrun my home.  And I like it.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    LTW Journal 10/13: Defining Boromir

    (Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)

    One of the five tools in the Invention canon is Definition. Aravis and I went through workbook exercise to come up with this definition for Boromir:

    "Boromir is the member of the Fellowship who does not want the Ring destroyed."

    One result of this exercise was our realization that Boromir's motives place him directly in conflict with the rest of the Fellowship. Everyone else is committed to destroying the Ring by helping Frodo get to Mordor so he can throw it in the fire. But Boromir thinks he can use the Ring to destroy Sauron.

    Cornflower observed and made comments, but Mariel was sick and stayed in bed. Cornflower then wanted to define her own term, so she and I came up with this about Sir Kay in the King Arthur legend:

    "Sir Kay is a man who is Sir Ector's real son."

    As the girls discovered, the exercise is a bit like a Venn diagram: How is this thing like others of its kind? How is it different?

    The essay for this three-week cycle will be student's choice-- anything that has to do with their reading for school this year. I'm done giving them tough topics! Learning the form is tough enough.

    Update:  Mariel is feeling better.  We worked together to come up with another definition for the Boromir issue.  She wanted to define the word, "take".  I was not sure this would be a good idea, but I was pleasantly surprised--

    "The word, 'take', is an action verb with a negative connotation."

    I am not sure we are using "connotation" correctly.  I think what we really want to say is that "take" is negative in this context.  I get context and connotation confused.

    connotation:  an idea or feeling that a word evokes for a person in addition to its literal or primary meaning. (Google)

    context:  the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.  (Google)

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Wait on the Lord

    The LORD is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
    The LORD is the strength of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?
    2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes,
    came upon me to eat up my flesh,
    they stumbled and fell.
    3 Though a host should encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear:
    though war should rise against me,
    in this will I be confident.
    4 One thing have I desired of the LORD,

    that will I seek after;
    that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
    all the days of my life,
    to behold the beauty of the LORD,
    and to inquire in his temple.
    5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion:
    in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me;
    he shall set me up upon a rock.
    6 And now shall mine head be lifted up
    above mine enemies round about me:
    therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy;
    I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
    7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice:
    have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
    8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face;
    my heart said unto thee,
    Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
    9 Hide not thy face far from me;
    put not thy servant away in anger:
    thou hast been my help;
    leave me not, neither forsake me,
    O God of my salvation.
    10 When my father and my mother forsake me,
    then the LORD will take me up.
    11 Teach me thy way, O LORD,
    and lead me in a plain path,
    because of mine enemies.
    12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies:
    for false witnesses are risen up against me,
    and such as breathe out cruelty.
    13 I had fainted, unless I had believed
    to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
    14 Wait on the LORD:
    be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:
    wait, I say, on the LORD.  

    Psalm 27

    Sunday, October 09, 2011

    LTW Journal 10/9

    (Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)

    We are finishing Lesson 2 Elocution.

    FYI:  The program is organized into three-week, three part lessons.  Each week we focus on a different canon, or "body of rules".  (LTW is based on the first three of the five canons of classical rhetoric:  Invention, Arrangement and Elocution.)  We whizzed through the first lesson, but the second one took longer than three weeks!  As long as we learn the material, I am okay with that.  But back to my subject.

    One of the friendly people on the LTWMentors yahoo group helped me quite a bit by pointing out that I was making grammatical parallelism more complicated than it needs to be at this stage.  I needed to hear that.  I tend toward an inflexible attitude when teaching a new format, and run the risk of exasperating my children with too much detail work.

    So.  The nouns do not have to be the same exact word.  They just have to be nouns.  Yay.  Sometimes things really are as simple as they look.

    What follows are the first paragraphs of the girls' introductory persuasive essays.  I hesitated to post these, as they are political in nature.  Therefore, I might get unnecessary political traffic on my educational blog.  So if you are reading this post to find out more on Rick Perry or the TSA, please understand that we are doing a junior high/high school academic writing exercise.  We are not looking to debate these issues.  Yet.  Let us master our rhetoric skills first.  :)

    (I wanted to use the Boromir/Frodo practice essay, but we did a lot of new work on it last week and I cannot find my notes.  Phrasing the proofs in different ways taught us more perfectly what we were trying to prove, so we decided to alter the proofs.  I'll post all that later if/when I find it.  :disorganized:)

    They both ended up with subject, verb, direct object as their grammar in parallel.  (We found it much easier to rearrange words if we first analyzed the proof sentences a la Winston Grammar.)  These paragraphs are very simplistic, so remember (with me) that our efforts will get more refined over time.  Right now we are learning the form.

    Aravis, age 17

    The TSA should not be able to pat us down or put us through full-body scanners for three reasons. The TSA searches invade privacy, violate the law and do not catch terrorists.

    Mariel, age 14

    Rick Perry should be President of the United States of America for three reasons. He is a Republican, he shows leadership qualities, and he gets great results.
    (For the record, her father and I are leaning more toward Herman Cain.  Again, not looking for a debate on the subject.  If you want to debate my husband, you can do so on FB.)