Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Compassion and Condemnation and the Sinner

There is a chapter in the book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, in which Francie and Neeley get vaccinated in order to attend school.  In the hours beforehand, Neeley gets nervous, so Francie consoles him with making mud pies.  Of course, they get incredibly dirty.  At the appointed time, a neighbor leans out the window to remind them of their appointment, and, without washing, Francie and Neeley go to the clinic.

At the clinic, the doctor sighs and complains to the nurse of their dirtiness, assuming it is a byproduct of poverty and ignorance.  He is a Harvard man with a socially prominent fiance who thinks of his service at the clinic as time in Purgatory.  The nurse is from Francie's neighborhood and has worked hard to leave it behind.

Little Francie, stunned by the doctor's cruel complaint, expects the nurse to say something loving and kind, like:

"Maybe this little girl's mother works and didn't have time to wash her good this morning."


"You know how it is, Doctor.  Children will play in dirt."

But the nurse fails.  She says, "I know.  Isn't it terrible?  I sympathize with you, Doctor.  There is no excuse for these people living in filth."

These people.

Betty Smith writes:

A person who pulls himself up from a low environment via the bootstrap route has two choices.  Having risen above his environment, he can forget it; or, he can rise above it and never forget it and keep compassion and understanding in his heart for those he has left behind him in the cruel up climb.
I've been thinking about this in relation to sin and being a sinner.  The analogy is not perfect, but sometimes I think we are so scared we might revert back to old ways, or be identified with sinful practices, that, like the nurse, we fail to have compassion for others.  And by we I mean me.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I have another post on homeschooling mercies in my drafts, but I can't bring myself to edit and post it.  All I can say is, we are blessed!  We are so blessed.  I don't know why we are so blessed, but we are.

Pleasing colleges may not be the best measure of educational success, and I don't mean to imply that.  We didn't care about the educational establishment thought for a long time... at least until high school.  Then it got tense.

I don't know what is going to happen next, but I love watching my kids Become.  They are becoming beautiful girls, and girls with honest struggles and questions as well as virtues, and I hope we will always talk and pray together.  Lord keep me from doing anything to change that!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Brightest and Best

Low at His feet we in humble prostration
Lose all our trouble and sorrow and strife;
There we receive His divine consolation,
Flowing afresh from the fountain of life.

He is our Friend in the midst of temptation,
Faithful supporter whose love cannot fail,
Rock of our refuge, and Hope of salvation,
Light to direct us through death's gloomy vale.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness, and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Reginald Heber 1783-1826

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Here I Raise My Ebenezer: Part 1

Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I've come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.

Our oldest is a senior this year.  She turned eighteen in September.  She is a legal adult.  She owns her car outright, works a part-time job, and voted in the Presidential election.  She has applied to colleges and been accepted.  Scholarships (and applications for more scholarships) are arriving.  The order of the day is excitement, anticipation and essay writing.  Lots of essay writing.

In the midst of her success, I am thinking back over the last fifteen years or so, how the Lord's provision has blessed her to thrive with a home education.  Many times over the years I have wondered, "Lord, how are we going to do THIS?"

Embarking on a venture never undertaken by family or friends will bring you to your knees in prayer!

The Lord has always answered the question in His own time.  This always surprises me, though I don't know why it should.  He delights in giving good gifts to His children.  Every time it happens, I think, "Wow, He still wants to work with us on this!"

So I plan to write a series of posts on how the Lord has provided through our homeschool journey thus far.  I hope the posts are an encouragement to you.

Someone once advised us to work as if it were all up to us, and pray as if it were all up to God.  We try to do this, although my dad would tell you I often "worry as if it were all up to me."  I try not to worry.  It is a sin, as my dad says.  The best thing for worry is to pray to God, and keep praying when you find you have that worry back in your mind.

My dad was a huge reason we decided to homeschool.  The Warrior Poet and I would never have considered it.  We don't even have college degrees!  But in his travels, Dad met homeschooled students and appreciated their maturity and thoughtfulness.  In his inimitable way, he began working on us, using logic and statistics, as well as constant gentle nudging, until we said we would give it a try.

We honestly did not think we would be successful, but Aravis was young (age 3 1/2) and we had time to put her in school if I failed at teaching her to read.

She was reading the KJV Bible by age 4, so I was stuck.  ;o)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Far Too Easily Pleased

Now I am thinking about this:

If you asked twenty good men to-day
what they thought 
the highest of the virtues, 
nineteen of them would reply, 

But if you asked almost any 
of the great Christians of old 
he would have replied, 

You see what has happened? 
A negative term 
has been substituted for a positive, 
and this is of more than philological importance. 

The negative ideal of Unselfishness 
carries with it the suggestion 
not primarily of securing good things for others, 
but of going without them ourselves, 
as if our abstinence 
and not their happiness 
was the important point.

I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. 

The New Testament has lots to say 
about self-denial,
but not about self-denial as an end in itself.

We are told to deny ourselves 
and to take up our crosses 
in order that we may follow Christ; 
and nearly every description 
of what we shall ultimately find if we do so
contains an appeal to desire. 

If there lurks in most modern minds 
the notion that to desire our own good 
and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it 
is a bad thing, 
I submit that this notion has crept in 
from Kant and the Stoics 
and is no part of the Christian faith. 

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward 
and the staggering nature of the rewards 
promised in the Gospels, 
it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, 
not too strong, 
but too weak. 

We are half-hearted creatures,
fooling about with drink and sex and ambition 
when infinite joy is offered us,
like an ignorant child 
who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum 
because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer
of a holiday at the sea.

We are far too easily pleased.

C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory

I'd Rather Have Jesus

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I'd rather be His than have riches untold,
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I'd rather be led by his nail-pierced hand--
I've been thinking lately about "Jesus and..."  Am I like that?  Do I need a value-added Savior in order to be content?
I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause,
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I'd rather be true to His holy name--
The list above contains earthly things, but I could make a spiritual list... Jesus and a commercial-free Christmas, Jesus and like-minded friends, Jesus and a loving family.  Is Jesus enough if I am forced to live in a world that rejects Him?  I know He is, but do I believe it?
He's fairer than lilies of rarest bloom,
He's sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He's all that my hungering spirit needs,
I'd rather have Jesus and let Him lead--
I have many of these other things, but am I willing to lose them and still worship Christ?

Christ is enough.  I believe it.  I haven't had much testing, though.  I pray that, whatever the future holds, the Lord will teach me that His grace is sufficient.

(Lyrics from "I'd Rather Have Jesus", written by Rhea F. Miller, 1894-1966.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Good Morning Christmas Playlist

Our "Good Morning Playlist" has been a household success.  We are now auditioning Christmas tracks to insert between our regular favorites.  As before, the music must have the ability to jump-start our morning, which excludes much contemplative Christmas music.  (I love it but it doesn't get the kids going.  I mean, they love it too, but not in the morning.)  Here is the hour-long Spotify playlist thus far, subject to change without notice!  Our regular tracks are in bold:

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (Mannheim Steamroller)
Every Knee Shall Bow (Twila Paris)
Christmas Don't Be Late (The Chipmunks)
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) (The Proclaimers)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (T-Bone Burnett)
Beautiful Day (U2)
Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (Gayle Peevey)
O Come All Ye Faithful and Joy to the World (Canadian Brass)
Mary's Little Boy Child (Harry Connick, Jr.)
I Wonder as I Wander (John Rutter/Cambridge Singers)
O Holy Night (Bing Crosby)
Chorus Finale on Schiller's Ode to Joy from Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)
A Mad Russian's Christmas (Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves)

Note the last three songs-- the last fifteen minutes remind us to do our last things and get into the living room for Bible or out the door for our appointments!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


My family's gratitude list:
  • For church family, how comforting they are when you're sad
  • I am thankful for Skittles (the cat) reminding us to stay humble
  • Eternal life
  • Piano students
  • The art museum
  • My (birthday) party
  • Essay almost finished!
  • I am thankful for Vivaldi during math
  • My awesome wife
  • Friends and family
  • School 
  • My awesome kids
  • Cornflower! (on her birthday)
  • Cornflower again :)
  • Cornflower once more :D
  • My wonderful home
  • Proper food, clothing and shelter
  • Understanding teachers
  • School (different student)
  • Preservation (Bible doctrine)
  • The right to vote
  • Skittles
  • Honest and good leaders
  • Life
  • MUSIC!
  • The opportunity to homeschool my kids
  • Health
  • Liberty
  • Grandparents
  • Music
  • The pursuit of happiness
  • Silly kitties
  • I did good at drama club
  • Activities
  • Freedom of speech
  • Music (We love music!)
  • The right to keep and bear arms
  • Weird blots that look like rosebuds
  • Jesus
  • Cotillion
  • God
  • _______ College called me!
  • The Bible
  • Clean-smelling girlies
  • Flowers
  • Cats who don't bite
  • Chocolate
  • Exams (Will wonders never cease?)
  • Indoor plumbing-- hot and cold running water
  • Tape flags
  • Our hymn-singing heritage
  • The Resurrection
  • No tobacco dependency
  • Fall weather and color
  • Warm boots
  • Homemade pie
  • Singing
  • _______ (a best friend)
  • Music
  • Cleaning supplies.  Weird, I know, but how would we clean without them?
  • The ability to give
  • Good coffee
  • Clean carpet
  • I slept in!
  • Gnocchi
  • Family
  • The freedom to homeschool
  • Paper
  • Bacon
  • Christ who paid it all
  • Technology
  • Medical care
  • Justice
  • Music (again!)
  • Second chances
  • I have a job
  • New media/real journalists

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carpets, College and Snowflake Dancers

I cleaned the carpets.  They look cleaner.  The Warrior Poet says 85% cleaner.  There are still spots.  I think it is more like 80%, but we agree that this nine-year-old beige builder-grade carpet has moved up to a 'B' in terms of cleanliness.

It took 7.5 hours.  My fingers are still sore from pushing the little red button, pulling the machine and picking hair out of the scrippy-scrubby brush.  We have tons of long hair at our house and it all lands on the carpet.  Our vacuum cleaner hardly picks it up.  Today I will be down on my hands and knees brushing the dining room rug.  I'm happy to do it.  I've wanted to take care of it, lo, these many months.

So.  Clean carpet.  Brushed rug.  I may even mop the linoleum today.  Then all my floor will look good at the same time.  Give me one moment in time when I'm all that I thought I could be.  Hee hee.

After cleaning carpets, I always like to go to my parents' house and sing hymns.  So there you go.  Monday evening we visited my folks, ate pre-Thanksgiving dinner and sang at least two hours.

Sopapilla cheesecake.  Yum.

Yesterday I contacted college admissions offices.  Aravis is really doing this thing.  Eee!   Three schools are waiting on documents. Two schools have everything needed.  One school said Aravis would most likely hear something by mid-December.  We submitted almost everything electronically.  Wild.  I am mailing two official paper transcripts today for the schools that require them.  I included, "Official" in the transcript title, signed the bottom, sealed the envelopes, and signed across the seals.  The admissions counselors said we did not need to have them notarized or stamped with a school seal.  High school homeschooling moms live for such inside info.  I realized yesterday I'll be doing this for the next nine years, Lord willing.  By the end of it, I may know as much about getting into college as a high school guidance counselor.

Today I will brush the rug, make gnocchi and pecan pie, hang Aravis' senior pictures, crack the whip on Mariel's final few exam questions (she was sick during exam week), think about tweaking school assignments for the new term, and put the rest of the furniture back in order.  Today I do everything I was hoping to do the entire week, lol.

Tomorrow we feast at Grammy's house.

On Black Friday we will get out Christmas decorations.  We are poor shoppers at the best of times. We dare not venture out during the competitive shopping Olympics.  Scary.  Instead, we decorate.  I think these snowflake dancers would look fantastic hanging from our dining room chandelier.  Of course, the directions are in Russian.  I think.  Anyway, I cannot read them.  I hope one of my crafty children will figure out the elegant little things.  And if I can't have them in my home, at least they exist somewhere.

Thus begins the season of gratitude and peace.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amadeus: a cautionary tale of pride and lust

Last night Mariel and I watched Amadeus.  (I recommend parental preview before watching with your kids to verify that it meets family viewing standards.)  Last time I watched it I think I was fourteen or fifteen years old.  I got so much more out of it this time.  I think Mariel, who is fifteen, got more out of it too than I did when I was her age.  (Further evidence of her superior education...)

I want to talk about the fictional Salieri.  (He was a real person, but the storyline in Amadeus is fictional.) He was court composer to the Emperor of Austria-- the Holy Roman Emperor, as he was known.

In the movie, young Salieri has a strange idea.  He thinks humans are in a position to bargain with God.  He vows that if God will make him a great composer, he will be completely chaste, humble and industrious, glorifying God in all his music.

Well, the Lord does not choose to do that, although Salieri thinks at first that he has.

He thinks God has answered his vow by causing his father to die.  He calls the death a miracle that changed him from "a frustrated boy in an obscure little town" to a citizen of Vienna, the city of musicians.

Salieri seems to have always been a bit off.

Anyway, he becomes court composer and honors his vow of chastity, industry and humility.  He is a good composer, but not a great one.  He also admires Mozart, whom he had never met.  Then they do meet, and Mozart turns out to be a vulgar, low, common person.  Salieri is appalled.

Apparently Salieri has made some rules about who is allowed to be amazing and who is not and God is not honoring his standards.

He tries to deny the genius of Mozart's music, but he cannot.  Time and time again he is astonished at its brilliance.  God is allowing this disgusting man to create beauty.

(At this point in the movie I wonder why Salieri does not realize his own presumption and pride, but it is always easier to discover another's sin than to comprehend your own.)

Actually, Mozart seems to me a person with both good and bad points.  Sadly, his daemons overcome his virtues in the end.  This is a tragedy.  And Salieri, who is in a position to help, instead succumbs to his own daemons and participates in Mozart's demise.  This is also a tragedy.  Mozart trusts him to the end, although Mozart's wife most emphatically does not.  She sees Salieri's true heart early in the movie.

Blinded by envy, Salieri is never willing to be a part of the beauty by helping Mozart.  Far from helping, Salieri actually encourages Mozart's madness by pretending to be the ghost of his father, whom Mozart believes is tormenting him into writing a Requiem.  Mozart eventually dies.  Salieri ends his life in the madhouse.  The one gave himself up to decadence and the other to pride.

I wonder what the Lord had to say to them in Heaven?  "Welcome.  Your sins are forgiven.  I love you and died for both of you.  I grant you peace.  Torment yourselves no more, but live with me in glory."

Oh, that they had allowed themselves the enjoyment of the earnest of that inheritance on earth!

(My apologies for the several updates.  Darn these tenses!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life as a Raid or Great Adventure

What is right with the world has nothing to do with future changes, but is rooted in original realities."
--G.K. Chesterton, What is Right with the World

The news is depressing.  Strangely, I almost wish it was already January 1st.  I just want to know what is going to happen with the fiscal cliff.  And what will happen in the next decade with foreign issues like terrorism and domestic issues like healthcare.  Worry, worry, worry.  I need to stop reading the news so much.  I do not need up-to-the-minute coverage.

I already know what is ultimately going to happen.  The Lord will come in the clouds and every knee shall bow and we will all go to live with him in glory.  Before that, we will live on earth and deal with the good and evil under the sun and be delivered in or through trouble.  "In this world you will have tribulation, but be not dismayed. I have overcome the world."  We will draw closer to him or we will rebel.  He will sustain us through pain and sorrow or we will forget him and lose that earnest of our inheritance.  Yet when we die we will be with him.  Who or what can separate us from Christ Jesus?  No one and no thing.  Not even our very own selves.  Let me not forget this.  But if I do forget-- I am a sinner, Lord help my unbelief! I will still ultimately be united with my Savior.

Do I really need detailed information on what will happen in the coming months?

Chesterton, again:  "We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life. But anyone who shrinks from this is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being."

What high town am I assaulting with my existence if I whine and fret?

I must fly in the face of gloom.  I am off to make beds and do dishes and wash clothes and generally redeem household things and comfort family and friends.  Open siege on disorder!  Let me know when my strength is required for greater things; right now I am building my house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I want to post more.  A lot of life is happening at our house.  Some I can share and some I cannot.  I wonder if I can post every day for the next few weeks?  If I do, and I hope I will, my posts will probably contain meandering thoughts rather than anything coherent.  Bear with me. :)

This morning we read Ann Voskamp's post, "When Your Christmas Stretches You".  I highly recommend it.  We generally do not have the hectic Christmas most people experience.  Some of our family do not celebrate Christmas and most of them live far, far away.  We visited them last year and this year will stay home.

Without going into much detail, I will say my family is dealing with hardship right now.  I've been open on this blog about our debt, and thankfully we are pretty much finished paying it off.  We have a few doctor bills and a family loan that should be done in a couple months, provided our income level stays the same.

Our income has been going down for the last couple years.  It continues to slide.  This is one sad thing that is happening to us.  Dave Ramsey would say we have an income problem, not a budget problem.  The amazing part is that we are still current on our bills.  I don't know how long that will last, but I know who holds tomorrow.

The reason for the income problem is the Warrior Poet's health.  He is a salesman and is struggling to sell while in pain from back problems.  I have taken on quite a few piano students to offset the loss.  I now teach every weekday afternoon but Friday.  I love it.  I can't believe I get to do something I love to help us through this tribulation.  It feels like cheating to me.

This thought makes me realize that I do not really believe God delights in giving good gifts to his children.  It isn't cheating that God gave me a love of music and parents that could afford to let me take piano lessons and who left me alone to develop my skill without a lot of nagging.  It is a gift from God that I do not deserve but that he was delighted to give me.  God is still giving to me and helping me give to my family in a way that expands my soul.  Nurturing my students' love of music is a soul-expanding exercise as well as a discipline and I get to do it almost every day.  How glorious.

Back to Christmas.  I don't really know what is going to happen this year.  My parents gave us a tree since we aren't going to visit the Christmas tree farm.  They even gave us pine-scented air freshener so the house will smell right.  No, I do not deserve it.  That is why it is called a gift.  Not cheating or being lazy. Why do I think like that?

I pray that the Lord will help me defeat this devilish thought and see his good gifts for what they are.  Satan, get thee behind me.  It is true that the life of grace stretches us, like Ann says.  I don't feel like I am living all that graciously, but the Lord is stretching me, teaching me to give up expectations, to await his gifts with open hands and no requirements, either for my work or for his gifts.  No deal-breakers, because I am not bargaining with God nor am I earning my way.  My work should be my love for him manifest in action.

My dreams have to become his dreams, perhaps my dream of our life is not what he has for us.  Like Heidi, I have to give up my hoarded basket of hard, stale bread and wait on the Lord, who brings fresh loaves, enough for today's meal and a promise of more tomorrow.

Another thing.  Many people are dealing with worse problems than ours.  I cannot tell you the hardships some of our close friends have to walk through.  I feel guilty that I am so upset about our situation.  We are all together.  We are all healthy, except the Warrior Poet's back.  Our family and friends are showing God's love to us, constantly helping us.  I am a dramatic worrier, that is true.  I need help replacing that worry and the guilty feeling that follows.  It is true we will not be satisfied until we are in the presence of the Lord, but I want to take life minute by minute and rejoice in the Lord and the little things while working like anything to improve our lot.  Lord, help me to do it, and not to glory in my work!  But to glory in your provision.  And help me to love my friends that are experiencing hardships, to be your hands and feet for them.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Building a Tree

Today we went to the Kimbell for a lesson on architecture.  Little La's building intrigued me, so I am breaking the bloggy silence with a photo essay.

Building is much more friendly with two.  

"What is it going to be?"  
"A redwood tree."

Toothpick branches

Tissue, toothpicks and glue

It begins to resemble a tree.


To be continued, perhaps...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Obedience and Faith

Obedience without trust is legalism.  No one ever obeys perfectly.  We all need to trust God's grace and mercy.   
                                   -- My Dad
I am parking this thought here so I don't forget.  I want to write about it after I get my other stuff done.

(Dad, please let me know if I got the quote wrong and I'll correct it.  Love, Katie)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

LTW: Lesson 6 Essay

Here is Mariel's essay on Amy's cologne purchase:

“Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It's so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We've got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March each had a dollar for Christmas presents. Instead of buying things for themselves, they agreed to make a Christmas basket filled with goodies for their Marmee. Jo bought a new pair of slippers, Beth embroidered ‘Mother’ on a pile of handkerchiefs and Meg purchased ‘a nice pair of gloves’. Amy was stuck. She decided that Marmee could use a bottle of elegant cologne.

Everyone agrees that making a Christmas basket for Marmee was lovely. Cologne was something that Marmee liked, and the basket was for her. But should Amy have bought something else?

Amy should have bought cologne for Marmee for three reasons. One, Amy needed to buy the cologne; two, Amy liked to belong; and three, Amy cared about Marmee.

The first reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she needed to buy the cologne. She had wanted to buy the slippers, but could not. As ‘the man of the house’, Jo beat her to them. This cologne was as elegant as Annie Moffat and also inexpensive.

The second reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she liked to belong. It was Christmas. People bought presents for loved ones. All her friends bought cologne for their mothers, and her sisters were buying presents for Marmee. Amy would have felt terrible if she had spent the dollar on herself—and not Marmee.

The third reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she cared about Marmee. Marmee liked cologne. Amy wanted Marmee’s new handkerchiefs to smell nice. All the other mothers wore cologne, and Amy wanted Marmee to be fashionable.

At first, I thought that Amy should not have bought the cologne for Marmee. I thought that Marmee was too practical, and that the cologne would just sit on her bureau.  But I was underestimating Marmee; she would love any present—especially if it was from one of her beloved daughters.

As an artist, I thought that Amy should have bought her coveted art pencils. Then she could draw something for Marmee. But Amy was rather selfish. Even she admitted that. That Christmas, she wanted to be unselfish and self-sacrificing. Marmee liked cologne, so Amy bought it.

Amy should have bought the cologne for Marmee. Amy needed to buy the cologne, Amy liked to belong, and Amy cared about Marmee.

This seems a very small matter. It is just a decision to buy cologne for a mother.  But Louisa May Alcott wanted the young, spoiled Amy to grow up a bit that Christmas. Amy could have been selfish with her money, but instead, she chose to be generous. At first, she bought a cheap, tiny bottle of cologne that did not take up the entire dollar.

But the next morning, without telling anyone, Amy slipped out of the house and returned the first bottle of cologne. When she came back to the house, she had a beautiful, large bottle of more expensive perfume that used up the entire dollar. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Math and Psalms

LittleLa added an editorial to the end of a word problem this morning.

"Last year Uncle Alex planted cabbages in a field which was 15 m wide and 40 m long.  This year he wants to plant cabbages in a new field but has not decided whether to use the 5 m wide field, the 24 m wide field or the 30 m wide field.  Selah."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Morning Routine Playlist

I found a great idea in ADDitude Magazine for inspiring my household to get up and get going in the morning.  I cannot find the actual article.  The link above is to the main website.  The idea is to make an hour-long playlist of music and then start the music an hour before you need to leave the house or get started with school in the morning.  The kids thought this was great.  Our whole family collaborated on the playlist.  Here it is:

When Will My Life Begin, from the movie, "Tangled"
Every Knee Shall Bow by Twila Paris
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
The Morning Report from the movie, "The Lion King"
The Joy of the Lord by Twila Paris
Good Morning, Baltimore from the musical, "Hairspray"
Beautiful Day by U2
Hakuna Matata from the movie, "The Lion King"
Climb Every Mountain from the musical, "The Sound of Music"
Little Wonders from the movie, "Meet the Robinsons"
Good Morning, Good Morning by the Beatles (covered by The Coverbeats)
I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman
Chorus Finale on Schiller's Ode to Joy from Beethovens 9th Symphony
The Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet
Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
They have ordered their morning routines to correspond to different songs in the list.  A few days after we started this, I reordered the playlist a bit and set off a panic when the girls heard Good Morning Baltimore earlier than they were expecting, lol.

The Ode to Joy finale is our signal that we have fifteen minutes before showtime.  ;)  During the day when we need to go somewhere in fifteen minutes, I start the playlist at Ode to Joy.

Funny how music motivates us.  It's much more pleasant than an alarm going off or a person saying "Get going!"  The other day one of the girls did not get up and did not get up.  I finally went into her room fifteen minutes before time and simply said, "Ode to Joy, babe."  She was out of bed like a shot.

I have been one of the worst offenders as far as lollygagging in the morning.  The music works for me too.  The girls say even if the music didn't help that much, they would still like it because they like hearing me sing in the morning.  I am happy we chose music with words.

We have been using this tool for three weeks and no one is tired of the songs yet.  I wonder when we will decide we need new ones?

Updated to add:  Have you watched the movie, "Inception"?  In that movie, a certain song plays to signal the dreamers that it is time to wake up.  They call it "the kick".  This week, we realized Ode to Joy is the kick that alerts us to do our last things and get ready to go, leaving the kairos atmosphere of home and entering the chronos atmosphere of appointments and activities.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Little Wonders

During math this morning, Little La said, "I've got a paper that will really help me, but it's in last year's math binder.  May I go get it?"  Delighted, I agreed.  She came back with a sheet filled with geometric figures and formulas I had insisted she jot down last year.  (!)  The flip side of the paper was a copy of a page from Shakespeare-- a sketch of Orlando defying Duke Senior, and the cast list of "As You Like It".  Little things like this make my day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

If God be for us...

A friend sent me this quote today:

Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men.  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.  

                                                                        --Phillips Brooks

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

N&N: Prologue III and IV

I'm back to narrating Norms and Nobility.  (I narrated the Preface and Prologue I and II in June.)

Prologue III

normative= What should be done?
operational= What can be done?

“How can I succeed in an increasingly complicated world?”  This is the question modern educators seek to answer.  The new question feels useful, fits the scientific method, and promises power.  Since the Enlightenment, this question has done battle with the older, normative question:  “What is man and what are his purposes?”  The old has been gradually analyzed into oblivion, while the new has been strengthened by scientific breakthroughs.  Ancient and feudal man understood he had the role of a servant.  To seek anything higher was condemned as foolhardy.  Modern man has broken through that caution and seeks to rule.  This is the aim of modern education.  Educators take things apart and list them for memorization until there is no room in a student's education to ask “What are the implications of this?  How does this increase our understanding of our purposes?”

Prologue IV

Nowadays, schools carry many technologies for finding out what can be done, but no imagination for determining what ought to be done.  Students hitch a ride on a predictable, testable system rather than hiking up the steep mountain to the ideal.  This is now seen in government policy as well as education.  The idea of counterinsurgency during the war in Vietnam was the result of this operational, rather than normative, thinking.  Just because something can be done does not mean it ought to be done.  Another example is teaching communication using technique rather than constant reading, writing and orderly instruction.  (What is the difference between technique and orderly instruction, I wonder?)  Communication is viewed as a skill learned for success, rather than a way to discover man's purposes. Ironically, the author describes the actions of the US in Vietnam in terms that only readers of Plutarch would understand.  I have read just enough Plutarch to recognize the references and grasp shades of meaning, but need to read more to truly understand.  (I also need to research the decisions made by US leaders during that time.  What exactly was the idea of counterinsurgency?  I am sure this is a dumb question for a forty-something American to ask.)

Operational thinking (“What can be done?”) develops a life of its own and strives to exist after its usefulness is over.  This reminds me of the tyrannical brain in A Wrinkle in Time, of government bureaucracies, of parasitic plants and animals in the natural world.  Man, still a servant, serves the Frankenstein of his own making.  Like it says in the Bible, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”  Man will serve something or someone.  Modern man's blindness and pride leads him away from the pursuit of the Ideal Man and toward the machine.

Technique makes man “a more efficient berry gatherer, a more discriminating shell collector, a more willing water carrier,” leaving out any consideration of the human spirit.  Yet the goal of education ought to be the cultivation of the human spirit:  “to teach the young to know what is good, to serve it above self, to reproduce it, and to recognize that in knowledge lies this responsibility.”  Without this, students are left at the mercy of lust and ego.

Sunday, September 09, 2012


"Help me to live for others, that I may live like Thee."

Lord, help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray,
My prayer shall be for others. 
Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true;
And know that all I'd do for you
Must needs be done for others. 
Let Self be crucified and slain,
And buried deep; and all in vain
May efforts be to rise again,
Unless to live for others. 
And when my work on earth is done,
And my new work in Heav'n's begun,
May I forget the race I've run,
And praise my Lord with others. 
--C.D. Meigs

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Narration: Secrets of the Universe Ch. 1-2

LittleLa (age 11) wrote this narration last week:

Federal laws.  They're not the only kind.  There are natural laws, like the Law of Gravity.  Who voted on that law?  Nobody!  It's a law of nature.  Some people break federal laws, like speeding.  You can't break Gravity.  Every time you drop a ball it will fall down.  Not up, down.  Gravity is unbreakable.  
Scientific laws are just describing science.  Many scientists discover brilliant things because of one person, like Newton and Einstein.  Very rarely scientific laws do change because scientists find information that is more accurate and sensible.  Natural laws are mostly written in math equations.  This way it is easier for scientists to compute their experiments. 
Archimede's Principle: If you fill a tub to the edge with water, when you put an object in the water, the equal amount to the mass of the object will overflow out of the tub. 
I like this narration.  I can tell by the sentences that she was trying to summarize paragraphs.  This is a great exercise and can be difficult.  My favorite part is the point she makes about scientific laws.  We will have a bit of discussion to clarify that scientific laws never change, but man's understanding of them changes, and then man needs to bring his definition of the law into harmony with the actual law.  I also think she needs a better definition of natural law than she comprehended in this reading, so I will bring that to her attention next week.

She misspelled four words:  they're, experiments, accurate and equations. I corrected them here for ease of reading.  These words, along with any others she misspelled last week in written narrations, will be her spelling list for next week.  She will study the correct spelling until she can visualize it correctly with her eyes closed.  Then I will have her run around the outside of the house singing a song and after that I will give her a spelling test.  If she misspells them again, they go on the list again.

CM and Math

The past few years, math and writing have been bees stuck in my bonnet.  I'm parking a few math links here for my own help.  Perhaps they will help others too.

Miss Mason:
There is no one subject in which good teaching effects more, as there is none in which slovenly teaching has more mischievous results...a child who does not know what rule to apply to a simple problem within his grasp, has been ill taught from the first, although he may produce slatefuls of quite right sums in multiplication or long division...Care must be taken to give the child such problems as he can work, but yet which are difficult enough to cause him some little mental effort.
(Give the child problems which are difficult enough to cause him some effort.  This is key in understanding so many of CM's recommendations.  CM is gentle, yet rigorous.  CM respects the child, yet challenges the child.)

More from CM on arithmetic:
The copying, prompting, telling, helping over difficulties, working with an eye to the answer which he knows, that are allowed in the arithmetic lesson, under an inferior teacher, are enough to vitiate any child; and quite as bad as these is the habit of allowing that a sum is nearly right, two figures wrong, and so on, and letting the child work it over again. Pronounce a sum wrong, or right––it cannot be something between the two.
On the beauty of mathematics: 
 We take strong ground when we appeal to the beauty and truth of Mathematics; that, as Ruskin points out, two and two make four and cannot conceivably make five, is an inevitable law. It is a great thing to be brought into the presence of a law, of a whole system of laws, that exist without our concurrence,––that two straight lines cannot enclose a space is a fact which we can perceive, state, and act upon but cannot in any wise alter, should give to children the sense of limitation which is wholesome for all of us, and inspire that sursum corda which we should hear in all natural law.
On examination-driven teaching of math:
Arithmetic, Mathematics, are exceedingly easy to examine upon and so long as education is regulated by examinations so long shall we have teaching, directed not to awaken a sense of awe in contemplating a self-existing science, but rather to secure exactness and ingenuity in the treatment of problems.
(I want to awaken a sense of awe in my students.  Math was created by God.  It cannot be denied that mathematical laws exist outside of man-made laws.)

On math and success:
...why should a boy's success in life depend upon drudgery in Mathematics? That is the tendency at the present moment to close the Universities and consequently the Professions to boys and girls who, because they have little natural aptitude for mathematics, must acquire a mechanical knowledge by such heavy all-engrossing labour as must needs shut out such knowledge of the 'humanities' say, as is implied in the phrase 'a liberal education.'... [Mathematics] may not engross the time and attention of the scholar in such wise as to shut out any of the score of 'subjects,' a knowledge of which is his natural right.
(Lord, please help me remember this!  Awaken awe, challenge the student, keep math focus in perspective relative to other subjects.)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

LTW: Review and New

Mariel and I are a writing class of two this year.  We are starting with Lost Tools of Writing I Lesson 6.  We made it to Lesson 8 last year, but I wanted to review the persuasive essay before diving into the comparison essay which starts in Lesson 9.

Today she chose an issue and began defining terms.  We are reading Little Women in group time, mainly for her younger sister's benefit.  Since Mariel has already read the book, she decided to use it for her first LTW essay.  I encouraged her to choose a very simple issue, something that seems small in the grand scheme of the book.  I have heard that smaller issues often produce the best thought.  Her issue is:
Whether Amy should have bought Marmee cologne.
Stay tuned.  ;o)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Of Viruses and Vans

Today was our second day of school.  Yesterday was smooth and easy.  I found out I had skipped a thirty-minute segment in making my sharing-of-mom schedule.  Adding it back gave me time before lunch to read with Mariel.  That was certainly happy!

We have been passing around a nasty virus for the last month.  Yesterday afternoon I took Mariel and Little La to the doctor.  She said Little La had an ear infection and Mariel had both strep and bronchitis.  And they still had a good first day of school.  Maybe they were too ill and tired to fight me. ;)

The meds wiped Mariel out, so today she slept.  I did schoolwork with Little La and then went to get the oil changed in our old beater van.  I had to drive all the way to town to do some banking, so I took it to Walmart.

"Ma'am, your oil change has been cancelled."

"Why?" I asked.

The clerk explained to me that my van was leaking vast quantities of oil, that the oil pan was cracked in several places, and that they were not allowed to work on vehicles in such bad shape.  Besides, I had obviously not gotten my oil changed at Walmart last time.  I should take the van back to where I got it changed last time and demand that they fix it for free.

I walked out of the Walmart wondering if the van would make it to the place I normally go.  I might burn up the engine driving down the highway.  I realized this could be the end of the get-out-of-debt van.  The G.O.O.D van, the kids call it.

Our van has almost 200,000 miles.  It's been fed diesel, attacked by hail, and driven across country in both directions.  We've had it eight years.  It requires fixing rarely enough to be a better deal than a car payment.  It is faithful, it is true.  Sometimes I think if I were Frodo in Mordor, our van would be Sam.  (Okay, not really.)  I said a prayer, started the van and headed toward "our" oil change place.

I like this place because it's right in our neighborhood and they do fast work.  I can get the kids started on something, then run out to the Kwik Kar and be back home in less than thirty minutes.  I've been getting the oil changed here for years.  I didn't want to accuse them of anything.  I told the guy what the Walmart folks had said and he agreed to look at the vehicle.

Long story short.  He found the leaks, which were not in the oil pan.  There are two of them.  I know about these.  We have had them awhile.  My driveway tells me about them every time I pull out.  He said that Walmart is notorious for refusing to change the oil for odd reasons.  We were only two quarts down after 4 months and 5,000 miles of driving.  He changed the oil, recommended we check it every month, and sent me on my way.

Cancel funeral arrangements for Old Faithful.  Phew!

Psalm 2

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,

Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: theLord shall have them in derision.

Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Child of Grace

How happy's ev'ry child of grace,
That feels his sins forgiv'n!
This earth, he cries, is not my place,
I seek a place in heav'n:
A country far from mortal sight;
Yet oh! by faith I see
The land of rest, the saints' delight,
A heav'n prepared for me.

A stranger in this world below,
I only sojourn here,
Nor can its happiness or woe
Provoke my hope or  fear;
Its evils in a moment end,
Its joys as soon are past;
But oh! the bliss to which I tend,
Eternally shall last.

To that Jerusalem above,
With singing I'd repair,
While in this vale, in hope and love,
My longing heart is there.
Shall I regret to leave my friends
Here in this world confined?
To Christ, the Lord, my soul ascends;
Farewell to all behind!

O, what a blessed hope is ours,
While here on earth we stay!
We more than taste the heav'nly pow'rs,
And antedate that day.
We feel the resurrection near,
Our life in Christ concealed;
And with His glorious presence here
Our longing hearts are filled.

When He shall more of heav'n bestow,
And bid my soul remove,
And let my trembling spirit go
To meet the God I love,
With rapturous awe on Him I'll gaze,
Who died to set me free,
And sing and shout redeeming grace
In vast eternity!

--Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

To Begin is Half the Work

Tuesday we will begin the new school year, I hope.  One or another of us has been sick with a virus almost the entire month of August. Two of the girls have horrid coughs, and the Warrior Poet is still suffering some effects of the virus.  It is currently my turn to deal with fever.  I usually recover more quickly than anyone else in the family.  I think we may actually begin school on Tuesday.

The fever that comes with this virus tends to disappear and then return.  I am using a fever-free moment to update the blog.

The quote in the title is from some Roman person.  Different websites attribute it to different authors.  I think Mary Poppins said something similar:  "Well begun is half done."  I have researched and planned and thought and prayed, and being that we're down with this virus, I have had much time for reflection.

Bible:  Last year we got bogged down in commentaries.  A kind preacher disrupted our descent into commentaries about halfway through the year.  This year I hope we will continue to do more Bible reading and less commentary reading.  Commentaries can be helpful, but one must be careful.

English:  I'm sort of dreading language arts this year.  The three girls are doing three completely different things and I know that will be hard on me.  Also, I can't shake the notion that Cornflower needs more of a challenge in this area.  I went through the same angst when Aravis was her age.  Aravis has started a rhetoric and critical thinking class at the college.  It looks like it will be good for her.  I am excited to get back into Lost Tools of Writing with Mariel by herself and see what happens.

Geography: I'm feeling ambivalent about geography.  We are going to use the Sheppard website for mapwork, which looks good, but I wonder if it will be too little, too late.  How much do my kids know about maps already?  Living geography is easy for me, and I can point to a spot on the map when we are reading. We have two big ones-- United States and World-- on our walls.  But beyond that, I feel a lack.  I'm not sure the Sheppard website will help with it.  I'm not sure what we are lacking, actually.

History:  The kids are each reading their own thread of history, which means I keep up with three time periods.  I love this.  I get excited making connections from different eras.  Aravis is studying Ancients this year, which I think will stretch my thinking, too.

Civics:  Again, I'm not sure how much they know and where they lack knowledge in terms of government and economics.  We follow the AO/HEO suggestions and have read through the Constitution.  Mariel will read through it again this year, and we are all taking the Hillsdale Constitution 101 course during our group time.  I feel like they need more, though.  Texas government, of course, but also knowledge of the political process, such a strange animal to me.  Four years ago we studied the political process, but I'm not sure how much they retained.  It's another election year, but I haven't geared up for it.  I need to think more about election year lessons or at least make watching the process a requirement.  Aravis signed up to help register voters in our area.  That will be a good experience for her.

Science:  One word.  Biology.  It will be our life this year.  (Get it?  Life/biology.  Ha.)  Aravis and Mariel are both studying different levels of biology.  Cornflower is reading natural science and learning the laws of physics.  We'll get through this just fine, I think.  I'm thankful none of our science this year contains math.

Life Skills:  I always feel lacking in this area.  Life skills can't usually be taught as step-by-step lessons.  They have to be experienced.  The girls do their own laundry and can clean the house and make a meal.  That's good.  This year, Mariel is making dinner two nights per week with Cornflower as her assistant.  Aravis just reminded me to drink lots of water, so she knows how to prod sick people.  Almost every situation has the potential for teaching life skills.  We did sign up for cotillion so the kids could learn etiquette and social dancing.  The older two girls have leadership roles in drama club this year.  Mariel is taking driver's ed at the end of the school year, and Aravis is studying personal finance.  If they don't grow in life skills, it won't be for lack of opportunity.

P.E.:  Oh dear.  P.E. is the red-headed stepchild of our homeschool.  I don't know how often we will make it to the Y this year, but it is something they need on their transcripts.  That's as far as I have gotten in the P.E. area.

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it...
 That is from Goethe.  We will, we will, if we can rid ourselves of this virus by Tuesday.

UPDATE:  I just realized I completely skipped math.  Oh well.  I think I need a nap.  I'll think about math later.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Classical v. Postmodern Sentence Style

I am looking at Dr. Einarsson's grammar for Mariel (age 14) this year.  I just read the first chapter and feel convicted.
Today, what we say does not have to be thoughtful and conclusive; it just has to be said now, while the microphone is still on... 
...the ideas of today seems to come out in a continuous flow of ongoing language.  Sooner or later the idea seems to be "out there," and then the word stream stops.  But this style, based on flow and quantity, is not the language style of yesterday.  In the past, the carefully structured sentence was the medium for encapsulating and precision-stating our thoughts.  Today, precision and structure seem to be less important than the ability to "wax eloquent" at the drop of a hat.
I'll learn a lot in grammar this year too, I hope.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Do You Want to Read Here?

I want to post more frequently this year, so I am trying to think of assignments I can use to spur myself on.  Ya'll tend to be a quiet bunch of readers, but I wonder if you will help me out by letting me know what you would like to read from me?  Here are the assignments I've come up with on my own.  This list is based on the blog's most popular posts:

1.  What I'm learning about writing and how to teach it
2.  Reading/study notes for literature-- we're doing Hamlet for co-op this year and I plan to post our lesson plans after I use them in class
3.  Picture study narrations

These are the top three topics of all time as well as for this week.  Isn't that interesting?

What do you want to read here?  Please comment.  Thanks!

Expectations 2012-2013

 We had a back-to-school dinner the other night.  We've been passing around a virus for the past three weeks and needed cheering up.  We aren't starting school until September 4th (good thing because two of my three students are still feverish) but I figured why wait?  We needed some fun and we all enjoy new pencils and erasers!  

During the evening, we went over this list of expectations.  (The other stuff we did was fun, don't worry.)  It's a pretty good exposition on what worked and what didn't last year.  The stuff that worked is not addressed in this policy, while the stuff that didn't work is, kwim?

Group and Mom/Student Lesson Policy

         Be on time.  People who are tardy become my servants for the day.  Bwahahaha.  Being on-time begins with your evening routine the night before (see evening and morning routine checklists)
         Bring supplies.  People who forget supplies will be given organizing chores.
         Most work is due at the end of the day Thursday.  People who aren't finished by this time will be made to do schoolwork on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday until the work is finished.
         Please take care of restroom visits, drinks, meals, etc., before or after.  You will be given two emergency passes at the beginning of the term.  If you still have both passes by Christmas, you will be given an extra $10 to use for Christmas gifts.
          Some homeschool families do school in jammies.  This works for them, but not for us.  Come dressed and ready for the day unless you have my express permission to be in pajamas. (Express permission means you just asked me and I said yes right then.  In other words, no standing permission whatsoever.)
         Come prepared with a cheerful attitude ready to take advantage of the educational opportunities God has granted you.
         Cell phones should be turned off unless you have my express permission to have them on.  The only reason I will give permission is if we are waiting for a response from another teacher or student regarding study or extracurricular activities.  (If you need a calculator, use a calculator, not your cell phone.)

Independent Study Policy

         The following rules apply during study time (7:30a-12:00p Monday through Thursday) as well as any time you are doing schoolwork that didn't get finished during study time. 
         No checking email unless you have my express permission to check.  (See cell phone reason above.)
         No Facebook, forums or Internet research/surfing unless you have my express permission.
         Musical instrument practice may take place in bedrooms.  The living room piano may not be used.


         Schoolbook(s)--check your assignment list to see which books are required each day
         Art supplies

Outside Classes/Extracurricular Activities/Field Trips

         Set supplies in the entryway the night before the activity.  (See checklists for specific activities)
         Make your own lunch and fill/bring your own water bottle.
         Dress appropriately for the weather and the activity.  Shoes are always required.

And always remember I love you!