Monday, July 31, 2006

Red is best, or it used to be

Five-year-olds are moralists.

Crayons had been bugging me to get Kathy Stinson's picture book Red is Best from the library. (It had been awhile since we'd read it.) I saw a copy at a book sale on the weekend and brought it home.

Unfortunately, she doesn't get it any more.

The book starts, "My Mom doesn't understand about red. I like my red stockings best. My Mom says, 'Wear these. Your white stockings look good with that dress.' But I can jump higher in my red stockings. I like my red stockings best." The drawing shows a child of about three admiring herself in red stockings.

"She put them on when her mother told her not to?" asks my angelic five-year-old. "Did she DISOBEY?"

Well, yes.

The child in the story goes on to insist on wearing her red pajamas, red boots, red mittens (even though they have holes in them), and so on. She wants to wear her red barrettes, because "red barrettes make my hair laugh."

"She LIED, then," says my too-wise five-year-old. (Because anybody would know that barrettes do not make your hair laugh.)

Well, yes.

How can I condone the criminal activities of this fictional preschooler?

I guess Red is Best will go back on the shelf until Crayons is old enough--once again--to enjoy it.

A castle by any other name

What do you call your Blue Castle when you no longer live in one? Coffeemamma asks the question.

31st Carnival of Homeschooling

It's up now here. Thanks to PhatMommy for hosting this week.

I especially liked Elinor Dashwood's The Question, which I was going to link to anyway except the carnival beat me to it. Karen from The Thomas Institute gives some suggestions for teaching a seven-year-old who's already asking "do we have to do school today?" The DHM muses about history books, and Mental Multivitamin presents an intriguing concept for kids' view of themselves: they're planets, not suns. (I don't know if I really want to be their sun, though--I have to think about that one.)

Squirrel Reading

Someone found our Treehouse by searching for "squirrel reading." Well, Dewey (like the rest of us) is often found with a book (when he's not out somewhere playing cards). For some reason they would not let him sign up for the summer reading program at the library, but he's keeping a list of some of his favourite squirrel books anyway. Here they are.

1. Babar's Children (Jean de Brunhoff): The squirrels save the day when little Alexander falls into their tree. [Update: Aha! Now I know why this was so hard to find online: it's also called Babar at Home. In French it's Babar en famille, so I guess either title is a fair translation.]

2. Chessie, the Long Island Squirrel (Sachiko Komoto): Chessie's life in the back yard, from babyhood through mamasquirrelhood

3. Squirrel Nutkin and Timmy Tiptoes (Beatrix Potter): Timmy Tiptoes, yes (some major resemblances there to Dewey). (You can read it online here.) Squirrel Nutkin: not so fond of that one (gives Dewey the shivers). (You can read it here.)

4. Attila the Angry (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat): From the inside flap: "Attila Squirrel gets angry at small things, big things, and in-between things. He gets particularly angry at other animals, dust, trees, scissors, toothpicks, and chicken pox. One day, Attila reads an ad. 'Do you have a bad temper?'" Anger management for rodents.

5. A Nutty Business (Ida Chittum): "Farmer Flint dashed for the closet. 'When I went to bed,' he cried, 'this heap of nuts was high as my head. It has shrunk to my shoulders. Now it has shrunk to my waist. Now to my knees! Madam, this heap of nuts is shrinking before my very eyes, or I am growing rapidly taller.' 'You have not grown rapidly taller,' shrilled Madam Flint. ''Tis the squirrels! There goes one, with his face full of our nuts.'"

6. Anything with nuts in it. Or food in it.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Uncle Dewey answers your squirrel questions

Someone found our blog by searching for "do squirrels like hot chili powder?"

Dewey says: "Only with refried beans and some good salsa."

Someone else was looking for "good places to start a treehouse."

Dewey says: "Try to pick a nice starter tree in a yard without any cats. Something with nuts is always nice, or maybe near a bird feeder."

Well, you wanted to know...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Moving with the Carrots family

The Queen of Carrots should be a stand-up comedian. Coffeemamma, her post about good and bad moving tips is posted here especially for your enjoyment. (Did you find your answering machine yet?)

Spaghetti Jello

I'm not kidding.

I used to know people who put shredded carrots in Jell-O salads, and some other unidentifiable vegetables; but even for my small-town-60's-food upbringing, spaghetti and tomato soup in Jell-O would have been a bit much.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Teaching to Standards

Tim Fredrick's ELA Teaching Blog has an excellent post about classroom teachers who are hung up on teaching to standards (or feel they're forced into it)--to the point that they hang up the list of have-to-do's on the classroom wall and check them off throughout the year. Every kid has to read 25 books, period (even if 3 books might be a more appropriate goal for a slow reader). Every kid has to do so-many so-long writing assignments. And the bigger problem: who sets these standards? As Tim Fredrick points out, it's not usually the parents, teachers or local community. More and more, these decisions are centralized and made by people who don't know the students and who may be bureaucrats but not actually educators. (For those of us in Ontario, "standards" are just another word for something like the Ontario Common Curriculum. Third graders study such and such, fourth graders have to be able to do this and that.)

But don't gloat, homeschoolers. As I commented on Tim's blog, being enslaved to standards is not unique to classroom teachers. Homeschoolers can be caught up in school standards because of state or provincial education laws that require this subject, that book, this skill. Or they can put themselves there by following curriculum (any curriculum, from provincial guidelines to Ambleside Online) slavishly. There are homeschoolers who worry if every last exercise in the workbook isn't done (and figure they've covered everything as long as the book is completed). Some homeschoolers knock themselves out or empty their wallets trying to get one particular book, or they keep on buying gimmick after gizmo in hopes that they'll cover everything. And that's the point I'm trying to get back to: cover "everything." Teachers with standards on the wall are trying to cover everything that some bureaucrat has demanded. Homeschoolers squeezing two years of a curriculum into one (so their kids won't get "behind") are trying to cover more than everything.

The truth is that nobody can do everything, and that learning is a lifelong process. Setting goals and celebrating achievements is good; collecting assignments and checking off pages just so you can say you've "done it" is not. Ruth Beechick's book Heart and Mind: What the Bible Says About Learning (previously published as A Biblical Psychology of Learning) makes this point, after explaining a possible model of learning with arrows going in different directions:
But these ladders [arrows] are not meant to propose that we can do a great deal about setting learning in a linear sequence for our students. The ladders are simply insets taken from the total learning model, and if we look closely at the model we will see thousands of these ladders reaching in all sorts of directions, climbing on numerous levels all at once.

Try, for instance, to imagine a child learning the word Jerusalem. When he first meets it, it is likely to mean only a place--perhaps the place where Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus to the temple. And of course the child has nothing like his teacher's idea of Jerusalem in his mind at such a time. It may mean almost nothing to him, but he does hear the word. As time goes on he learns more about Jerusalem: it has a temple in it, walls around it. His concept of city is also growing and he can begin to picture a city of Jerusalem....All through his growing years (which may be his whole life) he gains a continually richer meaning for the word Jerusalem....At what point will we say a student has "mastered" Jerusalem and is ready to go on to the next item?....In setting out curriculum content we make considered judgments about such things, and we keep our classes moving along in a general way. But individual students are bursting out all the seams. They do not stay in line. --Ruth Beechick, book above, pages 75-76
Bursting out all the seams--we're people, not standards on a wall. Celebrate it.

"Be a rebel. Don't do subjects."

Another post from Karen Edmisten, who's been following Amyable's CM postings. Karen notes, "For example, when we read about Archimedes, were we reading about history or math or science? The kids, ahem, didn't really care which category it fell into."

Sometimes--especially as our progeny get older and we get into that mess of categories known as "credits"--it's tempting even to pass on a good book that doesn't fit nicely into one of those categories. Biographies can fall in there with the uncategoricals--and they're often the best books we read! (Is Plutarch a subject?) We can't break knowledge down into spoon-size bits and decide what goes in the mouth when. (Charlotte Mason referred to that as the horse that gets one bean a day.)

My own school was supposedly into unit studies, interconnectedness and all that progressive 1970's stuff (learning centers with headphones, open-ended "activity cards", and few textbooks around that I can remember, other than a few rather deadly language and spelling texts). But even so, there are things I learned about without ever making connections to their wider significance. I remember playing with magnets and dutifully making diagrams of which way the iron filings went; but I didn't learn until years later that those magnets had any connection at all to electricity--not only that magnetic compasses helped explorers find the new world, but that magnets made the doorbell work. Mr. Fixit, of course, seemed to pick those things up without being told, but he was a Mr. Fixit (or a Mr. Taker-aparter) from diapers on--and he was a Boy. My own completely unproven theory is that Girls--at least those who aren't parented by a Mr. Fixit--especially need that greater interconnectedness, or they will grow up (as I did) not really understanding much about how the world works (or even how the doorbell rings).

Here's the quote which inspired Karen's post:
"One thesis, which is, perhaps, new, that Education is the Science of Relations, appears to me to solve the question of curricula, as showing that the object of education is to put a child in living touch as much as may be of the life of Nature and of thought. Add to this one or two keys to self knowledge, and the educated youth goes forth with some idea of self management, with some pursuits, and many vital interests."--Charlotte Mason
Yes, we need to teach history, and geography, and as much knowledge as we can give of the world and the universe we live in and how it works, and the people who live and have lived on this planet--and of the King over it all. But we need to teach it as an all, not just as parts.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More from the apprentice

Well, I had my voice lessons yesterday...the teacher is quite nice and I had fun. She told me I had to bring two things next week: 1) A blank cassette. 2) A list of five songs I'd like to sing. Okay, so the tape I can handle, but the list? I am really having trouble with that. One thing is that I know it'll be easier singing songs with female vocalists, so that narrows it down a bit...but I still can't some up with anything! I think maybe one song might be Dancing Queen, but I know I'm going to have a hard time with four more. Oh well.

While I was getting the aforementioned can of icing, I stopped into the drugstore, because it's free sample week! (Sorry, I think it's only at this specific one.) So, what did I get? I got a nice assortment of stuff: John Frieda "brilliant brunette" Shine Release Moisturising Shampoo; John Frieda "brilliant brunette" Light Reflecting Moisturising Conditioner; John Frieda "brilliant brunette" Shine Shock perfecting glosser (stuff to make your hair shiny); Biore "Pore Perfect" pore unclogging scrub; Biore "Pore Perfect" Shine Control cream cleanser; Biore "Pore Perfect" Nose Strip (like a little mask for your nose). top it all off, you can get different samples almost every day this week! Honestly, I think if I had gone the other days, and went in the days ahead, I'd have quite the arsenal of stuff!

On Thursday I'm having a knitting club at my house, I'm going to call it "Chicks with Sticks". So far, I've only got a few people coming. I hope I get a little more response. :( If you happen to be one of my friends reading my blog, and you want to come, let me know!!

I put some stuff in the sidebar: What I'm reading and what I'm knitting.

Not so amusing

Somebody located our blog today by searching for "squirrel casserole."

I'm sure Granny Clampett might have a recipe...

There, there, Dewey, I was just joking.

One little word

There are times when it's very nice to have the Internet handy--to be able to search quickly for something you really need to know, like how to "fudge" an extra cup of powdered sugar for a Treehouse dweller's chocolate birthday cake icing.

On the other hand, it's important to double-check your sources. The first "substitutes" site I found via Google suggested blending one cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of cornstarch in the food processor. Thinking that sounded a little odd, I checked another site, which had an almost identical chart: 1 cup of granulated sugar--oh, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Well, that made more sense. Two more sites--both said 1 tablespoon. The first one must have been just a typo.

But boy, I hope nobody tries that 1 cup-1 cup recipe. Yech. One little word makes a big difference!

[Update: if you try this, it seems to take an awful lot of processing before you end up with anything close to powdered sugar--it's more like superfine. I hate to admit it, but we ended up using a can of icing from the corner store instead, after monkeying with that icing for awhile and still crunching sugar. What did we do with the first icing? Made it into cookie balls and sent them to work with Mr. Fixit (for his co-workers). There, now you know ALL.]

Monday, July 24, 2006

This week's Homeschooling Carnival

No, it's not posted yet--I'm just pointing the way. Melissa at The Lilting House is hosting this week, so head over there sometime tomorrow. [Update: it's up here now, and this carnival really rocks, schoolhouse-wise. You should find it "quite interesting," so get over there and unpack some adjectives--and that's the subject of my sentence.]

If your brain needs some exercise...

Dr. Gene Edward Veith muses today on metanarratives and postmodernism in Apologetics to postmodernists.
Metanarratives are inevitable, as postmodernists admit, but here is one that is profoundly different from all the rest and that avoids the oppressive, constructed character of them all. The misuse of power that the postmodernists document is nothing more than a sign of sin and of our need for redemption, which is exactly what the Christian narrative provides.

What do you think of this argument? I'll say what I think tomorrow. [That's still Dr. Veith, not Mama Squirrel.]
Stay tuned. [Update: Here's the sequel.]

Christians and the Arts in 2056?

W. David O. Taylor muses on evangelicals, "cross-pollination", and the arts. Click on the link in the title.
What's really going to happen in fifty years? I don't rightly know. I'm not really old enough to say. I can only see what I see. But there's a good chance that my generation will give birth through its sons and daughters to a Billy Graham of the Arts. There'll be a Carl F. Henry writing plays in a loft in New York City. There'll be an Amy Carmichael breaking new ground in the field of modern dance.

There'll be a Packer poet laureate and an Aimee Semple McPherson working the penthouse of Virgin Records....People will get mad. They'll get dizzy with possibilities. They'll forget that it wasn't always this easy to be an "evangelical" artist. And they'll stop using scare quotes.

Hopefully they'll also be more richly human.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

When God paints in white

When we went to Elora this week, we stopped at another antique-mall kind of place there and I picked up two books (that's my Mom, says the Apprentice): Lamb's Essays of Elia, and G.K. Chesterton's Tremendous Trifles. (Is this a cookbook?, asks the lady behind the vintage cash register.) I think Chesterton was one of the original prototype bloggers (maybe Lamb was too). The articles in Tremendous Trifles are all short columns that he wrote for the Daily News, about this and that, sometimes about nothing much, sometimes with a fantastic bit of insight in them.

The first piece in it is "A Piece of Chalk." And this is the part I particularly liked. (Go read the rest if you want to find out why Chesterton was drawing with chalk on brown paper.)


Now, those who are acquainted with all the philosophy (nay, religion) which is typified in the art of drawing on brown paper, know that white is positive and essential. I cannot avoid remarking here upon a moral significance. One of the wise and awful truths which this brown-paper art reveals, is this, that white is a colour. It is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars. And one of the two or three defiant verities of the best religious morality, of real Christianity, for example, is exactly this same thing; the chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.

....In a word, God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white. In a sense our age has realised this fact, and expressed it in our sullen costume. For if it were really true that white was a blank and colourless thing, negative and non-committal, then white would be used instead of black and grey for the funeral dress of this pessimistic period. We should see city gentlemen in frock coats of spotless silver linen, with top hats as white as wonderful arum lilies. Which is not the case.

Meanwhile, I could not find my chalk.

Awakening to books

Found through the Carnival of Childrens' Literature: Carrie at Mommy Brain tells about her daughter's excitement over The Magician's Nephew in For the Love of Books. Karen Edmisten tells what happens If You Give a Girl Some Lunch (hint: she's going to want a book to go with it). And Anne Boles Levy at Book Buds worries about Value Added books (the kind that come with gimmicks and geegaws attached). As she says, after packing a bunch of these books:
This is too much organizing for a mortal Mom. I need a spa treatment. I need it now.

I need to curl up with a good book, one whose charms are in its pages and not dangling from its spine. The hussies.

And now...a random post.

Well, I've decided I'm going to do more blogging, because I don't very often, and because I have more things to blog about now than I used to, and because I want us to be a Cute Rodent, not an insignificant microbe or a little bug or whatever. I like cute rodents. :) (Plus, I can never seem to write in my diary quite enough.) So, let's have a post from the apprentice.

Do you like makeup? Do you like bargains? Do you live near a Pharmaplus? I know they don't all stock the same stuff, but it's worth a look. On Friday, I went to one near my house, and I got a little makeup kit for only four dollars! It has a frosty pink lipstick, an eyeshadow quad (purple, lavender, pink, and beige), and a pinky-beige nail polish. There isn't that much in the containers, but are you actually going to use up a whole full size eyeshadow before you get bored of the colour, or it expires? I won't. The name? Color Mates by The Color Workshop. They had three versions of this set. This is the pinky version. There was one with some coppers and browns that would look lovely on a redhead, and there was another one that I can't remember. The Color Workshop is owned by Markwins, which also owns my favourite brand--Wet 'n' Wild. I really admire their products for being free of things like phthalates and coal tar, and being high quality for such a low price. (Grownups...remember Flame Glo? It's Wet 'n' Wild!)

How is the quality for such a low price? The lipstick is creamy and moisturizing. The frost shows up nicely, but there isn't a whole lot of colour. Because your lips are coloured, though, it does look like it looks in the tube. The eyeshadow is rather subtle, but is very nice colours, and I think a couple coats would get more pigment out of it. (Also, I powdered over it for lasting power, and that really toned it down.) I haven't tried the nail polish yet, but it's a creme formula (love those!), and I've had good results with Wet 'n' Wild. Sooo...go get one!!

Today I'm going over to my Grandpa Squirrel's house to decorate for Mr. Fixit's birthday barbecue. The other squirrelings are coming too.

It just started raining outside. I hope we don't have a thunder storm, because then I'll have to turn the computer off.

Tomorrow I start my voice lessons! *does a happy dance*

And, to finish off my post, here's a totally irrelevant cute video you might enjoy:

An award for Ambleside Online

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has awarded Ambleside Online an Award of Excellence in Education for 2005, under "Charlotte Mason Resources of the Year". You can see all the awards here. (Scroll down to Specialty Products to see AO's award.)

It's not just the Ambleside Online Advisory volunteers who deserve this award: it belongs to all the other 3,000 or so of you as well. (Now how do we decide whose wall it gets to hang on?) Thanks, TOS!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Charlotte Mason in daily doses

If you want to read Charlotte Mason a little at a time, there's a new blog called A Full Life: The Works of Charlotte Mason, hosted by Amyable of Among Women. Amyable will be posting CM's books bit by bit, and comments and discussion are welcome.

The venerable CMSeries group (on Yahoo since 1999!) continues as well, if you like slightly larger chunks and a bit more discussion.

(Thanks to Melissa at The Lilting House for pointing us to the new blog, along with her (Melissa's) post Who Is This Charlotte Mason Person Anyway?)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Some things we did this week

1. Met Coffeemamma and three of the Blue Castle progeny in the park, along with another Ambleside Online mamma and her family. It was so nice to talk in person after all these years of long-distance chats!

2. All the Squirrels went to the Elora Gorge, and had a good time wandering through the woods, oohing over the precipices, and climbing up and down 59 steps (Ponytails counted them) carved out of the rock.

3. Mr. Fixit, Ponytails and the Apprentice went to Cruise Night with Grandpa Squirrel. Ponytails says, "There were a lot of people, and we met one of our cousin squirrels, and he had some new wheels--it was long and black, one of those cars with no roof, and it had red seats, I think. It was really cool and it made nice smoke."

4. Ponytails made Shrinky Dinks (Shrink Art). Note to Coffeemamma: "thank you so much for the Shrink Art, it's very fun!"

5. We played a new game called Woolworth that we found in a Dover books preview. (This isn't the card game Woolworth, it's played with two nickels, two dimes and a printed-out playing board which would be really easy to copy yourself. If I can find this online anywhere, I'll post a link.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Five Things by the apprentice

I don't know if I'm *supposed* to be doing this, but I figured it couldn't hurt. It sounded fun. :-D

5 things in my refrigerator:
*My* refrigerator? I don't have one. How about...what I would put in if I had one.
1. Cupcakes that my friend and her mom made, with little whales on top.
2. Twix ice cream
3. Diet Pepsi
4. Mr. Goudas or Chubby ginger beer
5. Nail polish

5 things in my closet:
1. Guitar
2. My memory box
3. A lot of bags and purses, because people keep giving me them
4. 3 sheer tops that I absolutely love (and got on discount)
5. My old cats-eye sunglasses that I stepped on but just can't throw away

5 things in my purse:
1. Pocket Neopet
2. Lip gloss
3. Nail file with a mirror on the back
4. I had some candy, but I ate it...
5. Bead store bonus card

5 things in my car: about my bike?
1. Bell
2. Lock
3. Helmet
4. Seat
5. Me

And now I'm going to share a lovely lip gloss recipe I tried today:

a chunk of Dora the Explorer lip balm
a squirt of Caboodles Dynamic Duo lipgloss in Grape
purple food colouring
lemon food flavouring

You need to heat it up in some way. You could microwave, or if you don't have a microwave, put your pot into some boiling water.

Many thanks to cyens on She told me how to do it, and then I got very creative with the ingredients.

Site Meter Amusement

There are many paths to the Treehouse. This is one way: doing a Google search for scary squirrels and happy tree friends.

Well, it worked for somebody.

Books, more books


1. The Talisman, by Sir Walter Scott. Heads will roll. Ewww... But it was an excellent story--knights and honour and chivalry and jousting in the middle of the desert.

2. The Treasure Seekers, by E. Nesbit, with Ponytails.  One of the Bastable Children books.

3. Ourselves and Philosophy of Education (re-read), both by Charlotte Mason. These two books are very closely connected--if you're into jotting in margins, you can cross-reference them back and forth in many places. In fact, two different parts of Philosophy are pretty much summaries of Ourselves. One of the points that keeps hitting me as I've been rereading through the Home Education Series (Charlotte Mason's books) is that The Curriculum is a vital part of what she's talking about (although some people have misbegotten the idea that a specific curriculum isn't central to CM), and yet it's not where you need to start working through her ideas, and it doesn't even take up a great amount of space in the books. She did give lots of detail on what school lessons should be like, and education, schools, and children were obviously where her heart was; but that was just one application of her bigger picture. I think that's why she made that somewhat mystical comment to a student teacher at her college: "My dear, you have come here to learn to live." (The Story of Charlotte Mason, by Essex Cholmondeley)

Working on:

1. A Biblical Psychology of Learning, by Ruth Beechick. You can see it with its new title here.

2. The Wouldbegoods (second in the Bastable series), with Ponytails

3. Finishing up some odds and ends and things I started too long ago.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

2006 Blogs of Beauty Winners

They're all posted here. Congratulations to Spunky, Meredith, Ann and all the rest--your blogs all shine in so many different ways.

Carnival of Homeschooling on its way

News from the carnival: The NerdFamily is hosting this week, but NerdMom has been under the weather, so it will be posted as soon as she is feeling up to it. (Update: it's up now, here.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Please note my Avatar Update

I have updated my avatar to reflect my new status as the owner of a millionaire squirrel.

Stay off that Ecowas Express Road (especially on the 21st of anything)

Boy, the Ecowas Express Road (see post below) must be a really dangerous place. A Google search brought up these hits:

Urgent Response | SCAMDEXOn the 21st of April 2001, my client, his wife and their only daughter were involved in a car accident along ecowas express road. ...

Internet-Fraud Forum - "BARRISTER.DECON ESQ"On the 21st of May 2001, my client, his wife and their only daughter were involved in auto crash along ecowas express road.

Jo’blog » Why Andrea doesn’t leave me to babysit too often…On the 8st of April 2004, my client, his wife and their only daughter were involved in a car accident along Ecowas express Road Ghana. ...

On the 21st of April 2000, my client, his wife and their only daughter were involved in a car accident along ecowas express road. ...

On the 21st of April 2002, my client, his wife and their only daughter were involved in auto crash along ecowas express road. All occupants of the vehicle ...

nigeriabrev - Krusedullerinvolved in auto crash along ecowas express road.All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost there lives.Since then I have made several ...

...On the 21st of April 2002, my client, his wife and their only daughter

...On the 2nd of April 2003, our client, his wife


...On the 21st of April 2001, my client, his wife...


Conclusion: they really should do something about the state of the highways in Ghana.

Is this too funny to be real?

Okay, I haven't decided. Either somebody's playing a joke on me via a friend with an international email address, or somebody out there is stupid enough to be spamming a polyester hand puppet. Really--but "Bones Cocu"? I think that's going a little bit far...


Mon, 17 Jul 2006
From: "Bones Cocu"
Subject: SPECIAL REQUEST / Dewey Squirrel

Alternative email address:

Dear Dewey Squirrel ,

I am Barrister BONES COCU, a solicitor at law,personal attorney to Mr.P.A. Squirrel ,a national Of your country, who used to work with Shell Development Company in Republic of Togo. Here in after shall be referred to as my client. On the 21st of April 2003, my client, his wife and their only daughter were involved in auto crash along ecowas express road. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost there lives. Since then I have made several enquiries to your embassy here to locate any of my clients extended relatives, this has also proved unsuccessful.

After these several unsuccessful attempts,I decided to track his last name over the Internet, to locate any member of his family hence I contacted you.I have contacted you to assist in repartrating the fund valued at US$12.7million left behind by my client before it gets confisicated or declared unserviceable by the Gold Trust Bank where this huge amount was deposited. The said Bank has issued me a notice to provide the next of kin or have his account confisicated within the next twenty one official working days. Since I have been unsuccesfull in locating the relatives for over 2years now, I seek the consent to present you as the next of kin to the deceased since you have the same last names, so that the proceeds of this account can be paid to you.

Therefore, on receipt of your positive response, we shall then discuss the sharing ratio and modalities for transfer.I have all necessary information and legal documents needed to back you up for claim. All I require from you is your honest cooperation to enable us see this transaction through. I guarantee that this will be executed under legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law. Please get in touch with me through this email for more details.

Best regards.
Barrister BONES COCU,
Private Telephone 00228 924 3113.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The DHM's Five Things, and Cooking By the Campfire

The Five Things part is a meme that the Deputy Headmistress sent our way. Cooking by the Campfire comes at the end, so hold on.

5 Things in my Refrigerator:
1. Head of broccoli
2. Package of tofu
3. A last bit of smoked Jarlsberg cheese (one of my favourites)
4. Half a pan of no-bake brownies (recipe below)
5. Last night's leftover Scoobi-Doos (coloured macaroni spirals)

5 Things in my Closet
1. Framed family photos we don't have anywhere to hang
2. A couple of toys that are "doing time" (confiscated)
3. The kids' too-big-too-small shoe box
4. About three dresses that need to be dry-cleaned
5. and two that need to be ironed.

5 Things in my Purse:
1. Library cards
2. Loonies and twonies
3. Boring stuff like keys.
4, 5. Dustballs.

5 Things in My Car
1. Mr. Fixit
2. Mama Squirrel
3. The Apprentice
4. Ponytails
5. Crayons

No-Bake Brownie Recipe (from Vegetarian Times)

I've doubled this recipe to make enough for an 8-inch square pan, but you could always cut it in half again.

In a saucepan, combine 6 tbsp. powdered milk with 2/3 cup water. (Or use regular milk.) Heat the milk, not to boiling but just quite warm. Stir in approximately 12 oz. chocolate chips (if you're short, you can make up the difference with a couple of unsweetened chocolate squares, or cut back on the total amount a bit), and stir just until melted and smooth. Stir in about 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, and press into a greased square pan. (The original recipe called for nuts, but we leave those out). Chill until set, or just set aside if you don't have a refrigerator (the recipe was part of an article on camp food). Cut in squares. [2012 update: we have also discovered that these taste good if you stir in some mini-marshmallows at the end.  More like S'more.]

Oh, the wonders of the Internet: I knew that recipe I'd clipped was from a 1995 VT article by Jasmine Star, and a Google search for her name brought up the whole article online. It has lots of tips, grocery lists and recipes for campfire cooking, particularly for vegetarians. (I have not cooked over a campfire myself for a long time--we are pretty much homebody squirrels these days, and the closest we get is cooking over a barbecue.)

Scott? Who reads Scott?

The novels of Sir Walter Scott were so familiar and important to the educator Charlotte Mason that she not only included them in term programs as a matter of course, but referred to them frequently in her own writings. The second part of her book Ourselves is loaded with illustrations from Scott (as well as from Dickens, George Eliot, Plutarch, and other writers with whom she assumed teenagers would be familiar!).
I can hardly conceive a better moral education than is to be had out of Scott and Shakespeare. I put Scott first as so much the more easy and obvious; but both recognise that the Will is the man....Both Shakespeare and Scott use, as it were, a dividing line, putting on the one side the wilful, wayward, the weak and the strong; and on the other, persons who will.--Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
Unfortunately, most of us didn't grow up reading Scott, and although we might have a vague idea of what Ivanhoe or Rob Roy are about, or might have heard about some of his poetry, many of the other books are strangers to us. Scott's books aren't even on a lot of best-books-you-must-read lists any more, except again maybe for Ivanhoe, and some people don't even count that really as one of his best books. I read one discussion of "classics" (I've forgotten what it was now) that simply lumped Scott with "writers who are no longer read," implying that there was good reason for that. The books are long, the first chapters are usually boring, they're extremely politically incorrect in all kinds of ways, and there are said to be lots of historical inaccuracies in them.

But if you want to do some exploring of what made Scott so vital to the Victorian mind, or if you want to get some idea of the plots of the novels, the Walter Scott Digital Archive is a good place to start. If you click on Works, you get a page for each book, with plot summaries; and the site has lots more Scott stuff as well. There's also a complete list of the books, if you want to see the "Waverley Novels" all in order.

A bit of Scott trivia to end with: did you know that those were the books that kept Laura sane during a difficult pregnancy in The First Four Years?
And now the four walls of the close, overheated house opened wide, and Laura wandered with brave knights and ladies fair beside the lakes and streams of Scotland or in castles and towers, in noble halls or lady's bower, all through the enchanting pages of Sir Walter Scott's novels.

She forgot to feel ill at the sight or smell of food, in her hurry to be done with the cooking and follow her thoughts back into the book. When the books were all read and Laura came back to reality, she found herself feeling much better. (The First Four Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, pages 107-108)
I hope this helps anyone who's interested in Charlotte Mason but is as bewildered by all the references to Scott as I first was.

What I'm Reading

A Century of Kindergarten Education in Ontario, by Barbara Corbett (from the library) "In it, Dr. Corbett discusses the history and issues specific to kindergarten in Ontario 1887-1987 that mirror similar changes going on all over the world at the time."

The Talisman, by Sir Walter Scott (I'm almost done this one, and it's very exciting if you like Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. It was made into a 1954 movie called King Richard and the Crusaders, but I haven't seen it yet, so can't say if it's much like the book.)
Sir Kenneth was left for some minutes alone, and in darkness. Here was another interruption, which must prolong his absence from his post, and he began almost to repent the facility with which he had been induced to quit it. But to return without seeing the Lady Edith, was now not to be thought of. He had committed a breach of military discipline, and was determined at least to prove the reality of the seductive expectations which had tempted him to do so. Meanwhile, his situation was unpleasant. There was no light to show him into what sort of apartment he had been led---the Lady Edith was in immediate attendance on the Queen of England---and the discovery of his having introduced himself thus furtively into the royal pavilion, might, were it discovered, lead to much and dangerous suspicion. While he gave way to these unpleasant reflections, and began almost to wish that he could achieve his retreat unobserved, he heard a noise of female voices laughing, whispering, and speaking, in an adjoining apartment, from which, as the sounds gave him reason to judge, he could only be separated by a canvas partition. Lamps were burning, as he might perceive by the shadowy light which extended itself even to his side of the veil which divided the tent, and he could see shades of several figures sitting and moving in the adjoining apartment. It cannot be termed discourtesy in Sir Kenneth, that, situated as he was, he overheard a conversation, in which he found himself deeply interested.

Ourselves, by Charlotte Mason
Literature, a very Rich and Glorious Kingdom.––Perhaps the least difficult of approach, and certainly one of the most joyous and satisfying of all those realms in which Intellect is invited to travel, is the very rich and glorious Kingdom of Literature. Intellect cannot walk here without Imagination, and, also, he does well to have, at his other side, that colleague of his, whom we will call the Beauty Sense. It is a great thing to be accustomed to good society, and, when Intellect walks abroad in this fair kingdom, he becomes intimate with the best of all ages and all countries. Poets and novelists paint pictures for him, while Imagination clears his eyes so that he is able to see those pictures: they fill the world, too, with deeply interesting and delightful people who live out their lives before his eyes. He has a multitude of acquaintances and some friends who tell him all their secrets. He knows Miranda and the melancholy Jaques and the terrible Lady Macbeth; Fenella and that Fair Maid of Perth, and a great many people, no two alike, live in his thoughts.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Googling for Squirrels

The Site Meter reports that someone found us today by searching for "drying fruit for squirrels."

If you're planning on sending us some, we really like cherry-flavoured dried cranberries and raisins...but the Squirrelings aren't so big on dates and figs. Just so you know.

And these aren't so tasty, but they're fun to play with.

Ode to Summer, by a famous poet

Fresh steamed pea pods
Raspberries with cream (or vanilla tofu pudding)
Pink Dora sandals
Ducks in the stream

Standing in the sprinkler
Just because it's funny
Our zucchini getting nibbled
by a bunny.

The 28th Homeschool Carnival
Hosted by the Cates
Go check out their Ode to Summer
The photos are really great (unlike this poem).

Friday, July 07, 2006

Not that Dewey

The entertainment generated by the site meter continues...we seem to get a lot of Google hits from people looking for treehouses (real treehouses) and squirrels (real squirrels), along with Cuisenaire Rods and butterscotch dumplings. Also somebody looking for Delancey.

Today somebody found us by searching for Ruskin and Dewey. Our family squirrel is pleased to be getting all this attention...

Laughter (or Hamahamahama)

Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments describes The Laugh of the Future. The comments alone make it worth reading.
So here let me pay tribute to an apparently humble pleasure that Christianity brought to the world, one that was only vaguely anticipated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. I mean the pleasure of a certain kind of comedy. Laughter there had always been, of course, but for cultures untouched by the Christian "deep comedy" (about which our contributing editor Peter Leithart has written most eloquently), laughter seldom or never escapes the realm of scorn.
(My sunhat is off my head more than it's on today--thanks this time to Semicolon.)

E. Nesbit and Reciprocal Robbery

Ponytails and I have finished The Rescuers and are now working on E. Nesbit's The Treasure Seekers--you know, The Bastable Children? (If you've ever wondered about the first page of The Magician's Nephew, that's what C.S. Lewis was talking about.)

If you like E. Nesbit's books and have time to read something several pages long, the essay "Partners in Crime" by Marah Gubar has some great points about adulthood/childhood and about the writing process--which, Gubar points out, Nesbit often saw as a kind of reciprocal borrowing (or even robbery). (In fact, the idea of burglars is one that often comes up in her books like Five Children and It, and The Treasure Seekers.) The article also points out how often Nesbit's books openly refer to other books that the characters have read--and that's not plagiarizing, it's just...borrowing!
Here Oswald models the kind of thieving Nesbit advocates; simultaneously exposing and exploiting literary conventions, he allows himself the pleasure of performing exactly those routines that he swears never to revisit. Thus, in the midst of another commentary on authorial techniques, our narrator vows, "You will not catch me saying, 'thus the sad days passed slowly by'--or 'the years rolled on their weary course'--or 'time went on'--because it is silly; of course time, goes on--whether you say so or not" (Story 21). Rather than choosing between "say [ing] so or not," Oswald both deploys and denigrates these phrases, just as his creator simultaneously uses and abuses literary conventions such as the good-hearted burglar and the wealthy "old gentleman" who saves the day. (5) Both Nesbit and her surrogate narrator excel at revising other people's plots; she recycles Burnett's Editha's Burglar in the chapter entitled "The Robber and the Burglar," while he promises at the start of his narrative to improve on the work of previous authors of children's literature, asserting, "I have often thought that if the people who write books for children knew a little more it would be better. I shall not tell you anything about us except what I should like to know about if I was reading the story and you were writing it". (Story 21-22).
(I think I liked this because it reminded me of similar essays in one of my favourite dip-into books, Only Connect--that is, in its original edition. You can see a newer version on Amazon here.)

Blogs of Beauty: Back Again

Sallie has announced the 2006 Blogs of Beauty categories. If you want to nominate a blog, you'll have to hurry: nominations close on July 9th. (Hat Tip to Life In a Shoe.)

Happy 5th Birthday...

Happy Birthday to all 3,114 of you (and you know who you are). We are firing a salute in celebration. (Hold your ears.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A red, white and blue homeschool carnival

That would be here this week, on Tami's Blog. Of note: "Grounded", by homeschooled 17-year-old Kristin Braun.

In the Carnival of Education, I found some advice from Ms. Cornelius for rookie teachers. Homeschoolers might find some things to think about too.

Good math reading

Mr. Person's Text Savvy blog (formerly known as J.D. Fisher) has some great reading on it right now: check out Why We Need Principles (format triumphs over content in textbook publishing) and Becoming Autodidactic, and then stay and wander around a bit. Why is it that some of the smartest thinking out there seems to come from mathematics educators? (This is coming from an arts major...)

Maybe some of the airheads who are monkeying with the math curriculum in Ontario schools could take a lesson from Mr. Person. At this point they supposedly AREN'T dropping grade 12 Calculus after all, they're just going to combine it with something else--but that still won't be enough for most grade 12 grads trying to get into university math courses. "Sorry, we just can't manage to teach you enough math--try the province down the street."

(Bonus: a calculus quip from Denise's daughter (at Let's Play Math).)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Wandering among the memories

We had a double chance to "wander among the memories" on Canada Day (that was Saturday): we drove to the town where Mama Squirrel grew up, past the school, the candy store, the fountain,and four or five of the houses she once lived in--mostly so that the Squirrelings could have a visual tour of Mama Squirrel's past, but also because Mama Squirrel was feeling a little homesick. And then we visited an antique mall there--a conglomeration of Holly Hobbie dolls, carved dressers, doilies, Matchbox cars, 1920's arithmetic books, Pez dispensers, and peanut butter cans. Mostly we just browsed...Mama Squirrel found a poetry book, Mr. Fixit bought a couple of records, and The Apprentice brought home a 1963 black Barbie and Midge case, just because it was so cool. She'll probably post a photo of it if you ask her nicely.

Some of the "antiques" in these places really make you laugh. Mama Squirrel recognized a Barbie Country Camper, a Husky Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang car, and a couple of her school readers from the 1970's. Does that make Mama Squirrel an antique too?
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