Thursday, August 31, 2006

How Appropriate!

You Are a Learning Cook

You've got the makings of an excellent cook, and the desire to be one.
But right now, you're just lacking the experience. You couldn't be a top chef yet, but you could be an apprentice.

The Biscuit-Tin Family (and runaway pigs)

Yesterday we went to the library to pick up the book bags that Ponytails and Crayons earned by reading a pile of books over the summer. We also took out a few books (The Great Pig Search is definitely one of the funniest picture books we've had out in awhile), and I found a couple of interesting discards. One of them is The Biscuit-Tin Family, by Barbara Ker Wilson, about an English family that moves to Australia to look for gold. It looks pretty good, but I've never seen it before and there's not much online about it except for a few used-book listings. Any great reviews?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Science and Nature, for Crayons and Ponytails

So much to choose from here! I'm having a hard time picking and choosing books that will work for both Ponytails and Crayons this fall, and thinking, oh, we should really read this--oh, maybe this one. (Something like the man in Millions of Cats.)

Their main book will be Jeannie Fulbright's Exploring Creation With Botany. I've been wanting to try out one of these elementary-level texts since they came out, so when a copy of Botany came our way I decided to use it this year (and was pleased to find out that Coffeemama's children will be using the same book). Our family science bent tends towards physical rather than natural science, so learning some plant terminology will actually be something new (and, I hope, interesting).

We also have a basket of nature books and a shelf of how-things-work books, but I'm trying to pick out a couple of things for read-aloud times. I had been going to start with Rowena Farre's Seal Morning, but it's almost too close to the kind of book (Crystal Mountain) that we're doing for Travel, so I wanted something other than life-in-another-country, even if it does have a seal in it. We'll read it, just later on or next year. Right now I'm deciding between Grey Owl's Sajo and the Beaver People, and Clara Dillingham Pierson's Among the Forest People, online at The Baldwin Project. How could we not like a book that has this in its first chapter:
When Mr. Red Squirrel first came to the forest, he knew nothing of the way in which they do, and he afterward said that learning forest manners was even harder than running away from his old home. You see, Mr. Red Squirrel was born in the forest, but was carried away from there when he was only a baby. From that time until he was grown, he had never set claw upon a tree, and all he could see of the world he had seen by peeping through the bars of a cage. His cousins in the forest learned to frisk along the fence-tops and to jump from one swaying branch to another, but when this poor little fellow longed for a scamper he could only run around and around in a wire wheel that hummed as it turned, and this made him very dizzy.--Among the Forest People
Sigh. But I do have to decide pretty soon. I think we might go for Mr. Red Squirrel.

Geography and Travel for Ponytails and Crayons

What we're reading for Geography: A Child's Geography. (That was easy.)

During our readaloud times, I want to read some books about different places as well, and we're going to start with Crystal Mountain, by Belle Dorman Rugh. (I think the lone customer review on Amazon describes the book pretty well.) It's a sort-of true story about some (real) American children growing up in Lebanon, a number of years ago. (Note for anyone who's familiar with the book: while I was searching online for the author's name, I saw the obituary for one of her brothers (one of the boys in the story). Just noting that out of interest.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Homeschooling Carnival

This week's Homeschooling Carnival is up at Category Five, and it's definitely one of the more unusual themes so far: "Weather Conditions Along the Trail of Tears." Scroll down past the weather reports for this week's submissions. Check out the Cates' post about the use of time in homeschools and government schools.

Language Arts for Ponytails

Language Arts, English, "Grammar and Composition". The phrase "Language Arts" sends a bit of grade-five-textbook-flashback-shiver up my spine, but I'll get over it sometime.

I've written about our approach to this before. Mainly it's a practical thing: if the ultimate goal is to improve reading and writing, then we need to stick to those activities that serve that purpose, and never mind the rest, even if they're in a language arts textbook. We also need to consider age-appropriateness. Our friend the Deputy Headmistress once lamented that she had foisted Jensen's Grammar way too early on her oldest girls; nothing wrong with the book, as she pointed out, but it would have been better saved until they were into their teens.

It's also a question of how many of those "language activities" are being (or can be) developed in other subject areas. In looking at the overall plan for Ponytails' school year, I see that she's going to be writing geography "postcards"; keeping a history notebook (a trimmed-down version of a Book of the Centuries); and doing some writing (and nature-notebooking) for Botany. She'll be doing oral narrations for many of her other books, and maybe transitioning into some written work there as well. And do we ever use a dictionary for those other subjects? Does she ever ask me how to spell a word? Do I ever point out that she should have used a comma here or there? Do questions about what certain expressions mean, or what a biography is, ever come up in the rest of school or the rest of life? Of course, and we take full advantage of them.

So what's left for the dreaded Language Arts time? Well, some definite work on careful penmanship. Some work on spelling; I've decided to kill two Archaeopteryxes with one stone and work through a list of prefixes and suffixes, helping Ponytails find words that use those beginnings or endings, and learning how to spell them at the same time.

And since Peter Pan is one of the books we're going to read together this term, the noun-verb-synonym-quotation marks lessons, once a week, are going to come out of that. It's not as hard as you'd think to take a paragraph or so from a book and work with it for twenty minutes. For instance:
Of all delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and table-cloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very real. That is why there are night-lights.--Peter Pan
Within that paragraph, we could find three words with the suffix -ly. We could look up "delectable," "compact," and "tedious" (although I think Ponytails learned "tedious" from watching Arthur); look up synonyms for "tedious" and "alarming"; pick out six adjectives, six nouns, and a couple of verbs. [Updated to fix those commas that should have been inside the quotation marks; sometimes even Mama Squirrels need to look twice at their punctuation.]

On a more advanced level, we could look at the structure of those long sentences (with the understood "it is" before "not large and sprawly") and try rewriting them in shorter sentences; we could talk about what Barrie meant by "crammed" (were those sentences supposed to sound somewhat crammed?); we could talk about his non-standard use of "sprawly" (it is in the dictionary, but I think my fifth-grade teacher would have red-lined it); and we could look at the two hyphenated words that we don't spell with hyphens. We could even talk about what Barrie meant by saying that things that aren't scary in the daytime become alarmingly real at bedtime! (I think we have an Amanda Pig story about that, and of course there's always Bedtime for Frances.)

If I were into creative writing assignments, I might suggest writing a poem or other piece of writing about nightlights and bedtime worries.

If I were my fifth-grade teacher, I would require writing a paragraph on said subject with a topic sentence and a definite conclusion.

But since I'm not, I think we'll leave it at whatever level of discussion or creativity seems worthwhile at the time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Of grey books and dead white guys

Food for thought on the state of childrens' literature with the Deputy Headmistress. Does children's literature still exist? Does childhood still exist?

It makes me go want to read some Bastable children books. (Ponytails and I just finished The New Treasure Seekers, and we wish another one had been written.)

Bible Lessons for fall

We usually alternate readings from the Old and New Testaments, but this term we're going to do the life of David (and Saul, because he's in there too), three days a week; and Proverbs on Fridays. I have a list of chapters written out in our planning binder, but I don't have the exact verses picked out yet, just the names of the stories. The guideline for Charlotte Mason-style lessons in the elementary grades is about 20 verses at a time and that lessons should last 20 minutes (including narration); so a reading is usually just part of the chapter.

The list starts out:

1 Sam. 9: Saul chosen king
1 Sam. 10: King Saul
1 Sam. 11: Saul defeats the Ammonites, etc., through 2 Sam. 12 and then three extra lessons that I'm going to read out of a Bible story book, because of length and complicatedness.

I'm using ideas from the Rev. J. Paterson Smyth's guide Prophets and Kings, online here although a few lessons are missing. (I'm trying to order a used copy as well.) There's some excellent introductory material about how to teach Bible lessons; I think Charlotte Mason drew on his methods (she mentions his books more than once, and they were used in the PNEU programmes), although his lessons aren't set up exactly as the PNEU classes did them. I also like this Parent's Review article about Sunday School lessons--very helpful.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Math for Ponytails, Grade 4

The main book Ponytails will be using (3 days a week) is Cornerstone Curriculum's Making Math Meaningful, Level 4. We will also be doing activities from the book Family Math; reading books from the library's math shelf; and (I think) using a Carmen Sandiego math CD-Rom. (We just got that yesterday so I'm not sure how it's going to fit in.)

Where I've written MMM after one of the objectives, it means that Making Math Meaningful seems to cover it well at this level. What MMM doesn't cover, we'll work on with Family Math or one of the other resources. [Giving-credit-where-it's-due update: I can't pinpoint one source for these objectives. They were pulled from Diane Lopez's Teaching Children, Ruth Beechick, Family Math, and probably Rebecca Rupp's K-12 book as well.]


Recognize, read and write numerals and number words to 999,999 (MMM)
Equalities/inequalities (MMM)
Place value to millions or more; use place value in money problems. (Read How Much is a Million and other books about large numbers. Make sure we do problems & play games with money.)
Geometry: Area, perimeter, volume; recognize 2 and 3 dimensional shapes and their parts; learn about points, lines etc.; learn about right angles; parts of a circle. (I think the CD-Rom covers these concepts. There are some area questions in MMM as well.)
Money skills, including problems involving multiplication and division (MMM, Family Math)
Adding, subtracting up to 5 digits (MMM)
Time problems (Family Math)
Fractions, including addition, subtraction, reducing to lowest terms, recognizing greater or less than (MMM)
Measurement, including liquid and linear; estimate weight and capacity (really a science topic) (Family Math chp 4)
Problem solving strategies (Family Math)
Make and use graphs, charts, tables to solve problems (library books like Tiger Math)
Multiplication skills (MMM)
Division skills (MMM)
Estimation (Family Math chp 10)
Calculator & computer skills (Family Math chp 10; a couple of books we have)
Mental math skills (Ruth Beechick, You CAN Teach Your Child)

Extra topics that we might or might not get to: that darling of public-school classrooms, Probability and Statistics (Family Math); primes, factors, multiples, square numbers (Family Math, Math for Smarty Pants, You CAN Teach Your Child).

Up in the air

I won a book!

Remember the giveaways contest at the Homeschool Math Blog?

I won an e-book! I picked this one.

Thanks, Maria.

Friday, August 25, 2006

On the high seas

Crayons came in from the back porch (it was gray and windy out there) and said, "I'm on a gallant ship. Like in Little Tim. And you're all on the ship with me."

What I Learned from Proverbs 21

(Scripture quotes are from the NIV translation. Comments in italics are mine.)

1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

2 All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.

God looks at our motivations, and doesn't fall for it when we try to rationalize our behaviour.

3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

God wants us to value righteousness and justice.

4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!

God wants us to value humility. (“But to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”)

5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

God wants us to value diligence and hard work.

6 A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

God wants us to value truth.
He wants us to listen with discernment—not to listen to lies.

7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right.

God wants us to value righteousness.

8 The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.

God wants us to be upright in conduct.

9 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

God wants us to make home a place where each one feels wanted and welcome.

10 The wicked man craves evil; his neighbor gets no mercy from him.

God wants us to value mercy.

11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; when a wise man is instructed, he gets knowledge.

God wants us to listen to instruction without haughty eyes and a proud heart; to accept advice and teaching.

12 The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked and brings the wicked to ruin.

13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

God wants us to be generous and giving. He wants us to listen to peoples' needs.

14 A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.

(Maybe a hint that a pack of Lifesavers or a small toy in your purse is a good idea for long sits?)

15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

16 A man who strays from the path of understanding comes to rest in the company of the dead.

God wants us to think about what we are doing, to stay on the path of understanding.

17 He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.

God wants us to love what pleases Him more than what pleases ourselves.

18 The wicked become a ransom for the righteous, and the unfaithful for the upright.

19 Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.

We're not to be quarrelsome or ill-tempered either.

20 In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.

God wants us to store up what we need (plan for the future).

He wants us to plan ahead, measure, count the cost so that the project is a success.

21 He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

We should honour those who have pursued righteousness and love.

22 A wise man attacks the city of the mighty and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust.

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.

31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.

God wants us to be prepared to do battle for Him, to show courage—and to trust and know that the victory lies with Him.

How do you apply Proverbs 21 to education?

Communication, Literature:

To communicate (speak, write) carefully, logically, truthfully, fairly, clearly
To plan ahead (a speech or composition)
To accept editing and correction
To read and listen with discernment, carefully, so that you do not swallow lies (propaganda)
To learn to communicate God’s word through writing, speech, the media, conversation, poetry, drama, letters; and indirectly through clear and honest writing and speaking at home and at work.
To be a sensitive listener to peoples’ needs
To handle complaints effectively
To keep good records
To appreciate good writing and use of beautiful language (Is it going too far to say that this can be read into Proverbs 21? I don't think so, if by beauty we include truth, justice and love.)


To value truth in numbers
To exercise logic, wisdom, problem-solving skills
To value accuracy and order
To understand earning, saving, budgeting, giving, taking account, investing
To further appreciate God’s orderly universe by knowing something of higher mathematics

History, Geography, Science

To know that God is in control of His story, though He calls us to fight for truth and justice in His name
To learn rom the past (not to be arrogant); to seek understanding of why things happened as they did, and the effects of those events
To develop understanding of just government—how to lead a nation, a city, an army, a church, a family
To understand the result of planning against God
To value scientific observation, measurement, method (and to discern propaganda and bias)
To acknowledge God as Creator by learning about many aspects of science—earth, life, space etc.

Music and Art

To love truth and beauty
To practice diligently when learning an instrument or a new art technique

Life Skills and Homemaking

To learn planning, management, and goal setting
To show love to the family and to others by good management and responsibility
To show diligence by working hard
To trust in God’s sovereignty.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What did YOU do this summer?

The Castle inhabitants return to the blogosphere with a great photo post.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How to make virtual slugs explode.

Pour salt on them. See it exploding, where I circled it? Unfortunately, they regenerate. See the new one?

If you fill the area around the slug with wax, or wall, or plant, when it explodes it makes pretty patterns. And no, I don't feel sorry for the slug.

Try it.


As I sat down to begin my blogging, I said (because I had been using a laptop all morning),
"Ahh! A real mouse! A real keyboard! Ahh!"
Crayons (astonished): "A real mouse?"
Me: "Oh...okay, it's a fake mouse."

Of book covers

American kids may know beginning-of-school book covering as a time-honoured ritual, but, at least when I was growing up, we never had to cover anything. (Maybe because we didn't take textbooks home much until high school?) Anyway, Javamom (a.k.a. the Vintage Bookbinder) would laugh at the primitiveness of this, but I needed to cover a copy of Churchill's The Age of Revolution and had to find instructions. Not for durability, but because our paperback copy had a nasty photograph on the cover.

So, Martha Stewart to the rescue. A piece of Amazing Animal Paper later (see the peacock feathers on the top?), and we're done.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An all-Chesterton book meme

The Queen of Carrots has spoken.

This week's homeschool carnival...

will be posted at Patricia Ann's Pollywog Creek Porch, probably today. [Update: it's up here now, and oh my--be sure to pack your mosquito repellent. Check out Loni's post about planning a school year when you're expecting your twelfth student baby.]

What's a Meme?

I think Cindy at the Dominion Family Blog sums it up pretty well:
A meme is a self-absorbed post about the poster (Like a child crying out, “Me, me.” I rarely do them but I thought things were getting a bit heavy around here....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Rhubarb-Pear Crisp, yum

This recipe is what we had for dessert tonight. (Mr. Fixit and the Apprentice had to hurry because they were on their way to the Apprentice's voice lesson, but they had a bit anyway.) It calls for a pound of rhubarb, and we had only a few stalks because we have an un-cooperative rhubarb plant that doesn't like us to take too much at a time. But I just used what we had along with the pears, and it was still good. The ginger is a very nice addition.

(I changed a couple of other things, too: I left out the walnuts, didn't dab anything with butter, and used oil instead of butter to make the crumbs.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Am I totally missing something?

We watched Doctor Who episode "Age of Steel" this afternoon. And reflecting back on it, it strikes me as very odd.

Mickey is typing in code, to a computer, trying to hack into the system. HOW COME EVERYONE WHO DOES THIS ON A TV SHOW KNOWS HOW TO TOUCH-TYPE AND KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT TO TYPE, PLUS THEY TYPE AT LIKE 200 WPM? You know exactly what I mean. He's just sitting there, fingers moving over the keyboard, (like lightning), no mouse, staring at the screen. You can't see what he's typing, and neither can he. The guy with him, Jake, is identical in the manner of computer accessing (but Mickey's better). How is it possible that every computer on every show is possible to hack into by typing stuff?

Where my daddy squirrel works, password protecting files, changing passwords, et cetera, is not allowed. So if someone does that (not too often), he has to get in somehow. He's told me how he did it, and it's not as easy as TV makes it out to be. I mean, it's easy (most of the time), but it's not fast. You have to use some sort of cracker, and it takes a looonnnggg time. And I know for a fact that HE DID NOT SIT THERE AND TYPE RANDOM CHARACTERS INTO A BLANK SCREEN.

~♥~the apprentice~♥~

Javamom on reading

Javamom muses on the power of story.
Don't underestimate the power of the stories, poems, books, biographies, missionary bios that you will probably be reading aloud to your children this year. They are just the best at illustrating and reinforcing the traits that you will be reading in Proverbs, without any extra teaching needed. This is just another way the Holy Spirit can prompt our children's (and our own!) hearts.

A craft fair in Krakow

Join Krakovianka and her family at this 10-day event (great pictures!)

The DHM on planning and binderizing

Our homeschooling friend the Deputy Headmistress has posted about The Seven Habits of Highly Effective New School Years . We've used variations on her binder method for the last couple of years, and I can vouch for its usefulness (and for the frustration of having everything written out day by day and then getting ahead on one thing and behind on another).

Perhaps if I perservere and blog frequently...

...we will go up to a Cute Rodent and maybe someone will comment on my posts.

Anyway, I've been a bit bored with the internet lately. Neopets is going VERY VERY slowly with its latest plot, The Cyodrake's Gaze. Okay, maybe not that slowly, but it doesn't seem like much is happening, and nobody has really figured out much that's all too important. I'm saving for a Lab Map, but I only have two pieces and I can't use Neopets every single day because it puts cookies on the computer. I can make about 10k a day when I do go on, though. I use this guide. I don't play all the games listed on there, just the ones that are still actually on. If you'd like a list of the ones I play, here you go:

  • Aly & AJ: Personality Quiz

  • Brother Bear

  • Cars: Matching Madness

  • Devo 2.0: Personality Quiz

  • Disney Records Album: Move It!

  • Hilary Duff: Matching

  • How to Eat Fried Worms: Wormsicles

  • Licca-Chan Trivia

  • Material Girls: Personality Quiz

  • Pirates of the Caribbean

  • Venus Vibrance: Find Your Neopets Vibe

And I am planning on trying their latest sponsor game, Shopping Adventure brought to you by Wal-Mart. The sponsor game system of earning Neopoints is quite easy. For instance, I can get roughly 600np for the Cars one. You may question the choice of my games, I mean, Hilary Duff? Since when do I listen to her? I don't. The game is simply an easy way to points for me. That's how I choose them.

Anyway...I said I was bored with the internet. Yes, I am. As I said, Neopets has lost its appeal (for a little while, anyway, I'm sure I'll be back). I get a very small amount of email, my Yahoo! Groups haven't been sending me that much mail, probably because people are on vacation, I don't have anything that needs looking up (like my 5 songs, or reviews for a new nail polish I'm buying).

What hasn't been boring, is the Falling Sand Game (thanks Queen of Carrots), it's always fun mixing and pouring and watching slugs explode. Also, blogging.

The real world has been fun, I had my Chicks over on Thursday. I got a larger turnout than I expected. I thought only B was coming, but I somehow managed two more, and lots of people coming next time.

I tried doing the doe-eyes-thing with eyeliner today. I'm not sure if my eyes look like doe eyes now, but it does look lovely. I used Wet 'n' Wild eyeliner as a base, then put purple shadow from The Color Workshop on top.

As usual, this has been a very random post, and I'm sure I confused some of you quite a bit with my ramblings on. :-)

~the apprentice~

Friday, August 18, 2006

Homeschool Math Blog Contest Rules

[Updated to correct the Math Forum link]

Homeschool Math Blog is giving away memberships to The Math Forum Problem of the Week service (great for learning problem solving, for grades 3-10) AND some math ebooks.

Click here to read the details and how to participate!

Learn more about Challenging problems in math and how to use a "Problem of the Week" activity.

The Math Forum's mission is to provide interactive learning services and a
library of resources from the online mathematics community that enrich and support teaching and learning in an increasingly technological world.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ponytails' Favourite Foods

Really Good Foods I've Eaten

What was the best ___ you ever had?

1. Pasta/spaghetti?

Does macaroni and cheese from The Same Restaurant That Makes the Chicken Burgers count?

2. Best chocolate chip peanut butter cookies?

Peanut butter cookies that Mama Squirrel made. [Mama Squirrel's note: we hardly ever make them because Mr. Fixit doesn't like peanut butter.]

3. Birthday cake?

My Marineland cake when I turned six. The icing was so yummy, it was made out of Kool-Aid. (It wasn't gross, it was delicious!)

5. Hamburger?

Off Mr. Fixit's grill.

6. Pumpkin pie?

Mama Squirrel's, with about a pound of whipped cream on it (just kidding).

7. What's your favourite food, and who made it?

Hamburgers and hot dogs.

8. Name three people you'd like to join in.


Of good meals past

The Apprentice presents "A new quiz to do if you're bored. Made up exclusively by me."

What was the best ___ you ever had?

1. Pasta/spaghetti?

2. Best chocolate chip cookies?

3. Birthday cake?

4. Chicken burger?

5. Hamburger?

Apprentice, you're asking the wrong questions. I never reminisce about chicken burgers...but maybe about some really good falafels I used to get at a place near the U of Toronto...and the best baklava I ever had (probably the first baklava I ever had) at a Greek coffee shop somewhere near Bloor and Bathurst...and I wait all winter to get fresh summer fruit again (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, any kind). And I've never met a chocolate chip cookie or a plate of spaghetti I didn't like, although I've had some that didn't like me back very much. I like your lasagna rollups a lot.

Grandma Squirrel made me an extremely extravagant birthday cake the year I turned three or four--I'm not sure which. It was a Cinderella castle cake with turrets and towers and a plastic coach with horses. That was probably the prettiest one I ever had.

6. Pumpkin pie?

Well, I like my kind of pumpkin pie too.

7. What's your favourite food, and who made it?

Probably something with shrimp in, I know, how about a great brunch with waffles and bacon and strawberries. (Are you offering to to make dinner?)

8. Name three lots of people you'd like to join in come for dinner.

My friends who phoned me up last summer all the way from Texas to let me know they were eating falafels. (Is there a right spelling of falafel? I couldn't decide so I looked it up.)

Cooking with the apprentice

A new quiz to do if you're bored. Made up exclusively by me.

What was the best ___ you ever had?

1. Pasta/spaghetti?
Fettucini Alfredo from a little restaurant downtown that's not there anymore.

2. Best chocolate chip cookies?
Neiman-Marcus cookies.

3. Birthday cake?
My hot dog birthday cake, complete with fries. I think the one I linked to is the right one, family members feel free to correct me.

4. Chicken burger?
A certain resturant's Monterey Jack bacon chicken burger *drools*.

5. Hamburger?
Mr. Fixit's. I'm not bad at it either.

6. Pumpkin pie?
If you give her some whipped cream, that Mamasquirrel can make one mean pumpkin pie.

7. What's your favourite food, and who made it?
Cabbage rolls. Preferably made by Mr. Fixit, with the little spice packets from the meat store.

8. Name three people you'd like to join in.
Mamasquirrel. Pippinsqueak. Katelyn.

Made me laugh

The DHM posted this in the middle of something else on The Common Room:

"Which all reminds me of this quote from Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men:
"...if you trust in yourself..."
"...and believe in your dreams..."
"...and follow your star..."
"'ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working
hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.""

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The CBC reports on homeschooling

(Thanks to HomeSchoolBuzz for pointing this out.)

The second of two columns on homeschooling by Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko (of the Radio Free School Reading Room, a radio show for unschoolers)appears on today. (The first, with readers' responses, is here.)

Normally I'd be turned off by an article that starts out, "While home-based education may seem like a risky or experimental new venture into unfamiliar territory"--oh no, here we go again with that dark-ages-of-homeschooling stuff. But it does get more interesting, since Ekoko is a homeschooling parent herself and obviously knows better.

I found these statistics interesting, although not surprising:
According to the findings, a typical Canadian home-educating household is a white, Christian, two-parent family with a father as primary income earner. These families tend to have a slightly lower than average income because the mother usually stays home with an average 3.6 children (well above the national average of 1.1) of elementary school age. However, "mothers do contribute to the family income at a higher rate than in the past," [researcher Deani] Van Pelt notes.
3.6, huh? I knew our family was too small......or maybe Dewey counts as point six. But it seems to me I just read an homeschool-bashing article somewhere that said that people with more than two children usually opt out of homeschooling. That seemed pretty strange to me, considering all the large homeschooling families I know. Well, there we have statistics to back us up. [Update: okay, I found it, and I it wasn't meant to be a homeschool bashing article but was just meant to tell you how much somebody thinks it costs to homeschool. And it was more than three children, not two. But I still think that's a strange comment. I guess they haven't talked to the Duggar family lately...]

I liked this quote too (from researcher Dr. Bruce Arai):
According to Arai's research, some parents felt strongly that home-schooling is part of an alternative lifestyle, but "the majority of parents … felt that they were normal in all respects, except for the fact that their children did not go to school."

Two quotes

"But let their zeal be according to knowledge. Lay the foundations of their faith....Put earnest, intellectual works into their hands. Let them feel the necessity of bracing up every power of mind they have to gain comprehension of the breadth and the depth of the truths they are called to believe. Let them not grow up with the notion that Christian literature consists of emotional appeals, but that intellect, mind, is on the other side. Supply them with books of calibre to give the intellect something to grapple with––an important consideration, for the danger is, that young people in whom the spiritual life is not yet awakened should feel themselves superior to the vaunted simplicity of Christianity."--Charlotte Mason, Studies in the Formation of Character

"True spirituality covers all of reality. There are things the Bible tells us as absolutes which are sinful--which do not conform to the character of God. But aside from these the Lordship of Christ covers all of life and all of life equally. In this sense there is nothing concerning reality that is not spiritual.

"Related to this, it seems to me, is the fact that many Christians do not mean what I mean when I say Christianity is true, or Truth. They are Christians and they belive in, let us say, the truth of creation, the truth of the virgin birth, the truth of Christ's miracles, Christ's substitutionary death, and His coming again. But they stop there with these and other individual truths.

"When I say Christianity is true I mean it is true to total reality--the total of what is, beginning with the central reality, the objective existence of the personal-infinite God. Christianity is not just a series of truths but Truth--Truth about all of reality. And the holding of that Truth intellectually--and then in some poor way living upon the truth, the Truth of what is--brings forth not only certain personal results, but also governmental and legal [and educational] results."--Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto.

(Both quoted in For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.)

Hungarian Stew

Well, that sounds better than Hungarian Leftover Roast Casserole.

The Deputy Headmistress was looking for recipes for leftover roast beef, and this is what I usually do with ours. It's one of those no-real-amounts recipes, which makes it hard to write out. But these are the basics:

You need 1 good chunk of leftover roast, chopped into small (fork-sized) pieces; 1 small onion, sliced; at least 1 clove garlic, chopped; sliced carrots; salt, pepper, 1 tsp. paprika, and a can of tomato soup. Bake this in a covered casserole for an hour, or put it in the crock pot for the afternoon. When it's heated through and the carrots are cooked, you can add a can of green beans, if you want to stretch it a bit, and a large spoonful of sour cream; you might put it back into the oven for a few minutes to warm up the beans. We usually eat this with noodles or perogies (the little potato-stuffed ones from the supermarket).

Mushrooms might be a good addition, too. If the sauce is too runny, you can thicken it with flour or cornstarch (mix the cornstarch with the sour cream before adding).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

The thing that lives in your brain

We realise that there is an act of knowing to be performed; that no one can know without this act, that it must be self-performed, that it is as agreeable and natural to the average child or man as singing is to the song thrush, that "to know" is indeed a natural function. Yet we hear of the incuria which prevails in most schools, while there before us are the young consumed with the desire to know, can we but find out what they want to know and how they require to be taught.--Charlotte Mason
We recently watched an episode from this past season's Dr. Who. In the classic sci fi tradition (as in, didn't we just see another episode like this about sucking up peoples' brains, and hasn't just about every sci fi show ever made plus The Exorcist used this idea?), the episode features an entity living in a little girl's head, using her brain (so that she sometimes talks in a REALLY WEIRD VOICE), and sucking up other human beings for its own purposes.

This particular entity inside the little girl's brain happens to be sustained on love and companionship--LOTS of companionship (in fact, in its natural state it has millions or billions of siblings). The problem is that it's inhaling companionship in the form of people, at an ever-increasing rate (by the end of the show, it has sucked up an entire Olympic stadium full of spectators and has plans for the rest of the world). Of course in the end (SPOILER), it finds its proper companions and joins them inside a little egg-sized spaceship, leaving the little girl free of the REALLY WEIRD VOICE.

There is a point to telling you about this (and it's not meant as an advertisement for the show). We each have such an entity inside our physical brains (or somewhere in there): it's our mind, and it's sustained on knowledge. In its healthy state, it desires, craves knowledge; other things cannot properly be substituted. Knowledge, not information, and there's a difference: information is short term, spit back out again or forgotten, made up of facts without "informing ideas." Knowledge is long-term, swallowed, digested, processed, used. It's like when you say in French "Je connais," which is different from "Je sais." They both mean "I know," but they are different kinds of knowing. "Je sais" is used for a fact, like "I know it's raining out," but "Je connais" is used in "I know you."

If the food is available, the entity will suck it up in whatever quantities are available (even Olympic-sized). It will do whatever it can to find its proper food AND YOU CAN'T STOP IT. BWA HA HA HA.

Well, you can. Unfortunately.

There is a cure for knowledge-hunger. Just like vinegar smashed up the Slitheens (careful, that review has some language), if you can get hold of some Incuria it's quite easy to stop the knowledge-hungry mind.
I can touch here on no more than two potent means of creating incuria in a class. One is the talky-talky of the teacher. We all know how we are bored by the person in private life who explains and expounds. What reason have we to suppose that children are not equally bored? They try to tell us that they are by wandering eyes, inanimate features, fidgetting hands and feet, by every means at their disposal; and the kindly souls among us think that they want to play or to be out of doors. But they have no use for play except at proper intervals. What they want is knowledge conveyed in literary form and the talk of the facile teacher leaves them cold. Another soothing potion is little suspected of producing mental lethargy. We pride ourselves upon going over and over the same ground 'until the children know it'; the monotony is deadly.--Charlotte Mason
Incuria is related to the idea "not curious" and it's properly translated "carelessness," but in this sense, it means a lack of appetite for knowledge. Not caring about it. Someone who's incurious is apathetic, unobservant, careless. ("What would you like to eat? I don’t care. Some lovely cream of wheat? I don’t care. Don’t sit backwards on your chair. I don’t care. Or pour syrup on your hair. I don’t care.")

Where do you get enough Incuria to stop the appetite for knowledge? You can start by offering lots of TV and computer time; provide lots of dull school lectures; and most of all, spread the idea that knowledge is Dull and Irrelevant and that anything contained in a book of over 100 pages isn't worth the trouble. You can make the entity go away or at least not bother you much.

But please don't.
But what if all were for all, if the great hope of Comenius––"All knowledge for all men"––were in process of taking shape? This is what we have established in many thousands of cases, even in those of dull and backward children....we are so made that only those ideas and arguments which we go over are we able to retain. Desultory reading or hearing is entertaining and refreshing, but is only educative here and there as our attention is strongly arrested. Further, we not only retain but realise, understand, what we thus go over. Each incident stands out, every phrase acquires new force, each link in the argument is riveted, in fact we have performed THE ACT OF KNOWING, and that which we have read, or heard, becomes a part of ourselves, it is assimilated after the due rejection of waste matter. Like those famous men of old we have found out "knowledge meet for the people" and to our surprise it is the best knowledge conveyed in the best form that they demand. Is it possible that hitherto we have all been like those other teachers of the past who were chidden because they had taken away the key of knowledge, not entering in themselves and hindering those who would enter in?--Charlotte Mason

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A book meme

1. One book that changed your life: Better than School, by Nancy Wallace. For the Children's Sake gave us a method, but Nancy Wallace's book nailed the idea of homeschooling in the first place.

2. One book that you've read more than once: That's hard, I've read a lot of books more than once--why own them if you're only going to read them once, right? How about Great Expectations?

3. One book you'd want on a deserted island: Shakespeare's plays. If it was good enough for the Noble Savage...

4. One book that made you laugh: The Church Mice and the Moon, by Graham Oakley.

5. One book that made you cry: I'm not telling.

6. One book that you wish had been written: the book that Charlotte Mason wrote after time-travelling forward a century.

7. One book that you wish had never been written: Democracy and Education, by John Dewey. (No relation to the squirrel.)

8. One book that you are currently reading: Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, by Thomas Cahill.

9. One book you've been meaning to read finish: The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni. We got stuck partway through.

Swiss Cashew Salad, our version

I clipped a recipe for Swiss Cashew Tossed Salad from a Taste of Home magazine somebody gave me; and the exact same recipe (no credit given to anybody) is posted on at least two recipe websites. So it doesn't look like this idea is much of a secret: Romaine lettuce, cashews, Swiss cheese (sliced thin with a vegetable peeler), and poppy seed dressing. This is a very simple salad to make, but that's why you need to use the best possible quality ingredients. We got good-quality Swiss cheese at the deli and used a combination of Romaine and our own garden lettuce. I can't even imagine this one with iceberg lettuce, so if that's all you have, I wouldn't bother.

I didn't like the dressing recipe that came with the salad (the one given if you do a search for "Swiss Cashew Tossed Salad")--I couldn't stomach the idea of 3/4 of a cup of sugar in one bowl of salad. So I used this one from Betty Crocker's Cookbook.

Poppy Seed Dressing

1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. poppy seeds

Mix everything except the oil and poppy seeds. Gradually add oil, beating until thick and smooth; stir in poppy seeds. The book says to cover and refrigerate at least two hours. Makes 3/4 cup of dressing, enough for one average salad.

Some people here don't like poppy seed dressing, so they had the salad with commercial Caesar-with-bacon dressing--and that was also very good. Oh, one other thing--don't mix the cashews with the lettuce too far ahead--they go soft.

79th Carnival of Education

California LiveWire hosts this week's Carnival of Education, the "3-R's Edition." Not so much to do with education, but the HunBlogger submitted his answers to a book meme that I was going to try myself (the desert island question again). Loni at Joy in the Morning provides a homeschooler's perspective on developing childrens' interests. And finally, here's a post after my own heart: bad ways to teach kids to write (and we're not talking about penmanship).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Crayons' Books

Crayons: This is a very fun day.

Mama Squirrel: Uh huh?

Crayons: I have nothing to do but sit back, relax, and read books.

(This said while shivering in a lawn chair on the back porch--this is an August morning, and it starts to get chilly in the mornings now--with a stack of ten picture books beside her. She is trying to get them all read so she can win a book bag in the public library's summer reading program.)

(Mama Squirrel is reading Plutarch's Titus Flamininus beside her, but at least Mama Squirrel realizes that it's cold enough to be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Mama Squirrel takes compassion on Crayons and goes and gets a jacket to drape around her so that she doesn't have to interrupt her reading marathon.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mouths of Kindergartners

(These really did come out of the mouths of kids we know--I didn't see them on the back of a church bulletin.)

When we were singing hymns, Crayons asked for one she knows: "Trust and Okay."

A lady at church was asking the kids if they knew how caterpillars turn into butterflies. One little boy called out, "I know! They have to go into raccoons!"

Finally, Crayons' best hard question yet: "Are cheetahs good spitters?"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Almost as good as the Calgary Stampede

I earned mahself this purty hat by sending Sprittibee something for The Wild West Carnival of Homeschooling. This carnival's almost as big as the state of (clap clap) Texas, so mosey on over.

Of dumplings

To those who have found us by searching for dumpling recipes:

1. If you're one of the several who have come looking for the Butterscotch Dumpling recipe from Food That Really Schmecks, you're welcome to it. I'll even give you a link to the post.

2. If you're the person looking for "squirrel and dumplings," sorry, you're on your own. We cannot condone such cannibalism. (Please, now, no Google searches looking for cannibalism.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Wanna talk about Erewhon?

One of those things-you-always-hear is that when you once get an idea or something particular happens to you, you suddenly see the same thing everywhere. You get a dog, and you notice dogs; you're thinking about buying Crocs sandals, and suddenly you notice everyone who's wearing them. Anyway, Grandpa Squirrel brought over the Toronto Star Ideas section from this weekend, and it had a great long article by Ronald Wright (meant to be a conference address) on "A slow death by progress", that mentioned Samuel Butler's novel Erewhon.

Here's a bit of it:
In his 1872 novel Erewhon (an anagram of nowhere), Samuel Butler created a remote civilization beyond the mountains of New Zealand that had industrialized long before Europe, but where the side effects of progress sparked a Luddite revolution.

The great danger, wrote an Erewhonian radical, was not so much the existing machines as the speed at which they were evolving: If not stopped in time, they might develop language, reproduce themselves, and subjugate mankind.

Butler was sending up Darwinism here, but the anxieties stirred by the panting monsters of the Steam Age were real enough. Years before he became Queen Victoria's favourite prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli had anticipated Erewhon's fears in his novel Coningsby: "The mystery of mysteries," he wrote in 1844, "is to view machines making machines, a spectacle that fills the mind with curious and even awful speculation."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Thrift book shopping

The most fun a Mama Squirrel can have: one particular downtown thrift shop that has an ever-changing back corner full of books, mostly for a quarter or at least under a dollar; and a half hour or so alone to search through it.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, I brought home:

Erewhon, because Krakovianka recommended it
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (in one volume with Maggie-Now), both because Krakovianka recommended them (see a pattern here?);
Cry the Beloved Country (read it already, but we didn't have a copy);
School for Scandal (a play scheduled for The Apprentice for next year);
Tasha Tudor's And It Was So;
2 well-used copies of The Mennonite Hymnal, to go with our other one so that we don't have to crane our necks to see the words;
3 copies of The Mennonite Bicentennial Songbook (to go with our other half-dozen);
a complete volume of Lord of the Rings, for The Apprentice (actually that came from a used bookstore around the corner from the thrift shop, but it was on sale);
Chris Madden's Guide to Personalizing Your Home: Simple, Beautiful Ideas for Every Room. Inspired by Krakovianka's post What's On Your Walls?;
a Lucy Waverman cookbook;
and some old back-to-school issues of Family Fun.

Altogether, a good afternoon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

To read and think over

This Week in Education hosts the 78th Carnival of Education, and it looks like there's a lot here this week. What would Charlotte Mason think of a "School of Rock approach to education?" (Is working on a class software project enough to educate young consciences in wisdom, or is it too utilitarian? Does it touch what Ruth Beechick calls the "heart" side of education?)

Scheiss Weekly has a few things to say to homeschooling parents who don't want their progeny to have to suffer through all those boring classes that they don't think they ever used. The guest blogger at Edspresso looks at students as customers (rather than as one of many ingredients in a final product). (Is that a good analogy or does it also miss the mark?) Don't miss Rebecca's comment, about the lack of what she calls "discrete chunks" in education. Here's a sample:
But what if the customer wants the information parceled out in discrete and sequential chunks, removed from the larger context? For instance, one of my children is at soccer camp this week, and I am fully expecting that the cost of this camp will include passing, dribbling, and shooting drills removed from the context of a soccer game. I'd be really upset if the camp was all games from beginning to end. Another child takes piano lessons, and I am fully expecting that the cost of the lessons will include his instructor asking him to isolate and practice every measure in a piece of music that causes him trouble. I'd be really upset if he was told to only play pieces from beginning to end, no matter how many notes he dropped or where the rhythm went. How can we expect him to know the joy of playing in time with a group of fellow musicians? Yet another child of mine just got a skateboard, and he is happily practicing over and over again how to balance going forward on the level, before he tries turning left or right or going uphill or downhill. It's only natural for him to start out that way. (from Rebecca's comment on the post Serving the Customer)
(I think what Rebecca's talking about would fit into the idea that "Education is a discipline." CM also referred to the "disciplinary subjects" which were the ones that required the kind of systematic, bit-upon-bit work Rebecca describes.)

Not in the carnival, but also worth reading: Ann Voskamp's August column in Christian Women Online, Habits and Horizons: Blazing New Trails. If your kids are enjoying holidays a little too much and you hate having to grapple with setting up good school-year habits all in the same week as getting into new books and finding the map you stored that goes with this year's history--go read Ann's wise words. (Not all homeschoolers are even on holidays right now--some people are just finishing a school year and some have already started the next. I know more than one family that starts their "new year" every January. But this is still good advice for whenever good routines need to be re-established.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Oh, the fascination of it

The Site Meter scores again. Today's winner for most unusual hit: someone looking for "biblical term for squirrel."

Extremely curious, I clicked on their search, and these are the first few (printable) results MSN came up with, besides our blog (out of 19,918?). Today's technology is unbelievable, if not very useful.

"Biblical Errancy
In fact, many biblical verses show that faith is either unnecessary ... Notice the employment of the obligatory term must in the last two ... Smith's Bible Dictionary says that "hare" was "of the squirrel kind."

---Squirrels in the Bible?

"Fabelhaft: Exploration of the World through Biblical goggles
I scored my first squirrel! He slowly approached the nut, put it in his teeth and then when there was ... Term begins. Now one week into the second semester of the year: groups will be chosen and courses ..."

"The Soccer Squirrel: Get a Grip on Soccer
THE SOCCER SQUIRREL WOULD LIKE TO CONGRATULATE OUR WONDERFUL ... not come at the cost of financial prudence and the long term ... Don't expect the young man with the biblical appearance to work ..."

---Why not, too heavenly-minded?

"Sorry , one pro-Biblical ... absolutely Africanizing out a illiterate thirteen-lined ground squirrel"

---Somebody should do something about those illiterate ground squirrels. Dewey would like to help.

"... that only half of the country’s Protestant pastors have a biblical ... Fetus is a perfectly good medical term, as long as you remember ... Evolutionist driving along when he encounters a squirrel in the road ..."

---and what happened? Enquiring minds would love to know what kind of a conversation they had. Just as long as it wasn't on that Ecowas Express Road.

[Update: oh--I found out, but it's too heavy to tell young Squirrelings about, so I won't print it.]

Serendipity (and chicken recipe)

(To please those at the Beehive)

Serendipity (from

The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. Like an extra piece of chocolate bar left in the drawer when you thought it had all been eaten. Or two frozen bananas when you have been thinking about making banana muffins.

The fact or occurrence of such discoveries. It does happen.

An instance of making such a discovery: The Deputy Headmistress posted a recipe today for Chicken Breasts Honeyed and Curried, just after I had pulled a bag of chicken out of the freezer, and I read it while I was trying to decide what to do with it.

I used the same idea but cut down on the ingredients (had only a small bag of chicken), cut back on the spices, and used the crockpot. This is what I ended up putting in the pot: 2 boneless chicken breasts (that's about a pound of meat), 1/4 cup margarine, 1/4 cup liquid honey, 1 tbsp. each curry powder and dry mustard (powder), a bit of salt and a grind of pepper. The chicken was still fairly frozen so I started it at about 11:00 and cooked it on high until 5:00. At about 4:30, I thickened the sauce with 2 tbsp. cornstarch that I had mixed with a small amount of cold water, and then set it back to cooking until supper time. I served it with brown rice and a sprinkle of cashews on top.

This served our family of 5 (but a couple of our kids are small eaters, so I'd say it was more like 4 servings with rice and salad).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Are You a Yankee or a Rebel?

After the Deputy Headmistress took this vocabulary/pronunciation test, I thought it would be fun to take it and see if the computer could even compute me, considering I'm from the Great White North.

I should have guessed--I got all the words from the "Great Lakes" area, whatever that might be. Guess that Yankee water flows across the border and on up here.

But who knew that drinking fountains, (as in, your trees) and devil's night (as in, the night you t.p. trees) were local words?

Well, I'm going to go cool off with a pop and then put on my pajamas (rhymes with bananas).
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