Monday, November 30, 2009
"Buy Handmade for the Holidays," posted on i-Newswire, says that the Handmade Toy Alliance "urges parents and grandparents to give handmade gifts to the children in their lives this holiday season. This year more than any other, small batch makers of toys, clothes, and accessories need their customers' support."
Photo found here.
We haven't tried many other commercial spelling programs: we've used more "natural methods" of teaching spelling, such as copywork and dictation, reading, word games, and third grader Crayons has used online spelling activities as well. But, without trying to embarrass anybody, only one of our Squirrelings seems to be an intuitive speller. Crayons can read very hard books, but lacks confidence in spelling, which makes her sometimes reluctant to write.
Enter All About Spelling, Level One, and its accompanying Materials Packet. It's not a workbook or textbook program. What you do get: a lesson-by-lesson teacher's manual; a lot of coloured index-sized cards to pop apart (some are words, some are phonograms, some are rules to memorize); a sheet of laminated "tiles" to cut apart and stick magnets on the back of; and a few miscellaneous things like bingo chips and progress charts. Oh, and a CD-Rom of phonogram sounds. Pencil-and-paper or whiteboard work can be included as appropriate, but with the alphabet tiles it's workable even for those whose fine motor skills are weak.
If you have a large magnetic board, you can stick all the tiles-- lower-case alphabet letters and combinations of letters like CK and TH--on that and save yourself (or your Squirreling) the trouble of setting up the letters every day. I thought our old Coleco Magnetic Playboard (the kind with a chalkboard on the back) would be big enough, but it's only half as big as the recommended 2 x 3 foot surface. The fridge could have served, but the kitchen table turned out to work better for us, even though it's not magnetic. The magnets on the back of the tiles make them slide around the table better anyway than if we had left them plain.
Crayons completed the 24 "steps" (lessons) of Level One in under a month. If you have a young child just learning to read, you will of course go slower than we did. Crayons did not need to spend time working on single consonants or learn why we add "s" to make a plural. What she did find challenging was one of the first exercises: saying the sounds of words slowly (like "p-a-t" and "s-t-e-p") while pulling a plastic chip towards herself for each sound. We also needed to work on sounding out and spelling some of the vowel sounds and "consonant teams" that are taught in the first level. There are words that are covered at each level (170 in Level One), and several of them are added in each lesson, but this is not an approach that requires that every word be pre-tested, memorized, and final-tested: rather, it allows the student to spell ANY words that fit the spelling rules that have been taught.
This approach seemed to be exactly what Crayons needed this year. She enjoyed...as much as any third grader enjoys...the hands-on approach of spelling with tiles. (Sometimes I had her spell words out loud instead.) When we got to the end of each lesson, I skipped having her spell individual words on paper, but had her write the suggested phrases and short sentences instead, usually four or five a day. A younger child could do single words. She liked the humour of the phrases: "sniff and smell," "sink in quicksand," "six sad clams," "swam in jam." We had quite an interesting discussion about "rub his chin" and whether "he" might turn out to be a cat or a dog. I even learned something new myself: that there are no English words containing the letters "enk." (If you find one, let me know.)
The proof of success, for me, was that the same day we finished Level One, Crayons decided to entertain herself during Ponytails' dance class by writing a 246-word story. (I counted.) It wasn't perfectly spelled. But she asked for help with spelling only a couple of times, and it's the longest thing she's ever written (plus it was a great story). Coincidence? Maybe she's just growing up...but I will credit the month of All About Spelling she just completed with giving her renewed confidence and interest in writing.
We have just started Level Two, which we were also sent for review. This level includes eleven new phonograms and introduces more complicated words, as well as "jail words" that don't fit the spelling rules. I don't expect Crayons to take too long to get through it.
Will we continue on with the four other levels of the program?
Well, that was the point at which I went back to the website and checked the prices. The materials packet, which covers all the levels, is US$26.95. Level One is $29.95, and the other levels are $39.95. Extra student materials packets, which include the cards, bingo chips, and progress charts, are available for $19.95 apiece ($14.95 for Level One). You can also buy the CD-Rom, and the tiles separately, as well as additional items from the same publisher including a reader and a book about homophones. (I forgot to say that you can see sample lessons, and also a scope and sequence, here.)
While I was a bit floored by the generosity of the publisher in sending a hundred dollars' worth of spelling materials, I also had a few second thoughts about whether I would have purchased these materials at full price for a third grader, considering the speed at which we go through them; and whether or not I will be able to afford further levels. I do think that All About Spelling offers very good value overall (as Paddington would say), since the materials [in the first two levels; there are some write-in materials in higher levels] are all non-consumable except for the progress sheets and certificates; the laminated tiles are very sturdy, and the whole thing should last you through several children, assuming you have them. And considering how happy I am with Crayons' improved spelling, a hundred dollars for the materials and the first two levels could be thought of as money well spent. We will see how it goes with this second level, and if Crayons appears to need more of the same kind of work, I will consider getting the next one. If this "booster" is enough, she may do fine after this on her own.
For more reviews of this product, see the Review Crew Website.
Dewey's Disclaimer: This product was received free for purposes of review. No other payment was made. The opinions expressed in this review are our own.
Anyway, this is what's planned:
Nature Challenge #8
Artistic Pursuits Unit 6
crafts, other pre-holiday things
Mr. Pipes book and Bible stories
101 Famous Poems
King Arthur, trying to finish Book One by Christmas
Swiss Family Robinson, trying to get to page 121 in our copy
Nutrition 101, Unit 2 Chapter 3: Enzymes, raw food (yes, it's taken us this long to get this far)
Take everybody to the dentist on Thursday.
Reading one of Leon Garfield's Shakespeare stories
Abraham Lincoln's World
The Ocean of Truth (Newton biography), chapters 15, 16
math and science and photography with Mr. Fixit
Book of Think--the very end of the book
Analogies--continue, see if we can get section D done
Larry Burkett's money book, chapter 11
Write with the Best, start Unit 7 (Personal Letters) if done the Short Story assignment
Canada's Story chapters 7 and 8 (about Champlain)
Lassie-Come-Home chapters 18 and 19
Miquon Math and Mathemagic book
All About Spelling Level 2 (starting a new book--watch for review soon)
Sunday, November 29, 2009
"To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable....We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms."--The Problem of Pain
"Lest we should think this a hardship, this kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son."--The Problem of Pain
"Indignation at others' sufferings, though a generous passion, needs to be well managed lest it steal away patience and humanity from those who suffer and plant anger and cynicism in their stead."--The Problem of Pain
"I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can....the dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing and perfectly healthy race."--from "Why I Am Not a Pacifist" (The Weight of Glory)
Friday, November 27, 2009
(Seen on Dollar Store Crafts)
It reminded me of this, from 101 Famous Poems:
by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)
THIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:--
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel--
That blue blade that the king's son bears, -- but this
Blunt thing--!" he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I'm thankful for You! And thank You again especially if You were one of the people who nominated or voted for us in the Homeschool Blog Awards. And even if You didn't--thank You for coming by and for letting us get to know You as well.
(Due to some glitches, the HSBA winners haven't yet been announced--but it was pretty obvious that we weren't that close anyway.)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
X is for Christ, as in letter Chi, as in Xmas.
X is also for a lot more words than you'd expect, including Xyris operculata, which means "of Australia." Really. So greetings to Jeanne.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Hot Chocolate Pods at Big Red Kitchen
Heaven on a Stick at Cents to Get Debt-Free (dipped pretzels)
Cider Beetles at Elfster. I like her Reindeer variation too, as well as the "Mulling Minnows" at Big Red Kitchen. And I was really happy to see that you can get LITTLE cinnamon sticks at the bulk baking store--I really don't like smashing up the big ones.
Malted Milk Buttons and Crispy Rice Shortbread, two variations on a Master Dough recipe that I found in a (thrifted) December 15, 1998 Woman's Day magazine and which were adapted (with others in the same food article) from One Dough, Fifty Cookies by Leslie Glover Pendleton. We have a list of our own favourite Christmas cookies, but these might get worked in too...we Squirrels don't tend to go for the very fancy cookies, we prefer taste over glamour.
And, as she points out, her version is Way More Frugal than the commercial kit. Even if you buy new crayons to break into pieces.
Those would look wonderful on our always-hard-to-decorate mantelpiece.
Now to find out if our dollar store carries those candles in glass tubes...
(Reposted and slightly edited from 2007)
I think almost every Ambleside Online user customizes the curriculum to some extent--well, at least we do. Besides adding in some Canadian content, there are books that I add in because they fit so well or they're just longtime favourites. A lot of those are out-of-print books that aren't yet in the public domain--just old enough to be hard to find, not old enough to read online, but still worth looking for.
This list doesn't include the picture books we've been collecting like the Little Tim books, the Church Mice books, or Shirley Hughes' Alfie series--I'm trying to stick mostly to school-type books or literature for the AO years.
The order is...random.
1. Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild. (Check out that link--there are photos of places from the story.) For girls around Year 3 age...and how many books (besides Roller Skates) include not only Shakespeare references but children who are more or less homeschooled? (Roller Skates--which includes Shakespeare, not homeschooling--is a book in which many parents will need to proceed with caution--there are very scary and very sad parts, enough to unsettle some children unless you do some judicious skipping.)
2. Margery Sharp's Miss Bianca/Rescuers mouse adventure books. Some are better than others, but the first two at least are must-reads...but not too young, maybe Year 3 or 4. Adventure, courage, and poetry.
3. More mice and furry/feathered heroes: William Steig's Abel's Island and The Real Thief. For around the same age, because Steig never stints on vocabulary.
"Without waiting to catch breath after his heroic skirmish, he began uttering, over these detested feathers, the most horrible imprecations imaginable. Heaven forfend that the owl should have suffered a fraction of what Abel wished it. Abel wished that its feathers would turn to lead so it could fall on its head from the world's tallest tree, that its beak would rot and become useless even for eating mush, that it should be blind as a bat and fly into a dragon's flaming mouth, that it should sink in quicksand mixed with broken bottles, very slowly, to prolong its suffering, and much more of the same sort."
4. A Toad for Tuesday, by Russell E. Erickson. I guess the owl in #3 reminded me of this one--for Year 1 or 2, and most children at that level could probably read it for themselves. No offense, but people who avoid "talking animal stories" don't know what they're missing with this one. Warton the Toad is kidnapped by a Really Mean Owl who plans to eat him--next week--for a birthday snack. But he attempts to remain calm.
"The toad dug into his pack and pulled out two beeswax candles. As soon as they were lit and began casting their warm glow about the room, he felt much better. He began to straighten his corner. And, being of a cheerful nature, he began to hum a little tune.
"The owl couldn't believe his ears.
"'Warty, you did hear me say that I was going to eat you next Tuesday, didn't you?'
"'Yes, ' said the toad.
"The owl shook his head."
5. Armed with Courage. (I had to include a serious book.) I've written about this before: it's a book of short biographies of courageous people: Florence Nightingale, Father Damien, George Washington Carver, Jane Addams, Wilfred Grenfell, Mahatma Gandhi, and Albert Schweitzer. Something like Hero Tales, not specifically Christian, but inspirational and well written. We've just finished reading this (in our Year 3 1/2).
"Nothing on earth was wasted. That was the belief of this man who seemed to have magic in his fingers. Every day he had a whole handful of new ideas, too. He searched the woods and fields and brought home plants, leaves, and roots. Then he took them to his laboratory and made them into useful products, or medicines, or food. He told his students that they must learn to "see." They must always see something good in nature. They must always look for something that would benefit mankind.
"Not even a few handfuls of dirt were too humble to interest Dr. Carver. Yet he wanted almost nothing for himself...."
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I have some lace, hankies, ribbon, muslin and things like that that would make great bedroom sachets. The kind you usually fill with potpourri or lavender.
However, certain Squirrels are very sensitive to anything piney, or flowery, or generally perfumey...even a walk through the craft store can make some of us go...er, a little nutty.
And sachets without any smell seem a bit pointless, don't they?
Do you have any suggestions for alternative uses, fillings, or variations that won't make anybody jump out of the tree? Pincushion stuffing is one that came to mind, although I'm not sure how many pincushions actually see much use these days...
Mama Squirrel made up a reading list last December of 20 Library Books to read in 2009. In some cases I never did locate the book and ended up reading something else by the same author or another book on the same topic. Here they are, with the ones I finished in bold and the ones I at least started in italics:
1. Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses
2. Story of French
4. Half in the Sun: an anthology of Mennonite Writing
5. Bumblebee Economics
6. Of This Earth (Rudy Wiebe) (it's usually out)
7. King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the man who saved geometry
8. The Bone Sharps: a novel
9. Rough Crossings: Britain, the slaves, and the American Revolution
10. De Niro's Game
11. The Skystone (some heavy-duty adult content)
12. Black Swan Green
13. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
14. Three-Day Road
15. A Most Damnable Invention: dynamite, nitrates, and the making of the modern world
16. On Chesil Beach
17. Divisadero (I got halfway through and couldn't handle any more)
18. The Library at Night
19. The Man Who Forgot How to Read (Engel) (I keep looking for it and it's always out)
20. The Writing Life (Annie Dillard)
I did finish several of them--and started a few others but didn't get all the way through due either to lack of interest or, in a couple of cases, getting very grossed out at what currently passes for acceptable content in mainstream books. I'm not sure whether to start a new library list for this year or just keep working on this one--I think I might keep working on this one, since I haven't yet got to that tantalizing book about dynamite.
So along with those library books that I did locate and read, and some favourite re-reads (noted), here is my Yes I Read It list for 2009, so far. At the minute I've dropped everything else so that I can work on Dawn to Decadence (and read Steph's slow cooker book).
A good chunk of the Bible
Plutarch: Life of Theseus, Life of Romulus
Marva Collins' Way
Books on writing:
How to Grow a Novel
Reading like a Writer (Prose)
Turning Life into Fiction (Hemley)
Books on Real Life:
Fast Food Nation
Discover Your Inner Economist
Books on homing:
Tightwad Gazette books (re-read)
Two "Lasagna Gardening" books
Introducing Whole Foods Cooking (Gregg)
Welcome Home, by Emilie Barnes
Books on books:
84, Charing Cross Road / The Duchess of Bloomsbury
Inside Prince Caspian (Brown)
Books about people:
The Small Woman
King of Infinite Space
Most of the Mitford books (re-read)
Daughter of Time (re-read)
Kingfishers Catch Fire (Godden) (re-read)
Oh What a Paradise It Seems (Cheever)
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Goldengrove (Prose) (did not like this one at all)
Burglar on the Prowl (Block) (sometimes Mama Squirrel likes a good scary mystery)
The Heart of Midlothian (Scott)
The Silence (Endo)
Deep River (Endo)
Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom (Paterson)
The Storm (Buechner)
Jeanne, fille du roy (Martel)
Some of Tolstoy's stories
Some of Chekhov's stories
Peace Shall Destroy Many (Wiebe)
The Living (Dillard)
The Stone Diaries (Shields)
Four of John Buchan's Richard Hannay spy novels (very racist but fun)
Books partly read:
Future Grace, by John Piper
Begin Here (Barzun)
Soul Survivor (re-read) (Yancey)
The Brothers K, by David James Duncan (I'm still working on this)
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, by Stephanie O'Dea (ditto)
From Dawn to Decadence, by Jacques Barzun (ditto)
U is also for The Uncommonly Good Weather we've had this month.
U is for an Upbeat Update from A Dusty Frame.
And for all the amazing things that Unfold in our lives.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Scrooge: Please, let me go! Don't eat me!
Ghost of Christmas Present: Why would the Ghost of Christmas Present - that's me - want to eat a distasteful little miser like you?... Especially when there are so many good things to enjoy in life? (Mickey's Christmas Carol)
Overlawyered posts updates on what's happening with the CPSIA. And have you heard that BRIO trains will be pulling out of the U.S.?
This morning I made Apple Raisin Baked 10-Grain Cereal, but without the apples, raisins, or nuts. Just one of those things I bought that never seemed to get used the ordinary way--but I did like the baked version. I let it sit in the fridge overnight in a bowl, poured it into a 9 x 13 pan this morning and baked it for half an hour. The recipe recommends an 8 inch pan and calls for baking it for 50 minutes, but I preferred it being a little flatter and getting done sooner.
Last night we had farmer's sausage baked on a bit of sauerkraut (add half a cup of water, bake for about an hour and a half depending on how frozen it is), with a can of no-salt green beans stirred in at the end, and served with baked potatoes. Tonight's dinner is a casserole made up of black beans (from the freezer), chopped celery (the end of the bunch), sliced sausage, a couple of sliced leftover potatoes, and a can of tomato paste-plus-milk poured on top. The tomato part is optional; broth would have given it a different taste. There are cheese perogies in the freezer, so I'll cook those as well; but if I hadn't had those, I would have cooked rice to have with it. And I'll cut up the last of the carrots and have those raw.
Dessert could have been a cranberry crisp, since I had a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce and enough oatmeal and other things to make a quick topping. However, I know that the people who will be eating it aren't always as fond of warm cranberries as I am, so I decided on something different. I combined oatmeal cookie crumbs, oatmeal and oil to make crumbles, and layered those in a bowl with the cranberry sauce (mixed with homemade raspberry jam) and the frozen yogurt cubes. Like a family-size parfait, right? The two important parts of this kind of dessert are putting in something you can see through--it's much prettier that way--and letting the cubes thaw enough to eat but still keep things chilled. I made the dessert after lunch and put it in the fridge, but I'll probably move it back to the counter for the last while before dinner: don't want anybody crunching on yogurt ice cubes.
And tonight Mr. Fixit will be stopping at the grocery store to pick up more Squirrel Feed.
Sunshine--which we've had all week except for today
Sheets on the beds
Shoes on the feet
Soup from the Crockpot.
One jar, quart-sized is good but it doesn't have to have a lid; one piece of cheesecloth or something similar, and a rubber band or something to hold it on the jar; a quarter-cup or so of uncooked lentils; water. And a waterproof box or tray to hold the jar is good too.
Put the lentils in the jar and cover with water. Leave overnight or for several hours. Cover the jar with cheesecloth and pour out the water through the cloth; then pour more water in and pour it off again (rinsing the sprouts). Put the jar full of damp lentils into a dark place, like the kitchen cupboard, on its side if possible. Rinse the sprouts a couple of times a day; don't let the lentils stay too wet, but don't let them dry out either. Within a day or so you should see little white tails appearing, and a couple of days later the cheesecloth will look terrible but the sprouts will be long enough to eat.
That's it! (If you're planning on sprouting anything different like alfalfa, please check the various current pieces of advice about which sprouts you shouldn't eat raw or which ones you shouldn't eat too much of, period. But the method is about the same. Here's one recent blog post about sprouting alfalfa seeds from Under $1000 Per Month.)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Ironically, this same attitude has been common towards pastors' families and missionaries. Wasn't it Edith Schaeffer who said that her mother's fantastic sewing and alteration skills drew criticism that their family dressed too well for missionaries? It's always been a fine line for a pastor to choose a car...it can't be too nice, or his parishioners will somehow think he's mis-spending their money. But it's okay for the same church members to buy good cars, right? After all, they earned it...
It can be annoying if those we feel entitled to feel a bit superior to decide to step out of the roles we assign them. I had a brief encounter with this last winter at a rummage sale, held at a church that was part of the Out of the Cold overnight shelter program. Because the gym was full of men, the rummage sale was set up in a hallway outside. As I checked out the books and sweaters, I noticed that one of the Out of the Cold guests had also come out to look through the sale stuff. This man seemed to be getting a few cautious and perhaps slightly hairy eyeballs from the rummage sale ladies, and I guess he was aware of that too, because he commented loudly, "Is this sale for everybody or just for regular people?"
On another note: you know the real reason the stepsisters ripped Cinderella's dress was that it looked better than theirs did, even though she made it out of their scraps. The risk of beautifying or refurbishing something unwanted is that somebody might try to take it from you. Like that guy I can't remember the name of who created the rooftop oasis...or another person Mary Pride once wrote about who bought and cleaned up a polluted, unwanted piece of land, and was then told that he couldn't use it because it was now a protected wetland. (I can't verify that one either, so if it's an urban legend, I apologize for bringing it up.)
Moral of the story: maybe that if you're fixing up a donated beater car, you'd better not fix it too shiny.
And obviously I've gotten away from the point, if there ever was one here. Something like: don't try and fit people too tightly into what you've already decided they should be? Not everything (or everyone) fits into the holes we carve out.
A couple of weeks ago The Apprentice was in our kitchen with one of her friends, and they wanted to bake something. I offered the use of my recipe binder, and The Apprentice explained to her friend with what sounded like a bit of awe, "My mom's had this binder forever. This book has everything I grew up eating."
Well, it hasn't been exactly the same binder all this time (my first big one fell apart and I was forced to decant the recipes into two smaller books), and not everything I make is in the binder--we do have some other cookbooks. (I just managed to get Stephanie O'Dea's new book, Make It Fast Cook It Slow, from the library. I had to wait impatiently while somebody else brought it back.) But The Apprentice's appreciation is noted.
So in her honour, I am reposting the recipe that I think has gotten the most Google hits here over the past few years: A Small Chocolate Cake That's Not So Wacky.
When I was young, my mom used to make that chocolate "wacky cake" recipe where you make the three holes in the top and pour different things in the holes. This is even faster (no need to dig holes), makes a cake just the right size for a small celebration, can be made dairy-free, and is so idiot-proof that it would make history out of all those jokes about inept newlyweds and other kitchen-phobes baking burned and fallen cakes. Somebody should have given a copy to Arthur too when he was trying to make a cake for his grandma. ("It says put in 1 lb. flour. What's a lub?")
Small Chocolate Cake, from The Kissing Bridge Cookbook by Marcella Wittig Calarco
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup flour [You might need a little more flour, as much as 1/2 cup more]
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a large bowl, beat the egg, and beat in the sugar, cocoa and butter until smooth. Add the flour, soda and baking powder and mix well. Pour in the boiling water and vanilla and mix. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8 inch square pan. Bake at 350°F, 20 to 25 minutes or until it tests done. Leave it in the pan and frost with your favorite frosting.
This cake has had many incarnations at the Treehouse. It was used for Mr. Fixit's Brown Dirt Birthday Cake, frosted with chocolate icing and covered with chocolate cookie crumbs for dirt. I think it was his Turntable Cake too (the tone arm was a breadstick covered with frosting). One year it was our Dance Recital and Starting Advent Cake. I was making chocolate chip icing for it (on the stove) but it was kind of thin, so I stirred in some mini marshmallows, thinking they'd melt, but they didn't really. I spread the icing on the cake with all the marshmallows sticking out of it, and it got oohs and ahs from the Squirrelings. ("Like a hot chocolate cake!")
And now you have the recipe too, so there's no reason to go wacky if you have to make a cake.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
"Q Rocks."--Queen Shenaynay, sometime during the last decade
"Q (Quiller-Couch) was all by himself my college education. I went down to the public library one day when I was seventeen looking for books on the art of writing, and found five books of lectures which Q had delivered to his students of writing at Cambridge.
"'Just what I need!' I congratulated myself. I hurried home with the first volume and started reading and got to page 3 and hit a snag:
"Q....assumed that his students--including me--had read Paradise Lost as a matter of course and would understand his analysis of the 'Invocation to Light' in Book 9. So I said, 'Wait here,' and went down the library and got Paradise Lost and took it home and started reading it and got to page 3, when I hit a snag:
"Milton assumed I'd read the Christian version of Isaiah and the New Testament and had learned all about Lucifer and the War in Heaven, and since I'd been reared in Judaism I hadn't. So I said, 'Wait here,' and borrowed a Christian Bible and read about Lucifer and so forth, and then went back to Milton and read Paradise Lost, and then finally got back to Q, page 3.....[I] discovered he assumed I not only knew all the plays of Shakespeare, and Boswell's Johnson, but also the Second Book of Esdras....So what with one thing and another and an average of three 'Wait here's' a week, it took me eleven years to get through Q's five books of lectures."
--Helene Hanff, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, 1974
(Here's a bonus quote from "Q": "The novelist—well, even the novelist has his uses; and I would warn you against despising any form of art which is alive and pliant in the hands of men. For my part, I believe, bearing in mind Mr. Barrie’s Peter Pan and the old bottles he renovated to hold that joyous wine, that even Musical Comedy, in the hands of a master, might become a thing of beauty.")
Monday, November 16, 2009
"This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,--
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair...."
Linked from Poetry Ceilidh at The Beehive.
Also, you can help Kim at Raising Olives to maybe win a prize for her Rain Gutter Book Shelves tutorial. This project is featured on Design Dazzle. As part of Design Dazzle's birthday celebration, they will be posting other ideas (they'll all be up by noon today), and you get to vote for your favourite by leaving a comment on the relevant Design Dazzle post (here's the one for the bookshelves). The favourite project gets a prize, and three of the voters will also be selected to win a prize. I think more details about this will be posted on the Design Dazzle site.
But there are other good blogs out there that for some reason didn't get enough nominations this year, or just do their blogging more quietly...so I'm having my own Don't Miss This recognition awards today.
The Abarbablog They were blogging back before blogging was cool--all of them--and they've homeschooling about as long as we have. They're also good friends of Dewey Squirrel. And if they'd quit posting about things like Zombie Attacks and poker games in between the mission trips to Uganda, then Mama Squirrel wouldn't be so nervous about nominating them for the Family Blog and Nitty Gritty and Best Variety awards...but then they wouldn't be the Abarbablog. So don't change, we like you all the way you are even if we've come to look forward to a certain amount of blood and destruction in your posts.
The blogger formerly known as Queen Shenaynay, now going by Lynn B., has resumed posting at The Beehive, and she gets the Loveliness is Everywhere award. (There isn't one in the HSBA category, I just made it up.) Some people blog loveliness with photos; Lynn does it with words. And sometimes pictures too.
The Country Cottage gets a Week's Best CM Post award today for "Understanding Growth."
And Javamom continues to post about homeschooling her teens (as does Tootle's Time), and generally living life...she gets the Best Variety of Interesting Interests award.
From big to littles--did the Queen of Carrots get nominated this year? In any case, she gets the Treehouse's Most Miles Logged Running After Little Ones award.
And don't forget some of the others: CM, Children and Lots of Grace; Birdy's Blog; Adventures on Beck's Bounty; Liberty and Lily; A Peaceful Day. A few of our old favourites haven't updated in awhile so I'll leave them for another day.
Congratulations to you all--you're all appreciated here.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I have some thoughts perking on these issues too, and will post about them tomorrow or when I can get them together.
On a frugal note, Mama Squirrel found packs of coloured "craft paper" at the dollar store--not construction paper, these were sheets ranging from origami-paper thickness to something a bit stiffer. Ponytails helped cut a bunch of them into squares, and that easily gave us enough paper for our class. We also had some sheets of Roylco's animal print and camouflage paper, left over from a long-ago craft, and the boys all wanted the camouflage paper. Just an idea in case anyone thinks paper folding is a girl thing...and some of Roylco's ethnic-print papers would also make great origami paper. (I don't work for Roylco, I'm just a happy customer.)
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
L is for Literature.
What would we do without books?
And expect to be rewarded when you climb to the top. Who goes on a quest without hoping to bring back treasure? Without even specially looking for them, we can expect to make discoveries that lead to wisdom, teach discernment and critical thinking, inspire us with courage, and build character; what Terry Glaspey calls the Moral Imagination. Charlotte Mason said that “stories make the child’s life intelligible to himself; Gladys Hunt wrote in Honey for a Child’s Heart that “books help children know what to look for in life.” --Notes from a Book Talk
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Here are some frugal-stuff posts from the past year to look back on...besides the posts that were just links to other peoples' good ideas.
Thrift and Thanksgiving
Baby Shower...and no chocolate on the diapers
The Surplus Store
What do you mean, you won't go in there with me?
What to do at a horse party
The advantages of limitations
Non-existent packages with silver linings
Is frugality just a fad?
How scratchy are we?
What's in your hand? Extreme Edition
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
Which is inscribed "To Mother, with love from Jack, Margy and Sally, Mother's Day 1946."
Which, for a mother in 1946, might have been extra meaningful...since many Jacks (and Margys and Sallys) would no longer have been there to write that. I don't know who Jack was, whether he was old enough then to have been in the war or not. I assume he was one of our relatives. Maybe I'll ask Grandpa Squirrel about it.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.--Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, NIV
We do remember the Alans who kept the rendezvous, and the Jacks who (perhaps) served and returned home.
We also remember the 133 Canadian soldiers who have died in the past seven years.
And those who have served and returned.
...So today I'm thankful for Keith.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Just to be nominated this year (in the Thrifty and Cyber-buddy categories) is awesome--there are so many good blogs to vote for! (I'm happy that some of the blogs I nominated made it to voting status too.)
All the details are in this post.
(This is the fun part, because you can click on "results" in each category and see how things are shaping up.)
Monday, November 09, 2009
"The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum."--Charlotte Mason
What ideas are we going to take in today? Where are we going to get them? Which ones will take root?
What idea food will we put on the table? Swiss Family Robinson, the stories of Elisha, the life of Abraham Lincoln, a poem by John McCrae, math problems, and the wonders of our digestive system. For a start.
And we are so very thankful.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
The usual questions were then put to her:—Whether any one had instructed her what evidence she had to deliver? Whether any one had given or promised her any good deed, hire, or reward, for her testimony? Whether she had any malice or ill-will at his Majesty's Advocate, being the party against whom she was cited as a witness? To which questions she successively answered by a quiet negative. But their tenor gave great scandal and offence to her father, who was not aware that they are put to every witness as a matter of form.
"Na, na," he exclaimed, loud enough to be heard, "my bairn is no like the Widow of Tekoah—nae man has putten words into her mouth."
One of the judges, better acquainted, perhaps, with the Books of Adjournal than with the Book of Samuel, was disposed to make some instant inquiry after this Widow of Tekoah, who, as he construed the matter, had been tampering with the evidence. But the presiding Judge, better versed in Scripture history, whispered to his learned brother the necessary explanation; and the pause occasioned by this mistake had the good effect of giving Jeanie Deans time to collect her spirits for the painful task she had to perform.
--Sir Walter Scott, The Heart of Midlothian
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
I like that idea, too. So here are some to start with:
A: All About Spelling. One of the TOS Review products that I'm very happy we got to try out. (Look for a review in December.)
B: Blue skies. In between the bursts of snow and grayness we got today.
C: Cider vinegar. I'm drinking it in warm water as per Lynn's anti-flu suggestions.
E: Eggs. Our daughters' Sunday School teacher just got more chickens and they're laying. So we had German Oven Pancake for lunch yesterday.
One blog leads to another: the always-thoughtworthy Wittingshire posted a quote from George Wiegel, and Wittingshire was linked to by The Paragraph Farmer, which I got to by following the Deputy Headmistress's Sunday Hymn Post. Okay, those are the credits: this is the bit of the quote I liked:
"A thoroughly secularized world is a world without windows, doors, or skylights: a claustrophobic, ultimately suffocating world."
Imagine never hearing the soaring words of Holy, Holy, Holy--Reginald Heber's words, or Nolene Prince's chorus from Isaiah 6:3, I don't care which--I always hear both of them flying out the windows, through the skylights, up past our small selves here. It's the poetry of the words as well as their literal meaning that opens those windows, though. Otherwise we might as well just have "What a mighty God we serve, what a mighty God we serve." Not the same at all.
Again from one blog to another: Lawrence Henry wrote this in the American Spectator, the JunkYardBlog commented on it, and the Deputy Headmistress picked that up as well.
"IT IS AN INTERESTING PARADOX. Churches devoted to rigorous, difficult theology -- real Christianity, in short -- have largely adopted praise music, mainly to get people in the doors. In doing so, they have denied their parishioners an intimate connection with the art, the music, the poetry, and the history of the faith of our fathers, embodied in hymns.
"Mainstream churches, which have left Christianity behind for liberation theology, "peace and justice" theory, deconstruction, and modernism, still cling to the hymnbook, to the hard work of teaching choirs to sing in harmony, and to the expense of maintaining pipe organs.
"If only they took as good care of the faith."
I won't get into the issue of who's practicing "real Christianity." But I do know exactly what they're talking about. Church-wise and music-wise, I have been almost everywhere. I grew up in the most mainstream of mainstream, heavy on Isaac Watts and the Wesleys, with a midweek helping of holy roller on the side. Since we've been married our places of worship have varied from strictly-pipe-organ (I learned that Lutheran hymns are older and harder than United Church ones) to have-to-audition praise team.
The congregation we've been part of for the last four years was actually formed partly out of this same question of worship style and content: those who rebelled against "My All in All"/overheads/praise bands, among other things. Since we meet in a rented assembly room, singing is accompanied by a piano and led by a song leader (there isn't usually a choir). Ironically, "My All in All" is included in the hymnal they chose; I think we sang it a couple of weeks ago. That hymnal is full of other little surprises, too: every so often I get hit with a chorus I haven't sung since the '80's and never really wanted to hear again. But generally we're on the same track: the hymns we sing at home often get sung at church as well.
Occasionally I've thought that I should make a list of my favourite hymns. Just in case, you know? But I think the list would be too long--so almost anything in The Mennonite Hymnal would be fine, with a couple of exceptions. With apologies to The DHM, I'd have to request that if this particular squirrel ever goes paws-up, the rest of the fur-bearers would please refrain from singing Be Still My Soul. I like Sibelius and I used to like that hymn until they started using it at every single funeral. Blech. Every time I sing it now I get depressed.
But I have one more thing to throw in here about hymns, in case you think I've gone too far off the original point (and the deep end). And it has a lot to do with that last paragraph: I wasn't kidding about wanting hymns--real hymns--at my funeral, whenever I eventually get to shed this mortal coil. I don't care if every person there has to stumble through the words and doesn't know the music, I want some songs with meat on them. How can you get through any kind of a crisis without knowing that "on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand?" This is something we've lost as a culture, especially during the worst times: being able to cling not only to the words of Scripture we know, but the poetry of the Psalms and hymns that has been written over and over on our hearts. How many families are there who hang up the phone after good or bad news and reach for the hymn book? Crayons once goofted on the name of the hymn "Trust and Obey." She called it "Trust and Okay," but I think that's closer to the truth of what I'm saying.
When I sing, "With ever joyful hearts, and blessed peace to cheer us," I think of the pastor who wrote those words during a plague. When I hear about "sorrow and love flow mingled down," I know something of Christ's love for us during our worst times. When I hear some of the "get people in the doors" stuff--I don't hear anything. It's not that older hymns are just macaroni and cheese to me, a matter of emotion and familiarity and comfort; it's not just style and taste. It's what they are filled with that goes flying away from me myself, past what I know, to something bigger than I am.
Soul, in silence fear Him,
Humbly, fervently draw near Him.
Now His own
Who have known
God, in worship lowly,
Yield their spirits wholly.
--Gerhard Tersteegen, 1729
"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.'"--A Nutty Business, by Ida ChittumBarb and family had a similar experience recently.
Dewey Squirrel sends his apologies.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
What Crayons thinks of it: "I am not dumb. And I like other kids. Love, Crayons."
What I think of it: some people will say anything to get attention. And is it only coincidence that those remarks about having all those children and homeschooling come only a couple of weeks after they interviewed the Duggars? Hm?
(I am not a daytime TV watcher; I just saw that interview by accident. Really.)
So maybe that's the appeal of these candle jars--a grown-up version of the same thing, but with enough flexibility that kids could make them as well. Good for small gifts.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
"You are, in short, blind, and should take a week or a month of delightful leisure during which you set aside all these lowly values that have enslaved you, open your eyes to honor and virtue, engage in a pleasant humanizing conversation with some truly wise people, and, well, repent of your miserable miserliness. Because the more actively you inflict your vision on education, the more damage you are doing.
"There is no education without leisure for the simple reason that education is a leisure activity. It requires all of the other values: controls, freedom, money, and honor. But it’s only true end is virtue for the simple reason that only virtue is big enough to rightly order the other goods. The wise man knows where and how to get honor, money, freedom, and controls, and he knows how to use them. Because he is not driven by them as by an unruly mob. Instead he governs them."
--from Leisure, Plato’s Republic, and American Education
Posted on Quiddity, December 9, 2008 by Andrew Kern