Sunday, December 28, 2008

20 library books I want to read in 2009

I'm hoping to read as many of these as I can this year, in no particular order. The titles came mostly from weekend-paper book reviews--I wrote them down a couple of years ago! I've figured out that if you can wait a bit, you don't get stuck on one of those long lists at the library. BL means Big Downtown Library, SL means Smaller Closer-by Library. Since I don't own any of these books, I need to know where I can find them.

[Update: I'm going to put the books I've finished in bold.]

1. Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses BL
2. Story of French BL, SL
3. Freakonomics BL, SL
4. Half in the Sun: an anthology of Mennonite Writing BL
5. Bumblebee Economics BL
6. Of This Earth (Rudy Wiebe) BL, SL
7. King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the man who saved geometry BL, SL
8. The Bone Sharps: a novel BL, SL
9. Rough Crossings: Britain, the slaves, and the American Revolution BL, SL
10. De Niro's Game BL, SL
11. The Skystone BL, SL
12. Black Swan Green BL, SL
13. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man BL, SL
14. Three-Day Road BL, SL
15. A Most Damnable Invention: dynamite, nitrates, and the making of the modern world BL, SL
16. On Chesil Beach BL, SL
17. Divisadero BL, SL
18. The Library at Night BL, SL
19. The Man Who Forgot How to Read (Engel) BL, SL
20. The Writing Life (Annie Dillard) BL, SL

A gift for Crayons (Opera for Kids)

World's Very Best Opera for Kids...In English

(Santa Claus knows that Crayons likes Carmen.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Where are you from?--Frederick Buechner on Story

This is what I was looking for when I stumbled over that Grinch post.

"The Child in Us"

"We weren't born yesterday. We are from Missouri. But we are also from somewhere else. We are from Oz, from Looking-Glass Land, from Narnia, and from Middle Earth. If with part of ourselves we are men and women of the world and share the sad unbeliefs of the world, with a deeper part still, the part where our best dreams come from, it is as if we were indeed born yesterday, or almost yesterday, because we are also all of us children still....The child in us lives in a world where nothing is too familiar or unpromising to open up into the world where a path unwinds before our feet into a deep wood, and when that happens, neither the world we live in nor the world that lives in us can ever entirely be home again...."
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, included as the "May 6" reading in Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What's in your hand: Extreme Edition

"What's in your hand" is a favourite phrase of the Deputy Headmistress. Just to give proper credit.

Do you remember that Little House Christmas chapter where things are in a bad state, gift-wise and otherwise? As Laura falls asleep that Christmas Eve, she hears Ma saying something like "there's still the white sugar." The bag of white sugar is a huge treat, usually hoarded and saved for company. But the next morning, in their stockings they each find a sugar-topped cookie. (Apologies to Birdie.)

I get a similar impulse around this time of year, usually in the last week or so before Christmas when the present list seems a little thin (and it's almost too late to start making things). Use it up! Pour it out! What good is it doing just sitting around if we could use it for something? And I don't mean just the butter and sugar...although I did finish off the part-bag of brown sugar and the whole box of raw sugar, two pounds of butter, and all the eggs. (Groceries today.)

Without trying to give away too many secrets, we used up the last of the tacky craft glue, a package of black pompoms (bought several years ago) plus a few leftover coloured ones, most of the cotton yarn, some dollar-store scrapbooking paper bought last February, several vintage hankies, the last of several spools of thread, and a couple of large pieces of fabric that were sitting...just sitting, not pulling their weight. Not to mention that green cord and the glitzy napkins. And some other things I'm not allowed to name.

We bought a roll of white paper at the toy store in the summer (to make a Pilgrim's Progress scroll and also a life-size paper girl; last week Crayons noticed the Snowman Factory idea (think giant paper dolls) on the Canadian Living website. Perfect!--four large snowmen now in progress. (That's where the pompoms and scrapbooking paper are going.) She also wants to make some smaller paper-chain snowmen like the ones she saw on the wall at Ponytails' school.

Last year's last-minute making was much the same: I used up all the craft stuffing we had plus a big piece of quilt batting and most of our yard-saled bulky yarn to make The Apprentice a sausage-shaped pillow. That doesn't mean I went right out and bought more stuffing, either; actually we didn't buy any until last week.

At certain times in your life you might go through a "nesting" phase--a time to gather it all up, acquire, stock the shelves. At Christmas my instinct is to do the opposite: not with a feeling of using up unwanted rags, not scrounging, but rather using the best that we have, and all of it if necessary. Enjoying it, sharing it, --the most beautiful treasures and the favourite ingredients, used and given freely. Some of it, we'll replace quickly: eggs and brown sugar are easy to come by, and we can get more glue. Other things we may do without for awhile...I don't know if or when I'll ever have a whole package of black pompoms around again.

But next year we'll make something else.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Glitzy Gift Sacks

Back in September I bought a brand-new set of holiday table placemats and napkins at a church sale, for a very small amount of money. The fabric was that shiny, Lurex-ish kind of stuff that you just have a feeling wouldn't launder well and would feel awful if you wiped your face with it. Besides which, a whole table set with that stuff could give one a migraine or at least tacky-induced nightmares.

But that wasn't why I bought the set. I saw it and thought "Fabric. Gift bags." And that's what I did with them, including the long runner (that's the tasselled bag without any drawstring). There was no need to cut the fabric--a good thing, because I think it might ravel easily. But since someone else had gone to the work of serging all those edges, all I had to do was sew them together. A couple of the large mats, I folded in half to make small bags; the others were made of two mats sewn together.

(I love straight-line sewing, especially when the machine gets going fast--I feel like the Grinch.)

The casings for the drawstrings were really easy except for getting the cords through the seam allowances (a common problem). I was using a large yarn needle with the cord threaded through it and still found it a bit tough going; but I poked my way through eventually.

The red bag with "Stop! No Peeking" is just plain broadcloth. The STOP transfer and the iron-on letters also came from old (1970's?) yard-saled craft stuff; the letters didn't come out quite as neatly as they might have if I'd let them cool a bit longer. But not bad anyway.

The print bag is something Crayons asked me to make out of a scrap of Christmas fabric we had; I added a pocket for a candy cane.

When it's nice to be cheap

Last Christmas we had a big spool of red ribbon that got used for all kinds of things including, finally, a hot-glued Barbie dress masterpiece.

This year we've been using a large spool of wired metallic green cord--I think that's what you'd call it. Anyway, it's very strong but it can be used as a package tie or even as the cord in a drawstring bag (photo post coming soon).

I don't remember exactly where this came from, but I'm guessing one of the church sales we went to where I picked up quite a few things like that. So I paid--at most--a couple of dollars for the spool, and there was a lot on it.

When I turned it over, I noticed the original price for this cord was 89 cents a metre. There were a hundred metres (originally) on the spool. SOMEBODY went out and paid Ninety Dollars And Tax for that spool of wired cord.

SOMEBODY might have had some 'splainin' to do that night.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thank you for the lovely Butterfly

I'm a bit late in saying Thank You to MomtoCherubs at Beck's Bounty, who recently awarded us this Butterfly Award. Thanks!--it's an honour to know that you consider us cool!

These are the Butterfly Award rules:

(1) Link to the person / blog that gave this award to you.
(2) Post the graphic on your blog.
(3) Pass the award on to up to 10 other blogs you consider cool.

So I'd like to pass the Butterfly on to these blogs:

Percival Blakeney Academy, in honour of today's Seven Quick Takes post. (Our Squirrelings enjoy playing with our childhood toys too--especially Daddy's Johnny West set.)

The Beehive, in honour of all its Adventicipations. (I can hardly spell that.)

Bona Vita Rusticanda Est, for warming things up with All those Hawaii Posts.

Liberty and Lily, for helping us remember a beautiful fall.

Cardamom Addict, in honour of her pickle post (and the joke about the former Governor-General and the perogy recipe was funny too).

And Grocery Cart Challenge, for keeping me inspired.

You're all cool!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Evening Advent Gathering

[Thanks to our blogging friends who continue to provide us with quotes, links, and ideas during this season.]

Light the first candle

Father: “As we prepare the manger for the Christ child, we also make room in our hearts and minds for Christ’s daily coming. We long for the Christ to return to fully express God’s wonderful ways once again. Such patient waiting and loving preparation embody the essence of Advent. Focus your thoughts on God’s wonderful ways and learn the goodness of waiting in God’s presence.” (Lutheran Advent devotional)

Listen to Chris Rice singing “Welcome to Our World.” (linked from this post on the Dominion Family Blog)

Reader 1: Think about the simple things at Jesus’ birth: the stable, the animals, the shepherds, the manger.

Reader 2: Mary and Joseph understood inward simplicity. They received their child with joy, as a gift from God.

Reader 3: They cared for Jesus and taught Him the best they could; but they knew that it was God’s business, not theirs, to protect Him and to take Him wherever He was supposed to go.

Father: And in the end, they didn’t try to keep Him all to themselves. As He gave Himself away, He gave us a gift as well: the gift of God’s salvation.

Listen to Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma performing The Wexford Carol (linked from this post)

Father: Inner simplicity is not a reality until we can show it outwardly as well. On the next page we have ten rules of outward simplicity—how we can live simply. [note: not included here; I don't want to violate copyright laws.] They should not be seen as laws, but only as an attempt to show what simplicity can mean for our own lives. Let’s read through the ten rules, and talk about how our holiday shopping, eating, decorating, and other celebrating can reflect those ideas. If you look in the Advent booklets, you’ll see some ideas for games and other things we can do together. Maybe each person could pick out one thing they’d like to do over the next few weeks.

(Time for discussion)

Blow out the candle and end with this comment from Queen Shenaynay:

"My father once told me about a small-town ministers' breakfast where all the preachers were asked to share a verse in the Bible that they were particularly fond of and tell why. As they went around the room, one preacher after another cited some well-known verse, the type of verse you would expect to hear at such a time, if you know what I mean. But then they got to an elderly and much-beloved black preacher. He said, "Here's the Bible phrase I lean on every day, my friends: "And it came to pass..." Because everything that comes upon us on this hard old earth, no matter how bad it may be, it doesn't come to stay. Eternity with Jesus Christ is the only thing that will ever come to stay! All the rest just comes to pass." Isn't that wonderful?"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How not to get caught: a family Advent time

We divide up these readings for an evening time around our Advent wreath.

Light the first Advent candle and sing one of our Advent songs.

Read "How to Catch a Monkey."

"If what we have
we believe we have gotten,
and if what we have
we believe we must hold onto,
and if what we have
is not available to others,
then we will live in anxiety.

"Such persons will never know simplicity
regardless of the outward contortions they may put themselves through
in order to live “the simple life.” –Celebration of Discipline
Another old Sunday School illustration: have you ever had somebody ask you to fill a jar with unshelled walnuts and rice? If you put the rice into the jar first and then try to put the walnuts on top, they don’t fit. But if you put the walnuts in first, the rice fills in the space around them, and then everything fits.

"The goal of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first, and then everything necessary will come in its proper order….

"It can’t be about just wanting to get away from the noise and the “rat race.”

"It can’t be about giving things up just so that we can spread things out more fairly among rich countries and poor countries, rich people and poor people.

"It can’t be just about saving the earth.

"But: when the kingdom of God is genuinely placed first, ecological concerns, the poor, the fair distribution of wealth, and many other things will be given their proper attention.

"And just because you don’t have much doesn’t mean that you’re truly living in
simplicity. Paul taught us that the love of money is the root of all evil, and often those who have it the least love it the most. It is possible for a person to be living simply on the outside and to be filled with anxiety on the inside." (adapted from Celebration of Discipline)

When our Apprentice was little, we read two picture books that showed both of those different attitudes. One was Journey Cake Ho! by Ruth Sawyer. The old man in the story liked to say, “A bother, a pest! All work and no rest! Come winter, come spring, Life’s a nettlesome thing.” When times get hard, he and his wife send their hired boy off on his own because “what will feed two won’t feed three.”

The other book was Good Times on Grandfather Mountain. "When his cow, Blanche Wisconsin, jumps the fence and runs away, Old Washburn whittles the useless milk pail into a milk bucket drum. When the raccoons sneak in at night and eat every ear of sweet corn, he makes corn cob whistles. And when a fierce mountain storm causes the worst misfortune of all by blowing his cabin down, he finds the wood for a new fiddle. And the new fiddle starts one of the "best times" on Grandfather Mountain." (from the author's website)
"Freedom from anxiety is characterized by three inner attitudes.
If what we have
we receive as a gift,
and if what he have
is to be cared for by God,
and if what we have
is available to others,
then we will possess freedom from anxiety.
This is the inward reality of simplicity."--Celebration of Discipline

Blow out the candle and read the Advent Prayer posted on Beck's Bounty.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Keep your nose out of my lunch bag, or, how's that possibly hurting you?

Saturday's Toronto Star published an article by Daniel Dale called "The Thrift Paradox: Want to help? Leave that lunch at home." "You can't blame people for cutting back these days, but what feels [?] right now might end up hurting later."

Never mind the strange grammar for the moment.

What bothers me more is the strange logic.

You know where they're going with this. If I don't buy lunch out, the restaurant suffers. If I wear my boots another winter, the shoe store suffers. If I decide to put off whatever Large Purchase I had in mind, the purveyors of that Large Purchase suffer. And the factories close and the jobs are lost, and it's all my fault because I didn't spend that $10 on lunch.

Um hm.

And here I thought I was just being creative by re-using some construction paper (crayoned on one side) to make a school-time Christmas booklet for my second grader. I guess I should have gone out and bought all-new paper and markers to do that properly, or probably bought her a commercial workbook instead. If Scholar's Choice goes under, it'll be my fault. (Do you know we still have some markers around that The Apprentice had before she started school? Fifteen years ago things were still made to last.)

Googling the words Frugality Hurts The Economy brings up these thoughtful responses:

Want What You Have: Can You Be Too Frugal? I don't for a minute believe that frugality hurts the economy. In fact, it seems pretty clear that the lack of frugality in this country is what's gotten us....

Does living frugally hurt the economy? Wise Bread
When I advocate for frugal living, people sometimes ask, "What if everybody lived like that? Wouldn't it hurt the economy?"

Are Your Frugal Ways Hurting Us All? Wise Bread
Not being frugal is what has reduced our economy into it's current poor state....

Are frugal people ruining the economy? - Smart Spending Blog - MSN ...
Frugal people actually have money to spend! How does that hurt the economy? Frugal people have mortgages they can afford and are not swimming in credit card debt....

I like that last point especially. Those who have lived with restraint won't be the ones squawking the most about having to cut back on life's little luxuries. The frugal will be the ones who have the skills to survive when times get hard, when certain commodities disappear or become too expensive for most people.

So, Mr. Dale: "Where's my civic spirit?" Right here in my kitchen, making my own hot chocolate mix and experimenting with low-sodium bread recipes (that last, I might point out, to try to help keep my husband from having to spend any more time in the hospital where they've just announced more bed closures and nurse layoffs); in my dining room, re-using last year's perfectly good Advent calendar and my husband's grandmother's dishes (sorry, china store); and in my rec room/classroom, keeping at least one of my children from taking up a costly seat in the public school system (and yes, I do pay school taxes, everybody does). [And oh yes--last but not least--trying to stay out of debt and otherwise out of trouble so that we don't end up being a burden on somebody else.]

Climb on up and maybe we can swap sandwiches.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent I: A truth too simple for us to grasp

(Reposted from August 2006)

"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 believe 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.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"The weight of too much liberty"

I've been working on the same post for days and can't seem to finish it properly. Maybe this is one of those interactive things that needs your comments to be "done."
"During a furlough in North America, one of [the] children said at a family reunion potluck, 'I sure will be glad to get back to Africa where we just have to eat manioc.'"--The More With Less Cookbook
"One year the only material I had to make costumes was from a pile of old black Navy uniforms. I told the children they could be anything they wanted to be as long as it was something black."--Amy Dacyczyn, The Tightwad Gazette
Jennifer Duenes (Life from the Roof) wrote a guest-blog post last week on Money-Saving Mom. (Her blog is about "her insights from life in Uzbekistan and tips on making the most of your resources in high-cost urban areas.")

This is the part that struck me:

"....when I returned for the first time to the US after my initial 2 years in Uzbekistan. I went into Wal-Mart to buy shampoo, and ended up just standing there for a few minutes staring at an entire aisle of shampoo.

"I was so overwhelmed, I ended up just turning around and walking out without buying anything. While it was hard at times to be deprived of access to certain products in Uzbekistan, I now understood what Wordsworth commented on in his poem Nuns Fret Not at their Convent’s Narrow Room. Instead of being limited by what we cannot buy, perhaps sometimes we should look at having too many liberties as a weight, and at our limitations as true freedom."

What homeschooler hasn't had a similar reaction in a conference vendor hall, or when confronted with one of those telephone-book-sized American curriculum catalogues? (The Big Book of Home Learning was called that for a reason.) I feel the same way in those 100-variety coffee shops: I just ask for their "regular coffee." (Side note: don't ask for that in the donut shop, though, unless you want coffee with cream and sugar. I once really messed with a Tim's cashier's head by asking for a "regular coffee without anything in it.") (For a 2008 look at a Yikes shopping trip, read Black Friday on Beck's Bounty. Photos, too.)

Recently I finished reading Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede, a novel about Benedictine nuns set during the 1960's, when their lifestyle became less cloistered and their veils were updated with front hair showing. ("Who knew that Sister X had red hair??") The older nuns who refused to go along with the modern "dishtowel" veils had their reasons: the completely-covered habit kept them from having to spend any time at all worrying about what their hair looked like. Another point made in the book is that 19th-century English nuns had to fight in the first place to be allowed to be cloistered; it was seen as a privilege.

And what more can I add? The theme for our first week of Advent will be Simplicity--an attempt to keep from buckling under the weight of too many choices...too much liberty.

Your turn...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grade Two Exam Questions, Fall Term

This is my first draft of Crayons' exam questions that we'll begin tomorrow. I may change/shorten them between now and then. (I borrowed some of the questions from Jeanne's Year One exams.)


1. In your own words, tell as much as you can remember about King Saul.
2. What is special about Matthew's gospel (the story of Jesus that Matthew wrote)?
3. Tell the Parable of the Sower (the man who planted seeds).


1. Recite Psalm 23 to Dad.
2. Tell me your address and phone number.


1. Print the alphabet in lower case letters in your very best printing.
2. Print this verse:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5
I caught a fish alive
6, 7, 8, 9, 10
I let it go again.

3. Write for five minutes about playing in the snow.


1. Read to Dad for 5 minutes from Dangerous Journey.
2. Read for 5 minutes from a book I will give you.

Canadian Studies

1. What do you know about David Thompson? How did he become interested in mapmaking?
2. Tell me what three of these Canadian things (or people) are: loon, lacrosse, Lillooet, lumberjack, Arctic, Bluenose, caribou, Terry Fox
3. Tell the story of the picture on the Canadian ten-dollar bill.
4. Sing O Canada.

British History

1. Draw me a picture about life in a castle.
2. Tell all you remember about the battle between King Harold and William of Normandy. (Our Island Story)
3. Tell about how Duke Richard of Normandy escaped from King Louis' castle. (The Little Duke)
4. Who was Robin Hood? (Our Island Story)


1. Show me where we live on the map of Canada. Show me where your cousin lives. Where is Hudson Bay? Where are the prairies? Which way is North?

Natural History

1. What are some things that the children have learned this fall in Miss Adams' class? (Through the Year)
2. Pretend you are an animal (any animal) that stays awake at night and sleeps during the day. Write in your diary all the things you did tonight.
3. Owls in the Family: How did the boy in the story get his pet owls? What happened at the end of the book?


1. Tell the story of “The Paradise of Children” (Pandora's Box) or “The Golden Touch” (King Midas).
2. What did Betsy do to celebrate her birthday? Tell as much of what happened to her that day as you can.
3. Pilgrim's Progress: Draw a map of Christian's journey so far. Try to include as many important places as you can remember (I will help you label them if you like). Make sure you include a starting place, at least one good place, one scary place, and the place where Christian wants to go.

Canadian stories

1. Tell the story of one of the following (Stories for Canada's Birthday):

a. "Talking Birchbark for Ne Tannis"
b. The girl who was "Lost in the Woods" OR
c. "The Stepfather" (Mr. Tupper).


1. Complete the sheets I will give you.
2. Count backwards from 100 to 0 in fives.
3. Draw one of each of these: a rectangle, a triangle, a trapezoid, a hexagon.
4. Go through some of the clock flashcards with Dad (I will pick them out).
5. If an orange rod is called "one," what is a yellow rod called? If a red rod is called "one," show me "two" and "four." If a blue rod is called "one," what rod must be one-third?


1. Can you tell me some colours in French? Point to things that are those colours as you say the words.
2. Sing "Tourne tourne mon moulin" for Daddy.
3. Show me these parts of your body: le nez, la bouche, les dents, la tête.
4. Draw a picture of "un gateau" with "bougies." Draw as many "bougies" as you can count, and count them out loud. Then show me how you would "souffle" them.

Picture Study (Canadian painters)

1. What is the name of one of the artists we studied this term?
2. Describe your favourite picture from this term's picture study.
3. Can you think of any others?

Composer study

1. What is the name of the composer we have been studying for most of this term? How was his ballet music different from what others had composed?
2. Make up a dance to one of his pieces of music. Perform it for one of your sisters.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Last day of the term: school plans for Friday

Winding things up! Next week is exam week...then we'll do three weeks of Term 2 before our Christmas break.

O Canada

Fall songs--review some of the things we've sung this term

Bible stories from 1 Sam. 19 & 20

Practice Bible memory passage

French: finish Denise and Alain's birthday


Pilgrim's Progress, 5 pages

Play Perfection and name as many shapes as you can

Poems 260 (When Icicles Hang By the Wall) and 25 (I Sing of a Maiden) from Come Hither (choir version) (UPDATED--I'm not sure why I had the Yule poem in there)

Composer: finish Stravinsky

Spelling test

Finish The Little Duke


Thursday, November 20, 2008

What a doll

Crayons' doll in her new nightgown (made to match Crayons').

(Created in Paint by Crayons, November 2008)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Cuckoo Clock (book review)

Crayons and I are reading The Cuckoo Clock, by Mary Stolz. It's the type of European-village fairy tale that reminds me of Tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major or maybe Walter Wangerin Jr.'s Elisabeth and the Water Troll (which we also just finished reading). It's also the kind of magical story that I can't imagine writing--at least, not going through all the "normal" drafting and editing processes. It seems, like some of Rumer Godden's stories, to have sprung to life complete and whole, like the wooden cuckoo bird itself that begins to sing all the songs of the forest.

You can find short descriptions of the plot anywhere, so I won't go into it much. A needy young boy, Erich, manages to connect with the one kindred spirit in town: the elderly clockmaker, who begins to train him as an assistant and allows him to help carve his final masterpiece. When the clock is finished, the clockmaker dies--shattering the small security Erich has found with him, but leaving him a fiddle and his carving tools. That's only the first half of the story: the rest of the adventure is Erich's.

I found this description on the Amazon site:
"Stolz' delicate ironies and precise writing style save her story from sentimentality, enabling it to teach an interesting and rigorous lesson about the liability of the self-involved to understand the true beauty of the world. Original, wise, and thoughtful. Christine Behrmann, New York Public Lib. (Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
And that's very true; the abused-orphan story has been done to death, and Stolz herself pokes fun at this tradition: "Boys even younger would leave unhappy homes and go into the wide world seeking their fortunes, which, according to the stories, they always found." It would be easy for this story to become forced and overdrawn. But in the hands of a master craftsman, even such a plain stick of wood can become something beautiful.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

School plans this week (last week of the term)

What are our goals this week? (Mama Squirrel's homework is to write exam questions for next week.)

Hymns and songs: The Ambleside Online hymn for November is "Jesus Shall Reign," and we've been singing that. We haven't been doing the term's folk song, but we've been singing several of our own choosing.

Bible: the plan is to read 1 Samuel through chapter 20, and we're almost there; and Matthew through chapter 15. Maybe we can build in a bit of review this week as well.

Math: we're caught up on the Miquon pages I planned for this term, but there are lots of things we can work on before exams. This term we've worked on addition, subtraction, multiplication AND started some work in fractions--so I'll try to figure out some fun things we can do this week to review. (Practice in time telling, shapes and money also falls under Math.)

Language workbook: we should probably review again what synonyms and antonyms are. I planned to do a few "thinking"-type pages this week as well.

Memory work: we should be putting a bit of a push on to finish learning Matthew 2:1-12, but if she gets even half of it learned without a hitch by the end of the week, I'll be happy, and we can keep working on it between now and Christmas. Crayons is also supposed to be memorizing a poem, but she keeps changing her mind about what to memorize. I think I'll give her one short thing to work on this week.

Copywork: Not Crayons' favourite thing by any means, but we are keeping up with it.

Spelling: going very well, I've posted about that before.

Among the Forest People: we have a story this week about a Little Bat, and I know that bats interest Crayons, so I'll try to add in a bit of extra nature reading about bats.

Through the Year: I give this to Crayons to read to herself, but it's almost too easy, she whips through the pages and wants to read the rest of the book. This week's three pages about starting bulbs won't take us too long--Coffeemamma loaned us Linnea's Windowsill Garden, so I'll check and see if Linnea can offer any further advice on starting our own.

French: we're supposed to get through Denise and Alain's birthday, count their candles, talk about their clothes, and sing a birthday song.

Composer: we need to finish up Stravinsky.

Artist: we've read through William Kurelek's Prairie Boy's Summer; I think we need to review our 3 K's: Paul Kane, Cornelius Krieghoff, and William Kurelek. I might download some paintings and have Crayons play a guessing game--who painted what?

Poems: I have a few picked out to read this week.

Canada Eh to Zed: L is for Loon, Lacrosse, Lillooet, and Lumberjack. If we get to the library, I'll get out a copy of William Kurelek's book Lumberjack.

Canadian studies: Review David Thompson (briefly). Start reading Barbara Greenwood's A Pioneer Christmas.

An Island Story: the first chapter on Richard the Lionheart.

Child's History of the World: chapter on the Crusades.

Other reading: Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Little Duke.

Pilgrim's Progress: the copy we're using is divided into chapters, so I want to be done Chapter IV; that is, just before Christian meets Faithful. Chapter IV ends with Christian singing:

"Yea, snares, and pits, and traps, and nets did lie
My path about, that worthless, silly I
Might have been catched, entangled, and cast down;
But, since I live, let Jesus wear the crown."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Must have been those Vegetarians again

One Squirreling to another (watching the Christmas parade go by in the rain): Look at all those elves!

Second Squirreling: Those aren't elves, those are people from the war.

(Well, they did have sort of pointy hats. Actually it was the Cadets (Armed Forces youth).)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Crocheted Snowflake

I found this pattern online and had to look twice to see if it was tatted or crocheted (relief, I can't tat). The plastic ring in the centre gives it more depth than most crocheted snowflakes--reminds me of old-fashioned blind pulls.

I enjoy making small trims like this--they're a good way to dress up holiday food gifts or other small packages. Also, after you figure out the first one, you can easily make several more! (It's always the first time through a pattern that I mess up.)

[Update: I've made several of these and they work out quite well, once you've figured out the math of centering the loops. I think the edges need a little bit of Stiffy or something like that, so that they don't flop over.]

Crayons: Things to Do Today

Sing some songs from Canada Is for Kids Volume 2. Here's an (old?) video of Au Chant de l'Alouette.

Talk about World Kindness Day. (Crayola's Kindness Castle mailbox?--we already have a cardboard castle we could use.)

Do some fractions with Mom.

Have a French lesson (review what Denise and her family are wearing)

Read a chapter from A Child's History of the World.

Do your spelling test on Spelling City.

Do ten dancing twirls.

Clean up your laundry.

Listen to some Stravinsky. (maybe while cleaning up your laundry?)

Read The Little Duke with Mom. Narrate to Mom.

Printing page.

Practice memory work.

Read to yourself pages 44-53 from Through the Year. Narrate to Mom.

Help bake something for the weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanks to all our brave vegetarians

Crayons, trying to read the label on a wreath while watching the national Remembrance Day ceremony on T.V.:

"What's that say? Vegetarians of Canada?"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why are we doing spelling, again?

This is supposed to be a Charlotte Mason-inspired blog, right?

And Charlotte Mason homeschoolers don't do word lists and weekly spelling lessons. Children learn correct spelling through their reading, through copywork, and through studied dictation.

Well, for our oldest Squirreling that worked well--she was an intuitive speller and just seemed to know how most words should be spelled.

For our others--it works better to be more systematic about it. They just seem to need that extra boost, especially in the early years of school.

So I'm using the grade one/two spelling words from Kathryn Stout's Natural Speller, and plugging ten of those a week into the Spelling City website. Crayons can practice, play games, and then do a final test using whatever words we choose. Not everything on the site works perfectly (there are some problems with the crosswords), and I still haven't found the button that's supposed to let you create handwriting sheets with your spelling words. But overall it's been a big help, and using the keyboard is easier for Crayons than having to print the words with a pencil.

And that's why we're doing spelling.

Crayons' School Week: The Home Stretch

We are in Week 11 of a 12-week term, so we're close to finishing a lot of our fall books. Some things will go on through the year.

If you've looked at previous schedules, you'll have an idea of some of our "regular" stuff, so I'll just say that the daily work includes Bible reading, language (copywork/printing book, spelling lessons, some language "enrichment), memory work, Miquon Math, French, singing, and poems.

We're also reading Mr. Popper's Penguins when we remember to, and just finished the first Dr. Dolittle book. Unanimous approval for that one--Mama Squirrel thought it was very funny.


"Social Studies"--we're going to look through Linda Granfield's book The Unknown Soldier. This just arrived for our homeschool group's library and I thought it would be useful for Remembrance Day.
Composer: Stravinsky
The Little Duke

Tuesday (which also happens to be Martinmas):

Pilgrim's Progress
Canada Eh to Zed
Artist: William Kurelek, A Prairie Boy's Summer
Watch the national Remembrance Day ceremony on T.V.


Among the Forest People: "The Biggest Little Rabbit"
Finish the David Thompson activity book (geography)


A Wonder Book: "The Paradise of Children" (Pandora retelling)
An Island Story--continue the story of Henry II
Artist (continue)


Child's History of the World: "A Pirate's Great-Grandson, 1066"
(also look at some of our castle-times books again)
Through The Year, pages 44-53--How the days grow shorter

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Crayons' narration of Thomas à Becket

Dictated by Crayons after a reading from An Island Story

There was a man called Thomas à Becket. He was great friends with King Henry II. Thomas was the chancellor.

But one day King Henry II quarreled with Thomas à Becket. It was because the king wanted Thomas to become Archbishop.

So Thomas said, “But then we won’t be able to play and stuff anymore. I won’t be free anymore. I won’t be able to play like we used to.” But the king said, “I’ll make you Archbishop anyway.”

But all of a sudden the Pope came up, and he said, "I want to choose some bishops." But the King said, “No, Thomas is supposed to do that. And I am supposed to do that.” But Thomas agreed with the Pope. So the king and Thomas quarreled even more. They quarreled and quarreled and quarreled. The king said “Isn’t there anybody can take this guy away from me?”

One night the people went to Thomas, and they said, “You agree with the King, or we’ll come back for you.” And Thomas said, “I will be right here waiting for you.” With that, all the bishops and everything began to shake and worry. “Oh, come into the cathedral,” they said to him. “No, I have promised to remain here,” Thomas said.

So that night there was church. So he said, “All right—but I won’t stay in the church. I said I’d be waiting here for them.” But he walked along so slowly, because those bishops they kept pulling him along and pushing him, push pull push pull. Pull pull pull, push push push.

So while he was reading the sermon in the church, four knights rushed in. But Thomas motioned the priests to turn off the lights. And the people ran out of the church to their homes. And the knights were like, “Hey, where did you go?” But it only echoed back to them for a little while. And then Thomas said, “I am right here.” So they went over to him and tried to grab him. “Agree with our King or die,” they said. But it was very very unallowed to kill somebody in a cathedral. So Thomas caught hold of one of the pillars and held fast when they tried to drag him out. And the cross-bearer caught hold of his arm to protect him, and all four of the knights swung their swords and they broke the cross-bearer’s arm.

And then while the cross-bearer was rubbing his arm because it felt sore, they took a swing at Thomas’s head. They got him. “I die in a holy place,” said Thomas, and no more words were heard from him. Quickly the four knights crept out of the church and the bishops and priests began to weep over the dead body of Thomas à Becket.

Monday, November 03, 2008

What we did today (homeschooling)

Old Testament: Samuel anoints David

Singing: Donkey Riding, Flunky Jim, I'se the B'y

Memory work: Working on Matthew 2:1-12

French: Head, eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, ears, hair; singing verses of Alouette about parts of the face

Parts of a dollar and quickly counting coins: using our old flashcards for review


Spelling: Word search and practice test on

Language: Two pages about "context clues" (filling in the blanks in a sentence logically), done orally with me

Math: Two Miquon pages of adding and multiplying

Keyboard lesson: 5-minute lesson

A Wonder Book: started The Paradise of Children (retelling of Pandora's Box)

Canada Eh to Zed: Jasper, Juno (award), Jack Pine, (Blue) Jay (the bird, not the team)

Picture study: Browsed through a book about Cornelius Krieghoff and noted which of his paintings "look like Krieghoff" and which ones are outside of his usual subject matter and style. Crayons spent the next little while working on a new picture, "The Submerged Tepee."

After lunch we worked on a few geography pages in the David Thompson activity book (looking for differences in a picture, measuring the length of his trip down the Columbia river); finished the last chapter of More All of a Kind Family, and then Crayons, being Crayons, created a new person with cardboard tubes while I cleaned out a cupboard.

Crayons says her favourite thing was finishing More All of a Kind Family. "But I hated the end of the last chapter. Because it's the end of the book!" Her favourite character is Charlotte.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

How 7-year-olds think

Walking through the toy department, already stocked for Christmas:

Mom: Most of these dolls are pretty junky.

Crayons: (In a most adult tone) Oh yes, I know... (wistful pause) But they can be very pretty.

Those pink boxes go right to a girl's heart, don't they?

Artisanal puppets anyone? (Holiday grace)

Marsha at Hot Water Bath echoes something we've said here before in her post Plus ça change :
"Who among us wants to be the one who tells a working-two-minimum-wage-jobs mom that she needs to be getting online (digital divide, anyone?) and ordering artisanal puppets for her children because that's better for the environment....Or that she should kitting up to make those puppets, with the required expenses of fabric and glue gun and needle because that's what moms of yesteryear would have done....Meanwhile, the dollar store has adorable puppets in a range of styles that are deemed by a privileged class to be less-than because of where they were made or how much energy they required to get here. Well, that's not a conversation that I am willing to have."
Last Christmas we did make a lot of our gifts (more, more, more). It was just that kind of a year. I posted some frugal thoughts about it afterwards.

But other years we have depended heavily on the dollar store.

And we have occasionally bemoaned the trend to artisanal-and-homemade (anybody else getting tired of that word artisanal?) that's so artisanal-and-homemade that even regular-old-homemade doesn't cut it.

But, as one woman put it in a Canadian Living article several years ago--Christmas "isn't about the flippin' wrapping paper." Or the flippin' cookies. Or where the flippin' hand puppets come from, although it's true enough that how we shop or where we shop for holidays does say something about our worldview (and that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown).

Christmas is about grace.

(As an update on that last link...when I read Shepherds Abiding last Christmas, I hadn't read any of the later (or earlier) books in the Mitford series. I didn't know that the character "hammering down on a cashew"--the one who unexpectedly points out the need for grace--would die in the next book. But somehow it adds even more poignancy to his words.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

There are libraries and then there are libraries

Where we live, there are libraries running under two separate library systems (i.e. no trading books back and forth). The big library downtown is under a different system from the library that's closer to us--the point being, we don't get to use that system as much because it's hard for us to get down there.

But when we do...we fully appreciate how much this library has held on to that other libraries either never had, or have discarded. (Even WITH the big booksales every year.) After the library sale yesterday, we went upstairs to the children's room and borrowed some of the books that we don't usually get to read.

The library closer to us has All of a Kind Family. The downtown library has all the sequels.

The library closer to us has The Moffats, Rufus M., and I think Ginger Pye (we just finished reading our own copy of that). (We're on an Eleanor Estes kick right now.) The downtown library has The Middle Moffat, The Moffat Museum, and Pinky Pye.

The downtown library has Rumer Godden's Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, and the sequel.

And so on.

How they've managed to hang onto all of this stuff, AND find room for The Tiara Club books (I'm not joking--I didn't even know there were such things), I don't know. But I'm grateful.

Library Sale

The big downtown library had its annual sale this weekend, and we brought home a box and a bagful of books, about forty in all. Some were Crayons' choices, some were mine, and a few The Apprentice picked out. Some we've read before, and some just looked interesting.

A Story of the Group of Seven (Hunkin--about a well-known group of Canadian artists)
Cornelius Krieghoff (Hugues de Jouvancourt) (one of our term's artists)
Adventures of Richard Wagner (Opal Wheeler)
Young Brahms (Sybil Deucher--same series as the Wheeler music bios)
Elisabeth & the Water Troll (Wangerin)
Meet the Malones (Weber)
Beany Malone (Weber)
The Glass Slipper (Eleanor Farjeon--her version of Cinderella)
Go With the Poem (Lillian Moore)
The Unbroken Web (Richard Adams)
The Cuckoo Clock (Mary Stolz)
The Story of Holly and Ivy (Christmas story by Rumer Godden; we already have a copy of this, but this edition has illustrations by Barbara Cooney)
The Coat-Hanger Christmas Tree (Eleanor Estes)
'Round the Christmas Tree (Corrin)
The Alley (Eleanor Estes)
Doctor on an Elephant (Kroll)
Diamond in the Window (Langton)
Harry's Mad (Dick King-Smith--about a parrot)
Ben and Me

Backyard Vacation: Outdoor Fun
Mountain Bluebird (Hirschi)
Thanksgiving Fun
An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving (Alcott)
Cat's Cradles, Owl's Eyes
Crystals and Crystal Gardens
Sugar Free Kids' Cookery
Make Clothes Fun!
Miss Patch's Learn to Sew Book
Dancing Is (Ancona)
Ballet Company
Have Fun with Magnifying
The Past of Pastimes (Bartlett)
World of Swans
Music for Very Little People
Winners! Super Champions of Ice Hockey (don't ask)
Not Much News: Ruby's Letters from Home (Edna Staebler)
These High Green Hills (Jan Karon)

Plans for this week's school (Grade Two)

This week's list of school work looks long but most of the lessons are very short--there's a lot of review going on right now. We're starting the last third of the term and there are some new things coming up--but I need to make sure we're finished with what we've been doing so far.

It may not look like we're reading that many different real books this week, either--actually we are, we just made a library trip and also went to a book sale (I'll post about that later), so there's other reading going on--it's just not all during school time.


Bible: 1 Samuel 14 & 15 (begin these chapters)
Hymn: Trust & Obey
Spelling: Create new list on Spelling City
Mr. Popper's Penguins, Chapter 4
Math: learn 2-dimensional geometric shapes (including rhombus etc.)
Memory work: work on Matthew 2:1-12
Singing: When I First Came to This Land; Leatherwing Bat
French: parts of a jack-o-lantern face, Alouette
Review parts of a Canadian dollar (some old flashcards we have)
An Island Story: Henry Plantagenet
Short nature study
40 Fun Ways (a list of physical activities--I'll post about this later)
Work with me on sewing nightgown


Bible: Matthew 12 (half)
Manners: phone manners, some Bible verses on manners
Printing book
Spelling practice
Canada Eh to Zed (alphabet book): I page
Review geometric shapes
The Little Duke
David Thompson geography workbook pages 34-37 (about salmon)
Telling time
Work on crocheting while I work on slippers
Map skills (in Miquon workbook)
Among the Forest People
40 Fun ways


Bible: finish Old Testament lesson from Monday
Manners: continue same as Tuesday
Memory work
Artist: finish Cornelius Krieghoff
Short keyboard lesson
Review geometric shpaes
Pilgrim's Progress
Fairy tales


Bible culture book: houses, women, children, family life
George Washington's book of manners (e-book)
Printing book
Short language lesson about words that sound almost the same
Composer: Stravinsky
Keyboard lesson
Review geometric shpaes
The Little Duke
Number Stories (e-book; we may not get to this)
Prime numbers, telling time
40 Fun Ways


Matthew 12 (finish)
Reformation Day Hymn: A Mighty Fortress
Uncommon Courtesy for Kids: review
Spelling test
Memory work
Review geometric shapes, parts of a dollar
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Prime numbers and begin Miquon review worksheets
Map skills
Child's History of the World: Knights and Chivalry
Nature study
40 Fun Ways
Get ready for some family time planned for this evening (make snacks)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yes, it's worth the trouble (memory work)

Crayons has memorized the 23rd Psalm this fall (she enjoyed watching the video of that cute little girl saying it) and most of Christina Rossetti's "Caterpillar, brown and furry." (For some reason she does better with Scripture than with poetry.) I've also started her working on Matthew 2:1-12 (the story of the Wise Men).

The poem "Indian Summer" that I posted here came to mind because my children's Sunday School teacher used it as part of a children's moment in church, and mentioned that she had memorized it (more years ago than she preferred to say) during elementary school.

And in this beautiful post, Queen Shenaynay reflects on what her lifetime accumulation of poetry and Scriptures has meant to her, especially over the past couple of years.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When there are no fairy godmothers

Someone at church loaned me a copy of Maeve Binchy's novel Whitethorn Woods. I'm only partway into it so I don't know how the rest of the book will be, but the first couple of chapters were worth a book in themselves. (Some adult situations, so not for young maidens below a certain age.)

The framework of the novel seems to be a contemporary (read poorly-attended?) Irish church, a curate, and a place called St. Ann's well which tourists and locals treat as a kind of wailing wall. The curate doesn't care much for this but can't seem to fight it. At the end of the introduction, he sends his own thoughts to St. Ann, asking that he would be able to "hear" what people are asking for at the well, so that he can help them better. Then the book picks up that thread and moves into pairs of short stories about the people of the town.

Twice within the introduction and the first set of stories there are characters who make the most of what they have, no matter what they have. To begin with, we have a pair of immigrants who thrive on doing what nobody else wants to do:

By the time he got back to the priests’ house, Josef, the Latvian caregiver, had arrived and got Canon Cassidy up, washed and dressed him and made his bed....Canon Cassidy liked soup for his lunch and sometimes Josef took him to a café but mainly he took the frail little figure back to his own house, where his wife, Anna, would produce a bowl of something homemade; and in return the canon would teach her more words and phrases in English....Josef had three other jobs: he cleaned Skunk Slattery’s shop, he took the towels from Fabian’s hairdressers to the Fresh as a Daisy Launderette and washed them there and three times a week he took a bus out to the Nolans’ place and helped Neddy Nolan look after his father.

Anna had many jobs too: she cleaned the brass on the doors of the bank, and on some of the office buildings that had big important-looking notices outside; she worked in the hotel kitchens at breakfast time doing the washing up; she opened the flowers that came from the market to the florists and put them in big buckets of water. Josef and Anna were astounded by the wealth and opportunities they’d found in Ireland. A couple could save a fortune here.
Josef and Anna have plans to open their own shop in a few years, and you have no doubt that they will do it.

The second example is the above-mentioned Neddy Nolan, who describes himself as "not the sharpest knife in the drawer." Someone online compared him to Forrest Gump; I think he's also like the Simple Jack, youngest-brother character in many fairy tales--the one who shares his loaf of bread and usually gets rewarded for it. He's honest and somewhat naïve, particularly when it comes to understanding that not everyone else is as honest and well-intentioned as he is--especially his older brother who tries to take advantage of him and ends up losing. There are no fairy godmothers in this story, and Neddy has to make his own luck, with the same kind of creativity and determination that got Forrest Gump his own shrimp boat.
"And cause I was a gazillionaire, and I liked doin it so much, I cut that grass for free."--Forrest Gump
When Neddy moves to the city and unintentionally exposes some kind of pilfering scam on the construction site where his brother has gotten him work, he is told to stay back at the flat from now on and "clean up or something." Taking his brother at his word, he goes out and swaps some cleanup work and painting for a box of paint and cleaning supplies, then comes back and starts fixing up the apartment for Older Brother and their roommates. He even manages to scrounge them a television. The guys agree that if he'll just stay away from their job site (I guess to keep him from exposing any more of their scams), they'll pay him a salary to "manage things." And this goes on for years--they spend, drink, and scam, but Neddy socks his money away and takes care of them all, makes friends all over the place, helps people out, and never seems to feel he's being taken advantage of.

Neddy's first payback comes when his old father can't take care of their house any more and needs a caregiver. The solution is simple: Neddy moves back to their hometown and buys the house, to the astonishment and fury of his always-broke brother (who eventually ends up in jail).

And unlike Forrest Gump, he ends up with a woman who, although she has her own issues, doesn't want to run away and be a folk singer; in fact, she wants to teach, and she's happy to let Neddy keep doing what he likes to do: taking care of stuff. He even manages to take care of his fiancee when she's being blackmailed--now that's real chivalry. She and he both agree that sharp knives can sometimes be too scary--the world needs more Neddys and fewer Older Brothers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sounds too good not to pass on (Pumpkin Pie Dip)

A Year of Crockpotting posted this Pumpkin Pie Dip recipe--perfect if you have one of the Little Dipper mini-crockpots, and it's gluten-free too (depending on what you dip, of course).

I do have a mini-crock. I bought it at a yard sale awhile back but haven't used it, and I've been watching Steph's ongoing dip recipes and thinking I'd like to try some of them. This one might be fun for Thanksgiving weekend (yes, that's this weekend in Canada).

UPDATE: I made my own version this afternoon, and it's good too!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two plans for this week

Still a bit sketchy, but this is the basic plan.


Bible: 1 Sam. 10: Samuel anoints Saul as ruler
Math, printing, spelling
A Pioneer Thanksgiving
Poems 225 and 226 from Come Hither
Composer: Mark O'Connor, Strings & Threads Suite
Canada Eh to Zed: F page (Fleur-de-lis, fiddlehead, [Terry] Fox, Fogo)
Owls in the Family (2 chapters)


Bible: half of Matthew 8 (Jesus heals a man, Jesus heals a Roman Officer's Servant, Jesus heals many people)
A Pioneer Thanksgiving; weaving a doll-sized basket
Math, printing, French, music, spelling, language page (word meanings)
An Island Story: William Rufus
Through the Year (nature reader), pages 20-23
Pilgrim's Progress, four pages
Nature notebook


French songs
Bible culture
A Pioneer Thanksgiving; play "Peach Stones" (Iroquois game)
Math, printing, French, music, spelling, language page (word meanings)
Among the Forest People: "The Bees and the Kingbird"
Poems of James Whitcomb Riley
Picture study: Cornelius Krieghoff, using a coffee-table book from the library
Cooking: read about pioneer breadmaking, make rolls


Bible: 1 Sam. 10: Saul is acclaimed as king
A Pioneer Thanksgiving
Understood Betsy
Math, printing, French, music, spelling
Night Prowlers, pages 41-45 (wildlife you might see at dawn)
Geography activity book: pages 24-27
Fall art projects


Bible: finish Matthew 8 (Jesus Calms a Storm, Jesus heals two men with demons)
A Pioneer Thanksgiving
The Old Nurse's Stocking Basket
Math, printing, French, music, spelling quiz
Poems from Peacock Pie, pages 13-15
Sewing (working on nightgown with Mom)
Go look to see if any chestnuts (conkers) are hard yet

Friday, October 03, 2008

New use for gravity boots

In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian visits The Interpreter's House, where he sees several strange things that are analogies for the Christian faith. One of the things he sees is a fire in a fireplace, with someone (said to be Satan) continually pouring water on it, yet the fire doesn't go out. It's revealed that there's someone (said to be Christ) standing on the reverse side of the fireplace, pouring oil on the fire to keep it going.

Crayons drew a picture of The Interpreter's House on the narration scroll she's making for the book. In the room with the fireplace, you see someone pouring the bucket of water, and another guy hanging upside down from the ceiling. When I asked her about it, that's what she said: he's wearing special boots so he can walk on the ceiling and pour oil on the fire.

John Bunyan might have enjoyed that idea.

I'll keep it in mind

Crayons' narration of the Sermon on the Mount:

"Watch out for false prophets wearing sheep costumes."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: Thursday and Friday plans

At first glance these might look like unusually long lists (for us, anyway). And they are...each one has about three hours' worth of things to do. I don't know if we'll get through everything.

But I really am trying to stick to the weekly schedules I made, and this is what needs to be finished to keep us on track this week. We're on the fifth week of school, and the plan really does seem to be working out--we're getting through most of what's planned for each week plus sometimes a little more. (Getting used to homeschooling just one has taken some adjustment!)


Bible--Matthew, on fasting
Pilgrim's Progress, four pages, draw narration on scroll
Math lesson
Poems from Peacock Pie, pages 6-10
Singing and music: Pumpkin Pie song, Canada songs, keyboard exercises
A Pioneer Story: Christmas chapter (I know it's out of season, I can't help that)
Printing page "C"
French lesson
Among the Forest People
Word puzzles book, puzzle on page 56
Work on weaving or choose an activity from A Pioneer Story
Read Rufus M. (our just-for-fun book)
Drawing--work on round things
Tea time


Bible--Matthew--on judging
Geography: work on David Thompson activity book and read the E page from Canada Eh to Zed
Math lesson
Poems from the James Whitcomb Riley book (special for fall)
Singing: Leatherwing Bat, other songs, keyboard exercises
A Pioneer Story: New Year's chapter (end of the book)
Printing page "D"
French lesson
Nature reading: Night Prowlers, pages about spiders (other spider books on hand to look at)
Scrabble spelling
Weaving or Pioneer activity
Read Rufus M.
Drawing challenge: Apples
Tea time

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's for supper?

(Relating to this week's menu plan)

I was going to make turkey chili and have apricot meatballs later in the week...but I had a craving for regular old chili, and besides, turkey meatballs taste great with sweet-and-sour apricot sauce. So I just switched them around. Tonight we're having your standard-style chili (but made with lower-salt ingredients), no-salt tortilla chips, pasta for those who want it, and carrot sticks. And carrot-apricot-bran bars, which aren't that low-sodium, but sometimes with baking it's more about portion control than ingredients.

Where our garden's at

There's still some chard in the garden--I picked most of it, but what's still there is still green.

The bean plants are starting to dry up, which is fine because we just leave the too-big beans on the vines to dry and then use them for next year's seed.

We still have quite a few green tomatoes, and we may get a few of them turning red before the frost gets them. Our zucchini plants dried up a couple of weeks ago.

The funny thing is that a friend a few blocks away with a large garden still has zucchini plants that are trying to pop out a few last squash; but her tomato plants are finished. Figure that one out.

Wearable Krieghoff

Crayons had fun with this narration. (See previous post.) The challenge: to come up with something unique for the Cornelius Krieghoff gift shop.

She designed two Krieghoff nighties with attached slippers. If you can't make out the details (click to enlarge them), the green nightie has a horse and snowflakes, and the blue one has a pine tree with a red "K" above it.

(Mama Squirrel suggested KriegCough Drops...maple-syrup flavoured with a hint of rum.) (Or whatever it was that the habitants drank.)

Picture by Crayons, September 2008, using Paint

Picture Study: Cornelius Krieghoff

Our second painter this term is Cornelius Krieghoff, who was born in the Netherlands but became one of Canada's most famous 19th-century painters.

Some resources I've found:
The National Gallery of Canada's "preview" page from an exhibition several years ago

Another preview page, which looks at his development as an artist

A page of gift-shop items based on Krieghoff's paintings (I found this amusing)
(Hey, that would be kind of a cool idea for a picture narration, wouldn't it?--Design something else inspired by Krieghoff's work. Besides a T-shirt or a Christmas card.)

Something else fun--which of these two is the real Krieghoff painting, and which is the fake?

A book I want to get from the library: Krieghoff: Images of Canada, by Dennis Reid

And not totally helpful, but a tie-in anyway (and the library has it): a CD of folk music called À la claire fontaine: Music in Krieghoff's Quebec.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Books read in September

About the only book I can remember finishing this month (besides school books and low-sodium cookbooks) is Rumer Godden's Kingfishers Catch Fire. (Time Magazine's original 1953 review)

OK, it wasn't a great month for reading. I promise to do better in October.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why the sea is salt (dessert recipe)

That, I don't know, but sometimes it seems the whole food world is salt. A half-cup serving of commercial instant chocolate pudding mix contains 310 mg of sodium.

I have a non-dairy "chocolate dessert" recipe from Food That Really Schmecks. We've made it many times but never particularly considered the sodium content.

The ingredients, as written, are 1 heaping tbsp. cocoa, 3 heaping tbsp. flour (this is an old recipe!), 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups water, 1 tsp. vanilla, and some butter to stir in at the end (I figured 2 tbsp.).

This recipe doesn't make very large servings (I'd say it serves 3-4), but counting it as a 4-serving dessert, one serving as written would have 295.9 mg sodium. About the same as the commercial milk-based pudding, although at least it's free of all the other additives.

If you use 1/4 tsp. salt, it brings it down to 149.1 mg.

If you cut it to 1/8 tsp. salt, it brings it down to 75.609 mg.

And if you leave the salt out altogether, you end up with 2.175 mg per serving.

Obviously, almost all the sodium in this recipe comes directly from the salt. The question is just how far back to cut it! I think I might try it with just a pinch of salt.

Oh, you wanted the recipe? It's a little inexact, but goes better with experience.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and cocoa, and salt if using. Mix with a little cold water to form a paste; then add in about 2 cups boiling water (less if you had to use more cold water). Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly or at least frequently. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter or margarine. Chill before serving.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: September Notes

Referring back to Crayons' Grade Two Outline

Favourite folk songs: "When I First Came to This Land". We also (very selectively) use some songs from Festivals, Family and Food (the ones without too much Mother Earth in them), and have also enjoyed the first volume of Michael Mitchell's Canada is For Kids. Crayons likes the video version of Mitchell's "Canada in My Pocket" (about the symbols on Canadian coins).

I also give her short follow-the-leader lessons on the keyboard.

Recent reading: A Pioneer Story (story interspersed with facts on life in the backwoods), Owls in the Family, Understood Betsy, "The Gorgon's Head" from A Wonder Book, The Old Nurse's Stocking Basket, poems from Come Hither, William the Conqueror chapters in the history book, Among the Forest People, Hiawatha's Childhood, Pilgrim's Progress (up to Mr. Worldly Wiseman), Bible stories about Samuel and the temptation of Christ, and two stories from Stories for Canada's Birthday. Today we read the "D is for dory, dinosaur, Dan McGrew, dulse" page from Canada Eh to Zed, which inspired us to watch the Historica Minute about Joseph Tyrrell (finder of dinosaur bones in Alberta), and Crayons showed me her favourite online dinosaur game.

She has been doing pages in the David Thompson activity book, which is not terribly in-depth about his work but has some fun worksheets; we borrowed a National Geographic issue with an article about his travels, and I read some of the basics from an online biography. David Thompson seems to be one of the most under-appreciated of Canadian explorers and mapmakers, but he is definitely worth studying.

Math has been fairly informal, mostly following my own Miquon notes. I don't especially like the addition worksheets that go with these lessons--they're often confusing and new-Math-ish (the worst of the '60's, breaking things apart too much); so we're using coins, rods and number tiles to practice making three-digit numbers and also to practice grouping for tens. We're also doing some hundred-chart work, working on adding and subtracting nines, tens and elevens quickly.

The Gifted and Talented workbooks are working fine for a bit of language work--mostly synonyms at this point. (It was also a good chance to talk about what a Thesaurus is; Crayons likes Mommy's big fat Synonym Finder because it has more words than the children's version.) Spelling words we practice through the week with Scrabble letters, and then have a test on Fridays. The handwriting workbooks haven't yet arrived (they're in the mail, should be here this week) so she has just been doing copywork, which isn't a favourite as there are still some issues with letter formation, remembering to use lower case, and the general effort required to print neatly. She does a little each week anyway, and I am having her start a fall poem on large paper to go on the kitchen wall.

Crayons has been making nature pictures in a sketchbook (mostly as narrations of nature stories--she is interested in owls right now), and has started a scroll for Pilgrim's Progress.

And we've done a little French--mostly colours and numbers, but it's about time to begin the felt-board people.

Monday, September 22, 2008


We're in the fourth week of school, but just getting started now on handicrafts.

I planned to do weaving with Crayons (the girl, not the Crayolas), but we hadn't had much luck with the typical flat cardboard or foam-tray looms, or even with the simple wooden frame that she was given last Christmas (a "fashion loom" kit). I think younger kids often find it tedious to fill up a whole frame with over-under-over-under, even if they have a needle or something to help it go a bit faster. Or they end up with something horribly warped. Also, the wooden frame loom came with a thick, soft, slippery yarn which seemed to be hard for her to use.

Then I noticed the weaving page in a book called Pioneer Crafts, by Barbara Greenwood; it goes with the Canadian book A Pioneer Story, which is sold in the U.S. as A Pioneer Sampler.

It suggested making a foam-tray loom but also using what the book calls a cardboard heddle, and what I've also seen called a warp separator; just a piece of cardboard, an inch wide and slightly wider than the loom, with one end cut in a point. After threading the loom, you weave the heddle in and out (rather than the yarn), stand it up on its edge, and then pull a bobbin full of yarn through the shed (the open space) that is created when you stand it up. Then the heddle goes back the other way, out and in through the strands; stands up to make the shed, and the bobbin goes back through. The heddle is also used (flat) to gently push the rows against the previous work.

I didn't bother making a foam-tray loom since we do have the wooden frame, and I was right--it worked fine. (I remember the teeth on foam-tray looms tending to break anyway, so I was happy not to have to do that.)

For some reason, this is MUCH easier for a second-grader than weaving a long strand of yarn in and out across the rows. By using a bobbin (I had a plastic knit/crochet bobbin, but you can make cardboard ones), you can also pull more yarn through at a time and do more rows without having to get Mom to add more yarn.

We also chose some cotton yarn (Bernat Handicrafter) in variegated colours, which weaves well and looks pretty with the different coloured stripes.

I'm pleased with this discovery, since it's turned the most basic loom into something a bit more sophisticated, still simple (or even simpler) to do, but that feels more like a real handicraft than just a kindergarten activity. Of course it has its limitations--the design of the loom means that you can't make anything longer than the frame itself--but I think that's about the same measure as a 7-year-old's attention span.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday yard-saling

Mr. Fixit was feeling well enough for a short jaunt to a church sale this morning.

He found a walkie-talkie. Crayons found a Barbie. Ponytails found a couple of things.

Mama Squirrel found books, because this particular church sale almost always has a wonderful book corner. Also a brand-new set of Christmas-coloured table runner/napkins/placemats which Mama Squirrel would have no intention of putting on her Christmas table but which might work very well for gift bags or other Christmas-fabric crafts. Also a brand-new set of two cocoa mugs plus cocoa mix, final destination still unknown. Also a couple of part-sets of nice stationery.

The books are:

Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur
Jacob Two-Two's First Spy Case
(Mama Squirrel and Crayons just finished Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang) (Review comments: These are fairly amusing but contain a bit too much grade-school potty humour for MS's taste. The Hooded Fang is probably the best of the three.)

The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler (M.S.'s copy disappeared awhile back)
Hymns for Primary Worship
Freedom and Beyond
, by John Holt
Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner
Making Men Whole, by J.B. Phillips
Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, by Joetta Handrich Schlabach (the 1991 followup to The More-with-Less Cookbook)

And my favourites out of the pile:

Selected Burns for Young Readers, published by Geddes and Grosset. Amblesiders and Martha fans, check this one out! Nice big print! Glossary of Scottish words in the back! An introductory biography of Burns, and introductions to each of the poems! Lovely.

Songs of the Saviour, and Out of Doors Nature Songs, both by Annie Johnson Flint. Paper-covered, tied-with-cord booklets of her poems, published I-don't-know-when by Evangelical Publishers in Toronto--I'm guessing the early twentieth century, though.

Mr. Fixit is on the mend, and another dietary excursion

Our dearest Mr. Fixit is home after a ten-day stay in the hospital. The longest any of us has ever been away from home...God is good and Mr. Fixit is much better than he has been since earlier this summer.

For reasons relating to his recent illness, he has been prescribed a low-sodium diet. Mama Squirrel, while happy to accommodate, hears a tiny inner groan saying "Oh no, not another different food code." (Regular Treehouse visitors will know that this year already we've been through experiments with high protein/no sugar and gluten-free foods.)

Happily, we've found a couple of low-sodium cookbooks at the library that not only sound like they have food we could manage to cook and eat, they also encourage the use of bread machines (yes, we can do that!). If you've never looked at low-sodium diets and think of them mainly in terms of table salt, that may sound surprising. But if you're on a 2000 mg a day of sodium and a slice of commercial bread has about 200 mg, there goes a tenth of your allowance just on a piece of bread. If you can find or make lower-sodium baked goods, then you have that much more to use on more interesting things.

Works like frugality, doesn't it?

If any of you have great websites or books to recommend, I'd be happy to hear your comments.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Books Read in August

Saint Maybe, by Anne Tyler (re-read)

A Breath of Air, by Rumer Godden (reviewed yesterday)

A Mother's Rule of Life, by Holly Pierlot

This is a book that's been around for a couple of years and was recommended by other homeschooling friends. More than how to organize your life--how to organize your Life. As Coffeemamma pointed out to me--it's easy to relate to Holly's "I've had it!" moment that propelled her into searching for a better way for her family. Like Alice Gunther's book (below), this one comes deep out of Holly's Catholic faith, so the suggestions for building the day around rosaries etc. may leave Protestants scratching their heads; but Protestants need time for prayer and Bible reading too!

A Haystack Full of Needles, by Alice Gunther

An intensely Roman Catholic book but with a theme that crosses denominations: not only the "socialization" of homeschooled children, but of their parents as well. The book underlines the importance of building community and close friendships beyond the usual homeschool clubs and field trips. Brand new--you'll probably have to get your catalogue vendor to order it for you. (A bonus: you get to see photos of Alice's friends and their children, including Melissa's flock.)

With Crayons:

The Phoenix and the Carpet, by E. Nesbit

The Amulet, by E. Nesbit

These are the two sequels to Five Children and It. I read them to Crayons although they both went slightly beyond my comfort zone in the magic/spells area; I know it's just a frame to the story so they can go magic-carpet-riding (The Phoenix) and time-travelling (The Amulet), but there is a fair amount of hocus-pocus buildup to the fun parts.

Some parts are quite funny (they leave their grumpy old cook on a tropical island where the natives want her to be their queen), but I also found them often a bit darker in tone than the first book. A couple of times the children are in more actual danger than they were in Five Children.

Still working on:

A Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster (Mentioned enthusiastically in Terry Glaspey's Great Books of the Christian Tradition.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Breath of Air, by Rumer Godden (review)

I found this book at the thrift shop last month and thought it might interest others.

This is Rumer Godden's novelization and updated version of Shakespeare's The Tempest. A bit of an "exercise," maybe--or what do they call it, a tour de force? As if some novelists were having a challenge among themselves--"what would you do with a Shakespeare play to turn it into something different but still the same?"

We've read so many of Godden's children's books that I wasn't sure how I was going to like her "adult" writing--and be a bit warned, there is a bit of necessary "adultness" in this story. Mostly I liked it...I think she drew on her experience in India in creating an imaginary island for her hero to be, planewrecked...on. And here and there there are telltale Rumer Godden phrases:

"He felt old and chilled. 'My feet must be wet,' said Mr. van Loomis. 'It's the dew on the hill,' but his feet had often been wet before. 'I must be getting old,' said Mr. van Loomis. That depressed him more."

Mr. van Loomis is Prospero--a Scottish industrialist who chucked it all for a tropical island, and built up his own little empire by using native labour and resources. (This becomes one of the issues of the book--who really owns the island, its people, and its wealth?)

She's also very creative about adapting Shakespeare's fairy and monster characters into something more human yet still recognizable. She describes the character Mario, based on the monster Caliban:

"McGinty came up. 'You the chap in charge of the light?' he asked. In the moonlight, which was beginning now to sift down over the sea and the reflected light of the lamp, Mario looked a monster....clumsy, childish, with his thick low forehead and mat of hair and shining dark eyes."

The fairy creature Ariel becomes a restless young native servant who is entranced by ideas of the outside world he has never seen, and longs for escape.

And Miranda is still Miranda, except that she's now named Charis. She has grown up on the island and has never seen a European man except for her father and the half-Spanish Mario. Until Valentine Doubleday shows up...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Layered Grain and Veggie Salad

This is nothing very original, but if you haven't tried grains in salad before, it's a good way to get started. I prefer layers to all-mixed-up; then it doesn't look like you just threw leftover rice in the bowl.

Layer (a glass bowl is nice so you can see the layers):

1. Cooked grains, hot or cold (I used two parts short grain brown rice and one part barley, and layered them while they were still warm; you could use pasta instead, but I like small grains (vs. white rice sticking out all over the place))

(I used 1 cup rice, 1/2 cup barley, 1 tbsp. oil, 3 cups water; but only part of that went in the salad!)

2. Chopped or shredded raw vegetables (I used diced zucchini, sliced celery, and finely-sliced carrots (leftover vegetable sticks))

3. Dressing--creamy or vinaigrette style both work all right, but I prefer something resembling chip dip for layering, because it stays put better. I used about a cupful of sour cream, a couple of spoonfuls of white salad-dressing-stuff (some Squirrels prefer it to mayonnaise), and about a quarter cup of bottled teriyaki sauce; but you can use any other sauce, or just a dry seasoning like curry powder. Yogurt can work too instead of sour cream if it's not too runny. Or tofu dip recipes work fine too.

Add in a layer of anything else, plain or exotic, that looks good. Chickpeas, frozen peas (don't have to be cooked), chopped tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, peppers. But the one I made this week wasn't so fancy: just a layer of grains, vegetables, dressing, then the whole thing repeated. Chill well before serving.