Monday, November 30, 2009

All About Spelling (TOS Review)

All About Spelling is my favourite so far of the review items that we've gotten as in-the-mail products (that is, not websites, e-books, or other online material). When I first checked out what the Review Crew had done last year, this program was mentioned frequently as one that got all thumbs up; so I was pleased to hear that this year's Crew was going to try it out as well. I was also amused to see a review from Ann Voskamp on the book's back cover--small world.

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 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.

School things to do this week

We have just this week and next week to finish the term's work; then some exams before a holiday break. We're ahead on some things but behind on others; but you can only go so fast reading books like Swiss Family Robinson out loud. If it takes us longer in the school year than I'd planned, that's fine too.

Anyway, this is what's planned:


Nature Challenge #8
Artistic Pursuits Unit 6
crafts, other pre-holiday things
outdoor time
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

Advent I: Promises and Peacemaking

In honour of C.S. Lewis's 101st birthday today, I'm posting some quotes instead of a Sunday hymn.

"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

The most beautiful doll from the dollar store

Was made from a pair of tights. What talented hands can do with simple materials...

(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

Thankful Alphabet: Z

Z is for Zephaniah 3:17

"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: Y

This one is easy.

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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: X

(I'm thankful that there are only three letters left!)

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.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: W

W is for Worthwhile Writing.

(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

What has Mama Squirrel read this year?

Besides purely school books?

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
3. Freakonomics
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 Moonstone
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)
Jayber Crow
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)

Thankful Alphabet: U

U is for Up. As in, time's almost Up to vote in the HSBA awards. Saturday at midnight is it!

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.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: One Very Cute S

Run, run, run and check out these awesome squirrels at That Artist Woman. Toilet paper tubes never looked so good. (Seen at Crafty Crow.)

Food Salvage (What's in the cupboard?)

I've been trying hard to use up some bits and pieces in the cupboard and the fridge, and work with what we had since we didn't do a full grocery trip last weekend. I cooked up a couple of bags of dried beans and froze them. I froze some yogurt in ice cube trays so that I'd have it for starter. I made a batch of Brannies (a brownie recipe including bran cereal), which are much better than they sound. I made extra loaves of pumpkin bread and froze them.

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.

Thankful Alphabet: More S Words

Squirrelings (and their dad)--of course!

Real squirrels

Funny squirrels


Sunshine--which we've had all week except for today

Sheets on the beds

Shoes on the feet

Soup from the Crockpot.

Thankful Alphabet: S

S is for sprouts: something you can crunch even when the garden is gone. Last week we sprouted some lentils, which we hadn't done for a very long time, and I had forgotten how easy they are to do.

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


Snowball was my sister Crayons' hamster. Yesterday sadly he died from old age.
We will remember him.

~~~Ponytails :(

Thankful Alphabet: R

R is for Recipes.

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 egg
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

Thankful Alphabet: Q

Q is for "Q." (This is a repost from February 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

Thankful Alphabet: P

P is for today's schooltime Poem: "The Chambered Nautilus," by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

"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.

Ring out wild bells

Inexpensive, too, if you use the Mad In Crafts version of a bell door decoration.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: O, for the third time

O is for origami, and there are good kid-friendly patterns at Mama Squirrel used some of these patterns for a co-op class last Friday, and the mostly-eight-and-nine-year-olds were able to follow most of them without trouble. We started with this printable puppy, moved on to a paper cup and then a basket (very similar); then we tried boxes and booklets.

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.)

Thankful Alphabet: Another O

O is for out, out, out at Domestic Fashionista. I can't think of a better reason to declutter.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: N

N is for Nutmeg. One of food history's greatest discoveries, and the secret ingredient that raises Snickerdoodle Blondies from just a cinnamon bar into a new family favourite.
(No, I'm not just being silly. I can be thankful for nutmeg if I want to be. Of course I'm also thankful for neighbours, newspapers, and my nervous system. Also nominations. Don't forget to vote.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: L

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

Monday, November 09, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: Ideas

I is for Ideas

"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.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: G

G is for garden, the one that's just now all finished for the season. Stuff sticking out of the ground that you can eat never stops amazing me.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: F

Sorry for copycatting the DHM's "E is for Eggs"--she did a better job on it anyway.

F: Furnace.

Do I need to say more?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

ABCs of thankfulness

The Deputy Headmistress is counting through the days of November by naming something to be thankful for every day--starting with each letter of the alphabet.

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.

D: Daughters.

E: Eggs. Our daughters' Sunday School teacher just got more chickens and they're laying. So we had German Oven Pancake for lunch yesterday.

"F" tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Go stand in the corner

What Michelle Malkin thinks of that stream of blather on The View today.

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.)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Start off your work week with some delightful leisure

In tribute to The Beehive's very important post On Leisure, Learning, and Large Rooms:

"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