Saturday, June 29, 2013

The thirteenth doughnut (Hidden Art of Homemaking Chapter 11)

“The object of education is to put a child in living touch with as much as may be of the life of Nature and of thought…. a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we must train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books….Add to this one or two keys to self knowledge, and the educated youth goes forth with some idea of self management, with some pursuits, and many vital interests.” ~~ Charlotte Mason, 1923

"...they need not just give up and 'sit', living other people's lives on the screen and 'graduating' one day to the place where they have no interest, no enthusiasm, and no excitement....the impersonal universe of man's making is one which does not produce a base for creativity." ~~ Edith Schaeffer, 1971

"A leisurely education offers freedom from the small round of busywork, opportunity to grab hold of something bigger, learning to see ourselves (including our children) more as we are in God's time and in God's universe. Living without futility." ~~ Mama Squirrel, 2010
"The kingdom of God is a party," Tony Campolo said.  When we've lost our joy, sometimes we need to get away and hear the quiet...and sometimes we need to minister to others who are feeling dull, show how parents, Christians, old fogeys like us, can do a little more.  Do you know the phrase "la yapa," which is related to the word lagniappe? It's something a market vendor throws in for free with a purchase; the same idea as the thirteenth doughnut in a baker's dozen. 

Edith says there are two different ways to think of "creative recreation": first, some activity (probably outdoors) that gets you away from the daily noise and allows you to re-energize your spirit, which will probably also give your creative batteries a boost...a short sabbatical or day off. Second, something "creative" that you come up with to re-energize others; something different, original, fun. To quote from The Hobbit, an unexpected party. Something extra.  Maybe you could call it a creative lagniappe.

On this particular weekend that includes Canada Day and our wedding anniversary, we have not gotten too ambitious. We've all been busy with a major housecleaning and other things that have left us a bit tired and not up for long hikes or big parties. It's the peak of strawberry season here, though, and we had a memorable barbecued dinner tonight with fresh spinach salad, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. "Anticipated" can be as good as "unexpected." [Update: we did go to a free local art gallery, too, which would have made Edith happy with us.  We also browsed through an antiques market, which may not be as good as contemplating nature, but it's fun anyway.]

What can you do this week to recharge your own spiritual and creative batteries?

What can you do to bring an unexpected smile to someone else?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Edith Schaeffer's Subversive Family Reading (Hidden Art of Homemaking)

And first he went through Waste-paper-land, where all the stupid books lie in heaps, up hill and down dale, like leaves in a winter wood; and there he saw people digging and grubbing among them, to make worse books out of bad ones, and thrashing chaff to save the dust of it; and a very good trade they drove thereby, especially among children.  ~~ Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies
In Chapter 10 of Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer writes that there are "four kinds of books."  Fantasy, realistic fiction, biographies, and the Bible.

Well, I should think there are a few more kinds of books than that in the world!  I'm not even sure where, in that list, she'd put some of the books she names elsewhere, such as books of poetry and Pilgrim's Progress.

But as a start for read-aloud books, it's not bad.

The read-aloud staples for Edith's own children included "Winnie-the-Pooh...Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows and The Water Babies...the 'Anne' books..." and "The Pilgrim's Progress on Sundays."

Interesting, interesting, interesting.  These are NOT, strictly speaking, yer usual evangelical Reformed-type favourites.  Lucy Maud Montgomery had a few religious quirks that show up throughout the Anne books.  The Wind in the Willows has a couple of chapters (like the one about Pan) that get skipped in some families..besides, it's full of talking animals. Even Charles Kingsley, dull and moralistic as his reputatation has become, was not exactly smack in the center of theological acceptability (somewhat like George MacDonald).  (According to Wikipedia, he was one of the first to publish praise of Charles Darwin's work.)  The books of Charles Kingsley and "Lewis Carroll" are fun (often), educational (sometimes), satirical, thoughtful, and definitely somewhat subversive.  Not what Kingsley called "stupid books," but not what you might find in a Christian bookstore, either, unless it's an unusually open-minded one.

Perhaps it's a good thing the Schaeffers ended their weeks with Pilgrim's Progress.

She says they also liked the Little House books, Gene Stratton Porter's books, Louisa May Alcott.  All books full of sweetness and light?  No, not about illness and death, blatant racism, psycho landladies with knives, and a kind of Emersonian-naturish take on Christianity?  "And there is no better starting point for the father and mother to discuss Biblical answers," says Edith.  "Many of Fran's deep discussions with our own children had this very natural starting place."

Her paragraph on C.S. Lewis (the Narnia books and, later, the Space Trilogy) is illuminating too.  "Of course these are imaginative and not 'real' but C.S. Lewis's idea of what the heavenly country may be like.  Young people who are really well grounded in the teaching of the Bible will not get confused, and Lewis's approach really does something to make the supernatural seem not so far away and impossible."

Being on the Charlotte Mason end of the homeschooling spectrum, our family has explored a number of books that make some people nervous, and simultaneously avoided a few that everybody seemed to be reading.  It's only recently that Dollygirl (finishing sixth grade) has been allowed to read the Harry Potter series; we have been cautious with Madeleine L'Engle's books, and although Mama Squirrel loved The Dark is Rising years ago, it's not a series we've encouraged the girls to read.  "But you're reading me The Lord of the Rings, and the story of The Aeneid," pointed out Dollygirl.  "Look at all those wizards and goddesses and everything.  So why didn't you want us to read Harry Potter?"  Marketing, I told her.

Related posts:
Notes from a Book Talk (2007)

Linked from the Hidden Art of Homemaking linky for Chapter 10 at Ordo Amoris

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dollygirl's Grade Six Spring Exam Questions

Adapted from Parent's Union School exams for Form II.

Bible Lessons.

1. Explain one of these passages from Saviour of the World:

"Go thou to Gennesareth and cast a hook ;
Draw the first fish to land, nor pause to ask
Is't small or great ; when thou hast ope'd his mouth,
A shekel thou shalt find ; that take and pay
To the men - just Temple-dues for thee and Me."

2. "Thou think'st to stay thy life with pride and praise,
Fond braveries of the earth,
Fat things and fragrant would'st have all thy days,
Riches, renown and mirth?
Poor soul, a mystery be to thy fond eyes revealed -
Those choice things thou dost covet devour as a worm concealed."


Write four lines of poetry from memory (in your best handwriting).

Dictation (unprepared).


1. Tell a story in prose, or verse, about one of the following,--Aeneas, Juno, Gandalf, Treebeard.

2. Tell about a museum or other historic place you have visited.

General History.

1. What are some ways Augustus Caesar tried to restore faith in the gods of the Roman forefathers? Was he successful?

2. Tell what you know of "The Old Silk Road."


1. Tell some of the low and high points of the life of Winston Churchill.

2. "Cognitive dissonance is a form of stress that happens when a person encounters a fact or persuasive idea that disagrees with his model.  The more important his model is to him, the greater will be his stress."  (Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career, and Financial Security)  What does this mean?  Give examples.


1. What are some ways that “making a living” has changed in Cornwall and Devon? (What did people do in days gone by? What are the main industries today?)

2. Describe a visit to a) Redruth, b) Tintagel.

3. Define a) pilchards, b) clotted cream, c) hot pennies.

Natural History and General Science.

1. Draw and explain something of what you would see in an ancient “coal forest.” OR tell generally what you know of the story of coal.

2. Tell how a water clock works.

3. Explain why one “dead-heads” flowers. How often should this be done?

4.  Tell about the discovery of "Planet X."

Picture Study.

Describe Matthew Maris's pictures:

A "The Girl at the Pump."

B "Butterflies."


1. Describe, in French, the pictures on page 76 and 80.

2. Use, in written sentences, the phrases “plus grand que,” “le roi est,” “il y a”.

3. Translate this into English: "Nous sommes en hiver. Il y a de la neige et les enfants au sortir de l’école font des boules de neige et se les jettent. Il y a deux garçons sur le mur."


1. An original illustration from The Lord of the Rings.

2. Abby’s Garden.

3. A man on a horse, jumping, galloping.


Father to choose a Psalm, a poem, or a passage from the Bible Lessons.


Father to choose an unseen passage, giving marks for enunciation.


Tell what you know about the writing of Handel’s Messiah or about the (true story of) The Water Music.

Linked from the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival at Higher Up and Further In.

What they did for Plutarch (CM Digital Archives)

I wrote a post in March describing how the Parents' Union School (Charlotte Mason's school and correspondence program) made use of certain versions of Plutarch's Lives.  At that point, seeing as I had come to the end of the Programmes on the Ambleside Online site, and (seemingly) the P.U.S. had come to the end of their versions, it was a question as to what would happen next.  (Yes, I know, the suspense is killing you.)

Anyway, this week it finally registered with this feeble brain that there are not only Charlotte Mason Digital Archives online, but that if one types in "Programme 96" or whatever, one can have all those questions answered.  Programmes galore, right up through the 1930's.

So here's what I found, based on the Form III (age 12-15) programmes.  Other Forms did Plutarch as well, and occasionally Form IV did a different one, but generally I think it was the same across the school.

From my previous post:  "In Programme 90 (spring 1921), they did Timoleon.  Programme 91, Paulus Aemilius (big surprise).  Programme 92, Form III did Julius Caesar (it fit their history) and Form IV did Agis and Cleomenes.  Programme 93, Form III did Coriolanus, Form IV did Tiberius and Caius Gracchi.  Programme 94, everybody did Brutus."

Programme 95:  Alexander, first half, using the Blackie's English Texts version edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

Programme 96:  Alexander, second half.

Programme 97:  Aristides, "teacher to read with omissions."  The (North's) version recommended was from a multi-volume set of Plutarch published by Dent.  This is the first programme I've ever seen that actually mentioned the "necessary omissions"; my guess is that the Blackie's editions had been somewhat edited for schools but that they couldn't get Aristides in an edited version.

Programme 98:  Pyrrhus, from the Dent volume.  "Teacher to read with careful omissions."

Programme 99:  T.Q. Flamininus, "teacher to read suitable parts with careful omissions," from the Dent volume.

Programme 100:  Pompey, in a Blackie edition, but it's noted "pages 1-64."

Programme 101:  Pompey,  the rest of the book

Programme 102:  Themistocles, in a Blackie edition.

Programme 103:  Pericles, in a Blackie edition (the same two-in-one book as 102).  (Form IV as well)

Programme 104:  Julius Caesar, Blackie edition (so the first repeat we have had) (Form IV as well)

Programme 105:  Coriolanus.

Programme 106:  (Could you guess?)  Brutus.

Programme 107:  Demosthenes (Blackie edition combined with Alcibiades)

Programme 108:  Alcibiades (Blackie).

So there we go.

Linked from the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival at Higher Up and Further In.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Drama of Reading Aloud (Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 10)

"Reading aloud is the best outlet that I know of for hidden dramatic ability.  It is the best development of speaking ability, and the least complicated exercise for the use of one's voice and expression."  ~~ Edith Schaeffer, Hidden Art of Homemaking
If you've read Chapter 10 of Hidden Art, you'll  know that the chapter has very little to do with drama (as in, let's put on a play) and a great deal to do with the importance of reading...aloud, families.  What's often stressed these days is the importance of reading to children, which is also very important and which can be almost the same thing.  But in terms of Hidden Art, this goes beyond simply "a story for the children" and becomes an intergenerational experience.
"I could not wait to begin reading to my first child, Priscilla.  I am afraid I started before she could possibly understand what it was all about, but she enjoyed being talked to just the same.  By the time she was eighteen months old she was clamouring every night for the same poem."  ~~ Edith Schaeffer
"She talks a lot about Peter Rabbit. We had a bunny or something in our own garden a few nights ago, that chewed off some bean vines and marigolds, so the story has become more real! She talks about Peter losing his jacket and shoes...When she sneezes she says “bless you,” but she prefers me to say “bless you my little fur child” from The Little Fur Family." ~~ Mama Squirrel's journal, when the Apprentice had just turned two
"To live through these books together, to experience them as a family, is something quite vivid and real, much much more real than reading alone." ~~ Edith Schaeffer
"We read her Jack and the Beanstalk (the Stephen Kellogg version) ...We went pretty easy on the grind-his-bones stuff, and that didn’t seem to bother her. She talks about the 'logre' (ogre), the golden eggs, and 'magic beans.'  She asked me if Jesus loves the logre."  ~~ Mama Squirrel's journal, just before the Apprentice turned three
"Our children go into the world of school, newspapers, TV, magazines, conversations and modern books, and are deluged with an almost monolithic voice of unbelief and materialism.  We ought not only to 'talk'--but try to take them and ourselves back into the hearing of other 'voices' as we shut out the 'world' and read."  ~~ Edith Schaeffer
"Babar continues to interest, she talks about the characters and asks me questions. At church someone requested prayer for someone who was ill, and she said, 'like the old king.' We’re still reading the Potter books. I have begun reading the authors’ names as I begin books, so now she’ll pick up a book and intone 'Peter Rabbit…by Bay-a-trix Potter...' She says she 'loves' the Beatrix Potter stories. She knows whole lines off by heart, from the five books we have. She carries the books around too." ~~ Mama Squirrel's journal
"...the talent will be employed in making it real to others.  And, incidentally, your own need in this area will begin to be fulfilled."  ~~ Edith Schaeffer
Photos by Mr. Fixit.  Copyright 2013, Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Last Week of Classes (updated)

Most of what we're going to get to this year...we've gotten to.  The rest will have to wait, because both Dollygirl and Mama Squirrel are ready for a break.  Ponytails is also in her last few days of public high school Grade Ten, and she will also be writing exams over the next week and a half.
We're still reading The Two Towers, and that won't be done by the end of school.  Summer reading!


Video about Brother Andrew:

Poetry, memory work

Key to Percents

"Waterfront activities" (swimming lesson)


Video about Brother Andrew:

Poetry, memory work

Key to Percents:  end-of-book test!

The Aeneid: 9 pages

Reading from the Book of Proverbs

Amy Grant video with French subtitles (fun!)

Virgil's Aeneid, by N.B. Taylor:  we read all the way to the end!

Critical Thinking Balance Benders, Level 2

A math challenge about patterns that I found online

A couple of Usborne pages about the late Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

To communicate with...words (Hidden Art, The Writing Chapter)

If one of Edith Schaeffer's main messages in The Hidden Art of Homemaking is that art communicates...

and that the forms of homemaking art she has already discussed (such as music, graphic art, decorating, flowers, food) communicate, non-verbally, something about the Creator, something of the beauty of His creation, something generally of beauty and put it another way, they are a sort of mostly-unspoken message that communicates what we believe (that there is a Creator God, that he has created us as individuals, that we are created in His image, meaning we share some of his attributes including something of His creativity)...

then is it paradoxical that the writing chapter seems the most difficult so far to place into that framework?

Maybe it's because when we think of a home, homemaking, we think visually, not verbally.  Other than maybe a quotation on the fridge, or an embroidered or stencilled motto, or something we've stuck up for education or inspiration in the homeschooling space, words themselves don't tend to be part of the homemaking scenery, or at least the permanent decoration of a room.  Books, magazines, newspapers, yes; but words as words, no, at least in Western culture; maybe verbally, through people conversing or singing, or heard on the radio, and of course all over the peanut butter jars and cereal boxes;  but not (usually) on the wall, not on the plate, not arranged artistically and then painted or photographed as a still life.  A quilt, a tree, a vase of flowers, a bowl of apples, a piano concerto all seem to have a more fluid way of coming into our field of vision (or hearing), speaking more strongly to anyone who comes within range than, say, a sermon, a paragraph, or even a poem, that has to be read from beginning to end, top to bottom. 

And, in fact, that's a big part of what Edith is trying to get us to do with all these hidden arts of homemaking: use visual (or musical, or culinary) language to communicate that God exists, that He created the world, that individuals matter because God created them in His image, that God loves us, and that Christians care for each other. The whole point is to be able to say those things in a kind of visual and active shorthand, rather than offending or boring people with streams of God-talk. Charlotte Mason said much the same thing: that parents should reserve direct talk about God for particularly meaningful moments; not that Deuteronomy is wrong where it says that we should speak of God when we rise up, walk on the way etc., but just that it's easy to weary children (or grownups) with endless religious verbiage.

So where does that leave our poor little unpretty words?
"To try to teach literature by starting with the applied use of words, or 'effective communication', as it's often called, then gradually work into literature through the more documentary forms of prose fiction and finally into poetry, seems to me a futile procedure. If literature is to be properly taught, we have to start at its centre, which is poetry, then work outwards to literary prose, then outwards from there to the applied languages of business and professions and ordinary life."--Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination
The words may not be decorative, but they're still important. What did people do at L'Abri besides hike in the mountains, eat orange rolls, and play guitars (and, according to Edith, do an awful lot of laundry and dishes?)  Talked.  Talked and talked and talked.  Sometimes they listened to tapes of talking.  Sometimes they read and then talked. 

Maybe, to try to combine Northrop Frye and Edith, the poetry they began with was a tea table, or the healing effects of working in the garden.  In one of the L'Abri-related books...I think maybe it was For the Children's Sake...a guest is mentioned as being struck by the children playing outside; just playing, being children.  He said that he didn't know that children still played like that.  The simple and meaningful times of life together can be seen as poetry.

But without the more prosy and ordinary words to surround those images, the poetry loses context.  According to Edith, that's where the value of brief "lunchbox" notes and longer letters to the children (and, in the next chapter, bedtime rituals and prayers)  comes in.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but eventually you're going to need at least a few of them to say, out loud or in writing, "I love you," "I'm sorry," or "Here's why we do what we do."   This doesn't negate what I was trying to say in a previous post about the importance of writers, or about trying to turn art (including written art) into something that's just religiously useful or a tool for evangelism...although written art can be "useful" in what Northrop Frye calls a reality-is-irrelevant sense, not in a didactic or isn't-that-nice way, but in the same way as a great painting is "useful": that it speaks to us of truth, of beauty, of God, through what it is.  In the next chapter, Edith talks more about one way we use words to communicate in our homes: through reading aloud to each other, and not just "religious" books and the Bible, but all kinds of fiction, poetry and more.

But for now, in this chapter, we need to allow the words-in-the-home, the words we speak or write to each other, to have their chance to do their own work.  Life, as Marilla said, is uncertain.  If we haven't been making the time to talk to those who are close by, or write or email those who are away, then we need to find the words to do that.
"Education is a matter of developing the intellect and the imagination, which deal with reality, and reality is always irrelevant."  ~~ Northrop Frye
Linked from the Hidden Art of Homemaking linky at Ordo Amoris.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting all swirly: the writing chapter (Hidden Art of Homemaking)


Up until this point in Hidden Art I haven't gotten too close to any specific talent or need-to-create that Edith Schaeffer has been describing.
I like to make stuff, but I'm not a decorator.

I cook dinner, but I'm not a chef.

I play the piano, but I don't consider myself much of a musician.

I even draw sometimes, but I am very far from being an artist. I'm satisfied with doodles.
Ah, but now we get to a bit of an "ouch" chapter for me: "Writing: Prose and Poetry."  My so-called training (twenty-plus years ago) was in writing.  I pick up books about writing.  I read biographies of writers. The thing I've never figured out what to do with, myself, is writing.  I'm not a professional writer, although I've occasionally been paid for writing magazine columns, and I've done a number of unpaid projects.  I've had ideas for novels, but they've usually fizzled.  I've often used the excuse, "there are too many bad books out there already, so why would I want to add another one?"  It's been a point of guilt (I should be doing such and such) and frustration (I don't think I really can do such and such), in the same way as Edith describes.  And when she talks about "boo hoo, you couldn't go to the music conservatory" or whatever, "so use your talents to bless those around you," in the other artistic areas, I'm fine with that.  But now she's saying, "use your writing talents to write funny notes for lunchboxes. Or maybe prayers."  I'm not so fine with that.
Emily Carr, "Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky"

Is that the way the artists and musicians feel about her suggestions in the other chapters, that painting a mural on your child's wall is the equivalent of having something hung in the National Gallery?  If you were meant to paint for the National Gallery, if you are Emily Carr or Mary Cassatt, you are not going to feel very fulfilled by little dibs and dabs here and there, occasional sketching jaunts to the park.  If you have the talent and drive and believe God has called you to be a serious artist, then your work deserves more respect than that.  If you have an important or uplifting or hilarious book churning to be born, then you should write it, and writing the Sunday School Christmas play is not the same thing. 

That's not to say that you can't have other responsibilities or jobs.  Lucy Maud Montgomery "scribbled" after hard days working in the post office and then taking care of her old grandmother.  Melissa Wiley wrote a post about how a busy mom finds time to write.  (Melissa said, "If I don’t write my head gets swirly with pent-up words and I am no use to anyone.")  But I think the reason this chapter gets under my skin has something to do with the fact that women artists, musicians, writers, have had a hard time being taken seriously, and taking themselves seriously.  It feels like a bit of betrayal to have Edith Schaeffer telling us that we ought to be satisfied with "just" using our creative talents to feed our families, decorate our homes, illustrate sermons.  Yes, those are very, very important places to use creativity, scatter grace, bless those around us!  But it strikes me that we need to be careful too not to think that our talents should be less...public?...just because we're women.


My dad's family...his aunts, grandparents and so on, so mostly before my time...seem to have been a wildly creative bunch.  Unexpectedly so, since most of them were also staunch, staid Scottish Presbyterians;they were hardworking farm people, blacksmiths, housemaids. Several of them were musicians--not professionals, just church musicians, organists, people-with-tuning-forks.  Some were writers, book people, town librarians.  (There's probably a connection with Robert Louis Stevenson, although I'm not sure how that works out.)  One of my great-aunts painted in her spare time with pastels and oils, fulfilling a dream that her (staunch staid Anglican) mother had tried to squelch years before by refusing to let her take art lessons.   My uncle was a florist. I have cousins on that side of the family who are decorators, design jewelery, make furniture (I think they probably blew glass and made candles during the 1970's too).

And there was one particular auntie...she was my great-great-aunt, so I never remember her as anything but old (she looked like Corrie Ten Boom).  But out of all of the relatives, she was known for being the most young-at-heart.  She lived to be ninety-plus, and even then she liked to make people laugh, especially with funny verses.  I don't think she ever wrote a book or got particularly angsty (see above) about her need to make art; she just created anyway.  When she was a young thing of about forty, she wrote a funny poem about an adventure she had delivering furniture with my great-aunt (the painter) and another young lady who became my grandmother (and who expressed her own creativity mostly through quilts).  It started like this:

"Lend me your ears and you will hear
A tale that I shall unfold
How three young maids without any fear
Rode off in a truck quite old.

"T’was a model of 1914, they say
And that I can well understand.
It sure could travel all the way.
But it rattled to beat the band.

"On the outside was 'Cowan’s Maple Buds'
In lettering large and red.
And on the inside-a sewing machine
And springs for an iron bed...."

She enjoyed life, she was well-loved, and the thirty years since she's been gone have been the poorer for not having her around.  Is that a resolution to the problem?--that, sometimes, those things are enough?


Did you ever hear of Lillias Trotter?  She was a turn-of-the-last-century missionary in Algeria.  Before that, when she was young, she was a very promising painter, a protégé of the artist and critic John Ruskin.  He said that if she concentrated on her art career, she would probably become very famous.  She thought it over,  and decided God was calling her to devote her life to missions instead.  She didn't feel she could could do both.  Her story reminds me (to come back to the Schaeffers) of Jane Stuart Smith, who left a career in opera to work at L'Abri.  Lillias continued to use her art, recording desert landscapes and illustrating her devotional books.  Jane continued to minister with music, in various ways.  Talented women who "drop out" tend to be viewed as if they've betrayed the sisterhood somewhat, as if these underachievers haven't done enough to prove that they're people-not-just-women.  And that's me too, I guess.  I "dropped out" (not that I was doing all that well even "dropping in" in the first place) to do the things I've been doing for the past twenty years. 

The sermon at our church yesterday referred to the verse in Proverbs about ants who store food in summer.  The speaker (a woman!) pointed out that the true wisdom of these ants (or in Leo Lionni's mice) is in knowing what season they're in--not hung up on the past or the future, but living out the tasks that are given them today; not being unprepared for the winter, but making the most of seasons of preparation.  I think of Edith's expoundings on creativity as somewhat like that.  It isn't good  to think either "I could have done" or "maybe someday" to the point where you can't make the most of today.  Even if maybe you have to write in the bathroom or whatever.  But that doesn't stop you from thinking ahead either, maybe to times when life will change, for good or bad; in using and improving the skills you have use for future needs. 

And as for me...I have to go put the squash on for supper.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rosemary Sutcliff's King Arthur Trilogy (Book Review)

The Sword and the Circle (1981); The Light Beyond the Forest (1979); The Road to Camlann (1981), by Rosemary Sutcliff.  Published in one volume as The King Arthur Trilogy or King Arthur Stories.

How do you compare the work of two storytelling masters like T.H. White (The Once and Future King) and Rosemary Sutcliff?  I recently finished Sutcliff's King Arthur Trilogy, and then went back and re-read a good part of White's version, which I'd forgotten a good deal of since reading the first two books of it with The Apprentice years ago.  (Ambleside Online recommends that only the first two books of TOaFK be read in Year Seven, since the other two are darker and more adult.)  I've been looking for a good King Arthur choice for Crayons for next fall, when she will be in Year Seven, and I'm leaning towards The Sword and the Circle. It's not that the two wouldn't be complementary, but, as a trilogy (Sutcliff) or a four-"book" novel (White), they're both pretty long.  Not to mention intense.

And this is where King Arthur, any King Arthur, becomes problematic for school reading.  White points out somewhere in TOaFK that there is a reason Malory's 15th-century Le Morte d'Arthur is called what it's called ("The Death of Arthur").  The beginning of the story is the beginning of the end, and the end, we are led to believe, is inevitable.  Friendship leads to betrayal, and laws intended for justice bring grief.  Evil women conspire and seduce, friends and family members kill each other, and knights described as gallant and gentle also destroy and are destroyed.  To take the story to its end is to explore tragedy.  But how far do you want to go with that exploration, say with a twelve-year-old?

Sutcliff's rendering--she draws heavily on Malory as well as on other ballads and legends--is more traditional and straightforward, not as satirical as White's.  It's also much less talky; White's characters have long philosophical conversations about might and right, and he spends pages trying to set straight our romanticized ideas of the "Arthurian age."  Sutcliff takes less of a world-weary tone, makes fewer all-over-the-place analogies (White compares one battle to a scene from the Wild West), and does not include White's gruesome and detailed descriptions of magic practices and other disturbing images (parental previewing is seriously recommended).  Neither is particularly explicit about the relationship between Lancelot and Guenever. On the other hand, even the first of Sutcliff's three books is full of sword exploits, bereaved maidens, and the evil half-sisters.  These are fairy tales grown large and serious, and when the wizard and the enchantress characters have faded out partway through the story, what's left is a seriously confused bunch of human beings, most of them decent-hearted but with a couple of apparent sociopaths among them to keep things stirred up.

If, like the book Peter Pan, you (and the twelve-year-old) can accept the story, in either Sutcliff or White's telling, mostly as fairy tale, as legend, as a stage drama; if you can view it as the inspiration for dozens of later storytellers, poets, painters; then probably either volume, or limited parts of it as AO recommends, will work as literature for junior-high age.
"He said then, that when Percival came to join us, it would be as though he were a herald."
"A herald?"
"A sign, then.  For by his coming we should know that within less than a year the Mystery of the Holy Grail would come--will come, upon us here at Camelot...and the knights will leave the Round Table and ride out upon the greatest quest of all."
"We shall come together again," said Lancelot, trying to console him.
"Some of us," said the King.  "But it will not be the same; never the same again....We shall have served our purpose; made a shining time between the Dark and the Dark.  Merlin said that it would be as though all things drew on to the golden glory of the sunset.  But then it will all be over."  ~~ Rosemary Sutcliff, The Sword and the Circle

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Time Traveller Week (updated)

"Camp Doll Diaries" continues this week with a "Time Traveller" theme, so we're working that into our second-last week of school.  Good chance to finish up history studies!  We will also continue reading The Two Towers.

(I am not including our regular opening times, poetry etc. here.)


History (Augustus Caesar's World):  "Hermann the German"
Key to Percents:  page 35.
French:  played Concentration with vocabulary words, but you had to put them into a sentence before you could claim a pair
The Aeneid, pages 170-180: lots of fighting, actually quite a violent ten pages.
Camp Crafts and Time Travelling
The Two Towers
Swimming lesson after supper


Opening:  a poem by George Herbert
History (Augustus Caesar's World): "Farewell Augustus"; we watched a clip from Winston Churchill's state funeral as a comparison
Key to Percents: page 36, 37.
Balance Benders
French:  practice putting vocabulary words in sentences; write sentences using French words for "I want," "you want," "she wants."
The Aeneid, pages 181-189:  the gods all have a meeting to discuss their involvement/interference in the friction between the Trojans and the Rutulians; Venus says it's not fair, Juno says the Trojans deserve what they get, and Jove says he's staying out of it.
Camp Crafts:  made a pair of doll flip-flops plus an ink well and a clipboard for Samantha.
Camp Sports: driveway basketball with Dad


History (Augustus Caesar's World): "The Kingdom of Heaven"
Key to Percents: page 38, 39
Read aloud: Tolkien
Camp Crafts and Time Travelling


Morning activity:  baking cookies at a friend's house (it's a church thing for Father's Day).


History (Augustus Caesar's World): "A New Religion for Rome" (end of the book)
Key to Percents: page 40, 41 (almost done Book 2)
Work on People Pages/timelines.
The Aeneid, pages 190-200
Camp Crafts and Time Travelling
Camper-of-the-week Awards

Friday, June 07, 2013

What's for supper? (really cleaning out the fridge, again)

Tonight's dinner menu:

Stovetop dinner inspired by a Leave-it-to-Beaver-era recipe, but using, more or less, what we had on hand:  a pound of ground beef, some macaroni,  a can of mushroom soup plus a bit of leftover tomato soup, a bit of corn, celery, and seasonings.  Definitely some seasonings.  And cheese on top.

Carrot and zucchini sticks

Fruit pie made with the end of some frozen fruit and an oatmeal topping.

Tomorrow:  groceries.

Sheer nostalgia #4: Tupperware toys

Tupperware toys were everywhere when I was a kid.  At our house, at friends' houses, in doctors' waiting rooms.  I was invited to a Tupperware party recently and noticed that they still have some of the same toys.  Too bad our kids are too old for them.
 Our kids' dentist had a vintage set of these animal toys in his waiting room.
 We had Pop-a-lot toys like this pair, but ours had a sort of snap-action instead of a squishy bulb.
Shape Sorter:  still in the catalogue!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Sheer nostalgia #3: Mis-named dolls

Sometimes tracking down childhood toys, especially dolls, can be stymied by the names we gave them; we know that we named a favourite doll after a friend or someone in a book, but we don't remember what it really said on the box.  Usually the box is long, long gone anyway.  I had a drink-and-wet doll that always went by "Bat Baby," named not after the superhero but because I had pointed at her in a store just before Christmas, when I was almost two, and asked for "bat baby."  I think she was a Horsman doll, but it's hard to tell because, like a lot of inexpensive dolls of that era, her pretty blonde hair quickly acquired the texture of a pot scrubber.

The doll with the red-and-white stripes was called Rosemary.  I have no idea if that was her real name.  (That's a visiting friend holding Rosemary and wearing the luffly hat.  I'm the one in the fedora.)

The doll in the photo below was always called "Kimmie."  I assumed that I'd named her...or someone had...after my cousin Kim.
Turns out the doll actually was a "Kimmie."  She was one of a line of very popular Native-costumed dolls sold by Regal Imports in the early 1960's.  Well, once in awhile you get lucky.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Sheer nostalgia #2: toys from our past

Found on Ebay here.

I had forgotten about this toy for about forty years.  When I started searching for "plastic steam roller," I wasn't sure I'd even remember what it looked like...and I think my grandpa might have had more than one.

But this was one of them.  Almost for sure, unless my mind is completely playing tricks and I'm thinking of my aunt's grey-and-red roller skates.

My grandpa?  He loved steam trains and steam farm equipment.  He drove a vintage steam tractor at an annual Labour Day steam fair.  Somebody probably gave him this for a joke present...and it became something for the grandchildren to play with.  Being the oldest grandchild, that would have been me, until the others came along.  On the floor, from the dining room into Grandma's kitchen, and back again.  Over the heating grate.  Back to the kitchen again.

I'd forgotten.  Sometimes it takes a picture to drag things up.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Sheer nostalgia: a toy from my past

I didn't own this push-toy.  It resided in a tiny bookcase in the dining room of a great-aunt and uncle, along with a tub of kindergarten beads and a fake book with a snake that popped out.  These were their "toys to amuse visiting children," and we pushed those piggies, strung those beads, and popped that snake many times over the years, while the adults visited.
(It's not my photo either--I found it online.)

Monday, June 03, 2013

Almost as good as a "specious family home"

Back in 2007, I posted about a real estate listing that offered a "specious family home," and that wasn't unique: a search for that phrase brought up an amazing number of "specious homes" for sale [my 2017 note].

Yesterday we saw a listing almost as good.  This one had an "expensive foyer."

Like this, maybe?  But I think they meant "expansive."