Friday, September 29, 2017

Now how did that end up at the thrift store?

I've said before that the goal of thrift shopping is not about getting a J. Crew haul and then blogging or vlogging about it. The "big score" is less important than finding something pretty or useful. Even if I find something name-brand, I don't usually post the name here--it feels like advertising.

But I was thriftily pleased this morning to find a Miik stretchy shirt in good condition, for a small fraction of its original price. Miik is a Canadian sustainable-ecological clothing company, and it's a bit out of my budget. So that was unexpected...and pretty and useful.

The belt on top of the shirt was a dollar. I keep finding fun belts lately.
I also found a Klutz Cards kit...another one of those thrifted things where you might not make cards, but you're still getting templates and measuring tools and cardstock and fancy paper. Can't lose. But since I do want to make cards, it's even better.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Quote for the Day: The outpouring of a human heart

"The Christian religion is, in its very nature, objective. It offers for our worship, reverence, service, adoration and delight, a Divine Person, the Desire of the world. Simplicity, happiness and expansion come from the outpouring of a human heart upon that which is altogether worthy. But we mistake our own needs, are occupied with our own falls and our own repentances, our manifold states of consciousness. Our religion is subjective first, and after that, so far as we are able, objective. The order should rather be objective first and after that, so far as we have any time or care to think about ourselves, subjective." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, Chapter 26: The Eternal Child

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Jumping cats and homemade noodles

From this Side of the Pond

1. What pets did you have while growing up? Tell us a little something about them.

The usual mix of dogs, cats, gerbils, goldfish, guinea pigs...not all at once.

We had bad luck with cats. The first one disappeared (that was in the days when it was more common to let cats wander at night). The next one had been abused and never got over his earlier rough treatment. The third was a Siamese given to my sister, who, we then discovered, was allergic to animals. We kept her anyway (I meant the cat, not my sister) and she lived with my parents for years. The cat was allowed in the living room, but our large dog wasn't; we had trained her not to go in there. The dog, maybe to make up for her imprisonment in the kitchen, liked to nap in the living room doorway. The cat would take a running leap over the dog, land in the living room, and stand there snickering.

2. What is one thing you absolutely must accomplish today?

Anything requiring warm weather. Our hot spell is supposed to disappear by the end of today.

We have to go to the Euro-grocery to replenish our meat and perogy supply. The freezer in the apartment, besides being smaller than we're used to, doesn't keep things well for very long; they get freezer-burned much faster than they did even in the freezer compartment of our old fridge. So we don't buy too much at a time.

3. Where were you ten years ago? What were you doing there?

The end of September 2007: our oldest daughter had moved on to classes at high school, except for Canadian history, but I was still busy homeschooling a ten-year-old and a six-year-old. From the blog that month:
Crayons has been reading books to herself at an awesome speed; I'm glad we can go a little slower with her school time books. We're enjoying the Just So Stories and the rest of Year One; we've also been going through the Little House books at bedtime.
We've done less on crafts than I wanted to this month, but that's partly because the weather's been so good; in all the school days that Crayons circled the weather symbols in her planner, there was only about one day she didn't circle the sun. But there's no big hurry...Christmas is only THREE MONTHS AWAY...
We're taking a bit longer than I expected to work through two books that we're all reading together: Organized KIDZ and Ben Franklin. We're also reading Five Little Peppers together. So it's just as well that I decided to hold off on starting Astronomy and French until later this fall--we're busy enough for now.
And if you want to know how The Apprentice is doing...she's solving equations for x and y using elimination and substitution; exploring problems of ecosystems; watching videos about the early 20th century (with me); teaching the younger Squirrelings how to play chess (okay, she's just learning herself); and her second-year hairstyling class finally gets to Use Scissors. Kind of like student nurses passing their probation in all those old nurse novels...I think she's also reading Emma.
4. September 26th is National Dumpling Day. Did you celebrate? Apple dumpling, xiao long bao (steamed Chinese dumpling), chicken and dumplings, pirogi, matzoh balls, or gnocchi...which dumpling on this list would be your dumpling of choice? Have you ever made homemade dumplings of any kind?

No, we did not have dumplings yesterday, but I will probably buy frozen perogies today.

My grandmother was of Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage (well, partly; almost none of my relatives were just one thing). She learned to make these noodles from her grandmother, and then taught me. One of our extended-family traditions was making a giant kettle of "pot pie," and it didn't happen very often because making the noodles was a lot of trouble (a good reason for training the grandchildren to help). 

5. 'There are two kinds of adventurers: those who go truly hoping to find an adventure and those who go secretly hoping they don't.' William Trogdon

So which kind are you?

Depends on what the adventure turns out to be! I would say I have both some Took and some Baggins.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

This Friday morning I will be starting something sort of new, sort of old. Hint: it has to do with books, but it's not writing. Guesses?

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quote for the day: Sounds like twaddle to me

"Entirely pleased with themselves, they offered the child books that represented themselves, with all their attributes thrown in, their practical sense, their science, their hypocrisy,and their ankylosis. They offered him books that oozed boredom, that were likely to make him detest wisdom forever; silly books and empty books, pedantic books and heavy books; books that paralyzed the spontaneous forces of his soul; absurd books by tens and by hundreds, falling like hail on the springtime. The sooner they stifled a young heart, the sooner they effaced from a young spirit the sense of freedom and pleasure in play; the sooner they imposed limits, rules, and constraints, the more men were pleased with themselves for having raised childhood without delay to their own state of supreme perfection." ~~ Paul Hazard, Books, Children & Men, translated by Marguerite Mitchell

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Quote for the day: Prayer matters

"And if things cannot be changed, why pray? We may gloomily feel this way, but the Bible does not teach that...It is Stoicism that demands a closed universe, not the Bible. Many people who emphasize acquiescence and resignation to the way things are as 'the will of God' are actually closer to Epictetus than to Christ." ~~ Richard J. Foster, The Celebration of Discipline

Friday, September 22, 2017

What is it about first-day-of-fall Google Doodles?

Just as good as last year's?

Autumn Equinox 2017

Politicians who call names should watch more PBS Kids

They really, really need to watch the Arthur episode "D.W.'s Name Game."

Here's a transcript.

Here's the 20-second version: Arthur and his little sister D.W. have an episode-long war of words, mostly involving bigger and better adjectives for each other. D.W. has a dream in which she meets The Saurus (get it? he looks like a dinosaur), and she is told the ultimate name to call Arthur. When she uses it, Arthur melts, and she realizes how destructive their game is. She wakes up, and they make up.

Here's a quote:
D.W.: Nobody told me you'd melt! Arthur!
 She scoops him up in her Mary Moo-Cow cup. What's left of him, including the glasses, speaks to her from inside the cup.
 Arthur: Calling people names can be dangerous to their health. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Quote for the Day: They can stop sneering now

"Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. To our refined forefathers, we suppose, Lord Roscommon’s Essay on Translated Verse, and the Duke of Buckinghamshire’s Essay on Poetry, appeared to be compositions infinitely superior to the allegory of the preaching tinker. We live in better times; and we are not afraid to say, that, though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two minds which possessed the imaginative faculty in a very eminent degree. One of those minds produced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pilgrim’s Progress." ~~ Thomas Babington Macaulay, "The Pilgrim's Progress and John Bunyan"
(It's a great essay. You can read the whole thing at that link--just scroll down and click to view it.) 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

That's what you call a *really* minimal wardrobe.

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Fading to Fall

From this Side of the Pond

1. What's something you'd rate a 10/10? Tell us why.

A book I picked up by accident on a free-books table, and reviewed for our church library. Since the library didn't have the book, I donated my copy...kind of what goes around, comes around? This is what I wrote:

Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, by Os Guinness (IVP, 2014). “Call it renewal, call it reformation, call it restoration…What matters is that it is a movement that is led by the Spirit of God, which involves the people of God returning to the ways of God and so demonstrating in our time the kingdom of God, and not in word only but in power and with the plausibility of community expression.” This new book asks the old question: how do Christians live in the world but not of it?  Has the answer to that changed? What are the biggest challenges to the church in this century? What are the greatest opportunities? This would be a particularly valuable book for young adults to read as they try to make sense of the world around them, but it is equally appropriate for those of us who may feel we’re playing catch-up with a rapidly changing culture. There are prayers and study questions after each chapter, and the text of the 2008 Evangelical Manifesto is included as an appendix.

2. What job would you be terrible at? What makes you think so?

I can think of several: gym teacher, police officer, telemarketer, bookkeeper, 
Image result for sally henny-penny
Sally Henny Penny gets rather flustered when she tries to count out change, and she insists on being paid cash; but she is quite harmless. ~~ Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Ginger and Pickles
3. When did you last take a fall? What's something you're falling for (in a good way) these days?

A literal fall? See the Hodgepodge from four weeks ago.

I'm not sure about the rest of it.

4. According to the Travel Channel here are some of America's best fall festivals-

National Apple Harvest Festival (near Arendtsville PA, close to Gettysburg), Harvest on the Harbor (Portland Maine), German Village Festival (Columbus Ohio), Wellfleet Oyster Fest (Cape Cod), and Wine and Chile Fiesta (Santa Fe NM)

Have you ever been to any of the festivals listed? Which one appeals to you most? Does your hometown have any sort of fall celebration, and if so will you make it a point to attend?

There are fall festivals all over southern Ontario, including fall fairs, the Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, and Oktoberfest. They're fun, but not something we're really involved with (except maybe going to the Oktoberfest parade on Canadian Thanksgiving).

5. What is your goodbye message to summer?

You've overstayed here: here's your sunhat, what's your hurry?

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Yesterday afternoon we did not have water in our building, because some needed repairs took longer than they should have. Finally there was limited cold water but not hot, through most of the evening..People in the building were complaining loudly. I walked over to the discount store just before it closed, and bought some bottled water just in case. When I got back, Mr. Fixit had boiled two kettles of water and was washing the dinner dishes. The tap water came back to its original state at about bedtime.

And I thought about people who live without hot water every day, and people who can't get clean water, and people who are without power. We are lucky to be in a place where things go wrong, but do get fixed. It's not something we should take for granted.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I have been painting with yarn (you can do it too)

Yarn Painting With Natural Fibre Yarns and Beeswax Complete Fibre Art Kit - Sunset, 
produced by Kathy White, a fibre artist from Stratford, Ontario 
(Links are at the bottom of this post)

Kathy White, an Ontario fibre artist who also does demonstrations and workshops, wanted to share her yarn and beeswax technique with people who were interested but who didn't know where to find the materials. She has begun selling small kits online, which include pretty much everything you need to make a simple sunset-and-water picture.

You press lengths of yarn into the beeswax, more or less following the photograph on the package. The board is scored with the arc of the sunset and the line of the horizon, but that's all; it's not paint-by-numbers. Because the colours of yarn vary from kit to kit, you may not end up with traditional sunset colours (mine is all blues and greens).  Kathy's blog post about the kits shows a piece she made herself from the kit materials, which looks quite different again.

This is something that most kids could do as well as adults, but (as shown on Kathy's website), the technique can be used for very beautiful and intricate pieces of art. Some young children might not have the patience to line up the rows of fine yarn smoothly, especially at the edges, where it can be a bit tricky to keep things even. 

The kit contains a 5x7 inch beeswax-covered board, natural-fibre yarn in several colours, a chopstick tool, and instructions; you supply scissors and hairdryer (optional, for setting finished work). I have a shorter wooden tool for making toothbrush rugs, which I found I preferred to a longer tool. You can also use other tools such as knitting needles. You will also need to supply your own frame, if you want one.
Partly-done picture, showing the beeswax-coated board on the bottom half
Completed picture

Kathy White's website (there is a contact form there)
A blog post with more information about the kits

Disclaimer: I received this product as a gift from the artist, but I was not otherwise compensated for posting the review.

Challenging Quote (and blog post) for the Day

"There’s a big difference between tidying up your home and freeing up your life. Instead of merely sparking some joy within yourself, light a fire in the world." ~~ Joshua Becker, "'Does it Spark Joy?' is the Wrong Decluttering Question"

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quote for the day: Why we are what we are

"What does it mean that man is made in God's image? Well, among other things it certainly means this: man is moral...Also, man is rational...It also means that man is creative...It is also the reason why man loves."--Francis Schaeffer, Basic Bible Studies

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Quote for the day: It's mediocre (Joshua Gibbs on Circe)

"Good things are hard to like, and mediocre things easy. Mediocre things are tailored to our most ready, most easily accessible desires. All men desire beauty and goodness, but those desires lay buried deep within our souls and we are only willing to hoist them out on rare occasions. Liking good things requires effort, but we are accidentally seduced by the mediocre. The man who succumbs early to the temptations of mediocrity knows that, whatever else, he at very least has a great volume of something in store for himself. There is far more money to be made in the mediocre than in the beautiful and good." ~~ "The Dangers of Mediocrity in a Consumerist Society," by Joshua Gibbs on the Circe Blog

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Always room for less

We have had this apartment a little over five months, and have lived here about four. Although we had previously decluttered (a lot), the short time we had to sort, pack, and move our belongings did not allow for much fine-tuning. We eased the transition by renting a storage unit, mostly for Mr. Fixit's business needs, but also for holiday decorations, a few boxes of books, and a couple of bulky things like car ramps (used for oil changes).

It's now time for Phase Two: we're planning to close out the storage unit and bring it all home. Or at least the parts of it that fit. Or that we want to fit.

Did I mention the three large plastic bins of Christmas decorations? Yeah. Well, we did sort through them, just before we moved, in a Clean Sweep Yes-Maybe-No style. We cut down quite a bit, but that was with the plan of keeping the storage unit until at least Christmas.  Now things have changed, so we'll have to rethink. Strangely enough, our artificial tree is not a huge priority. It does fold up in a box, but it's still a large box. And if we didn't have the tree, we wouldn't need the lights, and so on.

What's already here that could be rearranged or reduced? Where could car ramps go, at least temporarily? (The balcony is the only real option.) We have some large boxes of photos in the storage room (in our unit), and some of those could be digitized, making more room for other things. I've already emptied a bin of all-the-other-holidays-of-the-year decorations, and rerouted the important ones to a closet shelf.

The boxes of picture books and teaching books...well, somehow we will find spots for the important stuff. We've found that, often, two boxes can be reduced to one, if that's what it takes. But there is almost nothing (even a Christmas tree) that is so important it can't be replaced, or lived without.

There is always room for less.

Monday, September 11, 2017

From the archives: Pedagogical Passion, Part One

First posted August 2013. One update: Ordo Amoris is no longer readable.

When I think of passion in learning, I think of Cindy Rollins' Ordo Amoris blog.

"Passion" is not a recommended word to search for, generally, but if you limit the search to Cindy's blog, you get snippets such as "So that is what valor looks like but even more so that is how valor is memorialized, with passion not malaise" and "I just have a passion for literacy (reading and cultural)" and "I am passionate about the *idea* of living in a republic that followed our Constitution."  A shared passion for living and learning is definitely a good thing, and Cindy is one of its vocal and valued homeschooling proponents.

As a longtime homeschooling parent, and a pursuer of Charlotte Mason's philosophy, I would like to say that a passion for learning is something we just don't have a problem with around here. But it wouldn't be entirely true...or at least not if  "passion for learning" equals "passion for schoolwork."  Almost-seventh-grader Dollygirl loves to read, but mostly the books of her own choosing, not the "assigned" ones.  She likes to write, but again, not so much when it's assigned work.  I've seen this pattern emerge with the older girls, too:  "out of class" time is separate from "school."   If they feel that "their time," when lessons are done, is honestly "their time," then they seem to feel that they also have to differentiate their own reading, writing and other activities from assigned "schoolwork."  I've never heard any of them (even the Apprentice) begging for more math homework.  This question of ownership--and therefore passion, or lack thereof--has been a source of frustration (on my part, it doesn't seem to bother them!) for almost two decades.  Some readaloud books have blurred the line between "this is school" and "just Mom and me reading," but in general, that's the way it works, or doesn't work.

The funny thing is that some, most even, of what we do in school...even the difficult stuff, even if it's "coerced" or at least teacher-decided, has been very successful.  The Squirrelings have enjoyed Great Expectations and Silas Marner, and I'm pretty sure that Ivanhoe will also be a successful readaloud later in the year. They are good readers, and, when they want to, they can put words together pretty well too.  (Ponytails' work in public-school English class has earned her praise and high marks, in both ninth and tenth grades.)  But I hardly ever see one of them browsing for more Dickens or George Eliot or Scott; the Apprentice did read Jane Austen on her own, but that was the exception. Dollygirl's current personal reading consists of Harry Potter and the Cornelia Funke Inkheart books.

Some homeschoolers (or teachers) might suggest that the way to get older students to engage with learning would  be to leave the curriculum up to them.  If it's put on their plate, it comes from outside, isn't personally meaningful; if they've chosen it, they'll be interested.  I would say yes, to a point; I do give options wherever practical.  But, thinking of Charlotte Mason's quip about expecting people to make their own boots, it's even less consistent with our family's homeschool practice to let the kids decide if they're even going to wear shoes.  So to speak.

Since we follow, more or less, the Ambleside Online Curriculum, it's already pretty much decided: Year Seven follows Year Six and is followed by Year Eight. This year is Dollygirl's Year Seven, and, within reason, I'm expecting her to take on the work that's given in that outline. Promoting engagement by completely freeing up the curriculum is not an option for us.  It's not in tune with Charlotte Mason, it's not what I'm comfortable with, and it's not even (really) what our kids expect.

So how else do we find delight, engagement, passion, without expecting too much (or too little) of 21st-century, somewhat-distracted kids, and without turning them into prigs about learning?
 ("Mr Samuel Arrow, a wonderful man who... used to get us up from our beds before dawn for a good flossing.")

More (and a book review) in Part Two.  Make sure to come back, especially if you think I'm too hard on my kids.  Because you might be right.

From the archives: Charlotte Mason works, because it just does

First posted March 2013, as a conclusion to the study of Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason.

The last chapters of Volume Six are a) rambling, b) written for the public rather than homeschooling parents or PNEU teachers, and c) slightly out of alignment with the rest of the book because some of it ("The Basis of National Strength") had been published ten years before.  However, much of it is still relevant; in fact, very much so, since public education is such a hot topic. Charlotte looks at trends in education--good and bad--as they had affected whole nations:  a push for education in Prussia that got out of hand and ended in a utilitarian disaster, compared with cheerful-sounding adult schooling in Denmark that aimed at "a brand new world of readers." "Faced with infinite possibilities on either hand," which way would the nation's schools go?
"I do not hesitate to say that the constantly recurring misery of our age, 'Labour Unrest,' is to be laid at the door, not of the working man, but of the nation which has not troubled itself to consider the natural hunger of mind and the manner of meat such hunger demands."  ~~Charlotte Mason, "The Scope of Continuation Schools," Towards a Philosophy of Education
And if you have Philosophy of Education handy, check out pages 290-291, where Charlotte unfolds a secret of education.
"[They will say that] extensive reading is a 'good idea which we have all tried more or less' and that free narration "is a good plan in which there is nothing new.' It is true that we all read and that narration is as natural as breathing, its value depending solely upon what is narrated. What we have perhaps failed to discover hitherto is the immense hunger for knowledge (curiosity) existing in everyone and the immeasurable power of attention with which everyone is endowed; that everyone likes knowledge best in a literary form; that the knowledge should be exceedingly various concerning many things on which the mind of man reflects; but that knowledge is acquired only by what we may call 'the act of knowing,' which is both encouraged and tested by narration, and which further requires the later test and record afforded by examinations. This is nothing new, you will say, and possibly no natural law in action appears extraordinarily new; we take flying already as a matter of course; but though there is nothing surprising in the action of natural laws, the results are exceedingly surprising, and to that test we willingly submit these methods."
In other words:  yes, reading and narration are natural, that's why they work!  "Possibly no natural law in action appears extraordinarily new."  Why should we be amazed if we put the right pieces together and they actually work?  That is not to say that learning is a mechanical process--fit this here, solder this here and you'll have an educated child--but only that this approach to education fits the realities of who we are and how we are made.
"As things are we shall have to see it that everybody gets fed; but our hope is that henceforth we shall bring up our young people with self-sustaining minds, as well as self-sustaining bodies, by a due ordering of the process of education.  We hope so to awaken and direct mind hunger that every man's mind will look after itself."  ~~"The Scope of Continuation Schools"

Photos of 1942 Addison Courthouse radio by Mr. Fixit.  Copyright 2013 Dewey's Treehouse.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Saturday rummage saling

It's church rummage sale season again, and one of our favourite annual sales was this morning. This year they did not price the items but asked for a small donation instead.

I brought home two vintage Christmas magazines, fourteen French-Impressionist postcards, and two craft kits which, to me, are just a good source of embroidery floss, fabric, and other odds and ends. It looks like quite a haul when you spread it out.

The 1977 Christmas Helps magazine contains the usual frightening array of weird '70's crafts and fashion. "Dear Aunt Bessie, thank you for sewing me that lovely jumper made like a giant ladybug." However, it's set up in a countdown-to-Christmas style that I'm thinking might inspire some blog posts here in the weeks to come. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Quote for the Day: What Rebecca Read

A thrill of delicious excitement ran through Rebecca's frame, from her new shoes up, up to the leghorn cap and down the black braid. She pressed Mr. Cobb's knee ardently and said in a voice choking with tears of joy and astonishment, "Oh, it can't be true, it can't; to think I should see Milltown. It's like having a fairy godmother who asks you your wish and then gives it to you! Did you ever read Cinderella, or The Yellow Dwarf, or The Enchanted Frog, or The Fair One with Golden Locks?"

"No," said Mr. Cobb cautiously, after a moment's reflection. "I don't seem to think I ever did read jest those partic'lar ones. Where'd you get a chance at so much readin'?"

"Oh, I've read lots of books," answered Rebecca casually. "Father's and Miss Ross's and all the dif'rent school teachers', and all in the Sunday-school library. I've read The Lamplighter, and Scottish Chiefs, and Ivanhoe, and The Heir of Redclyffe, and Cora, the Doctor's Wife, and David Copperfield, and The Gold of Chickaree, and Plutarch's Lives, and Thaddeus of Warsaw, and Pilgrim's Progress, and lots more.--What have you read?"

"I've never happened to read those partic'lar books; but land! I've read a sight in my time! Nowadays I'm so drove I get along with the Almanac, the Weekly Argus, and the Maine State Agriculturist.--There's the river again; this is the last long hill, and when we get to the top of it we'll see the chimbleys of Riverboro in the distance. 'T ain't fur. I live 'bout half a mile beyond the brick house myself."

Rebecca's hand stirred nervously in her lap and she moved in her seat. "I didn't think I was going to be afraid," she said almost under her breath; "but I guess I am, just a little mite--when you say it's coming so near."

~~ Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Thursday, September 07, 2017

From the archives: Preschool theology

First posted September 2005.

Last Friday we returned from a shopping trip and realized, on the way home, that part of the city had been hit by a power blackout (a hydro pole caught fire). When we got home, we were relieved to find that our power was still on, although we were very close to the area that was affected.

While we were putting the things away, I said to Crayons, just trying to express some thankfulness, "God must have been helping us! Our lights are still on and we can cook supper. Some peoples' lights are out and they can't work their stoves."

Crayons thought a minute and asked, "Isn't God helping the other people?"

Umm....didn't one of Edith Schaeffer's grandchildren ask almost the same question after a storm (in one of her books)? "God made the stars. God made the trees." "Did God make the trees blow down too?"

They start asking the big questions so early without even realizing they're doing it. Do we have answers for them? When 1 Peter 3:15 says "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (NKJV)," did he think he'd be including four-year-olds?

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: A recipe for contentment

From this Side of the Pond

1. When you think about your future what do you fear most? Hope for the most?

"He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because thou savest such.

Fulness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age."

~~ John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (Part II)

2. September is National Chicken Month. How often is chicken on the menu at your house? What's a favorite dish made with chicken? What's something you're a 'chicken' about doing or trying?

We used to have chicken quite often, but lately it's been expensive. Sometimes Mr. Fixit buys a whole small chicken and we do it in the slow cooker, with a little seasoning or maybe barbecue sauce. Lydia had a friend here for dinner on the weekend and I made Ten Napkins Sticky Chicken, something we hadn't had for a long time but that everybody likes.

You could say I am a chicken when it comes to climbing high things or going too close to the edge. Like on apartment balconies, ahem. I prefer to admire the view from inside.

3. What are three things you don't own but wish you did?

That's an interesting question. Here's Mr. Fixit's list:

"A garage with a hoist, and a 1969 Nikko amplifier."

Here's my list:

My Samsung tablet is going to need replacing soon, so that's on my wish list.

If I ever take another more-than-overnight trip, I would like to have one of the newer-style bags with a handle and wheels.

But honestly...there isn't much else. When I went to Toronto last week, I had half an hour to stroll through the big-name stores we don't have here, before heading to the subway station under the mall. When I was younger, going to that mall with my parents was a rare and special treat. Even when I lived in the city as a student, I enjoyed browsing through the shops full of things I couldn't afford.  This time, I left there thinking, "I'm glad I already like my own things." (And that wasn't just because I was heading to the Tiny Wardrobe Tour.)

4. Would you rather be a jack of all trades or a master of one? Elaborate.  If you answered one, which one?

Mr. Fixit says "Master of electronics." Which I think he is already, but he's also handy at other things.

Me...I'm not sure how to answer that. Definitely not all trades, maybe good at a couple.

5. Ketchup or mustard? On what?

Ketchup: mixed with brown sugar, baked under Leanne Ely's Upside-Down Meatloaf.

Mustard: on Oktoberfest sausage on a bun.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

I just finished re-reading Little Women, the first part. (Like The Pilgrim's Progress, there's a lot of argument over whether you include the second part in the general title.) It wasn't a book I loved when I was growing up, although I think I did plow dutifully through it once, along with Eight Cousins and Jack and Jill. I was more of an Anne fan. This time through, I was looking for different things; and I was surprised at a few details that don't usually make it into filmed versions. The long serious conversations, mostly. The mailbox in their back yard--Alcott seemed to love that kind of detail, and there was a similar setup in Jack and Jill, where they sent "things" (we are not given all the details) in a basket across a clothesline. I also liked the picnic with their British counterparts, where every character contributes the next part of an ad-libbed story. It was a clever way for her to reinforce each one's traits and point of view.  Again, it's the sort of scene that comes up in Jack and Jill (a lengthy play-by-play of their debating society meeting and then a dramatic performance), and in An Old-Fashioned Girl (a detailed description of the conversations at a young working women's lunch). Conversations and long descriptions of what games they played or who did what on stage are the sort of thing abridgers like to axe...too long, don't move the plot...but I think they sometimes show the author at her most relaxed, and they give us some unintended but genuine "peeps" into what people of the time did and thought--when they weren't trying to be too high-minded.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

From the archives: First week of school, eleven years ago

First posted September 5, 2006. Ponytails was almost nine, in Grade 4 and doing an AO 3.5 year I created for her. Crayons (Lydia) was five and doing kindergarten work. The Apprentice was doing a combination of AO Year 9 and classes at the public high school.

What do you do to get ready for the next school day? Just open the book? Make up lesson plans? Somewhere in between? This is a process post...

We're still so new at this school year that I'm making up "lists of what we have to do today," even though Ponytails' and Crayons' work is in my binder, supposedly there to be drawn on. So I go through my list and think "how will I do this? What books do I need? Where are the Scrabble letters?" This is what I'm doing right now.

[Updates after we've done this. I forgot to say that we started by reading Psalm 24 (we have a nice copy of it from an old Sunday School paper), by singing "Day by Day" (see our last Sunday hymn post), and by praying.]

Bible: 1 Samuel chapter 9, the story of Saul and the lost donkeys. Remember last year when we read about the Judges? Now Samuel is old and Israel wants a king. Picture the scene: Can you imagine the day when Saul's donkeys got lost and he was wandering around searching for them? Read the chapter. Take turns narrating. See what other points come up: maybe that God is behind all that happens, even lost donkeys and which way Saul went.

[Update: I should have known we couldn't read a story about runaway donkeys without some references back to The Great Pig Search.]

Spelling: Ponytails find words that start with anti- , and put them into the Personal Dictionary she started last year. Crayons make words that have "an" in them, using Scrabble letters, and copy some of them on paper.

[Update: there are very few good grade 4 spelling words that start with the prefix "anti-." However, we did find one classic: antidisestablishmentarianism. Ponytails added it to her dictionary.]

History (Ponytails): read A Child's History of the World, chapter 5 ("Real History"), for 10 to 15 minutes while I do math with Crayons.

Crayons' math: put one popsicle stick in our "100 days" container. (That makes two!) Do a little work on the hundred chart with me (What is 2 more than 52? What is 2 less than 32?). Trace numerals in a dollar-store math workbook (she still has trouble with reversals).

[Addition: while Ponytails was reading her book on the back porch, Crayons and I also had time to read "The Jumblies" and "The Dong with the Luminous Nose." She likes Edward Lear a lot.]

History: Ponytails narrate back to me.

Memory work: Ponytails work on one Emily Dickinson poem. [She chose "My river runs to thee."]

Writing: we usually have handwriting scheduled here for Ponytails, but we're going to skip it today.

Math for Ponytails: work on the first couple of worksheets in Making Math Meaningful (about place value through the hundred thousands). If Crayons wants some of this math too, show her how to use Base 10 blocks to show tens and ones (like her popsicle sticks). So: remember to get out the blocks (for Ponytails too, if she wants them, although they only go to 1,000, and maybe the abacus we made a few years ago).

[Ponytails let Crayons use her spelling puzzle set during math time.]

Music Theory: this is less intense than it sounds. I bought the introduction-to-music pack to go with our Music Maker harp, and we're going to work through it a bit at a time. The first lesson teaches words like treble clef and bass clef. So: I have to get that out.

Crafts: Morning crafts are the non-messy kind. Since Ponytails is really interested in doing some crocheting (she did a bit last year), we'll review making chains and single crochet. I have some ideas for simple (small) things she could work on this year, like a Barbie hat and poncho. Ponytails has much bigger ideas, like a girl-sized shawl or a pet net. So: I have to go round up some crochet hooks and decent-sized yarn.

Lunch break! Lunch break!

After lunch readalouds: Emily Dickinson poems;  "Ra and His Children"; Crystal Mountain.

And then some time with the Apprentice, who will be home before lunch today because the high school kids only go for an assembly and to meet in their homerooms and find their lockers and that stuff.

And then we're done.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Hey, we could use that. (Out-of-the-box thrifting)

Amy Dacyczyn once wrote a Tightwad Gazette story about a woman having a yard sale, who mentioned to someone else that she needed to buy a dropcloth for painting. They both suddenly noticed the shower curtain that she had put out for sale, and had a frugal a-ha moment.

People say that they never find anything useful at yard sales or thrift shops, and sometimes that's true. But other times it's the perceived use of something that gets in the way. Look twice, and you might see another function for a discarded object. And at thrift store prices, you can usually afford to buy a whole unit or set of something, just for a part or piece. I'm not talking about complicated projects, like turning baby cribs into garden benches, or adult pants into toddler clothes (I have done that one!); these are just some easy second-look ideas.

1. "I never wear dresses": Thrift stores get lots of dresses. Many of them are unlovely. But, as many Youtube videos prove, ugly dresses can be re-thought, re-purposed. On the simple sewing or no-sewing side, you could consider cutting dresses into tops or tunics, or using parts of them as camisoles and slips under other clothes. I have an extra-long cotton tank top that makes a perfect slip for sweater dresses. Thin skirts could also work as half-slips (thank you, Common Room blog).

2. "I never wear scarves": But scarves come in all shapes, sizes, and fabrics. Think of table throws and runners; reusable giftwrap; basket liners; ponchos/wraps/capes/shrugs/kimonos/sarongs (sewn up or temporary). Some people even hang large scarves over small windows.

3. "Plaid skirts are not my style": Verena Erin at My Green Closet made a no-sew blanket scarf from a plaid skirt she wasn't wearing. (Video link)

4. A few years ago, I bought a zippered 8 1/2 x 5 inch Dayrunner notebook at a rummage sale. I got bored with the plain black cover, so I sewed a non-zipping fabric cover. Recently I was thinking of using a zippered cover again so that the loose pages and small things wouldn't fall out, but the black cover had disappeared in our downsizing. I often see whole hardly-used planners at thrift stores, but there haven't been any lately. Besides, I didn't really need a whole new notebook, just a cover, but who makes those? Brainwave: I went to a bookstore that sells zippered Bible covers, and bought one in a colour I do like. Here's the frugal connection: you might find a planner notebook at a rummage sale or a thrift store. You might find a Bible cover for your Bible. Or you might find a Bible cover, think "that doesn't fit my Bible" or "my Bible doesn't need a cover," but not think about using it to cover another book or notebook, or even an electronic device.

Or maybe you'll find a Dayrunner cover that got lost in a downsize.

5. "I don't have young children. Why would I look at toys?": Think about what might get funnelled into the toy corner of a thrift store. I don't mean a Woody cowboy with original hand-stitched hat, although such things do happen. Think about holiday decor (including little things that could be used as or incorporated into tree ornaments); props for older-student lessons (languages? math?); or toy kitchen implements that might be used for your own real cooking (mini rolling pins, cookie cutters, small spoons).  There's a guinea pig website that mentions recycling plastic toys, such as a treehouse, for the critters' enjoyment.

The Apprentice has been known to shop the toy aisle as a source of joke gifts. On Mr. Fixit's last birthday, she gave him a kids' Star Wars jigsaw puzzle, and we had a contest to see who could put it together the fastest.

6. "I would never use those extra serving spoons." Do you ever get takeout Chinese food? There you go.

Your ideas?

Friday, September 01, 2017

From the archives: The push to common standards, or, apples to oranges

First posted September 2014
"After withdrawing their son from Westfield Public Schools, a homeschool family was surprised when the assistant superintendent sent them a copy of the school’s homeschool policy and asked them to call him. "Their surprise turned to shock when they saw that the policy required them to submit a letter of intent and an outline of their curriculum which (per the policy) must follow New Jersey Common Core content standards, and then wait for the superintendent to approve their curriculum and give them permission to homeschool...."  ~~ HSLDA news
"Many people are opposed to a standards-based education. Even though a standards-based education can protect academic efficiency when students relocate to a different school, some do not like the idea of having others dictate what their children should learn. Some do not like the pressure that tests put on their children. Some do not think the performance of a single test day should carry so much weight. Some do not like the potential for more narrowed learning." ~~ Homeschool Common Core homepage [2017 update: that site no longer works]
"'Hush!' said Doctor Cornelius, laying his head very close to Caspian's.  'Not a word more. Don't you know your nurse was sent away for telling you about Old Narnia? The King doesn't like it.  If he found me telling you secrets, you'd be whipped and I should have my head cut off.' 'But why?' asked Caspian.  'It is high time we turned to Grammar now,' said Doctor Cornelius in a loud voice. 'Will your Royal Highness be pleased to open Pulverulentus Siccus at the fourth page of his Grammatical Garden or the Arbour of Accidence pleasantlie open'd to Tender Wits?'"  ~~ C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

From the archives: A Term's Picture Study of Robert Harris

First posted September 2007, slightly updated


This term we aren't following the AmblesideOnline rotation for picture study; since we're also doing two Canadian musicians for music appreciation, I thought we would match that in our art study by doing some paintings by Robert Harris (1849-1919).

Although Harris did some very recognizable Canadian paintings, it isn't all that easy to find information about him, except online, or unless you live in Prince Edward Island (we don't). Our public library has exactly one adult biography of Harris.

However, since we live in this golden age of technology, books aren't our only resource. There's a Wikipedia bioa lesson plan about his life, a page about his paintings (link updated 2017)a teacher's guide to using Harris paintings to teach about Canadian symbols, and a few other paintings scattered online. 

So I think we can scrape half a dozen or so picture lessons together for this term. These are the six I'm planning on using, not necessarily in this order:


2. "A Meeting of the School Trustees,"1885. Of course you have to watch the Historica Minutes video that brings the painting to life. (On You-tube.)

3. Portrait of Sir John A. Macdonald,1890 "Sir John A Macdonald was quoted as saying 'Paint me, warts and everything' and that is what Harris did for this most impressive portrait."

4. Cartoon for "meeting of the Delegates of British North America to Settle the Terms of Confederation, Quebec, October 1864," 1883. The painting is better known as "The Fathers of Confederation." A cartoon, in this sense, isn't meant to be funny; it was more of a mock-up for the final painting; which was, unfortunately, destroyed in a fire in 1916.

5. One landscape--which one, I haven't decided yet.

6. "Last Days of Burns," which isn't online that I can see.

7. A nature-sketching lesson based on these lesson plans and an untitled sketch from Harris's nature notebooks--which also isn't online, so if I want to use this I think I'm going to have to go beyond the public library, or just make it not a Harris study at all (I just liked the idea for a drawing/nature lesson). [Update: I found the thumbnails here--there are three views of his nature notebook.]

And maybe this one:

8. "School at Canoe Cove, P.E.I.," ca. 1880.