Sunday, January 27, 2008

No Muffins, But

(The famous image of the two renegades, Radisson and Groseilliers. No wonder it's ubiquitous, it's by Fredric Remington. I had no idea! from this blog .)

I am up to the year 1670 (the year King Charles II granted the rights to all the land through which the rivers flow into Hudson's Bay to his cousin Rupert). (Yeah, that's an inelegant mouthful, but so's the size of that land! No one had any idea how much of it there was. No one had even been through it yet!)

I'll show you:

Staggering, isn't it?

Cousin Rupert, as you know, founded the Hudson's Bay Company--and all because of those enterprising, renegade coureurs de bois, Radisson and Groseilliers.

I can't tell you how much I'm learning.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Librivox--a free resource for Audio books.

Have you heard of this?
The titles they have are amazing! From Alcott, to Boethius, to Burgess....

It's a voluntary project where individuals read books in the public domain. You can listen to them on the computer--or using I-Tunes, download onto disc for the car or CD player.

I just downloaded a book on the Jesuit missions in Canada for the kids and I to listen to on those long errand days spent in the car.

The catalogue is a bit difficult to navigate--nothing by subject matter--but if you know the title or author of the book you want, it's easy.

Here's the link to the main page.

History and WT

For SCB, check it out here and this one and most especially, this one.

I don't want this to turn into an ad for Dover, so I'll stop now!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

4H in the Kitchen

I am so tempted to
1) write up my thoughts on a history book by H.E. Marshall, called Canada's Story
1a) Write my own "Story of Canada" for young elementary school children.
2) respond to Wende's observation that housekeeping is different for women who work and women who stay at home.
3) ruminate about my dining room. I love to talk about my dining room.

but, I'll get with the program and apply scb's 4H's to the kitchen while the kids are quizzing their spelling words with each other.

(The kitchen curtains aren't really different: the left shows the "summer" curtains while the right shows the "winter.")

Head -- What needs to be done? Are there any obstacles to that?
dishes, at least 3x a day. Ideal would be 4.
sweep the floor
clear off the table
put away school work
wipe down the table, countertops and stove
clean the black board
take stuff that goes down to the basement down to the basement.

wash the floor
wash the cupboards and drawer fronts
clean the microwave
clean the back door
wash out the fridge
empty the recycling (pick-up is ever 10 to 12 days in winter, so it gets to be a HUGE job and I even miss it, letting things pile up until they start falling out of the designated space).
Actual trash is the husband's job.

Wash the shelves above the stove.
Clean the oven
Wash the windows (when we change over from storm windows to screen and back again).
Clean the garbage can.

wash the ceiling and walls.
clean out the cupboards

obstacles? My attention span is shot. I need a routine. I need to know which days I will do those weekly tasks--cause I sure as heck can't do them all at once on top of each day's chores. I've tried having a "cleaning day" but it's a waste of a day. The problem with this, of course, is that not everything is clean all at once so one never gets that "aha, done!" feeling of accomplishment. It just never ends. I think I have accepted this.

Heart -- How can I put my heart into it? Is there any way to alleviate the drudgery?
Put on some music, listen to the radio.

Hands -- What do I need to accomplish the tasks?
Currently, my son is supposed to be drying and putting away the dishes.
I need a new kitchen floor.
I need a new mop, a new broom.

Hop to it -- I printed out the "daily minimums" I posted below to keep me on task.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Just a total aside--but did you know you can make your own maps on the web?

I haven't tried it (though I just might, during my "slack" time, of course!) but there's one here and another one here.

Of course, I want black-line maps for the kids to label and colour in....but holy cow, what the web can do for you!

Work Before You Slack

This was actually one of the things my Father told me to do. He was talking about school-work, of course. (He died at the beginning of my third year of University, so he didn't really get a chance to give me a whole lot of advice!)

What is work?
1. Teaching the kids
2. Preparing to teach the kids.
3. Planning curriculum (though it's fun work).
4. Scheduling schoolwork and correlating readings. (Spreadsheet work!)
5. Making dinner, lunch and supper
6. Washing dishes
7. Doing laundry
8. Cleaning
9. Straightening and tidying
10. Putting things away, etc.
11. Going to the library.
12. Running errands
13. Meal planning, shopping.
14. Is going onto the computer to look for information/ideas about homeschooling on message boards slacking?

What is slack?
1. Self-care, including showering, getting dressed.
2. Blogging
3. Reading
4. Decorating and thinking about decorating (and computer time related to it).
5. Scrapping and thinking about scrapping (and computer time related to it). Except--what about gifts? Is that slacking?
6. Bible study and reading.

The problem?
Work before you slack assumes at least two things:

1) you have a big chunk of time to devote to either one or the other. When you are at home, this is not the case. My husband has it easy. He gets up, goes to work. That's "work." Then, he comes home, and that's "slack." He does what he feels like, not what *has* to be done (unless I tell him).

OK--that's not entirely right, because since the fall Cure he'll do things like a plumbing project without my having even noticed the drain was running a bit slow.

As for myself, I have a bit of time right now...but I'm no where near done "my work"--there's still supper to get (and all that goes with it...). So, I have little chunks of time, here and there, where I can choose either to slack or to work. The trick is making sure I make the choice to "work" just often enough to keep things functioning and not so much I feel like a drudge.

2) It also assumes the ability to sustain the energy required to work without "slacking." I don't have it. I noticed--and Lorijo will too, soon enough--that when I had uninterrupted time, I couldn't focus longer than 10 minutes on one task, I was so acclimatized to being interrupted by a little person (or two) needing my attention. Fortunately, the ability to sustain concentration has returned, the capability isn't always there!

But, generally, I give the kids a "break" between tasks, just because it does help focus on the next one. And when they are on "break" (or "recess"), I have to figure out what to do--mark the math or go throw a load of laundry around?

However, I am taking a lesson from the restrictions I've imposed on the kids. They can have a break, but they aren't allowed to 1) go on the computer unless it is to do their typing, Latin vocabulary, a math game, or their spelling. (All of those are, of course, related to school work.) As well, they aren't permitted to turn on the T.V. As for myself, I've noticed I have to stay off the computer as well (unless it's to run something off or set something up for the next immediate lesson). No blogs, no forums.

But I have two jobs, really: Housekeeping and Teaching. And when the tasks are completed for those things, then, I suppose, I can slack, guilt-free.
As this is HT--what are the tasks that must be done every day before I can "slack?"

I love Towner's daily minimum list. Here it is (modified to reflect our needs):

Living room,

  • Take any dirty dishes to the kitchen
  • Put all CDs, DVDs, videos and tapes back in their cases or away where you keep them.
  • Stack magazines and newspapers. If you are finished with them toss into the recycle bin.
  • If you smoke, empty and clean the ashtrays.
  • Pick up the toys.
  • Plump the pillows and cushions. Fold blankets.


  • Sort mail
  • Hang up coats
  • Put away shoes


  • Swish the toilet.
  • Wipe out the sink after each use.
  • Rinse out the bath right after using it.
  • Put away the toiletries.
  • And toys.
  • Rehang the towels.


  • Make the beds.
  • Hang up or put away the clothes.
  • Take any dishes to the kitchen.
  • Pick up toys.


  • Daily Wash the dishes! Everyday! Always!
  • Wipe up spills and drips as they happen.
  • Take bottles and cans to basement.
  • Clear off and wash the working and cooking surfaces.
  • Clear off and wash table top (and chairs).
  • Wipe the refrigerator handles.
  • Put trash into the trash bin, recycling into the recycling bins.
  • Fold and hang the towels.
  • Sweep floor.
  • Do one load of laundry all the way through.

Other rooms,

  • Daily repeat any of the above steps that fit the room.

Perhaps, while I'm making up the chore chart for the kids, I should do one for myself, too?

Nonetheless, though it seems "reasonable" to insist that all the teaching tasks and all the housekeeping task be completed before I blog or surf or scrap, it isn't realistic. To take a silly example, I can't re-hang the towels until after the kids have had their bath--yet bath-time is my usual computer time because it's relatively quiet and I can concentrate. Perhaps "work before you slack" should be modified to "do all you can that you have to before you do all you want to." It's like Lorijo's "Today's dirt." idea. Do something about what needs to be done at this moment, then go off and do what you want. Something like that.

And I think I have to go fold laundry and start supper now.

Monday, January 21, 2008

About comments--heads up

Just a quick note to let you all know that you can now tell blogger to send you an e-mail notification whenever there is a new comment. I believe it's under settings. Anyway, just thought I'd pass that along.It's been great getting "friendly" e-mail all day!

I'm up to my eyeballs in developing a Canadian History curriculum for the kids and working on a scrapbook for my sister and her new baby.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

About Grandmothers and Housekeeping

Scb asked, in the comments:
What is it about grandmothers that they can run rings around us?

and though she probably didn't expect an answer, I have a few thoughts.

The world has changed significantly, mostly with respect to two things. They're mostly attitude changes and are actually two separate threads though they are intertwined.

1) There was no such thing as leisure. Fifty, sixty years ago, if you had nothing to do you were "idle." And idleness paved the path to hell. So, no leisure. And quite simply, there was no expectation of leisure. If you sewed, it was because the children needed clothes, not because you liked to sew. You didn't expect to get through your chores in order to sit down and watch TV. That evolved in conjunction with:

2) "Me" time. This is definitely recent and it's a very difficult attitude to live with. If you are always looking for "your" time, then others become irritants, your duties become things which interfere with your objective to get more "me" time. Of course, I speak only from my own experience. But this notion when taken as far as I do, is anti-family, and anti-biblical (but not for that reason).

The first is, of course, more a notion belonging to a particular class than a religious notion. Scb's grandmother and mine obviously inhabited different social worlds. In mine, you only had "help" if you couldn't physically cope anymore: as my grandmother's mother did, in her eighties.

I hadn't come across this attitude directly, as Wende mentions here:

This happy life {of living in a residential hotel] offended the sensibilities of late Victorians, who were quick and vocal in declaring that doing housework has a moral effect on women, and that freedom from housework destroys a woman's ethical influence over her family, saps her purity, alienates her husband, and endangers the very fabric of American society.

It doesn't surprise me in the least. There is, very much, a moral undertone to cleaning and keeping house (as there is to hs'ing). I can't remember which book I read it in, but apparently the disinfectant movement of the late Victorian age and again, with the merchandising messages of the fifties and sixties, women were empowered to keep their children healthy by controlling dirt on the one hand and then told the germs were insurmountable without constant vigilance and special products with the other. Given the deplorable conditions of the late Victorian age, the message certainly had its place--but like Wende's black San Fransisco dirt, to dump all the responsibility for cleanliness on women certainly wasn't fair.

As Wende's analysis shows, Virginia Woolfe was much more radical than we can appreciate today. But, I fear, the Victorians may have been partially right. To expect to have a room of one's own is to set oneself up for all sorts of family strife.

My day today is a case in point. I just wanted some peace and quiet. I didn't want to nag anyone or even, if I could avoid it, talk to anyone. I just wanted to work on my little scrapbooking project in solitude. My desire for that solitude could have been answered by a room of my own: trying to carve out a space in one room while others are interacting around me and with me was extraordinarily difficult.

I've always been something of a pragmatist. If my desire for solitude conflicts with my ability to get it, then perhaps I ought to give up the desire. Perhaps, even, the desire is wrong, precisely because it creates conflict, as the Victorians knew it would. And yet, I persist. I was an only child. I'm well and truly tired of dealing with my children from the moment I wake to just about the moment I fall alseep (and certainly long past the moment I want to fall sleep) every single day. Oh--and Aurelia still persists in climbing into bed with us, so you could say I deal with the kids while I'm asleep, too. When we're hs'ing, I feel the need to regroup, alone, acutely. It's almost a physical need and I was an awful, nasty bear about it today.

So, while we try to find a golden mean between a gross and disgusting home and one in which it's so clean I'm a neurotic drudge, I'll be trying to find a balance between them and me. Who does what? to what standard? when? and how often?

And it's not something Flylady really talks about except to say: "You do it, they'll follow." Well, sometimes.

Addressing those questions will be really good for us.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm In: The Housekeeping Quiz.

I'm dogged tired--see post below--so I'll do my best to keep it brief. As usual, I could tell you my life history here--and it'll be hard not to ramble. (It takes energy and focus to be brief and pithy but tomorrow will be worse than today, so....)

How would you describe your housekeeping style (3 words)?
1. inconsistent
2. slovenly
3. insane

Who is your housekeeping Iconic Figure? Martha Stewart? Felix Unger? Oscar Madison? (Edit : Those are just suggestions, it could be someone else entirely.)

1. No clue. Maybe Don Aslett. Nah. Erma Bombeck who wisely said "Cleaning the house when you have children is like shovelling the snow while it's still snowing." Or something like that.

Why? (Aha! Caught ya. You thought you weren't going to have to explain anything. That isn't how this works.)
'cause I think I ought to be able to keep the house clean, neat and orderly (Don Aslett) and because I know that that minimum is a mean feat of extraordinary effort and organization.

Who would you consider a role model when it comes to housekeeping? That differs from the question above in that I want you to think about someone you know, whose style you might want to emulate in some way.

1. Oh dear. Here's the temptation to write the tome.
My grandmother. I spent a LOT of time with her as a child. Every summer from the age of four to fourteen and one six month period when I was 11. She never sat down. She had a routine for everything. Take the dirty clothes to the washer everyday. (I was to put my dirty underthings outside my door every night before bed. Couldn't do it). Do the dishes after every meal and before bed, then sweep the floor. (My job was to dry them, wipe down the drainboard when I was finished and hang my towel up to dry.) She vacuumed everyday. Dry dusted. Made her bed. Kept two gardens and hung the laundry out by hand.

She cooked every meal, served as the Church Secretary, a secretary/book keeper for the small claims court in her county (my grandfather was a part-time process server) from home. She worked part time at the "Ag" office (The agricultural Office in her farming community) two or three days a week--and she would walk everywhere. All this, and this was when she was fifty--sixty? She also volunteered for meals on wheels, hosted bridge parties every Saturday night and played golf, shuffleboard and curled.

She didn't sew, knit or do handicrafts in any way. She hardly ever read a book--no time. Relaxation was the crossword. She didn't like accepting help and so, other than dry dusting and drying the dishes (and once cleaning the crystals on the chandelier) I never learned to do anything. I certainly never learned how to keep house.

Why? (You knew that was coming this time, didn't you?)
Because she told me too. Because, even though she didn't tell me how to do it, she taught me it was possible and pleasant to have a neat, clean orderly household where you always knew where everything was.

All this leads up to -- what do you want from the way you keep your home? What level of cleanliness/tidiness is important to you on a daily/weekly basis? What purpose (other than keeping the health inspector from pounding on the door) is this to achieve -- for example, do you need to be company-ready at a moment's notice?

I don't need to be company ready at a moment's notice. I did Flylady consistently for three months. At the end of it, I was wandering around the house with very little to do--and afraid to do anything that might make a mess--like crafts with the kids, my scrapbooking. I even resented the fact that my kids were going through that "don't mix food" phase, so I couldn't cook everything in one pot. I went insane if anyone spilled anything. (I'd think, "The work, the work, why doesn't anyone respect my work?" Junk thoughts like that.) It wasn't workable and I really didn't like living in a "magazine-ready" house.

On the other hand, things aren't working now. Let's see, at supper--pancakes and bacon--on the table we had a five inch thick pad of construction paper, a history encyclopedia with loose pages sticking out of it, butter, two dirty glasses from another meal, a half filled coffee mug, a box of craft paint, a colouring book, a container of coloured pencils, a shelter magazine, the phonebook, a candlestick, a math book, homework from Stomp's obedience class from last night, a napkin holder with napkins (which no one used), newspaper, the book my husband is reading, the book my son is reading, a glass of coke, a plate of toast, peanut butter and chocolate chips from breakfast, a comb, a tube of vaseline, a package of blue tacky stuff used to fix stuff to the wall, a travel mug, a folded twin flannel sheet, and a box of six glasses purchased from Ikea this afternoon, unopened. We actually had a pleasant meal. Nobody fussed. The problem was finding enough cutlery for everyone to eat with. There wasn't room on the stove for the frying pans.

One word: function. I want things to come up to the level of functioning well. No midnight trips to the basement to find socks and underwear for the morning. or pants. or toilet paper. or lightbulbs.

What, if anything, is standing in the way of that level of cleanliness/tidiness being achieved? Are the obstacles
1. Physical -- is there something about the way some part of your home is arranged or organized that isn't working for the function(s) that area needs to fulfill?

Yep. Not enough counter space. Not enough storage space. Traffic patterns are bad (there's always somebody in the way of where I need to go). The back door area is a psychological black hole and now that we're down to one car (and kept in the garage) that's the door we use. The kitchen table, as noted, is ample, but it's difficult to clean underneath it. The dog loves the broom and chases it across the floor.

2. Psychological -- is there something within yourself that's keeping you from dealing with what's necessary to keep your home the way you want to?

Hmm. Probably.

Is there some form of motivation or reward that might help?

Now here, I almost refuse to even consider this. We set up a traditional household. He works outside the home, I work inside. It could have been otherwise. I've gone from being an independent single hard-working woman to a 50's style stay at home wife and mother with none of the perks (afternoon chats with others in the same situation), children who can be left to play in packs with each other, unsupervised in neighbourhood parks, or even at school.
But, you see, I chose this. I shouldn't chafe. My husband doesn't think he should get a "reward" for getting up and going to work every day--why should I? It's my "job." (Though I do tell him that putting away the peanut butter wasn't in the marriage contract).

3. Equipment -- is something not working for you, e.g. vacuum cleaner not up to par, or somesuch?

Vacuum cleaner is fine.
Feather dusters are shedding.
Broom is trashed, time for a new one.
Mop is terrible. Leaves far too much water on the floor. Hard to clean between washings, too.
Toilet brushes are unattractive but serviceable.
Dish cloths need replacing. (Why is it so hard to find decent dish cloths?)
Scrub brush needs replacing.
And my bottle brush is missing.

Hmm. I think I need new cleaning supplies!

Errand Day

Dear Friends,
Today we got our car back! It had been in the shop since Dec 27th getting its fenders straightened out. I swear they're made of aluminum or something. The accident was just a simple slide on icy roads, one vehicle into the other. But the damage! Unbelievable.

We only have the one car: so whenever I want to use it, we all have to get up at 6:00am to be out the door by 6:30. Last night, I didn't get to bed until 4am.

I'm tired.

We didn't get home until 9:30. Yep--in the car, all of us, dog included for three hours before breakfast. I kept thinking about how different it was from just two weeks ago. Our routine was exactly the same. When we got our doughnuts at Tim Horton's at 7:30, the sun sky was turning pre-dawn inky blue. By the time I was on the free-way, the sky was a watercolour of sherbet orange and pinky-purple. Clear skies. About -21 C (-6 F). Branches coated with globs of snow. Treacherous roads. When I got to the car dealership, it was light. Two weeks ago at 8:30 am we'd had to "inspect" the car in the dark.

On the way to the body-shop, we encountered heavy fog. When I got into my bright shiny orange putt-putt and drove back, just 20 minutes later, the fog was lifting and the sun was sparkling off of everything.

It was beautiful.

Nonetheless. Aurelia was so cold she took a bath to warm up. Caius did his duty by the dog and then had hot chocolate and played on the computer. I went to bed for an hour.

At 11:30 we headed out again, this time to get the dog his shots, pick up a book for Caius, buy a roll of paper (and new drinking glasses and a dog bed) at Ikea, then over to a pet store (50 blocks up and 40 blocks over--something like that. I tried to get Aurelia to do the math but neither of us could hold the numbers in our heads long enough.) We got home at 3:15pm. Three and a half hours, again, in the car.

Shortly, we'll all head out again to get the husband from work (I wonder if he'd like to pick a Latin name?), run another errand, and then take the boy to his Tae Kwon Do. I'll get dropped off so I can have supper ready for them when they get home.

This is what it's like to live with one car. On the days I do have it, we spend so much time inside it that it is quite ridiculous. School is cancelled. We are all so tired from getting up so very early and I'm frazzled from driving. We don't have "snow days," we have "errand days."

Whoa, good timing. The husband just called, and I have fresh coffee made--so we're off again. Hopefully I'll be home before another three hours have gone past.

The kicker: we do it all again tomorrow--only we start an hour earlier.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


We did our Latin today and as an introduction to pronounciation, the kids were to pick Latin names. My son immediately chose Caius without reading them--but I made them persevere and my daughter picked Aurelia--it is actually the name of a female relative. We're doing ecclesiastical pronounciation so, phonetically, their names are:
Caius: K eye us
Aurelia: Ow ray li ah (short i)

I'm happy: now I have a names for them for the blog!
Tomorrow we get into the nitty gritty. Nouns!

Hooray--the Latin came through!

Long story, but let me say that the Woman in Charge came through, not once, not twice but three times for me today to make sure that a book I'd paid for on Sunday was available for complete and thorough download today.

I'm more excited than I was at Christmas...I always get giddy with new curriculum. This is our new Latin text. And I'm so excited. Silly me.

But I've been threatening/promising the kids we'd get back into it--and tomorrow we shall. I've got it all ready to go.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Curriculum.

You'll see that in the side bar I've included the materials I use (and hope to use) in our homeschool. But I have chosen those materials not entirely because they are subjects we need to cover: but because covering those subjects imparts skills I think we ought to have. The kids are young, yet. At this age, I'm just trying to get down the fundamentals.

We have a hard time getting to all of our material. And given my goals, I'm sure there are redundancies. I'm writing all this out here not just to tell you what we do and why, but to help clarify my thinking and perhaps simplify our lives as a result.

I have chosen to follow a particular model of home education called, for better or worse, "classical." As a homeschooling method, it began with the discovery of an essay by Dorothy Sayers extolling the virtues of a medieval classical education with an eye and an ear to the different psychological "stages" on the child's ability to learn. It has evolved from there into various forms. I have read what I could and picked out what I've wanted for the goals I want to achieve.

I am also attracted to what is known as a Charlotte Mason education. There are tomes on her method, including those she wrote herself. It's a very attractive method, conjuring up images of well-trained, thoughtful and observant children reflecting the Victorian age in which she lived and taught.

However, this is my go-to site for keeping me on track with what I'm supposed to be doing and how to go about it.

In both educational orientations there's the idea of moving from model to practice. You provide a child with a model of what is to be expected, to be emulated, and, eventually, executed.

The very best example is copywork. Here, a child is given a piece of fine prose or poetry or a Bible verse, written out. The child then copies it out letter for letter, word for word, including punctuation. It provides more than an example of correct penmanship--the idea is to provide the correct model for recognising good language. Copy work gives way to dictation, so a child can learn to write what he hears.

Parallel to this is narration. The child "tells back" the story he heard, the passage he read or describes the picture he sees in front of him. Thus they learn to synthesize, organise and summarize information.

The teacher writes the narration out in the beginning....later, after enough dictation (practice in writing what he hears) the child writes it out himself.
The narration is the foundation for all writing. Changing and manipulating the narrations can be used to teach grammar, vocabulary and spelling.

For now, these are the skills we're focusing on:

Brain Training:
Models: Poetry. Latin. Bible Verses. Eventually, Aristotelian logic. (I may have to write up my own curricula for this for kids to use and understand.)

Method: Memory work, in the form of memorizing poetry and Bible verses (and math facts) establishes the habit of retaining rhythm and wisdom and knowledge. Translating Latin is where the brain stretches itself and we aim to get there quickly. Eventually, we'll do our Aristotelian logic and engage in Socratic dialogue. Fortunately, I have two degrees in Philosophy, so I feel fairly confident we can do this in the teen years. I'm just not sure how to get there from here, yet.

Materials: Um, poems, Bible verses and a good Latin program. Strategy games also fall into this category like Yahtzee, chess, checkers, Clue and Blokus. I also use a series in beginning logic called Mind Benders.

There are two kinds: verbal and non-verbal.

Verbal: The fine art of using language.

The Bible, Poetry, Quotations and Maxims, stories and good books. We need to know what to listen for, we need to know what is a well constructed sentence, as well as what is a good sentence aesthetically. The same goes for stories, and later, arguments.

I read books to them. We also use copywork, narrations, and for now, a formal study of grammar, spelling and writing.

I have two programs for grammar (one for each child), one for spelling which they do together, and one for writing.

Beyond copywork and narrations we aren't doing any writing. I think this is a disservice to the ten year old but the program I've picked is so teacher-intensive and thorough that my mind balks at the amount of time I think it would take to do it with him. He also needs to be able to type: that's the best way to handle a great volume of words at this age.

I aim to do something with spelling and grammar every day. These are subjects we will drop doing formally at some point so I feel sort of rushed to get through them quickly now.

Science (which I can't ever seem to get to) and History are fodder for narrations and copywork.

Non-verbal: The Cutural Arts.

This is strongly emphasised in the CM method of education, the classical method doesn't place as much emphasis on it--not even half so much as the original Greeks and Romans did. This, I think is a result of following the medieval model of classical education: it's as if the Renaissance never happened.
We don't do as much of this as I would like, either.

Music, Poetry, Plays (both live and on video and CD), Art.

Exposure, mostly. I'm working on the implementation, slowly.

Both study an instrument. I have plans and materials to start teaching us to draw. We go to plays and later this month, our first opera: The HMS Pinafore.
Looking at this, I'm realizing that really, we just need to focus on Music and Art. The poetry and plays are really part of our verbal expression program. That seems much more manageable.


We don't actually do mathematics. Real Math is brain-training at its highest form. In a brilliant explanation of mathematics Adrian outlines the proper method of teaching it, starting out with the Big Questions and ending up at an understanding of sets. I do want to get us to this at some point. I'm just not sure how. For now, we do arithmetic. I use a program that explains part of the rationale behind the computations. Not in an intimidating way, but in a kid-friendly "oh now I get it way" that's extremely empowering. I'm not afraid of arithmetic anymore. I was when we started.

Looking at the world from a Christian Perspective. More generally and briefly known as our "worldview."

As Christians, I want my children to have a particular world-view, a biblical world-view like Francis Shaeffer talks about in What Shall We Do Now?
Models: The Bible, reading a non-Catholic version of the lives of Saints.
Methods: memorizing Bible Verses, studying the Bible, catechisms, going to church. I think I may have them memorize one of the shorter creeds, too.
Materials: For now, it's simply a course in conflict resolution and Bible Study. Developing a world view is a lot more than just going through a Bible Study program, of course. Still, the one I've picked (by Memoria Press) does present the material so that one can begin to understand that being a Christian means to occupy a particular set of beliefs about the world, its Creator and our relationships to everything and everyone in it.

Get a general idea of stuff so that when we do it in more depth later on you have some idea what we're talking about:

In this category we have History and Science.

And that, as they say, is that.

This has been helpful. Not the least of which is that it I now have something called my "educational plan" somewhat written up. The "EP" is a legal requiremnt I have to file with my school board in order to continue hs'ing. I only just realised, as I was typing this, that I hadn't done one for this school year.

I want to digest this, yet. I think I may have worked out what we need to do next and what I need to prioritize. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chapter Book Entry: Patchett

(images from Amazon)

Our library has a wonderful system for borrowing new books. On a kiosk, at the front, they set out a selection of new or nearly new books by popular authors. They're called "bestsellers-to-go" and you can take them out for one week (as opposed to the usual three) and you can only take out one of them at a time. You cannot request them, (though there are usually other copies of the book available for request--if you don't mind being #52 (or more) in line) and the late fee is steep. $1/day if you're late returning it.

The best thing about bestsellers to go is the kiosk. Looking at it and perusing the books there feels just like being in a favourite bookstore. And it's free. And that is how I found Ann Patchett.

It was a memoir, actually. I had thought it was a fictionalized memoir. When I discovered it wasn't, about 1/3 of the way through, I couldn't go on. I was willing to suspend my disbelief and read about the splendid, deep, passionate platonic love of friendship, but I wasn't willing to believe it had all been real; the splendid, deep, passionate platonic love for a friend. If it had been real, it would have been too painful to lose, and too painful to read about. So, I haven't finished Truth and Beauty. The author's words were too powerful.

But I did read Run: at a breakneck pace, if you'll pardon the pun. That's one of the ways I know I like an author. If I can't put the book down, then I know that for me, the author is a keeper. (Mystery authors can be exempt from this criterion, per se. P.D. James writes page turners, but they are usually awfully long-winded page turners. Still, I enjoy her policeman, AD. The husband finds her work depressing and won't read it.)

I had to return Run today, so I haven't got any passages on hand to quote and reflect upon. But, I also read Taft and when I closed it last night for the last time, it was with regret.

I'm not sure what it is about her writing that so captivates me and holds me hostage to sleep for two to three nights in a row. Reading her is like dreaming--one floats on the words and forms real but still misty landscapes. People move and talk, things happen but not like in a real dream, without reason or connection. No, things happen naturally, irrefutably -- just like real life. It was just about here, without any warning, that I realised things were going to go terribly wrong:

I watched the two of them go up the street. Wallace watched me watch them. I turned around and put a heavy hand on his shoulder. "This is a big night for me. You learning to do the money. Pretty soon we might be making you a manager or something."
"I wouldn't mind that, " Wallace said. "I've been in the market for a career."
"A smart man like you Wallace. You can come up with a better career than this."

Wallace, you have to understand, is no threat. But reading this I had a horrible premonition something was going to go wrong. And it did (but I won't say what). When did Patchett set me up? When did she hook me? Probably with every word of the previous 210 pages.

Having read the two works back to back, it was interesting to reflect upon their similarities. Both books end with a denouement. Both end with the character who drives each novel wanting to be watched.


Does Patchett have something to say about people who want to be watched? (And don't we all, just a little bit, have fantasies of being noticed? remarked upon? Well, this is blog world, of course we do.) Or, do people who want to be watched drive things, make things happen because of this desire?

What happens if there's no watcher? What happens if there is and you don't know it, don't want it and find out there is? This sounds creepy, but Patchett isn't. Nor are her characters.

I wonder if her other books are the same--or if these two just happen to deal with the same things?
--parents and their children
--Blacks and Whites living/interacting together
--a sympathetic and tough older male
--boys working themselves out against their fathers
--losing dreams and regaining them
--working out one's identity to oneself within the confines of one's personal past and one's relationships with others.

Taft is Patchett's second novel and it seems like it. It's broader in scope, bigger more devastating things happen than in Run which is tightly focused and wound up tight like a spring. There's also a maturity in the understanding of people and their relationships to one another that just isn't there in Taft. Still, that's no criticsm of Taft. If I hadn't read Run, I wouldn't have noticed. It just feels like Patchett has figured out she doesn't need a large looming canvas for her story (not that it's all that large in Taft): it can be teeny tiny with every line of the characters brilliantly and clearly drawn. It reminds me of some of the single line drawings by Picasso like this one (and which I have always loved. I think I even have it somewhere):

(Isn't that amazing?)

There's nothing remarkable about her writing style. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says that's how writing ought to be. Quiet and still. It shouldn't call attention to itself. And Patchett's doesn't. It's smooth--like the ice-cold water in the pint glass I carry up to bed every night. And I'm the ice cube slowly melting into it. I float in it, become enveloped by it. Her words and my brain meld, become one. Seriously. It feels crazy to say stuff like this, but it truly is an incredible experience.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Dear Friends,

Husband has just taken the kids out sledding for about an hour. I thought I'd told everyone I was staying home to catch up on a few things, but they all seemed surprised and the husband cheesed off I was staying at home.

I wish I'd gone. The dratted dog is barking and whining like crazy and it's not quite the peaceful, reflective atmosphere I'd hoped for.

I just cuddled the beast and sat with him for a bit. He's napping now, thank heavens. It's just like having a baby. Did I mention we don't want another baby? Still, he's cute.

Where was I? Oh yes. I wanted to introduce myself, fully, with all my myriad interests and preoccupations. Long before I started this blog, I dreamed of having one--actually, I remember thinking I would love to have a "place" where I could gather all the different places the world impacted me and ruminate about things. This was actually in the nineties, before blogs had been invented. And so now I have a blog. This can be that place, I suppose.

First, as you've no doubt gathered, I'm a bit O/C. I get involved in something and bam, the rest of the world, the rest of my world doesn't exist anymore except in so far as it contributes or gets in the way of whatever I'm doing. I'm exaggerating, of course, but not by much.

So far, you've experienced AT and the obsession I have with all things design related. That's done and we all moved on to WT which opened my eyes to the inner decrepitude of my closet and self-image, the mall's inability to help me rectify it and the world's obsession with celebrities' fashion and "must have" wardrobe lists. I discovered dozens of defensive fat girl sites, too. There's stuff I could say about all that, and maybe I will, but not right now.

I'm in love with books. No surprise there. For inspiration, I read MM-V. I try to keep a chapter book as she suggests, but there isn't always time to write out a passage and my thoughts upon the book and author. Still, I'm always happy to have done so whenever I do. Right now, I'm reading Ann Patchett. Perhaps I can do my chapter entries here, on the blog.

(I just finished this one. I'm reading Taft now.)

We're back at schooling again. That could be an entire blog in and of itself. It's consuming me at the moment. For this, I participate on the message boards at the Well-Trained Mind website. It's utterly amazing to me what homeschool moms and dads will do for people. I've gathered so many resources and ideas from the folks there that I almost don't believe I'd have been able to do this at all without them. And they are all strangers, of course. This, I don't how much to include. Unless you're involved in the day-to-day machinations, it's pretty boring to read about: even when you are, it's kind of weird--like peering through someone's window while out walking in the evening. I admit, I enjoy it. But there always comes a point when I wonder why they haven't drawn the curtains yet.

Nonetheless, as I have found others' sites inspiring and useful, there may be a side bar (or two) coming soon with a list of curriculum and such.

Scrapping. Ah yes, here is another obsession which can quickly take over my life. I used to participate on the message boards here as well as post my layouts. I may do that again. It will keep the blog from being cluttered up with stuff. But we'll see.

(This is one of those I create from time to time that I'm not sure works. It's from our vacation in 2006 for the m-i-l's album)

Housekeeping. OK, I'm never obsessed with it, but it does nag at me--a lot. My favourite site for support for this has been de-activated. It's a shock, really. When I found out, shortly before my connection to the internet went all wonky, I actually felt pain--like a favourite place has been demolished. I've been considering returning to flylady but I have problems with my e-mail and I'm not sure I can face all those reminders on top of everything else every day. (Did I mention that when I re-activated my e-mail after two weeks I had 2,476 messages waiting for me? Only about 10 of which were worth keeping.)

So: decorating/home repair, homeschooling, reading, scrapping, and housekeeping--these are the things which consume me more or less intensely from time to time. I have a spiritual life, too, and that may crop up now and again, but even though I know that in some circles, it should be otherwise, I prefer to keep the details somewhat private. These things and my family, of course, are the fragments which make up my life.

I hope to make the blog rounds this evening and catch up with you all.

Ta ta for now,

Hello Out There!

I'm back. The computer is back. It wasn't even the problem. $200.00and a new ADSL cord later it turns out the ruddy phone company had been responsible. "Somehow," the "guy" said "the Internet wasn't switched on." HUH? I'll let those who know about such things figure it out!

Anyway, I took all that time I had been spending on the computer and put it to good use. I started scrapping with a vengeance and restarted the old homeschooling train. That one is chugging so slowly, but doggedly, that I remember I take breaks from the kids' education because, well, it just isn't fun to crack a whip at them all day while beating my head against a brick wall. But, that's life. And I even chose it! Good thing I have a really hard head.

So, I'm in the midst of remembering how to teach spelling and finding lesson plans on the human body, and re-drilling math facts (Thank heavens my daughter figured out how to add and subtract numbers with re-grouping today! Egads, talking her through every single step was mind numbing. That's actually useful, when you're banging you head against a wall, but not, um, fun, you know?)

I'd type more, there's so much to say I've been procrastinating signing on 'cause who knows where to start? But, there's a circadian challenged child waiting for me to read a chapter of "The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage" to him. (It actually from my very own childhood at about that age. You'll like this Zooza: the back says it retails for 35p (and $1.25 in Canada, $1.10 in Aus and NZ.) It's by Enid Blyton. Did you know she wrote over 800 books for children. 800! On a typewriter.

Anyway, anything anyone wants to know?
Anything I ought to address?
What with being down and WT being over, what should this blog be, if anything?

And thanks so much for your kind, wonderful comments. They actually brought tears to my eyes.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...