Friday, March 30, 2012

Our annual homeschool conference is this weekend

Jumpers first posted 2009

I think this is my seventeenth.  (Conference, not jumper.)

My cooking cheat sheet

A long time ago, Avon had a Country Kitchen Collection.

And in that long time ago, my mother gave me an Avon Country Kitchen Herb Wheel with a thatched cottage on it.  It's not one of those wooden wheels you grow herbs in.  This Herb Wheel is a large, decorative cardboard spinner that you hang on the kitchen wall.  The middle of it turns around and  has a slot that you can line up with the names of meats, vegetables, sauces, and so on; in the slot are suggestions for compatible seasonings.  Something like this:
Some of you know how not-fond I am of pseudo-thatched-cottage artwork.  However, I've had this hanging by the stove now for more years than I can remember.  It just fits into the space, and its blues, browns, and beiges match the rest of the room.  Plus--it's useful!  I use it most often when I'm combining ingredients.  For instance, "Squash" suggests that you add allspice, basil, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sage, and/or nutmeg.  "Chicken" lists sesame seed, ginger, sage, paprika, saffron, chervil, savory, thyme, and/or tarragon.  (Obviously you're not supposed to use everything on the list in one dish.)  If I were combining squash and chicken (in a dish or in a meal), I would pick out seasonings that appear on both lists:  maybe sage or ginger.  Or maybe I'd just be adventurous and see how paprika tastes with squash.

I also use it as a source of new ideas.  I would never really think of cooking winter squash with basil--maybe zucchini or summer squash--but it might be interesting.  Marjoram with carrots and pork? Oregano, parsley, cumin, or chives with broccoli?--sure, why not? 

I know you can find herb and spice lists in cookbooks and online.  You can even get an Android app called Herbert the Herb and Spice Helper.  But I still like my thatched cottage.

Avon products photo found here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

From the archives: Pull back as hard as you can, as long as you can.

Originally posted April 2010

Last night I found myself deep in Charlotte Mason's School Education (the third volume in the Home Education Series), because I was thinking hard about how what we do for school here does or doesn't match up with CM goals. (Sometimes it doesn't!) I did take some time out to watch the last part of Mr. Holland's Opus with Mr. Fixit and Ponytails, including the part where Mr. Holland's school cuts out all the music and drama courses because of lack of funds and because the administration does not value those things.
Vice Principal Wolters: I care about these kids just as much as you do. And if I'm forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.
Glenn Holland: Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about.
It's hard to get away from the discussion and thinking over educational questions that have come up in Ontario over the past couple of weeks, questions about political correctness, about the school vs. the family's role in teaching anything beyond the "basic" subjects. The Toronto weekend papers were full of comments from people who would seemingly like nothing better to get their hands squeezed tightly around the minds of my children. We've also been talking about spiritual warfare as part of a study at church. It all leads me to a sense not so much of despair but of urgency, a sense that if our children are to have a chance to stand against not only systematic reprogramming of personal values but against the Vice Principal Wolters of the world, we need to give them some very strong tools to do it with and we need to do that now.

Ray Bradbury and Aldous Huxley, though not necessarily kindred spirits to CM, agreed on one point: that books, real books, are the strongest of those tools. Take books away from people, either physically or by taking away their ability to read them (or their belief that books are valuable, or their understanding that some books are just paper with covers while others are more than that), and you can reprogram your subjects to think any way you want. Find them again, and the winter of frozen minds starts to thaw and bud into spring. It even happened in the Bible.

That's why slaves were forbidden to read. That's why printing presses and newspapers are often damaged or closed down during times of political turmoil. Knowledge (not just information, as Charlotte Mason repeatedly said) is power. Thinking is power. Reading is power. We have the natural world, we have Mozart, we have paintings, we have so much more there to discover...but beyond that, we have books. They are still there. We can still read them. They disappear from the library shelves and from publishers' lists, but they often show up (as if in retaliation) as e-books and on used booksellers' sites. Nobody's taken away the Harvard Classics online. Nobody's yet taken away your right to buy books by David Hicks and Richard Mitchell. Or Bibles, at least for the time being and at least in this country. Or Shakespeare. Or the books that inspired Frankenstein's monster. If they humanized him, can they do less for us?

The definition proposed here for "a leisurely education" was having the freedom (time, space, opportunity) to discover what makes you fully human. Without a doubt, that freedom is being pulled away. Pull back as hard as you can, as long as you can.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Term Three Begins

Our third term officially begins next Monday, but we lose two school days at Easter and also one a week later when the public school kids have a day off; so we're starting (and finishing) a few things ahead of time.


Short passage from A Passion for the Impossible
One chapter from Caddie Woodlawn
French lesson
The Book of Marvels, one chapter
Math Mammoth Grade 5 worksheets (beginning)
Composer study
Free reading:  The Prince and the Pauper or The First Woman Doctor


Short passage from A Passion for the Impossible
Finish Caddie Woodlawn
French lesson
The Book of Marvels, one chapter
Artistic Pursuits, Grade 4-6, Book II:  introduction to the second half of the book, on composition
Free reading

Found at the thrift store (books as usual)

Just a few to bring home today, from a very large pile of books that I put out for sale:

Einstein's Unfinished Symphony: Listening to the Sounds of Space-Time, by Marcia Bartusiak

The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder, by Jill Badonsky.  If you can overlook the to-be-expected astrology suggestions (which I think are mostly just made-up anyway), this looks like a fun dose of daily inspiration for whatever you want to be inspired about.  From  "Through 365 days, readers are encouraged to think more brilliantly, laugh more often, make art or write creatively, and simply add a lot more “awe” into daily life."

How to Decorate: The Best of Martha Stewart Living.  (1996)  Don't laugh too hard.  I just really liked some of the photographs and colour combinations.

Quote for the day number two: Watch out for those reading moms.

"The boy whose mother 'would not go to bed until she had finished reading Pepacton' with him is more to be envied with his poor jacket than the elegant lad whose mother, with no time to read, makes time to consult the latest fashion plates that he may be handsomely attired....Herbert Spencer tells us that the father who has alienated his sons from him by his harshness might better have studied Ethology than Æschylus, and cites also the mother who can read Dante in the original, but who is mourning the child who has sunk under the effects of over-study.

"Herbert Spencer might well spare himself the trouble of quoting such instances. Fathers and mothers who have ever read even so much as a good translation of Æschylus or Dante are not so numerous that they need suppressing. The man who reads Æschylus is not the one who is likely to force an abominable dogma on a child, and the woman who reads Dante in the original is far less apt to allow her children to be overcrammed with books than is the woman who cannot read at all. The mothers who do not read are far more to be dreaded than those who are guided by Dante."

Literary landmarks: a guide to good reading for young people, and teachers ... By Mary Elizabeth Burt, 1889

Quote for the day: The more things change...

"Of the nursery through which I passed only one sister wept while learning to read, and that was over a scholastic work entitled Reading Without Tears."--Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, "Children's Reading (I)," On the Art of Reading, 1916-1917

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Q" plays the desert island game

"Lastly, and chiefly, I commend these classical authors to you because they, in the European civilisation which we all inherit, conserve the norm of literature; the steady grip on the essential; the clean outline at which in verse or in prose—in epic, drama, history, or philosophical treatise—a writer should aim. 

"So sure am I of this, and of its importance to those who think of writing, that were this University to limit me to three texts on which to preach English Literature to you, I should choose the Bible in our Authorised Version, Shakespeare, and Homer (though it were but in a prose translation). Two of these lie outside my marked province. Only one of them finds a place in your English school. But Homer, who comes neither within my map, nor within the ambit of the Tripos, would—because he most evidently holds the norm, the essence, the secret of all—rank first of the three for my purpose."

--Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, "IX. On the Lineage of English Literature (II)," On the Art of Writing

Sunday Hymn: Nature With Open Volume Stands

Nature with Open Volume Stands

by Isaac Watts

Nature with open volume stands,
To spread her maker’s praise abroad;
And every labor of His hands
Shows something worthy of a God.

But in the grace that rescued man
His brightest form of glory shines;
Here, on the cross, ’tis fairest drawn,
In precious blood and crimson lines.

Here His whole name appears complete;
Nor wit can guess, nor reason prove,
Which of the letters best is writ,
The power, the wisdom, or the love.

Here I behold His inmost heart,
Where grace and vengeance strangely join,
Piercing His Son with sharpest smart,
To make the purchased pleasure mine.

O! the sweet wonders of that cross,
Where God the Savior loved and died
Her noblest life my spirit draws
From His dear wounds and bleeding side.

I would forever speak His name,
In sounds to mortal ears unknown;
With angels join to praise the Lamb,
And worship at His Father’s throne.

Words and music at

Friday, March 23, 2012

Crochet Class #6: is it a hat, or a basket?

Most of what you need to know for this week's pattern was covered in the last class.  In our last real-life class, the girls worked on making a small flat circle (like the beginning of a coaster); but some of them found that difficult.  The shamrocks actually turned out to be easier for them; everyone completed at least one shamrock before the end of the class, and a couple of the girls said that they really liked making treble crochets. 

Well, this week we're going to go back to making those flat circles, and this time it will be easier because everybody's had a bit of practice--right?  Get your stitch markers ready!  (If you don't have split-ring markers, you can use things like earrings, paper clips, or bits of yarn to mark where you start each round.)

Today's Mini Hat pattern came from a holiday decoration, "Peppermint People,” in Crochet World Magazine, December 2005, by Angela Winger.  The designer's "snowman" person wears a flat-topped hat, boater-style, and that's the part of the pattern that we're using.

But not in snowman's-hat-black, please; black is one of the hardest colours to crochet with, since you can't easily see your stitches.  I'm thinking a lighter brown, and "straw" colour would be perfect.  Or any light colour is fine.  You will need a very small amount of a second colour for one row of trim.
What weight of yarn, and what size hook?  As written, you need a 4mm hook (F or G in American sizing) and worsted-weight yarn; in my own sample, that made a Moxie Girl-sized hat.   UPDATE:  I made another sample, using Red Heart Super Saver in variegated pinks and purples, and a 4mm hook; and it came out a little smaller than the first one--this one was more Barbie-sized.  So your mileage may vary quite a bit on these.
I made another hat, but I doubled the yarn (used two strands at a time) and used a larger, 6mm hook (that's a J hook for Americans), without making any changes to the pattern.  That made a hat that would fit a Ty Girlz doll or a Beanie Bopper.  The larger size also fits a cloth doll from Ten Thousand Villages.
I think if you wanted to make an even bigger hat, say for an 18-inch doll, you would need to change the pattern, rather than using heavier yarn with the original directions, so I'm not going to recommend that yet, unless you're already comfortable adapting patterns.  If you don't have a doll or critter small enough to wear the small-to-medium-sized hat, don't worry, because if you flip the hat upside down, it makes a perfect little basket.  Maybe for Easter, to hold a few foil-covered candies?  You'd just need to add a handle of some type.

I've copied out the pattern as printed in Crochet World, but with my "translations" below each row, in italics. 


Supplies needed: see notes above.  One strand of worsted-weight yarn, used with a 4mm hook (F or G, in American sizing); or two strands and a larger hook, for a larger hat; or you can experiment with heavier or lighter weight yarn for different effects.  Enough of the main colour to make the hat, plus small amount of a second colour for contrasting row.  Yarn needle, scissors, and stitch markers.

Stitches used:  Slip stitch (Sl st), Chain, (ch), Single Crochet (sc), Half Double Crochet (hdc)

Rnd. 1: With main colour, ch 2, 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook, do not join. (6 sc)

Chain 2 stitches. Make 6 single crochet stitches in the second chain stitch from the hook. Do not join with slip stitch—just keep going, and remember to count stitches.  The (6 sc) at the end means that you now have 6 single crochet stitches in the round.

Rnd 2: 2 sc in each sc around. (12 sc)

Work 2 single crochet stitches in each of the 6 single crochets that you made previously—this gives you 12 single crochet stitches. Do not join, just keep going.

Rnd 3: [Sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc] 6 times. (18 sc)

In the first stitch, make one single crochet. In the next, make two. In the next, make one. In the next, make two, and so on around. Square brackets plus a number afterwards mean that you are to do something a certain number of times, across a row or a round.

Rnd 4: [Sc in each of next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc] 6 times. (24 sc)

You are continuing to make the circle bigger. In the first stitch, make one single crochet. In the second, make one single crochet. In the third, make two. Repeat this pattern (one, one, two) all the way around.

Rnd 5: Working in back lps only, sc in each st around.

No increases on this round, but work only in the back loops to make a ridge.

Rnd 6: Sc in each sc around, change to contrasting colour in last sc.
No increases—just work around, and change colour at the end.  Don't cut the original yarn--you'll need it again in another row.

Rnd 7: Sc in each sc around change to main colour in last sc, fasten off trim colour.

Same as before—change back to original colour at the end.

Rnd 8: Repeat rnd 6.

Work around with original colour.

Rnd 9: Working in front lp only of each st, work 2 hdc [See notes below] in each st around, sl st in first hdc, fasten off.

This is how you make the brim, and you want to double the number of stitches. Hdc is half double crochet, and the only difference between it and single crochet is that you bring the yarn over the hook first before drawing up a loop, so that you have three loops on the hook. Draw the yarn back through all three loops at once to finish the stitch. Half double crochet gives you a nice solid stitch a bit bigger than single crochet. When turning rows made with hdc, chain 2 instead of chain 1.

If you don’t want to try the new stitch, you could do the brim in single crochet and then do a second round with no increases. Add a handle if you want it to be a basket.

That's enough to keep us busy for this class.  We are planning one more real-life class so that the girls can do an amigurumi animal or some other small project that they would like to finish off with.  Are you in?  Check back here...probably not in two weeks, since that's Easter weekend, but sometime next month.

(Hat photo found here)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

From the archives: Scott? Who reads Scott?

First posted July 2006

The novels of Sir Walter Scott were so familiar and important to the educator Charlotte Mason that she not only included them in term programs as a matter of course, but referred to them frequently in her own writings. The second part of her book Ourselves is loaded with illustrations from Scott (as well as from Dickens, George Eliot, Plutarch, and other writers with whom she assumed teenagers would be familiar!).
I can hardly conceive a better moral education than is to be had out of Scott and Shakespeare. I put Scott first as so much the more easy and obvious; but both recognise that the Will is the man....Both Shakespeare and Scott use, as it were, a dividing line, putting on the one side the wilful, wayward, the weak and the strong; and on the other, persons who will.--Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
Unfortunately, most of us didn't grow up reading Scott, and although we might have a vague idea of what Ivanhoe or Rob Roy are about, or might have heard about some of his poetry, many of the other books are strangers to us. Scott's books aren't even on a lot of best-books-you-must-read lists any more, except again maybe for Ivanhoe, and some people don't even count that really as one of his best books. I read one discussion of "classics" (I've forgotten what it was now) that simply lumped Scott with "writers who are no longer read," implying that there was good reason for that. The books are long, the first chapters are usually boring, they're extremely politically incorrect in all kinds of ways, and there are said to be lots of historical inaccuracies in them.

But if you want to do some exploring of what made Scott so vital to the Victorian mind, or if you want to get some idea of the plots of the novels, the Walter Scott Digital Archive is a good place to start. If you click on Works, you get a page for each book, with plot summaries; and the site has lots more Scott stuff as well. There's also a complete list of the books, if you want to see the "Waverley Novels" all in order.

A bit of Scott trivia to end with: did you know that those were the books that kept Laura sane during a difficult pregnancy in The First Four Years?
And now the four walls of the close, overheated house opened wide, and Laura wandered with brave knights and ladies fair beside the lakes and streams of Scotland or in castles and towers, in noble halls or lady's bower, all through the enchanting pages of Sir Walter Scott's novels.

She forgot to feel ill at the sight or smell of food, in her hurry to be done with the cooking and follow her thoughts back into the book. When the books were all read and Laura came back to reality, she found herself feeling much better. (The First Four Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, pages 107-108)
I hope this helps anyone who's interested in Charlotte Mason but is as bewildered by all the references to Scott as I first was.

[2012 P.S.: If you read Scott's Guy Mannering, then you'll notice Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's little joke about the character who says "Pro-di-gious!" in On the Art of Writing.  Just saying.]

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Something we learned in school today: about Brahms

Brahms's First Piano Concerto was considered a failure.

But twenty-two years later, he wrote the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major, Op. 83.  It was first performed in November 1881, and over that fall and winter he performed it in a whole list of European cities, where he was "greeted with ovations." 

Before Brahms, most piano concertos started with a long orchestral introduction, then focused on the piano.  The first movement of this concerto has a short horn introduction but then moves right into the piano; then back to the orchestra for awhile, then back and forth in a "lengthy dialogue.".  He gives the orchestra lots to do.  "In fact," the notes say, "some commentators...regard it as a symphony with piano accompaniment."

 (Notes from Time Life Great Men of Music: Brahms and His Music.)

Thrift store Wednesdays: Too wicked for me

Today I unpacked and priced a bunch of gardening books, some health stuff, some renovation books, and a whole batch of miscellaneous non-fiction.  And most of the data entry work came up zeroes, which was a good thing because my head's befogged by a cold, and I'm not sure I could have handled much unfigurable stuff.

Here's what I brought home:

Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin: a classic about financial independence.  Here's the YMoYL website.

Read This Next:  500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read.  I actually bought this so I can recognize more of the newer fiction titles that come in to the thrift store.  But I don't think I'm going to keep's hard to explain why, it's just not my style.  Something to do with the back cover: "Read This Next is the wickedly smart, faithful, and attractive partner you've always dreamed would bring you true and lasting reading happiness."

Noah's Children: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood, by Sara Stein.
365 Quick, Easy & Inexpensive Dinner Menus, by Penny E. Stone.  This one got a mix of reviews on Amazon. I agree with the reviewer who pointed out that you do not need ten cups of cheese to make a 9 x 13 pan of lasagna!  But I'll have a look through it and see if there are any ideas we can use.
Find the Constellations, by H.A. Rey.  We already have his other astronomy book, The Stars.

The hot fudge of literary lectures

"Beetles, minerals, gases, may be classified; and to have them classified is not only convenient but a genuine advance of knowledge. But if you had to make a beetle, as men are making poetry, how much would classification help?"--Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, "On the Capital Difficulty of Prose"
I had started reading Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's On The Art of Writing online, but didn't manage more than the first few lectures until I finally ordered a copy of the book.  Some books are like that for me: I just prefer them with covers.  Also, Helene Hanff's description of her "wait here" approach to Q worried me; maybe it would take me eleven years to get to the end.

But Lectures V and VI are simply amazing.

To avoid such abstraction, perhaps I should rather say that they're a banana split of words and language.

"For all these writers were alive: and I tell you it is an inspiriting thing to be alive and trying to write English."--Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
V.  Interlude: On Jargon might mislead in its title, because it's just as much about concrete language in poetry as it is about avoiding obfuscation.  Why is Shakespeare easier to read than Marlowe?  He uses more concrete imagery.  Marlowe:  "She’s sad as one long used to ’t, and she seems  / Rather to welcome the end of misery / Than shun it: a behaviour so noble / As gives a majesty to adversity..."  Shakespeare:  "She never told her love, / But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, / Feed on her damask cheek; she pined in thought, / And with a green and yellow melancholy / She sat like Patience on a monument / Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?"  Sir Arthur points out that even when Shakespeare uses an abstract word like "concealment," he quickly balances it out with "worms."

But the best yet is  VI.  On the Capital Difficulty of Prose.  "I feel indeed somewhat as Gideon must have felt when he divided his host on the slopes of Mount Gilead, warning back all who were afraid," says Sir Arthur.  "In asking the remnant to follow as attentively as they can, I promise only that, if Heaven carry us safely across, we shall have ‘broken the back’ of the desert."

He talks about some of the marvellous early writing in English, both in verse and in prose, and how there was still something of a gap both in words and in thought.  There were early poems about "love," but the concept of "love" was generally an unsophisticated one, or at least it was not able to be explored deeply within the limits of English as it was then.  The Renaissance, with the rediscovery of classical literature, bridged the gap, and opened the way for Shakespeare: writers now asked, what is love?  Our poetry moved from the 15th-century "The Nut-Brown Maid"

"And sure all tho that do not so
True lovers are they none:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone"

to Shakespeare's

"Thy bosom is endearéd with all hearts
Which I by lacking have supposéd dead:
And there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buriéd."

And the door that opened for poetry, also opened the way to a new standard in prose: the King James Bible.

Yes, the Bible.  That same dangerous, hate-filled Bible that the province of Alberta wants excised.  Sir Arthur believed that, though it was a translation rather than an original English work, the Authorized Version was still the first post-Renaissance, full-bore, with-nuts-on-top piece of English prose.
"When a nation has achieved this manner of diction, those rhythms for its dearest beliefs, a literature is surely established. Just there I find the effective miracle, making the blind to see, the lame to leap. Wyclif, Tyndale, Coverdale and others before the forty-seven had wrought. The Authorised Version, setting a seal on all, set a seal on our national style, thinking and speaking. It has cadences homely and sublime, yet so harmonises them that the voice is always one. Simple men—holy and humble men of heart like Isaak Walton or Bunyan—have their lips touched and speak to the homelier tune. Proud men, scholars,—Milton, Sir Thomas Browne—practice the rolling Latin sentence; but upon the rhythms of our Bible they, too, fall back....The Bible controls its enemy Gibbon as surely as it haunts the curious music of a light sentence of Thackeray’s. It is in everything we see, hear, feel, because it is in us, in our blood."
Go, read, enjoy.

Linked from the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival at Jimmie's Collage.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh, my poor brainwashed homeschooled kids

There is a lot going on in the media about free speech, homeschooling, Christians, and education in general.  A Peaceful Day has a post discussing an article that seems to raise unwarranted concern about homeschoolers, particularly American politician Rick Santorum.  Is the real concern that some homeschooling parents (religious or not) might neglect academics or (puh-leeze) socialization?  Or is that just a smokescreen for those who separate "freedom of worship" from "freedom of religion?"  I'm not sure.

As I've said before, merely occupying a particular place in society is enough to ensure that some people out there won't like you.  I am a middle-aged white female, educated in Ontario public schools and universities. I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last twenty years.  I attend a Christian church.  Our children have received most of their schooling outside of the public school system.  I diapered a baby in disposables, I eat pork, I buy cold cereal, I read books by dead white guys, and I wear blue jeans.  I'm sure there's at least one thing on that list (I could come up with more) to cause general fear and mistrust.  In some people's minds, I'm a very dangerous person.

Well, Bubba and me seem to have larned our young'uns good enough that they can get by with the readin', writin', and figgerin'.  The two that went to public high school have been on the honour roll, and have earned a consistent stream of positive remarks from their teachers.  And they've made friends too--imagine that.  The oldest graduated with not only a high school diploma but with most of the requirements completed for her hairstyling apprenticeship, and she completed that soon afterwards...just before she entered university as a science major. (Yes, big bad science.) Middle daughter, now in ninth grade, has her own ideas about all the marvellous things she'd like to do and how she's going to do them. And what can I say about the fifth-grader, whose "lack of exposure to the real world" includes a weekly stint working with adults at the thrift store, and whose current favourite TV show is She-ra, Princess of Power?

Sure, there are opportunities that we couldn't provide, just because of our own family circumstances.  We're urban, not rural; we aren't world travellers; the girls haven't had much opportunity to participate in organized sports.  (Honestly, they didn't care about that.) Only one of them has taken swimming lessons. But guess what? They (at least the older two) can solder, handle a screwdriver, and change oil.  They've taken voice lessons, dance, improv, and drama (at various times).  They know how to shop for groceries,  mow the lawn, and run the washing machine, and they're aware of the dangers of misused credit.  They're the ones who are recruited to water vacationing neighbours' gardens, and help with younger children at church.  The oldest paid for most of her own "wants" during high school, through part-time jobs. All three of them run circles around me with their electronic gadgets (not around their dad, though--who do you think taught them?).  They are not shy about reading or speaking in public.  They can hold a conversation with people outside their own age group. They have opinions.  They argue with each other, and sometimes with their parents. They also identify themselves as Christians.

(I guess that last one must have been brainwashed into them, yes?)

Related posts:
Answers to some misconceptions about homeschooling
Bubba and me think that homeskoolers are not so freaky
How come your kids don't know that?
Is public high school all that perky?

Linked from Carnival of Homeschooling: Texas Edition

Friday, March 16, 2012

You can get a very, very good deal on the Moms' Book

Do you read the Moms of Many posts on The Common Room, Raising Olives, Smockity Frocks, or In a Shoe?

Did you know that the four Moms have just put together an 195-page e-book of advice, printables, and more?  It's especially for parents with a more-than-average amount of kids, but there's good organizing advice there for anybody who has youngers around.

And they are having a special sale to introduce it:
"Starting Monday at 11:00a.m. CST, we are having an amazing blow-out sale- you can buy the book at the following rates:

First 50 customers – 50 cents
Next 100 – $1
Next 200 – $2
Next 300 – $3
Next 400 and holding at this introductory price indefinitely – $4"
And if you post a link (on a blog, Twitter, or Facebook), you might even win one yourself.

What's for supper? Soup night

Tonight's menu:

The Common Room's Cheeseburger Soup (originally from Taste of Home Magazine)  (I chopped the onion, celery and carrot together in the food processor, to speed things up.  We also used real Cheddar cheese as the Common Room recommended, not the processed kind as in the original.)
Toast, crackers, salad
Oranges, cookies

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From the archives: Our computer is a magic box

First posted March 23, 2009.  I haven't checked all the links yet--I hope most of them still work.

My mom taught school on and off when I was young. I was thinking this morning about the trouble she used to go to to make reproducibles for her class. They didn't call them that, though. The teacher made "stencils" and you got a "ditto" from the "ditto machine," otherwise known as a spirit duplicator. If you were lucky, the stencil didn't wrinkle during duplication, and if you were very lucky, you got 50 to 100 nice clear (and smelly) copies before your stencil didn't work so well anymore. (Most schools had moved on from the Gestetner era by that time, although a lot of churches were still back in the ka-chunka ka-chunka '50's, duplicating-wise.) It wasn't until high school that we started getting many photocopied sheets.

Now we have computers.

I'm getting ready for a homeschool week with my second grader, getting back into the groove after March Break. We're going to be reading a chapter about Henry V and the battle of Agincourt. I go to, find H.E. Marshall's book An Island Story, find the right chapter, adjust the printing preferences (no pictures, small font), and print myself out a three-page copy. I Google-Image the words Agincourt Henry, hoping for something to cut out or colour, and come up with a page of possibilities. OK, there's a map. I try to print it out, but it's too big; I save it to our desktop, and print it out with a Photo Wizard (sizing and rotating it to fit the paper). Takes me about 30 seconds. There--one nice map of France, England, and the English Channel, and I'll teach Crayons how to colour water on a map. (I also found a few minutes of the Laurence Olivier Henry V on YouTube--the St. Crispian's Day speech--but Crayons wasn't as interested it in it this time around as she was four years ago.)

Crayons wants to start learning cursive. We do have a Canadian Handwriting transition-year workbook, but I don't think it's enough to get her started--she needs more tracing practice and the chance to learn some strokes before she's asked to go right ahead and write capital and lower-case cursive letters (especially capitals--those can wait). I print out the Kidzone Rockin' Round Letters "a" worksheet, tape it to the kitchen table, and let her go to it.

The Miquon Math (Green Book) pages for this week are a bit confusing; they want you to introduce the concept of factors, as in, what are the factors of 6? (1, 2, 3, 6) I don't like the two Miquon pages in the workbook, at least not to get started with; maybe there's something else online. At first I can't find any appropriate free sheets or instructions for dice or card games, since factoring is usually taught in higher grades. But I do come up with a page of java-based games and other online activities for teaching factors. And there's something there called The Factor Game, which can be played with two people or against the computer. I try it out myself a couple of times and decide we might be able to use this, especially after a You-tube lesson on finding factors from an elementary-school teacher named Tim Bedley. Nothing too high-tech about the lesson--just a teacher writing on a white board (I wish they'd leave out the annoying drum beats, though). I could show Crayons myself, but today I'll let Tim do it, and then we'll try out the game. (Update: success! Crayons really liked the game, both against the computer and against me, although the computer seems very hard to beat.)

We're getting back into French, after several weeks' break. I found some pages I put together years ago, a four-week study of the French version of All Tutus Should Be Pink, an I-Can-Read book. Each lesson was a short passage from the book that I typed out, plus a couple of language activities (reading, copying, finding sounds, putting words in order) for each day. I thought I'd have to type them all out again, but realized they were still in the computer files. I needed new "word cards," though; that was as easy as highlighting my typed text, copying it to another page in a larger font, putting it into columns, and asking Word to put boxes around each word or phrase. (That's on the Word toolbar, something called "Outside Border" with a little icon that looks like a square divided in quarters.) I printed the columns out twice, pasted the pages onto old manila file folders, and cut all the pieces apart. (If this sounds like a Charlotte Mason elementary reading lesson, that's because it is. Only in French.) Now we have word cards for the first lesson that we can match up, play Concentration with, put in order, or play fill-in-the-blanks with.

A very far cry from having to write all that out on a stencil with a pen.

I also find a ballerina colouring page to print out and glue on the front of a file folder, so Crayons has a place to keep her "tutu" worksheets. (I picked the drawing of the two little girls, the fourth one in the top row.)

Oh, and finally today we're going to do some Ambleside Online picture study. Our term's artist (we're off the schedule) is Giotto di Bondone, and I click the link to today's painting on the Ambleside art page. Oops--it takes me to some fashion design site--I'll have to let AO know the link is broken. OK--Google Image search for "Jesus washes the feet of the apostles." There we go.

While I'm getting ready for school, I check Homeschool Freebie of the Day; I decide that I'm not that interested in hoop skirts, but there will probably be something later in the week I want to save. I have a few minutes to look at babies and babies and more babies (everybody's posting about their babies today). Sebastian is discovering Japan, and Lindafay has something about poetry that I want to come back to. Mr. Fixit wants to use the computer too--he wants to check the weather and he has to print out a shipping label for something he's sold on E-bay.

Not every day is this dependent on The Box. But when we need it--it's astonishing.

(And now we're going for a nature walk. No computer necessary.)

Computer photo found here: check out the link to the Gallery of Giant, Ancient Computers.

Yum, yum: from the archives

Originally posted March 14, 2006

Since Crayons has discovered she can read "a zillion stories," it's been a lot of fun going back over some of her old favourites and letting her do the reading. Yesterday we took turns with a Mother Goose book. She read,

"Pease porridge hot
Pease porridge cold
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old."

Ponytails was listening and she said, "I know YOU put it in muffins, but then it's only TWO days old."


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What's for supper? Beef goulash

Tonight's been-out-all-afternoon menu:

Beef goulash in the slow cooker, with pasta shells (not the huge ones, just regular size) and fried mushrooms
Carrot sticks
Rolls we found for half price on the clearance rack
Dessert:  fruit, and a shared birthday chocolate bar (thanks, Ponytails--nice choice).

Found at the thrift store: lots of books

There weren't too many boxes of new books today, but I did sort through the few that came in, and priced and shelved a bunch of crafts, how-to and other non-fiction books.  And then went upstairs to tackle the data entry.  I always breathe a sigh of relief when that "0" pops up at the bottom of the page--that means it worked and everything balanced out.  Like balancing a chequebook.  If the magic zero doesn't appear, you have to go back and check all the numbers again to see where you messed up.  Or somebody did.

Today I got mostly zeroes without having to doublecheck.  And I found some interesting books too.  (I did drop some off on the way into the store, so it evened out.)

Mine for Keeps, by Jean Little.  Ours fell apart, so this is a replacement.

Schrödinger's Rabbits: The Many Worlds of Quantum, by Colin Bruce.  For The Apprentice.

A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein, by Palle Yourgrau.  For The Apprentice.

Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and In Life, by Leonard Mlodinow.  Probably for The Apprentice.
The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdös and the Search for Mathematical Truth, by Paul Hoffman.  Probably also for The Apprentice.  I think all these books came from the same place.

The Ringmaster's Daughter, by Jostein Gaarder

The Mystery of Things, by A.C. Grayling

The Loghouse Nest, by Louise de Kiriline Lawrence.  "A charming account of the author's special relationship with the birds and wild creatures who share her northern homesite at Pimisi Bay, near Mattawa, Ontario."  Illustrated by Thoreau MacDonald.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What's for supper? Veggie Night

We bought all those flour tortillas on sale, so now we need to use some up.  I really like the enchilada sauce mixture from this recipe--it's very easy to mix up, and I usually have the right ingredients in the cupboard.

Cheese and Bean Tortilla Stack, in the slow cooker
Baked sweet potatoes
Red and green pepper strips

Fruit and cookies

It's March Break here, for most of us: on sewing and books

Ponytails and Crayons/Dollygirl have the week off from classes.  The Apprentice doesn't.  But at least the weather is co-operating; it's funny how often we do have good weather during March Break.  Ponytails will be doing some group sewing.  I think Crayons wants to sew some doll clothes too.  Last week we tried making a doll leotard out of some old Lycra leggings, but the stretchy stuff did not get along well with our sewing machine.  We'll try something else this week.
I saw this vintage poster on A Peaceful Day, and you can read more about it on Brain Pickings.  Having a Chapters gift card from a recent birthday, I decided to take President Roosevelt up on his suggestion and ordered a few books I wanted to read but hadn't found in the used pickings. Helen Hanff's Q's Legacy, Quiller-Couch's On the Art of Writing, and The Mind of the Maker should all be on their way here before the month's out, along with one book for Crayons' spring term.

(I have been reading On the Art of Writing from the Bartleby site for awhile now, printing it out a lecture at a time, but decided a real book would be better.  And I used to have The Mind of the Maker, back in the prehistoric university days, but didn't properly appreciate it then and gave it away again.  That and Harry Blamires' The Christian Mind.  I like passing books around, but really, those were two I should have hung on to, at least until I had finished reading them properly.)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Crochet Class #5: Circles and Shamrocks

I'm posting this a day early--anticipating our Saturday class!

Today I'm not going to reinvent the wheel--just teach you how to make one. 

Well, not this one--but something a bit simpler to start with.  The girls in our class are going to start working "in the round": starting from a center point and working out to make round (or square) flat motifs (think doilies), or tube-shaped pieces (think socks?).  
A big tube-shaped pillow I made for the Apprentice
It's possible to make lots of crocheted things by working only in rows, not rounds, but working in the round has its own advantages: you can just keep going and never have to worry about turning your work or whether your edges are perfectly straight.  You could make a hat, for example, by crocheting a large rectangle and sewing it up the back--but it's just as easy to start with a very small circle at the top of the hat, keep the circle growing until you have something that covers the top of your head, and then work straight down until it's done.  In fact, that's what my first crochet teacher started us with, years and years ago in the fifth or sixth grade--crocheted hats.  Round and round and round and round...

A jar topper or mini doily--see the starting point in the middle?

Almost all the monkey parts were made in the round--saves on the sewing up at the end.
Holiday ornaments, all made from a center starting point

The best online tutorial I've found for in-the-round is this one at  Really, I don't think I can explain it any better, so just head over there and let them teach you.  You chain two, three, or four times; join with a slip stitch; and work any amount of single crochet stitches in the loop you have just made. Does this look familiar? It should—it is the same as making a scrunchie, only without the elastic. The nice part about working in the loop is that you do NOT have to work into every chain—you are just working over the loop. When you are done that round, you can pull on the loose end and the circle should tighten up a bit.  If you follow the tutorial all the way through, you will make a flat circle in several rounds, that can be used for a coaster.  The tutorial suggests making two circles from cotton yarn and sewing them together for a thicker coaster.
More stuffed animals: see how the ponies' noses start small and then increase into the head shapes?  The bodies and legs are also made in the round.

There is a newer way of starting a loop, called a magic ring or magic circle, which gives you more control over pulling the hole closed at the end of the round. You wrap the yarn a couple of times around your finger, anchor the loop with a chain stitch, and then work into that.  But most patterns still have you start with chains joined with a slip stitch. (Sometimes it will just say to chain twice and then to work several stitches into the second chain, acting as if the chain stitch is a loop itself.)

And have I mentioned increasing in crochet?  It's very easy: just work more than one stitch into the stitch in question.  You know--usually you work along, one stitch into each of those chain-looking things in the previous row?  You usually want to increase evenly throughout a row or a round, unless you're trying for a funny effect like a camel's hump.  So, often a pattern will say something like 2 sc (single crochet) in the next stitch, sc 2 (make two single crochets in the two next stitches), 2 sc in next stitch, sc 2, continue across the row.

(More fun with prepositions:  sometimes a pattern might say "in the next space", which some people find confusing at first.  Just remember that you can crochet into or around almost anything, as long as there's room to get the hook through.  You can crochet into a loop, into a stitch, into a space (if you've made chain loops in the previous row), over an elastic (like the scrunchies) or a plastic ring, or into holes punctured into the edge of a handkerchief or napkin.  When you crochet into a space, you don't work into the chain or chains that make the space--just work over the strands.)

Today's other project:  Since it's almost St. Patrick's Day, the girls are going to follow a video tutorial by Teresa Richardson to make a shamrock, using green worsted-weight yarn.

So far we have used only single crochet, but there are “taller” stitches that you can make by adding “yarn overs.” This pattern includes a very tall stitch called a treble (meaning the same as “triple”), which you make by bringing the yarn twice over the hook, pulling up a loop (which gives you four loops on the hook), and then pulling two stitches at a time off the hook: so yarn over and pull two off, you have three; yarn over and pull two off, you have two; yarn over and pull two off, you have one. (Remember that treble stitch doesn’t mean bringing the yarn over three times: the triple part comes in when you pull the loops off three times.) You will not be using treble stitch very often (double crochet, which brings the yarn over only once, is much more common), but it gives a good effect in this little shamrock. Plus the pattern itself is so easy that all you have to really worry about is making the new stitch.

If you follow the pattern, you will have one small motif that you can pin on something; but you can also finish the shamrock, keep chaining about 30 stitches (or as long as you want) and you'll have a bookmark. You can even finish the chain, slip stitch into the fourth chain from the hook so that you have a loop, and make a second shamrock into that loop, so you have a double-ended bookmark.

Have fun, and I'll post one more class in two weeks.

All photographs copyright 2007-2012, Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

More fun French karaoke: everybody wants to be "un cat."

What's the cheapest dinner you can think of?

Linked from Four Moms of Many, March 8 2012

That is, that anyone will eat?

The four Moms of Many, including the Deputy Headmistress, have a linky today looking for extremely cheap dinners: that is, 50 cents U.S. per person. For our family of five, that would be $2.50; everything costs a bit more in Canada, so let's make it $3.

Mr. Fixit suggested pancakes and bacon, or pancakes and sausage. We have gotten marked-down bacon and sausage for $2 a pound, which would be enough for our family and would leave a dollar over for the pancake ingredients. Here's a favourite recipe from More Food That Really Schmecks. As written, the five of us go away feeling a bit hungry; doubling it makes lots of leftovers; a one-and-a-half recipe seems about right.

Note: We never have buttermilk here. You could use thinned yogurt as a substitute. I would probably use either fresh or powdered milk, with one tablespoon of vinegar added per cup. Mix that first and let it sit to clabber while you get the other ingredients together.

Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups flour (a mix of white and whole wheat if you have it)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 egg, well beaten (or egg substitute)
2 cupfuls buttermilk or sour milk
1 1/2 tbsp. melted shortening, oil, or butter, plus extra for frying
Toppings: homemade sugar syrup, butter, fruit, jam, whatever you have

Into the sifted dry ingredients add the egg beaten into the milk, then the fat or oil. Melt and heat some fat or oil in a frying pan and ladle the batter into it in thin 4- or 6-inch rounds*. Let fry until golden, flip, and brown on the other side.

*We have a skillet with rounded sides that is not ideal for making round pancakes. Rather than hold everybody up while we try to get the perfect shapes, we've discovered that long ovals work better and taste just as good.

School plans for today (Crayons' Grade Five)

New Testament Reading: Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21, part 3, J.B. Phillips translation:
33-40 “Now listen to another story. There was once a man, a land-owner, who planted a vineyard, fenced it round, dug out a hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to farm-workers and went abroad. When the vintage-time approached he sent his servants to the farm-workers to receive his share of the proceeds. But they took the servants. beat up one, killed another, and drove off a third with stones. Then he sent some more servants, a larger party than the first, but they treated them in just the same way. Finally he sent his own son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ Yet when the farm-workers saw the son they said to each other, ‘This fellow is the future owner. Come on, let’s kill him and we shall get everything that he would have had!’ So they took him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those farm-workers?”

41 “He will kill those scoundrels without mercy,” they replied, “and will let the vineyard out to other tenants, who will give him the produce at the right season.”

42 “And have you never read these words of scripture,” said Jesus to them: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?’

43-44 “Here, I tell you, lies the reason why the kingdom of God is going to be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its proper fruit.”

45-46 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables they realised that he was speaking about them. They longed to get their hands on him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who regarded him as a prophet.
Copywork: “…the loveliness of the town rising tier above tier in a glow of cream colour against the blue-grey western sky.”—Lilias Trotter

A Passion for the Impossible (Biography of Lilias Trotter): pages 103-107 (introduction to Algeria)

French: Unit 3 lesson 23b (continue) and 24a. Continue working on the story about Burundi. Conversation about things you do at home (phrases for "wash dishes," "do laundry," etc.).

Canadian history: p. 351-354 "Currency in the Colonies."  Why did Canada (pre-Confederation Canada, meaning Ontario and Quebec) adopt the decimal currency of dollars and cents (in 1858)?  How did currency help bring about Confederation and unite the provinces?

Math: online fact practice.  Crayons' favourite division-fact game site.

Handicrafts:  sewing doll clothes

Spelling/writing:  Study for dictation from one of the books we have been reading
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