Friday, August 26, 2016

Our Weekly Amble for August 22-26, 2016

Finally, I get to write about this week.

phew. Three Weekly Ambles in one week is a lot. I'm glad to catch up, though.

Monday was awful.

Everything took so very long. Children were still doing lessons at 6:30. Jason was coming home after bedtime. I was frustrated and upset and just do your work already.

It wasn't even that there was too much work - although it was a slightly heavy day - but there was a lot of horseplay and avoidance and general malaise.

I know Mondays are hard. They are definitely the most difficult day of our homeschool week. Perhaps they are for you too. I think here it is because:

  1. Sundays are long. We have Sunday School, Worship, family time, and Evening Worship. We generally visit afterward and eat on our way home. Late to bed means grumpy kids in the morning. 
  2. Weekends are fun. We often have things to do on Saturday that are fun. We love to be with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on Sundays. There's a lot of running and little rest on those days.
  3. We all forget. We forget the order of the day. We forget the need to buckle down and work. We have to rehash good habits. I need more coffee.
  4. Daddy is gone. He goes back to work. We all adore having Jason home. We love spending time with him. We love interacting with him. And when he's gone, it's just harder. I have to work harder at parenting and they have to work harder at being parented. I must work at being - as Cindy Rollins instructs - impervious. sigh.
So, this past Monday was just extra hard. And Daddy gave them the what-for. No kindles - except for school work - until school was done. Get your work done. Don't make Mommy cry.

The rest of the week was great.  Not perfect, but oh-so-much-better. I talked about it in the Your Morning Basket podcast episode that debuted this week, sometimes we have to rely upon our husbands to help us. They don't want unhappy wives. They don't want to come home to frustrations and complaints. But sometimes, it's oh-so-nice if they lay down the law.

From Tuesday onward, school was done by 2:00. When I want it to be done.

We did change our start time to 8:30 am from 9:00 am. That helped with focus and just getting the process moving. We also took a walk  most days before school started:

We did Whatchamacallit every day. I don't remember the last time we managed 5 days, but it was sweet and I do love when it goes well. We have one more week in our Session and I think we'll be done with learning Luke 10:25-37 (The Good Samaritan). We have come to like The King of Love My Shepherd Is (Dominus Regit Es) It took a while to find an accompaniment we liked, but we found this lovely organ one. We continued moving through Training Hearts, Teaching Minds which is just the perfect length for during Whatchamacallit. We've been talking about propriety - in dress, words, and actions - in Laying Down the Rails. This has been a tricky subject. We read the section on dandelions in The Handbook of Nature Study and looked up the parts of flowers to better understand what we were reading. Poetry is going well, they almost have Project done and have begun working on their personal selections.  I'm struggling with mine.

This was a writing week in our loop ... I was incredibly impressed with how Writing and Rhetoric walked the children through writing their own fables - which turned out very well. Today we did a five minute free write and M-girl chose to write a fable based on the butterfly and frog prompt from Bravewriter:

We practiced multiplication facts (except for today) with dice. We reviewed Latin vocabulary chants. Today we looked at some sentences from Ecce Romani I. I try to add some fun change-ups to Whatchamacallit on Fridays, just for a little variety. Same order, slightly different activities.

Our beauty loop was strong this week, working through Art Appreciation, Folksong, Handicraft, Shakespeare, and drawing today. We finished The Good Master (review to come) and began the next in the series, The Singing Tree.

We got Madam How, Lady Why out of the way first thing on Monday. This is the children's least favorite book each week and I generally read it aloud. This week was slightly more fun because we were able to pull out our rock sample boxes that we have from the state:

We were reading about limestone deposits in England and have them here in Ohio too. In fact, there's a quarry in our vicinity. I should try to see about a field trip.

We finished Wild Animals I Have Known. I tweeted:

I'm so glad they had the opportunity to consider these things in this book. Yes, they were saddened. Yes, they cried. But we were able to discuss how it is the way the fallen world works, the needs of people to eat, see wrong and right judgements of people, and learn something about animals in every chapter. What great things to learn in a book like this.

We read several other books, obviously, but the other reading that really stood out was from Halliburton's Book of Marvels. We read about Mount St. Michel.

I love the way Halliburton writes. Even the gruesome story was exciting and engaging. Part of why this stood out, though, is that some of my family were able to recently travel there and had shared pictures on Facebook which I was able to share with the children. I love when those "coincidences" happen.

We completed chapter #27 in Latin For Children A. I feel like we're never going to finish, but I suppose it's my own fault. The children played the flash card game in review before their quiz yesterday:

Soccer season began Thursday night with M-girls first practice. She moves up into the league with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. 8th graders are huge. N-boy and R-girl got to play on the new playground with a splash pad. They appreciated that in the 91 and super-humidity.

Overall, after Monday, it was the best week of school in memory. Yay. One more week then break week. I think we're all ready!!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Our Weekly Amble for August 15-19, 2016

OK, the second week of a late review. But, better late than never.

Speaking of late, our school days are going all kinds of late. I don't think I'm over-assigning, kids are just not gettin' er done. Dawdling, playing, fighting, it's getting ugly and I need to put on my big girl panties and be the mean mama.


On the upside, I really like the things I'm assigning.

We worked hard all week long. My new system of figuring out how many readings there are and then dividing them by the expected number of days so I know how much to assign was a grand success. For one week, you know. Starting again this week, we'll see.

We did school on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

My parents gave R-girl a "Pink Pirate Party at the Zoo" with her siblings & school-aged cousins that she got to plan for her birthday. There was so much traveling this summer in my extended family that last Tuesday - the last day of summer before one of their schools started (the other was Thursday), was the only day that worked. It made for a fine Last Hurrah! for all the children.

I ran errands, dropped off our Notice of Intent to Homeschool (on the last day), and went grocery shopping. I also enjoyed a scone and mocha at our town's new bakery.

Wednesday was the first day of public school in our district, so we had to get doughnuts and stuck by the school bus.

My camera wasn't focusing, but I thought it was a cool picture anyway.
On the other days, we did Whatchamacallit, math, penmanship, and Latin. We're working on the irregular "to go" verb.

They did the Week 10 AO readings. They finished working on North Africa in the Memoria Press Geography book. We read about Gibraltar in Halliburton. We made "I need help" cards like our "I need to narrate" cards. And I decided to store them in their assignment notebooks. A post about these is forthcoming. Someday.

I can tell this is R-girl's book because of the green assignments.
Anyway, I got out the stickers and stamps to make those fun, and the girls decided to use little stickers to mark their assignment books. That's pretty fun.

Overall, we accomplished a lot over the week, even if it took longer than I wanted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesdays with Words: Time is Like Water

I started this blog a long time ago and one of the first things I included was my favorite Bible passage which is still on the header today, 2 Samuel 14:14:
Like water poured on the ground which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life, instead He devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him. 
I learned that one way back in my NIV days, I like the ESV, too:
We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. 
I guess I like water analogies.

When I was listening to the most recent Mason Jar episode (On Kicking Off the School Year Well), I was struck twice by the way Cindy talked about time. At the beginning of the episode, she first analogized time to water in how it fills up the space that is available.  We find ways to fill up that space - with good things and bad - and have to contain it when we wish to add something.

Then, at the end of the episode, she cautions about filling our days so full with so many things - good and bad - for the purpose of "productivity." I've seen a lot of talk this summer about letting kids get "bored" because that's when they become creative. Hopefully not in a destructive way.

We will fill our time to the brim, every nook and cranny will be seeped into if we aren't cautious to leave plain areas. God had to separate the seas from the dry land - to contain them. Our time is like this, we have to contain things from expanding to take up the whole space. As we watch it trickle and saturate the ground of our lives, we cannot re-gather it, we must use it fittingly in the first place.

Sometimes that proper way is to contain even good things in smaller buckets before everything seeps away.

Wordless Wednesday: Adventures Near Home

Monday, August 22, 2016

Our Weekly Amble for August 8-12, 2016

Two weeks late, but I really do want to keep a record. I'll write last week's in a separate post.

So the week of August 8-12, R-girl and I did most of the things the other children and I had done the week before. M-girl and N-boy had their "Old Enough Others Outing" with Grammy and Grampa.

They got to go paddleboarding, Grammy sent these pictures.
R-girl and I struggled to get her work done. Besides the Olympics, having no siblings to draw her along made for a struggle. All kinds of props for homeschooling moms of only children.

She did do some school:

Latin from Rest.
Watching Iguazu Falls video.
 M-girl and N-boy returned on Wednesday afternoon. Because all three had done school stuff on the previous Thursday-Friday, we were all evened out and caught up! Jason was able to take Thursday off so we headed to the Columbus Museum of Art for their Picasso exhibit.

We had a grand time.

On Friday, the kids were supposed to clean their rooms. That was somewhat less grand.

So it goes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesdays with Words: Miracles Happen

When I was a teen, I had my Bible sitting open in my room one day and I came home to find a sticker in the midle of it that said "Miracles Happen for those who Believe."

I assume my mom put it there, but to this day, I'm not certain who did.  I'm pretty sure it didn't spontaneously appear.

It almost took a miracle for this post to occur.

I read my first Chesterton story last night and this morning.  In the complete Father Brown, the first story is The Blue Cross.  The Blue Cross is filled with colors (blue, green, yellow, gold, silver) and discussions of reason.

Ilove how Chesterton is emphatic that reason is important, but not the be-all end-all.

Smack dab in the middle, though, is one quote that stood out:

Valentin, the French Inspector we spend the majority of the story with, thinks a lot about reason and how reason is important but can be insufficient. That humans are not "thinking machines" and there are limits to reason - the French Revolution critiques "pure reason."  Valentin is on the look-out for cues (not clues) in the pursuit of the wicked Flambeau and follows the oddities - the out of place - and disparages the Englishman who asks for proof. 

At the end, while Flambeau and Father Brown discuss reason and it's consistency throughout the universe, Valentin reflects:
But when Valentin thought of all that had ahppened in between, of all that had led him to his triumph, he racked his brains for the smallest rhyme or reason in it. What had the stealing of a blue-and-silver cross from a priest from Essex to do with chucking soup at wall paper? What had it to do with calling nuts oranges, or with paying for windows first and breaking them afterwards? He had come to the end of his chase; yet somehow he had missed the middle of it. When he failed (which was seldom), he had usually grasped the clue but nevertheless missed the criminal. Here he had grasped the criminal, but still he could not grasp the clue. 
Reason can take us so far, but sometimes miracles and cues we won't understand in this life lead us to the places we want to be - with or without the specific rationale behind those miracles or cues.  We must attend to the cues, watch for the miracles, and learn to see the Master.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Old Books, Disagreements, Loving People

As you likely know, we use AmblesideOnline for our homechool curriculum.

One knock AO gets is that it occasionally uses old, sometimes racially insensitive (at best) or downright racist (at worst) books. There are books to offend many groups - Roman Catholics have issue with Trial and Triumph and Westward Ho!; This Country of Ours finds detractors in those of the LDS faith; Dr. Doolittle is offensive to Africans and African Americans, etc.

I was recently reading aloud to my children from Kate Seredy’s The Good Master. Seredy’s books are free-reads and we find her to be a delightful writer: funny, engaging, beautiful language and encouraging ideas.

Because I was enjoying The Good Master so much, I was utterly unprepared for Chapter X "Kate and the Gypsies" where Seredy painted the ‘gypsies’ as untrustworthy, lying thieves with a broad and heavy brush.

I think what surprised me most, was that this was not the first time we’d seen Roma - or Romani - in the book. When the family attended the fair, a gypsy, er, Romani fiddler played a fun, exciting dance and we saw the fun - without the antagonism.

So, when Uncle Marton - Master Nagy - treats the arrival of the Romani with suspicion and, in the story, they act in a way deserving that suspicion, I was taken aback. When Kate goes with them (rather than be tied up so she cannot get help as the farm is robbed of chickens and pigs), and then is almost drugged by an old woman so she cannot escape, I knew we had to talk about this.

Discrimination against the Romani has long been established in Europe: kicked off lands, pogroms, imprisoned and killed in the Holocaust. As a nomadic, wandering people, it is easy to blame, fear, and be suspicious of the other - especially if they’ve passed through (“The gypsies did it!”).  I’m not saying that the Romani are entirely innocent of the behaviors attributed to them - stereotypes often have some basis in fact, like a tall tale - but any time all attitudes and all actions are put on all of any people group, there’s a problem. It’s always a struggle when differing cultural values - from property ownership to family structures - reside in the same place.

But, that’s not really the point of this post.

What I really want to talk about is: Why would I continue to read a book like this? Why would I still be planning to read other Seredy books?

Our culture has become so divisive, not just along racial and ethnic lines, but also ideological lines. If I disagree with you on any issue, in our culture, I must disagree with you on all.


If I agree with you, I must always agree. Disagreement means total disregard of everything you say. Heated, angry disregard. You can see this in our current election process. On one hand, we see intolerance of opposing ideas in the name of tolerance. On the other, we see intolerance of so-called political correctness as though people oughtn’t be offended at disrespect.

But, friends, this is not right.

As a people, the thing which brings us together seems to be an inability to discriminate, to judge rightly, to consider our agreement or disagreement issue by issue, not person by person (or people group by people group - whether that be race, ethnicity, ideology, religion, or any other division we can think of).  
I use “discriminate” purposefully. I want to retain meanings of words. The first definition of discriminate is still, “recognize a distinction; differentiate.” Does that shock you? When we discriminate rightly, we divide the individual ideas carefully from each other. We see the person beyond their ideas. We can disagree with their immigration policy separately from their fiscal policy. We can see the commonalities between faith traditions without agreeing on every jot and tittle - and we can still be friends and learn from one another. When we see the other person as a person with ideas we can agree with and ideas we can disagree with (and really, is there anyone with whom you think exactly like on all things?), the antagonism lessens. The vitriol becomes unpalatable. We can love our neighbor as ourselves.

How, then, do we teach this to our children? And learn it ourselves?

We read books with which we disagree. We continue to see the beauty in a book that has a portion we strongly disagree with. We talk about the books and ideas when we rise up and when we walk along the way.

We talk about oppression, of stereotypes, of dealing fairly with people. We talk about the fear and suspicion of ‘the other’ that drives a lot of hatred and racism. We show how disagreement doesn’t mean disrespect. We show how we can love those with whom we disagree. We hope to do better.

So, yes, we will finish The Good Master and we will read more Seredy and other old books, discussing our points of agreement and our points of disagreement. We will let our children see where their father and I agree and where we disagree (he leans libertarian, I’m more conservative), yet we love each other to distraction.

Reading old books that have portions with which we disagree and handling them with care allows us to learn to be respectful and intellectually honest. Those old books do need to be read with careful thought and engaged minds. I suspect I will either read aloud or preread every other Seredy book before my children are set free with them. But, reading old books can help us to see how others have been treated in history. It can help us to understand their struggles better and show compassion. It can awaken us to struggles people still face. It can help us in our quest to learn to love people - our quest to be wise and virtuous.