Saturday, November 30, 2013

One More Family

Howe Family Collage 2013 rs

I am blessed. BLESSED, I tell you, with the most lovely friends a girl could have. Community. Prayer-warriors. A village. {grin}

Kids Collage

Friday, November 29, 2013

Green Friday

Img2013-11-29_0038fpmrs Img2013-11-29_0014frsImg2013-11-29_0033frs


Happiness flutters in the air whilst we rest among the breaths of nature.  ~Kelly Sheaffer



Nature will bear the closest inspection.  She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.  ~Henry David Thoreau


Nature is the art of God.  ~Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, 1635


Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning


And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. ~William Shakespeare



It was gray and cool today, but we were thankful the rain stayed away for our annual nature hike. Shannon and Rilla joined the party.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013



It is the day before Thanksgiving, and my boys are enjoying the stack of Thanksgiving books set out in our living room, but Advent is right around the corner!

We will continue to read our favorite Advent book this Christmas, but I am excited about trying a new free email Advent Calendar from Professor Carol:

“Professor Carol’s Advent Calendar will bring you daily inspirational and educational messages throughout the Advent Season 2013. Delve into the history of many of our seasonal traditions and explore the symbolism of this time of preparation. Each day, Professor Carol takes on a new topic that you can study further with your family or simply enjoy.

“You won’t need scissors or any other materials for anything unless you want to make an Advent Wreath. It’s not about crafts. Instead, you will learn about the origins of the Noël, the real stories of St. Nicholas and St. Lucy, the German Christmas markets, poetry for the season, even Advent grammar. This year, we are asking people to sign up to receive the messages by email. It’s free of course, and you can opt out any time. So sign up below and be ready! Advent starts on December 1 this year, and the emails begin the day before with a history of the Advent Calendar.”

We also read through The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean each Christmas. Our Playmobil Nativity Manger with Stable and Three Wise Kings come out on the first day of Advent. (I think we’ll be adding Saint Nicholas and Angel this year for our St. Nicholas festivities next week.)

ETA: I totally forgot. I also purchased Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative by Russ Ramsey for my own reading, as well as the companion CD Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson.

ETA (again!): This free Family Art and Advent Reading Guide with art ornaments download from Story Warren looks gorgeous. Especially if you have younger children. It incorporates Bible passage readings, but also has corresponding pages for The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.

I shared a bunch of our favorite Christmas books last year (here, here, and here), but starting this Friday, I will be sharing a few new favorites added to our collection this year!

(P.S. A HUGE thank you to those of you who have made Amazon purchases after clicking through on one of my links. I receive a small commission on those purchases, whether or not they were the item I recommended, when you place them in your cart after going through my links. Your support has been greatly appreciated!)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013



This is a little girl who, though sick, simply would not take a nap. Late afternoon found her falling asleep in her pizza (doesn’t a black and white photo turn pizza into magic?). She was sick. And scraggly. And covered in pizza mess. Swaying back and forth in her chair—head bobbing all over the place. It was quite darling, mostly because I don’t think that has ever happened before. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put her in her bed at 4pm (unless I wanted to be up all night), and she caught her second wind by the time evening rolled around…

Yes, it was a miserable sick week last week. By Friday, I was a bit of a wreck and let it all out here.

Then my friend Danielle wrote this lovely open letter at her blog: Dear weary mom who finds herself underwater.

“[T]his is where we do the hard work of not giving up.  We remember sailors in a fierce storm don't worry so much about their heading, but instead focus more completely on keeping their ship intact.  We count each little blessing and believe progress is being made, even though we can't imagine how.  This is where we choose to believe the friends who surround us with love, and verbally affirm all that we are already doing well.”

Speaking of friends who surround us with love, I felt the love poured out here in the comments and on my facebook page. My friend Lori wrote these words of affirmation:

“My beautiful friend, I see you are mourning the loss of a dream. Little girls who dream, grow up to be women with vision. But, oh my, what a quantum leap it is to from dream to vision. The difference between dreams and vision is faith. Dreams are planned so that you may control them, vision is laid out before you sometimes just one hour at a time so that you feel you are walking in complete darkness. Vision is put in place by faith, eternal priorities, and hard work. Just look at the beautiful priorities you have in place.

1. God
2. family,
3. friends,
4. education,
5. photography and other artistic endeavors

The world would turn those priorities upside down, but you do not. You are investing in eternity right now, as you care for sick children, educate four precious and precocious children, clean up after hurricane Lola, and order pizza for dinner because you know if you don't order pizza you will end up so sick that you will not be able to care for yourself or anyone else.

You may feel in over your head, but you are not in over His head and from my perspective you are no longer a woman with dreams, but a woman with vision. Perhaps the blub, blub, blub, is you walking on water...”

Ah, the glorious blessings of friends and family who are there to lift us up when we are down!

And then…respite.

That night Russ sent me to the studio to watch a movie by myself while he finished getting the kids to bed. Ahhh. I got to bed at a decent hour and *slept all night*. Russ left early-ish Saturday morning for swim coaching with Levi and Luke, but Leif and Lola slept I did also. Ahhh. I made chocolate crescent rolls and hot chocolate with whipped cream for breakfast. My mom and my sister both offered to take the kids for a while. Leif and Lola ended spending the rest of the morning and early afternoon at my mom's, playing outside in the sunshine with Poppy. Russ cleaned my fridge and freezer when he got home. I showered (yes, this is important). I entered all the library books onto our book list and returned a huge stack before heading to Costco where I bought a bunch of fruits and veggies (and a bag of dark-chocolate-drizzled sea salt kettle corn). I spent the next six hours working on cleaning/straightening/organizing projects (while my husband worked on a project for a client, and the boys spent some time outside). My dear friend, Olive, came over and spent a couple hours cleaning my kitchen and floors. We sat down as a family to eat a nice (Costco) lasagna dinner. Laundry was (sorta) caught up and put away. Dishes were done. Kids bathed and in bed by eight. Dinner was planned for Sunday. I enjoyed a Dr. Pepper with my kettle corn while I read a book and watched a movie with Russ. AND I scheduled a date night for next weekend, too. I might manage to see Catching Fire *in the theater*.

Sunday we stayed home from church (still trying to recover from this bug) and did very little. Monday was a lighter schedule due to Thanksgiving break with CC. The boys had only choir and archery. While waiting for the boys to finish choir class, I started Divergent. Oh, that probably wasn’t a great idea. Well, it felt right at the time, but a 2am bed time is weighing on me a little today. {yawn}

And some recent funnies from my kids (and husband):

Lola: "Zombies love me. I hud and tiss dem." (I hug and kiss them.)
Me: "Lola, you are turning your mother into a zombie. It's a good thing I love you."

Me (as I’m handing Lola a plate of food): “It’s very hot. Don’t eat it yet.”
Lola: “It’s not hot.”
Me: “Yes, it is, honey. It will burn your mouth.”
Lola immediately takes a bite. Her eyes open wide and her body shudders. She manages to swallow.
Lola: “It didn’t.”
(Why are they always so stoic when they know it’s their own fault?)

(At a new dentist office Luke begs to be first in the chair for x-rays.)
Luke: (with a most enthusiastic grin) “Are you going to strap me down?”
Assistant: (with a bemused smile) “No.”
Luke: “*Can* you strap me down?!”
(Sheesh. Sometimes I do not know what planet this kid is from.)

Me: “Honey, asking Levi to be non-emotional is like asking a fish to walk.”
Russ: “Levi would tell you that some fish *can* walk.”
Me: Sigh. “And the thing you two have in common is that you both immediately think of the exception to every rule.”

Seriously, how did I end up in a family with these daring, independent, rule-bending, audacious, loop-hole-finding people?!!

But they are so cute.


(I’ll have to write a post about Levi soon. I’m trying to figure out how to survive his ENFP personality.)

And…in other random news…it has been freezing here lately. The other morning it was 21 degrees at 7 am. The boys have been finding sheets of ice in various places outside. I’m not accustomed to the cold, but the bright sun has been a nice change. This time of year can be so gray and dreary.


And now I am going to attempt to be in bed before 10 pm!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Blub. Blub. Blub. or I Used to Be a Dreamer

I used to be a dreamer. My childhood was filled to overflowing with ideas and lists. About the future, mostly. A few things were random or unrealistic (such as the pages and pages of notes I wrote about what I’d pack if I could only have one suitcase in addition to the clothes on my back and I was about to be dropped off to live on an uninhabited island, described in detail). Quite a few things were crazy plans for summer adventures, such as my “Sunshine Singers” concert (happened, with matching outfits and a costume change) or hosting my own Olympics (didn’t happen, but you should have seen my killer balance beam routine on the picnic bench). But most dreams were ideas for my life ahead.

I loved checking the mail, running down the gravel driveway in bare feet as soon as I caught a glimpse of the mailman. The mailbox was symbolic of mystery and possibility. The day the Sears catalog appeared was Christmas. I’d pour over it, cover to cover. When the new one arrived each year, I’d start the process of cutting up the old one. A toaster here. A maternity dress there. A coffee table. A wrench set. All the things my life would need. The paper baby toys found their way pasted into a notebook. Pages for each room of the house, each of my children (by name), my wardrobe, holiday decorations.

Later, I began a home design notebook in earnest. When all the other seventh grade girls had subscriptions to Seventeen and YM, I paid for my own subscriptions to HOME and Architectural Digest. By the early years of my marriage, the notebook had been purged, edited, updated, expanded, and improved. House plans drawn. Rooms designed in painstaking detail. Gardens, no, a veritable estate imagined in all its splendor. And, oh, the quiet days and glorious events that home would witness.

And, my, what a perfect mother I would be to my eight children. They had fantastic names, and even more fantastic hobbies and interests—each one quite unique. Who would need television, when adventures were calling? Just think of the road trips and museums. Backpacking across Europe. Visiting nursing homes. Serving in the soup kitchen. Performing in a family band called Blue Skies. (Our first song was going to be called “Open Road,” and the promotional poster featured a white ‘66 Mustang, a picturesque country road, blue skies, white cotton-ball clouds, an upright base, and the most stylish, fun-loving family you’ve ever seen.)

You are starting to be concerned about my mental state, I can sense it.

Early marriage, my plans and dreams included an interior design business. Then I started Poet’s Garden with my sisters and mom. Mostly for the fun of it, I drew detailed plans for a Poet’s Garden “complex.” A baby store. A coffee and tea shop. The garden shop. The interior design shop. (I even had plans for a restaurant, the B-24 Café with WWII memorabilia and menu items named after vintage aircraft.) My kids would have their own room for homeschooling, of course. A few highlights did occur during the Poet’s Garden years, including being featured in Victoria magazine—a lifetime dream. But my sister Shannon and my mom did the lion’s share of the work, particularly once I had Levi and completely once I had Luke.

About the time I started having kids, my planning took on a slightly different hue, with a “closer to home” tinge. I kept a notebook full of birthday party themes and ideas, complete with a schedule. Homeschooling ideas. Trips with kids ideas. “If I survive toddlerhood with the boys, we’ll do all these things when they are older” ideas. Healthy eating and exercising sprees. Organized home management and meal planning.

We moved into our “forever” home, and the home design notebook shuffled off to a top shelf where it forlornly gathers dust. But the property held possibility. Wouldn’t it be fun to create a walking/bike trail around the perimeter? And a veggie garden here? A magical children’s garden there? A bunkhouse over yonder?

Okay, so yard work isn’t our forte. Levi’s 1st-4th birthday parties, Luke’s 1st-2nd, and Leif’s 1st were pretty amazing. Since then? I’m doing well to plan a day ahead and bake a cake. Trips? These days, our sanity and financial reserves can’t handle a night away from home. Activities? Swim team, barely. Archery, prognosis—not good, and they’ve been to one class.

But blogging? And homeschooling? And imaginative, stylized photo sessions? I’ve got this. Oops, there goes photography.

We’ll talk about blogging and homeschooling in a minute, but here’s one point I was leading up to:

Dreaming was a tremendous source of joy for me. I didn’t really think I’d do many of those things, but they were possibilities. And I was full of passion for the creating and imagining process.

But I’ve full-on lost it. Every idea, every plan, every dream is a dreaded to-do list fraught with self-loathing. Reality has set in, and I understand that these things are not within the realm of possibility. Not even the simplest of plans. They all cost something, and I have no reserves.

I used to be able to convince myself that this time it will be different. I’ll be self-disciplined. I’ll follow through. I’ll find the time and energy. My kids will be different. I’ll be different. I just need to find a workable plan. Better inspiration.

I’ll get up earlier in the mornings. I’ll stick to the routine. I’ll fix better meals. I’ll exercise. I’ll get more accomplished during the day…

But it never happens.

So, I’m living life in the moment as it comes without expectations.

For the past few months, my family has been on and off (more on than off) sick. I feel like I’ve had a cold for 10 weeks straight, but this week I’ve felt awful, Lola is quite sick, and Leif is sick (after being on antibiotics last week). I always feel as if I’m about three days behind on the basics (laundry, basic house upkeep, current homeschool assignments, meals, paperwork) and about 20 big projects (each needing two childless weeks to accomplish) away from sanity. The extras (birthday parties, vacations, photo sessions, blogging ideas) seem completely out of grasp. Weeks like this? Ugh.

Parenting Lola is a 24-7 job. Homeschooling Levi is a 24-7 job. Luke, Leif, and basic housekeeping/meals take up another one or two full-time positions. (Just in case you’re wondering, Russ has about 3 full-time jobs, as well.)

Something’s gotta give. So the power button is pushed on the tv and ipad waaaay too often. Lola makes 3 days’ worth of mess in 15 unattended minutes. Pizza is dinner, over and over. Leif slips through the cracks. Russ and I have no time together. I look around the house and cringe at the piles and dishes and dirt. Every *fix* is time and energy that I don’t have, or another spoon-full of guilt (have the kids help? it’s harder to train them than to do it myself. that meal plan? it’ll last a week. morning quiet time? wouldn’t it be awesome if I could get myself out of bed.). Really, how hard can this be? I should be perfectly capable of pulling it together.

Blub. Blub. Blub. That’s the sound of me, in over my head.

A few months ago, I was smitten with a burst of inspiration. I had a theme for the coming year. Something that incorporated and integrated all the little elements of my practical day, my creative/dreamer side, my “reasonable” personal improvement goals, a couple big Heidi-stretching adventures, homeschooling, my passion for books and ideas, my faith, my family and friends, my health, and my blog. I have pages and pages of notes.

I don’t know how to make it happen. Not one bite at a time. Not nothin’.

One day at a time. That’s all I’ve got.

So I’m going to go snuggle with my kids, call it an early night. And do the best I can tomorrow. Next week will have to worry about itself.

P.S. I started this as a not-so-falling-apart sort-of post (believe it or not, it was going to be funny and inspiring), but in the interest of honesty, I’ll leave it as it stands. Maybe we’ll all be feeling better next week and I’ll recant.

P.P.S. On a positive note, after spending 11 of the past almost 12 years changing diapers, sometimes on more than one child, I am done. (Less positive, it looks like we’re done with naps, as well. #(%$#)

P.P.P.S. Homeschooling, while never easy or perfect, is not on the “gotta give” list.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Random Confession

(This is as random as it gets here at Mt. Hope…)

I love action flick heroes. Bruce Willis. Vin Diesel. Jason Statham. Hugh Jackman. Gerard Butler. Russell Crowe.

(Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Chow Yun-fat…)

Even Jean-Claude Van Damme. Yes, even Van Damme.

So this is the most random video I will ever share for your watching entertainment.

It’s not even an action flick. It’s a Volvo commercial. But I love it. (Please don’t think less of me.)

(You can read a little more about the stunt here. Van Damme is 53. FIFTY-THREE years old.)


Why, yes, I’m practicing some serious avoidance and procrastination techniques. Why do you ask?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

McKinnon and Monet

Two of my most favorite young people. Their mom and I have been best friends for almost 25 years! (Golly, Char, that makes us sound old!) We married best friends, settled down a couple miles away from each other (for awhile we were only blocks away!), had children at the same time, started homeschooling together, started Classical Conversations together… I’m so blessed by our relationship, its longevity and tenaciousness and realness. And I’m thrilled that our children are able to grow up as good friends.

McKinnon & Monet 

{I loved this photo shoot I did with Monet waaaay back in 2008.}

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Another Beautiful Family

Pickens Family

I met Mindy over three years ago when she was Leif’s first Classical Conversations tutor. She was Luke’s tutor during our second year. Mindy generously shares not only her gift of teaching, but also of music by creating and recording songs for much of our memory work. I still remember the laws of thermodynamics and the definitions of a gerund and a pronoun from that first year thanks to her songs, and I couldn’t have completed memory masters the second year without her John 1:1-7 Latin song.

Since that first year, I’ve come to appreciate Mindy’s intuition and passion for ideas and education. I love hearing her thoughts during book clubs and practicums, as well as in groups online. I just wish I could attend her tutor training!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Let’s Talk About Luke

One of my boys is extraordinarily verbal and imaginative. He gets quite a bit of attention. Another boy is an adorable over-sized affectionate puppy. He gets quite a bit of attention. Lola, well, Lola is not suffering from lack of attention.

And then there is the middle son.

Luke @ 9

Concrete and physical. Ornery, stubborn, and competitive. Mischievous. Affectionate and helpful. So very earnest and expressive (body language more than words). Visual. Everything is at face value.

Unfortunately, many people only see his ornery, stubborn, mischievous, and physical side.

Each child has strengths and weaknesses. And there are seasons in each life when certain strengths or weaknesses are easier or harder to deal with. For the child. For the parent. For friends, family, or other adults.

Luke didn’t sleep as a baby. I came within millimeters of a complete breakdown. I was at my skinniest, most sleep-deprived, emotionally-frayed state in all my life. Even as a two and three year old, he had insomnia issues. He could be up for hours in the middle of the night. And he got into everything. He was (is) a daredevil. He didn’t communicate much (even though he had (has) one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen in a young child).

At the moment, however, he is my easiest child. He doesn’t make incessant noise. He’s the kid to ask if something needs to be done (it may not be done perfectly, but it’ll be done quickly). He is helpful and capable. He knows how to be affectionate without being overwhelming (and he is specifically very, very sweet to his mother). If he says he’ll do something, he will. If he says he won’t, he won’t. He can accomplish a few things independently (unlike any of his siblings).

Maybe it’s just that I’m in a season where those things are super helpful. Maybe it is because, despite our differences, he is the closest to me in personality (for the Myers-Briggs enthusiasts, I am and ISFJ and I’m fairly certain he is an ESFJ with possibly a slight F). Maybe it is that we are both middle children. Or maybe he is just so darn cute. Whatever reason (and just being my child is enough), I simply adore this kid.

His strengths don’t necessarily come across in public, though.

He hasn’t learned how to read the emotions of others well. He loves to be first. And best. He has no patience. He loves to play the devil’s advocate. He loves to play rough. (He finds the largest boy/man who looks the slightest bit playful or mischievous and tackles him. I need to pay a large teenager to wrestle and throw Luke to the ground for an hour or two every day.)

Sometimes it’s difficult (especially in a group setting) to keep Luke engaged. He checks out if he isn’t challenged. But challenge him too far (asking him to write anything), and he checks out, gives up. He has to feel capable of the work.

But if you let him help? Or give him a job? Shazzam. He’s on it. And let him touch things.

He also needs to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Give him the numbers. Show him the numbers on paper. A concrete list of tasks to be checked off. How many things do we have to do? When do we start? How long will they take? When will we be finished? What score do I need to pass? What do I get when I’m done?

Ahhhh, the incentives. I like to call them the four Cs:

  • Competition
  • Cash
  • Candy
  • Computers

Even better? If you win this competition, you can earn money and I will take you to the dollar store to buy candy. Ha! This kids loves to buy stuff. Snack vending machines and concession stands are his most favorite things in the universe.

I already shared an example of the difference between Luke and Levi (all concrete vs. all imaginative) when it comes to spelling lessons. A similar difference has shown up in math. Basic math facts were difficult for Levi, but now that he is coming to more interesting and complex math problems he is showing a willingness to write all over his paper and take time ( to do a math problem. Basic math is a piece of cake for Luke, but now that the problems require him to write (heaven forbid) and complete more than one step (and take more than a fraction of a second) he is enjoying math much less.

The boys recently completed some standardized testing with the charter school just to see how they are progressing. They all did great, but the only iffy spot was Luke’s reading comprehension. Honestly, it cracked me up because the results were so consistent with his personality. He aced the concrete questions. He bombed the inferring ones. And he got so frustrated with them while he was completing the test. “But it doesn’t SAY so!!”

I figure the inferring skill, or lack of, is partly a personality thing (exacerbated by the fact that he is a boy), partly a maturity thing (also exacerbated by the fact that he is a boy). Even so, it makes sense to practice inferring skills so he has more experience to draw from. I found a great free online resource called Read Theory to use once or twice a week. Fortunately, Luke likes reading, computerized tests, multiple choice, and immediate feedback. Again, I’ve watched him miss only inferring questions, but I love that this program specifically identifies what kind of question he missed as well as gives him an explanation for the reasoning behind the correct answers.

My favorite parenting book is Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type - And Become a Better Parent. It has parenting advice based on the MB personality type of your child, and I cannot even tell you how brilliant it is. I just grabbed my book and found this quote under the ESFJ chapter:

“In school, ESFJs tend to excel during the early elementary years, when the emphasis is on mastery and demonstration of basic skills. Toward the end of elementary school and in junior and senior high school, the curriculum begins to focus on understanding theories, extrapolating meaning and subtexts from readings, and emphasizing more abstract concepts. ESFJs usually have more ease with factual and concrete learning. And, typically, when they do not instantly understand something, they become flustered and self-critical, saying things like “I’m so stupid” or “I’ll never understand this!” Once they assume a negative attitude, it can be difficult for them to see any possibilities other than failure.”

Yowsa. That is spot on. Luke is a whiz at memorizing (here and here are two examples). He was a Classical Conversations memory master last year, and he does a fantastic rendition of Mark Antony’s speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (I’ll have to get that on video soon). He’s great at facts and basic skills. He loves mastering things.

Luke also has great control over his body. He’s physically very capable and he loves to try dangerous stunts.

Three funnies from Luke yesterday:

“Sometimes when I’m in a good mood I like to organize things.” (As he pulled the mess out of one of the bathroom cupboards and started organizing it.)

"Looking at a coupon is like having a bunch of dollar bills staring you in the face." (As he is looking through a coupon flyer from the mail stack. He told me he learned that little tip in the Reader’s Digest—which he reads cover to cover—something about ‘things you don’t know about millionaires.’)

"Could you draw a bar graph comparing my behavior with my brothers'?" (We had just gotten home from Costco where he had watched my last nerve trampled. He’s often watchful in those situations and knows when to be on his best behavior. I, still stressed and behind schedule, told him I didn’t have time. He took it upon himself to make the bar graph. Points must have been awarded for positive behavior.)

Luke's behavior chart

He recently learned how to write in cursive and is quite proud of the fact. He also knows that I’m proud of his cursive (mostly because I know writing is a struggle for him) and uses it to his advantage. Now when he writes his “may I play on the i-pad?” notes, he writes them in cursive—knowing I’m much more likely to say ‘yes’ to a cursive note and sweet smile…

Oh, these children. They stretch us. Change us. Challenge us. Break us. Fulfill us. Bless us.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mt. Hope Academy @ The Live & Learn Studio ~ October 2013


Food for Thought

::  The Common Topics and the Universe @ Classical Conversations

"Aristotle’s common topics of invention serve as a series of lenses through which we can look at any given subject. In doing some quick research, I was reminded that the word ‘topic’ comes from the Greek topos, which means “place.” Suddenly, I understand Aristotle’s lenses more clearly. They are places in which we can look for clues for understanding anything from flowers to stars to relationships. I must also note that invention is only the first of Aristotle’s five canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery."

::  A Model for a Classical Conversation by Courtney Sanford @ Classical Conversations (a fantastic example of subject integration as well as group discussion using the “topic” of “comparison” from Aristotle’s rhetoric)

‘I drew a topic wheel on the whiteboard. A topic wheel is simply one circle in the center and seven more circles surrounding it. I wrote “water” in the center circle. The seven other circles are intended for other subjects. The idea is to provoke thought by having the group brainstorm about what different subjects have in common with the central item. (This would be the topic of comparison if you are familiar with the five common topics.)’

:: 100 Words To Make You Sound Smart (another entertaining vocabulary quiz by Write at Home—I didn’t do quite as well as I hoped)

::  Brave New World and the Flight from God @ The Imaginative Conservative

‘One mutilation he observed was a spreading mediocrity of aspiration. Demanding goals -pleasing God, living morally, partaking of high culture – were being replaced by lesser ones: “fun,” comfort, conformity.[23] Unfortunately, multitudes are not interested in having their souls stretched by either a demanding religion and morality or an inspiring high culture – hence the great danger that the majority would cheerfully make a Faustian bargain, selling their souls for bread, baubles, comfort and amusement.[24]’

::  David Smith, author. (HT: Classical Academic Press)

"Charity in reading involves avoiding quick dismissal and cheap disdain, resisting the ego satisfaction of allowing a text only to confirm one's prejudices, and seeking the good in a text, choosing its truths over its defects. Humility implies a working assumption that the text may offer wisdom that I lack, and that if the road to grasping it is stony then the fault may lie at least as much with as with the text itself. Justice involves reading fairly, working to weigh evidence before making evaluative judgments and seeking to represent the text without distortion, even when distortion would better fit my interests. The act of reading itself becomes an act in which, as in all other acts, Christian virtues out to be exercised."

::  The Joy of Being Awake @ CiRCE

“It seemingly takes me hours to work my way into the day, to arrive at a state of mind and body in which, and through which, I can achieve anything even moderately productive. I wake up sluggish and, far too often, grumpy, and, I am realizing, if I’m not careful my children will see that in me and themselves might begin to wonder if maybe this whole being alive each new day phenomenon isn’t all that wonderful after all.”

::  Peace Talks @ Classical Conversations

“These two things—joy and conflict—are indeed in tension, but they are not at cross purposes! In fact, as much can be learned to increase fellowship and learning through conflict as through joy. In conflict, we also come to understand our subject matter better and to understand each other better. In doing so, we can increase learning and deepen fellowship. The key is that we must be willing to stay the course, acting with love of neighbor as our highest priority. The dialectic that occurs in conversations is a two-edged sword, and we must learn how to value both the harmonious joy as well as the frustrating struggle. We need to learn how to manage conflict and navigate to resolution.”

::  On Language, Loss, and the Fullness of All Things @ CiRCE

"When God speaks, there is not loss of meaning, but creation of meaning."

::  Purpose, Goodness, and the Imagination of God @ CiRCE

“In being like Him – in creating, in speaking, in naming, in tending – we glorify Him. And we fulfill our purpose.”

::  20 SAT Words Quiz (The 20 words on this quiz come from a list of the most common SAT words over the past several years. See how well you know them!)

::  Why I Hire English Majors @ Huffington Post

“I love English majors. I love how smart they are. I love their intellectual curiosity. And I love their bold choice for a major. Most of all, I love to hire them.”

::  Heard at my house:
"Guess what I ordered for boys who get all their work done this week!"
(In the most enthusiastic voice you can imagine:) "Calculus?!!!!!!!"
Um, no. But thanks, Life of Fred

::  Easy? No. Kids today do not have it easy. @ The Matt Walsh Blog

‘Maybe I shouldn’t even use the word “children” anymore. I’m not sure what to call this new sort of human we’ve created; not old enough or wise enough to be an adult, not innocent enough to be a child. Entire generations are sent hurtling into this Limbo, and many never escape it.’

::  Help, doc, I’m bored by boring things. I think I’ve got the ADHD. @ The Matt Walsh Blog (another controversial post by Matt Walsh…but it sounded like he was talking about one (or two or three) of my son(s))

“Yet, I admit, some children have trouble performing well in school, and struggle to sit still and concentrate on tasks, regardless of the factors I listed. With these troublemakers, you could put them in a sound proof room with nothing but a pencil and a copy of their math text book, and they’d spend the whole time staring into space, or drawing pictures on the pages. I know those kid exist, particularly because I was one. I’m still that way. Give me a math test, sit me in a room, and two hours later I’ll come out with a cool idea for a screenplay, or a sketch of a grizzly bear, or an essay about why ADHD doesn’t exist. My wife makes fun of me because I can’t sit down without shaking my leg or scratching my head or otherwise finding a way to occupy one of my limbs. I daydream. A lot. I get lost in my own head. I forget things. I’m horrible at math. I mean, horrible. Seriously, it’s embarrassing. What’s five times five? Really, I don’t know.”

::  16 Fiction Book Characters' Myers-Briggs Personality Types @ Huffington Post (I’m Charlie Bucket married to Willy Wonka, LOL!!)

::  Stunning images of snowflakes under a (frozen) microscope [20 pictures] @ 22 Words

"On an interesting side note, man-made snow doesn’t vary in shape like natural snow does, and, in fact, doesn’t even look like natural snow at all when magnified. It’s just little blobs…"

::  Map of the world showing what each country leads the world in @ 22 Words (a fascinating way to view geography)

::  Map: Six Decades of the Most Popular Names for Girls, State-by-State @ Jezebel (speaking of geography—okay this one isn’t particularly educational, but I LOVE talking about baby names and this is another fascinating interactive map)

::  Drawings of everyday objects made by typing with a typewriter [18 pictures] @ 22 Words (I adore this one!)

::  The October Homeschooling Blues @ Pioneer Woman

It’s the recognition that the bus will never come.

(On a slightly related note, one day this month I was so desperate for solitude that I slept in the car in the Old Navy Parking lot for two hours. True story.)

:: Terse @ Sesquiotica (Oh, for the love of words!!)

The word starts with a little spit of exasperation, the aspiration on the /t/. Then it’s straight into a syllabic liquid (or a neutral vowel for the non-rhotic), and quickly thereafter a hiss that can last as long as the other two phonemes combined. A jab, a sound, a hiss. And that’s it. Pressed reset. Wiped clean. Polished like a cut diamond, and just as cutting.

::  Using Music to Close the Academic Gap @ The Atlantic

“The fact that music engages so much in the brain—including regions we think of as important for language, memory, motor control, executive function and emotion—raises the question of how it interacts with these other activities,” says Patel. It’s not surprising, Patel says, to find that violinists, who make intricate movements with the fingers on their left hand, have enhanced fine motor function and corresponding changes in the regions of the brain that govern left-handed finger control. What’s more surprising is that music training actually enhances the way the brain processes language.

::  How much better is standing up than sitting? @ BBC News

Standing while you are working may seem rather odd, but it is a practice with a long tradition. Winston Churchill wrote while working at a special standing desk, as did Ernest Hemingway and Benjamin Franklin.

And just funny, funny, funny:

::  15th Century Flemish Style Portraits Recreated In Airplane Lavatory (Embrace creativity. Live an interesting life. Do the unexpected.)

::  Warped Childhood, Restoration Hardware-Style @ Suburban Turmoil

Funny and terrifying:

::  Increasing Number Of Parents Opting To Have Children School-Homed @ The Onion (satire)

Deputy Education Secretary Anthony W. Miller said that many parents who school-home find U.S. households to be frightening, overwhelming environments for their children, and feel that they are just not conducive to producing well-rounded members of society.



Lists and Lessons

Classical Conversations (Cycle 2) Weeks 5-7 Foundations classes (includes public speaking). Essentials: (Levi and Luke)

Telling God's Story, Year Two: The Kingdom of Heaven
Buck Denver Asks: What's in the Bible? Volumes 11 and 12
Independent Bible Reading

Teaching Textbooks (Levi—level 6, Luke—level 5, Leif—level 4)
Life of Fred (Kidneys, Liver, Mineshaft, Fractions, Decimals and Percents, Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra with Biology)
Extra practice with story problems for math work samples
Mathtacular 4 (Word Problems) (DVD)


CC memory work 
CC weekly science experiments and projects

Swim team practice and meets

Fine Arts:
CC Drawing, Tin Whistle and music theory 
Joyful Noise Choir (weekly rehearsals + music theory homework)

Language Arts:
CC memory work (parts of speech, pronouns)
MCT Grammar Island (with Leif)
Essentials (Levi and Luke) grammar
IEW Medieval history-themed writing  
All About Spelling (Levi and Luke: level 4, step 14-17; Leif: level 2, step 8-9) 

CC memory work (conjugations)
Song School Latin DVD (Leif)
First Form Latin DVD lessons (Luke and Levi (Levi completing workbook lessons), lessons 4-7) 


CC memory work (Europe)
Daily map tracing and “blobbing”

CC memory work (timeline and history sentences)
The Story of the World Volume 2: The Middle Ages (Ch 16-19) 
DK Readers: Days of the Knights -- A Tale of Castles and Battles
A Medieval Feast by Aliki (lovely)
Castle by David Macaulay
Castle (PBS Home Video)
Stephen Biesty's Cross-sections Castle
Picture That: Knights & Castles
Adventures in the Middle Ages (Good Times Travel Agency)
Everyday Life in Medieval Europe (a favorite)
Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess (another favorite, very humorous)
The Making of a Knight
Arms and Armor (DK Eyewitness Books)
Knight (DK Eyewitness Books)
Knight's Castle by Edward Eager (historical fiction, silly fun time travel to the days of Robin Hood and Ivanhoe)
The Red Keep by Allen French, illustrated by Andrew Wyeth (historical fiction, 370 pp, Levi-IR) 
The Hidden Treasure of Glaston (historical fiction, 340 p, Levi-IR)
Anno's Medieval World
In the Time of Knights
Castles (Kingfisher) (a favorite)
Sword of the Valiant - The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (cheesy old movie)
A Knight's Tale (one of our family’s favorite movies—with a tiny bit of judicious editing)
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (historical fiction, England in 1290, 205 pp, Levi-IR)
The Great and Terrible Quest (historical fiction, Levi and Luke-IR)
Ivanhoe adapted by Marianna Mayer (a beautiful picture book)
Ivanhoe (Great Illustrated Classics) (Luke-IR)
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott (Levi managed parts and pieces of the original though it was a challenge)
Ivanhoe (an animated movie)
As You Like It by Shakespeare (movie, setting inspired by 19th Century Japan)
The Samurai's Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard (historical fiction, 234 pp, Levi and Luke-IR)
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn (The Samurai Mystery Series) (historical fiction, Levi read whole series, Luke just a few) 
Sword of the Samurai: Adventure Stories from Japan (literature) (library)
Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn (library)
Sam Samurai (#10 Time Warp Trio) (library)
How to Be a Samurai Warrior (library)
A Samurai Castle (Inside Story)
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Samurai!: A Deadly Career You'd Rather Not Pursue (library)
Real Samurai: Over 20 true stories about the knights of old Japan (library)
Samurai: Arms, Armor, Costume (gorgeous photographs!) (library)
A Single Shard (historical fiction, 12th-century Korea, Levi-IR) 
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi (historical fiction, Medieval England, Levi-IR)
Adam of the Road (historical fiction, 13th century England, Levi-IR)
Through Time: London (I love the illustrations in these books!) (library)
Saint George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (literature)
Saint George and the Dragon retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (literature)
The Questing Knights of the Faerie Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean (literature)
The Saracen Maid by Leon Garfield
Saladin: Noble Prince of Islam
The Picture Story of the Middle East by Susan R. Nevil 
Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith
El Cid by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Boy Knight: A Tale of the Crusades by G.A. Henty (historical fiction, Levi-IR)
Tales of the Crusades by Olivia E. Coolidge (Levi-IR)
The Canterbury Tales retold by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (literature)
The Canterbury Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (literature, Levi-IR)
Chanticleer and the Fox adapted from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
The Magna Charta by James Daugherty (Levi-IR)
The Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the Constitution
Usborne Book of London
DK Classics: Robin Hood
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green (literature, Levi-IR)
Robin Hood (an animated movie) 
Robin Hood (teacher research only, ha!)
The Race of the Birkebeiners
The Apple and the Arrow (the story of William Tell, literature)

Literature Studies:
Book Detectives ~ Mirette on the High Wire

Read-Aloud With Dad:
The Monster in the Hollows (Wingfeather Saga)

Miscellaneous Picture Books:

Levi’s Free Reading 
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth
Belles on Their Toes (sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen)
Here, There Be Dragons ( The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, Book 1)
The Search for the Red Dragon (The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, Book 2)
The Indigo King (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica)
The Shadow Dragons (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica)
The Dragon's Apprentice (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica)
The Dragons of Winter (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica)
The Gammage Cup: A Novel of the Minnipins
Kildee House (The Newbery Honor Roll) by Rutherford Montgomery, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
The Magic City by Edith Nesbit
and various others…

Luke’s Free Reading
Edward Eager Books
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The Indian in the Cupboard
The Secret of the Indian
Little Eddie by Carolyn Haywood
The Gammage Cup: A Novel of the Minnipins
and various others…

Leif’s Free Reading
Geronimo Stilton, Magic Tree House, Magic School Bus (Chapter Books), Dragon Slayers’ Academy
Half Magic by Eager, Boxcar Children, Life of Fred
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
and various others…

Testing with distance learning program