Friday, October 31, 2014


In the interest of being real and transparent here on the blog:

I’m weary.

At this point it feels as if my choices are 1. doing the work of 6 people while playing an endless and exhausting game of tug-of-war or 2. not caring.

Not caring is the winning option at the moment.

I can’t care for them. They’ll have to do the caring.

If you want to go somewhere in the truck, you’ll have to clean it first.

If you want to eat, you’ll have to clean the kitchen first.

If you want to play somewhere other than outside or in your room, you’ll have to clean the front room.

You will not ever step foot in my room, so I have one little tiny haven of loveliness.

All events and activities which require us to invite people to our house are cancelled.

Bedtime is at 8pm because I’m done parenting. I don’t care if it takes you 5 hours to fall asleep.

If you want electronics or activities (such as trick-or-treating…) other than church, CC, swimming, or AWANA, you have to be caught up on the week’s school work and have finished today’s work.

If you don’t want to do the Challenge assignments, you will sit in class each week without participating and you will re-take the class until you are capable of doing and willing to do the work at home without a fight, as many years as it takes. You will participate in lessons with your younger siblings until then.

If you don’t respect me enough to listen when I’m speaking, then don’t expect me to listen to you endlessly.

The end.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Saemenes Family

One more family (and friends) session to share. Jessye and I have become good friends over the past few years. She’s been roped into ChocLit Guild, homeschooling, and Classical Conversations. And now she lives just down the road from us and her kids attend AWANA with mine, as well. So she has to see a lot of me (poor thing). But her lovely family wins awards for being one of the easiest families I’ve ever photographed.

S FamilyS Family (2)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Memory and Writing [and some strong words about math]

Andrew Pudewa Writing Workshop

Andrew Pudewa blessed our socks off this past week. He was in town (in our little town!) for four days of writing workshops and parent seminars. Luke and Leif (and I) attended an introductory writing workshop and Levi attended an intermediate research writing workshop. I attended both evenings of parent seminars—4 Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing and Freedomship Education (you can find those talks in the IEW Resources). I had heard both talks years ago, but I needed, desperately needed, to hear them again. Andrew Pudewa is an entertaining and inspiring communicator. The boys were completely engaged at the workshops, even though they are not fond of writing.

Since we’re on the subject of writing and I’ve recently shared a couple posts about memorization, I thought it would be fun to revisit Levi’s little tirade about math from earlier this year (he had just turned 12). I shared this quote (and essay link) from Andrew Pudewa a couple weeks ago:

“One simple and immutable fact about the human brain is that you can’t get something out of it that isn’t there to start with. Supernatural inspiration notwithstanding, human beings in general—and children in particular—really can’t produce... thoughts or concepts that they haven’t first experienced and stored. In other words, we cannot think a thought we don’t have to begin with. Even the most unique, creative, and extraordinary ideas can only exist as a combination and permutation of previously learned bits of information.” ~Andrew Pudewa, 1 Myth, 2 Truths

Levi does not enjoy writing assignments of any sort because he does not process words and ideas well before he speaks or writes. The words come spontaneously and he processes after the fact. I have a feeling that the poetry and speech memorization we do as a family will have more impact on his future writing than anything else. The following was written spontaneously in his math workbook when he was supposed to be processing numbers instead of words, and I can see bits and pieces of his memory work (Shakespeare, John Donne, and more) sprinkled throughout. It is indeed a “permutation of previously learned bits of information.”

Musings of a Student

Math, be not proud. Thou art mean and base. Thou hath no royal luster in thy eyes. Give me those who art tired of thy blusters and brags. Send these to me. Math, thou shalt die. Thou shalt die a death so profound that none shall remember thee, or revive thee. Thy death shall be cause of rejoicin’. All the school masters shall be merry for math was a subject none would learn. The schoolboy would no longer creep like a snail, now he would run faster than a cheetah. A cheetah would wonder why he had been so challenged. One king will decree that addition symbols will be fed to his falcons. Ah, these simple musings do no good. I must be done, gentle listeners, for even papers have ears.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Poetry ~ A Thrill Like Music


Please. If you read no other articles I link, read this one today, from beginning to end. I’ve been talking about memorization—learning by heart—as a way to form our children’s souls and our own souls.

::  The Joy of the Memorized Poem @ The Atlantic

I’ll share a couple quotes, but that doesn’t excuse you from reading the full article. [grin]

"But the very final pleasure is what I called “the pleasure of companionship”—and this was a way of talking about memorization. When you internalize a poem, it becomes something inside of you. You’re able to walk around with it. It becomes a companion. And so you become much less objective in your judgment of it. If anyone criticizes the poem, they’re criticizing something you take with you, all the time."

“I think that’s one reason I’ve always made my literature students choose a poem to memorize, even if it’s just something short—a little poem by, say, Emily Dickinson. They’re very resistant to it at first. There’s a collective groan when I tell them what they’re going to have to do.  I think it’s because memorization is hard. You can't fake it the way you might in responding to an essay question. Either you have it by heart, or you don’t. And yet once they do get a poem memorized, they can’t wait to come into my office to say it. I love watching that movement from thinking of memorization as a kind of drudgery, to seeing it as internalizing, claiming, owning a poem. It’s no longer just something in a textbook—it’s something that you’ve placed within yourself.”

"I think I read recently that we’re not suffering from an overflow of information—we’re suffering from an overflow of insignificance."

As soon as I read (and listened to!) the poem, I was transported to my own favorite place in the world—water sounds and all. And, today, my boys and I are shoving aside lesser things and spending time with this poem. Memorizing it. Placing it in our deep heart’s core. So that we, too, may hear the call of a safe and peaceful place when we need a minute or two (or hour or night) of escape.


Words Thrill

If you don’t know where to start for poetry memorization, may I make a couple recommendations?

We have many books of poetry (I particularly like the Poetry for Young People series), but my favorites are poetry recordings that we can listen to in the car or during quiet time. I’ve found that this is the best way to get the words and sounds of the poetry embedded in our minds.

My boys love A Child's Garden of Songs and Back to the Garden, Robert Louis Stevenson poetry set to music, as well as The Days Gone By: Songs of the American Poets. (You can hear excerpts of the songs if you click on the MP3 option.)

Poetry Speaks to Children is a book of child-friendly poetry that includes a CD of poetry readings—most by the poem authors themselves!

A Child's Introduction to Poetry: Listen While You Learn About the Magic Words That Have Moved Mountains, Won Battles, and Made Us Laugh and Cry is just that. Part 1 introduces different types of poetry, and Part 2 contains a chronological introduction to many famous poets. (The illustrations are quite entertaining.) The accompanying CD is a treasure. Many of the poetry selections are wonderfully spoken by two different narrators (a man and a woman, so the recording doesn’t feel monotonous).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Here and There: A Little Bit of Everything



"Language is not the lowborn, gawky servant of thought and feeling; it is need, thought, feeling, and perception itself. The shape of sentences, the song in its syllables, the rhythm of its movement, is the movement of the imagination." ~William H. Gass (HT: Write at Home)


"The great thing is to be always reading but not to get bored - treat it not like work, more as a vice! Your book bill ought to be your biggest extravagance." ~C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Reminiscences

::  “…without literature pure theology cannot endure…” @ Story Warren

::  3 Questions With Gregory Wolfe @ Sojourn

"Bobby Gilles: How would you respond to Christians who say, “Why would I read or watch anything that isn’t true?” or “Why read anything but the Bible?”

"Gregory Wolfe: You want me to answer these questions in how many words? If the Bible is a closed feedback loop – read me but read nothing else – then sign me up for another religion. I think it’s saying the opposite: read me faithfully and you will be equipped to read everything. If scripture doesn’t send you out into the world with curiosity and compassion, then it’s not from God. Also, since scripture itself warns us about reading the “letter” while missing the “spirit,” we have a perfect rationale for the truth that can be found in “fiction.” Great fiction enables us to encounter the spirit (which is truth) through artfully arranged letters."

::  This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes @ Stanford

"In an innovative interdisciplinary study, neurobiological experts, radiologists and humanities scholars are working together to explore the relationship between reading, attention and distraction – by reading Jane Austen."

::  **OREGON FRIENDS!** Andrew Kern (of CiRCE Institute) is coming to Eugene in a couple weeks and speaking all day along with Tim McIntosh of Guttenberg College. I’d love to see you there! Let me know if you’re planning to attend so that I can say hello! (They will also be in Seattle the day before.)


“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” ~Charlotte M. Mason

::  I shared the trailer for the documentary The Address by Ken Burns over a week ago. A friend was asking how she could access the documentary, and I wanted to mention here also that it is currently available on both Netflix and Amazon streaming!

And then I came across this fabulous article:

::  Four score and seven reasons memorization is important @ WORLD Magazine. [I hope you can read it. I was able to read the whole article when I first clicked on it, but now it says I must be a member.]

::  Self Education @ Journey and Destination

"I believe that pure thinking will do more to educate a man than any other activity he can engage in. To afford sympathetic entertainment to abstract ideas, to let one idea beget another, and that another, till the mind teems with them; to compare one idea with others, to weigh, to consider, evaluate, approve, reject, correct, refine; to join thought with thought like an architect till a noble edifice has been created within the mind..." ~Tozer

::  A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned @ Granted, and… 

::  Why Kids Should Learn Cursive (and Math Facts and Word Roots) @ TIME

::  It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography (and Ebola). @ The Washington Post

"Students usually come to college knowing American geography well, but few have ever been required to memorize a map of Africa. We require that students memorize the map because, when studying African politics, it essential that our students know where events happened and how they relate to one another."

Speaking of geography, how about:

::  States by Capital Quiz @ Mental Floss

::  The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You’ll Ever See—Made by one guy in Oregon. @ Slate [6,000 hours. That’s serious passion.]




::  Undefended: Best Films For Children Age 5 to 8 @ Film Fisher

Some of our own favorites:

  1. The Black Stallion
  2. Misty [of Chincoteague]
  3. The Sound of Music
  4. Mary Poppins
  5. Nanny McPhee
  6. The Secret of Kells
  7. Babe [should be first on the list]
  8. Nim's Island

What’s on your favorite children’s movies list?

Speaking of movies:

::  Looking Closer at Left Behind – The Movie! by Jeffrey Overstreet @ Patheos

And art:


::  Virtuoso has grand plan to soothe the city streets @ The Age. Read. This. Story. 

::  Lecrae: 'Christians Have Prostituted Art to Give Answers' @ The Atlantic 

"We’ve limited Christianity to salvation and sanctification," he said. "Christianity is the truth about everything. If you say you have a Christian worldview, that means you see the world through that lens—not just how people get saved and what to stay away from."


::  Many of us are a little bit crazy, and hardly anyone is perfectly normal by Sally Clarkson. [LOVE]

Speaking of personalities:

::  Free Personality Test (Myers-Briggs). I scored ISFJ. As usual.

“The ISFJ personality type is quite unique, as many of their qualities defy the definition of their individual traits. Though possessing the Feeling (F) trait, ISFJs have excellent analytical abilities; though Introverted (I), they have well-developed people skills and robust social relationships; and though they are a Judging (J) type, ISFJs are often receptive to change and new ideas.”

Well, I’m not sure about the change and new ideas, but the rest sounds flattering good to me. I’ve had people tell me (particularly after meeting me in a place where I’m comfortable) that they would have never guessed that I was an introvert. (Hint: I talk. A lot.) I’ve also had people assume that I’m an extrovert and my husband is an introvert—even when the opposite is true. (Hint: He’s not much of a small-talk kind of guy). And I do think my concrete-sequential nature (the S and J) balances out my strong emotions (the F). I’d also like to think that my husband’s polar opposite personality (ENTP) helps us be a balanced couple, but sometimes it’s not quite so glamorous as all that. [ha!]

And speaking of a little bit crazy:

Levi [as he comes through the front door dressed in black from head to toe]: "I'm dark and mysterious, unlike a polar bear who is white and mysterious."

:: Top 15 Things Your Middle School Kid Wishes You Knew @ Huffington Post. [Read this one, too.]

grammar quiz love note

[Ignore Lola’s added signature.] Leif gave me a love note I will cherish forever: a grammar quiz. He marked the present participle and the past participle, but who can guess the third? [grin] [It’s a good thing he can be so adorable sometimes, because he makes wild pendulum swings to the obstinate side of things. Like at the mock swim meet last weekend when he was given the choice of diving off the blocks or starting in the water. He wanted to dive off the edge. So he hid under the bleachers and refused to swim any of his races. Fun stuff.]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

For Mom

[I grew up listening to my mom’s Claudine Longet album.]

Like Brothers


McKinnon and Levi have been raised together since birth (McKinnon was born less than six months after Levi) since Char and I have been best friends for 25 years and we’ve lived near each other for their whole lives. [In fact, we lived within walking distance for the first five years.]

They’ve both been homeschooled all this time, and they began classes with our Classical Conversations community together as third graders. Now they are in seventh grade and in the CC Challenge A program.

During all those busy, exhausting baby/toddler years of activities we enjoyed together, this world, this season, of middle school seemed like an unfathomable stop on the journey ahead.

And now these boys are at my kitchen table translating Latin passages together while Char is out of town for a few days.


Levi and McKinnon

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sweet Olive

Olive and Ben

We celebrated my “adopted sister” Olive’s birthday on Sunday along with my dad’s. We’re so blessed to have her and her son, Ben, in our lives.

She has a big court date in just over a week, and we’d appreciate any prayers on her behalf!

Olive's Birthday

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mom and Dad [Bambi and Poppy]

Mom and Dad

We celebrated my dad’s birthday (74!) today and my mom’s birthday (it’s a secret! but she’s much younger than my dad) two weeks ago. I wish I had snapped a picture of both of them together, but this will have to do. [I love my mom’s smirk.]

[I don’t know if I’ve told the story before of how my mom got the nickname “Bambi.” Holly’s kids called her “Grammy,” but Levi couldn’t say that when he was super little. He said something like “Bammy”—which we may have then helped morph into “Bambi” because it sounded better. And she’s been Bambi ever since! Her real name is Cheri, and she blogs over at Treading on Moss.]

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Learning by Heart

“There are times when memorization is out of favor in education. Some might say that “rote memorization” is not appropriate as a teaching strategy. “Rote memorization,” however, is loaded language, biased against the discipline and effort required to learn things permanently. There is nothing wrong with challenge. We must remember that the alternative to remembering is forgetting, and when we teach something as important as grammar, that will be needed for one’s entire life, the ban on memorization makes little sense. There are areas of knowledge that should be memorized, and in the past, there was a better term for it: to learn by heart.” ~Michael Clay Thompson 


::  Q&A: Ken Burns on Why Memorizing the Gettysburg Address Matters @ Mother Jones

"[Memorization] serves a huge purpose. We're all sitting here wringing our hands at the sorry state of education. Everybody has got ideas: You've got to do STEM, and all of a sudden you've thrown the baby out with the bath water of humanities and arts and history. Nobody teaches civics anymore. People dismissed memorization 40 or 50 years ago as rote. It's not that; these kids prove it's not.

"I think the fact that we have completely tossed out memorization is a huge, huge flaw. Who knows, maybe that and civics are the glue that hold everything together? Civics is in fact politics, and politics is how things work not only in the political realm but in every other realm. It may be this simple mechanical glitch that unites everything. This is my philosophy."

I watched this documentary when it was released in April. It brought me to tears. And it solidified my desire to have my boys memorize—poetry, speeches, Bible passages, history timeline, geography, prayers in Latin—not just because I want them to have the information at their fingertips, but because I want them to enlarge their hearts, to practice doing hard things, and to engage with ideas to the point of personal ownership.

I shared this documentary preview clip at the Classical Conversations Parent Practicums at which I spoke this past summer. My almost 10 year old son attended the first one with me, and I had him recite the Gettysburg Address—into a microphone in front of a room full of adults.

[I apologize for the shaky recording. I should have dug out the tripod. Yes, this is a ten year old boy with a black eye. He’ll tell you that a stack of chairs punched him.]


This is not a parlor trick. It’s not meant to impress you. It is meant to show you that no one is excluded from any realm of human endeavor. Your children can memorize. You can memorize.

Where we fail is in thinking that memorizing is an end. Rather, it is a doorway that leads to an exciting world. It is a sense of accomplishment for kids. It empowers them. It gives them a chance to practice delivery in front of people—a huge skill. It is an introduction to big ideas. It is sophisticated vocabulary and language patterns embedded in their minds.

I’ve shared these quotes before, but they are worthy reading, again and again.

“But more than that, we would desire to bring children into the garden of created being, and thought, and expression. Caldecott reminds us that for the medieval schoolmen, as for Plato, education was essentially musical, an education in the cosmos or lovely order that surrounds us and bears us up. Thus when we teach our youngest children by means of rhymes and songs, we do so not merely because rhymes and songs are actually effective mnemonic devices. We do so because we wish to form their souls by memory: we wish to bring them up as rememberers, as persons, born, as Caldecott points out, in certain localities, among certain people, who bear a certain history, and who claim our love and loyalty.” (Anthony Esolen, author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, in the Foreword from Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott)

“One simple and immutable fact about the human brain is that you can’t get something out of it that isn’t there to start with. Supernatural inspiration notwithstanding, human beings in general—and children in particular—really can’t produce... thoughts or concepts that they haven’t first experienced and stored. In other words, we cannot think a thought we don’t have to begin with. Even the most unique, creative, and extraordinary ideas can only exist as a combination and permutation of previously learned bits of information.” ~Andrew Pudewa, 1 Myth, 2 Truths

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Books to Love



::  The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry.

If you’ve read a book written and illustrated by Peter Sis, you will know that it is less a continual story than words and art blended together into a beautiful masterpiece. And this book is a beautiful masterpiece worth poring over. [If you a linear person who hates visual distractions in a story or you dislike small print, this book is not for you.] I happen to love The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Peter Sis, so I was ecstatic to discover this biographical picture book (one of my favorite genres!) at the library.

It begins: “Long ago in France, at the turn of the last century, a little boy was born to be an adventurer.”

We then learn about Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s childhood in France, his interest in airplanes (and the development of this new invention), his job as a pioneer air mail pilot, his life in the African desert where he rescued stranded flyers, his writings, his airplane crash in North Africa, his expeditions, his time as a war pilot in WWII, and finally his disappearance while on a flight in 1944.

It’s magical. And very much in keeping with the dreamy, random, thoughtful spirit of The Little Prince.

After I read through The Pilot and the Little Prince, I was inspired to re-read the lovely picture book The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 written by two of my favorite author-illustrators, Alice and Martin Provensen.




::  Mystery of Meerkat Hill: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers

From the author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (a delight for more mature readers), we are given the childhood story of Precious Ramotswe for young readers. If you are tired of wading through insipid, junk-food beginning chapter books to find the hidden gems, let me save you some trouble. This story, set in Botswana, Africa, is lovely and entertaining in every way. I smiled all the way through. The simple red and black illustrations are charming. The setting is vivid, and the characters come to life. The book is full of shorter fascinating stories about ostriches, cobras, meerkats, and missing cows.

Botswana is very beautiful—it has wide plains that seem to go on and on as far as the eye can see, until they join the sky, which is high and empty. Sometimes, you know, when you look up at an empty sky, it seems as if it’s singing. It is very odd, but that is how it seems.

She loved her father’s stories, especially when he told them at bedtime. There is something very exciting about a bedtime story, and it is even better if the story is told after the lights have been turned out. The words sound different—as if they are being whispered just for you and for nobody else. The words are all around you, like a warm blanket.

Precious was very curious to find out as much as she could about other people. That was why she would become such a good detective when she grew up—detectives have to keep their eyes open; they have to look at people and think I wonder who that person is. I wonder where he comes from. I wonder what his favorite color is. And so on. She was very good at all that. But of course one of the best ways of finding something out is to ask somebody. That was a rule that Precious Ramotswe learned very early in her life, and would never forget.

Sometimes people who are very poor are ashamed of it, even if they have no reason to be. Being poor is usually not your fault, unless it’s because you are very lazy. There are all sorts of reasons why people can be poor. They may have not been able to find any work. They may be in a job where they are not paid very much. They may have lost their father or mother because of illness or an accident or, Precious thought, lightning. Yes, lightning was the reason here, and it made her sad just to think of it.

Precious looked at the house. It was not very large and she wondered how everybody could fit inside. But she did not want to say anything about that, as people are usually proud of their houses and do not like other people (and that means us) to point out that their houses are too small, or too uncomfortable, or the wrong shape. And so she said, “That’s a nice house, Teb.” That was not a lie. It is not a lie to say something nice to somebody. You have to remember that you can usually find something good to say about anything if you look hard enough. And it’s kind too…

Meerkats like attention. They like people to pat them on the head and say nice things. Rather like the rest of us, don’t you think?

I am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. My boys have also enjoyed the Akimbo series of beginning chapter books by the same author.




::  Going Solo by Roald Dahl

No, this isn’t a new book (it was first published in 1986), but it may be new to you. If you or your older readers are interested in (auto)biographies, entertaining stories of life in Africa, the experiences of war pilots of World War II, and airplane crashes in the African desert, this is the book for you.

This autobiography by Roald Dahl is full of adventurous spirit, optimistic attitude, and hilarious stories. It made me laugh out loud several times.

[Heads up: This book does contain mild profanity such as hell, damn, and ass. It also contains one very funny story about naked adults in the first few pages.]

Monday, October 6, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lately Life


I’ve been spending a huge amount of time with Levi, working on lessons. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride and I’m looking forward to a straighter, more horizontal stretch ahead. Please, assure me that’s what’s ahead. Okay, maybe I’m delusional.

So the other kids have been doing a lot of their own thing. For Luke, that means reading, riding his motorbike, organizing my drawers, playing with his snap circuits…

Then a little over a week ago, my sister dropped by some no-bake cookies for Russ. He had helped them with their computer and requested no-bakes for payment because he loves them and I never bake them (what does that say about me?!). Luke thought they were the best thing evah. He begged me to let him call Aunt Shan and get the recipe. I finally gave him permission, but I was distracted when he called her. A little while later he presented me with his rough draft, a final draft, the recipe printed by Levi on an index card, and an index card file with the label (from the label machine) “recipe box.”

This led to an interest in the corner of my kitchen counter where I shove all the recipes I print off from the internet as I need them. My organizational system must have left something to be desired, because he took the wad of papers, three-hole punched them, and put them in a binder he had labeled “recipes.” While working on this project, he found a recipe card for marzipan, which he promptly inserted into his own card file for future use.

The next morning he woke me up asking if he could make no-bake cookies. Seriously. So, like any really good mom would, I said yes. Mostly I said yes just so he would leave me alone and I could go back to sleep. And he had no-bake cookies for breakfast, which are no less nutritious than cold cereal or oatmeal with brown sugar, right?

I thought this would satisfy Luke, but the next day or two he was scrounging around in the kitchen cabinets for the ingredients for marzipan. Many of you have never tasted marzipan (or even heard of it), I’m sure. Essentially, it’s like almond-flavored play-dough. You mix almond paste (not butter, paste is totally different) with powdered sugar and corn syrup (super healthy) until you can work it into shapes without it sticking to your fingers. Then you add food coloring and other accessories (cloves, cinnamon, frosting leaves, sprinkles) to turn it into miniature fruits and vegetables. Some talented people, like my best friend’s parents, can make these specimens look very realistic. We’re not so talented. But it has been a Christmas tradition (one of our very favorites) since before Leif was born (we make it during our St. Nicholas Day party with my best friend and kids). Marzipan is an acquired taste—and we’ve all acquired it.

Luke found the ingredients. I had TWO cans of almond paste. Which means he’s made marzipan twice now. I refuse to buy more almond paste, because I have no self control around the stuff. And I want to keep its status as a special holiday treat.


Luke also got out a difficult puzzle of the United States (which they are studying this year for geography). This was a more intricate puzzle than he had ever attempted, but he was determined. His brothers helped a bit in the beginning, but he completed the bulk of the puzzle on his own.


Unfortunately that is our only table in the whole house (other than the one we’ve recently put in the office/library/schoolroom for Levi’s workspace), so it’s difficult to have large puzzles in progress very often.

Then there’s Leif. If Levi doesn’t give me gray hair this year, Leif will. The kid is so smart and so stubborn. I try to have everyone do math together in the living room with individual white boards. Leif and Luke are perfectly capable of doing Levi’s math (whether or not they want to), and I only have them do the warm-up, lesson instruction, and practice questions together. They don’t have to do all the problems for the rest of the lesson. But Leif is always sneaking off. Always with something new written on his white board. Have you watched a cartoon where a character takes off with a poof, a cloud of dust and some “dash” lines the only thing that remains? That’s what it’s like for Leif, but he leaves behind his white board instead of dust. Can you hear the sound effects that go with this next picture? Zip. Dash. Poof.


The silly thing is that he’s a whiz at math. After he threw a stubborn fit, I had him work through a common factors problem with me and he totally rocked it. Then he wanted me to take a picture of his math whiz face (above left).

Just today I wrote 90 – 33 on the white board (vertically, with 90 over 33) and asked him to do it in his head. He gave me the answer (no sweat) and I asked him how he did it. He said “Zero minus three is negative three. Nine minus three is six. Sixty plus negative three is fifty-seven.” He was adamant that it should be “sixty plus negative three” because he already had a negative number. He just turned eight less than two months ago. Maybe it’s the thousands of hours he’s spent reading the 25 Life of Fred books we own.

But if he doesn’t want to do something anyone asked him to do? Or wants to do something anyone told him not to do?

Heaven help me.

In more cheerful news, he is enthusiastically learning how to diagram sentences. Because sentence diagramming is da bomb.

Leif and Luke (and Lola) have also been enjoying a wide range of books and videos that correspond with our topics this year.


I always have stacks of books about math, science, geography, art, and more from which the kids can feast so that their world isn’t devoid of learning while I’m otherwise employed.

We finished up Columbus and the Pilgrims, and now we’re working our way through the Revolutionary War. It’s pretty easy to find a thousand pictures books on each topic.


October is the knee-deep mark for our 5th year of Classical Conversations. We’re wet up to our ankles with weekly choir practice (and music theory homework each week), weekly AWANAS for all four kids (date night!!), and swim team practice 3-4 afternoons during the week (which takes 3+ hours each afternoon). (Please don’t tell me that my children are unsocialized.) We’ve skipped several field trips because I just don’t want to add to our schedule.

Russ is now the head swim coach (sigh) in addition to his ten other jobs, and he’s prepping the house exterior to be painted. Not much down-time to be found.

That’s life.

Lola’s Party

Lola's Party

I have all sorts of things swirling in my head and in half-baked blog posts, but I wanted to share these two pictures before moving on from Lola. Did you know that I never posted pictures of her first birthday party?! Sad, but true.

I feel that there should be much more time between the start of school and her birthday in October. But that October 1st date sneaks up on me every time.

It doesn’t help that I suddenly realized Russ would be out of town this weekend (the weekend after her birthday) when we were planning a party for my mom, so we had to do two family parties last weekend (a week earlier than I was hoping!). But next weekend we have two more family birthdays! I guess that’s the way it goes when you have a close, lovely extended family. [grin]

All that to say we had a wonderful afternoon in the sunshine with family and close friends for Lola’s birthday this past Sunday. I made a few desserts and snack foods, and I hung paper lanterns. Lola wore her fairy costume. It was relaxed and sweet to spend time with special people!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


4 Lola Colette

My audacious daughter turns four today. It isn’t as if you haven’t seen a gazillion pictures of her here on the blog the past four years, but let’s review her life by seeing them all again…all at once. Because y’all have nothing better to do, I’m certain, and I didn’t have anything better to do during the hours I spent reminiscing and making collages. (And, yes, this page will take forever to load.)

She makes my heart sing.


Lola (a)Lola (b)Lola (c)Lola (d)Lola (e)Lola (f)Lola (g)Lola (h)Lola (i)Lola (j)Lola (k)