Friday, February 27, 2015

The Menagerie [part 2]

Levi's Life Quotes

I thought you all might enjoy the next installment of Levi’s story while I’m working on the next book list project (and waiting for these antibiotics to kick in after almost seven weeks of illness).

He got braces last week and a haircut yesterday. It’s like I have a full-fledged teenager on my hands! He is almost as tall as me, and his feet passed up mine some time ago. I’m not sure I’m coping. The quotes above express his personality so well.

[Read part 1 here.]

Into the Menagerie

Canth strode into the receiving hall he had been directed to by a hassled-looking servant, who had told him that he might wait there till the lord of the keep came to that place as was required and commanded the servants to notify the resident Asura Krewe that the gate must be opened for a young man who was to be trained as a Ranger.

Canth was told that he might rest his feet on a stool which another tired-out servant procured from a nearby room. After a while of wait Canth was directed to meet the Lord of the Hold.

"Young man, you are the first new Trainee in five years!" boomed the Lord. "And we were not prepared for such a speedy arrival at this time of year!" Canth decided that he liked this man, for he had been hospitable even though his servants were exhausted.

"Thank you for receiving me so pleasantly," Canth replied. "But my new teacher must be waiting for me inside......."

"Oh, your teacher can wait, young man. I would like to make your acquaintance first."

"I am sorry, and I do not mean to be rude, but if your resident Asura Krewe have finished their task then I should be going," he notified the affronted Lord of the Hold.

"I understand young man. I will allow you to be on your way, but please do not mention that I detained your arrival to the Master Trainer. He would make me wish I had a different hold to care for than this castle on the border. It would weaken me to have to fight him off and still have the minotaurs to bother me in my harried state. I would'st prefer if thou think'est of me not as a pompous lord but as a friend." With those words the lord of the hold beckoned to Canth and strode through the halls to the room with the gate.

When they arrived in the room a surprise awaited Canth. He thought that he would be going through a normal-seeming castle gate that had a teleport spell cast upon it, but instead it was a circular frame of metal with a purple swirling energy inside.

The portal, since that was the proper name for the Asura Gate, glowed softly in the twilight, a thing of another world. The Asura in charge told him to step through. He did and felt a pull, like a strong tug, then he walked out of the other gate. This time he was inside the Menagerie.

Inside at last

Inside the Menagerie, birds twittered, deer and stags stalked through the forest, and Canth was in the midst of it all, on a journey into the heart of the forest. A journey to find the person who would teach him how to survive in the wild, find food. He had an apprenticeship to fulfill. An apprenticeship that was his and not another's.

He arrived in the heart of the forest and found a little house built into a hill, in a sixty foot wide clearing, with a round door, and beautifully kept plants in front. The house had a stump outside that had been perfectly shaped into a sort of chair, and there sat a man of about twenty-eight. Canth advanced and presented himself in front of the man, saluting and coming to attention.

"First lesson: don't salute or come to attention for me. If you were in sword school then you would have to do that, but here the rules are a little bit less formal. No officials allowed in here; they would want to disturb the peace by bringing heralds with trumpets, and many horses. That would frighten many of the animals on the Island. We use our proper names, not titles and surnames. And, unless we need to show rank in the corps, no saying ‘sir.’ My name is Peter Wolfwynd. Yours is Canth, correct?"

"Yes, it is.”

“Well, today we should start lessons with archery and a preview of Earth Magik." 

Peter and Canth began lessons. Canth was a natural at Earth Magik, but archery would have to be worked on. When Peter saw that Canth was such a good student and that he could perform some of the more complex Magik and had some expertise in simple wilderness survival, he switched Canth's schedule to include more of this because these were what he himself was proficient in, and were what would be more time-consuming to learn.

[To be continued…]

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Love [A Favorites List]

Top 10 Fiction Favorites @ Mt Hope Chronicles

Choosing a top 10 list of fiction favorites is an exercise in crazy-making. But I adore lists. I adore book lists. And I adore top favorites lists. So you see, it is inevitable. I’ll just have to weather the crazy.

It is also inevitable that my choices shift over the years. Isn’t it interesting how one can read a book at various stages of life and feel differently about it each time?

And, oh, how personal is the experience of reading a book! Everyone comes to a story with his or her own set of ideas and experiences as well as personality, emotions, and associations. This means that not everyone will love my top ten as well as I do.

I’ve grouped this list by similarities rather than rating them from one to ten.


The Art of Grace

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson writes art. Her command of words and phrases is exquisite, but it is the human-ness and grace in her books that bring me to tears. I’ve read Housekeeping (my least favorite) and Home (so painfully beautiful), but Gilead is my favorite. I love the narrator, John Ames. I love the moments of humor (oh, I laughed out loud) mixed with the quiet memories, the intellectual and theological musings, the community life, and the unexpected plot revealed toward the end of the book. I have dipped my toes into Lila and look forward to finishing it soon.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What can I say about Mockingbird that has not been said before? Beautifully written. Strong characters (who doesn’t love Atticus Finch and Scout?!). Compelling plot. Relevant social issues. I am eagerly anticipating Harper Lee's newly discovered manuscript, Go Set a Watchman, on my to-read list this year.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

I just re-read this one this past week. It occurred to me that it is the best of Gilead and To Kill a Mockingbird all rolled into one. Exquisite and entertaining writing, grace-filled theology, a strong father-figure (Jeremiah Land rounds out my top three literary fathers), an interesting plot, moral dilemmas, and a compelling child narrator (with a precocious sister).


Epics (Redemption and Revenge)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The history, the powerful metaphors and imagery, the first and last lines, and the tale of redemption propel A Tale of Two Cities to favorite status above David Copperfield.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The intricate plot of The Count astounded me the first time I read it. Revenge has never been so complete. I first read this one in high school and have re-read all 1,200 pages a few times since.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I will confess that I read this first (and only) at the age of thirteen. It was a formative experience, however, and one that sparked my love of literature. My love of the story has since been kept alive by the Broadway musical. It stirs my soul. I’ve attended two live performances and often watch the 10th Anniversary Concert on DVD (on YouTube below). Most recently, the movie version with Hugh Jackman has moved me yet again. What a masterpiece. Victor Hugo has given us a timeless and gripping picture of grace and redemption.



New Worlds

Watership Down by Richard Adams 

Adams convincingly constructs a world in which rabbits have their own language, history, culture, and mythology, and it is shockingly captivating. This is not a sweet children’s story. It is a story about exceptional leadership in the face of danger and upheaval.

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

Everyone is familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia, which every child should read, and Lewis’s non-fiction book of Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity, which every adult should read, but Perelandra is a brilliant mix of both fantasy and theology. Lewis imagines a garden of Eden story set on the planet Venus. It is the second book in Lewis’s Space Trilogy, and another must-read from Lewis.


About a Girl (Obscure Favorites)

The Little French Girl by Anne Douglas Sedgwick

This is my most obscure favorite, but at least two people with exceptional taste in books love it almost as much as I do (my mom and my friend Susan Keller) so I know I’m not completely crazy. It is not a children’s book due to slightly mature themes. The story explores the differences between the French and English cultures in the early 1900s (it was published in 1924) through the experiences of a young woman who leaves France to live with an English family, the move due in part to her mother’s lifestyle. The writing and mood of the story are simply iridescent.

Maggie Rose, Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer

Maggie Rose is the only children’s book on my top ten list. It was a family favorite during my childhood and it still delights and moves me. The simple illustrations by Maurice Sendak have so much life and personality.


Your turn to play along! Share your top ten list of favorite fiction novels! I look forward to the conversation in the comments.

[Next up: more book lists!]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

And the Winner Is…


Sarah Robertson! [Check your email!]

Thank you so much for the kind comments on my blogiversary post. I’ve read them all through several times and treasure each one. Y’all know how to make my day! And I’m amazed by the number of years so many of you have been visiting Mt. Hope Chronicles!

Special shout-out to Christina Love. I don’t think I’ve ever been someone’s “who in the world would you have dinner with” answer! And I can think of a gazillion people who should be ahead of me on that list. [ha!]

Another shout-out to Jeana. Congratulations on your baby girl! Yes, I remember the early days with three boys and a baby girl, and how in love we were! There’s just nothing like it. I’m so happy for you.

So many of you said that my book posts are your favorites. Well, you’re in luck, because we’ll be talking books for the next two weeks! Books, books, and more books! Favorites, to-read list, reviews, picture books, chapter books, ooh la la!

If you are one of the many who commented on my links, be sure to follow the Mt. Hope Chronicles Facebook page. That’s where I share my inspirational and entertaining links in “real time,” including the ones that don’t make it into blog posts.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading and participating.


[This it totally off-topic, but my husband and I are celebrating 19 years of marriage today! There is no way we can possibly be that old. Ha! I shared our love story on the blog seven years ago if anyone is interested in reading my rambling narrative.]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Five ~ On YouTube

What We’re Watching on YouTube

[Parental discretion advised]

1. We own four other David Macaulay PBS Specials on DVD (Pyramid, Roman City, Castle, and Cathedral), but we are missing the Mill episode, so I was excited to find it on YouTube (above).

2. The historyteachers parodies are hilarious. My boys have been walking around singing “La la Liberte, e e-galite, fra fra-ternite, French Revolution.” (We watched several others as well, especially Catherine the Great.)

3. We then moved on to the French Revolution on Horrible Histories. Because I hadn’t damaged my children enough.

4. Only slightly more serious (and detailed) is the Crash Course History series with John Green.

(Disclaimer: I am balancing out the silliness by reading A Tale of Two Cities aloud to the boys. Pinky swear.)

5. The following video is not about the French Revolution or the Industrial Revolution. It is, however, one of my boys’ favorites—because I have odd children.


What have you been watching on YouTube?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Best of Mt. Hope Chronicles ~ Why We Homeschool

The Best of

This is the first installment in a new series. After eight years of writing and sharing here at Mt. Hope Chronicles, I have many posts that have been buried by time. I’m going through my archives and republishing those that are the heart of the blog. They will cover a range of subjects, just as my blog has reflected all aspects of my life!

My original intent in starting a blog was to share our homeschooling journey beginning just after my oldest turned five. While I’ve posted about this and that and everything in between, education has obviously been one of the main themes. So it seems fitting to share again the reasons we began homeschooling. These reasons have continued to be the backbone of our educational “why” as we’ve kept the course these past eight years.

Oceans of Truth 

Why We Homeschool

First posted April 3, 2007

[You can read the background story here.]

Now that I’ve thought about homeschooling for over [23] years, my list of reasons to homeschool is a long one.

#1. Learning as a Lifestyle.

Family Life. Real Life. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the kitchen, car, dental office, library, museum, mountains. Reading. Asking questions. Being interested. Talking with people of different ages, professions, interests. More time for 'field trips' and travel. Not confined to a certain building, certain hours of the day, with an adult and a room full of same-aged peers. Children should see their parents learning, reading, and discovering along with them and on their own.

#2. Tailoring Education to Fit the Individual.

All children are unique individuals. They learn different subjects at different paces. They are interested in different things. Ideally, my sons will be learning at their own speed in each subject. If they are at a '4th' grade level in reading, '1st' grade level in spelling, and '3rd' grade level in math, I can meet them where they are. If they need extra time to acquire mastery in phonics, we'll take that time. If they grasp a mathematical concept immediately, we won't spend 2 weeks on drill and review. No worrying about pushing ahead too quickly, or boring other students, or leaving my sons frustrated and lost, or lingering too long on a subject--leaving them bored to tears, or worse--sucking the love of learning right out of them. When we find a subject fascinating, let us spend the time delving in! When we find a subject that we don't care for, let us learn what we must and move on! If one of my sons is interested in, say, photography we'll buy or borrow books, get him equipment for his birthday, find an adult who loves and is knowledgeable in photography and schedule some time for them to be together, or find a class in which he can enroll. Science? How about classes at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry? I want them to master the basics and have time for their passions. I want them to love learning. My children's educations can be better tailored to suit their goals and equip them for their future.

#3. Ownership of Education.

When learning happens 'on their own turf', when children have some control over what subjects they study, when there is time to really ask questions and discuss issues, when they are allowed input on where they study/how their daily schedule is arranged/how much time they need for specific subjects, when a love of learning has been developed, when education happens as a constant part of life...I believe children will have a greater feeling of ownership of their education. It is more personal and internalized. They are more likely to spend the rest of their life learning, instead of regarding education as something that happened to them for 12 (or more) years of their childhood.

#4. Flexibility.

Homeschooling provides an amazing amount of flexibility to education in so many ways. When children become interested in a particular subject, they don't have to shut their books and move on when the bell rings. When they finish a lesson earlier than expected, they don't have to fill the next half hour with 'busy work.' If a child is sick, instead of missing a day of school, they might listen to a book on CD or follow the Latin lesson along with their siblings. Maybe they will sleep all day and continue lessons that evening. There will be no falling behind or scrambling to get the day's work from the teacher. Learning can happen anywhere: in the waiting room at the dentist's office, in the car, between events at a swim meet, or on vacation. The 'school year' can be spread out over a whole year with more frequent breaks, helping to eliminate burn-out or losing skills and knowledge over a long summer break. Family vacations can be had during off-season. We can take a week day to deal with life and add in school on Saturday. If we have fallen behind or need more time to dig in to a subject, we may add in a day here or there. If we are ahead, then we may relax a bit. In short, we will make homeschooling work for us, rather than striving to fit a 'perfect' box. During their high school years particularly, education can be flexible for work schedules, apprenticeships, college classes, travel, community service, volunteer opportunities, and extracurricular activities.

#5. Using our Time Wisely.

One of my top reasons for homeschooling is the efficient use of our time. There are so many wonderful things with which to fill our days. More time can be spent on-task when there is no transportation time to and from school, no school assemblies, no roll call, no explanations/discipline/review for other students, no 'busy work,' no inappropriate socialization during study time, no 'filler' classes or subjects. When children are able to be on-task at their exact learning level with a 1:3 teacher/student ratio and with immediate personal feedback and discussion, much is accomplished in a short amount of time. This leaves hours of the day free for a full and well-rounded life, complete with down-time. As Greg Sherman writes in the essay, Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool (linked below):

Other people may rightfully disagree with our priorities, but my wife and I both feel that enjoying and performing music, playing in the outdoors, cooking, performing in the theater, learning ballet, and immersing ourselves in long and complicated games with siblings and friends is much more important than 99% of the math we were compelled to try and learn in school. I know that some people are capable of doing it all: school, music, theater, ballet, soccer, family. But not us.

I want my children to have the time for a fulfilling life, to pursue their passions. I don't think we would have the time without a homeschool environment.

#6. Integration of Knowledge and Subjects.

Rarely in real life does one use a skill or 'subject' in isolation. The ideal educational environment would allow writing skills to be developed during history class, grammar skills developed during Latin, or a current events discussion during science.

To the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. Astronomy (for example) isn't studied in isolation; it's learned along with the history of scientific discovery, which leads into the church's relationship to science and from there to the intricacies of medieval church history. The reading of the Odyssey leads the student into the consideration of Greek history, the nature of heroism, the development of the epic, and man's understanding of the divine. --Susan Wise Bauer, in her essay, What is Classical Education?

#7. Continuity.

Homeschooling will allow for a seamless progression of skills and knowledge. It will allow my children to master a skill and then progress to the next level without lingering, and without gaps. We won't jump from one teaching style to another, one curriculum to another, or one set of expectations to another. I will know what material they have covered, and what needs to be presented, without having to assume that certain information or skills have been acquired. We will cover world history starting at the beginning, finishing at the end. We will not spend all of our time learning about the pilgrims again, and again, and again. We will not do a unit study on ocean life each year of grade school. Instead, we will start with Biology, move on to Earth Science, then Astronomy, Chemistry, and Physics. We will not read Charlotte's Web as our yearly read-aloud. (We read the book, listened to it on CD, and watched the movie when Levi was 4.) We will discover new books daily and revisit favorites often.

#8. No One Knows My Kids Like Their Own Parents.

No other person wants more for them, is ready to sacrifice what we are willing to sacrifice for them. A teacher with 20-30 (or more) incoming students each year does not know what are my child's strengths, weaknesses, interests, learning style and personality. I hope to know when to challenge them, and when to hold back. As their parents, we have authority to discipline, authority to teach values and morals, and authority to guide our children in deciding their futures.

#9. Socialization.

In my experience, children in recent times lose their innocence early and mature later, creating a 10-15 year (or longer) adolescence. My hope is to help my children retain their childhood innocence longer and encourage maturation. I want my kids to think for themselves without a herd mentality. Lots of free play time (particularly outdoors), time for imagination to let loose, quality children's literature, selective television, very little video games, [yes, we spend much more time in front of screens than I had hoped!] more interaction with adults or families and less with large groups of same-aged peers, chores and responsibilities, serious participation in and ownership of family relationships, deep friendships, challenging academic studies (including Socratic dialogue and discussion), more time with their father, travel, personal development sports (swimming, tennis, martial arts...), music lessons, quality group experiences (books club, age-group swim team, debate team, band or orchestra...), apprenticeships, and specific training in life skills will all help serve my children as they enjoy childhood and develop into mature young adults.

#10. Rigorous Academics.

I hope to provide my children with a solid classical academic foundation. This will include an emphasis on the mastery of reading, writing, and math. We will study history chronologically and in great depth. We will read a thousand pieces of quality literature and end with a Great Books study in high school. The kids' dad (with a science degree and a masters in education) will oversee their science studies. We may use online tutorials, private tutors, or college classes for high school level science. The same applies to math. Our boys have started learning Spanish, will begin the study of Latin by the 3rd grade, and hopefully add in a 3rd foreign language by the 6th-9th grade. [Ahem. So we’ve only managed Latin so far…] We will study logic and rhetoric. Music and art will be added in as much as possible, including a few years of piano and music theory. I'll be posting more about classical education later.

#11. Furthering My Own Education.

I am incredibly full of anticipation, knowing that I will have the opportunity to learn along with my boys. There are so many gaps in my education, and I look forward with delight to the years ahead.



If you are interested, after surviving my lengthy explanations, in reading a wonderful article about a father's reasons for homeschooling, check out Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool by Greg Sherman, Ph.D.

Some of my favorite inspirational books that originally encouraged me (directly or indirectly) to homeschool:

My current must-read (particularly for an accessible introduction to Classical Education and instruction on how to teach younger students) is The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vulnerability and Part 1 of “The Menagerie” by Levi


I’m going to be vulnerable with you for a few minutes:

It’s been a rough year with my oldest.

Personality clashes, hormone flares, emotional meltdowns, character issues. Probably pretty equally on both our parts.

Have I mentioned that raising adolescents can be tough?

I asked him if I could share that, and he said I could.

And I say this to let you know that we’re human, with human struggles.

The decisions are endless, and seem to have no easy answers. I hinted about the quandary in this post. How much do we expect our “square peg” children to fit in a round hole? When is it a character or training issue and when should we change our expectations?

I don’t know.

I’m reminded of this article about the best-selling teenage author Christopher Paolini. In the article, his mother talks about his education saying, “Little did I know that when Christopher was daydreaming out the window—and not finishing his math problems—he was dreaming of battling evil sorcerers and flying on dragons, dreams that would form the basis of his first book, Eragon.”

Well, exactly.

I’m not saying I have the next Christopher Paolini on my hands, not at all, but what do you do when your child would rather be thinking or writing about dragons than finishing his math? What do you do when it is a great struggle for him to bend his brain to focus on math? Even if he has the reward of free time at the end of it?

She does say in the very next paragraph: “Sometimes our children balked at lessons and we had a clash of wills. At those crucial points, Kenneth and I gave our children a choice: we told them that by law they had to attend school, but it was their decision where they would do this. They could do the assigned homeschool lessons or Dad would drive them to the local school, where they would do the work those teachers assigned. Ultimately, they always chose to homeschool, but not without a grumble here and there.”

And so we press on, but not without a grumble here and there. [wry grin] And I try to remember that learning to read was a painful process to go through with Levi, but now he can read 1,000 pages a day. So there’s that.

Maybe it is that I fear the regrets of hindsight, and I don’t want to destroy our relationship.

But I can’t live in fear. At some point I have to walk in faith here.

Levi has asked that I share with you all the very rough draft of the beginning of the story he is writing, and I told him that I would be glad to. So this is in part a preface.

Keep in mind that writing assignments are painfully completed (or not, as the case may be) by this son. Painful execution. Painful style. IEW was a battle. Even the creative assignments.

But when he is supposed to be completing a math assignment?


Following is the first installment. I’ve edited his random capitalization and punctuation and reformatted the paragraphs. All other content is his spontaneous creativity.

Copyright 2015 by Levi Scovel


The Menagerie

A Chronicle of the Apprenticeship and Adulthood of a Young Ranger

Chapter One


It was a dark and stormy night, a night to stay indoors, a night of fear and woe, yet there was a young man out in the blackness, struggling against the wind and snow. His name was Canth; he was the new apprentice in the Menagerie, the place where Her Majesty's royal trackers and scouts were trained.

He had been told it was a honor for him, a castle ward, to be selected for such a prestigious apprenticeship. The selection had taken place on a fair morning. He had been roused from sleep and instructed to change into a brown and green tunic and elegant but sturdy brown pants, and to venture to the Apprenticeship Hall. He had stood in line, shortest to tallest; being the tallest ward he was the last. Then he listened to all the wards receive their apprenticeships.

The first was a young girl who was very lively and fast. "Rhuinnion Green?" questioned the Chancellor.

"Yes, my lord?"

"Have you a wish to be apprenticed to a certain master or mistress?" the Chancellor asked Rhuinnion.

"My lord, I wish to be apprenticed in the courtier class," she announced with a curtsey.

"That is a fine choice," the Chancellor cried! "What say you Ariana?"

"I have seen all I would wish in a Courtier! She is polite and could outpace a centaur!" Ariana replied courteously.

"Ah, Young Tucker is next, do I speak rightly young sir?" The Chancellor requested that Tucker step forward.

"My lord, I am Tucker Nightengale."

"Ah, so I spoke rightly. Well young man, have you a request as to your apprenticeship?"

"Why, yes I do, my lord," Tucker proclaimed somewhat quietly. "My request is to be in the Mage Archen!" he happily announced.

"Well, my boy, may you be delighted to learn that Cobalion of the Mages Archen accepts you!" announced the Mage. "Tis such a rare thing when a boy shows so much talent for Ice that we will accept them if they but ask!" Cobalion pronounced. Tucker blushed. "I have seen him summon an eagle of flawless pure turquoise Ice that can mentally communicate and fly better than a natural bird! This boy will learn many secrets and may succeed me as the Master of the Mages Archen!

“I now will announce a grand thing! I am decided to adopt Tucker as my son and heir! Chancellor, do I have your acceptance of this?"

The Chancellor replied wisely, "You have my Acceptance for this is a thing of wonder, but I must warn you that Tucker must accept your offer as well, or his magical power may be lessened by shock!"

"Tucker?" queried Cobalion.

"Yes, I will accept your offers. I accept both of them!" Tucker cried, and he walked from the room with Cobalion following.

Cobalion returned presently with Tucker beside him in his new Apprentice of the Archen robes. More apprenticeships were confirmed. Some were what the teens had hoped for, others were not, but equally accepted by the teen who had been given a different apprenticeship.

After the last of the ten young wards had received their apprenticeships, it was Canth's turn. He asked if he could become a swordsman. He was turned down; Baron Egan was not accepting apprenticeships now, for he had already received three this morn. Horse school was close to sword school, but they had filled their ranks with new apprentices previously and would not take another. Everywhere he turned there was only despair. Finally he asked if he might join the Rangers. This was the place. He was received! He could not believe his fortune. The only discomfort was that he knew that he would not be training nearby. Sadly he must venture north to the Hold of Gorain, where there was a magical gate that would send him to his training place. He had spent the last thirteen years in the royal castle of the newly crowned Queen Simylene, and rued that he had had to leave the beauteous palace.

Canth’s recent memory faded and he returned to the present. Smurph, smurph in the snow went his boots as he stumbled into the hold from which he would depart to his place of training.

[To be continued…]

Monday, February 16, 2015

EIGHT YEARS @ Mt Hope Chronicles! (And a Giveaway!)

First Blog Header 

Yes, it has been eight years since my very first Forever Home post in February of 2007. We had just moved into our little house in the country. Levi had just turned five. Luke was two. Leif was six months old.

Have we really come that far?

Some of you have been around for close to eight years. Many of you were here almost five years ago when I announced my pregnancy, and you have watched Lola grow up these past four years.

Thank you.

I say that sincerely.

I started this blog as a journal of our lives and our homeschooling, but it has become much more than that to me. It is community, and friendships, and encouragement. It is a place to share my writing and my photography as I grow and learn. It is a place for me to share my story.

Thank you for being my witness.

Nothing says Mt. Hope Chronicles celebration like an Amazon gift certificate giveaway, no?

So let’s do that, shall we?

I’m giving away a $50 Amazon gift certificate. Comment on this blog post for one entry, and visit the Mt. Hope Chronicles Facebook page for a second entry. Click on the Rafflecopter below to confirm your entries. The giveaway ends at midnight on February 23rd.

Giveaway is now closed!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


While we’re waiting a week to find out the giveaway winner, let’s take a stroll down memory lane. I started my blog in 2007 with the basic Blogger header and just the title of my blog. [It’s a good thing blogging itself was a novel thing at the time, because the header was boring.]

By 2008, I’d gotten so tech savvy (ha!) that I was able to add the personalized header at the beginning of this post.

My photography took off that year and in 2009 I created this header:

Header Collage 2

It was time for something fresh in the spring of 2010:

Header April 2010

Lola appeared in the header in November of 2010:

Blog Header Nov 2010

Spring 2011 (a favorite!):

spring header 2011

December 2011:

Christmas Header 2011 (2)

Fall 2012 (another favorite!):

Mt Hope Chronicles Header July 2012

Fall 2013:

Blog Header Sept 2013 Final

Fall 2014:

Sept 2014 Blog Header


And so much more to come…

Calling All Pacific-Northwesters!

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty 

We get a CiRCE Pacific Northwest Regional Conference!

Mark your calendars for May 8th and 9th near Seattle, then click on the above link and register.

The speaker line-up includes Andrew Kern, Sarah Mackenzie (of Amongst Lovely Things), and David Hicks (author of Norms and Nobility).

I’ll be attending, and I would love to meet up!

Will I see you there?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Food for Thought ~ Music, Science, Math, and Memory

Or “The Cross-Pollination of Accumulated Ideas”

The Creative Know-it-all 

:: Music and God’s Good Timing by Caleb Skogen @ Classical Conversations [Seriously good, but convicting, stuff here.]

Music cannot be separated from time nor can the timing of music be thought of as something entirely constructed by man. Because of music’s physical and temporal character, music reminds us that time belongs to the very framework of God’s creation.

:: The Musical Root of Science @ CiRCE

If we wish to produce young men and women who are capable of thinking like Galileo and Kepler, advancing the boundaries of mathematics and science, they must be educated in all areas of study, including music as well as arithmetic, and be able to integrate the disciplines together.

:: A Post-Empirical God @ Church & Culture

There is now a battle raging over the scientific method itself, particularly between those engaged in cosmology and those pursuing the study of fundamental physics.

:: The Psychology of Why Creative Work Hinges on Memory and Connecting the Unrelated @ Brain Pickings

“A powerful and personally developed structuring of information — an active and selective memory — is as necessary for scientists as it is for poets.” [John-Steiner]

But perhaps the most potent use of memory in the creative mind is the cross-pollination of accumulated ideas and the fusing together of seemingly unrelated concepts into novel configurations — something Stephen Jay Gould, arguably the greatest science essayist of all time, captured when he said that his sole talent is “making connections.” John-Steiner quotes a similar sentiment by the Polish-born mathematician Stan Ulam:

“It seems to me that good memory — at least for mathematicians and physicists — forms a large part of their talent. And what we call talent or perhaps genius itself depends to a large extent on the ability to use one’s memory properly to find analogies, past, present and future, which [are] essential to the development of new ideas.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Five ~ On Netflix

What we’re watching on Netflix Streaming:

1. Hunting the Elements. Great science fun!

2. How the States Got Their Shapes. United States geography and culture.

3. The Men Who Built America. Learning about our tycoons (all CC peeps sing with me…).

4. Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Okay, we own this one on DVD, but it’s a blast and it’s available on Netflix Streaming now.

5. The Boxcar Children. Darling.


Do you have favorite movies or series (for kids or adults) available on Netflix Streaming?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Under Construction

Under Construction

Hey, friends!

I know it has been a little quieter than normal here on the blog recently. I’m still here, just under the weather for the past five weeks. As the never-ending cough finally began to abate, I landed a nasty head cold and sinus headache which has left me with foggy brain. And I’ll admit that I am beginning to fantasize about summer. Is it just me, or are you feeling that way, too?

I have also spent some time making long-overdue improvements here on the blog. This month marks the EIGHT YEAR anniversary of Mt. Hope Chronicles! I figure that’s as good an occasion as any to spruce up the place. [grin] So you’ll notice changes happening over the course of the month, but I wanted to point out a few things to start with.

1. I have an “About” page! You can click on the tab just under the header at the top of the page to read about me, my family, and the blog. I’ll be adding more tabs for easier blog navigation, so be sure to check them out when they appear!

2. Did you know you can follow Mt. Hope Chronicles by email? Just enter your address over there on the side bar (where it says “follow by email”) and you won’t miss out on any excitement going on around here.

3. I finally have a Mt. Hope Chronicles Facebook page. [It’s about time.] I’ll be sharing interesting links, quotes, and blog posts there, so feel free to follow and join in the conversation! Just click “Like” in the Facebook box on the sidebar.

4. I’ve added an Amazon search bar (on the sidebar just below the Facebook box), so if you are interested in supporting Mt. Hope Chronicles in that way I’ve tried to make it easier for you to do so. (I receive a small commission on any Amazon purchases made through my links, whether or not you purchase the specific items I recommend.) I cannot adequately express my appreciation for those of you who purchase through my links! Thank you, thank you!

It is my intention to preserve the personal atmosphere of the blog, but I want to keep it fresh and easy to navigate. I know many of you have been faithful readers for years and years, and I hope you continue to enjoy visiting this little corner of the internet.

Be sure to check back next week for the anniversary party and giveaway!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

A Tale of Two Cities

The boys and I read about the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror in The Story of the World yesterday (which, of course, prompted all sorts of CC history sentence songs and connections, including the realization that George Washington became president the same year the French Revolution began).

As I was collecting corresponding books from our shelves (notably The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, Austria-France, 1769 and The Scarlet Pimpernel), I sighed a happy sigh when my eyes landed on A Tale of Two Cities. What a masterpiece.

Can you think of any other book that has such famous first and last lines?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

Just typing those words gives me the chills.

The metaphors and picturesque language in A Tale of Two Cities are exquisite. It is a tale of redemption that rivals Les Miserables. And it is my favorite Dickens novel.

So I decided to read it aloud to the boys. I don’t know how far we’ll get, but I want them to hear the words. They are capable of reading so much on their own, I want to read something together that will challenge them. Something we can spend time on and discuss. [The boys have listened to A Tale of Two Cities retold by Jim Weiss, so they know the basic story line.]

I read the opening passage:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Leif’s comment? “That’s an upside-down world.”

Yes. Yes, it was.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Food for Thought ~ Beauty, Poetry, and Culture


 :: Anton Chekhov on the 8 Qualities of Cultured People@ Brain Pickings [I love this letter to his brother.]

:: Educational Oblivion and How to Avoid It @ Vital Remnants [Go read the whole post. It’s short and excellent.]

There are other classic books he has found too. And in reading them, he is transformed from a memoryless copy of himself, unquestioningly following the orders of what he now knows to be the very creatures who have destroyed his civilization, to a fully human being. A human being who has, by having recovered his cultural memory, been humanized.

:: The Role of Beauty in the Formation of Men as Men @ Crisis Magazine

[M]odern education has shifted from an emphasis on the liberal arts (a traditional venue for introducing people to the beautiful) to an often exclusive focus on career-oriented education. We are rapidly becoming a society of animals, where serving our needs and our wants is the over-arching narrative of our existence.

It is the role of beauty to shake men out of this mundane existence (or, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis when he was referring to joy, to “administer the shock”) by making them confront a reality above and far more wonderful than a life of simply existing.

:: On “Beauty”: Marilynne Robinson on Writing, What Storytelling Can Learn from Science, and the Splendors of Uncertainty @ Brain Pickings [Several good Robinson quotes here, but that is not surprising. I’m of the opinion that beauty and wisdom seep from her pen.]

It has seemed to me for some time that beauty, as a conscious element of experience, as a thing to be valued and explored, has gone into abeyance among us. I do not by any means wish to suggest that we suffer from any shortage of beauty, which seems to me intrinsic to experience, everywhere to be found. The pitch of a voice, the gesture of a hand, can be very beautiful. I need hardly speak of daylight, warmth, silence.

:: The Power of Beauty @ The Imaginative Conservative

Art has the twin functions of reflecting a culture and shaping it. The problem that contemporary artists face is a difficult one: how to express meaning to a world which has become culturally over-stimulated by the spectacular, hyper-sexualized, dumbed-down by inanity, and increasingly antagonistic to manifestations of Christianity. Some of the artists who are here this week struggle to believe that the vocation as an artist–especially a Christian artist–has any meaning or value at all. They are at the edge of redefining and creating anew with moral imagination a vision of the True, the Good and the Beautiful that has been all but exterminated in Western culture.

:: Orality, Literacy, and the Memorized Poem: Hearing art’s heartbeat. by Mike Chasar at Poetry Foundation

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What Luke Has Been Reading

Luke's Reading
This kid has turned into a reading maniac! I found myself saying such ridiculous things as “Put down that Tolkien book and do some school!” What was I thinking?

He is working toward Memory Master for Classical Conversations Foundations (for the third and final cycle of information in history, science, Latin, English grammar, geography, and math). He completes an art project and watches a short science demonstration in class weekly. He sits through Essentials class (grammar, writing, and math games) weekly. We diagram an occasional sentence. Choir (and music theory homework) begins in a week or two. He swims at least three days a week. And he organizes my flatware drawer in the kitchen just for fun.

That’s enough “school,” right?!

I can add educational games and documentaries to the list. That helps.

Okay, maybe there needs to be more math and writing in there. Sigh. Math he can do. Writing—well, that’s torture.*

In general, it has looked a lot like “unschooling” around here lately. [In other news, I’m ready to NOT be sick.]


History (and Science History)

Benjamin Franklin: Young Printer (Childhood of Famous Americans)
Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold by Jean Fritz
The Mystery of the Periodic Table (Living History Library)

Historical Fiction

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. This is the audio book the boys are listening to at bed time.
Guns for General Washington: A Story of the American Revolution
Dutch Color
The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson


Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Tales from the Perilous Realm by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


The Green Ember. I read about this book on Story Warren and ordered it through the Kickstarter campaign. All of the boys loved it!
Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times
Time and the Tapestry: A William Morris Adventure. This time-traveling fictional mystery has some fun history of the arts-and-crafts movement woven in the story similar to Chasing Vermeer or The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett.

I’m sure I’m missing several from his chapter book list this past month.
Plus… a gazillion picture books on all topics (history, art, literature, geography, science, cultures, fables and fairy tales…)

Today Luke told me that he wants to read all the books in the house by the end of the year.

Good luck with that, Dude.

*Funny story. Luke was required to submit a writing sample for the charter school in which he is enrolled. He had a few prompts to choose from. I told him what he needed to do and gave him some suggestions for getting started, which he promptly shot down. He then proceeded to bang his head on the table for hours, all the while NOT doing the writing assignment. Because torture. “I don’t know what to say. I have no imagination. I can’t write. I hate this.” And so on.

The second day I sat him down again and he commenced with the head banging. After a little while he sat up straight in a sudden motion and a light bulb appeared over his head.

“Mom, if I write three paragraphs, can I have a piece of ice cream cake from the freezer?”

“Um, absolutely son. You bring me three paragraphs and I’ll serve you up.”

Five minutes later…

“I was driving up the long winding road to House Rock Campground when suddenly I heard a rumbling noise. It was a rock slide! I quickly went into reverse but accidentally went off the cliff! Luckily I landed in a deep part of the river right side up. I broke the window before I sank and climbed out.

“I looked around but I couldn’t find a way to get up the cliff. So I swam down to my car and rummaged around until I found some rope. I tied a slipknot and located a tree stump at the top of the cliff. I threw my rope and after a few tries hit the tree stump. I climbed up and finally I was at the top.

“I looked around and saw a car coming. I asked the driver if I could hitch a ride. He agreed and drove to the nearest town. I bought supplies and started hiking to House Rock. When I arrived I set up my new tent and curled up in my new sleeping bag and fell fast asleep.”

It may not look like much, but for this son it was blood from a rock. And, for this rock, the only thing more powerful than the torture of writing is the promise of sugar.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Food for Thought ~ On Story

Story @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


“Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth…It’s no coincidence that Jesus taught almost entirely by telling stories, simple stories dealing with the stuff of life familiar to the Jews of his day. Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.”

~Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art


:: The Power of Story @ Aeon. [This article dovetails quite nicely with what I’ve been experiencing with Levi and The Lost Tools of Writing. Stories, and conversations about stories, build empathy as well as wisdom.]

We argue with stories, internally or out loud. We talk back. We praise. We denounce. Every story is the beginning of a conversation, with ourselves as well as with others.

One lesson about the 1938 Kristallnacht attacks delves into the historical narrative, describing how Nazis burned synagogues, smashed windows and looted Jewish shops while most ordinary Germans just watched. This real-life story prompts class discussion that touches on what it means to be a bystander; someone who does nothing while someone else gets hurt. Kids consider how they might have reacted when Jewish people were persecuted under Nazi rule, but they’re also thinking about similar matters closer to home, such as whether they should stand up for a friend who’s being badmouthed. When students explore the significance of stories in this way, their thoughts and choices shift measurably. Children who complete the Facing History curriculum show more empathy and concern for others, and they are more likely than controls to intervene when other students are bullied.

:: Picture Books and the Childlike Heart @ Crisis Magazine

[T]hese books live in us, bring life to us, much in the way special friendships do. Some are ancient and wise, while others are young and energetic; some make our hearts ache with sadness, while others lift our hearts with laughter. In the end, they are a lens through which all of us can look at life, at its joys and sorrows and everything in between; and though the image is simple enough for young eyes to see, it is also lovely enough to last a lifetime.

:: The Value of Happily Ever After @ Story Warren

The fairy tales of childhood also provide plenty of rich character training. They are full of heroes and heroines who endure suffering with meekness, cleverness, perseverance, courage and grace. It is the nature of a child to try on the characters they are reading about, just as they model themselves according to the characters they costume themselves with when playing “dress up.” In their mind, they are wondering how they will handle the wicked stepmother, whether their courage will hold when they face the fire-breathing dragon, or how they might outwit the devious giants of their fairy stories.

:: Watership Down author Richard Adams: I just can’t do humans @ The Guardian. [This is one of my favorite novels!]

Adams was 52 and working for the civil service when his daughters began pleading with him to tell them a story on the drive to school. “I had been put on the spot and I started off, ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.’ And I just took it on from there.” Extraordinarily, he had never written a word of fiction before, but once he’d seen the story through to the end, his daughters said it was “too good to waste, Daddy, you ought to write that down”.

:: This Guy Took a Photo Every Time He Saw Someone Reading a Book on the Subway @ Slate


What stories are you and your children reading this week?