Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Quiet in the Midst of Chaos

Quiet Moments @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

In the midst of a week (and more) of almost daily events while down one adult (I’m greatly outnumbered this week), I am savoring a few quiet moments today before heading out to yet another (the fourth since Saturday) end-of-year celebration and potluck. [Lola is way past her sitting still and quiet limit.]

I finished reading Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption today. [I think it’s almost time for a junk-food-book binge!]

Mid-day, Luke asked me if he could search something on my computer. Naturally, I asked him what he’d like to search.

“Uses for lavender.”

This kid never fails to surprise me. He printed off a list of 50 uses for lavender, 3-hole-punched them, and added them to his binder of interesting things. He’s set on the idea of making soap, but I’m trying to convince him to make lavender shortbread cookies. Both projects may happen this week.

He began talking about herbs in general, so I gave him a lovely little DK Pocket Book of Herbs, which he read, and we began contemplating an herb garden project. After a while, he swiped my new clippers and went out to harvest some chives, taste-testing the stems and inspecting the blooms.

Leif seemed under the weather this morning, and I discovered him fast asleep in bed this afternoon. [Completely out of character, so I know he must have caught the bug that Lola woke up with Sunday morning—of course.]

While Luke and I talked herbs and Leif napped, Levi and Lola were out collecting a bucket of tadpoles. I later found evidence of their adventures left on the front porch.


Celebrating Quiet Moments @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

And now, four end-of-the-year events down. Two book clubs, a birthday party, and a baby to go! I miss my husband.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Classical Conversations Challenge Program Spring Protocol

Classical Conversations Challenge Protocol @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I again had the privilege of photographing our local Classical Conversations Challenge Program Spring Protocol. Just as they did last year, the students in Challenge I, II, and III attended a formal dinner at the home of one of our community families (who graciously also offered their whole family to cook and serve, even though they do not have older Challenge students). And I was again reminded why we are part of this community. The sight of all these parents coming together to create something wonderful for the students was incredible, each person serving according to their strengths and passions. I love these people!

CC Protocol @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesCC Protocol (1)CC Protocol (11)CC Protocol (3)

The food was delicious! There was a soup course, a salad course, the main dish (a choice between pork, chicken, and vegetarian), a sorbet, and dessert (chocolate or strawberry).

CC Protocol (4)CC Protocol (9)CC Protocol (10)

These twenty students were joined by an additional nine students from another campus for a few hours of dancing at a lovely venue.

CC Protocol (8)CC Protocol (7)CC Protocol (5)

What an outstanding group of high school students!

CC Protocol (6)

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Little Prince

“Growing up is not the problem. Forgetting is.”

I am so stoked to see this gorgeous movie!

Have you read the book? This is my review from 2007:

Do not dismiss The Little Prince as a children's fairy tale. The story has layers full of thought-provoking themes and ideas for adults.

The Little Prince is thoughtful, bittersweet, and highly imaginative. The plot is all over the place and beside the point; read to find the not-so-hidden messages for living a rich and beautiful life.

This book has found its way onto my best books list. Excellent.

"Good-bye," said the fox. "Here is my secret. It's quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes."

"But what does ephemeral mean?" repeated the little prince, who had never in all his life let go of a question once he had asked it.

(This particular phrase was repeated several times throughout the book, reminding me of the five-year-old living in my home. And, indeed, a few days after finishing the book, Levi was insistent that I address a question of his saying, "I have never in my life let go of a question once I've asked it.")

"Good Morning," said the little prince.

"Good morning," said the salesclerk. This was a salesclerk who sold pills invented to quench thirst. Swallow one a week and you no longer feel any need to drink.

"Why do you sell these pills?"

"They save so much time," the salesclerk said. "Experts have calculated that you can save fifty-three minutes a week."

"And what do you do with those fifty-three minutes?"

"Whatever you like."

"If I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked," the little prince said to himself, "I'd walk very slowly toward a water fountain..."



I recently reviewed a stunning picture book biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupery written and illustrated by Peter Sis, but if you are looking for a lovely biography that is easier to read aloud I highly recommend In Search of the Little Prince: The Story of Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The prose has a dreamy quality, and the illustrations are magical—in keeping with the atmosphere of The Little Prince.


One morning you wake up and say:
It was just a fairy tale.”
You laugh at yourself, but deep down you’re not laughing at all.
You know that fairy tales are the only truth of life.

                                 ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hamlet and Hosea

Hamlet and Hosea ~ Discussing Hamlet using the 5 common topics @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I have never done this thing before, this deep reading and discussing a challenging text over a long period of time.

I had no skills to evaluate a book beyond whether or not I enjoyed reading it.

How do we think about ideas in a story if we feel as if we don’t even know where to begin thinking? How do we say This is valuable; this is worthy of contemplation if we have a difficult time following the plot and the big ideas seem obscure and inaccessible?

1. Be willing.

Willing to try something difficult. Willing to spend the time. Willing to take it slow. Willing to suspend judgment. Willing to commit to discussion.

2. Use the 5 Common Topics of Invention.

The truth is, you have deep wells of knowledge and experience in your head. The tricky part is accessing and synthesizing it!

We think by asking our brain questions. We gather an “inventory of ideas” by asking questions. If we ask questions in community, in discussion with others, more ideas are available for our inventory, and each idea unlocks previously unexplored rooms of thought.

If you know the basic questions of the five common topics, you have the tools to access and synthesize thoughts and ideas about anything.

[If you are looking for an accessible exploration of the five common topics and ideas for implementing them across all subjects, I suggest reading The Question. I’ve shared examples of discussion here, here, and here.]

3. Accept the open-ended.

This is an easy one for many people, but not for me. I want a beginning and an end. I want to know that I have comprehensively covered everything in between. With the right answers.

There is no end. There are no right answers. There isn’t necessarily a product or “artifact” to show for your work, for your time (unless you write a paper, create artwork in response, or teach what you’ve learned—hence the blog posts).

Accept that the more you contemplate, the more doors you will open. Doors that will lead you into new rooms with more doors.

Accept that one question might keep your mind occupied for hours. Don’t be in a hurry to move on.



A few friends and I have been talking about Hamlet since August of last year. Here we are, eight months later, and we’re still on act 2, scene 2. We still don’t understand everything about the text up to that point, and we never will. We have only used the first two topics of invention.

But the conversations have been rich and illuminating and profitable, whether there have been eight of us or only three.

At our first discussion meeting (after watching the movie together during two previous meetings) we spent time defining “Hamlet” (the play and the characters). At our next meeting, we defined “ghost.” Our discussion included talking about how we think of ghosts, what the play had to say about ghosts, as well as how Shakespeare’s culture in Elizabethan England defined and thought about ghosts, so we pulled in some circumstance there. During our third discussion, we talked about spying as an opener and then compared revenge and avenge.

This month, we again used the topic of comparison to gather an inventory of ideas.

Our brilliant facilitator Mindy (who is learning along with us), started out by asking us if we ever in our lifetime have acted crazy in public for a specific reason or outcome. Have we ever felt the need to put on an act in public? What was our motivation?

She then read Hosea 9:7

"Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac."


By the end of act 2, scene 2, Hamlet has started acting crazy when he is in public. He has often spoken truth while coming across as insane. He has just devised a plan to use the play to expose his uncle’s guilt.

For the purpose of comparison, we read aloud 1 Samuel 21:10-15. David has escaped danger in his homeland, only to find himself in danger among foreigners. He uses insanity as a defense mechanism. We then read Psalm 34, which David wrote at the same time. We wondered if he had spoken this Psalm in the midst of this foreign culture, would they have considered his words crazy?

It was time to compare Hamlet and David.

How are they similar?

They are both young men.

They both feel threatened.

They are acting crazy to protect themselves. [This led to a discussion about why exactly Hamlet was acting crazy. Did he fear for his life? Was he trying to distract everyone from his real intention, which was to discover the truth—ultimately risking his life to do so? We discussed whether his acting crazy was pivotal to the plot, or if it just served the theme.]

They are both in a royal court. They are both acting crazy in front of a king who holds power over them.

They are both good with words. Hamlet has his soliloquies, David his Psalms.

They are both moody.

They are both heirs to a throne, but both are in a waiting period.

They are both wrestling with thoughts of killing the current king, but they both consider it a moral dilemma.

They are both speaking truth [if one considers David’s Psalm], but the truth sounds insane to those around them.

How are they dissimilar?

David is not in his “home” court in front of the king he is destined to replace.

David is acting like an animal (clawing, slobbering).

[David was a shepherd; he is now experienced in battle. We’re not exactly sure what Hamlet’s experience has been, but he seems to have been classically educated.]

They are in different eras and cultures.


“Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense.” ~Steve Landesberg


Mindy then had us read aloud 2 Samuel 12:1-14. David is now king, but he is filled with guilt over the affair with Bathsheba and the death of Uriah. Nathan confronts him and exposes his guilt by telling a story about a rich man who takes the one ewe lamb that belongs to a poor man.

It was time to compare Hamlet and Nathan.

How are they and their actions similar?

They are both confronting a guilty king.

They both use story to expose the guilt.

They are both risking their lives to expose the guilt.

How are they dissimilar?

Hamlet is more conflicted and scared than Nathan.

Hamlet is unsure of the king’s guilt, but Nathan knows that David is guilty.

The play Hamlet devises is the exact reenactment of the deed. Nathan speaks in allegory.

[Hamlet is related to the king and heir to the throne. Nathan is sent by God to confront David.]

And then Claudius and David.


They are both kings who have done something wrong. [Specifically murdered a man and took his wife.]

They both feel guilt.

[Death is a result of both kings’ actions. Their actions weaken their kingdoms.]


Claudius tries to pray, but he doesn’t seem to be a moral man. He doesn’t confess to sinning against God. He is angry and fearful that his actions should be exposed.

David understands his moral failure. He feels remorse. He repents and experiences redemption. [Psalm 51]

[David is the rightful king. Claudius is not.]

Claudius dies in the end, but God spares David’s life because of his repentance. David loses his son as a punishment instead.


We ended with a somewhat spontaneous decision to add Jesus (as a young man on earth) to the comparison.

Hamlet, David, and Jesus were all young men, heirs to a throne, in a waiting period. All spoke truth that sounded insane to those around them. Hamlet and David were wrestling with thoughts of killing the current king. The followers of Jesus expected him to overthrow the oppressive Roman empire. Hamlet, Nathan, and Jesus all confronted leaders indirectly using stories, allegories, or metaphor (all were protecting themselves or buying time). Jesus was not scared or moody or unsure. Jesus was God.


The exciting, wonderful thing is that you can compare any two things, and your conversation may not resemble ours in any way—but you will still come away from the discussion understanding the play, human nature, and big ideas in a more profound way.

Give it a try!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Hunts

I rarely buy music, but I cannot wait to purchase The Hunts’ new album, which will be released on June 9th. They are an indie-folk band consisting of seven (homeschooled) siblings. Check out their website or follow them on Facebook!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To Feel the Presence of the Great Creator

To Feel the Presence of the Great Creator @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

[Today is the birthday of John Muir, so let’s celebrate. Who needs cake when one has books?!]

:: The 1000-Mile Hike That Shaped the National Park Service @ Mental Floss

Deeply religious, Muir blended science and spirituality deftly. When he noted his discovery of two new species of ferns, he wrote, “Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator.”

[My friend is currently visiting Yosemite, so we’ll have to enjoy the park vicariously through her pictures while I dream about our next vacation destination.]

I was thrilled to find five beautiful picture books about John Muir at our library, so we are reading them today!

1. John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall

This picture book with vivid illustrations tells the short story of one of Muir’s close encounters with a waterfall in Yosemite Valley. I love that it has an action-packed engaging story on one page (“Quickly, John scoots behind the tumbling, rumbling, twisting, misting, foaming, thundering waterfall”) and more detailed biographical information in a separate paragraph. This book could easily be experienced by reading through twice (and by a wider range of children).

John Muir @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


2. John Muir: America's Naturalist

This is a peaceful, serious biography about John Muir with elegant oil-paintings. Each two-page spread features a quote by Muir, and more quotes are listed in the back of the book. The author concentrates on Muir’s love for Yosemite.

“One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made. That this is still the morning of creation.”

[Slightly off-topic, the illustrator, Tom Locker, has also illustrated another book I love, The Boy Who Held Back the Sea, with moody oil paintings reminiscent of Rembrandt. I’m interested in checking out some of this other books such as Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art.]

John Muir picture book biographies @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


3. John Muir: America's First Environmentalist

Kathryn Lasky covers Muir’s whole life, from Scotland to Wisconsin, Florida, the Alaskan tundra, and Yosemite, in this comprehensive picture book biography. The acrylic paintings by Stan Fellows are lovely.

John Muir picture books @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


4. Camping with the President

This is a detailed and delightful account of Muir’s camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite in 1903, which led to the creation of several national parks. The author includes more biographical notes in the back of the book.

John Muir biographies @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


5. The Camping Trip that Changed America

This is a shorter picture book retelling of Muir’s and Roosevelt’s camping trip paired with delightful illustrations—perfect for younger children.

John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


[I want to check out three more picture books that I was unable to find at the library: John Muir & Stickeen, John Muir: My Life With Nature, and Squirrel and John Muir. John Muir is also featured in Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #28: Heroes for All Times: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #51: High Time for Heroes, which I checked out for Leif, who still loves Magic Tree House books.]

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Best of Mt. Hope Chronicles ~ Camp Avonlea

The Best of

In honor of the passing of Jonathan Crombie, it is only fitting that I re-publish this post from the archives. I first shared pictures from my sister Shannon’s Camp Avonlea back in August 2008. Shannon now lives at Camp Avonlea and has a daughter named Rilla.  

Shannon, you do know that I fully expect you to re-create this for Lola, Rilla, and baby girl, right?!

Camp Avonlea ~ The Best of Mt. Hope Chronicles 

~Camp Avonlea~

Artistic Camp for Young Ladies

You've all seen what Boy Camp looks like in our lives. Drake (my nephew) has tagged along for the last two years. This time, it was his sister's turn. Ilex was one of four girls attending Camp Avonlea this week. (Heather's daughter was also in attendance!)

I've bragged about my sister Shannon before. Her shop. Her entertaining. Her home. She's done it again, hostessing the camp she wishes she could have attended as a young lady (and as an Anne of Green Gables-obsessed, artistic/creative girl).

Camping (4 days) in a large white tent, nestled in the garden. Poet's Garden, reinvented. Shannon as camp counselor. Dreamy, is it not?

I swear, I wish I was 12 again! (Who in their right mind would wish that?!)

While the original music score from the Anne of Green Gables movie played through outdoor speakers, the girls chose camp names for themselves: all characters from the Anne of Green Gables books. [P.S. If you’ve never seen the first two movies (Anne of Green Gables and the sequel), stop whatever you are doing and watch them. They are my most favorite movies of all time.]

And what to do for four days? Why, art, of course: living an artful life. Multiple classes each day including watercolor, scrap booking, jewelry making, gardening, and flower arranging. A nature hike at McDowell Creek Park providing collections for nature art. The girls created cards in the first few hours of their first day at camp, invitations sent to their mothers for a tea party on the last day of camp. Artful baking, decorating, and hostessing.

What do you think of the art room?

You might well ask what *I* had to do with any of this. (Particularly with a house-full of boys.) Other than the fact that I am a girl who is starting to feel that side of me ebb slowly from existence...... I (you may call me Miss Stacy) was asked to teach a two-hour photography class on the first afternoon of camp.

We sat on a quilt in the garden discussing photography tips. We then hunted through magazines (Victoria and Real Simple), cutting out pictures that inspired us. After that, we were ready to practice taking pictures!

What do you do at Poet's when you want to take a picture from a new perspective? Climb a tree!

I had just as much fun taking pictures as the girls did!


Ilex, above, snacked on an apple off the tree as she practiced her photography. The girls, below, intent on their watercoloring:

A couple snapshots of the end of camp tea party. The girls created place cards and party favor bouquets. They picked wild plums and blackberries to add to a fruit salad, cherry tomatoes from the garden, and herbs to flavor the cucumber sandwiches. Lavender lemonade was delightfully refreshing. The girls served scones with Devonshire cream and blueberry tea for dessert. We ate while they recited The Lady of Shallot. (They each chose portions to memorize.)

The art work created during camp (watercolors, scrapbook notebooks, and jewelry) was on display in the art room.

I think the girls had a wonderful time!