We had our fair share of bad attitudes and mishaps and too much sugar, but these are three of my favorite ambiance photographs from our day of celebration. I can’t claim the presentation above; those are family gifts from my sister Holly and her family. I can’t claim the home below (my mom and dad’s) or the table-scape (created by my sister Shannon) or the food (I only contributed store-bought rolls and our family-favorite jello mousse) or the road (my parents’ country road). But I’ll claim the pictures.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Merry Christmas from the Scovel family!
Whether you are friend or family, long-time blog friends (coming up on a decade!), or new blog readers, welcome! Here is a quick 2016 in review. If you want to skip the year in review and read the current family update, scroll to the bottom of the post!
We continued with our family homeschooling project. We began when Levi was four, and his 14th New Year’s birthday kicked off our year, so it has been a decade of learning and growing together. We were in the middle of our 6th year with Classical Conversations, a homeschooling group that meets once a week. Sometimes it is fun; sometimes we just survive. [Levi was taking a break for the year and usually spent Mondays with Russ and a to-do list.] I tutored the Monday afternoon grammar, writing, and math games class. I continued my own education, reading Flannery O’Connor with my Scholé Sisters and contemplating Parallelism and Rhetoric.
Russ continued working for Symantec full time (often at home, sometimes driving to Springfield, and occasionally traveling out of state) as well as working on many computer projects for various people and coaching the Lebanon club swim team every afternoon (and swimming as often as possible). All three boys attended swim practice almost every afternoon.
We finished up our formal homeschooling (with a school year in review here) and commenced spring/summer break, which we kicked off with a hike at McDowell Creek Falls and a trip to the Oregon beach. I was a guest on Pam Barnhill’s Homeschool Snapshots podcast.
We visited the secret garden at Belknap Hot Springs and hiked with friends at Tamolitch Blue Pool and Triangulation Peak. We hiked at Drift Creek Falls and played on the beach for Father’s Day. I attended a weekend homeschooling retreat in Seattle. And we helped Ilex and Drake celebrate their college and high school graduations. I attended a CC Practicum in Portland for tutor training.
We spent time at the river and hiking and swimming at McDowell Creek Falls. We communed with skunks and snails. I spoke for three full days at our local Classical Conversations Practicum. We ended the month with a glorious camping trip with friends and family.
I spoke for a day-long Truth, Goodness, and Beauty seminar in Seattle and attended a workshop another weekend (also in Seattle). We visited a local flour mill and a monastery. We traveled to the southern Oregon coast for a weekend swim meet and spent some time in Winchester Bay, where Russ and I lived when we were first married. Russ competed at the Masters Swimming Summer National Championship. Levi broke his foot. Leif turned 10.
We began a full and challenging school year, and our 7th year with Classical Conversations, Luke’s first year in the Challenge program, and Levi’s first year of high school. We particularly enjoyed our morning time together. We attended the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire. Russ began coaching and swimming at the local YMCA with the boys. Lola started a tumbling class at the Y. Leif and Luke began piano lessons.
Lola turned 6 on the first day of October and the rest of the month was a blur. We tried to keep our momentum in schooling, but the freshness had worn off and it was just work. Homeschooling and swimming. That’s about it.
Levi joined the swim team at the local high school. He was thrilled to ride a school bus for the first time in his life (to and from swim meets). I was tired. We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family and enjoyed our traditional Green Friday.
Levi attended a winter formal with a friend. He continued to swim on the high school team (until the end of February). Luke and Leif performed at their first piano recital. We are currently on a much-needed long winter break (from almost everything, including blogging and even reading), and we’ve been exceedingly lazy, though we did enjoy ice skating with our friends at The Oregon Garden and the boys swim daily (Levi has had early morning practices every day through the school’s winter break). We had a wonderful Christmas dinner with Russ’s parents last night and we will spend Christmas Day (tomorrow) with my family.
And that sums up our year!
Russ continues to work full time for Symantec in Springfield, though he usually works from home. Work trips, computer projects, and year-round daily coaching and swimming keep him hopping!
Parenting, homeschooling, and tutoring consumes most of my time. I hope to get back to blogging at the beginning of the new year.
Levi turns 15 in a week. He has an exciting and FULL second semester of 9th grade ahead of him. He’ll continue in the Challenge program with Classical Conversations—studying debate, economics, American literature and composition, music theory, math, science, and Latin. In addition, he will be taking a weekly online literature class (on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) and attending a 4 day leadership camp in March. His homeschool year ends with a formal protocol event (which I have photographed before, but he is just now old enough to attend). He will finish out the swim season at the high school and then return to swim daily with the team at the Y. He gets his braces off in a couple weeks and will be studying for his driver’s permit (ack!!). He is also finally old enough to take lifeguard training next month and will probably work as a lifeguard this summer (he has been impatiently waiting for his dream job).
Luke and Leif will continue homeschooling, swimming, and taking piano lessons.
Lola will continue to homeschool and learn to swim.
[Obviously, Levi is the one in our family with an exciting life. Ha!]
We hope you all have a lovely Christmas Day and a happy New Year!
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Every year I add to our Christmas book collection. After all these years, it’s rather extensive. I’ve gathered links to some of my favorites here.
This year, our new Christmas books correspond with my current literary projects. Just this month I revealed my Tolkien project, and Tolkien’s magical Letters from Father Christmas, with reproductions of his delightful illustrations and handwritten letters, is just perfect for me to read aloud to the kids!
I haven’t yet posted about my second ongoing literary project, but you might guess it from the second title. Yes, I am also immersing myself in G.K. Chesterton. This simple Advent and Christmas reader will be perfect for my own studies, and I am deliberating whether to read it aloud to the family. It contains 28 Advent readings and 12 readings for the days of Christmas. Each reading includes a short selection written by Chesterton (a poem or quote from an essay or book), a short bible passage, a prayer, and an “Advent Action.”
Have you added any books to your Christmas collection this season? Share in the comments!
Saturday, November 26, 2016
My sister Holly and I began this tradition eight years ago. As much as weather allows, we try to spend a couple hours in this particular green space on the day after Thanksgiving. This year the weather forecast showed pouring rain, but it managed to hold out for the afternoon hours while we walked and breathed and played and talked and paid attention to the loveliness.
Everything glittered with clinging raindrops. God decorated for Christmas.
Holly discovered charred blackberries in an area that had apparently burned during late fall. The ground was littered with them. I’ve never seen anything like it!
I started feeling all sentimental about these two walking together, remembering another picture from 5 years ago when Lola was just beginning to walk.
Friday, November 25, 2016
It was incredibly dark and rainy for our Thanksgiving celebration yesterday, but the weather cleared at just the perfect moment and for just long enough to go on our traditional after-dinner walk. It was still dark and gray and it sprinkled on us a smidge as we were on our way back, but we were thankful to stretch our legs and our lungs in the cool, damp air.
Lola decided to use a Queen Anne’s Lace as an umbrella. I don’t think it worked well. But I am incredibly thankful for this darling love.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
I didn’t think anything could come as close to expressing my heart as the quotes I shared last Thanksgiving—until I read the post A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends at Rabbit Room this morning. I previously posted the link to the article Feasting as an Act of War, and this liturgical prayer is the perfect extension.
Leader: To gather joyfully is indeed a serious affair, for feasting and all enjoyments gratefully taken are, at their heart, acts of war.
People: In celebrating this feast we declare that evil and death,
suffering and loss, sorrow and tears, will not have the final word.
Please. Go read the whole prayer.
Thanksgiving was the usual joyful gathering. We missed Drake, who is in boot camp in Illinois, his girlfriend, Jess, who wasn’t feeling well, and Olive’s son, Ben. But the rest of us (17 in all) feasted as an act of war. And then we took our traditional after-dinner walk. Later we colored (Shannon shared her sophisticated coloring books and jars of colored pencils) and played games while eating pie.
And now we rest.
God bless you all, dear readers.
A Thanksgiving celebration of parallelism by Robert Louis Stevenson:
"Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee
for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health,
the food, and
the bright skies, that make our lives delightful;
for our friends in all parts of the earth, and
our friendly helpers in this foreign isle.
Let peace abound in our small company.
Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Offenders, give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others.
the quiet mind.
Spare to us our friends,
soften to us our enemies.
if it may be, in all our innocent endeavours.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be
brave in peril,
constant in tribulation,
temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune,
and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another.
As the clay to the potter,
as the windmill to the wind,
as children of their sire,
we beseech of Thee this help and mercy for Christ’s sake."
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
This past spring, CiRCE Institute hosted a literature bracket (“The Great Novel Knockout”). Out of 62 great works of literature, two remained to compete in the championship round.
Which two books stood at the top? The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Two summers ago, my dear friend and Scholé Sisters facilitator, Mindy Pickens, attended the CiRCE Summer Institute. While there, she took advantage of the time with Andrew Kern to ask a big question. “What should my husband read in answer to the question, ‘What is a man?’” Kern’s answer was Tolkien.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings show up on almost every “must read” book list, from classical schools to secular reading lists.
And I hadn’t read them.
I knew I needed to pursue Tolkien as my next reading project, and, unbeknownst to me, Mindy had been thinking the same thing. Our Scholé group was just finishing a year of Flannery (after a year of Hamlet), and we were ready to tackle a new author. (If we’re going for variety, I think we’re set.)
My friend Sara at Plumfield and Paideia suggested I read Bilbo’s Journey and Frodo’s Journey by Joseph Pearce to help me on my own journey of understanding, so I eagerly purchased both books. I already had The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings by Peter Kreeft on my to-read stack.
Mindy is reading On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis, and I may have to join her before my journey is over.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories is a must-read. [Link contains the full text.]
I also took this opportunity to add Letters From Father Christmas by Tolkien to our Christmas book collection. I am looking forward to sharing this one with the kids! I’ll also be re-reading Tolkien’s quirky illustrated tale Mr. Bliss.
Levi is thrilled that I am finally reading his favorite series. His enthusiasm was so great that he recently re-read them all and spent more time digging into The Silmarillion. I am strongly considering enrolling him in Roman Roads Good Books II: The Lord of the Rings online class led by James Nance from January until May. Maybe he can share some of the discussion with me.
Luke and Leif both read through The Hobbit recently and all of the kids have watched and re-watched the movie. (It is one of Lola’s favorites, surprisingly. She is not a sensitive child, for sure.)
Even though I am just now sharing this new literary project here on the blog, I have already finished The Hobbit and Bilbo’s Journey as well as enjoyed two meetings to discuss them with my Scholé Sisters. I’m well on my way! I’ll share more thoughts about those books specifically in another post.
Until the next post, enjoy this short collection of related articles.
Perhaps the most beautiful facet of this almost biblically-worded passage is its position within the story of Tolkien’s world; it foreshadows that Men will be born into a world already broken and remade, in which pain and comfort, joy and sorrow, and (most importantly) rebellion and reconciliation have all been introduced. Everywhere in the passage we find descriptive thematic elements set against one another, all pointing to a truth vital to Tolkien’s project: life comes from death.
Certainly grace builds on nature, but we need to let nature be nature before we start building. We need to know what natural wisdom, justice, courage, temperance, and friendship are before we can know them as supernatural.
It is not surprising that language should be used in especially complicated ways in Tolkien’s fiction, used not only to present the story but to be an important formative element of its most basic and pervasive mythic pattern. His fascination with language—its nature, its “feel,” its relation to thought, myth, and literature—began early and continued unabated throughout his life.
Like Sam Gamgee, we know we are little things, incapable of moving the gears of the great. We know we are not the world’s saviors, but the companions of the world’s savior. We are, rather, the servants of him who walks a sorrowful road of sacrifice. We remember that it is our master’s job to save the world, our master’s to eradicate evil, to root it out, to burn it in the fires of his Sacred Heart. Because we walk alongside our master, his path is ours, and his death may well be ours as well. But our primary job is to be available to our master, to adopt the same humble attitude of Sam, the servant of him who bore the evil of the world, the little hobbit who “knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden…[that] the one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.”
Middle Earth is described as following Tolkien’s "early life and love affair with Edith Bratt," as well as his service to the British Army during the First World War. The film, to be written by Angus Fletcher, is reportedly based on years of archival research on Tolkien’s life.
We’ve been singing The Misty Mountains Cold here at our house for weeks now. I even learned to play it on the tin whistle!
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
I am finishing up my Flannery O’Connor literary project.
I am so glad I took the time to read her deeply. Her biography and the discussions were absolutely essential for me. I never would have understood (to a small degree) her stories without a nudge in the right direction.
O’Connor’s essays allow the reader fascinating insight into the way she viewed the world, writing as an art, reading as a practice, and her own stories. My copy of Mystery and Manners is heavily underlined and marked with notes in the margins. What a pleasure to have a “conversation” with Flannery.
It’s almost impossible to decide which quotes to share with you here, so I’ll eeny-meeny-miny-mo it.
The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
The Catholic novelist believes that you destroy your freedom by sin; the modern reader believes, I think, that you gain it in that way.
In my stories a reader will find that the devil accomplishes a good deal of groundwork that seems to be necessary before grace is effective.
Redemption is meaningless unless there is a cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular believe that there is no such cause.
Our response to life is different if we have been taught only a definition of faith than if we have trembled with Abraham as he held the knife over Isaac.
At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.
Christ didn’t redeem us by a direct intellectual act, but became incarnate in human form…
When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.
I am embarking on two new literary projects this winter. I’ll share more about them in upcoming posts. Stick around!
Saturday, November 19, 2016
I went suit-shopping with the man-child today. [Policy debate, winter formal, Teen Pact, spring protocol—he’ll have several chances to wear it, hopefully before he grows out of it!]
I’m not sure I’m ready for this.
Six feet tall.
A high school swimmer.
Less than two months away from a driver’s permit.
Where did my baby boy go?
Friday, November 18, 2016
A decade ago I began homeschooling the little boy who is now a hairy six-foot man-child.
A decade ago I had a toddler boy who was a one-man demolition crew with insomnia.
A decade ago I had an infant boy who would not let me set him down—or sleep.
A decade ago we unexpectedly bought our tiny forever house in the country and were getting ready to move and settle in over Christmas.
Almost a decade ago I started a blog in which I shared my delights and visions and suffering.
Three weeks since my last post, and only a small smattering of posts in two months.
It seems I needed an unplanned sabbatical.
I have a thousand posts started, either in my files or in my imagination.
But I’m having trouble finishing anything. Posts. Books. School work. House work.
My work space is a disaster. My house is a disaster. I’m having trouble summoning any sort of motivation or enthusiasm because it feels so daunting.
Is it the weather and the lack of light? Is it the pushback from kids? Is it the national atmosphere? Is it my inherent laziness?
Is it the decade-ness?
I’m going with all of the above.
But this decade-ness is weighing on me.
I’m struggling with the “visions” because I lack perseverance. I used to love the visions because I could imagine myself doing them, but now the visions come with a heaping dose of reality and they’ve lost the magic.
In October, Russ was gone on multiple out of state and out of town trips.
He began coaching the swim team at our local YMCA at the end of September. All three boys started swimming with the Y team as well (Levi’s broken foot healed well and he was cleared for swimming), and Russ started swimming with the Masters team. It was so nice to have a long break from swimming before the fall season started, but the new swim schedule messed with our evening routine. I’m thankful for the childcare program at the Y, however, and we’ve used it often for Lola. There is also a student meal program and a center for tweens, which we use a few nights a week when Russ stays late to swim.
Levi is now swimming on the local high school swim team for the winter season. That again has messed with our schedule, but I think it’s a good opportunity for him.
I hosted a few IEW DVD watching sessions for my CC Essentials parents and hosted the last of my Scholé Sisters Flannery O’Connor meetings. We’ve started a new literary project for this school year (hosted by another friend, but facilitated by the same fabulous Mindy who led the Hamlet and Flannery O’Connor projects). I’ll be posting about the new project as soon as I can finish writing it up (but no promises).
I slowly finished a handful of books.
I binge-watched Longmire on Netflix.
Now I need to go purge a decade-worth of stuff from our house.
Or go on vacation.
Friday, October 28, 2016
Levi is studying American Documents this year through the Classical Conversations Challenge program. This essay, The Man with the Muck Rake, written in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt was assigned for this week. I ditched the school schedule and the teen and I had a deep and invigorating 2.5 hour discussion on politics, social media, and virtue. Today I dropped off our ballots with a sense of peace.
Just a few quotes, though much more of the essay is quote-worthy:
"At the risk of repetition let me say again that my plea is not for immunity to, but for the most unsparing exposure of, the politician who betrays his trust, of the big business man who makes or spends his fortune in illegitimate or corrupt ways. There should be a resolute effort to hunt every such man out of the position he has disgraced. Expose the crime, and hunt down the criminal; but remember that even in the case of crime, if it is attacked in sensational, lurid, and untruthful fashion, the attack may do more damage to the public mind than the crime itself."
"It is a prime necessity that if the present unrest is to result in permanent good the emotion shall be translated into action, and that the action shall be marked by honesty, sanity, and self-restraint."
"The first requisite in the public servants who are to deal in this shape with corporations, whether as legislators or as executives, is honesty. This honesty can be no respecter of persons. There can be no such thing as unilateral honesty."
"But in addition to honesty, we need sanity. No honesty will make a public man useful if that man is timid or foolish, if he is a hot-headed zealot or an impracticable visionary."
"More important than aught else is the development of the broadest sympathy of man for man."
"The foundation stone of national life is, and ever must be, the high individual character of the average citizen."
Honesty, sanity, self-restraint. High individual character.
I could vote for that.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
We read the ‘Who's That Writer?’ section in our vocab book during Symposium. Emily Brontë! That's the author of the poem we've been memorizing! I mentioned that I 'strongly dislike' Wuthering Heights. Levi said, “Hey, that's the book that a character in High House quotes constantly” (and then found the book and quoted the quotes). I mentioned that I much prefer Jane Eyre by Charlotte. But of course, we have a book about that. “We should read more about the Brontës today...”
This was my "keep your eye on the low branches and look for kingfishers" of the day, filled with arguments and frustration.
"I thought about school years, and watching for mercy. Anybody can passively wait for goodness, as I was waiting for our vacation to transform itself into a refreshing experience. But watching is different than waiting. Watching is active. It implies concentration. To watch means to pay attention."
This reminds me of the tiny glimpses of mercy in the stories of Flannery O'Connor. Barely perceptible, unless you're watching, unless you're paying attention.
Mary Oliver gives us “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
You cannot be astonished if you are not paying attention.
And if you are astonished, share the wonder.
It’s that simple.
[Clearly we were having trouble keeping a straight face for this serious autumn poem…]
Friday, October 7, 2016
I know I am.
Every day, every minute, I have to remind myself that this humble work of loving, nurturing, learning, teaching, home-making, celebrating is my calling.
I am not called to be a majority.
I am not called to win.
I am called to be faithful—faithful to the work set before me.
And God will be there.As I grow, partake, observe, and worship…
In the garden, at the table, in the museum, and with the church.
It was a rough week. And a rough day.
I allowed outside cares to weigh on me. I argued with invisible people. I fought with the children. I forgot the important things.
While writing this post, I started to shoo away a child who was hurting and disappointed. Even while writing this post. How do I forget so quickly?
But I caught myself, and stopped. We snuggled on the couch and talked.
Now we are going to clean the house and make it lovely (because the house right now reflects the ugliness of the day).
We’ll light some candles. We’ll put on some music.
When Dad arrives home from his week-long business trip in an hour, we’ll greet him with hugs and smiles instead of mess and bickering.
We’ll play a family board game and ignore the to-do list.
We’ll feast as an act of war.
Will you join us?
"Sit down with your children and listen to them. Eat with them. Hug them. Teach them to tend a garden, placing your hands in the wounded yet life-giving earth. Stop doubting and believe. Look your daughter in the eye and tell her she is more beautiful than she could possibly imagine. Muster the courage to show up at church on Sunday. Make your home lovely. Commit to the slow work of shaping the world around you so that it looks like your best guess at what the Kingdom looks like."
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
We have been saying the Lord’s Prayer/Pater Noster in English and Latin during our morning symposium.
During my quiet time this past week I read the following:
In the Episcopal order of worship, the priest sometimes introduces the Lord’s Prayer with the words, “Now, as our Savior Christ hath taught us, we are bold to say…” The word bold is worth thinking about. We do well not to pray the prayer lightly. It takes guts to pray it at all. We can pray it in the unthinking and perfunctory way we usually do only by disregarding what we are saying.
“Thy will be done” is what we are saying. That is the climax of the first half of the prayer. We are asking God to be God. We are asking God to do not what we want but what God wants. We are asking God to make manifest the holiness that is now mostly hidden, to set free in all its terrible splendor the devastating power that is now mostly under restraint. “Thy kingdom come… on earth” is what we are saying. And if that were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcomed in and who would be thrown the Hell out? Which if any of our most precious visions of what God is and of what human beings are would prove to be more or less on the mark and which would turn out to be phony as three-dollar bills? Boldness indeed. To speak those words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze.
You need to be bold in another way to speak the second half. Give us. Forgive us. Don’t test us. Deliver us. If it takes guts to face the omnipotence that is God’s, it takes perhaps no less to face the impotence that is ours. We can do nothing without God. We can have nothing without God. Without God we are nothing.
It is only the words “Our Father” that can make the prayer bearable. If God is indeed something like a father, then as something like children maybe we can risk approaching him anyway.
~Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life
Later in the week I read this passage in Job during my quiet time:
Job 26:7-14 (NKJV)
7 He stretches out the north over empty space;
He hangs the earth on nothing.
8 He binds up the water in His thick clouds,
Yet the clouds are not broken under it.
9 He covers the face of His throne,
And spreads His cloud over it.
10 He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters,
At the boundary of light and darkness.
11 The pillars of heaven tremble,
And are astonished at His rebuke.
12 He stirs up the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He breaks up the storm.
13 By His Spirit He adorned the heavens;
His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
14 Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways,
And how small a whisper we hear of Him!
But the thunder of His power who can understand?”
Later again, while still reading Job during my morning quiet time, I read G.K. Chesterton’s essay The Book of Job from In Defense of Sanity. Much of this essay is underlined in my book, but we’ll start with this quote:
“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”
And Chesterton on the boldness (he calls it optimism) of Job:
Job is an optimist; he is an outraged and insulted optimist. He wishes the universe to justify itself, not because he wishes it to be caught out, but because he really wishes it to be justified.
…He shakes the pillars of the world and strikes insanely at the heaves; he lashes the stars, but it is not to silence them; it is to make them speak.
Thinking of Job, I was reminded of this article by Adam Andrews, The Lesson of Job: Literature's Luckiest Protagonist.
He ends by repenting of his idolatry and spurning his previous attempts to usurp God’s place in the universe. He has learned the most important lesson of all: there is a God in heaven, and I am not He.
Missy and I count ourselves lucky in that the calamity that was necessary in Job’s case has not been visited on us. And yet, it is fair to call Job lucky, too – for his troubles produced repentance and humility, which are the best goals of a good education.
This brings me full circle to the opening quote by Frederick Buechner:
“If it takes guts to face the omnipotence that is God’s, it takes perhaps no less to face the impotence that is ours.”
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Supper. Walking along a road. In the midst of real life.
“Jesus is apt to come, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but… at supper time, or walking along a road.
This is the element that all the stories about Christ’s return to life have in common:
…Peter taking his boat back after a night at sea, and there on the shore, near a little fire of coals, a familiar figure asking, “Children, have you any fish?”; the two men at Emmaus who know him in the breaking of the bread.
He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.”
~Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
We walked through my brother-in-law’s vineyard Sunday at sunset, picking grapes. [Luke snipped the clumps (he loves these grapes) and collected them in his sack while I took pictures and ate grapes.]
"At no other time than autumn does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
[We have been reciting the following poem while walking together in the mornings. It is one of my favorites that Levi memorized years ago.]
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
Grapes and Laundry
We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.
~E. B. White
Doing Good, Making Honey (Lectio Divina!), and Bearing Grapes
We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee
makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season
without thinking of the grapes it has borne.
[I should have used the headings Eat, Digest, Grow/Transform for this Lectio Divina!]
Saturday, September 24, 2016
“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.”
~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Autumn did seem to arrive suddenly this year. It was on the first day of autumn during our brief morning walk that Leif brought the apples to my attention.
We have two ornamental crabapple trees (I think that’s what they are—I’m a poor naturalist), but one decided to grow an apple tree from the graft site at the base. Half of this tree is now crabapple, and half is apple. Surprise! It is a young tree, and this is the first year we’ve received a small crop of apples. The kids were delighted and had apples for morning snack after drawing them in their nature journals.
Lola immediately searched her books and found How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. She read through it, stopping to sing her continents song on the map page (naturally integrating her CC Foundations memory work, hurrah!). This book is similar to another favorite, Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle.
While traveling the world to gather ingredients for apple pie may be a bit unrealistic, I love that she knows where and how we get ingredients. She has picked fruit, ground wheat for flour, and watched a how-to video on milking cows (we’ve had cows grazing in our field before, but it’s more difficult to find someone with milking cows!). Next on our list are gathering eggs (maybe we can bribe Aunt Holly) and churning butter.
We had to make an apple pie, of course, so Lola helped me pick apples this morning and we managed to get a pie made.
[Now, for the realistic version: I did manage to get the pie made, even though I’m sick with a cold and all four children were disobeying and I finally told the two youngest to leave the kitchen because they were driving me crazy. The apples were little and a pain to peel and slice. I also managed to peel the skin off my finger and slice my thumb with a cardboard box. My crust turned out so flaky that it didn’t hold together well. I tried to use a form for cutting out cute little apples on the top crust, but they just looked like holes. After baking, the crust was browned, but the apples weren’t soft, and everything fell apart when I cut into it. The kitchen (and house) looked like a war zone. I ended up going back to bed to avoid it while the kids watched television instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing. The end.]
Friday, September 23, 2016
We have been observing the bull thistles in our field during each morning walk before symposium. We exclaim in delight when the purple crowns appear, and the kids have chosen the thistle for drawing in their nature journals a couple times (though they are hazardous to handle).
I found the above quote from an essay by Mary Oliver, because Mary Oliver always says what needs to be said about anything, profoundly, I might add.
If that isn’t quite enough for you, how about the beauty in this poem?
The singular and cheerful life
of any flower
in anyone’s garden
or any still unowned field–
if there are any–
by the heart,
by its color,
by its obedience
to the holiest of laws:
until you are not.
pale violet bull thistle,
morning glories curling
through the field corn;
and those princes of everything green—
of which there are truly
an uncountable company,
on its singular stem
to rise and ripen.
What, in the earth world,
is there not to be amazed by
and to be steadied by
and to cherish?
Oh, my dear heart,
my own dear heart,
full of hesitations,
questions, choice of directions,
look at the world.
Behold the morning glory,
the meanest flower, the ragweed, the thistle.
Look at the grass.
Mary Oliver, The Singular and Cheerful Life (Evidence: Poems)
I’m a little partial to the thistle because I am part Scottish (my maiden name is of Scottish origin), and the thistle is the national flower of Scotland. But why?, you might ask. Why the thistle? I didn’t know, so I had to do a little research. Legends, heraldry, poetry. Good stuff. But what I loved most was the Latin Motto of the Order of the Thistle:
NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT
(No one attacks me with impunity)
This led to a search for the definition of impunity. No one has impunity (freedom from punishment) where a thistle is concerned, that’s for sure.
And Latin. Ah, Latin. My eldest son immediately translated “nemo” into “no one” and said that Captain Nemo of the Nautilus in 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea specifically took that name because of its Latin meaning. (And, of course, the Nautilus also has Latin meaning.)
The kids sketch in their nature journals while I read aloud from Shakespeare Stories after our quick morning walk, but I felt like I needed to join them on this one, even if my sketching leaves much to be desired. I’m setting the example that it is okay not to be excellent at something. We do it anyway, with a cheerful attitude…
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Psalm 19 [Our Bible memory from The Heavens Declare (#12) and Luke’s CC Ch A catechism]
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.
[From MCT’s Caesar’s English, our vocabulary from the same Symposium as above picture/early morning walk and Psalm song/memory work]
Profound: deep, far-reaching, absolute, thorough, penetrating…
Prodigious: Great, enormous, marvelous, extraordinary, large, powerful, vast
Manifest: obvious, apparent, illustrate, evince, observable, evident, unmistakable
The heavens manifest God’s profound and prodigious glory.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
I never seem to get a week-in-review post up at the end of the week. We are still finishing up on Saturdays, and Sundays are busy with preparations for the coming week. So y’all get a “this is how last week went, and here’s how this week is going so far” post.
Here we are in the midst of week 4.
I’m still getting up by 6:15ish every morning (which is impressive considering how much I struggle to get out of bed). I make the bed immediately and then shower (and put on earrings and a little makeup) and then have quiet time. I don’t touch my computer (or look at my phone, other than the alarm and the time) until after these things are completed. That has made a world of difference. [But I still get “stuck” on my computer and don’t tackle breakfast and the rest of my morning prep as diligently as I should. I need to set a timer and severely limit my computer time.]
We are still starting symposium by 8 am, sharp.
I need to adjust our Wednesday schedule a bit to accommodate piano lessons and Levi spending time on Latin at a friend’s house.
But attitudes and focus have tanked.
It was bound to happen, and we just have to push through until we figure out how to work diligently, even when we don’t want to work hard. I keep coming back to this article by Angelina Stanford at CiRCE:
But, laziness is not inactivity; it’s doing something other than your duty. Laziness is polishing your shoes when you should be writing your research paper. It’s shooting 100 free throws to get ready for the big game instead of washing the dishes. It’s even offering to help others instead of memorizing those Latin forms. Laziness disguised as helpfulness is particularly deceptive. Laziness is so deceptive that it can even drive you to do something you really don’t like instead of doing your duty.
I’m trying to teach my oldest son that procrastinating may seem easier, but it increases our time spent on tasks as well as allows a black cloud to hang over us for prolonged periods of time. We’re bowed down by the weight of our “to-do” list, when, in reality, it may be a quick and much less painful thing to face the task immediately and get it done. The real weight of our tasks is distorted, and we dread them when we shouldn’t. Of course, I realize that I am still fighting this lesson, almost 30 years later. [Again, Charlotte Mason knew what she was doing when she focused on habit training in the early years.]
Until this new schedule becomes habit, it is going to be hard and painful at times. I may have had a few, um, “heated discussions” with my son in the past week or two. After an impromptu family outing on Saturday, we learned that it may be best to limit weekend activities until we figure out how to get our work done during the week.
I have continued to have as many formal family dinners as possible. Last Wednesday I stopped by the local farm stand on the way home from piano lessons. Between the fresh salmon my husband caught the day before and all the fresh produce, we had a feast. I decided to invite my parents over for dinner, which I hadn’t done in a very long time. I even set a formal family dinner on Monday evening, which is our usual frozen-pizza-made-by-children-while-mom-hides-under-covers-in-her-bedroom night. I stopped at the farm stand again this Wednesday, and I’m looking forward to fresh veggies until they close for the season.
We’re adjusting to a new swim team routine. After several years (five-ish?) at the pool in the town just southeast of us, Russ has accepted a new coaching job at our local YMCA and all three boys are making the switch with him. It is a beautiful new facility, and I think this team change will work well for us. The schedule is certainly preferable. They also have child care for Lola (hallelujah!), a masters swim team for Russ, and a free meal program! I think Tuesday and Thursday evenings we’ll take advantage of the free meal for the kids, since I’m picking them up from practice so that Russ can swim with the masters team. [That leaves Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays for our main family dinners. The weekend is less predictable.] The YMCA is also closer to the high school where Levi may be swimming this winter.
Speaking of Levi and swimming… he has been out of commission with a broken foot for the past six weeks, but he just received a green light from the doctor this week. It’s not healed completely, though, so he still has to go easy on it for the next two weeks.
Lola began a tumbling class at the YMCA this week.
Essentials tutoring is going well. Leif and Lola are settling into the CC community day routine (Monday was the second week for them).
My Scholé Sisters group is meeting at my house this Thursday for our final Flannery O’Connor discussion. We are then moving on to Tolkien for this coming year.
The list of things
we I still need to work on is long: getting to sleep a little earlier, reading more, creating a chore schedule, helping my Challenge 1 student (a delicate issue, since he doesn’t want help but needs it), exercising (yeah, I haven’t been as consistent this past week), and eating better (food is my joy and I want to eat all day long). I could add about 20 more things to the list, but we’ll leave it there. I can’t fix everything at once.
I’ll end with Luke’s Canada assessment from memory for Challenge A (roughly 7th grade). Drawing is a struggle for him, so I’m proud of him for sticking with this map.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
I’ve written about parallelism in the past. It’s powerful and poetic (and picturesque). After finishing The Call of the Wild by Jack London, I am compelled to compose a complete post with copious quotes from this conspicuous narrative. [Oh, wait. This is a post about parallelism, not alliteration.]
The Call of the Wild is an excellent introduction to classic literature for older kids. It’s a fairly short and simple story (my copy has 134 pages with a fair amount of white space), but the themes are more complex than most children’s books and the vocabulary is rich and varied. For example, London manages to squeeze two of my favorite words into a short sentence:
“And so it went, the inexorable elimination of the superfluous.”
As I was reading, I noticed that London used parallelism prolifically in this novel. Because parallelism is a prominent skill taught in The Lost Tools of Writing as well as the building block of many literary devices, students should be on the lookout for examples in their own reading.
The Call of the Wild is a literature selection for the Classical Conversations Challenge 1 program, so it is a handy example for Challenge students. Let’s explore a few instances of parallelism in this novel.
Among the terriers he stalked imperiously, and Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he was king—king over all the creeping, crawling, flying things of Judge Miller’s place, humans included. [three present participial adjectives]
Manuel had one besetting sin. He loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his gambling, he had one besetting weakness—faith in a system; and this made his damnation certain. [anaphora (the repetition of “Manuel/he had one besetting____”)]
Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment’s safety. [emphasis on the 3rd noun with the addition of an article and possessive adjective]
The day had been long and arduous, and he slept soundly and comfortably, though he growled and barked and wrestled with bad dreams. [two adjectives, two adverbs, then emphasis on the third with three verbs]
This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death. It marked further decay or going to pieces of his moral nature, a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. [Three clauses (subject, verb, direct object) with anaphora (the repetition of “theft/it marked” at the beginning of each clause)]
Their irritability arose out of their misery, increased with it, doubled upon it, outdistanced it*. The wonderful patience of the trail which comes to men who toil hard and suffer sore, and remain sweet of speech and kindly+, did not come to these to men and the woman. They had no inkling of such a patience. They were stiff and in pain; their muscles ached, their bones ached, their very hearts ached^; and because of this they became sharp of speech, and hard words were first on their lips in the morning and last at night. [*emphasis on third without preposition, +emphasis on third with extra words “of speech and kindly,” ^emphasis on third with “very”]
All things were thawing, bending, snapping. [three present progressive verbs]
And amid all this bursting, rending, throbbing of awakening life, under the blazing sun and through the soft-sighing breezes, like wayfarers to death, staggered the two men, the woman, and the huskies. [three gerunds, three nouns]
With the dogs falling, Mercedes weeping and riding, Hal swearing innocuously, and Charles’s eyes wistfully watering, they staggered into John Thornton’s camp at the mouth of White River. [one gerund, two gerunds, gerund/adverb, adverb/gerund—love the alliteration of “wistfully watering” (and “with,” “weeping,” and “White”)]
Mercedes screamed, cried, laughed, and manifested the chaotic abandonment of hysteria. [four “-ed” verbs, emphasis on the last as it continues with a vivid direct object]
But love that was feverish and burning, that was adoration, that was madness, it had taken John Thornton to arouse. [anaphora (“that was…”), the first clause has a predicate adjective, the second two have predicate nominatives]
And when, released, he sprang to his feet, his mouth laughing, his eyes eloquent, his throat vibrant with unuttered sounds, and in that fashion remained without movement, John Thornton would reverently exclaim, ‘God, you can all but speak!’ [anaphora (“his” repeated each time); so poetic with the adjective following the noun]
He sat by John Thornton’s fire, a broad-breasted dog, white-fanged and long-furred; but behind him were the shades of all manner of dogs, half-wolves and wild wolves, urgent and prompting, tasting the savour of the meat he ate, thirsting for the water he drank, scenting the wind with him, listening with him and telling him the sounds made by the wild life in the forest, dictating his moods, directing his actions, lying down to sleep with him when he lay down, and dreaming with him and beyond him and becoming themselves the stuff of his dreams.
Strangling, suffocating, sometimes one uppermost and sometimes the other, dragging over the jagged bottom, smashing against rocks and snags, they veered in to the bank. [two present participles, two “sometimes____” phrases, two present participles + prepositional phrases]
They went across divides in summer blizzards, shivered under the midnight sun on naked mountains between the timber line and the eternal snows, dropped into summer valleys amid swarming gnats and flies, and in the shadows of glaciers picked strawberries and flowers as ripe and fair as any the Southland could boast. [past tense verb + two prepositional phrases, past tense verb + three prepositional phrases (last with compound object), past tense verb + two prepositional phrases (last with compound object) (all objects of prepositions in first three phrases have adjectives), but emphasis placed on the last phrase by switching order and starting with prepositional phrase and ending with past tense verb (and compound direct object)—so poetic!]
There is a patience of the wild—dogged, tireless, persistent as life itself—that holds motionless for endless hours the spider in its web, the snake in its coils, the panther in its ambuscade… [three adjectives, emphasis on the third with a simile; three nouns with prepositional phrases repeating “in its”]
…this patience belongs peculiarly to life when it hunts its living food; and it belonged to Buck as he clung to the flank of the herd, retarding its march, irritating the young bulls, worrying the cows with their half-grown calves, and driving the wounded bull mad with helpless rage. [present participles with direct objects, increasing intensity and adding words to each subsequent phrase]
As twilight fell the old bull stood with lowered head, watching his mates—the cows he had known, the calves he had fathered, the bulls he had mastered—as they shambled on at a rapid pace through the fading light. [three nouns with adjectival clauses, with repeated “he had”—very strong grammatical parallelism]
From then on, night and day, Buck never left his prey, never gave it a moment’s rest, never permitted it to browse the leaves of the trees or the shoots of young birch and willow. [three verb phrases with “never” repeated at the beginning of each (anaphora), each subsequent phrase getting longer]
The birds talked of it, the squirrels chattered about it, the very breeze whispered of it. [three clauses, grammatically parallel; interesting switch from “of” to “about” in the second clause, emphasis on third clause with addition of “very,” epistrophe (repetition of the word “it” at the end of the clauses)]
He plunged about in their very midst, tearing, rending, destroying… [three present participles]
Thenceforward he would be unafraid of them except when they bore in their hands their arrows, spears, and clubs. [three nouns]
One wolf, long and lean and gray, advanced cautiously… [three adjectives]