Archive for June, 2006

So, Um, How’re Those Closets Coming?

June 30, 2006 @ 11:05 am | Filed under: Month of Motivation, The Cross-Country Move

I admit it. It only took me until Day Two of the Month of Motivation, Day TWO, can you believe it, to fall short of my goal. But I had a good excuse. Oh yes, there is always a good excuse, isn’t there? My excuse was: I couldn’t spend fifteen minutes cleaning out my closets because instead I spent the whole day talking over a Big Giant Decision which is going to require me to clean out every closet—and cabinet and nook and cranny—in the whole entire house.

Because we’re moving.

I kid you not. This is all very sudden. My husband has accepted a job offer clear on the other side of the country (!!!) and we’ll be putting the house on the market, um, probably next week.

(What does it say about me that one of the first things I thought when we discussed this Enormously Huge Possibility was: well, I suppose it’d make for interesting reading on the blog…)

Coming soon: Idealistic homeschooling mother is put to the test. Can she maintain the joyful atmosphere she’s always writing about while: (a) purging her house of half its contents and (b) keeping the house in show-able condition while caring for five children eleven and under including a challenging special-needs toddler and a two-month-old baby?

I guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, the Big Declutter End-of-Week Recap:

Monday—spent one hour total on one closet (still not finished).

Tuesday—nada. Hush.

Wednesday—um…pulled a lot of books off shelves to show some friends who wanted to browse homeschooling resources, does that count?

Thursday—deleting all the spam from your inbox counts as decluttering, right?

Friday—it’s not over yet. But, well, we have company coming this afternoon, Scott’s brother and his family, and then tomorrow is Rose’s First Communion and we’ve decided to go ahead and have the baby baptized at the same instead of waiting until late July as originally planned, and who can clean closets with all that going on?

But next week, the work begins in earnest. It’ll pretty much have to, won’t it?

How did your first week of Motivation Month go?

Poetry Friday: Rilke

June 30, 2006 @ 8:03 am | Filed under: Poetry

I think this poem is still under copyright, so click here to read the whole thing.

Childhood
by Rainer Maria Rilke

It would be good to give much thought, before
you try to find words for something so lost,
for those long childhood afternoons you knew
that vanished so completely—and why?

We’re still reminded: sometimes by a rain,
but we can no longer say what it means…

* * *

Read the rest.

Links to more Poetry Friday contributions to come later. (I dare not speculate as to how much later. Things are a little hectic around here.)

I Hate to Have to Tell You This

June 30, 2006 @ 5:23 am | Filed under: Butterflies, Nature Study

Herodotus is no more.

At least he didn’t suffer Herod’s gruesome fate. He just simply stopped munching. We don’t know why.

This hasn’t been our year for butterflies.

And there are no signs of life from the caterpillar-husk we thought The Monster was pupating inside, nor any other indication that the ravenous worm-thing exists in any form.

Perplexing.

Only Opal

June 30, 2006 @ 4:04 am | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight, Poetry

069811564301_aa_scmzzzzzzz_Only Opal: The Diary of a Young Girl, adapted by Jane Boulton, illustrated by Barbara Cooney.

I put this book on hold at the library after reading a review of it—somewhere. I couldn’t remember where. After I read it to my girls, I had to Google Blogsearch it because I needed to know a) whom to thank for steering me toward it and b) if other mothers were writing about the thing that pierced my heart about this book.

When the blogsearch landed on Karen Edmisten I thought: Well, of COURSE.

This heartbreakingly beautiful picture book is based on the diary of a young girl named Opal Whitely, a turn-of-the-century child whose parents died and left her to be bounced from one lumber camp to the next in the care of cold and uncaring foster parents. Opal’s surviving record of her very early days is a stunning portrait of a tender, hopeful spirit clinging to every tiny shred of beauty to be found in a grim world. A dark-eyed mouse lives in her pocket; a tall, straight-backed tree offers her strength and support. Opal has no one to love her, so she pours out her own love upon the calf in the field, even though her kind attentions earn her harsh words from the nameless woman who houses her (and works her half to death).

That the foster mother is nameless is telling: Opal is overflowing with names for the creatures she loves. As Karen Edmisten writes,

“Opal finds solace and beauty in nature and in the books her parents left her. From these books, she discovers names for her friends: her pet mouse becomes Felix Mendelssohn, her calf is Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her favorite tree is christened Michael Raphael.”

And that’s the thing that so moved me—and frightened me, in a way—about this book. Did little Opal encountered the composer, the poet, and the archangels on her own in the books her parents left behind, or were their names already familiar to her because she had learned them at her mama’s knee? I can imagine the young mother in the lumber camp, reciting poetry to her tiny daughter; a father humming snatches of a Mendelssohn melody he caught in a drawing room somewhere far away.

Am I just projecting? Is it that I read poetry—some of the very same poems, no doubt—to my own children, and their father the classical music buff plays them symphonies (very loudly) and waxes enthusiastic about the talents of certain composers? Does Only Opal pierce my heart because my children have learned about St. Michael and St. Raphael at my knee, and seeing this delicate child left abandoned to callous strangers reminds me that we are none of us guaranteed the chance to nurture our little ones all the way to adulthood? Suppose (I don’t like to suppose it) something were to happen, and Scott and I were gone. Have we planted enough fruit-bearing seeds in the children’s hearts to nourish them through whatever trials life might hold for them?

I came away from Only Opal feeling profoundly grateful for the time we have had thus far, and for the freedom we have had to make the most of that time. Thankful for the books that have shaped our days together: the many, many mornings we have spent curled up over a volume of poetry and the evenings when I had to shout “Pass the salt” over the crescendo of a Shostakovich symphony. I cannot imagine a scenario in which my children had no one to love them but a ragged little field mouse, but surely there will be times of distress or loss in their lives sooner or later. I cannot protect them from that. What I can do, what I must do, is bequeath to them a store of treasures—the fine music, the fine words, the fine and glorious tenets of our faith—that will sustain them through the unknowns that lie ahead.

Gosh, You Guys, I’m Blushing

June 29, 2006 @ 1:37 pm | Filed under: ClubMom

Wow. This is one of those days when you keep tripping over your own name all over the internet, and you feel so strange, like you’re eavesdropping except you aren’t. First it was the nice surprise at Loni’s blog, and then it was a very sweet post by Tracey. Thanks, both of you, for the uplift.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this new ClubMom gig so far is the growing sense of community among the bloggers and our readers. Which I suppose is the whole point; the goal of the MomBlogs and the MomNetwork, as I understand it, is to build connections between moms around the world. And I really value that kind of connection, because internet friendships have broadened my horizons and bolstered my spirits; they have expanded my understanding, sparked my enthusiasm, warmed my heart, and fostered my sense of compassion. Some of the women I met on the CCM list years ago, and the AOL baby boards before that, have become real-life friends I can’t imagine doing without. And in the past year I’ve made a whole new crop of pals (along with many old ones) (that phrase needs a lot more words for me to link to) at the 4Real boards. Now there are new friends here in the making among the readers and writers of ClubMom.

This is an immensely reassuring thing to know when, hypothetically, your family is suddenly (and hypothetically) contemplating a hypothetical move to the other side of the non-hypothetical country. Since you all live inside my computer, I can take you anywhere I (hypothetically) go.

Today I noticed some new names in the ClubMom blogroll:

Fast Times at Homeschool High
Two Peas in an (i)Pod
Three Sons and a Princess
Stop the World – I Want to Get Off
Mommy, Are the Toys on Sale?

Take a (non-hypothetical) journey to their blogs and make some new friends.

Field Day

June 29, 2006 @ 8:17 am | Filed under: Carnivals, Nature Study

Check out the nature study carnival at By Sun and Candlelight! Lovely job, Dawn!

Things that Make You Go ::::Sputter::::

June 28, 2006 @ 10:37 am | Filed under: Carnivals

Posting the Carnival of Education at your other blog, and noticing two hours later—after several hundred newcomers have visited for the first time—that even though you had scrupulously proofread the darn thing, you messed up the un-bold tag on the very last word, so now the entire rest of your blog below that post is also in bold.

Welcome to The Lilting House, folks, where we say things with emphasis!

Carnival of Education, Week 73

June 28, 2006 @ 7:17 am | Filed under: Education News & Issues

Welcome to the 73rd Carnival of Education! Here at the Lilting House, we are honored to be a part of this grand tradition of idea-sharing. Eleven-year-old Jane has helped me assemble this week’s carnival by supplying quotes about teachers and education.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
—William Arthur Ward

The Portable Princess writes about helping a student surpass his own expectations.

ChemJerk discusses what makes a great science teacher; Blog Around the Clock has his own thoughts on the subject.

NYC Educator believes that nothing short of good teachers and smaller classes makes good schools.

Meanwhile, A History Teacher is wondering what makes a good knowledge management system.

Tamara shares her rewarding experience at a teachers’ retreat. Can’t make it to a retreat? Tim Frederick is building a virtual teacher’s lounge.

Education Matters explores the hidden cost of tenure.

Ed at AFT ponders Pulitzers and pupil-teacher ratios.

“Mr. Brooke, my tutor, doesn’t stay here, you know.”
—from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A Cranky Taxpayer in Virginia is none too thrilled with the governor’s wife’s statements about Richmond public schools.

At Farm School, Becky reads a recent New York Times article about a new “Gilded Age of Home Schooling” and agrees with F. Scott Fitzgerald that the rich are different.

Mamacita thinks libraries are different, too: different from the library of her childhood, that is.

“Take chances, make mistakes!”
—Miss Frizzle

Casting Out Nines shares a tale of lessons learned in a museum store. The lesson? Educational toys and games make learning fun!

That’s a topic homeschoolers love to talk about, as Sprittibee demonstrates in her sizable collection of links for a unit study on seasons, while Trivium Pursuit’s Laurie Bluedorn shares a link to a fun Classical Astronomy site.

“We sure never started school throwing books out before. We didn’t know what to think.”
—from The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

Over at Edspresso, Ryan Boots explores how an army of innovative Davids are taking on the giants of the curriculum publishing world. We’re doing a lot of talking about curriculum here at the Lilting House, too, in an ongoing series.

You’re never too young to begin learning, as Trinity Prep School’s Maureen discovers when investigating the connection between infant bubble-blowing and language development.

But that doesn’t mean babies would be better off in school. Matt Johnston contributes his two cents on the universal preschool issue.

Government involvement in education is always a hot topic. Scholar’s Notebook thinks government solutions are not the answer to Minnesota’s education problems. Meanwhile, Spunky is keeping an eye on a touchy situation in Belgium and This Week in Education is keeping an eye on the globe-trottings of U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

The EducationWonks weigh in on the rise of charter schools.

“Latin, Greek, and mathematics were all very well, but in Professor Bhaer’s opinion, self-knowledge, self-help, and self-control were more important, and he tried to teach them carefully. People shook their heads sometimes at his ideas, even while they owned that the boys improved wonderfully in manners and morals. But then, as Mrs. Jo said to Nat, it was an ‘odd school’.”
—from Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

At Aridni, Todd thinks there’s a time for breaking the rules. When it comes to students’ bathroom breaks, Learn Me Good thinks the rules definitely need re-evaluating.

Speaking of evaluating, Dana Huff sees a need to evaluate how well faith-based schools are preparing kids for college. Anonymous Educator looks at how universities are evaluating student service records.

MBAXploits asks, To MBA or not to MBA?

“To teach is to learn twice.”
Joseph Joubert

There’s always something to learn at A Shrewdness of Apes, where this week Ms. Cornelius is following the issue of equal opportunity for boys in cheerleading.

Paul is interested in some scientific proof that we all need love.

Suffering from information overload after all that? Karen Edmisten has some thoughts about decluttering your brain.

Be sure to declutter your own brain in time for next week’s Carnival of Education, which will be hosted by NYC Educator. Submit your posts to nyceducator (at) gmail (dot) com by 6 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday the 4th of July.

Thanks to all who contributed to this week’s carnival, and many thanks to EdWonk for the opportunity to host!

Visit past Education Carnivals at the archive. This carnival is registered at TTLB’s Uber Carnival.

(And don’t forget to visit this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling at The Homeschool Cafe.)

Tell it to Me, Baby

June 27, 2006 @ 6:10 pm | Filed under: ASL, Hearing Loss, Sign Language, Special Needs Children, Speech Delay, Wonderboy

Wonderboy has speech therapy today. It’s been a while (we’ve been on a break since Rilla was born in April) and I’m eager to hear what his therapist has to say. He’s made big strides in both speech and sign since the last time she saw him. Between this and his newfound ability to get up, he’s had quite an amazing couple of months.

Every now and then, though, I step back from my up-close-and-elated view of his accomplishments and recognize that as far as he has come, he still has a long way to go. When I wrote that post about the speech banana last week, I ended the first draft with “The speech banana? It doesn’t scare me” and later amended that to “The speech banana? We’ll get there one way or the other.” Even the revised version was nagging at me as not being quite what I meant, and I realized that it’s because of the difference between speech and comprehension, between expressive and receptive language skills.

In that post, in those sentences, I was talking about receptive language, what he hears, sees, and understands. His receptive language skills are excellent, given the degree of his hearing loss. He understands a great deal of what we say. Sort of. Yesterday I was unloading the dishwasher and I took out a pot.

“Pot!” I said, showing him.

“Ah!” he agreed—signing “hot.”

Um. Not quite, but I like that he was repeating what he thought he’d heard. He can’t hear the P, see, and I hadn’t signed along with my speech that time. He really needs the visual cues for comprehension.

Despite hitches like this, he really is doing beautifully as far as receptive language goes, gaining comprehension at a lightning rate. And that’s what I was thinking of when I said the speech banana, and where his range of hearing falls on the chart, doesn’t scare me. He may not hear all the sounds, even with hearing aids, but if he’s understanding as much as he is at age two, I really believe he’ll have total comprehension when he’s older.

His expressive language ability, however: that’s another ball of wax. Here again, I’m not worried about his being eventually able to express his thoughts in one way or another. He is already using a combination of sign and speech to communicate, and thanks to the gorgeous marvel that is ASL, he can tell me most of what a two-year-old wants to say. And then with verbal speech, he seems to be smitten. He loves to talk, spends much of the day practicing words. Without his signs to cue me, I probably wouldn’t be able to translate them: to know that “ah ah ee ah” is caterpillar and “eh-ah” is elephant.

“Watermelon,” I’ll say, signing it also.

“Ah ah eng!” he’ll shout triumphantly, believing that he is echoing me completely. His hand comes to his mouth, three fingers pointing up like a W, tapping his chin—”water”—and then he pokes the back of his hand with a finger, like tapping a melon. Watermelon. Ah-ah-eng. I gotcha.

So, yes, when it comes to his slow crawl toward verbal speech I am comfortable, but not complacent. I think we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us if he is going to manage some of these consonants that elude his ears. We play babbling games; I press his lips together and say “buh buh buh,” trying to help him catch the B. He laughs, touches my mouth, says, “Uh uh uh.” So far, that B is nowhere on his radar.

But oh how he loves to experiment with talking! His joy is infectious; you can’t help but grin.

“Amp Ha ain ow-hie!” he tells me, his flying fingers clueing me in to his meaning. Grandpa train outside. Yes, buddy, you and Grandpa saw a train on your walk, didn’t you? Two months ago. That ain made a big impression on this little boy.

Big impression on my heart, too.

Related posts:
Signing Time DVDs
More about Signing Time
Rilla Signs
Unsolicited Signing Time Commercial
Signing with Babies, My Favorite Topic