Archive for December, 2005

Voting Ends Today

December 26, 2005 @ 4:25 am | Filed under:

HsbanomineeToday is the last day to cast a vote for the Homeschool Blog Awards. I have had a great time exploring all the nominees—there are some real gems out there!

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December 24, 2005 @ 5:48 pm | Filed under:

The Census at Bethlehem—Bruegel the elder, 1556 (click to enlarge)

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“Snuggling Up to Genius”

December 23, 2005 @ 5:29 am | Filed under: ,

Writing and Living is about to embark upon a Year of Dickens. Inspired by James of My Year in Shakespeare, she plans to spend 2006 reading all of Dickens’s novels in the order of publication. I have been eagerly reading her posts about this, in part because I toyed with a similar idea a couple of months ago when I was grounded by a stomach bug and assuaged my misery by curling up (in the fetal position) with David Copperfield. As has always been the case with Dickens, I enjoyed the novel so thoroughly—immeasurably!—that I was hungry for more (perhaps the only thing in the world I could possibly have been hungry for at the time, given the state of my poor stomach). I had an urge to read his entire body of work, beginning at the beginning.

Alas, I must confess that Pickwick’s opening did me in. In my vulnerable condition, I did not think I could endure several hundred pages more of those boisterous, loquacious gentlemen. I’m willing to give it another shot, though, someday. And I have yet to read Bleak House and Martin Chuzzlewit. Writing and Living may well inspire me to do so. After all, the March girls were mad for Pickwick & friends. Surely I must give these amiable fellows a second chance.

Anyway, all this Dickens talk brought to mind something I read long ago in the introduction to Kate Douglas Wiggins’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It was an unforgettable account of young (very young) Kate’s encounter with Charles Dickens himself on a train during one of his reading tours of the United States. I no longer have the edition of Rebecca which contains the article (Alice, I think it was your copy?), but I Googled this morning with hope in my heart and aha! There it was, in full, at a delightful site called

An excerpt:

There on the platform stood the Adored One. His hands were plunged deep in his pockets (a favorite posture), but presently one was removed to wave away laughingly a piece of the famous Berwick sponge-cake offered him by Mr. Osgood, of Boston, his traveling companion and friend.

I knew him at once: the smiling, genial, mobile face, rather highly colored, the brilliant eyes, the watch-chain, the red carnation in the buttonhole, and the expressive hands, much given to gesture. It was only a momentary view, for the train started, and Dickens vanished, to resume his place in the car next to ours, where he had been, had I known it, ever since we left Portland.

Shortly thereafter, the intrepid Kate slips into Dickens’s car, where she finds him alone and launches into a discussion of his “stories”:

“Well, upon my word!” he said. “You do not mean to say that you have read them!”

“Of course I have,” I replied. “Every one of them but the two that we are going to buy in Boston, and some of them six times.”

“Bless my soul!” he ejaculated again. “Those long, thick books, and you such a slip of a thing!”

“Of course,” I explained, conscientiously, “I do skip some of the very dull parts once in a while; not the short dull parts, but the long ones.”

He laughed heartily. “Now, that is something that I hear very little about,” he said. “I distinctly want to learn more about those very dull parts,” and, whether to amuse himself or to amuse me, I do not know, he took out a note-book and pencil from his pocket and proceeded to give me an exhausting and exhaustive examination on this subject—the books in which the dull parts predominated, and the characters and subjects which principally produced them. He chuckled so constantly during this operation that I could hardly help believing myself extraordinarily agreeable; so I continued dealing these infant blows under the delusion that I was flinging him bouquets.

You can read the article in its entirety here.


December 22, 2005 @ 6:15 am | Filed under:

From a beautiful post about discovery, learning, Beethoven’s string quartets, and the way the mind works at The Last Step into the Cellar:

I don’t understand the mind. I don’t understand how it can try to be logical even as it tricks itself into not being so. I don’t understand how the mind focuses, employs its skills, or prioritizes. Three years ago I slipped on some ice getting into my car. It was one very small patch of ice between my car and my wife’s van. I didn’t see it at all and hit it completely unprepared, and because I could not fall down, I kept slipping and slipping as I tried to regain my footing until my ankle folded over on itself and went twist-twist-snap-snap. It broke so badly that it flopped freely as I hopped back toward my house. I sat on the stoop wondering what to do next, and I suddenly realized how very calm I was and that I wasn’t panicking, that in fact my mind was far more actively in control of my body than it had ever been before and that it would see me through this, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling of not having to do anything really, that all was being taken care of. Of course I knew the ankle would need mending in ways I could not do, and indeed it took some surgery, three screws, and a stay in the hospital, but those were givens. It seems ironic that I had never before felt such union of body and mind as I did that morning when my body broke, but it’s the truth of that morning and one I won’t forget. My body was following orders. My body had flashed “Emergency!” and my mind knew where to go with that. My mind was in command and control. It felt wonderful.

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This Week in Yarn

December 21, 2005 @ 6:18 am | Filed under:

My friend Holly is adopting a child from China, and she put the word out that his orphanage needs warm sweaters for the babies. I’m going to try this pattern—cute, toasty, and simple. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Homeschoolers FYI

December 20, 2005 @ 4:42 am | Filed under: ,

I was a member of HSLDA for our first year as registered homeschoolers in New York. As I became more aware of what the organization advocated, however, I grew uncomfortable and did not renew the following year. Since then, I’ve watched with a nervous eye as HSLDA worked hard to promote causes that don’t seem to be in the best interests of all homeschoolers. Section 522 of H.R. 1815 is the most troubling of these “causes.” In case you haven’t been following, here’s the nutshell version: HSLDA wants to make sure that home educated students are given the same status and consideration by military recruiters as public or private school graduates. Fair enough, but in pursuit of this goal HSLDA movers & shakers have worked with congressmen to include language on the subject in a federal bill. FEDERAL, see? Right now, home education is overseen by individual states. House Resolution 1815 includes language about home school graduates. This is bound to lead to the federal government finding it necessary to define what constitutes a “home school graduate.” Suppose their definition is not the same as yours? It is entirely possible that over time, this bill will lead to infringements of our freedom as home-educating parents to choose the curriculum, courses of study, and educational methods we believe best for our children. This bill is a doorway to big government involvement in our private choices.

So I’m asking my readers to study up on the matter, think it through carefully, and make phone calls and write letters if, upon consideration, you agree that this is a cause worth fighting. Unfortunately, it may already be too late to fight the bill, but you can certainly let HSLDA know your opinions on the matter, and your senators and representatives as well.

Here’s a good summary of the problems with Section 522.

Mary McCarthy’s Open Letter to HSLDA’s Membership is helpful:

I have always felt that HSLDA has a right to exist, and if that’s what you want to spend your money on, I’m happy you have the financial means to do so. However, recent events have caused me to re-think my position. I was wrong to think that because I was not a member HSLDA did not affect me.

When HSLDA re-introduced their HoNDA legislation in the US House and Senate, they added a section related to the recruitment and enlistment of homeschool graduates to it. When it appeared HoNDA was stalled in committee they requested Senator Rick Santorum of PA to add a section that would give the Secretary of Defense the authority to identify for the purposes of recruitment and enlistment homeschool graduates to The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006.

Scott Somerville of HSLDA recently wrote, “IF we fail in our effort to get section 522 signed into law, we’ll try something else, but we won’t give up. It’s been seven years already; it may be seven more years before we feel like homeschool grads have a level path to military service.”

There is a lot to think about in those two arrogant sentences. HSLDA will not give up trying to push federal legislation into law that affects MY child. That’s personal. That has nothing to do with a Christian’s right to homeschool their children, something I would be first in line to protect. It’s an attempt to target my child for recruitment and enlistment in the United States Armed Forces by a group of self-appointed, fundamentalist Christians pursuing an agenda they have determined to be part of their personal religion. Of course, they have a right, as individual Americans and as a lobbying organization, to do so. But I also have a right – as well as a responsibility – to protect my child from overly zealous political actions. That is the reason we have ELECTED representation, so the people can decide whether they want their children targeted by military recruiters or not. In a representative government, it’s not the purview of a handful of zealots to make any decision for my family.

Section 522 does not delineate between `homeschool students’ and `homeschool students whose parents are members of HSLDA’. This is personal and oversteps the bounds of representing a paid membership by an advocacy organization. It will affect every homeschool student/family in America, HSLDA member or not. HSLDA could not operate without the dues of its membership. It is what pays the salaries, builds the buildings, and – yes – funds the lobbying. Membership dues are funding the effort to identify for purposes of recruitment and enlistment MY child. Membership dues are funding the proposal which will give the United States Secretary of Defense the authorization to define what a homeschool graduate is. The members of HSLDA are ultimately responsible for the actions HSLDA and its paid agents take.

I cannot influence HSLDA decisions because I am not a member, so I have to plead my case to the members. Therefore, I do not think it unreasonable to respectfully request HSLDA’s members accept responsibility for the actions of their paid representatives and use their checkbooks to take back the power they have ceded to HSLDA. YOU have the power. I know many of you, and I know you are good, responsible parents who will `do the right thing’. Thank you.

Mary McCarthy

Here’s the current status of H.R. 1815, from Mary Nix at HEM Support Groups:

The conference report was agreed to in House late on 2/19/05.

The Status: On agreeing to the conference report Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 374 – 41 (Roll no. 665).

I phoned Sen. Warner’s office and they confirmed that the section pertaining to homeschoolers, 522, remained in the bill and if the senate approves the report, it will become law.

I’ll post more information as it becomes available.

Caught My Eye

December 17, 2005 @ 4:13 am | Filed under:

The Common Room’s Headmistress explores the fallacy that one must be highly educated to have penetrating insight and complicated thoughts in her essay on Shakespeare and false assumptions. My husband has been similarily railing against such snobbery for years. Excellent.

Over at Big A little a, Kelly brings to our attention The Sunny Side, a recently rediscovered collection of A. A. Milne’s short stories.

A 4RealLearning member points out another way to feed your book habit: Paperback Swap.

(Also good: library sales. Seems like they’re always ditching the really good stuff, and for mere pennies. Thanks, Joann, for reminding me.)

Best Worst Fictional Family

December 16, 2005 @ 9:48 pm | Filed under: ,

006440275401_aa_scmzzzzzzz_The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. This book has been an annual tradition for me since Mrs. Beville read it to my fifth-grade class. Now Scott reads it to our kids, who are slightly better mannered than the obnoxious Herdman crew but just as full of provoking questions. The Herdmans, as unruly a bunch of young hoodlums as ever burned down a neighbor’s shed, have a way of jarring people out of their unexamined ruts, startling them into examining, thinking, noticing—even if only in self-defense. For that, and for their alarming frankness, I adore these foul-mouthed, looting, hooting Herdman kids.

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We’re Back!

December 16, 2005 @ 3:51 pm | Filed under:

Typepad was having technical difficulties for most of the day, so if you stopped by earlier and wondered why it was suddenly December 10th again, that’s the reason. Thanks for your patience!

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