Archive for December, 2006

Our New Pets

December 30, 2006 @ 8:44 pm | Filed under:

A colony of microscopic organisms have taken up residence in a crock on our counter…and we’re very happy about it.


The crock was a gift from my Secret Santa, aka Hooly. Isn’t it lovely? Fits in perfectly with my windowsill flowerpots.


The starter is just about ready to bake with. Maybe we’ll have pancakes for breakfast tomorrow? I’m hoping to try a loaf of bread with it on Monday. We’ll see how it goes…

Great site for recipes and advice: Northwest Sourdough. The "First Loaf" tutorial is thorough and extremely helpful. I like this biscuit recipe too.   

Gearing Up for a Charlotte Mason Term

December 29, 2006 @ 2:35 pm | Filed under: , ,

Life in this house has been more tilting than lilting during our settling-in time, but now the new year is almost upon us, and we are all ready to shift from settling-in to settling-down. Starting next week, it’s "high tide" time. We are going to begin a twelve-week Charlotte Mason-style term. I have assembled reading lists for Jane (age 11 1/2, Year Six) and Rose (age 8 1/2, Year Three), drawing ideas from Ambleside, Mater Amabilis, and my own overcrowded bookshelves.

As described in A Philosophy of Education, the Charlotte Mason method is quite simple—so simple that I think many homeschoolers, including me at various times, can’t resist the urge to make it more complicated. When Jane was younger, I monkeyed with the narration concept, and I wound up turning narration into something that was more about product (nice neat notebook of history narrations) than process.

Says Miss Mason:

Oral teaching was
to a great extent ruled out; a large number of books on many subjects
were set for reading in morning school-hours; so much work was set that
there was only time for a single reading; all reading was tested by a
narration of the whole or a given passage, whether orally or in
writing. Children working on these lines know months after that which
they have read and are remarkable for their power of concentration
(attention); they have little trouble with spelling or composition and
become well-informed, intelligent persons.

Vol 6 pg 15

Read it, narrate it. That’s it.

But, it will be said, reading or hearing various books read, chapter
by chapter, and then narrating or writing what has been read or some
part of it,––all this is mere memory work. The value of this criticism
may be readily tested; will the critic read before turning off his
light a leading article from a newspaper, say, or a chapter from
Boswell or Jane Austen, or one of Lamb’s Essays; then, will he put
himself to sleep by narrating silently what he has read. He will not be
satisfied with the result but he will find that in the act of narrating
every power of his mind comes into play, that points and bearings which
he had not observed are brought out; that the whole is visualized and
brought into relief in an extraordinary way; in fact, that scene or
argument has become a part of his personal experience; he knows, he has
assimilated what he has read.
This is not memory work. In order to
memorise, we repeat over and over a passage or a series of points or
names with the aid of such clues as we can invent; we do memorise a
string of facts or words, and the new possession serves its purpose for
a time, but it is not assimilated; its purpose being served, we know it
no more.

Vol 6 pg 16 

Here are the books Jane will be reading and narrating this term. Some of them, she has already begun; others are new to her. Most of them will be continued through the spring and into the fall.

School of the Woods by William Long.

Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster.

Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber.

The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre. (We loved Fabre’s Insects.)

Ivanhoe by Walter Scott. (We may read this one together, reading parts out loud. Jane and I feel affectionate about this book, although she has never read it and it took me forever to get through, because Charlotte Tucker reads it in one of my Little House books. I came across a news item in a period newspaper announcing the publication of the book, and it seemed like fun to have the family read it together. Ivanhoe also plays a key role in one of the Betsy-Tacy high school books, which are great favorites of ours. So Jane has a lot of context for this famous novel, and I think it will be great fun for her to actually read it.)

The Gospel of Luke.

I am still deciding upon a biography related to geography or science. I had thought to use Albert Einstein and the Story of Relativity as suggested by Ambleside, but Jane spied it on the shelf and wolfed it down (quite in opposition to Charlotte Mason’s recommendation to take it slow when reading meaty books—this post at Higher Up and Farther In makes an excellent case for slowing the pace of a child’s reading). She has already read and enjoyed biographies of Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie, as well as the well-known Jeanne Bendick books about Archimedes and Galen. Got any other suggestions?

I am also considering Story of a Soul, but I may hold off on that until Lent.

In addition to the six books listed above, we shall read (together) Plutarch’s life of Marcus Brutus, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and (with her sisters) finish Holling’s Tree in the Trail, mapping the latter. We’ll also keep doing our usual thing with poetry, picture study, nature study, and music—which is to say, pegging those pursuits to other parts of our day.

For math, she is working in the Harold Jacobs Algebra book this year. (In part because I can’t find the Math-U-See Algebra materials I ordered before we moved—and here I thought I was being so clever! Sales tax is much higher in California, so I bought them in Virginia and put them on the moving truck. I have not seen them since. Argh.)

And that just leaves Latin and piano. She continues to enjoy Latin for Children, interspersed with lessons from Latin Book One. (We found a cheap used copy of this book last year, and both of us like its format. It’s fun to be reading simple paragraphs in Latin right from the first lesson.)

That’s about it. It sounds like a lot, but broken down into weekly or twice-weekly readings (remember, the point is to take these books slowly), it’s quite manageable. We began gently easing into the routine during the weeks before Christmas. I’ll let you know how it goes once we begin in earnest; if the booklist is a flop, I’ll say so! But I don’t think it will be.

I can share Rose’s reading list as well (most of which I’ll be reading to her) if you’d like to see it. I’ve also got a big long post underway about narration (addressing some very good questions raised in the comments, such as what to do with a reluctant narrator like my 8-year-old). There’s also so much more to say about Charlotte Mason!

Go Knit Your Math Homework, Dear

December 28, 2006 @ 11:09 am | Filed under:

Hat tip to Boing Boing for the link to a Science News article about how some mathematicians are using knitting and crocheting to create physical models of mathematic principles, from simple Mobius strips to, um, whatever this thing is. A hyperbolic plane! That’s it!

During the 2002 winter holidays, mathematician Hinke Osinga was
relaxing with some lace crochet work when her partner and mathematical
collaborator Bernd Krauskopf asked, "Why don’t you crochet something
useful?" Some crocheters might bridle at the suggestion that lace is
useless, but for Osinga, Krauskopf’s question sparked an exciting idea.
"I looked at him, and we thought the same thing at the same moment,"
Osinga recalls. "We realized that you could crochet the Lorenz

I am SO using that line on Jane the next time she is at loose ends. "I know, darling, why don’t you go crochet the Lorenz manifold?"

BoingBoing includes links to other nifty math-craft posts (including instructions for the aforementioned Lorenz manifold).

All I Want for Christmas…

December 26, 2006 @ 2:48 pm | Filed under:

…is whatever my big brother got. (Says baby.)


Of course, the bow on my dress is pretty cool also.


Really, it’s just great to be alive.



December 24, 2006 @ 2:48 pm | Filed under:

Just had to share this clip of Beanie discovering treasure in her stocking last year. How will St. Nick ever top those ponytail holders?

Happy Christmas

December 24, 2006 @ 2:35 pm | Filed under:

When we made this video a year ago, we didn’t know we’d just spent our last Christmas in that house.

So much has happened since last Christmas! A year ago, I could never have guessed that we would leave Virginia for a big adventure in Southern California—much less that the kids and I would spend three months separated from Scott. Last December, we were anticipating Rilla’s arrival in the spring, and that was about as far ahead as my mind was leaping.

I began 2005 with this resolution (inspired by a Robert Frost poem): "To keep hold of the important things, stopping to restack the load as often as necessary." I have to smile now, thinking of how often that load needed restacking as we packed up our house and made our way across the country—leaving a trail of baby socks and hard goodbyes in our wake.

Despite the difficulty of parting with dearly loved friends, I can look
back and see that this has been a year of abundant blessings for my
little clan. In January, we savored Ordinary Time, the occasional bump and bruise notwithstanding. February we worked on habits and indulged in berries. In March—oh, in March I was very pregnant and overwhelmed with the joy of watching Wonderboy learn to speak.

April brought us this treasure and this incredible milestone. In May, I began to blog for ClubMom in between diaper changes and picture books. In June, our caterpillars got clobbered, our favorite family got bigger, and Scott got a job offer.

July was a whirlwind: Rilla’s baptism and Rose’s First Communion, Scott’s departure, my reintroduction to laundry. In August we missed Scott like crazy and squeezed in visits with some dear East Coast friends.

September was all about packing, oh, the horror of packing. Speaking of horror, we discovered the startling truth about the Pillsbury Doughboy. And then in October, all the butterflies of the Blue Ridge came to bid us goodbye, and our odyssey began.

Has it really only been ten weeks since we left Virginia? It seems so faraway…and yet in other respects it seems impossible to believe we’ve been here in California for two months already. I still feel like we just walked in the door. But here it is Christmas Eve, and the colored lights are shining beneath the palm trees. Merry, merry Christmas to our friends both old and new, and that includes our blog friends, whose kind comments and thoughtful posts gave us such joy this year. We wish you all great joy and abundant blessings, too.

Things I Did Not Factor Into My New Housework Schedule

December 21, 2006 @ 8:01 am | Filed under:

• Time for tracking down the cause of the nasty smell coming from the heating vents.

• Time for removing nasty-smelling dead rat from under house.

• Dead! Rat!

• Time for addressing and mailing the Christmas cards I was so proud I managed to order early.

• Time for multiple doctors’ appointments for multiple children with respiratory infections.

• Time for extra laundry generated by baby’s abhorrence of antibiotic. (As in: my laundry. Amoxicillin spatter? Not my best look.)

• Time for dealing with horrific aftermath of three-year-old’s antibiotic-induced gastro-intestinal distress. (He had poop on his eyebrows; need I say more?)

• Time for eight frantic phone calls to eight online vendors in order to correct colossally stupid mistake involving credit card number. (Tip: when carrying out your brilliant plan to cut and paste your credit card number from a desktop sticky into various online order forms, MAKE SURE YOU ARE PASTING THE CORRECT NUMBER, AS IN THE ONE WITHOUT THE TYPO. Especially if you want the gifts to arrive before Christmas.)

• Time for calling the DMV to find out what happened to the driver’s license they were supposed to have mailed me a month ago.

• Time to snark to various friends about how the DMV promised to look into it and call me back, uh huh, yeah right.

• Time to eat crow when the DMV actually DID call me back. With an apology, no less!

• Time to make series of phone calls from the grocery story in search of the ingredient list for the recipe I specifically went to the store to shop for, but whose ingredients I forgot to check before I  left home.

• Time to scold bored and impatient children for rowdy behavior in grocery store while mom is on phone.

• Time to humbly accept compliments from no less than three elderly strangers on excellent behavior of children in grocery store.

• Time to wonder whose assessment of children’s behavior was correct, mine or elderly strangers.

• Time to break down large quantity of cardboard boxes which arrived containing Christmas presents.

• Time to finish breaking down large quantity of cardboard boxes leftover from cross-country move.

• Time to supervise massive cleanup of daughters’ closet, which can’t possibly have needed cleaning out yet since it was only moved into two months ago.

• And yet, it did.

• Time to watch various funny, gorgeous, or nightmarish video clips forwarded by husband who was forced to kill time while office maintenance men stood on ladder next to his desk repairing air-conditioning system for the whole floor.

• Time to write a long list of the things I forgot to allow time for.