Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Education 101

Paradigm shifting defininitions that have helped me understand the goals and processes of education.

Skills vs. Content

Memory vs. Overview

Skills: Proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience; ability. Skills are tools needed in order to learn or grow in areas: phonics, ability to memorize, the mechanics of writing (how to hold a pencil, control the pencil, the shape of the letters), counting, math facts, grammar, etc. Skills are sorely overlooked in modern education and are becominig increasingly so.

For instance, phonics. Phonics is the skill of decoding the written word. Decoding has often been replaced with the whole-word method of learning to read. While some words are clearly words that need memorized vs. decoded such as was, you, etc. the majority of English words can easily be decoded given the proper tools. Skills are the baby steps (the grammar stage) of most areas of study. Without understanding the skills necessary to grammar (such as the definitions of the parts of speech and the ability to diagram) the study of a 2nd language becomes torment. Without basic math skills aglebra is laborious.

Content is "the substantive or meaningful part: “The brain is hungry not for method but for content, especially content which contains generalizations that are powerful, precise, and explicit” (Frederick Turner). Perhaps because the brain is hungry for content we find it easier to overlook skills. Content includes those areas of study such as history, literature, the Bible, the aquisition of a 2nd language. Apparently the government school system also believes that content includes sex education as well as other ideologies that are best kept within the context of home and church. While government schools take ground and liberty to introduce inapporpriate content to our progeny the church and family give it up. Not a win-win in my economy. But I digress.

Most skills allow us to truly enjoy the content of various subjects. If I have aquired skills in history, such as a memorized timeline and a solid understanding of geography, then my content gathering will be so much more enriched and enlivened. I will make connections between people and places. If I were to simply focus on content each history lesson would be a stand-alone story, not a rich narrative that allows the beauty and wonder of His narrative to unfold. I won't be able to fully appreciate the amazing complexities of serendipity in the world or have a good sense of the part that I play in it all. It's all decontextualized, whitewashed and dull.

Secondly, Memorizatin vs. Overview

Memorization is the mental faculty of retaining and recalling past experience. How often and clearly memory work is overlooked in education. I am always astonished when we read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In The Long Winter I believe, she recounts a recitation her school gave for the community as a form of entertainment. The amount and skill of memory work that the students demonstrated was astonishing! Memory work is that which we know that we know. Think of the alphabet. Most of us have this memorized. If I were to state a letter you would immediatly have the shape and sound of it in your head, know how to use it at the beginning, middle and end of the word and feel comfortable explaining to others how to write it and sound it out. Barring any disability you will be able to do this your entire lifetime. That is because you have the alphabet memorized. You KNOW it. If I were to mention a concept found in freshman biology, however, we might have a vague understanding of it, be able to speculate about it a little bit, but for the majority of us, that's about as far as we'll get. We've overviewed biology- we have some basic concpets, we are aware of what it is about, but we haven't memorized it. True memorization takes diligence and mnuemonic skills. It's hard work, that, like most skills, gets easier with time and practice.
Overview is a general survey or summary. Most global thinkers (as opposed to linear thinkers) are great at surveying (for more on that, check out Cynthia Tobias Ulrich's book, The Way They Learn). I'm a very global thinker- I get the big picture, look for the big picture, create the big picture. In fact, I generally need to know the big picture before any of the particulars make sense to me. Overview and big pictures are great, and often times needed, but they are simply part of the what education is about; overview without the particulars or details that are demanded of from memory work leaves our students with a shell of what their education could have been.

Sorting out the various areas that need skill building and content building, what needs memorized and what needs overviewed are skills in an of themselves. Again, the classical method of education does the best job of sorting it out and making clear sense of what is a monumental task; that is education.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dad for Prez

There has been a lot of political talk in our home of late. The littles ask lots of questions and are happy to pound signs in the yard. The other day driving to pick up Feche boy from picketing Flower, age 5, announced that she would NOT be voting for McCain. "Why not?!" came a shocked response from Cub. "Because I am voting for Dad!" she stated emphatically, "I am voting for Dad for president and that's final!"
Well, O.K. Dad for Prez.

Sabbath gratitude

This day I am thankful for:
33. For Church.
34. For Sundays. Not feeling pressured to work or produce or do. A day of rest.
35. For the park Flower & KB and I walked through today. The water, rocks and sand.
36. For Good conversation with friends.
37. For Like-minded friends.
38. That the government sits upon the shoulders of Christ and not of man.
39. For United Streaming and the fun of watching the prez debate as a fam.
40. For passionate people.
41. For John McCain's definitive arguement about the difference between a tactic and a strategy.
42. For a country where we have political change without civil war or violence.
43. For living in a republic.
44. For my dh's skill with tools.
45. For the uber cool sandbox, swing-set, playscape Viking Man is creating for the kids.
46. That Flower came into the kitchen tonight and said, "Mommy, I love Daddy. He is the best Daddy!" Sweet words.
47. For KB"s generosity in treating Flower to a little toy and a 2nd corn-dog
48. For coffee shops that are cool and comfy and inviting.
49. For home to come back to.
50. For healthy kids.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Socialism & Government Schools

About a decade and a half ago I wrote a Master's thesis on "Why Parent's Homeschool Their Children." My lit review focused on the history of education in America. Here's the 30 second run-down. The educational system in America prior to the late 19th century consisted almost completely of private education with an astonishing rate of literacy. Astonishing. During the late 19th century social reformers such as Howard Mann and John Dewey imported educational philosophy from Prussia in order to contain the masses (recent immigrants) by getting unsupervised (their parents were slaving away in factories) immigrant children off the streets where they were using drugs and causing bedlam and assimilate them into the American culture through a common language (English) and "education" (I put the word in quotes because what took place wasn't about actual learning but about social manipulation) and get them ready to be good worker bees (i.e. factory workers) for the rich and famous of the day (think the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, etc). Public (think Government) education was never intended to educate the masses by providing them with thinking skills, logic or reasoning. Rather it was a method by which the wealthy and entitled kept the masses mainly ignorant and content with their lot in life. Meanwhile those who were wealthy and educated provided private education meant to educate using tools of education such as Latin, logic, math and music for their own progeny. In other words, government schools are intended to create a working class that continues to work (versus envision and create), doesn't demand much and is easily pacified. Honestly, government education does a good job at what it's supposed to do. To find out more, start with John Taylor Gatto's book, "Dumbing Us Down," and go from there.
It's really no wonder that so many of my fellow American's are falling for Senator Obama though he clearly spouts socialist rhetoric and has a clear and chilling socialist agenda, from disarming America to universal health care. 12 years (or more for those with a college degree) of brainwashing in a government school that is built upon socialist ideals has set up millions of Americans to believe the left's socialist tripe hook line and sinker.

While I read articles weekly about the continued dumbing down of America, including those that talk about school systems guaranteeing 50% grades to each and every child regardless of ability or work produced to the millions now being spent on remedial skill building for entering college freshmen, it creates a deep sense of gratitude for the years we've spent homeschooling.

The current educational system as provided by government schools in America at this point is a clear faith system. Christian families who send their kids to government schools and wonder why their kids don't embrace their values don't have very far to look. Government schools are imparting their faith system each and every day. It is a faith system that is anti-God, anti-home, anti-family and anti-thought. I say this blatantly and without apology. Socialism is "that stage of society coming between the capitalist stage and the communist stage, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution has been eliminated, as in the Soviet Union, and the production of goods is sufficient to permit realization of the slogan from each according to his ability, to each according to his work." Explain to me what 50% to every child is if not socialistic? When achievement and failure end up meaning the same thing you have simply failure.

Education has always been the means of imparting the beliefs and morays of a culture. High time the church started looking at the systems by which we are educating our own and make some radical changes. Short term solutions like an hour of Sunday School once or twice a week or seminars such as the Truth Project in light of 12 years of indoctrination are like putting a band-aid on someone who needs a tourniquet. Frankly, my high hope is that the church gets a clue and pulls their kids out of government schools in such great numbers that we cause the NEA monopoly to fail as fast as Freddie and Fannie have of late.

As a social reformer, visionary and educator myself, if you need ideas about where start, drop me a line. I have some thoughts about that as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Permission to Play

I've been feeling pressured and overwhelmed this week. It's all good, it's just the never-ending little things. The never-ending-sink-full-of-dishes (no dishwasher + 5/6 people+ 3 meals a day = a zillion dishes to wash), the ironing that needs done; the cooking-everything-from-scratch in an effort to keep the grocery bill within a gestapo budget; gardening - and it's great to have bumper crops of everything but once harvested it all needs frozen, canned, blanched, chopped or sauced; homeschooling 4 kids in a zillion subjects which takes time, money and energy; mentoring the kids instead of just telling them where to go, what to think and do, which takes TIME to listen and hear and process and research and connect. Having a ton of thank-you notes to get out and stuff to coordinate for TP. And while my introverted self has been screaming for time alone my extroverted self has been screaming for a friend or two who are just a little bit geeky and read too much to talk about new ideas, what's ahead and of course, books.

Viking Man ordered us to take part of the morning off and to go outside to play. The weather was perfect - clear skies and in the 70's. We put the badmitton net back up between the grape vines (which actually yielded grapes this year) and played for about an hour. The littles hung out at the swing set and KB and Feche-man and I "played." I use the term, "played" quite loosely as we spent a fair amount of time trying to locate the birdie amongst the overgrown radishes and lettuce that has seeded.

It was good to be in the sun and moving and laughing together. It was good to get permission to play. :

I am grateful for
26- kids to play with.
27-the beautiful fall weather we have been having.
28- time KB and I spent together last night.
29- working a puzzle with Flower today.
29 -the laughter and giggles of our children.
30 - Feche- boy: being such an awesome bro to Flower. Watching the Logic video he made a little nest next to him for her and put her to sleep rubbing her face. She's been feeling sick and she really felt loved snuggling with him.
30- the Traditional Logic curriculum we are using- more good stuff from Memoria Press
31-working in the kitchen with KB
32- Viking Man and the boys did the dishes last night and cleaned the kitchen

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Days Are Just Packed.

Seems like this year I am doing less than I've done in a long time and the days are just full up. Like today for example:
Homeschool consisted of phonics with Flower, Geography notebooks with the boys, memory work with all the kids (history, Bible in Latin & English, english grammar, science, geography, VP cards, and books of the bible, IEW Poetry). Read-aloud. KB started the IEW progymnasta and got caught up on Poetry. Feche-boy did Omnibus, writing and poetry. All the kids watched their own Latin lesson and I quizzed them on vocab and sayings. We didn't even get to math or logic.
Throughout the day we did laundry - about 6 loads.
Picked produce from the garden: dried tomatoes and herbs, froze green peppers, processed more apples, made apple sauce and left more to soak in lemon juice.
Then cooking: yogurt and granola are made each Sunday and that's the usual fare. KB made smoothies this morning. Feche-boy made baked potates for lunch, for dinner a rustic squash pie and apple crisp.
Flower wasn't feeling well and didn't do much school-she was lonely because everyone else was. And now everyone is finally in bed. Better get there myself. Tomorrow might be packed too!

Monday, September 22, 2008

And how Ben West ends.

I just loved that Benjamin West, court painter to George III, turned down knighthood. As a Quaker he rejected titles. Being "friend" was all the title he needed. Lovely, eh?

Every Day Courage.

This week our history sentence has to do with writing the Consitution. We are back to reading more Landmark Books, which are wonderful, and Jean Fritz, who is one of my fav children's authoress'. It will be a rich week of reading and I'm glad that we have a couple of weeks to cover the books. Today was FULL and went fast- we spent a couple of hours on Bible as we missed it last week. We are really enjoying Memoria Press' Christian Studies and like all of Memoria Press curriculum, it is outstanding. The kids are always a little shocked at how FULL of humanity the Bible is and we had a great time discussing, memorizing and making time lines.

KB is back from her 2 month trek to TN, KY, OH and Washington D.C. The "Above Rubies" internship was not what was expected but full of surprises and growth. She suffered a little bit of cultural whiplash, I believe, going from the hollers of TN, without running water, to D.C. with all of it's glitz and swirl, to the grandparents and uncles houses that are solidly middle-to-upper-class, to home. Which is home. With all of it's familiarity and comfort and simpleness and faucets that don't work and parents who are human and little sibs who want to lounge on her and play with her. It is good to have her here. Flower says at every prayer, "Thank-you, God, for bringing KB back and please bring R back too."

I have been thinking a lot about Courage today. Every day courage. The courage that it takes to live and live well. Like Mel says in Braveheart, "Every man dies, not every man really lives." One of my proverbs is that "Life is never what you expect." It's always more expensive, more mundance, more difficult. Our husbands and in-laws and kids and selves are not what we thought they would or should be. It's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to give up. It's easy to just get by.

There is a lot in life that takes courage. Simple, every day courage. Bravely facing the day, when it is full of creditors calls, or sick children, or bad weather, illness, or a complicated marriage or just plain boredom. Dishes and laundry and mess. Courage. Every day courage is staying married when you find out your spouse is human, boring and disappointing. Every day courage is praying for that spouse, struggling together through the tough spots, being the iron that sharpens iron. How much easier not to be the sandpaper, to just play nice, to just get by! Every day courage is getting the dishes done and the dog doo cleaned up and the noses wiped. Like Verdi says on the Walton's, "They knew what to do and they did it. You can't get any better than that!"

This year we've done a lot of courageous things. We've said "good-bye" to Miss R as she boarded a plane to travel alone to the other end of the world. We've said "good-bye" to her again as she left for college, 15 hours away. We've suffered disappointments in ministry and left situations. We've courageously turned down jobs, that while they paid very well, were not what God had called us to. We've forced our children to learn and grow and stretch. We've continued to see the art in each other, when circumstances, or illness, or age have really caused us to be uglified. Some days have been harder than others. This past spring we suffered a disapointment that if it had worked out,would have put all of the jabs and jeers and mocking to shame. It didn't work out. I was sorely discouraged. For awhile. But some friends and Viking Man shared the courage they had, prayed me up and I found some more.

Life is never what you expect, for sure. Reading the history of this great nation, the beginnings of it, along with the beginnings of the Bible, we have been meeting lots of courageous people. They stood up to tryanny and godlessness, envisioned a new way of thinking and believing, held fast to God and each other, depstie all of the uglifying that happens as you live courageously. Being people of the Word has it's advantages. We get to know each other, despite the limitations of time and space, through the pages of a book. It's an honor to meet these dear hearts who let freedom ring long ago. Can't wait to meet them personally on the other side!

And I am grateful.
12. My in-laws generously gifted us a gently used mini-van; it has working windows! and A.C. and lots of other fun and frivolous features. The littles are in awe. We are so blessed!

13. My bil and sil gifted us with gently used kitchen cabinets and counter top! We set in one of the base counters and doubled our counter top space. Our old counters are 6" below standard height - it's hard on the old back when you are tall. Woohoo!
14. KB is home. Older (18 now!) and wiser and more directed.

15. We were able to see Miss. R this week-end. Her school was closed for the week due to Ike and she spent the week at G'mas, and made the trip so we could have lunch with her.

16. For homeschooling. To have time to teach my children. It is such a gift.

17. For our garden. Today we harvested a counter top full of green peppers, cukes, tomatoes, green beans, basil, mint, parsly, carrots.

18. For our library of children's books. For the creativity and talent and giftedness of so many authors.

19. For our kittens who are snuggly and friendly and fun.

20. For our pooch, whom we love depsite her dog-like qualities.

21. For our good friends in TN, who KB was able to spend 2 week-ends with. For the family of God, who are truly family.

22. For the vibrancy and color and warmth and coolness of fall.

23. For the good folks at Veritas Press and the wonderful Omnibus curriculum.

24. For the scholarship that was gifted to Miss. R. Full-ride, 4-years.

25. For my marriage and my husband; good, bad and ugly. He is still THE Man for me and I'm still his woman.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

1000 Gifts of Gratitude

1000 Gifts. To find out more about joining the "Gratitude Community," go to Ann Voskamps blog, "Holy Experience." You will be blessed (link in my blogroll).

1. My old farmhouse, full of charm and dust.
2. My old man (not that old, but I'm in to symmetry) full of wit and wisdom.
3. My young children (which all of them are; it's all relative, dontcha' know) full of life, and hugs and questions and youth and enthusiasm and charm and artistry and grace.
4. Clean water, which I am drinking now.
5. Allergy medicine, which I am currently benefitting from.
6. Being part of the Family of God. Invited in by Him, held fast and firm by Him, guided and directed by Him.
7. Being part of my extended family. They are a gifted lot.
8. My education, both formal and informal. The gift of growing intellectually.
9. The joy of reading.
10. My loud and rambunctious 14 year old feche child who just shouted in my ear and leaned his warm, sun-baked self on my shoulder.

More to come, but laundry calls. O.k, one more.
11. a washer and dryer that work.

Stormy Weather

The world has experienced a bit of stormy weather of late. My sister and her family in South America are being evacuated because of impending civil war. Our cousin's family in TX had their house declared uninhabitable, Miss R's school in KY is closed for the week due to power outages and my bil in OH had to tell many clients that they lost a lot of money lately. Here in the Sunshine State life goes on as usual. The weather is autumn perfection and we are enjoying food from the garden daily, spending hours outside, knowing that too soon we'll be in for the long winter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


If you don't already read aloud to your kids on a daily basis I would encourage you to add it to your daily routines. You would be amazed at the people you meet, the ideas that you will consider and the terrific conversations that you will have with your kids. We've read outloud daily (well, almost) for years and for hours at a time. It has been time well spent. Our kids know good literature, understand the craft of language and have been introduced to all manner of people, places and events as a result.

Our current read-aloud is Benjamin West and his cat Grimilkin by Marguarite Henry. Like all of Henry's books it is a 2-thumbs up, engaging and full of vivid characters. She captures the time period of colonial America with it's hard work, simplicity and strict adherence to morays and rules. (Already, Cub has renamed Butterfly, his kitten, Grimilkin in honor). The Wests were Quakers and considered pictures worldly, Benjamin, however, longs to draw and paint. Indian friends teach him to make colors with found items such as clay, bark and nuts and a new world opens for Benjamin as he adds colors to his sketches. It is a wonderful book of a child's longing, and a God given call manifesting itself despite circumstances. West goes on to be the court painter for King George III, becomes president of the Royal Academy of Painters and is considered the Father of American Painting. Isn't it odd how God placed Benjamin, with all of his talents and longings, into a family that wouldn't naturally approve? I wonder at this. It will be a lit/theology question for the kiddos today.

This past Sunday our pastor gave a sermon on the responsibilities of Freedom. If I was more of a techno head I would tell you to go find it, here, but I'm not at this point so you'll have to go to http://www.churchatthegate.com/ to listen to or read it. I've heard a lot of people say that they won't vote this year because of "poor choices," to which I say, "Fie!" Those in conservative camps have been spoiled these past 8 years by a President who truly embraces evangelical values and causes, who prays to a living God and is courageous enough and transparent enought to quote Scripture on international T.V. Now, it's back to business as usual. Squandering a vote is squandering freedom in my not so humble opinion. Freedom that has been, on so many different levels, a rare and precious commodity throughout the history of the world.
Later in the day Cub said excitedly, "hey, our country has 3 Fathers! George Washington is the Father of our Country, Benjamin Rush is the Father of American Medicine and Benjamin West is the Father of American Painting!" Last week he stated that the "Story of the World" was the cheat code of history. Could it be that we've raised yet another history geek?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


For geography this year we are studying the U.S. Each of the kids has a notebook and we are doing 2 states a week. For each region the kids are filling out a chart with the 5 fundamental themes of geography: State name and nickname; location; place; people and environment, movement, and regions. It actually took some time to look up the answers and consider what was most important. Cub had to concentrate to fit everything neatly into the spaces and spell correctly, but in the end I think that it will be something he'll be proud of. I am also printing off blackline outlines of each state and they are having to add geographic features. It was a fun way to start the day.

We started with the North Atlantic states. Sure brought back memories! Camping in NH with the Sr.Girls. Standing on the coast of Maine with Viking Man, awed by the wild majesty of it! Eating lobster at "The Place" in CT, $4 per, eaten at picnic benches, served with corn-on-the-cob and cheesecake. The week-end mini-trip we took to the Berkshires, staying at a lovely Bed and Break and paying for everything with dollar bills (waitressing tips!). Tanglewood with Mike and Beth, exploring Boston with Jan when we visited her at

Harvard. New England is a lovely place! Lots of good memories and good friends from there, and of course, we came away with Miss. R!

The G Force

Stephen Covey, I believe, states that when you parent you aren't just raising kids, you are raising grandkids; a profound insight imho. My own Grandparents lived in a time when children were seen and not heard, suffered profound dissapointments, struggled through the Depression, endured hardships and lived without a lot of the comforts that we consider "normal." Yet they lived well and influenced me greatly.

My paternal grandparents were German Brethran. They were simple, hardworking, intelligent, fastidious. There lives were ordered, a little boring, pleasant and good. They farmed mint for Wrigley's gum, various other crops and hogs, which I was terrified of. My grandma was a fastidious housekeeper and cooking was her craft. She was known for miles around and certainly in my mind as cook extrodanaire; homemade egg noodles, mashed potatoes, homegrown corn, and green beans were staples at every supper. 4 kinds of pies, rhubarb, apple, peach, as well as cookies and crumbles were de riguer. There were pickled beets and eggs, thick slabs of fresh tomatoes with a dusting of pepper, fresh apples, popcorn balls, canned peaches, and always fresh, cold well water. Board games as well as croquet were regular extended family events when we visited and grandma always beat everyone by a mile or more. Competition was fostered and encouraged; if there were a world Chineese Checker championship, my family members would be title holders. My Grandpa farmed until well into his 60's and had the strength of a man that had done physical labor all of his life. Hugs were life threatening, though well-intentioned. He followed the financial news and weather like his life depending on it- which it did. No debt was a mantra and while they lived simply, they lived well. From them I learned the value of good cooking, good housekeeping, good living, hard-work and simplicity.

My maternal grandparents married as a legal contract and ended up staying together for over 40 years. My Grandpa was old by the time my sisters and I came along- his only grandkids. He had amazing long white hair, ate the same lunch every day (a small piece of turkey, green beans, peaches and for dessert ice-cream.) He called Grandma "Momma" and had long since retired, while she, 20 years his junior, worked in the accouting office of GTE in a large city. Grandpa was kind and always pulled 1/2 dollars out of our ears but Grandma was the reason to visit. She was always knitting, loved shopping and Mexican coffee and going out to eat, watching movies, good music, plants, animals and especially her grandkids. She was and is at 92, beautiful, full of life and wisdom, quoting Shakespeare and calling us "dears" and "darlings." The kitchen of their home, built by Grandpa years earlier was where everyone gathered to cook breakfast, scoot cats off of our laps, practice knitting and comment passionately on the news (I can still hear Grandpa shouting, "Those damn shanty Irish Catholics" - keep in mind he was one himself) and then go off on a tirad about the corruption that Daley kept alive and well in the Windy City. From them I learned that life is as good as you want it to be, that it is never what you expect but ya gotta roll with it and that filling your life with good things like animals and people and ideas and handi-work enriches it to the point of joy.

I've been blessed. I am grateful for the influence of these people, who have loved and taught me well.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creating Time

I am asked occaisionally, and at times frequently, how we "get it all done." This is an odd question because we only get done what we do. And besides that, we don't. That being said, we have accomplished some things; 23 years of marriage and we still like each other, 5 kids and 5 graduate degrees between us, homeschooling, cooking, gardening, canning, "projects," the acerage, Bible Study and Viking Man actually holds down a few jobs in between all of that.
Years ago I became a Stephen Covey convert. David was treated by the U.S.A.F. during his stint to a series of seminars by the Covey Institute and as a result we became day-timer lifers. I love his book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," as well as others, because, honestly, I want to be one. I want to be an effective wife, mom and person. It's a short life, is it not? (for those readers under 40 years of age, there is a right answer). I want to get to the end of the Day knowing that I've left a living legacy. I am pretty clear at this point what it is I'm called to do. For instance, as much work as a good marriage is, I mean we are both so irritating and all, Viking Man and I want to be sitting on the porch together when we're old and grey. I do hope he has some new jokes by then, but I'm not holding my breath. And as an aside if I ever die of "unknown causes" you can be assured that I was punned to death -more difficult to trace than arsnic but just as deadly! and btw, I am SURE that there is NO PUNNING IN HEAVEN.

But I digress. A lot of how we seem to get so much done has everything to do with what we do as well as what we don't do. For instance we don't watch T.V. We found several years ago that it was a time stealer (though now, if you ask for the theory behind the practice, I will direct you to Neil Postman's excellent book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death.") We do watch movies and have many favorites; but we aren't spending the precious commodity of our lives suffering through mindless, inappropriate commercials and we can always push, "Pause" pick it up later, fast forward, or simply, "OFF." For some reason, it's just not as easy to get caught up in the mesmerizing hypnotic thang as it is when your watching a T.V. show.

We are also very hard workers. Both Viking Man and I were raised by first borns. Nuff'' said, we get the work ethic thing. And while I'm not sure that our kids actually enjoy hard work (not sure I always do either) they certainly know how to work hard. They work hard alongside of us, contributing to the work of our hands. When I can, they can. When we work in the "yard" (10 acres) they work in the yard. You get the picture. Boredom and idleness are not readily tolerated at the Gracious Heart Homestead. Those who are can always wash dishes, mow, clean the car, hack weeds, chop wood, clean the attic...you get the idea. Parellel to this we allow our kids vast amounts of free time to wander, read and wonder.

We employ help. We hire Tutors. It's hard to imagine on our budget but it's true. Latin and Math, some Memory work and History are taught to my children via CD's, DVD's and computer programs. $30, or even $169 (for anyone considering IEW's TWSS and sitting on the fence) for a DVD that will teach my child a school subject for a year is money well spent in my economy. 30 weeks of 3 lessons a week = 90 lessons divided into whatever- what a bargain! Co-ops, too, are time well spent because my friend Melissa will read poetry to my littles while I teach the middles and while our middles are learning about trope and metaphor and simile our littles are memorizing "OOey, GOoey" and reveling in the joy of language. I've just doubled my time.

We have invested in quality tools when we can. My fav kitchen appliance is a Bosch mixer/blender. When you are feeding between 5-7 people three meals a day someone is cooking a lot. Having good tools makes it less like drudgery. Viking Man has quite a few power tools (though not as many as he'd like I'm sure) but the hours that he's used them to fix and build and create have enriched our lives so much.

We try to feed our minds and spirits as well as our bodies. Visitors who come to our home notice that we decorate in bibliostyle. There are books, magazines, CD's, DVD's, teaching tapes, drawing books and notebooks in every room of the house. We all have various intersts and we nurture those in each other. Miss R is passionate about Eastern Europe and as a result we all have friends and aquaintances there, the littles know a few words in Romanian, we know history, people groups and folklore. KB is the Tea-Party queen. As a result we all know what a good pot of tea both looks and tastes like, and are in love with the ritual of it all. Viking Man is a "Bible-freak" (term coined by Cub) and we all know history, dates, places, that we wouldn't have discovered on our own. We wouldn't have even known it was to be discovered. As we nurture each other's interests and passions our own lives are enriched and become fuller and we double our time.

Visitors might also notice another thing...we decorate in "weliveherestye." We clean up twice a day and if you miss a 45 minute window directly after that time you'll find that the accrouterments of actual living are to be found. We have a home. It's a crazy quilt home. Nothing matches, most of the furnishing have been gifted or thrifted, there are hand marks on the walls, scraps of paper on the floor, but it's a warm and inviting place, if I do say so myself. It is full of kids and wholesome food, and clean humor (puns don't count as clean or humor btw), and animals (though not as many as everyone but me would like), and plants and books and friendship. We get a lot of other things done by not obssesing about the unimportant (though I'm sure my kids would say I stress way to much about how clean our house is. If only they knew me before..)

We stay focused. Well, mostly. The rockiest bumps of late have been when we haven't. When we get confused or distracted, befuddled or bewildered. We've done some crazy things (at least that's what we've been told) and when you take risks there is always the possiblity that you'll, how shall I say this delicately... fail. Whatever that means. Honestly, what it means, is that we tried. Those who don't try, don't fail. So, I'm giving myself and the good Doc lots of brownie points for that. When we stay clear about who we are, what we are doing, where we are going, it falls into place. We get a lot done.

And lastly, we live seasonally. Last year we had 7 people at home. It was a lot of work just from a laundry and dishes perspective. But this summer we were down to 5 - the cooking and laundry and dish washing was a snap! This fall we've picked and picked and picked and picked apples. We've canned, dried and frozen apples. But that will end soon and we'll be into a different season of eating apples. Where we were at 10 or 20 years ago is so totally and completely different than where we are now or where we will be. So we try to give ourselves and each other grace. We don't have to do everything at once. We don't even have to do everything. Getting a lot done is a matter of getting done what you are called and responsible for getting done.

And on that note, it's Sunday and what we get done on Sundays is to eat popcorn together. Wish you were here Miss R (cause you know I'd ask you to make it! but mainly cause we miss you bunches!!).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Seekers, Repenters, and Love, Ann Voskamp's latest blog post over at "Holy Experience" left me in tears.
My son is studying Polycarp, who courageously stood and counted it an honor to die for Christ. I read to the littles the story of the Pilgrims and their brave words to give up everything that the fire that burned within might flame and carry it's warmth to a new land. I hear my oldest testify to God's power to wipe away fear as He calls her to a life of missionary work. And I weep. My friend, whom I love, is so lost. Like Ann says in her post I think I know what they are feeling, their thoughts, their hopes. But, I'm sure I don't. They describe thier self as a "radical liberal," and consorts with thoughts and experiences that I laugh and cringe and cry about. Knowing that I too am a fallen soldieress in the great battle. That I have succumbed to temptation, despair, grief, hurt and sin. Faith bears up. My great hope is that in the end I will be standing. That my friend will be standing. That love will conquer. Love will win. And my little bit of love and His great immense love will draw us in and we will Live. L'Chaim.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


A fun web-site to check out. Lots of downloads: http://www.homeschoolfreebieoftheday.com/

I am a visionary. It's true. I am always looking beyond at what's next. This has oftentimes interferred with what's in front of, but hey, every gift has a dark side. I'm also a planner and a goal setter, usually. I haven't really set goals for about a year. I think it's because I got rilly, rilly, burnt out finishing the M.F.T. degree, homeschooling, raising kids and staying married. Something had to give. Fortunately, the degree ended (i.e. I graduated). Someone asked recently what things I want to learn and do and it got me thinking....well, a lot.

1. I want to learn Latin. I really, really do. I want to get over feeling intimidated by it and dive in instead of standing on the edge just getting my toes wet.

2. I want to knit better. I'm a good intermediate knitter and I have knit sweaters but it's still too much like work. Gram can knit, cook and talk on the phone all the while holding a cat in her lap. I want to be that good. Hmm... maybe I just want to be like Gram. I love my Gram- she rocks big time!

3. I would love to work p.t. as a paid therapist (I have the degree, but not the license and it's hard to get a job or clients with that combo).

4. I want to write books. I want to be a published author.

5. I want to grow a higher percentage of our food.

6. I want to lose a ton of weight and be in good shape again (I trashed my hip and knee in February and it's still not right).

7. I want to live in Israel for 6 mths to a year.

Not quite a goal list, but close enough for now- I am still not that far removed from finishing that darn degree!

And on my fav homeschooling site the question was recently posed; "What motivates you to continue to homeschool?" This month starts the beginning of our 18th year of homeschooling. We've homeschooled 5 kids in 4 different states using so much curriculum it's not even funny. I have it pared down to the best and sold the rest so it's all good, right? Having spoken to groups for years about the importance of vision (who we are), mission (what we do) and goals (how we get it done) (with a nod to Dr. Dave -also known as Viking Man-for his brilliant distillation of the terms) -it all boils down to this for me; I continue to homeschool because of my older kids.

They are so cool. They are smart. They are funny. That are full of adventure. They are adrenalin junkies (and I'll be happy to blame their Dad for that gene pool addition!). They are autodidacts. They are thoughtful. They are compassionate. They are deep. They are Godly. They are creative. They are writers. They are thinkers. They are servants. They are leaders. They are loving. They are kind. They are beautiful.

Aren't they lovely? Both doing their fav things- R in Romania (crown of flowers created with gypsy friends) and KB hosting a tea party. Homeschooling has afforded them time "to be," given them the quiet to hear His still small voice, afforded them the choice to be who God created them to be. Homeschooling has been a huge gift to our family, to our kids, to me. A tool in our hands. And with it, God has helped us to craft some amazing young women.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Little Wins

1. This week I successfully made home-made yogurt. It is delicious, smooth, creamy and just thick enough.

2. I found a canning recipe for Bruschetta, made and canned several pints with produce from the garden. It won't be perfectly fresh but it will still be a taste of summer during the cold winter here.

3. Brought in a colander (or more) of produce from the garden daily, cukes, zuchhinis, tomatoes, green beans, basil, parsley, little handfuls of raspberries and a pumpkin.

4. Started school this week with the kids. Their ability to memorize the weeks work is dramatically improved from this time last year. They are just breathing it in.

5. Memorized another poem from IEW's "Language Aquisition Through Poetry," "Swinging Time" by Robert Louis Stevenson.
6. The small homeschool co-op we are in started last Friday. The kids loved it. The big wins were the Logos "Grammar of Poetry" and "Drawing Textbook" for the Jr. Highers (I'm teaching both-fun, fun, fun).
7. Learned more about blogging and joined TWTM blog ring.
8. Talked to both R and KB for long periods of time by phone. It will be great to have KB home in 2 weeks. R sounds challenged and is fighting a head cold. Whenever I talk with her I miss her (can I justify my lamness about actually calling her by this-as in, I don't call her cause then I'll miss her? - or do I have to admit that I'm just not a phone person; an accusation that first asserted itself when I was 8 years old and my g'ma complained to my mom about how I had nothing to say on the phone? - Gram IS the ultimate phone person and at 92 still talkative as ever- now that I think about it, she did work for GTE for forever!).
9. Our summer birthday season is officially over. Feche boy starts it and Viking Man finishes it off with KB and I in the middle. Both my sis's are in there too along with parental anniversaries. Feche boy had a good party with a small group of boys who played "Capture the Flag, H2O fights, Stratego, and Legos- they also chose to watch Disney's "Mulan" (I had to chuckle at that one- a group of 13-14 yo boys, but they all said it was a great flick!), KB was in TN. We sent her a "birthday in a box" FULL of stuff from the dollar store and the other girls at Above Rubies really celebrated with her. She got lots of emails, cards and gifts from others so I think it was a rock out 18th bday!

10. Wildlife spottings: On today's walk to the river with Viking Man and the kids we discovered that our local friendly beaver is daming up the water just past the bridge, complete with mud, grass and trees. It's pretty cool. We saw a skunk coming home last night just past the RR tracks and Viking Man has been having deer run in front of the car this past couple of weeks driving home on Mitchell, he also saw an otter in the small pond at the end of our road. The Canadian geese are gathering and we've seen blue heron and hawks. I saw a small owl last week coming home from Mitchell and Cub saw a bald eagle several days ago.

11. I made dill pickles from our cukes. They are wonderful and tart and full of vinegar!

12. Living with the fam. The kids are so FULL of things to share. Cub entertained us for a full 15 min at dinner tonight with a dramatic recitation of an animated commercial he had seen (keep in mind, he hasn't even seen the actual movie!) Still- it was too funny. Flower drew a beautful picture of Columbus' three ships, complete with horizon line! Feche boy came in the kitchen this morning and thanked me for all the canning I'd been doing- how cool is that? My family rocks.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Others May, You Cannot

From our friend Csaba Borsazi's blog: http://4given2serve.wordpress.com/

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be able to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which he will not let you do.
Other Christians who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed at making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, becaue He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him , that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day-by-day out of an unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward and keep you hidden away in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes back.
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an Infinitely Sovereign Being and has the right to do as He pleases with His own; He may not explain to you a thousand things that puzzle your reason in His dealings with you, but if you absolutely sell yourslef to be His love slave, He will wrap you in a jealous love and bestow upon you many blessings that come only to those who are in the inner circle.
Settle it forever then that you are to deal direcly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the Living God that your secret heart becomes pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the entrance hall of heaven.
By G.D. Watson (1845-1924)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Classical Ed & the Church

I am a classical educator. I get it. I love it. It makes sense to me when so much of my own education didn't. It is how I am homeschooling our children and how I wish I'd truly educated our older kids. Live and learn - and I am, to quote the book title, "Learning All the Time." For those of you unaquainted with classical education I'll give ya the 30 second run-down. There are 3 stages of this model known as "the Trivium" - the 3 paths; the grammar stage (early childhood) consists of memorizing the vocabulary of whatever one is studying. The dialectic stage (Jr. High) consists of learning the rules of logic and aurgument (hey, kids this age are going to argue anyway, might as well teach them how to do it well!) and the Rhetoric stage (High School and beyond) consists of writing and speaking clearly and articulatly about a chosen subject.
As a 21rst century American Christian I am struck by how much of the church is stuck in the grammar stage of thier faith. Sure, we know some cool Bible stories and characters like when Daniel survived the lions den or when Jesus fed 5000 people. We know some major events like getting kicked out of the garden, the Flood, Christmas and Easter stuff. But that's as far as many of us go. We like knowing some facts, we have a little scripture memorized but few of us have wrestled with the nitty gritty of living our faith. When it gets tough and we question and are in pain over where God has left us, when life has thrown us a curve ball that really makes us shout at Him, the Creator of the Universe and we are trying to make sense (logic) of it all, I've noticed that not many in the church stick by their bros. We are on our own. And it's at this point that a lot of potentially powerhouse believers abandon the faith. Because the American Christian church lives by an unwritten rule of "have it all figured out." This rule might even be more important than, "look really good."
And I've noticed a trend. In the conservative homeschooling circles we've seen how familes have almost forbidden their children to wrestle with their faith. They have taken the grammar stage to an almost perverse level in order to make the faith "stick." For instance, we now of many families that go to world view weekends like they might go to a favorite fast food restaurant. They take their kids over and over, they go in groups, they spend a fortune on it. And yet, in many of these familes we've noticed that lived holiness takes a backseat. I'm left scratching my head wondering what the point of having a "world view" is when one is addicted to NFL or lies in order to get where they are convinced God has called them to go.
For many in the Christian church the logic stage means completely abandoning the faith or God. If, after one has really wrestled with and argued with the God of thier fathers and comes to decide upon a different expression of worship or "church" it is often seen by others as backsliding. They are treated condescendingly.To really struggle with God as a Person with whom one is in relationship with entails wrestling, as Jacob did. Those of us who do frequently bear the marks of being touched by Him. And this makes us more compelling as well as more repulsive to others in the church; in other words, lonlier.
Those who reach the Rhetoric stage in the faith are few and far between, for instance Billy Graham or Chuck Swindoll. Knowing someone personally who can actually read, write, speak, and live the Gospel is a rariety indeed. And of course, we might have a rhetoric level of understanding in certain areas such as giving or serving and be stuck in the grammar stage when it comes to worshipping graven images (think T.V.). I've been blessed to know a few real people who can Speak the Word. I'm hoping to be one of them before my days are done.
By Knowledge a house if built (grammar); by Understanding it is established (logic); by Wisdom it is filled with all pleasant and precious riches." Proverbs: 24: 3-4

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Canning, Curriculum & Growing Old

This week I've canned. A lot. It's a good feeling when it's all said and done and a hot and tiring one in the midst of it all. So far we have applesauce, apple butter, rhubarb and strawberry jam, jalapeno pepper jelly, apple/chocolate mint jelly, plum sauce, salsa, bruschetta. In the freezer is pesto, corn, shredded carrots and zucchini and green beans. I've also dried camomile, chocolate mint, parsly and basil. Next up are pickles and I'm experimenting with making rhubarb leather. I don't have high hopes. Rhubarb is still rhubarb no matter what you do to it.
Today was Day 2 of school. I had Cub start on IEW's Student Writing Intensive "A." He loved the video but broke down when it came to writing sentences from his key word outlines. We'll pick it up tomorow and keep going. I love IEW and I deeply appreciate Andrew Pudewa. Andrew Pudewa is one of my mentors in life. He has mentored me in writing, classical education and teaching children. I love their catalog. I love working for them. They are a quality company with quality people and quality products. If you don't know about IEW and want to know more about writing , thinking or teaching, check them out at www.excellenceinwriting.com.

The littles are loving Leigh Lowes' Prima Latina as well as "Drive Through American History." A friend gave us a copy (thank-you Cyndi-you rock!) and it is a hoot! Quirky and fun with lots of history- my kinda of curriculum!

Viking Man and I were talking last night about a young friend who just got married at 22. Same age as we were. Wow. Seems so darn young! We started reflecting on how glad we both were to not be 22 anymore!! But D asked me, "What advice would the "you" now give to the "you" back then. We both thought about it for a long time. The two pieces of advice that we both agreed on, "Draw closer to God and seek after Him more passionatly," and "Don't take people/situations/things so seriously" - be more light hearted. A lot of the rest of it we had to live and grow through so I'm not sure how far advice would have taken us. We still talk to friends that we knew back in the day and it is nice to know that people saw/see the art in us, no matter how young, old, foolish or wise. I guess I'm old enough now to be considered the "wife of my husband's youth" though I must admit he looks an awful darn more youthful than I do-
lucky me !!