Friday, April 30, 2010

I Stand

You stood before creation
Eternity in your hand
you spoke all life into motion
my soul now to stand.

Decades ago, newly born and fresh from salvation, standing because of Him, I dreamed.
Hot fetid breath. I stood and faced a closed door. Blasted open by evil, in my fervor I pursued and the enemy laughed. Blew at me with hate and mockery. I tried to stand. Willed myself. The heat and torment and strength overwhelmed me. I was a baby in the face of an Ancient One, well versed in destruction.
Remember Jimi? How you woke up Sue and prayed for me, even though you were in a different building and it was in the middle of the night? The Spirit of the Living God advocating for me. I was terrified. Too afraid to wake up and consumed by the reality I was dreaming. I was knocked down. Flattened. Mocked.

You stood before my failure
Carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon your shoulder
My soul now to stand.

Time has passed. People have passed. Dreams have passed. Life is a vapor. I grow old.
I grieve at all that I've lost and feel guilt about that too because there is still so much.
I stand in church and sing songs that are beautiful and mouth words that sound simple and are sung fervently all around me.
"My soul Lord to you surrendered, All I have is yours. All I am is yours."
And yet I feel weary, tired, bleak and bleary.
Worn from the race. Used and shriveled up. Victorious saints all around me look and sound good, tanned and svelte, doing enough to serve and never showing signs of wear and tear, beautiful and victorious, monied and privileged.Clear about purpose. Just fine.

But I am coming apart at the seams. Body fails and doesn't obey and is worn and aged, even though technically not, and fatigued.
And apathetic.
Worn out from disappointments and balancing all that I have with all that I'd hoped and all that won't manifest.
Tired of tears and grieving and giving and giving up.
Tired, do you hear? Could we just pause for a minute and S.I.T.?

"All that I have, All that I am is yours."
Well, yeah, except all that you've taken. I mean, really, could ya slow down a bit?
I'm having a hard time keeping up with the toll demanded, extracted, expected.
I mean, I sing those words, but really, I'd like to choose more what it is you'll have, what of me you'll want.
Choked on tears of gratitude that He would have me still and aware of failure and guilty about what I resent and don't want to be taken.
Failure, cause I don't truly mean what I sing.
Cause I want to want to offer this heart, all that I am, completely to Him. But I am frail.
I am weak and rely heavily on certain things to be o.k.
Don't take my kids. Don't take my legs, or my breathe, or my house or my stuff or my money, or my future. Just take the extra. The disposable income. The disposable beauty. The disposable brain cells.
Cause I'm feeling a little desperate to hang on to what little it looks like I have left.

Self, hopes, dreams, relationships, things. Muddled, befuddled. I feel hot dry fetid breath blowing towards me still. The enemy prowls. Apathy blinds, but a wise woman sees and reminds me that the battle is raging, that the good God calls into being the evil one seeks to destroy, will fight and rage against, will take out helpless bystanders in the process and leave them burned to a crisp at the wayside; collateral damage.

I have nothing but what's been given. Which, o.k. I knew that already. But I get so complacent, thinking what I have is really my own. The deception of "mine" is seductive.
I walk in His saving Grace, despite myself. I stand, only because I've been given the courage, the will, the weapons to do so.

I'll walk upon salvation.
Your spirit alive in me.
This life to declare your promise
My soul now to stand.

His spirit, even when mine feels hollow and wilted and burned by intensity. Him. He fights for me. The battle is raging. I hear the weapons clashing, I feel the hit against my breastplate of righteousness.
Are my deeds enough for you, Lord? Is my hope enough?

So what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart O God,
completely to you.

My faith is in Him, the One True, Living God. Not a God of wood and stone.
Breathing, live, living, Creator, Master of the Universe. El-Shaddai. Righteousness. You are my shield.
The fiery darts of the wicked one come in a flurry and come in apathy.
Be my protector.
That I may be able to withstand in the evil days and having done all, to stand.

"The Stand", Hillsong United.
Ephesians 6: 10-13

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Modern Day Saints

I am honored to know people, irl, who sacrifice and serve those that they love on a daily basis.
My Gram, Dorothy at 93, is the care-taker of her long-time friend, Walter. She manages his catheter each and every day, stays by his side, reads to him, comforts him, cooks for him, loves him in basic and necessary ways.
My bil-Doug. He married my sister, knowing that she had MS, had babies with her, knowing that the docs said, "don't," supported and loved her for over 2 decades. Moved to a one story when stairs became to difficult for her, cared for her during exacerbation's that left her unable to walk and see and speak and do, and celebrated with her when she was able to move and speak and see and do.
My friend Michelle, who lovingly takes care of her dear husband who is disabled, even though he is still young and they "should" have time and freedom and movement and options. She cares for him each and every day in personal and intimate ways, feeds and cooks and nurtures him, has a great attitude, a great faith, a ready laugh and a ready testimony about God's goodness and love.
Circumstances differ but each of these people show a tenacity of spirit that goes beyond the ordinary. Gram, Doug and Michelle show committment to people whose bodies have failed them, loooking for and finding the art in them. They persevere and serve and love with a generosity of spirit that humbles me and makes me proud to call each of them friend.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Well Stained Mind

WTM aficionados are familiar with variations on a theme. There is The Well Drained Mind, the Well Trained Runner, etc. My contribution: The Well Stained Mind. I actually like the thought of a "well stained mind" as both an educator and as a Christian. To stain something means to have it soak in and become part of the fabric of its being. Vacuum, Wax-on, wax-off, stack, dry. KB, Feche-boy and I spent a day and a half staining several hundred yards of wood trim for the house last week.
Clamp forest, holding together our kitchen cupboards.

The basement, almost ready for insulation and dry-wall. The big iron box thingy on the left is the wood furnace, original to the house, that will soon be dispensed with.

The basement egress window, newly cut out of the wall, looking from laundry room.

The front yard is deeply rutted and uneven due to the 11 fire-trucks that parked in it. We took some of the dirt from the egress window well to start filling them in.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gladwell Fest

Was so intrigued by Gladwell's Outliers that I picked up both Blink and The Tipping Point.
The Tipping Point is a look at trends that go from mild to wild. What causes an epidemic? Gladwell (at right) starts with a look at the viral world of common flu, HIV and jumps seamlessly into discussions about what causes a Hush Puppie resurgence or makes a litte ol' boring program like Blues Clues wildly successful. He talks about the personality types that start and fuel trends, Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen, discusses the stickiness factor (what makes things memorable), and, once again, focuses on The Power of Context. The case studies were fascinating, and his analysis of social change thought provoking. I especially enjoyed the case studies of Paul Revere's Ride and The Rise and Fall of New York Cities Crime.
Note: to those working to be agents of change: "(Wesley) realized that if you wanted to bring about a fundamental change in people's belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you needed to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured." Seems like no man is an island. Context rules for Gladwell.
Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking." This book was about "thin-slicing," which "refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of is part of what makes the unconscious dazzling." Simply put, it is about how we size up situations, things and people in a blink of an eye; "spontaneity isn't random." Gladwell touches on the "10,000 hours to expert status" information, but really camps on how what we know informs and determines our lives. Again, his case studies are fascinating and varied, ranging from sports and marriage to the military.

One of the case studies was on Paul Van Riper's win against the Blue Team during the most expensive war game to date. Blue Team had every advantage, computers, experts, analytic equipment, etc. yet they lost to Ripper, who relied on out-dated technology and communication systems like bike couriers. Ripper explains, "They were so focused on the mechanics and the process that they never looked at the problem holistically. In the act of tearing something apart, you lose its meaning." Wise words for those of us living in a post-modern world.

Blink is also the title of a book written by Ted Dekker, which addresses pre-destination and determinism. Dekker approaches the theme of thin-slicing through fiction in the context of one's faith while Gladwell uses cutting edge neuro-science and psychology to take a look at the same mesmerizing theme from a societal pov.

Gladwell was recently quoted in a message board, his work used as proof of the argument that we are determined by context. Life is full of the unexpected, God working in mysterious ways, the captive freed. I enjoy social psychology but think that it too must be put in context. It's one tool, not a bible. Useful and informative in a world full of the unexpected.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Simple Goodness

Good Views
Jerusalem Alive. Live worship with Paul Wilbur from the land of Israel. We've been watching this for a decade. It is beautiful worship. Beautiful. Bless yourself and watch it.
"Super Sheep" - Ken Davis, communicator extraordinaire, speaks truth. His comedic timing is brilliant.
"The Other Side of Heaven" - a great Disney movie, based on a true story about a Mormon missionary. Good storytelling, good acting, good plot. If you don't have a heart for missions or the world, watch this.
"Billy, The Early Years" - an interesting take on Billy Graham's early adulthood and ministry. His commitment to the innerancy of the Bible, friendship and Jesus Christ shine. Billy Graham is, imho, one of our generations saints. This movie ended too soon.

Good Deals
Garage sale season has officially begun and we scored a pair of beautiful brass lamps today, shades and light bulbs included, along with super cool tennis shoes for Flower and shorts for Cub. Good thing, too, cause the notsolittles were still clomping around in snow shoes. We're now in "replace summer stuff" mode. We also hit a moving sale last week and found some easy chairs and a fire pit and deck chairs.

Good Food
Salad. Our speciality. Cause we lived in Southern California where salad is a meal, baby, and that's one thing (besides a couple degrees and extra kids) that we took away with us. Herbal salad mix, fresh cilantro, carrots, tomatoes, sauteed chicken with marinated mushrooms and pecans, topped with fresh Parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette. Summer on a plate. Which we ate outside at the fire pit, in our lovely deck chairs. The sun was shining. The salad was delish. Life is good.
2-4-1 Coffee at Caribou (I love having kids who treat = ). Mint Snowdrift. Yowza.
And Green Tea with Lemon Grass, bought in bulk and iced. Health with fragrance. I love Lemon Grass, it's lovely enough to make the Green part of the tea actually good.

Good Fun
Took a walk with Viking Man and KB around the park today. We've walked for miles together over the years (literally, it's always something we've done together). But since I hurt my knee, I haven't been able to walk. But today I walked and was still walking at the end of the day. Praise God!

Good Garden
We planned the garden and are going to go simple this year, but still get some basics in the ground. KB and I plan to plant today, while Viking Man spreads more kilz around the place and the kids play, play, play.

Good Learning
The family gift to Viking Man for Christmas was Rosetta Stone Hebrew. He's been studying Hebrew on his own, and was making good progress, but this program is just so darn cool, and super great that he is walking around speaking in complete paragraphs to us. Last week he got Cub hooked on it, and this week he slyly got Flower and I roped in. Flower asked today to "play the Hebrew game again." It is just so darn cool. Feche Boy asked if he could drop Latin and start Hebrew, but my draconian tendencies kicked in and the answer is "No." He'll have to wait to finish Latin or do both at once.

Lots to give thanks for. A blessed Sabbath!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Certain Women

Madeline L'Engle's death in November 2008 was noted, mourned over and rejoiced about (we'll be hanging out with her on the other side at the writer's table). Her books are those that have been read and re-read here, privately & out-loud, discussed, considered and woven into our thoughts, words and writings. She has certainly been an influence in our home and we've oft commented on and been grateful for her talent.

So, it was with anticipation that I picked up Certain Women.
The story is intriguing enough- a 20th century acting family whose life parallels that of King Davids, including multiple wives, multiple children, multiple mistakes. A great concept but this book and I just never hit a stride.
The dialog dragged and just when I was getting into the story there would be more of it, pulling me back and boring me. I felt impatient through much of the book. Still, there are very interesting character sketches; my favorite being Bahama and Grandpa Bowman. One, an educated West Coast Episcopalian; the other a self educated, backwoods, fire and brimstone, deeply loved Southern Baptist preacher. Discussions of faith are woven throughout the story as well as, of course, info about King David. I don't recommend starting with this book if you aren't yet a L'Engle fan yet. Start with the the obvious, A Wrinkle in Time, as it showcases L'Engle's vast and gifted ability to word craft in ways you wont soon forget, or be impatient with.
All of that being said, KB read the book just a few days before I did and loved it. It moved her to tears, she couldn't put it down and, I believe, is one of her favorite reads of the year. You can read her thoughts on it here:

Took a minute to look up Madeline's web-site and her granddaughter's first YA novel is soon to be released. You can read more about it here: The legacy continues.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

WW: Spring Things

This week was full of spring things, thunderstorms, flowers and time at the park.

School Work: the notsolittles did tons of worksheets at the beginning of the week: math, story problems, English, grammar, science, mazes, dot-2-dots. Listened to tons of CD's- SOTW Ancient World factored heavily. Flower used some of the large art paper and is apparently drawing along as she listens. This week featured of Ziggurats. It was interesting to see her drawing process; she drew a pyramid first and then made steps coming off the pyramid. She'd tried to draw a step pyramid but couldn't get the steps on either side to match that way.
Co-op: The older kids are doing a fascinating assignment where they draw the bared roots of a complex tree, add color, add hidden features, then use ink to outline. Each one was unique and intriguing and totally different than the others. The younger kids have been watching Melody Lane by Calvert, thanks to a homeschooling family hours a way that sent us a box of amazing curriculum after the fire. It is terrific. The fashions and dos scream 1980's, which if you're middle-aged like me, is a stroll down memory lane, as well as Melody Lane, the lessons are good and basic and memorable. The kids sing the songs throughout the rest of the day, watch with total concentration and beg for more. We've also been playing Math Bingo first thing (addition and subtraction) and they LOVE it! We moved into a new unit with IEW, critiquing, and the kids panicked a bit. We spent a good amount of time talking about the difference between a book report and a critique.
Field Trips: Went to our local Breadsmith, it was easy, familiar and simple but fun and the kids made their own loaves and ate them for lunch. Then on to a local university gallery to view Termaspheres (see previous post) with friends. The younger kids were more mesmerized by the very cool water-fall wall in the lobby than the actual exhibit, but the older kids were enthralled.
Life Work: We'll spend tomorrow at the acreage again, putting a second sealant coat in the basement and working in the yard. We also brought every last thing back from the cleaning company, so all of our possessions are at this house. The couple pieces of antique furniture that we saved scream refinish me as the water damage was extensive. The garage is a mumbo-jumbo assortment of odds and ends. Lots of sorting and pitching and fixing still to do.
Extras: FecheBoy has taken it upon himself to organize meeting regularly with other writing minded friends, inspired by the Inklings. He planned a nice thinking skills game and I think the kids are working on a story together. Pretty cool, eh?
Spring Time: Ate lunch at the park with a dear friend and talked and strolled and chatted and compared lives. Her kids have been in public school for the past 2 years and we shared curriculum ideas (she after & summer schools), took in the fragrant daffodils and tulips and mellow sun and budding trees and the warmth of friendship.

Thanks for all of the great CD suggestions from last week; I appreciate each one!
Hope your week was full of spring sunshine and spring joi de vive!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


We went to a fascinating art show today featuring a hanging gallery full of Termespheres. You can read more about them and see more of these fascinating globes here:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Just let the kids work it out for themselves..."

Bullied to Death: The Failure of Modern Moral Education There are two issues at stake in the rise of bullying of the type that drove Phoebe Prince to hang herself that reveal the “moral quality” of the forthcoming society: the brutality of those doing the bullying and the “cowardice of non compassion” by those who stood by and did nothing to help the victim. -- Michael Craven


Educational psychologists describe a new kind of bullying. The perpetrators are attractive, athletic and academically accomplished — and comfortable enough around adults to know what they can and can't get away with, in school and online.
If it's not low self-esteem, what causes the new bullying? "That's the $64,000 question," she says. "There are a lot of ideas":
Less play time in kindergarten and pre-school. In the past, children spent much of their time in programs playing with, and learning to get along with, other children. Now they spend much more time on academics and tests.
More electronic communication. If you can ask someone out and break up with them via text or instant messaging, you don't have to develop the social skills necessary for face-to-face encounters. This produces socially maladroit kids who are fodder for bullies.
TV and movies with the wrong message. A study by one of Englander's graduate students found that kids' entertainment programs so full of situations in which teenage meanness is rewarded that the project's parameters had to be adjusted.
Parental ignorance. This takes two forms: obliviousness to what their kids do online — in a survey of Bridgewater State students, half said their parents never supervised their online activity in high school — and a denial about bullying.

"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely." Galations 5:22 The Message

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Hello. My name is..."

Just read an inspiring post over at Robin's Nest: Robyn Chaddock is the author of several books, including a one I really, really like, titled "Discover Your Divine Assignment." are all about Vision here at the Gracious Heart Homestead & School and this book is a fine one for really nailing down what it is you are called and created for. I'm getting clarity on some projects, after my many months of burrowing, and went to her blog via web-site for some direction. This post is based on the infamous line from Princess Bride, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die." Her version: "My name is Robyn Chaddock. I am a writer. Prepare to read." I love it! I'm adopting it. Cause I'm a writer. Hopefully a good one, but regardless, I am. Somehow writing clarifies things for me. More importantly, it is an act of worship, as odd as that might sound. But I know friends like Zigrid and James who worship through art totally get what I mean, as does Ann has it on her side-bar. And I'm getting clear, clearer, clearest what to focus on and how.
We had a friend, years ago in seminary, who was a beauty. Long, wavy black hair, tall and assured. She was a striking figure and dressed well. She told people that she was a pastor, long before she was ever ordained, and certainly before she had graduated. I always thought it took some nerve on her part, declaring what wasn't even yet true, and often wondered if she stated it just for the effect. She hardly looked the part. But, she was clear about her purpose and vision, so she declared it. It's who she was. She knew it. It wasn't' so much bold, assured and courageous, just clear and succinct. She kept the goal in front of her; eyes on the prize. Which is just good, solid Christian living.
With that being said, I'd like to introduce myself,
"Hello, my name is Lisa. I am a writer. Prepare to read."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ode to Work

Our family is not adverse to hard work. For goodness sake, we've done enough of it; academically, we have an obscene amount of degrees between us; socially, we've invested in our church and community groups volunteering countless hours investing in the success of programs and people; physically, we've worked out for years (o.k. I haven't since I ruined my knee 2 years ago, but that is a source of worry, not rejoicing), as well as restoring our acreage; Familially- well, 5 kids is more than a few but we haven't just birthed them, we've raised, trained and mentored them.
This year has been a whole new ball game in the area of work. Our house burned, but it didn't burn down and we, along with many friends, acquaintances and some people we didn't even know, sorted, bagged, hauled and dumped tons of burned and smoked stuff. What was left was taken to a cleaning company, but we ended up doing much of the sorting and cleaning still and now we are left with an odd assortment of stuff, much of it junk really, that we still need to sort and throw, inventory (we're beyond insurance purposes now and are concerned with taxes) and piece together (like, where are the kids birth certificates cause KB needs a copy for her job). And hauling what's left back to the acreage, fixing or repairing what is worth salvaging and inventorying what needs to be replaced. It's been depressing, stressful, dirty, grievous. What I've really wanted wanted to do since about Oct. 30 is this:
Sit in a corner, put my fingers in my ears, close my eyes and sing really loudly LALALALA.
Cause I've been overwhelmed with responding.
Overwhelmed by kindness and people blessing us with their time, possessions, money and prayers. There are not enough Thank-you's to be said. And between moving from the house, to the retreat center, with a foray to Ohio, to the hotel, to the leased house, back and forth between the cleaning company, much has been mis-placed, included the list of thank-you's to be sent, and those that have gone out. But I am hoping that those who have helped, know, really know, how appreciated their contribution has been.
Overwhelmed with grief. I am sick of crying and feeling hurt and sorrow. The loss of the house, which in the end is a blessing- a miracle really, because God is creating beauty from ashes -literally, but dealing with all of the emotions regarding the stuff that is gone as well as what's left.
The loss of my sister, which still catch me by surprise at times and tears and hurt spring up.
Visiting my Gram right after the funeral in Chicago. O.k. 93 is old, but seeing her so old and easily tired and little shook me, and dh too. She has been a rock in my life, in our life, but she is out of strength. She has been my Giving Tree for so long. How can I be this old and still rely on my little old Gram so much?
Overwhelmed by stuff and knowing that that's all it is, but grieving the meaning attached to it as we threw it away.
Overwhelmed by the demands of our own emotions. The kids thrown for a loop, not only by thing thrown out but by the funeral of Aunt Susan, who we had just seen in August for her birthday. Flower would asked me daily in November and beyond, "Are you going to die, Momma? Please don't die, I love you so much." And Cub praying at night that I wouldn't die, and KB laying her head on my shoulder and saying, "Thank-you for not dying." And Miss R. calling from Chicago this week, there on a mission trip, talking about the last time she was in Chicago was with Aunt Sue and they walked along the lake, and then bursting into tears. Grief upon grief and putting it in order, laying it on the alter- it's yours, Lord- so that it doesn't consume us.
I've relied the last couple of months on the daily routine, the familiar, hidden really, in what I know that is simple and safe; homeschooling the kids. The days that we work diligently seem good and wholesome, not wasted or hard or full of grief. Reading, writing, arithmetic- that we remember. It's brought me peace and a sense of order. Which I feel a little blasphemous saying, because of what I'm not saying: that I've found solace in reading the Bible, praying and seeking God. Which I have and do, but somehow the order of moving forward in tangible ways has brought a sense of simple goodness to our days.

Yesterday we spent the day on the acreage; Viking Man and Feche Boy working in the basement with Contractor Dick, doing yet more cleaning and then sealing all of the wood and cement. I sanded the stairs, a classic Stickney rail, and worked in the yard ( Between the pieces of junk all over it, the debris from the soda blasting and the huge ruts left by the fire trucks (11) and the dumpsters, it needs a little TLC) the notsolittles played and helped rake the gardens with me. The sun was shining and gently warm and it felt good to work. Good to be building up, instead of tearing down and throwing away. Instead of going home covered in greasy soot, smelling like nauseating smoke we came home with sunburns and covered in clean dirt, welcomed by a fragrant dinner that KB had prepared, talked with her about her day and with Miss R on the phone and fell into bed.
Work is a beautiful thing.
And today rest. A blessed Sabbath- a day of peace and rest- to you!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

WR: Listening Ears

I've been scheduling CD time into our school days and we are finally making deliberate use of our fine collection. This week included:

Lingua Angelica (the kids are actually learning to sing parts from frequent listening. It is just beautiful).
Classical Conversations Cycle I CD (includes history sentences, geography, Latin, English grammar, science, & math).
IEW's Language Aquisition Through Poetry Memorization Section II (still on The Duke of Plaza Toro). (We finished Section I last year). Feche-Boy is memorizing Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson. It is a rockin' poem.
IEW's Advanced Vocabulary and Spelling
Classical Kids: Mr. Bach Comes to Call
Story of the World: Medieval Times (though we're still on Ancients, Cub prefers this CD. We're gonna get all of Ancients in before the end of the month though).

FecheBoy did quite well on his Bio test, again, despite claims to being under prepared. It is wonderful to hear him explain concepts and show how much he is getting it. He buckled down to Latin this week and spent several hours working on the class (on-line through LCAA). IEW Ancients is coming along and he, along with all of the class, are continuing to improve their writing skills. Seems like Flower's reading has picked up momentum and she is reading more difficult things with ease along with writing little notes about everything. Cub, too has been writing more and he surprised me this week with how well he is spelling. Alleluia, I might actually have a kid who can spell! KB started a new science unit with the notsolittles on weather, which has been lovely lately.

Spent more time at the acreage with contractors talking about laundry rooms and attics, kitchens, placement of water heaters and laundry shoots and built ins. The soffits are in the kitchen and the cabinets are being made. We decided on birch instead of cherry for the kitchen and bath cabinetry, which has a lovely, clean look. The cleaning company spent more time washing down walls and the porch. It smells like a new constuction site instead of an old house that burned inside and out now. We have our work cut out for us though as we've decided to do a majority of the drywalling and painting ourselves. The front porch needs totally re-done and it's about gardening season. Looks like we'll be learning and expanding lots of "life skills" soon. The kids are glad to be "home," whenever we are there, and take the dogs on long walks along the river, up the hill and into the fields. They are ready to be home and roam.

Another TDA day: Younger kids art included papermaching their "Days of Creation" animals. The older kids did a more complex Tree of Life drawing describing the attributes of God. Drama is poetry and readers theater and games and lots of laughs and the kids becoming oh so comfortable speaking in public and performing without angst. IEW does what is says it does, as always, and the kids are all becoming writers par excellence.
The kids all voted for a spring Drama Camp and actually had great ideas regarding what and who it should include. It's great to have thier input and investment.
A lovely week, full of learning, reading and enjoying the weather.

I'd love to hear about any CD's you utilize in your school. Have a GREAT week-end.

(Mostly) Fun with Fiction

GREEN by Ted Dekker. I read authors, rather than books per se, and I've made my way into over half of Dekker's books, introduced by Noah 6 years ago through the intriguing psychological thriller "Three". I'm not to into psych thrillers (having been raised by psychologists in the 70's- nuff said) along with reading a short story in a magazine years ago that scared the wits out of me for years on end. That was the end of that genre for me- till Noah sent Miss R. Three, at which point I became a Dekker fan- for a while. Got kinda tired of the really sick and creepy descriptions of abject evil. I just don't need it that spelled out for me, thank you very much. Still, I really resonated with the Trilogy series and read Green to kinda finish what I started. Again, the gross stuff is just too gross. I get it already. But I do, do do love the descriptions of Elyon and the Great Romance. Though Dekker makes the bad ugly, he has a way of using his gift of faith and writing to make the good and holy, well...good and holy. Righteousness described. Take me to the river, baby! Dekker covers a plethora of issues in this prequel/sequel to the Circle Trilogy (making it the 4th book in the series- so he can't count). The apocalypse, pre-post and mid tribulation, cessationism, pentecostalism, heresy, apostasy and salvation of the damned, it's all in this not so slim little volume. I thought the ending was weak from a literary stand-point, the conclusion wasn't one, but the theological issue being tackled doesn't have an easy conclusion, so it just hung there. His attempt to speak to those who have family members who are lost, specifically children who have turned their back on the Way, is commendable, just inconclusive. Just spoke to a friend about that recently. Her daughter is living a life that is total grief to her mom. Mom is wondering where she went wrong, what she could have done differently, how she could have provided immunity from wrong choices. And Hunter's heart cry for his son is so full of pain and grief and loss that the hurt of parents everywhere whose child has chosen apostasy is heard.
Though I'm about adrenaline junkied out I have requested Tea With Hezbollah from the library. Dekker clearly has an end in mind and apparently a date as well. I'm curious what Dekker will reveal in Tea.

Jane Austin Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo is, just like an Amazon reviewer claims, "a smart chick lit for Anglophiles and Austen fans a like." Jane and I go way back to the summer before my Senior year in high school when I read 3 of her tomes on our family vacation, laughing out loud at her descriptions and entanglements. We've enjoyed countless hours watching various productions of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility and lines are oft quoted amongst our little band of literary geeks. KB asked for this for her Easter Basket (no, you are never too old). Of course, sharing good books is one of life's simple pleasures, so I had to read it as soon as KB was done. Full of witty prose and fun little tid-bits about Austen's private life. The main theme here is about idealism, which those of us middle-aged enough to realize, can erode the goodness of what we have in our hand(s). A fun read and a good reminder to look around at my own happy endings.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WW: Family, Construction, Easter and School

Easter Week was packed and fun. We had a whirl-wind visit from family We spent hours visiting stores and learned much of what there is to know about laminates, counter tops, appliances, toilets, flooring. We also managed to fit in a few board games, good food and a Happy Birthday for the grandparents.
There is always time for reading at the Gracious Heart Homeschool. It might be what we do best. Twinkle lights are always appropriate, no matter what the season.Play is a Child's Work. At least, that's what we've heard. It's taken as truth around here by characters who shall remain unnamed.

Talked with lots of contractor types: Dick the contractor, Brad the cupboard maker, Max the Plumber, Milt the electrician. Mr. Opland putting in outlets every.single.6.feet. Gotta love it. Those of you who live in historic homes KNOW the thrill we have at seeing all of those beautiful outlets!
2 male youth impersonating middle aged women during Readers Theater. Drama is a hoot. We were laughing so hard it hurt!
Life. Up close and personal.
Pond scum.

Art has focused on the Days of Creation (in keeping with our Ancient History cycle). Miss. Flower creates a life-size replica of herself.

More house stuff. We took out the west side kitchen window and expanded the bathroom. We'll extend the kitchen all the way to the west wall and curve the cupboards around, create a wall and have a separate bathroom. This creates a little cubby on the back-porch. Perfect kennel that will connect to the dog run. Happy sigh. A separate first floor bathroom.

Flower counts her loot.

The HUNT is big fun around here on Easter. It's more of a logic course. How cleverly can we hide. How strategically can the kids find? The nots0littles get a head start... mainly so they don't get mowed down!

Egg Art. Serious business.

Never too old for baskets. KB thinks I had evil intentions when I added seed packs and a trowel to hers. Low and behold I found Christmas presents that had gotten tucked away. Made for fuller baskets!
We had friends over for dinner the night before and enjoyed the fellowship of God's people. And of course, church was full of Easter lilies and the message of God's HOPE: Resurrection from the Dead. Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Problems & Reports

I've never been big on book reports. As a home educator, I've relied on narration far more than reports. My conclusions have slightly changed and I've introduced a simple Book Report Form- very simple, mainly for Cub's benefit (though he might refute that claim). I basically have a simple form made up, which is filled out once a book is completed. I made a poster with the definitions that is in our school area. With a nod to Mr. Esquith, here it is:
Book Reports
The Protagonist: (the main character in a drama or literary work).
The Antagonist: The principal character in opposition to the protagonist or hero/ine
Conflict: (person vs. person, nature, himself, or society). Opposition between characters or forces in a word of drama or fiction, it motivates or shapes the action of the plot.
Plot: The pattern of events or main story
Climax: A moment of great or culminating intensity. The turning point of the plot.
Denouement: The events following the the climax of a drama in which such a resolution or clarification takes place.
Theme: An implicit or recurrent idea; a motif.
(a simple story that is familiar to most and clearly illustrates the above is The Wizard of Oz)

We've also been working on "How to Solve a Problem" (formal logic training doesn't technically take place before the dialectic stage, however, training kids to think logically and well should begin taking place far younger) I made a poster with the following 4 steps that we refer to frequently (especially when tackling math and sibling disputes):

Step I: Understand the Problem (put your pencil down). Collect relevant data
Step II: Choose an Appropriate Strategy (act it out, choose an operation, draw a picture, guess and check, look for a pattern, make a chart or table, make an organized list, use logical reasoning, work backwards).
Step III: Solve the Problem (pick up your problem).
Step IV: Analyze: Ask, "Does my answer make sense?"

I've found that stating "guess and check" as an actual problem solving strategy, but not the only one, allows the student to utilize other methods of problem solving without feeling guilty when this method is unitized (such as in long division). Also, the analysis step is greatly under-utilized. I often tell my high school writing students to read their assignments out loud before they submit them. When they HEAR their writing, it is often easier to analyze mistakes.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Outliers: 1: something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.
2: a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from others of the sample.

I read Outliers last week by Maxwell Gladwell. I've heard of his stuff before, just didn't know it was him. You know, it takes 10,000 hours (10 years of dedicated study) to really be an expert at anything? This book is a look at excellence and what creates that.
The first half of the book focses on outliers, some familiar, some not: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Joy. Geniuses with unique opportunities in unique places, living in unique times (often incredibly specific times). Their stories capture our imaginations because they seized opportunities, created success, invented something from seemingly nothing. Having a genius I.Q. is no guarantee of anything, as Gladwell points out; the excellent person adds dedication and perseverance to natural qualities which allows them to excel beyond wild expectation. Gladwell talks about the importance of a family circumstances, parents resourcing their children, gifting them with an appropriate sense of entitlement, juxtaposed with letting kids fend for themselves and "figuring it out on their own." He shows a stunning example of lost opportunities in the life of Chris Langdon.
The second half of the book is about creating exclusive opportunities- often in the face of devastating circumstances. The turn-around of Korean Air and the KIPP program; in other words Legacy. I was especially intrigued by the chapter on "Rice Paddies and Math Tests," or, more specifically, why Asian countries seem to smoke at math compared to the rest of the world and how important words are, even as one counts. The chapter on KIPP (Knowledge is Power- an initiative in New York's inner city public schools) was right up my education-obssessed alley, and talks about creating an environment of academic excellence despite cultural legacies of drug abuse, welfare and sky-high drop out rates. These educators are creating time as well as places for kids to excel. Think Rafe Esquith in New York.
And of course, one cannot help but apply this thinking to their own lives as they read: what, if anything have I dedicated time and study to? In my case, it's been child-rearing, teaching, training kids, family systems, eductaion/learning. Perhaps cooking. Art in many forms (pottery, stained glass, needlework, paper craft), homemaking skills. Nothing particularly earth changing, except to the small circle of people I've shared my life with. As someone else pointed out in a discussion about this book, we aren't all called to be experts, and we won't all have 10 years of dedicated time and energy to devote to a singular cause. Perhaps a more reasonable goal than becoming an expert, though not an easy one, is this: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
My older daughters and I have had several discussions over the years about "standing on the shoulders" of those who have gone before, and the last chapter of Gladwell's book is this concept in living color. Covey addressed the same concept by stating that we aren't just raising our kids, we are, indeed, raising our grand children, which fits in again with Biblical Truth, that the sins of the fathers will be visited on the 3rd and 4th generation, but the blessings will extend to the 1000th (Exodus 20:6). Our lives, expert or not, will influence those who come after us.
And, lastly, by definition, homeschoolers are outliers. Homeschooling is a unique method of education, in a place (mainly America), at a specific time (since the late 70's) by a unique group of people. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, this group of people changes and impacts their world as they mature into adulthood.
10,000 hours is 10 years of dedicated study and practice. Cultural legacies that shape and define us. Unique opportunities during unique times and places in history. Fascinating reading.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Break & Lots 2 Do

Had a quick, spur of the moment visit from the in-laws and 12 year old cousin, Danny. My mil and fil have built a couple of houses, remodeled a couple more and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to home improvement. Monday we spent the dayg rilling a salesperson at our local DoItYerself store and learned so much more than we knew was possible about toilets, counter top, cabinets, appliances and sinks. KB took notes and we all came home on overload. Tuesday after the company left we went back out to the acerage to talk electricity with our trusty electrician. Thursday we met with the cabinet maker. Eaelier in the week we had discovered that after the ~250% mark-up at your local builder place having custom made cabinets just isn't that expensive. Cupboards, size, height, shape, fancy work, pulls. Details. Details. Details.
School was a wash this week. I'm calling it "Spring Break." Cub did finish the 3rd book in the Wilder King Series (an analogy of the life of King David set in the Florida swamps), from whence the name "Feche Boy" comes. Great series.
How is the weather in your neck of the woods? Life in the Dakota's is weather whip-lash. Last week we had snow boots next to flip-flops by the door. In the high 70's temp-wise with, literally, snow on the ground. But we awaken daily to birds singing. Huzzah for SPRING!
Thursday = TDA and we fit in Art (they kids are on Day 5 of Creation so spent the time creating animals. Each lesson has been sooo goood!) , Drama (the laughter and fun that emanates from Drama class is worth the day!), Music (Dona Nobis Pacem and Christus Vincit, sung as prayer -soo beautiful! ) Apologetics, which rocks. Cub joined us for our Beit Midrash study later on that day where we are studying Exodus, and declared that Apologetics is just "Bible Jr." Pond scum was carefully examined under the microscope for Biology by everyone, Bio student or not. We happened to catch what we think was dragonfly larvae as well as a couple of snails; Cool and gross all at once. Recess at the park. The weather was beautiful. Another great day.
After lunch on TDA days, KB reads a devotional chapter book, Christiana, the follow up to Pilgrim's Progress, to the younger kids while they draw or play quietly. Thursday was so gorgeous that the kids went outside, made an cool city-state in the large sand-box while she read. it was a sweet picture. The kids were quiet and listening, some slowly digging in the sand, a couple placing pine-cones on sand hills, one laying on his back, looking up at the sky. Their ears full of beautiful words, their eyes full of a beautiful day, surrounded by friends and God's peace. Socialization at it's finest.
If it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert on something (i.e. Outliers- review to follow) I qualify for: cooking, raising/teaching/training kids, and reading. How bout you.
Played Risk and Settlers of Catan and Rubiks this week in various permutations, Grandpa and Grandsons, Flower and the boys, last night it was KB, Feche Boy, Flower and myself, with Viking Man banking. My family will tell you that I go for the jugular when playing games but it's just not so, I just play to win = ). My grandparents had a cottage built by my Grandpa and Dad at a lake where we would spend cool summer Indiana evenings gathered around card-tables with various games and relatives and play for hours. Grandma Rummel reigned. She could beat anyone, anywhere, anytime. Same with croquet. She could also cook. And we could have pie (homemade, no less) for breakfast. After a very early foray on the lake fishing with Grandpa Grandma would fry fish for breakfast and we'd have that with pie. Good, good times. Grandma and Grandpa didn't talk much but they made memories for us that are sweet. And I play like Grandma. Focused. And now I'm getting all nostalgic...again.

More quick takes over at Conversion Diaries, but for some reason I can't link. And, of course, weekly reviews over at The Well Trained Mind. Both links on my side-bar.