Monday, November 29, 2010

On Death & Dying

The past 2 weeks were full of sorrow, interspersed with family and friends, memories and laughter, talk and tears and reunions. Tears at the loss of my Dad, who will never envelop me again in his mighty hug, talk to me enthusiastically about his latest passion, recommend books or share ideas with me. He was a passionate man. And irritating, truth be told. Opinionated and wanting his own way on so many levels. But full of joi de vive and embracing life and the wonders of it in the same way he would embrace those he loved- with his arms wide, grabbing us to his chest and holding us tight against him. I can hardly believe that he is gone.

At the funeral service I stood to read the scripture verse and I couldn't speak. I stood in front of everyone and just stood  there, trying hard not to cry, breathing in and out, slowly, fighting to gain composure in a situation that demanded wailing and lamentation. Overwhelmed by the finality of the day, no matter how glorious the weather. The day heralded a permanent thing and I came unprepared. I came vunerable, recently orphaned and feeling lost. Memories and emotions struggling against each other, the good and the bad and the inevitable, vying for attention, demanding their say and turn at justice. I was unable to shut off the noises and demands of my emotions and just stand there sedately and read. I wanted wailers and then I wanted a party. Wailers to mourn and cry the loss of Dad's life and the loss of whatever our relationships held that would never be healed. And a party to laugh and celebrate all that he was, all that he gave, all that he knew and shared and was passionate about.

I've thought a lot about death in the past year. And the passage between the Land of the Living and what comes next. And when I die I want mourners and lamentation. I want there to be a space to share out-loud the heart ache and discomfort of my death and the fact that I'm irritating and opinionated and drive people crazy and I've left things un-done and left hurt and pain behind. And then I want a party. With dry red wine and sparkling white, and music and dancing and laughter and stories about how I've embraced this place and the people in it but how now I'm on to the Real Thing.

And when my kids, or friends, stand to read and take a while to regain their composure I hope that there is a  hush, like there was for me last week. A quiet reverence for the things that aren't spoken.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home Again, Home Again...

...after 10 days gone, traveling through 6 states and over hundreds and hundreds of miles, seeing friends and family along the way as we went to mourn Dad's death. The house was lit with Christmas lights on our return home late last night, courtesy of my husband. A warm and loving welcome after an exhausting trip.

Monday, November 22, 2010


The weather is luxuriously warm and mild and the sun is playful and dappled like it is in the fall. There are a few trees with leaves on them still and they are rustling as they make their way to the ground, a last tribute to the end of a season. Last year, a little more than one, we were at Sue's funeral and it was the most glorious of fall days. Crimson, gold and  burnished bronze leaves falling and dancing in the street and golden, champagne light serenading us as we cried and mourned and hugged each other. This year again. I'm grateful for the beauty of the days and the temperate moisture in the air that caresses our skin.
Yesterday as we drove through central Tennessee, KB and I opened the windows and reached out to touch the air, and she, of course, had music playing and I felt like we were in a movie. I don't often put music on myself, though I love it, but my children, more adults than kids, have provided a sound track for my life; a combination of noise they produce themselves and find through odd and sundry sources. The sound track of this year has been an odd one- full of lamentation and tears and weariness and little bodies weak with worry but also of growing and change and living, laughter and even joy, and knowing that we are not alone.
At the viewing, Flower and Cub and Graham danced and played and were not at all disturbed by Grandpa's body there. Cold and looking both like Dad and not at all like himself, but from farther away, just like his Dad, my Grandpa Rummel who I loved unabashedly. Flower had picked flowers, of course, and put them at the end of the box to begin with, on my recommendation, but by the end of the evening they had made their way up to Grandpa's chest. Dandelions, simple and small but a beautiful tribute. Like the weather.
Another season closing, closed. I am bereft of my parents, my sister, my family; Kris and I remnants at too young an age.  And yet, not alone at all. Worn from tears and the grief of this season, we are tired, worn, worn out.

But the soundtrack of my life played again, and Jars of Clay captured our hope. KB and I played this going to the funeral and crossing Tennessee.  It will be a different season soon.

Give to the wind your fear
Hope and be undismayed
God hears your sighs and counts your tears
God will lift up, God will lift up, lift up your head

God will lift up your head
God will lift up your head
God will lift up your head
Lift up your head

Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command
Then shall we wandering on His way
Know how wise and how strong
How wise and how strong

God will lift up your head
God will lift up your head
God will lift up your head
Lift up your head

Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way
Wait because in His time, so shall this night
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy

God will lift up your head
God will lift up your head
God will lift up your head

Play God Will Lift Up Your Head

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Blessing of Family

It was a beautiful day in TN. A lovely memorial service for Dad at a beautiful church though I barely made it through the reading. Then the day with family and old friends, laughter and tears, memories, songs, nieces and nephews - all of whom are talented and beautiful and wonderful; Corinne and Jennifer and their family- all of whom have the gift of southern hospitality;  and my Sister Kris (who really goes by Kristie so no one ever knows who I'm talking about when I say Kris, 'cept her)- who has the gift of making me laugh so hard my stomach hurts as well as making me cry like a baby, and the added bonus of really, really great brother in laws. And, of course, my beautiful children.
My hubby stayed home so we'd have as much time with family as we needed. Thank-you, Babe!

It was a good day- so much laughter and memories. Dad would have loved it. Rich with love all around.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Goodbye, Dad

Dad & Corinne
My Dad passed away early yesterday morning. He died quickly and unexpectedly, still working, reading, involved in life.
What is the essence of a person- what they did, how they lived, their characteristics- it's finished when a person dies.  Like the body of work that defines who one is, death ensures that it can never be amended. What went before is all that you have to hold on to. The things said or done, the luxury of adding to reducing, is no longer yours. What was stands. 

20 days ago marked the first year anniversary of Sue's death. And now the mourning begins again. Flower said to me, in her 7 year old innocence,  "Why are your relatives dropping like flies?" and in the next breath, "Grandpa did love Jesus, didn't he?" Pragmatic concern is a hallmark of my side of the family. Got that from Dad.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Word vs. Image Part II: Become an Auditory Learner

How to train your student to be an auditory learner.
Why is this important? Because the ultimate goal of learning in any area is the Rhetoric Stage- excellent written and spoken communication. Speech requires the ability to listen and understand, to speak with meaning and fluency. We all know people who have brilliant ideas but who can't communicate them well or clearly. Rhetoric skills are imperative if we hope to influence, lead, teach, or be agents of change on any level. So, how do you develop this skill?
Play (and sing!) music. Preferably with words. Quality music with a message. We listen to Christian radio in the car and our kids have a vast repertoire of poetry, theology and music because of it. Our co-op is blessed with gifted musicians who have our kids singing rounds, patriotic, religious, theater and camp songs. It thrills me to hear my 10 year old singing Handel's Messiah, as well as hear Christina Rossetti's lovely poem, "What Can I Give Him," sung by first graders. Singing rounds together teaches everyone cadence and meter.
Read aloud. Q: When are your kids too old to be read aloud to. A: Never. (Andrew Pudewa has a great article on this ). Have your listeners narrate back to you what you've read. Don't be schoolish. Just be interested in what they are saying, prompt them to listen for details, go back and read again when they are unclear. Read aloud for 15 minutes a day or more. Explain difficult words. Use an excellent program like Writing With Ease for elementary ages to develop your skill and their in this area. When they are older delve into literary analysis with them. Teach them to discern good from bad from great.

Play CD's. We have a large repertoire of CD's. A lot of history. SOTW is excellent as are Diana Waring resources. Books on tape- G.H. Henty has several read by Jim Wiess and chock full of history (though you'll have to slog through the formulaic writing after the 2-3rd one).  The library has loads of books on tape.

Use flash cards. This uses more than one sensory pathway- both auditory and visual. Veritas Press' history and biblical time-line cards (160 in each set) are chock full of information and have beautiful artwork to represent the person, place and time-period. Laminate them and they'll last for years. We also do math flash cards, foreign language flash cards, science flashcards.

Study poetry, drama and speech. All require an understanding of both words, meaning, rhyme, meter. IEW's Language Acquisition Through Poetry is fun and engaging and a great place to start with kids as young as pre-school (get the CD). Logs' Grammar of Poetry is a good place to go from there. Simple, inexpensive and comprehensive. Weekly presentations required of elementary aged kids. Teach them about where to put their hands, how fast or slow to speak, etc. Drama or Speech for High Schoolers. If you can't find something, create a Drama camp or festival and check out Poetry Outloud. Utilize tropes in your home- puns, alliterations, metaphor. Build your kids repertoire of language and how to manipulate it. I remember the first family reunion I went to with my husband's family. The men talked in puns for hours. Literally. (Be impressed or groan, both are appropriate responses).

Memorize quotes and jokes and poetry. Living Memory has lists of quotes in both English and Latin. Both are fun to have in your repertoire. Ita Vita comes in handy more than you might think.  Quality movies (quality is loosly defined- I'm counting Finding Nemo on my list- "Yes, I'm a natural blue!") provide ample opportunity to build a repertoire of responses to life's circumstances. I've mentioned (over and over again) IEW's Language Acquisition Through Poetry Memorization as well as Grammar of Poetry. Both have a wonderful selection of poems ranging from Celery to Charge of the Light Brigade. As I've said before, teach your kids humor. Comedic timing is a gift to give the world. We have comic and joke books (Watterson is our very fav, but we appreciate lots of other artists as well) , watch Charlie Brown specials and comedians (Ken Davis is a particular fav and we like the Thou Shalt Laugh series). Comedy is not easy. Do your kids (and the world) a favor and teach them what's funny and how to be funny.

Fill your kids minds with words, word pictures, tropes, metaphors and their transition to the Rhetoric stage will be that much smoother because they will not only be excellent communicators but they will have something of excellence  to talk about. If you train them to be auditory power-houses, they will be picking up and filing boat-loads of information without your even knowing it!

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences, ideas.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Word Vs. Image

A question on TWTM boards was directed at those who have classically trained their kids for a long time. I've certainly homeschooled for a long time, and I've been able to wrap my brain around classical ed for a while, though the classical-ness of our own homeschool varies by season. I do know enough about it to make an intelligent comment or 2. On the boards I gave a short answer to the question but Kathy (Hi, Kathy!) said she'd like to see it fleshed out a bit.So, I started writing, and this blog post turned into an article. I'm breaking it down into 3 parts, which I'll post on 3 separate days:
1)  Teach Memorization: How to memorize and what to memorize
2) Develop Your Kids auditory skills
3) Image vs. Word- what does it matter what we focus on?

Because the question originated on the K- 6th grade boards I suggested that the parent incorporate memory work into their homeshcool and train their children's auditory skills. The originator of the question responded with enthusiasm, stating that her young child could memorize way better than she could. That's because young kids (pre-K through 6th grade) are in the grammar stage (based on the classical model of education). Grammar stage kids are neurologically hardwired to memorize. They are memory sponges. Give them something worthy to memorize or you will be listening to them sing the theme song of Sponge Bob Square Pants from the back seat of the car. I've read an whole lot about education and one thing that makes me laugh over and over again is the comment that goes something like this; "American school kids spend so much time memorizing for the test that they don't have time for anything else." Oh, how I want to break out into peals of laughter over that one.
There is a huge qualitative difference between short term memory based on performance and long term memory based on learning. In fact, without memory, it's hard to know if learning has really taken place. I've discussed the difference before between overview and memory and the "memory" that these articles refers to is more clearly defined as simply "overview." At the end of the day, when the test is over, the kids don't remember what they "know." The reason? They didn't know it in the first place because it wasn't stored in their long-term memory. Knowing involves ownership. If I know how to read- really read with fluency and comprehension, I have to KNOW the letter sounds. I have to know them so well that that knowledge comes to me without even think about them, in a blink of the eye, (for a really great discussion of this, check out Gladwell's "Blink"). I have to know how to manipulate them (for instance, "g" followed by "i" or "e" makes a soft "g" sound and when followed by the other consonants makes a hard "g" sound.) If I don't KNOW the letter sounds, and how to manipulate them, then I am fumbling, bumbling around trying to figure and getting frustrated because the word "gem" only makes sense in my sentence about precious jewels if I pronounce it correctly as "jem" not "ghem".
In other words, real learning is taking place when the information stored in the long term memory of the person owning it. Otherwise it's just overview and something the person has to look around for to find again.
The Memory Work that I am talking about is knowledge stored in the child's brain. The kid knows that they know it. "Teaching"  how to memorize, like teaching reading, is teaching how to learn and requires commitment and hard work. Time line cards, facts, people, places, are not stored overnight and require repetition and mnemonic devices, (a mnemonic device is a way to create "hooks" in the brain to store and retrieve information; for instance, Taxonomy is often memorized by learning the sentence, "King (Kingdom),Philip (Phylum), Cried (Class),  Out (Order), For (Family), Goodness (Genus), Sake (Species)!" There are many mnemonic devices to use, flash cards, disappearing sentences, set the information to song, and they are worth teaching your students about. Fill their learning toolbox with quality tools!

What to Memorize
The resources that we use the most as far as what to memorize are Living Memory, by Dr. Andrew Campbell, author of The Latin Centered Curriculum,  (available through LuLu), The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (Peace Hill Press), Classical Conversations CD and Foundations Guide, by Leigh Bortiens, (Classical Conversations), various Memoria Press publications and IEW's Language Acquisition Through Poetry Memorization, by Andrew Pudewa (Institute for Excellence in Education), drama, presentations, songs.
Normally I base what to memorize on 2 things. The history cycle that we are in for the year and what spines we are using for the year.  The Well Trained Mind has, by subject, list of things to memorize, and Living Memory does as well.
Whenever I can find resources accompanied to music, I grab it. Music is a wonderful mnemonic and I try to make use of it whenever I can.

Next up: Training your kids to be auditory learners.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the importance of memory work, what mnemonics you use and what you memorize.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Tradition! We scarcely know the word anymore. We are afraid to be either proud of our ancestors or ashamed of them. We scorn nobility in name and in fact. We cling to a bourgeois mediocrity.
Dorothy Day ( journalist, socialist and devout Catholic convert).

During Viking Man's A.F. career we had the privilege of going to the base chapel under the direction of Chaplain P. He was a wonderful chaplain, Biblical scholar, down to earth ex-farmer and believed fervently in education. As a result, the chapel library was stocked with books, videos and CDs. I came to believe that our family was the only one who knew about this treasure trove and we looted it weekly. There was a great video ( couldn't find the original one, but I'll be checking this one out soon) on Dorothy Day and she's intrigued me since. I disagree with her on many, many points, but she is someone who lived her beliefs with fervency and conviction. That, you gotta love.

A blessed Sabbath

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Last Disciple

KB purchased The Last Disciple, along with The Last Christian this past summer, which I discovered, along with the mold in her room last week.  Hannegraff and Brouwer wrote it (along with The Last Sacrifice )in response to the popular "Left Behind" series.

Slavery, licentiousness, greed, corruption, politics and jealously all play a part in the drama, along with the zealousness of the early church. Nero, is of course the bad guy, not only that, he becomes the Beast in Revelation. (Diana Waring uses a phrase in her history recounts, "he (meaning whatever evil bad guy was in charge during the time being discussed, be it Nero, Hitler, Mao, etc,) was one of the Beasts found throughout history." I've found that thought to be valuable, especially as my kids and I discuss history).   The Last Disciple is a compelling story, well told, but surprisingly similar to Francine River's Mark of the Lion trilogy. Both feature a Barbarian gladiator who earn their freedom, spoiled rich patrician's daughter, child left to freeze to death but rescued by saintly, unmarried Christian Jewess, etc. Parallel characters and a familiar story line. It's been several years since I've read the River's books, but it was familiar enough to get me thinking about the many similarities.

Hannegraff's story rests on two fundamental ideas - 1) That Revelation was written prior to the sack of Jerusalem; and 2) That Nero was the Beast of John's Apocalypse.
This stands in sharp contrast to the LaHaye/Jenkins series which purports that the Revelation is yet to come. Hannegraff is a preterism rather than futurist interpretation.  

What is preterism? It is the school of Biblical interpretation that holds that all or nearly all Biblical prophecies were fulfilled within the lifetime of the generation of Jesus, culminating in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD. Lots of folks hold dearly to their eschatology, and while I'm all about gaining a deeper understanding of the life and times of Jesus, or the fall of Jerusalem, or the Bible, I am a committed pan-terminist, firmly believing that, if you've committed your life to Jesus, it will all pan out (sadly, I can't take credit for this term. It belongs to my irl friend Sharon Stone, "the one who keeps her clothes on!").

My big, a-ha, take-away from this book is the understanding that without the Temple, the Jews have no place to offer sacrifice for their sins. Those who reject Jesus as Son of God are both without Messiah and without the Temple, lost and wandering without expiation for transgressions. Though I've read it tons of times before, it hit me like a ton of bricks.. I am still pondering the ramifications.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Work & Play

Changed around the schedule a bit. I get on the computer early and first thing in the morning and Viking Man gets the kids up. So far, so good. He is an early bird and happy in the morning. My motto is, "Sing and talk all you want. I'll even get up with you. Just do not involve me in all of that lovely banter until 10 a.m." The result is that  we are all getting started on the day with more direction. The only downside is Flower, who has actually cried a couple of times about being tired (cause while Viking Man is home later in the mornings he is also home later, sometimes much, much later in the evenings making bedtimes difficult).
School consisted of Cub and Flower doing math workbooks plus story problems and thinking skills. I discovered WWE again so we've added that back in. It's elementary for Cub but he loves the stories and I want him to have dictation down solidly before we move on. Flower is working through ETC 7 and will be done before Christmas. Cub continues to work through Writing Tales and Science 5. He has been begging to have his writing typed instead of hand-written so we'll probably switch to that this week. Feche's second paper was due this week and he is now late. Coming up with a strong thesis is cooking his grits, not to mention the fact that he wants to write dramatically instead of coherently. Chem test coming up, too. Latin every morning. He is loving Shakespeare right now- Henry V- and would rather haul gravel than do the rest.

We have a 3-5 year age gap between each of our kids and finding activities to do together has always been a challenge. Finally all of the kids are old enough to play games! We've been playing Settlers of Catan all year and Blokus and this week broke out Monopoly. We are on day 3 of a game started on Monday. Flower has a deadly monopoly set up on the yellows and collects a cool $1000+ per victim player. So far, she has accumulated a lot of property and favors (a future career in politics perhaps?), while the rest of us band together to try to survive. The odd thing is that there are houses and hotels all over the rest of t he board but somehow hers are the ones that are landed on each go around.

Watched Blind Side. A bbeautiful, compelling story.

Read The Last Disciple (review on Saturday). Didn't know till the epilogue that Hannegraff (the Bible Answer Man) had written it in response to the Left Behind series, which I read some of. The first couple of books were good, but after that it all seemed like such a stretch and so sensational that it just wasn't believable, or constructive.

Tried to get a walk in daily which didn't always happen. It's hunting season so we are keeping strictly to the road as we hear shots throughout the day. It's a bit surreal to look out of the window in the morning and see a bow hunter, complete with bow, casually strolling past the house.

I was thrilled to be nominated this week in the 6th Annual Homeschool Post Blog Awards in 2 categories, Best Homeschool Mom Blog and Best Nitty Gritty Blog, along with several of my bloggin' friends- Jen over at Home is Where the Heart is, Ana at Ana Henebry's Blog, Susan Wise Bauer of TWTM fame, Brook at Brooktopia, the Homeschool Village and several others. Take a minute to go check it out and while your there cast a vote for  a good blog or 2! (I'd love it if you voted for Golden Grasses = )! Go HERE to vote or click the button on the top right side-bar. Viking Man mentioned that it was difficult to find the actual voting place. Scroll down to a list of categories, click on a category and you'll get the list for that category. To vote, click the button; to view the blog, click the blog title.

For more Quick Takes hop over to Conversion Diaries.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankful for Friends

This week's link up at the Homeschool Village is about Thankfulness and sharing about a blogger that we're thankful for.

I have  1, 2, o.k. 3 in mind-  First off, my friend Tina over at Life of the Gilbert Gang. Tina is a hardworking homeschooler that is not only homeschooling her own tribe, but  others as well. She is a dedicated educator, an encourager and starts the best threads over at  TWTM highschool forum! Tina,  you amaze me with all that you do!

I am also very appreciative of Deanna at Materfamilias. Deanna has a great sense of humor (maybe I lol when I read her posts cause her sense of humor is so much like mine) and is another great encourager. Be sure to check out her girls blogs as well. Deanna, I always feel at peace when I read your blog!

Both of these bloggerbuddies have written encouraging words to me all year. They probably have no idea how much I appreciate them, their support and their dedication to homeschooling!

Of course, I love the blogs I've listed in my side-bar (especially my dd's- Serving Him Blind & Vermillion Road cause they are just interesting, wonderful people )  but wanted to draw your attention to 2, A Mother's Rule and Notice the Universe, both written by my friend Mary. Mary successfully graduated from a homeschool career when her youngest left for college 2 years ago.  She's is one of smartest people I know, is warm, gentle and humble, and has a lot of wisdom to share. I appreciate her writing because she gives me a lot to think about, puts words to my own thoughts and challenges me. I always feel blessed when I've talked with her, and my world grows when I read her writing.

While we're on the topic of thankfulness, I'd like to say how very grateful I am for those who read this blog, share comments, or let me know that what they've read has been meaningful to them in some way. I appreciate YOU, dear READER!!

Don't forget to stop by HSV and link up this week. We all have a lot to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Indian Summer

We've been taking full advantage of the 70 degree weather we've had all week 'cause pretty soon it's gonna be full fledged winter out here in the Territories.
Run and Leap, Iron Man style (notice the snow boots sans the snow. These are all part of the alter-ego). I love the flying hair.

Isn't he a cutie?  Smart, too.

High, rushing waters all summer on our mighty river, which usually slows to a trickle mid-summer. Flower would like ya'll to know that the water was cold!

Our hardworking and hirsute gravel hauler. See the dirt on the right. All of that was gravel and the entire pile was a couple feet higher just weeks ago. Our very long driveway has a lovely gravelly country crunch to it now. Re-build work this week included gravel hauling and storm windows. Nothing glamorous,  but necessary.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Positive Choices

"Who created the automatic heart valve? An engineer. Who created the gas chambers at Aushwitch? An engineer." So says Dr. Robert Kearns as he introduces a university class to his Applied Engineering course. This scene sets the stage as Kearns, in Flash of Genius, fights against The #1 Auto Company when they stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper. Kearns, church goer, devoted husband and father of six loses much as he goes toe to toe with Ford. His job is lost, his wife leaves him, the attorney quites in his quest for justice. The movie was less than satisfying. In the end, Kearns wins almost $30 million and the recognition that corporate giants do wrong things, thus opening the door for others who had been stolen from to garner justice. But in the end, Kearns is till alone. His wife leaves when he refuses to take a buy-off (one of the many offered) from Ford and the lawyer "committed to justice" (aptly played by Alan Alda), quits ("justice is found in the form of a check"). Kearns has a difficult choice to make- take the buy-off and keep his wife and family intact-or live according to the principals his committed himself to- integrity and justice.

I woke up this morning thinking about Jonah and the Whale, sadistically wondering what it would have been like to be trapped inside the belly of one. In the late 1800's James Bartley  was rescued after being swallowed by an 80' sperm whale, his hair and skin bleached  pure white from the adventure (or not) .I would imagine that living inside of a live creature would be a horrible, time stopping, claustrophobic event. Kind of like being confronted with a bad choice or a no-win situation. Like Kearns. Trapped by something bigger than himself, left feeling impotent and ripped off.
Danny Silk has created a parenting program that talks a lot about re-framing situations for our kids so that they feel empowered to do "the right thing." I like Danny Silk and much of what he has to say, as long as it is taken in the context of a whole repertoire of parenting tools, the main one being relational. In other words, it's our job as parents to build a relationship with our kids,starting when they are minutes old, by mirroring them, investing as they grow by seeing and listening to them, creating an environment of trust and respect. Advocates of Silk's program focus too much, I think,  on the technique of 2 positive choices. Silk is using semantics to get the kid to obey but I don't hear a deep understanding among his proponents of his use of re-frame, just "2 positive choices" and I believe that this is a disservice to the kids. Life isn't always about 2 positives and when we create a false reality that it is we don't allow our kids character to fully develop. Sometimes life is simply about ugly, hard, immovable choices; obedience or getting swallowed up by something big and grotesque. Giving up one thing for something better. And when we are confronted by 2 bads, that's when we rely and count on character or crump if we have none.

I've concluded that character is formed, in great part, by the relationships we have. My character has been fundamentally shaped and changed by the significant people in my life. I am a diligent, hard working, studious and faithful person because of the relationship I had with my parents. I am willing to take risks and try things that don't seem obvious because of the relationship I have with my in-laws (can anyone say drywalling?), my character has been shaped and transformed by my husband in so many ways I can't even count them. Marriage is a crucible after all and those that survive it have managed something great. Those who have a marriage that thrives have, undoubtedly, been altered to the very core of their being. And finally, those committed to a faith system are changed. Sometimes superficially if we keep it at a religious level. But when we enter into a relationship with the One True Living God we are transformed by Grace and Truth, oftentimes despite ourselves.

Sometimes "choices," when we don't have options, become a matter of character. Like the difference between Elie Wiesel and Corrie Ten Boom. Both confronted with horror and despair in the depths of hell- the concentration camps of WWII. No positive choice. Wiesel chose despair. Ten Boom chose hope. (Again, I am not judging Wiesel, merely describing something he himself admits. And, I believe, Ten Boom chose hope because of the transformative relationships she had with Jesus, her family and, in the end,  Betsy). Ten Boom gives the remainder of her life to sharing the transformative, character developing relationship she had with Jesus Christ. Wiesel writes about bitterness and despair. 

Jonah, too, was given a choice. Go to the aggressive, belligerent, proud, arrogant and fierce capital of the Assyrian Empire (the Ninevites) or be entrapped in a dark and slimy tomb.  Positive choice? I don't see one. When we come in contact with the Master of the Universe he's not so concerned with if "we're brilliant."  He is concerned with obedience. And often times obedience is dictated by our relationship with him- truly trusting Him to have plans for us that are good, not evil. Plans that ensure our future, not destroy it. I like positive choices. Really. But I've had enough no-wins in my own life to realize that I can't count on them. That, at times, they are the exception rather than the rule. That I need to trust in something, or someOne bigger than what I want. And so do our kids. Positive choices are good. But along with that our kids need to know that sometimes they'll just be required to do what they're told- no explanations, no choice. And in order to  expect that to happen we're going to have to invest ourselves in them, building respect and trust, regardless of the important things we have to do like work, ministry, making money, having time and space for ourselves, etc. They are going to have to know that they can rely on our character and integrity. I'm not railing so much against Danny Silk (really, I like his stuff) as much as the entitlement that seems to be so pervasive among kids these days. When our kids demand an explanation, or expect choices, each and every time we ask something of them, when we use techniques, instead of investing in who they are, realizing that we are raising eternal beings not just "responsible adults", we are creating attitudes and beliefs that will, in the end, not take them as far as they will, undoubtedly, be required to go.
Like I said, the Flash of Genius was not a satisfying movie. Partly, I'm sure, because it tapped too much into my own middle-aged no wins. The main character sacrificed his personal life for principal, much like Hosea in the Old Testament. Kearns was committed to the principal of integrity and honesty more than the money, like Hosea was committed to God more than his personal life, and was willing to have his heart broken by the relationship and process. Maybe like we'll be required to. Maybe like will be demanded from our kids by politics, or God or circumstances beyond their control. Along with positive choices, I want to give my kids a bedrock of character, developed in part, through my committed and intentional relationship with them, along with someOne bigger than us both.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I've Been Nominated!!

Over at The Homeschool Post, they are hosting their 6th Annual Homeschool Blog Awards. I've been nominated in 2 catagories: 

Best Homeschool Mom Blog and Best Nitty Gritty Blog.
(thanks Deanna : )

I kinda like the Nitty Gritty title. I try not to gloss over the challenges of homeschool life (right, Mae? : ), while still keeping true to the vision of this blog: my record of  crafting the extraordinary from the ordinary. You know, grass is everywhere, just like kids, just like education. Golden Grasses is about the common being transformed into the spectacular, like grass becoming gold.

I'm thrilled. Thrilled, I tell ya'.  If you have a minute, take some time to check out the myriad of excellent homeschool blogs listed here and, if you like my blog, would you cast your vote for me (each blog can only win in one category). Not only is it a privilege, but the prize list rocks!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Sound of Music & Quelling Chaos

Mrs. G & Mrs. I, our extraordinary music teachers, have been teaching the kids (grades K-12th) rounds. Rounds teach the kids harmony, rhythm and cooperation. In addition, they wanted to give families a repertoire to sing together, as well as have songs for family camp campfires. I love it.  My family sings. We all love to sing; loudly, softly, goofily (my husband, bless his soul, likes to woo me with bad 70's songs. Oy vey!).  Sometimes we sing poorly, and often we ad lib (mainly me. It's a sad fact of life and on going joke that I never sing the correct words to any song. Ever. I like to think of myself as, if inaccurate, at least a joyful noisemaker). Anyway this week, while we were hauling gravel and dirt, Feche started singing "Hey, Ho." Hauling rocks and dirt is not really the most delightful activity in the world and it's easy to get grumpy and complain and whine and beg and plead and implore and have to go to the bathroom and get lost on the way back. Not that this would happen in our family of joyful, diligent workers.  I'm just saying it could happen in a family much more normal than ours. So, Feche is singing. Pretty soon the kids are singing it as a round, hauling all the while. It sure made the job much more fun and kept all the whiners my happy workers hauling.

Then, Friday, I peeked in on Mrs. J & Mrs. S's 2nd and 3rd class to take pictures of their unit study project (geography!) Both teachers  were very busy hot gluing Mr. Australia (Kangaroos) - 6 parts per roo x 15  kids while the kids were busy cutting and/or using the bodies of their un-glued roos as mega-phones. As a distraction, and noise quieter I divided the kids into parts and started them on "Hey Ho" as well as the 2nd round we're learning, "The Orchestra" (for a funny rendition of it, go to the Xmas scene on "You've Got Mail"). The kids quickly organized themselves, vied for being a song leader and jumped in with enthusiasm to sing. Sneaky music assistant that I am, I snuck in an extra practice on the kids and they didn't even know it! And aren't the kangaroos the kids made incredible? They are hats = )! Boys and girls alike were joyfully donning their new toppers!            
I've heard that Latin, Math and Music are the universal languages. Math and Latin I'm not so sure of, but Music- yes!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quick Takes

The kitchen is  organized after an agonizing couple of days of mulling over where this and that should go. Still tweaking here and there but generally things are arranged. I missed the gene that does space well. For those organization freaks out there realize that for some of us arranging space is sheer torture.

We voted on Tuesday. It's a privilage to be part of the process.

Cub's painintheheiny homework this week entailed multiplying fractions, percents and decimals. It is always so interesting to me how when a new concept is learned it crowds out previous knowledge for a while while the brain is accommodating. He was so consumed by it all that when it came time to add a simple 3 digit number he was adding extra columns in the hundreds place! Has anyone else observed that?
We had a break from Tutoring Center and it was much needed. Mainly cause I had to get the kitchen organized!

KB is back from her adrenaline junkie fix the campaign trail in GA. After another week of lit dropping, sign waving, phone banking and screaming her lungs out you'd think life here would look pretty tame. Well, we went to clean up her room and re-make her bed for her return and discovered mold under the mats (our temp flooring solution) we'd put down. The moisture just wicked up from the ground. She came home to her bed and possessions piled into the bunk bed/family room and has been sleeping on the couch, living out of her suitcase. Welcome home, Honey!

Re-build work this week consisted of hauling dirt and rock. The mongo dirt pile left behind from digging a new drain field is almost all gone as we've been building up the flower beds and dirt around the house. Rocks. We live in a gravel field. And we had a ton of walnut sized gravel delivered for the new tile field we laid in the basement but used only a fraction of it for that so the kids and I have been hauling it to the driveway, which makes a nice gravely, crunchy sound when people drive in.

We went on walks most days. The evenings have been lovely, cool and colorful. Cub and Flower ride their bikes, the cats all follow, first the Momma cat, then the kittens, then the Tom. Why don't our felines realize I'm not an animal person? They are constantly meawing at me, wanting to be picked up, following me wherever I go. Our Tom jumps into the kitchen window at night (talk about heart stopping!- seeing a 15 pound grey thing jump into the window at night while you're doing dishes gets the heart racing!). We've been hearing coyotes lately. Viking Man heard that if you hear a coyote it means there's a den within 5 miles. And we cross the river on our walks. I realized yesterday that walking along the river at dusk probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. Feche and I think we might have seen a wolf in southern MN a couple of weeks ago. If not, it was the biggest coyote I've ever seen!

Gotta get to the library. I need a good book or two to read. And a good movie to watch? Any recommendations?

How was your week?
As always, Jen at Conversion Diaries hosts 7 Quick Takes

Thursday, November 4, 2010


If you've homeschooled for any length of time you have probaby been confronted with the question, "What about socialization?" While there's a whole lot to say on that issue, today's link-up at the Homeschool Village has to do with social networks for moms!

Living in the country creates its own set of social challenges for me. When I'm in town I'm usually driving kids to various activities and making trips to the library, hardware and grocery store.  Finding time to socialize irl is challenging at best and one done most often with the other moms at co-op or Tutoring Center. Because of that on-line communities have been a life saver for me.

The Well Trained Mind boards is my Teacher's Lounge. Started by Susan Wise Bauer, co-author of The Well Trained Mind and Story of the World, is a large, active community with a classical bent (though there are many with neo or no leanings towards classical ed) with lively discussion, several forums, social groups, weekly challenges, and bloggers! Weekly blogging memes include Wordless Wednesday, 52 Books in a Year Challenge, Weekly Review and much more. I have a whole list of gals from TWTM boards who have strengthend and encouraged my homeschooling through their posts and humor from all across the world: Tina, Jen, Nan, Rosie, Robin, Kathy, and so many, many more! Some of the activities have really been great in keeping me accountable- like Robin of My Two Blessings 52 Books in a Year challenge, or the Weekly Review. Good stuff. Great people from all walks of life, from all over the world!

The Homeschool Village is a new community that has great weekly link-ups and panel (I'm one = ) , fun challenges, and a host of resources, facebook and more. Another growing community and a great week to meet up with bloggers and a host of other homeschoolers! The community grows by the week. Homeschoolers unite!

Facebook and Twitter are also fun social outlets and I've re-discovered old friends, made new ones and broadened my abilites by the challenge of both. I joined Twitter because of a Twitter Party at the Homeschool Village (thanks for the push, gals! = ) and I've recently linked up to the LibraryThing community. Ohmy. If you are a bibliophile, a whole new world awaits!

Blogging and reading others blogs has been my hobby, therapy and creative outlet for the past 2 years. The Blog world is vast and fascinating and cheaper than the stickers and paper that scrapbooking demands! There are homeschooling blogs, political blogs, photo blogs, decorating blogs, theological blogs and more, more, more. If you are an info junkie the blog world could easily consume you! I've made some great friends through blogging and have had some wonderful correspondence across the country with like-minded bloggers, both via email and through comments. It's a blast to know that what I've written has been meaningful to someone else or to find encouragement and inspiration, and even my faith strengthened by someone else's photo or words. Two or better than one!

Which leads me to my final point. I am so grateful for the myriad social networks available on-line and spend time daily going through my "route." But it's also something that I have to manage because one link leads to another, one Facebook friend leads to another, one blog post leads to another click through  and before you know it hours of your day have been consumed by a one dimensional social life. While I love the technology it doesn't beat sitting down to coffee irl with a friend or snuggling on the couch with one's kiddos reading a book. Speaking of which, I have kids to teach. Fractions and decimals, here we come!

Don't forget to  link up at The Homeschool Village.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Seeing Red

...both inside and outside last night!!

Our friends Steve Hickey, Jenna Haggar, Jim Bolin Joshua Cockcroft, Tim Echols 
won their races yesterday!

Both Jenna and Josh were homeschooled, both are in their early 20's and both won definitively.
Josh is a graduate of TeenPact Leadership School.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I've been reading Conversion Dairies for  a couple of years now. I appreciate Jen's sense of humor, her search for Godliness and her real life struggles with managing a home, lots of kids and a life of devotion.

 She is also the host of 7 Quick Takes which is a weekly indulgence for me, not only to peek at slices of others lives, but as a wrap up of my own week. It is ohsoeasy for me to see all that isn't done instead of finding fulfillment and joy in what has taken place. Quick Takes and Weekly Review keeps me focused on the positive wins and accomplishments of each week, a critical, but realistic, analysis of what we've done. (True Confessions, I'm an extremist and, if left to my own devices would either do everything at once, or nothing at all. My weekly review is all about self management.)

Jen also has a great list of blog links if you are looking for enriching reading but I wanted to share one that really spoke to me this week by Heather King and  her post about why she kneels in church. Short but powerful.

While I participate in a faith tradition that does not kneel, and couldn't even if I wanted to thanks to a knee injury, I love the thought that goes behind this attitude of worship.

I read, years ago, a tract by a preacher who had renounced Martial Arts once he became a Christian for this reason; that the physical postures that we take have spiritual meaning. Putting aside the conversation about Martial Arts, I believe he has a good point. Often our attitude of worship is common. We want to make the Gospel message accessible, so we tell people to "come as they are" and this carries over into tables of doves Starbucks in church and people coming and going willy nilly, and our whole attitude is relaxed and common and trivialized. From what I read we're not called to make the gospel accessible, or really anything else. We are simply to respond to the siren song of the Master of the Universe, who is pure and unblemished (for a great discussion on the  Holiness of God read DeSilva's  excellent book, Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture

I wonder if, perhaps, part of the reason the evangelical church in America is watching our youth slip away at the startling rate of  96%  to secularism within weeks of their going off to college is because they've never experienced the holy, come face to face with the sacred, knelt in humility. Or, for that matter, witnessed anyone else doing it either. We assume that our kids will catch our faith, yet we don't take the time, or have the inner resources ourselves, to demonstrate what that faith really consists of. Religion is easy but faith lived out loud is a deep and difficult calling.

Kneeling puts it faith in perspective. Once or twice in my life when I've prayed in a group, a grown man will get down on his knees to pray before the Lord, or raise his hands when doing so. It almost always brings me to tears. It is such an act of humility and submission, and powerlessness.  When we kneel we are humble, seeking, childlike. We acknowledge our own weakness and want, our own humanity. It allows us to see that  He is God and we are not.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Little Lite Reading

Reading has taken a back seat to homeschooling, house working, transporting the kids hither and yon and helping a few friends here and there. I did have a chance to sit down with this lovely book last week at the library:

Blogging for Bliss Crafting Your Own Online Journal: A Guide for Crafters, Artists & Creatives of all Kinds by Tara Frey.  This book is directed towards crafters on-line and it is chock full of beautiful illustrations, great blogging tips and an introduction to some of the most  popular creative bloggers on-line. A good overview for anyone thinking of blogging or those who'd like to ramp up their blogs appeal.

TARA FREY’s blog Tara Frey {typing out loud} ( is very much worth taking a peek at too!