Friday, August 22, 2014

Poetry Friday

This one felt just right for this week of hours -- hours with Ramona, sisters off to college, old ways, new ways. Hours of planning, hours of remembering, hours looking ahead. Hours of excitement and memory, anticipation and wondering. Hours we've lived and hours not yet known. Good stuff, all of it. 

And thanks to for leading me to Hazel Hall.

by Hazel Hall

I have known hours built like cities,
House on grey house, with streets between
That lead to straggling roads and trail off,
Forgotten in a field of green;

Hours made like mountains lifting
White crests out of the fog and rain,
And woven of forbidden music—
Hours eternal in their pain.

Life is a tapestry of hours
Forever mellowing in tone,
Where all things blend, even the longing
For hours I have never known.


Irene Latham is pinch-hitting (pinch-hosting?) Poetry Friday today at Live Your Poem.

* "Hours" is in the public domain.

Photo courtesy of artirme at FreeImages

Thursday, August 21, 2014

World War II With Ramona

Ramona and I have been talking about what we want to read and study this year, and one thing we've settled on is World War II. Anne-with-an-e was twelve and Betsy was about ten when we first studied World War II. Now that Ramona is twelve (gulp), I think it's a great time to dive in to the time period with her, too.

We'll start with all the great historical fiction I read to Anne and Betsy:

* Novels:

Twenty and Ten
Number the Stars 
The Borrowed House
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (and a second post on that book)
The Winged Watchman
Snow Treasure
Escape from Warsaw
The Little Riders
My Friend the Enemy

* Picture Books:

Boxes for Katje
Always Remember Me
The Orphans of Normandy
Home of the Brave 
So Far From the Sea
The Bracelet
Baseball Saved Us
The Greatest Skating Race
The Yellow Star
One Thousand Tracings

* Here's a link to a post that addresses "How We Handle World War II."

It includes some more book ideas, such as Welcome to Molly's WorldTomie de Paola's I'm Still ScaredThe Young Life of Pope John Paul II and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

That's just the beginning. I need to comb my archives for more books and ideas.

Looks like we have a full year ahead of us.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A quote from St. Jane Frances de Chantal on her feast day

"If we patiently accept through love all that God allows to happen, then we will begin to taste even here on earth something of the delights the saints experience in heaven. But for this we must serve God willingly and lovingly, seeking to obey the Divine Will rather than to follow our own inclinations and desires. For the perfection of love demands that we desire for ourselves only whatever God wills. Let us implore the good God unceasingly to grant us this grace!"

~~ St. Jane Frances de Chantal

And one from her spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales:

"It is far better to do a few things well than undertake many good works and leave them half-done."

A Review: Momnipotent

Just reviewed Danielle Bean's newest, Momnipotent, over at Amazon. Here's what I said: 

Danielle Bean speaks to the hearts and souls of so many women. We know we're not perfect, and Danielle cheerfully acknowledges that she isn't either. That's what makes her such an appealing messenger. We all have an "I was a mean, scary-face mommy that day" story and when she recounts hers, we can laugh, tear up, nod. Conversely, when she shares the things about motherhood that are stunning and amazing, when she points us toward ideals and ways to strive toward them (with reason, balance, and charity always) we nod again, and are grateful.
"It is not good for man to be alone," God said in Genesis. It's not good for moms to be alone either. In these pages, you'll be reminded that you are not flying solo.

I particularly enjoyed the way she opened each chapter with both a strength and a counterpoint -- the weakness that can result from a rigid pursuit or practice of that strength.

Real, funny, touching and encouraging.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Poetry Friday: What We Need

"What We Need" by David Budbill is too short (copyright issues, you know!) for me to post even a snippet of it without permission, so I'll send you straight over to The Writer's Almanac.

It's what you need today.


Heidi Mordhorst has the Poetry Friday round up at My Juicy Little Universe. 

The Doctor, Vincent, and Me

I'm late (as I am for everything. I need to have a Late to the Party category for the blog) jumping on the Dr. Who bandwagon. Or rather, Tardis-Wagon. Band-Tardis?

I finally started watching. I'm on Season 5, Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. I really struggled through the first/Eccleston season (okay, I know it's not the first season of all time and relative dimension but you know what I mean) and I only persevered because my daughters assured me that soon all would be well and better than well.


It took me awhile because at first I was just so irritated by cheesy effects and slimy monsters. The Daleks drove me batty and I wasn't having much fun with the Cybermen either. Goo and metal? That's all you've got, Universe?

But somewhere around the intersection of David Tennant and Rose, at the corner of Martha and Donna, something clicked. I stopped saying, "Are you sure this will get better? I mean, yeah, I liked that one about Rose and her father, and 'The Empty Child' haunted and touched, but...." and I began to sheepishly murmur, "I think I kind of completely love this show." Sometimes I'd add, "Except when it's slimy. Can we have more time travel, please?" Then River Song would show up, totally out of time-sync, and I'm all, "That's what I'm talkin' about."

I'm still moving slowly through it, as I watch only when I'm working out. (Clearly, I don't work out enough.) At any rate, yesterday I watched "Vincent and the Doctor." Yes, I knew I was being emotionally manipulated ...

... but I didn't care one bit.

I began to love Vincent Van Gogh  -- when? I can't even remember exactly when it started. I love him the way I love coffee and breathing. He just is, has always been. He was the first artist who spoke to my heart on a level I couldn't articulate. My tattered copy of Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh still lives on a bookshelf, having survived a number of book purges over the years. I have more books about Van Gogh than anyone needs. I didn't see his work in person until I was in my 40s, and I remember the moment vividly. The beauty I had detected in two dimensions -- on posters and in books -- leapt to life, blazing. The strokes, the texture, the color... I couldn't stop the tears. The painting wasn't even a favorite, and it was certainly a sedate one by all standards. Still.

(If you're late to everything, too, and haven't seen the episode, and don't want spoilers, stop reading now....)

Obviously I was fully primed for this episode to touch me and it did, hitting all the right chords -- exploring what is inexplicable about art and beauty, cocking its head to see how an artist experiences the world, eliciting sighs at the picture of lying in a field, holding hands with your best friend and Vincent, looking up at a starry sky, considering how we are connected.

Perhaps the most significant detail for me was the episode's monster. Sometimes, with Dr. Who, I think, do we have to have a monster? Can't we just time-travel today?

But ... an invisible monster that only Van Gogh could see? As a depression metaphor, it was a brilliant little detail that touched me as Van Gogh touches me: quietly, and with tears. It was the only kind of monster that would or should work with a Vincent episode, and it was the monster that, despite their attempts to cheer and assure him, The Doctor and Amy couldn't fully vanquish either.

I think I kind of completely love this show.

I have to go work out now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Which I Am Once Again the Cook

photo thanks to freeimages

Atticus has gone back to school which means I am forced to head back to the kitchen.

Can you say, "Sad Woman"?*

Atticus is more the Chef variety of cook than I am. I am quite often the Get something on the table at the end of the day -- something which I hope approximates a meal variety of cook. And the dirty as few dishes as possible kind of cook. I do like to bake, but you can't have cookies or Lucia bread every night.

My first day back in the kitchen looked something like this:

"What can I make for dinner tonight?
Hmmm, lemme look in the freezer.
Oh! Atticus's leftover grilled chicken.
And, oooh! A couple pieces of his fried chicken.
Chicken salad, here we come.
Ah, look! His red sauce. I can make pasta soon!"

Yeah, we are living off his spoils this week, but soon I'll have to get serious and pull out some pots and pans.


*Of course I'm sad for other reasons, too, like missing my husband. It's not just the cooking and the never-having-to-think-about-what's-for-dinner. But today, I have chosen to kvetch about cooking, okay? So we'll leave the mushy part of missing-him out of it.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Poetry Friday: "I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books...."

This week really got away from me. I meant to blog all week, but we've been cleaning and decluttering and getting ready for a new school year. I bought a new bookcase, moved a bookcase to the basement, and we came up with a bunch of bags of books to haul away.

Not a poetry book among them. I guess I'm hanging on to all of the poetry. (And too many other books, too, apparently, because we still don't have enough shelf space.)

But I forgive and re-forgive myself for my book habits, because ... well, as Dylan Thomas said:

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sandstorms and ice blasts of words, such slashing of humbug, and humbug, too, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just-awaking wits and splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Mary Lee's A Year of Reading

Monday, August 04, 2014

And Then There's Math

I watched this TED talk awhile back, and then a friend of mine recently reminded me of it and I watched it again. I love this guy because he sums up my philosophy about how to approach math in our homeschool.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Poetry Friday: In Which Stanley Kunitz Blows Me Away

an excerpt from
The Layers 
by Stanley Kunitz

Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?

You must read the whole poem here, at

Read more about Kunitz here or here. And here is a Paris Review interview with him from 1977.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Reflections on the Teche.

"...he had secretly dreamed of a freedom without limits...."

"He sees only injustice. And this betrays the fact that he too had secretly dreamed of a freedom without limits, that his obedience has made him inwardly bitter, and that he has no awareness of the grace of being at home, of the true freedom that he enjoys as a son." 

-- Pope Benedict XVI, in Jesus of Nazareth, 
on the point of view of the older brother, 
in the parable of the prodigal son

Talking about conversion today on Morning Air at Relevant Radio -- 7 a.m. central time. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ideas for Ramona's Book Club?

A friend of mine has done a great book club for the last few years, but we're all feeling at a bit of a crossroads. The mix of kids is tricky at this particular juncture -- this year we will have boys and girls ranging in age from six to twelve. It's hard to bridge all those gaps (not to mention tastes.)


I think we're overthinking it, and we just need a jolt. Brainstorming, anyone?

Monday, July 28, 2014

What If They WANT to Do Worksheets?

Tamara asked:

... did you ever have a child who *wanted* to do things like pre-reading worksheets? And if so, did you just let that be while it lasted? 

That's a great question, and the answer is, "Yes. Ramona has loved herself some very worksheet-y worksheets."

Ramona loves a lot of curriculum, actually, although the more obligatory it becomes, the less attractive it is to her, and she has yet to fall in love with the math curriculum that I require of her. But she likes the accountability and neatness of filling in blanks, matching answers, and choosing one of multiple choices. She likes lists (so do I) and checking things off as she accomplished tasks (so do I.) So, curriculum appeals to the desire for order and structure.

This post -- School-y Ramona -- is from the year Ramona was seven years old. The main point was that my homeschooling goal has been to follow my girls' lead and pinpoint how they learn best. If Ramona wanted to do State of the Day, we were going to do State of the Day (while still mixing in lots of real life and hands on learning, read-alouds, and so on.)

I'm reminded of a comment on a past post in which Elizabeth said this:

On a sadder note, I am envious of your party planning and graduation parties. My son has just finished his final high school work -- we have home schooled since the beginning. He has taken 8 classes at the community college & has been accepted to GA Tech (his 1st and only choice) but the child doesn't want a graduation party. He wants no celebration -- nothing. i'm just left hanging here. I did get one of those corny yard signs that all the other kids from the local public & private schools get, announcing congratulations, etc. He won't have anything to do with a party. but I feel like celebrating -- I've spent the last 18 years of my life nurturing and educating this kid. It seems wrong not to celebrate.

My response was this:

...what's funny about our opposite situations is that I always pictured myself being more like your son -- I thought that the beauty of homeschooling was that we didn't have to do the requisite milestones/celebrations in the same way the rest of the world does, because we've always done things on our own timeline. But, my girls wanted more, so that's what they got. And, your son doesn't want a party, so that's what he's getting. We're both still tailoring things to their likes and needs. :) 

However, it does sound like your son should perhaps take your likes and needs into account, and take YOU out for a celebration dinner!

That little exchange sums up what I love about homeschooling: an individualized, tailored, responsive way of life that is centered on relationships and real goals for the real world.

And sometimes that means worksheets, for as long as they serve their purpose. (Hope this helps, Tamara!)