Sunday, February 27, 2011 Read the Bible in One Year

A few weeks ago, the girls' piano teacher told me about this new Bible she has, a chronological one-year NIV translation. The idea intrigued me at the time, but I didn't want to spend anymore money on this Bible just then, so I put it on the backburner for the time being. Cut to present-day: A big thanks to my friend, Silvia, who pointed me to a wonderful website,

Now, I know that reading the Bible in one year is not a new idea. But, offering five reading plans -- beginning to end, straight through; chronological; historical; New (Testament) then Old; or a passage of Old and New each day -- and more than 50 translations, is huge help to anyone who wants to meet the challenge.

First, you select your preferred translation and reading plan. I chose the Holman Christian Standard Bible because I downloaded the Kindle version for free from Amazon. Next you choose a start date, either the first or 15th of a month; I chose March 1. Presto! Up pops a daily reading plan for a calendar year. And, should you decide to read at your computer, each day's reading is a link to the passage in your preferred translation on BibleGateway.

I think this is just marvelous. Silvia, thanks again!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: "Winter Break" and Rembrandt

Happy Friday! Our local schools, public and private, were on "winter break" this week. Despite the girls' irritation, I saw no need to take a frivolous break, but did designate a bit lighter than normal week. In fact, we took Wednesday off because it was Tiny Girl's tenth birthday (read all about our day here). Our celebration of her first decade continues, since my folks arrive later today to spend the night, and we're all going out to eat tonight. The handyman at the barn where she rides gave her this little nosegay and a glass horse ornament:

We took a break from spelling and our math lessons were shortened, but other than that we operated normally. Bible, poetry (Dickinson), copywork, grammar (still adverbs), piano, French, and literature continued smoothly. Miss Priss is in the final third of Anne of Green Gables, reading aloud to us the best parts. Tiny Girl began The Princess and Curdie, by George Macdonald. They continue to grouse about Robinson Crusoe, and have asked that I begin reading it aloud to them instead of their listening to an audio version. I'd rather not, but in the interest of promoting this work as a Good Thing, I will do so.

In our history and biography lessons, we enjoyed more from George Washington's World; chapter two of Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution; and This Country of Ours, specifically, the origins of Carolina. We're nearing the end of Plutarch's Julius Caesar. This week, we came to his famous declaration: "Veni, vidi, vici"; which means, "I came, I saw, I conquered." Pretty much sums up Caesar, in my mind. The girls also completed a project for the Homes and Villages pocket of History Pockets' Colonial America: diagrams of a colonial village:

I have to feature both or suffer the consequences.

Much to everyone's delight, we were able to spend some time considering two Rembrandt works from our What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt? book. Both works are remarkable examples of Rembrandt's use of chiaroscuro (light and dark). To hear how this is pronounced, click here.

The first we studied was Anslo and His Wife. Click here to view this painting on the Art Project website. The small window at the right of the painting allows you to zoom in closer to examine parts of the work in marvelous detail. If you don't see this window, move your mouse cursor over the area where it should be, and it will pop up.

Before we considered the painting Belshazzar's Feast itself, we read the story in the book of Daniel. Click here to view this painting on The National Gallery (London) website, which also offers a wonderful zoom feature. What amazed us about this particular work is how Rembrandt depicts the luster and richness of the gold objects and Belshazzar's robe without the benefit of metallic paint. Zoom in on the painting to see what I mean.

We had a great time with the Great Backyard Bird Count. The species with the most representatives in our backyard was the goldfinch. They sucked down the nyjer seed in a matter of days!

Jasper completed his beginning obedience class and earned a certificate. Yay! We plan to take the intermediate course in March and earn his AKC Canine Good Citizen award.

Well, that's our week. I hope yours was lively, educational, and enjoyable!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Free E-book from Simply Charlotte Mason

Since I like to pass along helpful homeschooling and parenting resources, I wanted to let you know about a FREE e-book from Simply Charlotte Mason entitled A Thinking Love, by Sonya Shafer. This 73-page book is a easy read, but it's packed with Charlotte Mason quotes, encouragement, and "wise counsel." Here's a quote from SCM's website:

In the very first pages of her book, Home Education, Charlotte Mason challenged mothers to give their children a “thinking love.”

It’s easy to give our children an indulgent love that caters to their every whim. Or a lazy love that follows the crowd and does what is easiest. But giving them a thinking love requires some effort.

Join Sonya as she explores what “a thinking love” means and contemplates the various ways that Charlotte Mason encouraged thinking mothers to show their love to their children.
To make a free deal even sweeter, SCM offers several versions of A Thinking Love: PDF format for computer; ePub format for iPad, Nook, and other readers; and (yippee!) Mobi format for Kindle. Why not pop over to SCM and download your favorite version. I've only read through Chapter Three, but Sonya's book has already inspired and encouraged me!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Tiny Girl!

Today is Tiny Girl's tenth -- tenth -- birthday! We took the day off from school to celebrate. Her heart's desire was to go to the mall, so we did. She got a couple of pairs of shorts; some new shoes; some clothes for her Build-a-Bear bunny, Daphne; and lunch at Chick-fil-a. Then, tonight after church, we scarfed down a delicious lemon cake in honor of the day, she opened some cards -- and is now rich by her standards -- and Grammie and Grandad, as well as her sweet Aunt Lala, called to sing Happy Birthday.

Ah, bliss.

Words desert me when I try to convey in any way what a blessing she is to our family. Certainly, all children are blessings from heaven. But Tiny Girl was not only unplanned for, she was also unlooked for, and I was not delighted when I discovered I was expecting her, for a host of reasons.


She is yet another marvelous, glorious example of how God's plans far outweigh, outshine, and simply out-wow any plans we could ever make for our lives.

In short, I can't imagine life without her.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: GBBC, the Brain, and More Books

 Another really busy Friday, so I'm writing my Wrap-Up slightly before lunch on Saturday. I'm drinking a cup of PG Tips (decaf) with sugar and milk and listening to a jazz program on BBC Radio 3 online, so I'm feelin' mellow.

The big news of the week is (fanfare, please) that the Great Backyard Bird Count began yesterday! Our feeders are full with black-oil sunflower seed for the tray feeder and squirrel-proof tube feeder, and nyjer seed in the finch feeder. I've also hung a suet feeder to attract woodpeckers. We're participated for several years now, and I highly recommend it for your family, too. It's four-day event, but you can choose to count for only a short time period on one day, if you'd prefer. Since we are bird watchers anyway, it's a natural to add to our day. I hope you join in to be part of this fun and important nationwide study of birds.

Other highlights:

On Valentine's Day we set aside some time to bake Himself his favorite peanut butter cookies.

In our history and biography studies, we began the excellent and entertaining George Washington's World, by Genevieve Foster, and Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution, by Natalie S. Bober. We also read about Benjamin Franklin's arrival in Philadelphia in This Country of Ours. While I read, the girls worked on a History Pockets project: a New England colonial home. They enjoy this sort of activity.

You know my penchant for Schoolhouse Rock, so you won't be surprised that we began our consideration of adverbs with that classic, "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here." The girls are now used to the idea that I know most of the words to these little ditties.

We finished our reading of Professor I.Q. Explores the Brain, by Seymour Simon. All three of us really enjoyed this book. Not only does it present the information in a light-hearted but thorough way, there are also "Try This" super easy mini-experiments, which we all had fun doing.

As always, we spent a bit of time reading. Below is Miss Priss in her now-favorite place to read, tucked in a corner of the dining room behind the red-checked armchair.

Nothing much to report in our other subjects. Other than the face that we did not get to Plutarch (Caesar) or picture study this week, everything else is marching along. Below, Tiny Girl tickles the ivories.

I continued with my new plan of making Fridays a bit different from other days, and we all enjoyed the freshness of the change-up.

So how was your week? To read more Wrap-Ups, pop over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Solace of Soup

I make soup a lot. To me, it's the perfect comfort food in cooler weather. Himself told me recently that soup is my "forte"; I'm not sure what that says about my cooking (although I do subject my family to "new" recipes that often fail to rise to my expectations), but I'll take any compliment I can get from him.

Last week, I roasted a chicken in my Romertopf clay baker, which is the best way to roast a chicken, in my opinion. We ate all we wanted for supper one night, and I saved the rest and the juices in a Tupperware container. On Sunday, I dumped the contents in a Dutch oven with enough water to cover and let it simmer for a couple of hours. Then I picked the meat from the bones, discarded said bones, and put the meat back in the pot. I removed some of the broth to freeze for later use. I had some leftover Mexican rice, so I mixed that in the soup pot, along with some medium chunky salsa. I seasoned it a bit with onion, garlic, and sea salt. I let it simmer longer. At suppertime, I served the soup with sliced black olives, chunks of avocado, and shredded Cheddar cheese. Himself added some Tabasco to his bowl for extra kick. It was really scrumptious.

Soup is best homemade with what you have on hand. This means, of course, it's hard to duplicate the results on other occasions, but that's fine by me. But I'm always on the lookout for recipe ideas, so if yuo have any, send them along!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


We are dog people around here, and we like to watch dog shows on TV. It's time for Westminster! Since corgis are are favorite, we loved watching this brief video of the Pems from this year's show. I'm partial to the red-headed tris, and there are two cuties in this bunch. Enjoy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Treats

In honor of the special day, the girls and I made Himself his favorite cookies. These are the best peanut butter cookies I've ever tasted. The flavor is intense and the texture is rich. If peanuts are a no-no in your house, a friend of mine made a very successful batch with Sun Butter.

Best-Ever Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup creamy peanut butter*
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With a mixer, cream together the peanut butter and sugar til well combined. In a small bowl, lighly beat the egg, then add to peanut butter mixture along with the baking soda. Mix til all is combined. Roll level teaspoons of dough into balls and place 1 inch apart on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Make crosshatch pattern with fork on dough balls, pressing lightly. Bake for about 1o minutes until puffed and golden. Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes, then remove to baking racks to cool thoroughly.

* You can use either commercial or natural peanut butter, but I prefer commercial for this recipe. If you choose natural, be prepared for some serious crumbling!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Trying Something New

Happy Saturday! I'm late posting our Wrap-Up this week; Tiny Girl and I were at the barn yesterday afternoon, and last night was Girl Scouts Mother-Daughter Bingo night. Big fun around here!

We had a good week. I'm feeling more energized and confident after my epiphany last week. Still more plans to put into action, but we went back to our roots and tried some new things this week that worked well. Nothing like a bit of success to put a whole new perspective on things.

Several subjects clicked along: devotion/Bible study using Keys for Kids, which we enjoy; cursive copywork, Miss Priss working on AO selections for Return to Gone Away and Tiny Girl on AO selections from The Peterkin Papers; grammar, in which we studied comparative and superlative adjectives; spelling with Spelling Power, which works well with both my strong speller and my challenged speller; we completed the introduction pocket for our Colonial America history pockets; French with Rosetta Stone; and piano lessons and daily practice.

Other activities included:

  • For poetry, a study I'd been neglecting but we all enjoy, we began reading and discussing AO selections of Emily Dickinson's poems.
  • In math, Miss Priss cycled back through lines of symmetry, graphing, and basic operations practice in Mathematical Reasoning. Tiny Girl left geometry behind for a bit and returned to basic arithmetical operations and a bit of algebra in MEP Year 4.
  • We continued our study of the brain in Professor IQ Explores the Brain, by Seymour Simon. This week, we explored the cerebrum, cerebral cortex, and brain hemispheres.
  • Literature selections included the first two chapters of Robinson Crusoe, which the girls are listening to on the computer; a selection from Caesar in Plutarch's Lives; Anne of Green Gables for Miss Priss; and The Peterkin Papers for Tiny Girl.
  • In our What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt? book, we took a close look at two paintings, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp and Flora. We also discussed Rembrandt's ingenious use of chiaroscuro, an Italian word meaning a strong contrast between light and dark.

On Friday, we mixed things up a bit. The girls already have their Timothy Ministry enrichment classes that afternoon, so are mornings have been rushed. To help lighten the load but still keep the brain juices flowing, I substituted multiplication games and drills on and for our regular math lessons. I also removed grammar and spelling study from our Friday schedule and had the girls work on two Mind Benders puzzles, which they love, and Miss Priss also completed four pages from Building Thinking Skills. By assigning logic studies to Fridays, our Monday through Thursday schedule is freed up a bit more. At first, Tiny Girl was hugely disappointed at the loss of logic every day, but she survived.

So that's our week! To read more Wrap-Ups and glean some ideas and encouragement, pop over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Woman of Noble Character: Week 1

I was privileged to have Lynda visit my blog and take the time to comment. I always visit the blogs of ladies who comment on mine, and on Lynda's blog, My Heart's Desire, I found A Woman of Noble Character Challenge (note the button on my sidebar). Lynda's questions in the challenge struck a chord with me, so I decided to join in. Perhaps you'll choose to join as well!

For Week 1, we considered Proverbs 31:10-12:

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

Lynda posed these thoughts:

Are you a virtuous and capable wife more precious than rubies? Does your husband trust you, and do you enrich his life? Do you bring him good everyday? Write a post about something you would like to change about yourself, and something you love about yourself. How does this add to the enrichment of your husband's life?
Well. Ahem. Honestly?

I try very hard to be a virtuous and capable wife. Some days are better than others. And some days I feel unequal to the task. The fact that Himself always seems glad to see me when he comes home in the evenings is evidence to me that he thinks more highly of me than I do myself. He trusts me implicitly. (I'm the designated decision-maker in his living will, his sole beneficiary, his trustee, power of attorney, etc., etc., after all.) And I know him better than anyone else simply because he has allowed me to truly know him. He comes across as a laid-back, fun-loving guy, but I know he's actually a very private person who tends to keep his own counsel. I know I enrich his life because, although he has interests that are his own, he seeks me out for conversation, companionship, and my opinion on things. Since I am so blessed, I do my best to bring him good every day.

If I could change something about myself I'd be a better homekeeper. We are a busy, homeschooling household with two daughters, a dog, and lots of activities. There are always other things to be doing than housework. In fact, we usually fold our piles of laundry as a family. Himself often cleans the kitchen after supper while I oversee showers and tuck-ins. He irons his own shirts because he's a much better ironer than I; I iron wrinkles in.

I love two things about me: my intellectual curiosity and my sense of humor. I think the latter enriches Himself's life more than the former. My friends think I am hilarious. Himself thinks I'm a lot funnier than he'll admit. (He's not one to lavish praise, so when I get any from him, I know it's a BIG DEAL.) But the fact is that we laugh together a lot and have many inside jokes. If anyone touches on a topic or phrase that's linked to one of "our" jokes, all it takes is one of us to make eye contact with the other, and then we're hiding smiles or, worse, smothering chuckles. But that's one thing I love about us.

Quite simply, I pray I enrich his life as much as he enriches mine.

Image: luigi diamanti /

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life is a Celebration

While I was waiting for a doctor's appointment, I happened to pick up a magazine (from 2007, of course) to flip through and ran across an astonishing essay by Dagny Scott Barrios. After her mother died, Dagny helped her father go through her things in the house. She came across her grandmother's china, lovingly wrapped and shut away in a dark cabinet. She pulled out a few pieces and began unwrapping them to use for the next meal.

"Not those," her father protested. "Those are for..." But he stopped speaking because the special occasion those dishes were saved for would never come now.

Dagny owns the dishes now and uses them regularly for simple meals, like roast chicken and sweet potatoes. She writes so eloquently:
Because always savings one's best things for a better day, a different day, carries with it a judgment: that the life you're living right now doesn't count; that it isn't good enough. And I've decided it is.
I have a set of special antique china, too, which Himself and I spied at an antique shop in Tennessee. Both of us admired it, and he secretly made a trip back there a few weeks afterward to buy the set for me for Christmas. We don't use most of the pieces regularly because they have to be hand washed, and I don't want to face that chore too often. But the girls do use the cups and saucers for tea (I prefer a mug), and I lovingly wash them afterward before placing them back on the display shelves of my china cabinet.

Life is worth celebrating, and one of the ways we can bring joy into our days is to use our cherished and beautiful things, our best things. And breathe a word of thanks every time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

One Homeschooling Peril

Although I am sure there are more homeschooling perils, one in particular sentences me to the Pit of Despair (rasped out in an appropriately ghoulish voice, a la The Princess Bride): doubt.

Let me attempt to clarify.

My ultimate goal is to provide the very best possible education for my children. Since all children are individuals and are blessed with different strengths and challenges, this may look different for each child of mine. Fortunately, both of my scholars enjoy books: reading on their own, my reading aloud to them, or listening to books on CD. I love all those things as well, so I joyfully settled on a literary-based educational philosophy for our family.

This worked well for a few years. Then Miss Priss began fifth grade, and doubt crept in. I became convinced that we were not doing enough. So I made some changes. We followed them for several months, but the going was tough. We were hard pressed to finish everything scheduled for a day, and I felt overwhelmed and ineffective. This past January, I thought long about the changes I'd made and why I'd made them. I talked with a homeschooling friend of mine, and we discussed ideas, reasoning, and options. I prayed for guidance. And peace.

I know I'm not the only homeschooling parent thus plagued. With the myriad choices on the educational buffet, it's easy to get bogged down, not only in the details but in the bigger picture, too. Spiral or mastery for math? Do we need a formal spelling program? Should we try a hybrid school? What about an online school? Is a four-year history cycle better than a six-year cycle? Shouldn't my child be doing (fill in the blank) by now? Are we going to need a tutor for math? Latin now or later (or at all)? What about lab experiments? Am I completely ruining my children's chances for success?

Homeschooling is a passion for me. I take my role very seriously. This is a good thing, but I also feel the heavy weight of responsibility on my shoulders. Are the choices I'm making the very best ones for my children? Doubt about this question can make homeschooling a burden for me.

Here's what I learned: my focus was out of whack. I'd been viewing my children as tabula rasa, buckets to be filled with educational matter. Wrong! In The Great Conversation, Robert Hutchins writes: "The result of liberal education [is that the student learns] to read, write, speak, listen, understand, and think." Note he did not say "to regurgitate a bunch of meaningless facts in a vacuum."

Joy in learning should also be a goal of mine for my children, for them to "find knowledge so delightful that it becomes a pursuit and source of happiness for a lifetime," as Charlotte Mason writes. My job, then, is to provide a wealth of educational opportunities, a wide-ranging banquet for their minds; to create an atmosphere rich with intellectual pursuits that spark their interests and natural curiosity; to give guidance and help where it is needed, but not take over; and to stimulate discussions of ideas and impressions.

With that in mind, I've given lots of thought to our long-term plans, and I've back-tracked somewhat. I'm convinced that a literary education is exactly the style in which my children will flourish. And I'm committed to fostering a love of learning in their hearts and minds. I'm sure doubt is not through with me yet, but my recent struggles have helped me to see our destination more clearly and to better map out our path for getting there.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: It Was a Hairy Bear...

... it was a scary bear. We beat a hasty retreat from his lair. And described him with adjectives."

If this sounds familiar to you, then you must be familiar with Schoolhouse Rock. This week, we watched "Unpack Your Adjectives" to add a little oomph to our grammar study. A little oomph can be a good thing, can't it?

Other highlights:

The girls completed book A3 of the Mind Benders series. The last two puzzles were quite tricky, and they requested my help. However, I did very little. Both of them are better and more practiced than I at these grid puzzles, and, working together and talking it out, they were able to figure out the answers.

We began our study of the brain and nervous system. Again, I found the KidsHealth website to be a great introduction and overview. Click here for their chapter on the brain and nervous system. The girls listened to a recording of the article as they read along.

I really cannot rave enough over the Eyewitness Science book, Human Body, by Steve Parker and published by DK. I found it at our library, but this is a keeper, so I bought a used copy on Amazon. While simplistic illustrations of body parts are helpful in clearly depicting their functions (like this Flash diagram on the KidsHealth site), more realistic-looking models are invaluable in showing how our inner workings really look, how they fit together. We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made.

The girls began work on their Colonial America history pockets. For children in grades four to six, these pockets are more detailed than others we've done in the past. I'm going to pick and choose the pockets we complete, since we've already covered some of the material a few weeks ago, such as the Mayflower crossing.

We watched a short VHS production by Kultur entitled "Rembrandt: Painter of Man," which I found at the library. There's another part we have yet to watch, "The Restoration of 'The Night Watch,'" which is one of Rembrandt's most famous works.

In math, Miss Priss tackled decimals, a bit of geometry, and basic operations practice in Mathematical Reasoning. Tiny Girl continued with geometry in MEP, including work with tesselations, enlarging/reducing geometrical figures, figuring area and perimeter, and similar/congruent figures.

On Friday, the girls attended their Timothy Ministry homeschool enrichment classes. They are both enjoying the  acrylic painting class. Miss Priss is having fun in Irish dance. Tiny Girl absolutely loves chess, a class I had to convince her to try. She's a born strategist, like her father. I, alas, am not; she routinely beats me at checkers and mancala.

 Those are the highlights of our week! To read more Weekly Wrap-Ups, hop over the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Have a great weekend!