Saturday, November 29, 2008

Because my Mother Reads my Blog...

I thought I'd feature her in photos for the day:

(And here is the link to the photos from Gretchen's wedding, Mom...)
Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Makes Me Sleepy

Posted by Picasa

Snail Count

How many snails are on this tree?
Photo was taken after tree-trimming in early November. The sap poured out of the mulberry, and the snails had a treat.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rational Science Reporting from National Geographic


Here's the headline:
Alien-like Squid With "Elbows" Filmed at Drilling Site

No sensationalism here, folks. Just the facts. And the word "Alien" coupled with "Drilling Site."

>sigh< The video is way cool. Take a look...I won't tell anyone.

Narnia Goes Green at The Franklin

There's an exhibit on Narnia, opening Friday, in at The Franklin in Philadelphia. It includes costumes from the movies, props, interactive exhibits (see more by clicking on the exhibit preview video) Sounds great, right? But, disturbingly, The Franklin is using the Narnia exhibit as a vehicle for environmentalism. At least, that's how they are marketing the exhibit. From the website:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition takes you on a magical tour where sets, original props, and newly created interactive exhibits drive home a powerful real world message about our stewardship of the environment.

How heavy-handed will the message be? Hard to say, from looking at the exhibits and workshop descriptions, it looks like it's mostly a geology program with a thick Narnian veneer. One part of the exhibit does touch on--you guessed it--man's impact on the climate.

Don't get me wrong: I like the planet, and I love Narnia.
I would be happy to visit The Franklin twice...once for the Narnia exhibit, and once for an interactive session on global geology. But to market an exhibit on Narnia as a "powerful real world message about our stewardship of the environment" strikes me as totally wrong-headed. First, the environment was not Lewis' point. Second, Narnia's environment, at least in the first book, was disrupted by magic, and magic returned it to normal. Earthly environmental issues are not so easily pinned on any one thing, nor are they easily cured (and some would argue, natural processes need no cure). Third, do the curators believe that any child enchanted by Narnia is going to be primed for a lesson in Earthly ecology? Really? I find that children are offended by those who try to so dupe them.

All that said, the exhibition runs through April, and yes, we will go. ;)

I Am Grilling the Turkey

Yes...I mean, no, my stove is not hooked up yet, but the turkey will be cooked! I primed the grill last night (in other words, I made sure it was working) and I have all the ingredients, sufficient propane, and the weather looks like it will hold (high 40s).

Anyone else done this?

Pies will be cooked tonight. Bread pudding will cook during dinner, so it's hot for serving. Side dishes are coming with the guests. Libby (home for the long weekend!) is in charge of the stuffing--apple 'n' onion stuffing--and giblet gravy.

We'll have wine, and egg nog. Brie...crackers, chips, salsa, guacamole. Am I missing anything?

Ah. Music. There will be music. And it'll be live. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"We Learned to Make Crowns"

There is a movement of sorts to move some aspects of education to the out doors. I was involved on the local level in the late 80s as a naturalist for a consortium of school districts, providing educational experiences outside the traditional classroom to hundreds of school-aged children. It seems only natural that I should have continued to educate my own children out of doors when I decided to homeschool. And to this day, I do try to get the children out for many hours during the week, though as they get older, they often have their own plans, which may or may not included outdoor activities. Still, not one of my children balks at the idea of being outside for long hours, and we enjoy hiking and exploring as a family as frequently as possible. Even the college student living in the Big City likes to walk through the park for the refreshment of spirit.

Outdoor Education is nothing new. Educators like the late Charlotte Mason have advocated long hours out of doors for children, especially young children, and I have always agreed. But there is currently a growing movement that is knocking on the door of mainstream educators called "No Child Left Inside" with the well-organized Children and Nature Network as a major proponent of outdoor education. I think these folks are on the right track...but like most innovational educational movements, the public education system will at best interfere, muddling the purpose of outdoor education, and, at worst, ruin the best efforts of outdoor education proponents and declare it a failure.

Consider this article and video of a new outdoor-based education model in Wales. I just watched the video of the new school program (listen for the very cute Welsh lilts in the children's voices), and it struck me funny that the children were outside yet doing the things they might well do while inside a classroom. Certainly, making "crowns" is not an activity exclusive to the outdoors, even if you do glue leaves upon them. And while the model of education is "play-based," the reporters are quick to note that the "best" Scandinavian models start formal education later, yet read earlier.

Thought: Start formal education later=save taxpayers money, and, according to the reporter, the results are better. If the play-based outdoor education model is better, why do it in school? Surely it does not take an expert in education to allow children to play freely? And as we see from the video, professional educators cannot help but meddle, having the children make paper crowns. Sheesh. When I was a kid, if we wanted to make a crown of natural materials, we might take forsythia and weave it together. We might make long chains of dandelion stems or make daisy necklaces. We might do any number of things without anyone giving us an assignment and making it "educational." And my own children, without any formal education, did the same sort of things, from building forts to hiking hills, to planning gardens.

These folks in charge, well-meaning as I am sure they are, cannot in one breath talk about children being natural learners and then instruct them in paper crafts which just don't follow any natural model of play-based activity. There is a place for the adult, certainly, in the world of early childhood education, but if that adult is not the parent, then the educator replacing the parent must learn to facilitate rather than initiate activity. Better yet, keep the children home and get them into the great outdoors daily. It's not that difficult, and you don't need a federal program. are some crowns from our 2007 outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why the Hemulin is Best

Because he botanizes, of course. And because he makes a great translator.

If you have never met the Mummintrolls, I recommend the Moomintroll books as a means of introduction. They come in full sized novels, and in graphic novels. And it seems they have also been animated. Most are in Finnish (I think...hard to tell, for me, at least), but a few are in English, like this one:

Messiaen at Columbia

Messiaen at 100

2008-2009 Season

Composer Portraits

Olivier Messiaen, composer (1908-1992)
AXIOM ensemble
Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor

Saturday, December 13, 2008
8:00 PM

Miller Theatre

Sept haïkaï (1962)
Couleurs de la Cité Céleste (1963)
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (1964)

Ticket Price: $25
To order tickets by phone: 212-854-7799
To order tickets by mail: Print and mail this form
To order tickets online: click here

Libby's playing in the Sept Haikai portion.

Wesley Smith on Bioethics

The placement "test" for writing during Libby's orientation this past semester included a response to Peter Singer's thoughts on animal liberation. As absurd as it is, this is probably one of Singer's least controversial ideas. Singer is a fan of infanticide. Wesley Smith has just posted a video of a talk he (Smith) gave at Princeton a few years ago in response to that university's decision to tenure Singer. I have been a fan of Smith's blog, Second Hand Smoke, for a while, but didn't know too much about him. After watching the video, I will heartily recommend his blog to everyone. Here's the video (not for kids):

More folks like this, please.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

36 Minutes

Curbside to driveway. Yeah.

Synthetic Ice

Attention ice skaters: Global warming need not keep you from your favorite activity. At the American Museum of Natural History, a new rink has opened using--get this--synthetic ice. According to the website, The rink is made of an artificial ice, or "synthetic ice," surface that allows ice skating blades to glide smoothly. The use of synthetic ice has environmental benefits; natural ice requires a significant amount of electricity for refrigeration, and the synthetic surface is made of 100% recyclable and non-toxic materials. The synthetic ice does impose some skating limitations: skaters cannot use skates with double blades.

Weird. Doesn't require cooling. Sounds like fun, though. And he rink at the museum is so pretty!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Old Testament Questions

Those cute little CCD fourth graders. They have so many questions. We are reading Marigold Hunt's wonderful A Life of our Lord for Children, though we are only plodding through the chapter entitled "Before the King Came." This chapter is a sort of Reader's Digest version of the OT, in the extreme. Just about every part of the story is left out, and those mentioned are very, very abbreviated. For the purposes of the class--not too much time, not too much previous knowledge--it's perfect. See, most of these students have never heard any of the OT, except a bit about Adam and Eve, a bit about Moses, and, if they are very well-informed, they have seen a DVD of Joseph. So a quick overview is just the thing. Sadly.

We are up to Moses now, and they are interested, and asking questions. "What were the plagues?" "What if an Egyptian had put blood on his door posts. Would he have been spared?" "Why didn't God just transport the Israelites out of Egypt?" And then there was my favorite: "Why didn't God intervene in the American Civil War?"

When we got to Passover, their faces all lit up in recognition right least, they had heard of it. They didn't know the history at all.

60 minutes per week. Will we ever get out of the desert?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Paul (reading his German worksheet): "Gehst du gern in eine Pizzaria oder ein Eis Cafe?" Oh, this is haaaaaaaard!

Me: Why, do you have to conjugate?

Paul: No! I have to decide between pizza and ice cream! It's impossible!

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Auntie Joanna" Suggests...

...about Christmas, could I mention my books? Ideal stocking-filler for girls aged ten and up is We Didn't Mean to Start a School, paperback, fiction, just a happy read. Send a cheque for £6.95p (American readers - this means you, too. I can accept American cheques. $25.00 will cover book and air mail postage) and I'll rush you a copy. It's a traditional school-story, but set in modern times, and has had good reviews...Send cheque to me, Mrs J. Bogle, c/o Dept BLOG, OCU/Christian PO Box 44741 London SW1P 2XA.

More info on her blog. I read the book when it first came out, and it's delightful.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No. I. Am. Not.

You Are Scrabble

You are incredibly clever and witty. You can talk your way out of (and into) situations easily.

You are an excellent decision maker. You are good at weighing the options in front of you.

You're the type of person who can make something out of nothing. You are very resourceful.

You know a lot of things. Most importantly, you know when people are wrong - even when they won't admit it.

H/T Red Cardigan

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bottum's Opinion

Children's Books, Lost and Found at First Things.

It's always fun to visit other opinions, especially on the topic of children's books. See if you agree.

The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs

I love it when a great blogger who is also a way better writer than I am writes the blog post I wanted to write but didn't, as I have neither the time (it would take me months) nor (especially) the talent to do so. Besides, I don't post on political topics; she does:

Funnily enough, C.S. Lewis best described the frustration conservatives feel when trying to communicate to minorities the benefits the conservative political system has for them. As you may know, The Last Battle, which is the last book in the Narnia series, envisions a Narnian Armageddon. During the eponymous last battle, which pitches the forces of good and evil against each other, the dwarfs peel off and form their own coalition: “The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

No kidding. Read the whole thing. It's discouragingly accurate.

Carnegie Hall, on Mandolin

Friday, December 12, 2008 8:00 PM
Carnegie Hall
at 57th Street at Seventh Avenue New York, NY 10019-3210

Juilliard Orchestra Conducted by James DePreist

James DePreist, Conductor
Erno Kallai, Violin

ENESCO Romanian Rhapsody No. 2
PROKOFIEV Concerto No. 2 in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 63
JOHN CORIGLIANO Symphony No. 1 (This is where Libby and her magical mandolin come in)

Tickets are $25 (parquet, first and second tiers) and $10 (dress circle and balcony). 1/2 price discounts for students and seniors. Tickets are available beginning 11/14 at the Carnegie Hall Box Office. CarnegieCharge: (212)247-7800

It's Just the Godlessness of it All

What do you do when your college freshman calls you at 12:30 am crying? You go pick her up. It's a good thing it's only 40 minutes away. What was wrong? Nothing...everything...that stupid "ethics" class (an Orwellian course title if there ever was one)...just...stuff. Definitely the kind of answer that requires a good night's sleep in one's own bed. Especially if your next class isn't until one o'clock in the afternoon.

I drafted Paul, still awake despite the hour, to drive in with me. I like driving (you heard?), and I like it even better when there's no traffic. Late night, it was just Paul, MacB. and the taxis. Except by the residence hall. Paul called her as we approached. "Where are you?" she asked. "Behind a fire engine," he answered sleepily. It was late...The fireman waved me around, and we pulled up to the hall. Libby came down in her PJs and we drove home. We had a good chat on the way. Nothing big was wrong...just a bunch of little things. And exhaustion.

Not sure how to solve all the little problems, though we are working working on it, and making quick progress. Of course, a long sleep and good coffee make even a gloomy rainy day seem better than the day before. And on the bright side, there are only 4 weeks left in the semester, and a new class will, we hope, will bring a better teacher.

The good thing? All the music classes are great, and going very well. The rest will work out, I'm sure.

ETA: Is picking her up a symptom of Overparenting??

Tuesday, November 11, 2008



"Because the test results are rendered in numbers—and can thus be compared with the norm, the ideal, and the neighbor’s kid—ambitious parents may, at this point, begin hiring tutors. According to Marano, there is now a four-billion-dollar tutoring industry in the United States, much of it serving elementary-school children. (Some of the coaches sent out by Princeton Review, a leading tutor-provider, charge close to four hundred dollars an hour.) If tutoring doesn’t do the trick, enterprising parents can argue with the school that their children, because of special needs, should not be held to a time limit in taking standardized tests. In 2005, according to Slate, seven to nine per cent of students in Washington, D.C., were given extra time on their [tests]. Their scores—which were sent out to colleges, with no notice of the dispensation, alongside the scores of students working against the clock—were, on average, well above those of others."

From book reviews on the subject at the New Yorker. Read it all. You'll laugh before you quake in your boots.

Clearly, I'm not doing enough for my kids. Or maybe, just enough. Or maybe too much? Who's to know until it's too late??

Seriously, though. We know a student who "founded" a charity at age 7, plays an instrument, does research on brain surgery over the summers, has written two books, etc. How can one compete with that when it comes to college admissions? Or do colleges have a clue, and catch on to these things? I mean, I am raising renaissance kids, but I like to believe that their interests in many subjects are real, and that if I do facilitate their research and help them find summer programs and all that, I'm just doing what they need me to do, and no more.

How much parenting is too much parenting? I think that as homeschoolers, we can overparent in a more subtle way sometimes, or, as T says, we can benignly neglect our children and call it unschooling. Of course, his tongue is firmly in his cheek when he says that. So where is the balance? When does facilitating become intrusive?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Strange Days, Indeed

My father voted for the first time in his life. Sure, he had threatened to vote before, but he had never voted until yesterday.

Libby voted for the first time, as well.

Some people may celebrate the victory of the first black president as a landmark in history, but I prefer the family history. Yay, Dad and Libby!

Next election, we will have two more voters in the family. Maybe we can begin to turn things around again, so that we cast our votes by looking not at the color of a candidate's skin, but at the content of his or her character.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Great Day to have a Baby!

I did it 15 years ago, and a friend had her new baby today! I hope she posts pictures soon.

Here's my 15 year old "baby" having cake at Grannie's house today:

And fencing over the summer:

Happy birthday, Annika!