Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Transplanted...So, of Course, it *Would* Hail!

I fear the horseradish may be flat by tomorrow. And the daffodils are in the danger zone...just blooming, too. Ah, spring.

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Horseradish and Jerusalem Artichokes

I planted them both yesterday afternoon. This morning it rained, and everything looked good, except for one lonely tuber that was dug up, nibbled and discarded. Time to get out the squirrel gun.

The horseradish got off to a good start in the house.

It's hard to see tubers after they are planted, but look for the shoot on the right!
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Love Pizza?

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Friday, March 27, 2009

There Were No Vampires

...when I was a student there.

As I recall, there were bombthreats, forced busing and all that sort of thing. But no vampires. Sheesh.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why I Love My Homeschool Support Group

Top 10 reasons:

10. It's a welcoming autonomous collective, with so many beautiful children!

9. When another mom says, "I can't believe how much he/she has grown!" she really means it!

8. Event planners who take a great field trip idea and make it work for many.

7. The annual Shakespeare play performed by our Front Lawn Players.

6. Caroline's scones.

5. Celebrations--from births to weddings--and consolation in times of sorrow.

4. Our protestant members.

3. Confirmation in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

2. Afternoons at Old Westbury Gardens.

1. The brilliant, eclectic ladies--lawyers, chefs, artists, dancers, scientists, musicians, servicewomen, nurses, and more--who are all women of faith raising their children the best way they know how.

What's so great about your support group??

Monday, March 23, 2009

Copywork for High School

One day, when I was a senior in high school, my father read something I was writing for history class, and was surprised: His daughter couldn't write. Oh, I wasn't illiterate; I was just not a great writer. His solution? He would choose several articles from National Geographic Magazine and make me copy them, word for word, until I got the idea. So, long before I had ever heard of "copywork" as a lesson, I was doing it for the sake of my own education. I think it helped, as my grades improved and I tested out of freshman composition when I got to college.

Think your high school student is too old for some old-fashioned copywork? Think again. Just as your youngest students benefit from added vocabulary, spelling and phrasing by imitating good literature, so will your older students benefit from the imitation of great works of literature and technical writings across a variety of fields. Like an artist learning certain techniques by imitating the masters, or musicians learning by listening to the many wonderful recordings available, so writers may learn techniques, a new turn of phrase, strong, subject-specific vocabulary and good-old information from imitating the good folks who make a living by writing, or who write as part of their vocation.

Of course, the copywork does not have to come from National Geographic. As students gain a better idea of their future plans, they also gain an understanding that specific field and endeavors require technical writing skills that are different from the five paragraph essay. An archaeologist does not write a paper that sounds like one written by a musician; a student interested in philosophy will write a very different paper than will a student of social sciences. Here's where copywork comes in. If your high schooler is a regular reader of a particular publication or trade magazine, that's a great place to find a passage worthy of copywork. Perhaps it is Natural History, or maybe Sacred Music, North and South, or Archaeology that interest your student most. Or perhaps you might want to use copy work as an opportunity to introduce him to a new subject, or to reinforce the vocabulary of a difficult course. And for the aspiringing young Catholic writer, nothing beats the prose of the great Catholic writers of our times: Chesterton, Tolkein, Belloc, Waugh, O'Connor and others.

So don't be afraid to assign some copywork for older students; they will benefit as much, if not more, than the younger children.

Video: Undersea Volcano Erupts at Surface

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Crocus! Croci?

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Telephone (ac)Company (Updated)

It's that time of year again...I need to find an accompanist for Trip's all-state audition. Why the terror? First--true confession time--I hate making phone calls. No, it's not hate; it's fear. Deep, crippling, all-consuming fear. Second, I procrastinate because of that fear, and there is probably no one available at such short notice. Third, I hate making phone calls to non-English-speaking households. Hey, I love my international friends...I just can't understand their families over the phone, and when dealing with dates, places and pieces of music, you need to be sure all is understood. Maybe it's a hearing thing; maybe it's old age, but it seems to get worse all the time.

Whew...I just called his first choice, and there was no answer. I left a message. Let's hope she gets back to us tonight with good news so I don't have to make more calls.

Update: Got her! So glad that's over!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Billions and Billions!

No, I don't mean the bailout...I mean Carl Sagan's campy romp through the space/time continuum. Remember Cosmos, where Sagan reminds us that we are made of star stuff, and that we are all going to die in a nuclear holocaust? Remember global nuclear winter? Remember what the universe looked like before the Hubble images? It's now available on Hulu, for your viewing pleasure. Hey, you don't have to believe everything he says; in fact, you'd better not. But as an "historical document" it's pretty amusing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green Cookies

Set upon a plate with a picture of Blarney Castle...and only a nose away from Circe's mouth!
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Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

We found a little bit of green outside!
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Lost in Atlas Shrugged

I cannot CANNOT believe that I was ever afraid to read Atlas Shrugged, based on the size of the book. Also, in high school, we had a choice of English electives senior year, and I chose creative writing over whatever-the-other-class-was-called, and missed the assigned reading of AS.

It's wonderful. I am cheating a bit by listening via Audible rather than reading most of the time--I spend a good deal of time in the car, and I hate to waste time, so audio books help, but I'll dig out a hard copy to read in the evening.

The reader, Paul pointed out when he was listening a bit while waiting in the car with me this afternoon, sounds like Lost's nefarious Ben Linus (Mr. Emerson is not the reader, but it does sound like him)...

Me: Yes. He has a very pleasant voice that's easy to listen to, doesn't he?

Paul: That's just what he wants you to think.

For the record, Libby worked on a project with Mr. Emerson's wife last year, and met him while he was running out to get milk...she says he seems nice. As Paul would say, "Sure."

Nature Club Info for Families

Here's a nifty freebie from the Children and Nature Network: A downloadable (pdf) "toolkit" for families who want to start a family nature club. From their website:

C&NN Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit: Do It Yourself! Do It Now! provides inspiration, information, tips and resources for those who are—or who might be—interested in creating a Nature Club for Families.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Together Again, In The Green Room

Libby and Trip have not performed together in several years. This was a fun reunion, as alumna Libby re-joined the NY Young Musicians' Ensemble to help out the cello section, where Trip is principal. They had a great concert, in Lincoln Center, and Libby got a ride home out of the deal.

ETA: The both look so grim in this photo. I assure you, it is reaction to mom taking too many photos, not reaction to music performances!
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

She Turned Me into a (Catholic) Newt

In the interest of keeping some semblance of privacy, I won't tell you which child was listening to the radio and understanding way too much in 1994...

But when that child was in the bath tub too long, I suggested he might turn into a newt. He responded, "You mean, when Newt Gingrich was a little boy he liked to take long baths, too?"

I hadn't thought about that exchange in a while, but was reminded of it when I heard Newt was turning into a Catholic. Well!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Time to Tap the Trees

Cold nights and warmer days mean the sap is flowing, so we took our tools to the sugar bush and tapped the maples, and a black walnut for comparison. The kids made their own spiles from sumac, I helped them drill the tap holes, and it's like magic--the sap runs! Here are a few photos of the day:

We cut the sumac into spile-sized segments, and hollowed out the spongy pith.

Using our trusty pocket knives, we trimmed the spiles to fit the tap holes.

I give a quick talk on 45 degree angles, and drill the tap hole.

I hang a jug under the tap to collect our precious sap.

Click to zoom in and see the watery sap dripping off the end of the spile:

On an interesting note, the sap of the walnut was thicker, darker and sweeter. When we boil it down, I'll let you know how it compares with the traditional maple syrup. Also, the bamboo in the photos did not hold up well in the spile-making process--it was too brittle in the cold (and it was cold!!). The traditional sumac, smooth or staghorn, works best.

One more photo so you can see the beautiful bayside setting for our sugaring, and note that the kids had some time to play in the deep, deep snow:

Special thanks to our friend Mary's mother-in-law for letting us tap her trees.