31 March 2010


I've been standing here trying to figure out what is interesting enough to blog tis morning.

The very enthusiastic bird outside the kitchen window, announcing morning in the darkness is pretty cool -- but unlike Rod and Jack, I can't name birds by their songs yet.

(Yes, I said standing. I compute standing at the kitchen counter -- it lets me multi-task more efficiently. While I was pondering, I also made up a batch of laundry detergent. Peppermint...yum!)

Homeschooling, such as it is, is still going really well. I think we're evolving toward something that looks a lot like "child-directed classical studies". Didn't know you could do that, but OK.

Jack has a new science "text" that he has been obsessing over. I wanted to have something we could use in a linear way and this one seems to fill the bill...if we can get Jack to go back and do the experiments. (He grabbed it in the car as we left the Border's Educators' Sale and read it for the rest of the day...and has been reading it aloud to anyone who will listen and giggling since then.) I have to say that while this may not be the way I had envisioned using it, I like having books that are full of useful information that also grab a kid were he lives. I also keep finding that when I want to read something from his school stack with him, there is a good chance that he's already ready it to himself. If he can give me a verbal synopsis, he gets the credit. I wasn't expecting this method to start just yet, but it does seem to be his favorite.

It's still a ways off, but I have been collecting materials to start studying Latin seriously next unit. My current project is making flash cards with useful phrases we can use around the house, in addition to Minimus and the Carducci Bolchazy readers we borrow from the library. We also bought the CD to help with our pronunciation.

Not sure how it got so late. I was up by 5:30 so I could get to work early. Um...oops.

30 March 2010

Lotsa babies due in our world

And I am still working with this design.

It started out yellow and green, then I found out that 'Manda's baby is a boy named CJ. Tash is expecting a girl, so the next one will be pink. Then, on to birthday cards for April.

...I am pretty sure that none of our kids, nieces and nephews, or grandbbaies reads this blog. If I know you do, I try to let you see your card first. :p
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Gardening update

Last night we start moving sprouted seed from paper toweling to peat pots. We got vastly better germination than I expected so we ran out of peat pots very early on. Note to self...we need to do it earlier because many of the butternuts were firmly anchored to the paper towel. Oops.

25 March 2010

An open note to my cowardly critic

I never said I was good at making cards, I said I enjoy it. Don't like them? I promise I won't send you one, but only if you'll tell me who you are. ;)

And the one I was inspired to make after the class

Based, obviously, on the spring card we made in class.

Cards from the last Scrapbook Haven card class

I think they're all pretty!
But especially the first one.

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The Case for the Childhood Study of Classical Languages

We're making a study of classical Latin at our house. And we're looking for a Homeric Greek curriculum aimed at little kids. Does that strike you as odd? Evidently some people (notably book store employees) think it is.

Not everyone thinks so, though. If you know where to look, you can easily find early Latin readers, from "Quot Animalia" (How many animals) by Marie Carducci Bolchazy aimed at the preschool set, to Fables from Aesop, to translations of The Cat in the Hat, Winnie the Pooh, and even Asterix and Obelix and Harry Potter! So someone is doing it.

We don't know of anyone locally (that we're aware of -- one or two people we know seem like they might, though we haven't discussed it) but I know quite a few homeschoolers out in the great wide 'net who are studying Latin with their kids.

Are we just "showoffs"? Isn't Latin too difficult for small children? Hmmm...well, Roman kids did ok. But, yes, the way it's generally taught in high school would be too dry and boring to keep a six year old's interest. It can be done in a really fun way, though, making it no more difficult than any modern language.

The question I want to ponder here, though, is ...why?

What are the reasons one might want to study a language that they will never speak socially?

I have heard the argument that Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic would all be better choices. Truth is, we have explored a bit of Arabic, and we also play with Spanish and Swedish.

In my opinion, Latin is not "instead" of modern languages, it's the basis for a more extended study of language. Our goal is not to be fluent in any of them. That can come later, wit interest.

Our goal is to become conversant enough in a variety of languages to recognize them wen we find them, and to recognize some similarities. Fluency is likely, eventually, in Swedish and Spanish, just because we have the opportunity to experience those socially.

But the point, in my opinion, to studying Classical Latin and Greek is, first of all, it's fun. It's fun because it lets us in on the secret code used everywhere and almost unnoticed in our culture. It's like the experience Percy Jackson has as he approaches the gate to the camp and the letters rearrange themselves before his eyes...!

When you start to study Classical languages, suddenly, the lettering on the state flag begins to take meaningful shape. Botanical, biological, and zoological names become more than disjointed sounds, and best of all, we start to see them everywhere in our own language!

In the long run, the inflected language training will make it far easier for Jack to study English grammar, which is, after all, based directly (and nonsensically) on Latin. It will broaden and deepen his vocabulary in many languages.

And what better time to learn a "difficult" language than when his brain is specifically receptive to language?

Take Canis. Dog. Canine teeth --> dog teeth. The teeth we use for tearing meat. Huh. Cool!

And it happens over and over again all day long. It's a constant source of discovery. (It can also make a cool "secret code" for talking discretely in public...and just about every parent knows how useful those are!)

I know there's probably more, but I want to hit the shower and get to work. ;) If anyone has suggestions for more reasons to study Latin, please do feel free to add them. I named this for maximum Google hits, since I didn't find much about *why* other than reading the Bible, and I'd like it to be as useful as possible.

24 March 2010

More Gardening records

Tonight, moon still in Cancer (just), we have started: Jack's eye view of the parlour
  • bush beans
  • pole beans
  • cow peas
  • cucumbers
  • corn
  • peas
  • onion
  • fennel
  • broccoli
  • turnip
  • borage
  • edible Mums
  • basil
  • cilantro
  • parsley
Next planting session, on March 31 (moon in Scorpio), will be tomatoes (7 varieties) lettuce, potatoes, and anything we think we need more of than we have.

23 March 2010

Gardening and stuff...

Ahh, well, by the time Rod and Jack fetched me from work, Rod was just about on his last legs. That meant that I shopped for dinner vegetables and then we split the dinner duties.

But Jack and I did get some plants sprouting: beets, pumpkins, sunflowers, butternuts, eggplants, wax beans, swedes, and watermelons. I'd ave done more, but I am using baggies to keep the plants sorted out so I know who is who, and I ran out of ziplocs. We'll get some more tomorrow and start some more while we can. We'll also watch for them to sprout and move them daily into peat pots as they take off.

I am a chicken. I have several varieties of tomatoes and some turnips and onions. I am not sure how one sprouts that small a seed in paper towel. Back to the research later.

(Oh, I also discovered an "embarrassment of riches" in beets, pumpkins, and giant radishes, so if you need a few, do let me know.) ;)

No crafting more tonight, though. I was tired this morning.

I had half a diatribe on why study classical languages all written, when I managed, in adding a link, to delete the whole piece. *sigh* Maybe I can round up the words and get them to cancan again once I have had some sleep.


I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, so please forgive me if I'm a little loopy.

Why? No particular reason that I know of -- it was just a lot of free-roaming angst attached to nothing specific. Might be that Grand-cross right on my natal Sun Saturn opposition. Might be that I had too many blankets on. Either way, I was up and down several times and had odd dreams when I did manage to sleep. But I'm not usually insomniac, so I can survive a day or two of restless night.

The good news is that I have stablized enough to start some food challenges. That is, adding one new food at a time to see what effect it has. On Friday, I tried quinoa. No problem there. At least in moderate amounts. Monday evening, I tried brown rice. So far so good. It's nice to start having some grain options again. (Of course, soon after I wrote this, I developed an itchy rash and the very sore hands and wrists that once heralded the trouble to come, so it's time to get clear and try again, reversing the order this time. Oh, well.

Even better news is that after dinner on Sunday, we started doing some school as a family. Jack was so into it, and kept begging for more, that it was well past bedtime (11pm!) before Rod and I said "Enough!" and proclaimed school was out for the evening. That was quite a thrill for me. We were studying Egypt, you see, and this is the boy who keeps proclaiming that he "hates history". he says that -- but any time we do study histpry, he's eager to know more and reluctant to stop. I wonder whether it may havbe anything to do with all of us working together ... a few weeks ago, I again realized that I was envious of Rod and Jack getting to study so much without me...so I asked Rod to print out his check list, and I started inviting Jack to sit with me. Rod has started to join us often and Jack's enthusiasm is growing by the day. Especially because he has a remarkable memory and can often fill in the details I have forgotten in my own narrations!

We had our friend, Sue, over yesterday. Sue is a professional photographer and she shot the first professional portraits of our family. Ever. Even better, her contract says that we own the photos and I am free to share them with you here on Chez Smiffy as well as printing as many as I want -- I can't wait to see them!

I had planned to plant over my long weekend, but what with one thing and another (like the sun in Aries and the moon in Geminii) tonight seemed like a better plan. I don't think that Linda will be able to come over and play, but she has given me a pretty good idea how to get started. I feel confident for the first time that this is going to go just fine. I also dreamt about the garden last night -- in my dream I went out to clean up the garden bed and get it ready for planting, and I discovered that all over the yard -- not just in the garden, but everywhere, instead of the muddy spring soil I was expecting, I foudn that volunteers has already started popping up. They were beautiful -- lush and colourful, though as volunteers, they were not in any sort of a planned bed. I also noticed that there was plenty of room in the planned beds for the seedlings I wanted to plant. It seemed like an optimistic dream and it made me happy.

After I get some early seeds "softening" by Linda's methods, I will go up to the craftroom and finish the cards for the babies I know of who are on the way...and maybe while I'm at it, I can also get some photos of the cards I made at Emily's last Scrapbook haven card class.

Hmmm. That's a lot of plans for someone who didn't get much sleep last night.

We'll see.

19 March 2010

And so it goes...

Well, Jack and I didn't end up doing any school yesterday. (Unless you count one episode of Alton Brown over dinner. That DVD is late getting back to the library and we're in a hurry.)

It seems that when he was helping Miss Tiffani move, Miss Linda said something about a 'thank you ice cream cone'...but there wasn't time in the end.

So, when we got home, Jack, remembering our adventure of the night before, suggested that Dad drop us off at DQ on his way past. It was agreed all round.

Jack and I enjoyed our ice cream, and then walked the 2.5 miles home. The ice cream fun, but the walk home was the real adventure!

It took us about two hours. I could have done it in half that time, but we had to stop and explore every beautiful stone and interesting leaf impression along the way. We wandered off the path and explored a bit, we giggled and skipped, and just generally enjoyed each other and the warm evening.

By the time we got home, it was quite dark and past bedtime.

There was just time to start some vegetables steaming to go with the sate beef that Rod had started before he picked me up from work and to set the table...and then Dad was home, we ate dinner, and headed to bed. (Have I mentioned that Rod is a fabulous cook?!?!?)

We're almost done with White Fang. I'm glad. Jack has been on a Jack London kick lately. I think it started with the shared name. While I agree that London is an excellent writer, and his stories are compelling, they're also emotionally exhausting. And this is the second one in a few weeks. (We read Call of the Wild this winter, too.) I don't think any more London will come into the house until Jack is up to reading it for himself.

This weekend is Ostara. We'll be celebrating with the usual gifts and egg hunt, by starting our first seeds, and by cutting our big paper flowers to put in place of the snow flakes in the windows. It's supposed to snow Sunday, and as Jack and I discussed on our journey, we love winter...but we are SOOO ready for spring now.

Hope your day is a beautiful one!

Musical asides...

By the way, I forgot to mention in my last note a couple of amusing music notes.

First, you *know* you're reached the age of musical irrelevance when your children start complaining that obviously a kindergarten class has taken over the radio station because the music they grew up wit is now called "classic". (Thanks, TJ. I laughed all day!)

Second, speaking of 1980s music, as I keep droning on about, we're studying Egypt. So, of course, I had to dig up a you-tube of the bangles "Walk Like and Egyptian". And, of course, Jack loved it and has been dancing all over the place singing Dance Like an Egyptian -- made even more funny by the fact that he profoundly doesn't "get" it.

Last night, while I was dawdling over the steamed veg, I found a YouTube of an Egyptian dance troupe who has choreographed a dance to the Bangles hit, but with real Egyptian flavour. That was very cool...and Jack probably won't be quite as funny now. But more authentic...sort of.

18 March 2010

Hey, all! I'm back!

Hey, all!  I'm back!  (I think.)
It's been a wild couple of weeks.  About two and a half weeks ago, just as we went into the countdown for Rod's sister's arrival, Rod and Jack got a case of food poisoning.  Jack shook it off pretty fast, but it took Rod out for just about a week. Since I never got the slightest indication of illness, my best guess is that it was something that Rod and Jack ate out in the world, but they're better now, so I guess it doesn't matter too much. 
As an aside, we really do have to ramp up our kombucha efforts...we make two gallons at a time, but but it's always gone a long time before the next batch is ready.  That may change in summer, though, when the house is warmer.  Kombucha was the one thing Rod could keep down first, and nothing tastes better when we're under the weather.
Anyway, when Rod was so sick in the countdown to Karen's arrival, it meant that I was pretty much on my own getting everything ready.  That left little time for anything else.  (Amazing.  Even after two visits from Purple Heart, the house is still cluttered and still doesn't stay clean and tidy for more than a few hours.  Obviously I still have work to do in getting rid of non-essentials.)  The Karen was here for one blissful week.  Have I mentioned that Karen is one of my favorite people?  She manages to spread sunshine wherever she goes, and she was sweet enough to ignore the chaos "behind the screen" and keep Jack amused while I went to work and poor Rod convalesced.
 Anyway, a few days after Karen arrived, Rod was able to get up and about again.  However being unable to eat or keep even water down for so long triggered a case of gout that has been hands down the most painful and longest lasting he's ever had.  The poor guy NEVER complains, but this was so bad that he actually moaned much of the night for several nights.  He was completely incapacitated with the pain, and unable even to get down the stairs for a day or two. 
That and being pretty busy at work meant there just wasn't any time to blog.  I didn't even do very well at keeping up with my e-mail.  
That doesn't however, mean that I wasn't thinking.  ;) 
One thing on my mind has been gardening...it's nearly Ostara (this weekend!) and I am getting eager to get my little plants started.  Rod gave a seed started setup to me for Valentine's day.  It turned out to be a lot less expensive than the things I had been eying, and a lot better set up for out house, too.  I am also going to be working with Linda, who knows a lot more about gardening than I do, but doesn't have any real gardening space to work with right now.  We have an acre, and she has the expertise, so it seemed like a really good trade.  (Speaking of which, it looks like I may have quite a bit of seed or baby plants to trade if anyone is interested. I'll let you know what when I'm done getting mine started.)
 This is indeed where our dinner comes from.
They're cute and they taste divine!
(Thanks to FFC for the photo)
I also wanted to congratulate my brother and sister in law on the birth of their sixth grandchild.  She's gorgeous!
I also wanted to thank Emily and Andy of Scrapbook Haven, both for their years of service to the Ann Arbor crafting community, and especially for making time for me to come in for one last card making class last weekend.  As always, I had a lot of fun and learned a lot of new ideas.  Now to dig out the crafting table (which is currently buried under all the stuff that shouldn't have been in the guest room) so I can put some of them into practice.


On Wednesday and Thursday evening, Rod studies music and those are my evenings with Jack.  Last night, we had a blast!  I pulled out a bunch of books and exercises and we played school...Jack amazed me with all that he knew about ancient Egypt, we explore the map to observe details he hadn't caught yet as I read to him while he put together a vocabulary exercise and then stenciled and coloured some Egyptian symbols, and then he chose they Eye of Horus  for both his tattoo and to decorate his Egypt Unit folder.  When I closed the book and said we'd move on to another subject after finishing one chapter, he interupted me to say that "actually, I am quite enjoying this".   *heh*  We moved on to finish the biography of Papa Hayden, anyway, since it was due back at the library, but it was nice to hear. 
Tonight, perhaps we'll read a little more about Egypt, and then study some Latin by making phrase cards for the phrases we want to learn this week and next.  We've decided to make it a family exercise -- we'll choose some related phrases and learn them together, so that it can be conversational rather than simply memorizing.

So -- we're here.  Rod's on the mend, and other than Rod's gout we're fine.  We're still homeschooling and we're still having fun.
And maybe now I can find more time to take photos and post.

06 March 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ½ cups almond flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup maple syrup
1 cup chocolate chips

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
Stir together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
Mix wet ingredients into dry
Form 1¨ balls and press onto a parchment lined baking sheet
Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes
Cool and serve.

Again, thanks to Elana at Elana's Pantry

02 March 2010

Oh, I so want to try this...

This gluten free Sorghum Rosemary french bread recipe sounds and looks just amazing! Thanks, Valerie!