Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I didn't buy anything!

After my whining last night, I went straight to bed. I didn't buy a new computer thingamagig or a thingamabob. I did not buy upgrades for my high end software. I didn't buy an iPhone or a new laptop. I didn't even buy a book or a few songs for my iPod. Though I was sorely tempted, I was strong of resolve not to succumb to boredom shopping. I went to sleep, instead, and miracle of miracles I feel somewhat better this morning and best of all I don't have buyer's remorse.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I'm Bored!

How many times have I heard my children say, "I'm bored" when there are plenty of useful or intellectually stimulating tasks to pursue? I would have to say hundreds. I think Princess has said it twice just today. I know how she feels.


I'm bored with work; I'm bored with school; I'm bored with the farm. There is plenty to do, so technically the word bored should not enter my vocabulary, but

I need some excitement!

I crave a new and difficult problem to solve. I long for Spring to spring. I want a new toy. I need a change. I want something different to happen. I have no right to complain, because so many things in my life are going well. School is the best it has ever been. There have been no farm mini-disasters. We just added some more pecan trees to replace some of the aged and Katrina broken. We had a new baby calf just this weekend. The Yellow Dog has stopped chasing cows and eating chickens. He will still drag the cats around if you're not watching. My family is wonderful. Life is good.

YET. . .

I have this restlessness that plagues me every year about this time.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

What Can You Do To Make A Ten Year Old Boy Supremely Happy?

Give him a flame thrower and let him burn the Bermuda grass out of your garden. You would have never known the job was classified work. The process will have to be repeated a few times before the main garden is planted and he is excited to help. We need more jobs like this.

While Pink Panther torched everything that wasn't too wet to burn, Princess and I cleaned the asparagus beds and got them ready for production. We found a few asparagus tips peeping. How exciting!!!! The temps are supposed to dip to 20 tonight. I hope they don't get nipped.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Today is my Blogiversary!

I've been posting for a year and I have written many words! Here are a few of my favorites.
I'm going to bake myself a cake to celebrate. Don't you just love the way I will find excuses to eat cake. I wish I could share it with all of you!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

I'm Sorry

I realize I have inadvertently sent those of you with news feeds back into the archives because I am getting comments on an old post from last March. I was trying to repair the messy code that sends the table on the Math Facts entry to the bottom. For my book post, I got the table to hover where it should, so I thought I would go back and fix the old post because I am weird that way. I didn't realize that every time I edited an entry a flag would be sent up. Sorry. I will try to control myself in the future.

While we are on the subject of math let me share what I have learned since March. There is another option in the math music genre: The Googols. We love the Multiplication CD that I downloaded from iTunes to my iPod so we can listen to it anywhere. Sample Seven Natural Wonders and Yodel-Odel-Eight from iTunes. True, the tunes are not just about multiplication, but who cares. They are addictive. We have not tried any of the other activities at the Googol Power site but love the well done Multiplication Vacation.

I also found that with my "math is misery child" I should nurture while maintaining the standards. Letting him do less because it was painful to me only reaffirmed his poor self concept in math. By sticking with the problem areas, in small doses, until they were mastered let him know he could be successful if he gave himself the opportunity. We did switch from Saxon for a while and used these ebooks and Modern Curriculum Press Mathematics, yet I find that the Saxon daily review is useful, so I add a little diversity to each day so nothing is forgotten. Mostly, I just quit panicking.

Is it all right if I talk about Christmas at the end of January?

This Delta Christmas my sister-in-law suggested that next year we should make all gifts, rather than buying. Most of the group, or at least the gift buying part of the group, was speechless for a few minutes while the idea took hold. We stammered a bit and all agreed. Taking the shopping and commercialism out of Christmas is what I had been wanting, and now an opportunity to do just that had magically arisen without me having had to do or say anything.

After it was decided everyone started thinking about what could be made that would be gift worthy. I make a lot of stuff, so I have many, many options. But, I need to plan ahead so there will be time to produce 12 individualized thoughtful gifts, without getting panicky around the holidays, thereby erasing all the benefits of not succumbing to commercialism.

I will attempt to produce at least one gift a month and post a picture. Won't it be fun to think about Christmas all year long? Ideas, anyone?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The List - Picture Books

As promised, here is THE LIST! This task was more difficult than I imagined. I could name a few from memory, then I went to the children's bookcases. Each asked what I was doing and I told them I wanted to make a list of our absolute must have picture books. At this point, they both started screaming favorites and pulling them off the shelf. We eventually chose books that had been read until the pages acquired that old book feeling or the covers were taped. After the list was finished, I realized that there were still treasured books that were not represented. These are in a random order.
Miss Suzy
Miriam Young
Arnold Loebel
Great story and pictures. This is one from my childhood. I always enjoyed the good winning over menacing.
Diane Cannon

You have beautiful nature pictures, a story about growing older while retaining your inner youth, and the "perfect figure eight." What more could you need?
Miss Twiggley's Tree
Dorothea Warren Fox

A wonderful story about a woman who eschewed typical society coming to the aid of the the town that snubbed her. I love the idea of tree houses if you haven't noticed.
The Complete Curious George
Margaret and H.A. Rey

My mother gave this volume to me, because I loved Curious George when I was young. We have read the cover off this book.
Leo Lionni

Validation of the poet, not to mention cute little mice.
Over on the Farm
Christopher Gunson

I'm not usually much on counting books, but my sister gave my son this book when he was very young and the pages have been worn to that wonderful patina because the pictures and words are wonderfully happy.
The Raft
Jim LaMarche

Wonderful paintings and wonderful story about a boy interacting with nature on a raft.
Mike Mulligan
Virginia Lee Burton

Love the tale of problem solving.
The Quiltmaker's Gift
Jeff Brumbeau
Gail De Marcken
Beautiful quilt pictures and a magical story about giving.
Don and Audrey Wood

The drawings of the fingers with their piggy personalities are priceless.
Toot and Puddle
Holly Hobbie

Mud Season
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
Don and Audrey Wood

The drawings and the power of invention.
The Runaway Bunny
Margaret Wise Brown

The power of a mother's love
Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak

The pictures and the reality of the tantrum
The Little Engine That Could
Watty Piper

New Shoes, Red Shoes
Susan Rollings

Bright, happy shoe images that my daughter could not resist
My Many Colored Days
Dr. Suess

Color and the reality that not all days are
The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter

Who can live without Peter and Jeremy Fisher
The Lorax
Dr. Suess

It's never too early to start teaching about environmental stress.
Peach and Blue
Sarah Kilborne

Wonderful story of how someone else's view can improve our own.
Douglas Florian

Interesting pictures and cute insect poems
The Foot Book
Dr. Suess

I know this one by heart because I read it over and over and over and over
No Matter What
Debi Glori

Again, a mother's love overcomes a bad day. "Do you still love me; Do you still care?" Of course, I do.
Something From Nothing
Phoebe Gilman

Beautiful pictures and story. The mice images on the bottom of each page are wonderful.
In a Small, Small Pond
Denise Fleming

Bright, interesting pictures and happy words and pond life.
The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit
Joel Chandler Harris
Dan Daily
Trickster tales, especially Tar Baby
Aesop's Fables

Jerry Pinkney
Great pictures and classic tales

What have I forgotten? Here's Becky's list. Zilla's list is in the comments section of the last post. Where's your list?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's your opinion?

After spending an unplanned $60 in the bookstore last night, then coming home and looking at all the books we already have, then reading from our current Laura Ingalls Wilder book, I started wondering if owning and reading all the books you can get your hands on is far superior to owning a few books and really getting to know those few.

This is not the first time I have thought of this concept. I vowed not to buy any more books and just use the library a few years ago, but that plan didn't stick. I like having books around me. I like the way they smell and feel. Then there was that obscure piece of research that I once read that said that reading the same books over and over and over and over was really great for young children learning to reading. Next, figure in my treaty with the world to minimize my impact and you have my conundrum. Why would I continue to aid and abet the production of all these books? Why do we own so many books? Does anyone else worry this much?

Because once I get on a roll I have a difficult time finding the brakes, I tried to think of all the books I and the children own and wondered which books would make the cut if I instituted a cull. Obviously, categories are in order and I will start with the children's picture books. If your child could own only 25 picture books, what would they be and why?

I challenge!

I'll publish my list tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Papyrus Paper

Remember my weekend post about the benefits of a cluttered office or home. Manufacturing of papyrus paper has been one of the causes of the clutter, recently. We have made recycled paper on several occasions and when I saw these kits in the Rainbow Resource catalog, I thought it would be a fun, though not taxing, addition to our Ancient Egypt study. In reality we have had papyrus pulp soaking in the kitchen for a couple of weeks. We didn't just have one container either; we had two so each child could have his own project.

Making papyrus paper goes something like this.
  • They soak the pulp while sloshing sticky papyrus water all over the counters while they are watching the progress,
  • They roll with my nice rolling pin while I wonder whether the rolling pin will be fit for pastry after its tour of paper making with my over zealous children
  • They slosh water all over the floor as they transport old water to the sink and refill for the next round of soaking,
  • They soak for another 3 days while asking me, "Is it ready yet?"
  • They roll the papyrus pulp more vigorously this round, splashing water all over the kitchen as the rolling pin presses absorbed water out of the papyrus,
  • They slosh water out of the trays onto the floor as they get fresh water,
  • They soak, again,
  • Then, using about 10 dish cloths per child they lay out the fibers in a criss cross pattern overlapping each piece, press the papyrus between 2 dish cloths until all moisture is absorbed using my nice rolling pin, and flatten the "paper" as much as possible,
  • Then they transfer "paper" to some newspaper sections and weight it with stacks of books which I had in abundance since I didn't "organize and clean" this weekend. They didn't even have to leave the kitchen to gather enough weight
  • Finally, they continue to switch out the newspaper until the "paper" is dry and paper like.
Unfortunately, our "paper" is not paperish, even with all the waiting, rolling, soaking, rolling, and flattening. A sample paper came with our kit and it looks like silk dupioni while ours looks like burlap. I suppose we should have soaked and rolled more, but I don't think I could have handled the accident waiting to happen trays lurking in my kitchen any longer.

See what wonderful things can happen if you are open to a bit of clutter.

Next, we will experiment with smut ink and hieroglyphics. I hope the paper is usable.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The morning chores and other stuff

My husband is coming home today. He stays gone just long enough for me to get into a chores rhythm, then he returns and things are done his way, again. Yes, sharing chores is the optimal method, but with sharing comes sacrifice of rhythm and efficiency. Oh yes, and they aren't necessarily done my way. Except for cleaning the glass from the two cases of canning jars the cats knocked from the top level of the shed, I was finished in record time. Obi had not yet honked his horn to wake us on his way to work.

The cats and dog were fed; the chickens were released and bribed to like me with a bit of corn; the nesting boxes were cleaned and re-hayed; I sloshed through mud and manure deep enough to seep into the tops of my orange boot shoes; Mr. S's calf was bottle fed, his water refreshed, and a scoop of this disgusting milk feed was thrown in his trough (against my better judgement, but he's not my calf so I have to mind); Dusty was given his ration of oats; the heifers, Crip, and the bull were given their morning ration though I thought of cutting them out of the circle since they broke into the hay storage and ruined a good bit of it. All of these things were accomplished with no wasted steps. I had plenty of time to clean the mess left by the canning jars before morning baking.

I'll have to tell this one short tidbit about my apparent country-ness to amuse mull-berry . Last night we heard sirens about 7:30. I and both my children ran to the front porch to see if we could tell what was happening. The fire truck was coming from one of the Neshoba County stations which are about 12 to 15 miles from us and going toward the town. This meant that the fire was substantial and help was called. I picked up the phone and called my parents and brother who live in town to see what was ablaze. Yes, all county people do it, if they don't actually get into their cars and follow the firetruck in case they can be of assistance. A few minutes later more trucks passed, this time turning down the dirt road that separates our farm from the next one. We know this because we all ran to the porch, again. Then trucks came from the town and turned down the road. Apparently, the first truck missed the turn. I called a friend who lives down that road to see if she could see anything. She said her dogs were going crazy. Then she said, "I guess I'll have to get dressed and go see what it is."

I know people in other places don't do this. When I lived in the city, there would have to be action right across the street for anyone to come to the window, much less walk outside. There are just too many sirens to keep up. I, after many years, found that I was becoming immune to the drawing effect of the sirens. Once I moved back here, I immediately returned to my habit. The important thing to remember is that, while a bit of nosiness is involved, when the firetrucks pass your house in the country they are most likely going to someone's house or business that you know. Wanting to know if your friend's house is burning is not nearly as embarrassing as just being a gawker.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Need More Articles Like This

I saw the link for this New York Times article, Saying Yes to Mess at Mental Multivitamin and after reading it I have decided to change my plans for the day. I was going to attempt to organize and clean (an endless pursuit at my house), but now I feel validated in my squalor and will read, play Blokus with my children, finish my seed order, bake a cake, and just be me, because:
Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. It’s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands.
Isn't it funny how a few written words can make such a difference in perceptions. I truly like this line:
Mess has resonance, they write, which means it can vibrate beyond its own confines and connect to the larger world.
I am "connect[ing] to the larger world," so don't expect a tidy house, today.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Seed Catalogs

All the seed catalogs have been delivered and I find myself salivating over pictures of luscious vegetables. I am lured by the pictures and descriptions and find myself tempted to buy enough seeds for a garden twice the size of what I have. This year I have promised myself to draw a diagram of my garden and measure the reality of space against my hunger for fresh tender green, orange, yellow, and red things. I will not rely on memory to determine how many seeds are saved in the freezer. I will stand firm because I know a family of four does not need 10 varieties of tomatoes, 4 types of green beans, 5 types of peppers, 4 types of squash, or 2 or three types of eggplant unless they are setting up a roadside market, and we are not.

Before the ground is tilled, before the seeds are planted, before the weeds begin growing, and before the summer temperatures rise above 100 and the mosquitoes are out for blood, an enormous garden seems so easy.

I will not be tempted. I will not be tempted. I will not be tempted.

But that Sweet Valentine lettuce with red ruffled leaves looks so delectable, and so does Tango lettuce with frills of green. How about a sweet pepper with the irresistible name, Lipstick? Can I leave it off my order? Wouldn't that Green Zebra tomato look fantastic with my German Stripeds. Should I try an orange tomato like the Valencia? My husband requires daily salsa made with three different tiny tomatoes - the yellow pear, Matt's Wild, and Sungold (orange). Should I deprive him?

I need help. I truly have a sickness.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A New Arrival

This little calf arrived at our farm this morning - not in the usual way but in a cattle trailer. A friend of ours had a cow who died giving birth to this calf. The friend's mother is sick so he will have to be out of town a good bit. We agreed to bottle feed the calf to help him since he helps me when I have problems when my husband and family are out of town.

We get at least one bottle calf a year (always during January). The calves are a lot of trouble because of the time involved and because they have weakened immunity since they don't get as much colostrum as calves who get to stay with their mothers. Many farmers just want to get rid of them and we take them. This one is different because we have to give her back and she seems healthy.

Our only concern is that The Yellow Dog is more than a little curious. I think he thinks the calf is a playmate. Unfortunately, The Yellow Dog plays rough. He will worry that calf to death if he can get into the pen. We added cattle panels and other reinforcements, so The Yellow Dog is pacing the outside of the stall trying to find an opening large enough to gain access.

I know that I've said this more than once, but The Yellow Dog is so much like Hank The Cowdog that every time I see him I wait for the next scene from the book to play itself out in my yard. Now I'm worried. When I see this picture I no longer see the mischevious, yet only accidently menancing dog, I see a crazed Cujo type.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Highest Authority

My son has worn Justin work boots and Levis blue jeans almost everyday since he was five, maybe before but I seem to remember hiking boots and cute little boy shoes before then. He is 10 now, so we have been through many, many boots and even more jeans. I, at first, tried to make sure he had shoe alternatives - tennis shoes, dress shoes, Tevas, flip-flops. He never wore any of them unless I "made" him. He goes without shoes whenever he can and he will wear flip flops at the beach, but other than that he is wearing those Justins. I gave up and just let him wear them, making sure he had a nicer pair for nicer occasions that he couldn't wear in the ditches, pastures, and springs.

A junior high school boy that the Pink Panther knows from scouts has a pair of John Deere boots. They have a thicker, knobbier sole and a green upper, but are essentially a work boot, though not a Justin. Pink Panther mentioned, a few weeks ago, that he might like to try John Deere boots because he thought they looked tougher, but he was scared that they would not be as comfortable as his usual. I told him that we would look at them when he outgrew or completely ruined the ones he had.

This weekend Pink Panther spent the night with one of his friends, let's call him Bo. Sunday afternoon they played here and then I drove them back to the Bo's house so they could go bowling with a group of children. Pink Panther said that Bo had gotten some Justin boots, but that he had wanted some of the John Deere boots and his grandmother, who was purchasing the boots, encouraged him to get the Justins because she felt they would be more comfortable. Then Bo said, "My cousin's step-brother's girlfriend's brother said they were real comfortable." Pink Panther said, "I think I'll try them since they're comfortable."

I'll remember that Bo's cousin's step-brother's girlfriend's brother is the ultimate authority on boot comfort next time I purchase boots for myself.

I was not completely surprised by the "cousin's step-brother's girlfriend's brother" because that tradition of making a connection is a country Southern past time. My daddy's father's wife (my grandmother) used to listen and tell the local gossip during her Dr. Pepper and peanut break at the hardware store where the chairs were pulled around so everyone could hear. Clarification and connecting was an integral part of the story. The story wasn't valid if it was prefaced with "I heard," but if authority and connection was established by saying, "My cousin, twice removed, said" or "My neighbor's, brother's wife's sister said" then the story was true and had merit.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My Friend

This Red Bellied Woodpecker has been visiting my garden fence this winter. I hope that doesn't mean my fence is infested with tasty insects because I need that fence to keep the chickens from taking tasty morsels from my tomatoes.

I have been trying to get a good picture for weeks. I am either too loud getting out of the backdoor with all the dogs, cats, and chickens following me, watch the bird and forget to snap the picture, or get so excited about getting the picture that I fall down the back steps or over the cat bowl. So, this is it. I give up.

I know this photo is not great. If you want to see an in focus close-up go here and scroll down. There should be two.

They are truly remarkable birds.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Better Understanding

I've no right, nor special knowledge, but I'd like to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Dreaming of a society in which fairness reigns and all people have equal rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is not a waste of time if liberal amounts of energy are also spent working toward a better understanding of those who are different and to create an environment of acceptance.

Here's my offering of the day - words and art that will lead to a better understanding.

Online Media:
Must read books for understanding:
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is an emotional powerhouse of a novel with mind blowing imagery and unbelievable rhythm. You can feel the fear and rage.
  • Black Boy: An Autobiography by Richard Wright is a straightforward accounting of a journey from the challenges of segregated Mississippi to a self education in Chicago and beyond.
  • Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is another autobiographical account, this time of a girl.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison is another truly memorable book with a view into the emotional and physical baggage of ex-slaves.
  • There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is another rich look into the lives of poor, Southern black people.
  • Selected Poems by Langston Hughes
  • Annie Allen or any other poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks. By the way, I got to meet Ms. Brooks and listen to her read her poetry.
So, you ask yourself, "Why did she choose these?" I chose these because they are truly "Great Literature," not just something written by someone with dark skin. The books speak of the unfairness, the pain, and struggle of growing up black, but they also speak of the human condition that transcends race which is what we are striving for in the first place - a humanity that is color blind.

But for those who want more, try these narratives, free.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

At Least They're Honest

I wish to report that my Christmas decorations are down and safely stored. We keep the large, multicolored "Christmas" lights hanging across the front porch all year long, so I am finished. Not taking down the lights is not laziness. We use them for parties and holidays - Fat Tuesday, July 4, the entire Fair week, Halloween, and any other time we feel in the party spirit. It makes the house look festive, though somewhat seedy - not like a juke joint, but moving in that direction, which reminds me of something from my youth.

We used to drive to Meridian to go to the movies when I was in high school. There were, as always in the country, at least two ways to get there. Driving one way, we passed Ed's Beer Joint. Each time we passed we performed a head turning stare, hoping to see something illicit, something to make us more worldly, something of interest to tell. Coming from a dry town in a dry county we had plenty of curiosity, though obviously no courage, since we never even slowed down - only stopped talking and looked. After the faded wood exterior and the sign bearing "Ed's Beer Joint" disappeared from view, someone would always say, "At least they're honest."

The Lay of the Land

I've finished Richard Ford's Lay of the Land, my third Winter Book Challenge book. It, like its predecessor, The Sportswriter and Independence Day is a rambling, Updikish, stream of conscience view into the inner workings of a man - supposedly a flawed "everyman" type or perhaps just an "everyman." I, however, have only met a few men who were so introspective. I enjoyed submersing myself in the language which, though Richard Ford minimizes its influence, has a touch of the South, albeit with a Jersey accent. Though much self reckoning occurs, there is little plot. Most of the book is spent in transit, which I guess is the point - the movement from one level of self realization to the next. To properly enjoy this book you need to know Frank Bascombe's history and prior scrutinizations. Read all three books.

Next, The Known World by Edward P. Jones.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Book Challenge - Two Down

I've finished two Book Challenge books. I'm stretching a little. My two books were not on my list, but I am counting them anyway since I technically haven't finished my list.

I read The Tie That Binds, a lesser known work by Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong and Eventide. The Tie That Binds is actually his first book, but as with many first books it was published with little notice. I read and loved Plainsong and Eventide a few years ago. The simple language and compelling story of these companion books about two older bachelor brothers are hypnotic. I was left wanting more. Anyway, when I was at Lemuria I noticed The Tie That Binds, and wanting more of the Plainsong melody purchased it immediately. I was not disappointed. Simple language relaying a compelling story of obligation and personal sacrifice create a stark novel that is nothing less than mesmerizing.

I also read (listened to) Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. I never intended to read this book (It's not my type), yet so many people around here ask if I have read it indicating that I'm not well read if I haven't read this book. I succumbed to public pressure . This book has more twists and turns than a mountain road. I have to admit that the book was exciting and that I wanted to find out what would happen next. Yet, I had a sense that I was reading a screen play. I suppose I was, since it was quickly turned into a movie that I have yet to see. I am so behind the times.

Anyway, these two books were a diversion from my more dense first reading choice, The Lay of the Land. I am enjoying this Updikish journey into the mind of a 55 year old male, but it is not a fast read. I will report when I finish.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sorry! I disappeared, again.

I've been busy. Not busy in the exciting, fulfilling way, but in the more mundane I haven't even taken down my Christmas tree way. There was a tornado, but it didn't damage my house, though I lay in bed and listened to it blow over.

I also drove a triangular tour of Mississippi driving from here to Columbus (in the rain) for my husband's grandmother's 101st birthday, then from Columbus to Indianola (in the rain) for another Christmas celebration, then from Indianola to here. Christmas at my MIL's house is a feast for the eyes. There are tulle elves or greenery hanging from the chandeliers, enormous golden balls hanging from the wardrobe, garland draped on the headboards, and other subtle unexpected treats just waiting to make you smile - Christmas decorating squared. I feel like I accomplish something if I erect and decorate a tree and get the stockings hung by the chimney with care. I would feel even more accomplished if I would also remove the decorations from the tree and then remove the tree before the house spontaneously combusts.

My husband is out of town. There have been no farm emergencies unless you count the small bull getting into the horse feed storage area through a calf feeder. He ate fifty plus pounds of oats and then could not get out. He bellowed and bellowed but since he bellows all the time in an attempt to get attention, show his masculinity, or be annoying I didn't notice there was a problem until the next morning when I was feeding the heifers and he wasn't with them. I didn't let him out until the heifers finished eating since I assumed the glutton had had enough.

We started Scouts, ballet, and school this week. Life is busy.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I saw this article on my Washington Post news feed this morning. I was shocked, not so much because I didn't know that libraries purge because I have purchased purged books, but because the list of purged books essentially discards much of the literature educated people feel you need to read to be well read. The purging of "Great Books" makes those books unavailable for people who are not able to purchase.

What comes to mind is that scene in Richard Wright's autobiography, Black Boy, when Richard borrows a co-worker's library card so that he might satiate his hunger for books - "Great Books." This enlightenment would not have been possible if the shelves had been stuffed with popular fiction. I suppose libraries, like television, scarily reflect our tastes.

Take action!!!! Go to your local public library and check out some "Great Books" so the library won't discard them to make room for A Million Little Pieces.

Happy Anniversary

The Carnival of Homeschooling is celebrating an anniversary. Go to the party and and visit with bloggers to learn much about homeschooling.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Taking Inventory

As retail businesses begin to take inventory and assess profits, I find that a bit of personal inventory taking is in order. I suppose there is only one real question and that is, "Am I my best self?" My answer is a definite NO.

After getting that truth out of the way, I can move on to other smaller questions.
  • What prevents me from becoming my best self?
  • What steps can I take to get there?
  • Where do I start?
Armed with information, I am determined to become a better person.

What about you? Are you your best self?

A Broader View

As I teach my children at home using materials that are essentially derived from a classical approach to education, I find that I must be ever vigilant that our readings don't narrow our perspective rather than broaden it. With traditional suggested readings for our grade levels, the world view is presented in a typically Euro-male perspective. I have chosen to use classic books in our homeschool because I want to give my children the information they need to make connections, see allusions, and join the Great Conversation. As much as I believe in the importance of the Classics, I know that we cannot stop there. Our world is smaller because of technology and mobility. We need to know the other stories, as well as our own, to interact productively in the world.

Let me give you an example. The first day of my first year of teaching (outside the home) I walked into a classroom and looked around and saw twenty five students, no two of which had a similar skin tone. I asked the first question that came to my mind, "How many of you speak another language other than English at home?" Twenty of the twenty five students raised their hands. There were eighteen different first languages in that class and so began my education. Struggling with ESL issues in writing was the more manageable problem that year. The larger problems arose from dealing with assumptions we all make based on our traditions, views of history, religion, and other prior knowledge.

I found that you could not assume that history is perceived in a chronological way with important dates marking the way. I found that courtesy in discussion could be enforced but ingrained hatred - hatred of which I have no experience does exist and is taught from birth - cannot be overcome in a semester. I found that I could not expect girls from some cultures to take a stand against a man even if it was just in a class and just about literature. The reality of leading a class of so diverse a population was that I could assume nothing and I had a lot to learn. I never had another class that culturally diverse, but the lessons I learned that year and in subsequent years have never left me. The literature, history, theology, and anthropology I studied to bring understanding is not necessarily appropriate for young children, but I do attempt to add culturally diverse reality to our classical home studies with other resources.

Jokes run rampant about the attempts of government, schools, and individuals to become "Politically Correct." Political correctness is not what I wish to teach my children. What I seek to do is to show my children that what we believe to be written in stone based on our traditions is water writing in other cultures. I want to teach true respect for individuals. Teaching true respect comes from modeling the behavior yourself, but I also find it helpful to introduce literature, art, cultural study, and religion of different peoples without reducing the studies to stereotypes.

Here are a few suggestions:
  • Geographical study - By knowing the terrain, political boundaries, and seasons much can be understood about the development of cultures. If flood and drought periods dictate the lives of a people, then culture and religion will be established based on the cyclical nature of their lives. If mountains, swamps, or deserts isolate a group for long periods of time, those cultures will have developed based on those restrictions. Geography is essential to understanding.
  • Religion - Religion, in many ways, defines a culture and the actions of the peoples. By studying world religions we can gain a greater understanding and respect for the people practicing those religions. We have used The Usbourne Book of World Religions for a base study and have enjoyed the concise explanations of the basics of the six major religions. Mentions of subgroups are included, but defining differences are not necessarily given. This book is a good starting place and enough information for young children.
  • Literature - I believe that much can be learned about people through reading literature. In fiction you get insight into daily routines, religious practice, and social traditions that is more informative than fact lists because you are privy to the emotion and the conflict. Finding appropriate material for young children is not difficult.

    If you are reading about India do a library search for that area and narrow the search by eliminating adult material and non fiction. I prefer stories written by a member of the cultural group that have been translated or folk tales that may have several versions.
    • In a Circle Long Ago by Nancy Van Laan is a compilation of Native American Lore.
    • Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell is a picture book that combines the reality of African American Art and the story of Sojourner Truth.
    • Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji is a pigeon story but also a story that gives great insight into the life of a boy in India.
    • The Cinderella stories - Variations of the Cinderella stories have amused and challenged my children. We have read ten or more. Side by side comparisons are wonderful for highlighting differences. There are several Internet sites with information on Cinderella story variations. I think this one is the most straightforward and informative.
    • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a wonderful verbal picture of Mexican American life. Be forewarned, while the reading level and vignette format makes the book accessible for younger readers some of the content is more adult. Pick and choose stories.
    • Poetry - is a great way to introduce varying cultures. Think of the power of Langston Hughes poetry and the stark beauty and sparseness of haiku and other Japanese poetry.
    • The Asante and Native American Trickster Tales in which animals teach the lessons that are important to be passed along.

  • Art - Looking at the art of various cultures can illustrate the stories without words, what materials are available, and which things are sacred or of high importance. The quilts of Faith Ringgold, Choctaw baskets and needlework, Guatemalan textiles, origami, African drums, masks, and Kente cloth, Inuit carving, and Japanese gardens are just a few.
  • Music - Listening to and appreciating music of various cultures can be more challenging because of language barriers, but experiencing the tabla of India, the various African drums, the Latin rhythms, and the energy of the polka can open communication.

While true respect for individuals and their beliefs can never be taught in school, an understanding of those beliefs, an appreciation of the contributions of the various peoples, and an insight into the realities of other cultures, which don't include stereotypes, can only serve to open a dialog between peoples that will lead to greater understanding and acceptance of the differences and similarities of people in our multi-cultural world.