Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lesson plans completed

The lesson plans are done and we're ready to enjoy our last days of summer. Mike, Triny, and William arrive in a few hours to spend the weekend with us. Tom and Jacy will enjoy the long weekend break from classes. Karin is off work until next Tuesday. There will be Auburn football - the first game of the season - and tailgating parties for some of us. There will be play time at the lake. There will be knitting.

Hope your weekend is wonderful, too!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Charlotte's Web - audio book

Yesterday Marley, Sam, and I had to drive to Atlanta to get Karin from the airport. On the way there and back we listened to E.B. White read his classic, Charlotte's Web.

Although I read this book several times as a child, and several more times as an adult, listening to E.B. White read it was like enjoying it for the first time. It certainly made the drive to Atlanta and back easy to take. We all laughed at the appropriate places, and I got a lump in my throat when Charlotte died and again later when her babies hatched and three remained with Wilbur.

Marley and Sam liked the book, too.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure

Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure by James West Davidson and John Rugge is a well-written, well-researched account of Leonidas Hubbard, Jr.'s expedition to explore a portion of Labrador from the Northwest River Post to the George River Post.

Together with his friend Dillon Wallace and George Elson, a guide, Hubbard started his trip in July 1903. Winter sets in very early that far north in Canada, so they didn't have much time to travel the 550 miles to their goal. Hubbard had promised his editor at Outing magazine that he would gather material on caribou migration and the Naskapi Indians - and that he would travel by canoe, using a rifle and fishing net to hunt game and fish to eke out his food supplies. It should have made a great story or book for the readership of the magazine.

But Hubbard was a novice, as was Wallace. He didn't bring enough food; he brought no shotgun, only rifles and pistols; he had no fishing net, only fishing line; he had no reliable map. Elson, who was the son of a Scotch trader and a Cree woman, was a good woodsman and guide, but he did as he was bidden by Mr. Hubbard, the leader of the expedition.

The snows began and the men were nowhere near the George River Post. Hubbard made the decision to turn back. They were starving. Hubbard decided to leave the river (and canoe) and continue back on foot. The party split up - Hubbard stayed in camp, by now very close to death. Wallace and Elson, not much stronger, continued on to where the party had cached some flour on the trip in. The flour was black with mold when they found it, but Elson cooked some for the two of them, took a tiny portion for himself, and sent Wallace with the rest of it back to Hubbard while Elson hiked on to get help. Wallace hiked back, but a terrible snow storm blew for several days and he never found Hubbard. By the time Elson stumbled onto a trapper's cabin and got several healthy men to go find Wallace and Hubbard, Wallace was nearly dead, and Hubbard's body in his tent was buried under snow.

And that's only half of the story.

After Wallace and Elson made it back to New York, and Wallace wrote up the account of the expedition, Hubbard's widow, Mina, was displeased. She decided to re-trace the route her husband took, with approximately the same supplies in order to prove that he had not been fool-hardy and rash, and write her own account to clear her husband's good name. At the same time Wallace decided to make his own expedition to do what Hubbard had planned to do, but hadn't been able to accomplish. Mina hired George Elson and three other Indian guides to be her team, while Wallace hired four men to go with him. The race was on to see who would make it to the George River Post first - and in time to catch the company ship out before winter arrived.

Davidson and Rugge used diaries, letters, and interviews with the descendants of those involved to write this riveting exploration adventure. It reads like fiction, but the authors took care to explain why they wrote what they did, what they surmised, and what made them think the people involved were thinking or feeling whatever was not actually spelled out in the diaries or letters.

I checked this out of the library, but it's definitely a keeper for us. I've ordered a copy so my children can enjoy it, too.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Knitting: Lizard Ridge afghan

I'm working on the Lizard Ridge afghan for Jacy. It's still hot here (upper 90's) so I don't fear her freezing to death anytime soon, but I'd like to finish it by the end of September.

Right now I have 15 squares blocked, two squares that need to be blocked, and one square on the needles. The pattern calls for 24 squares, but I'm thinking I'd rather do 36 and have the afghan be more square than rectangular in shape. I have enough Noro Kureyon to make 33 squares, and I can use the leftover yarn from those skeins to make 3 more squares.

Sarah has already let me know she would like a similar afghan two years from now.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Bouguereau knock-off?

Dana posted this picture of a shepherdess by William Bouguereau:

I told her I had the same picture... only different. Here's mine:

(Unfortunately, I can't get rid of the flash on the glass without doing the Star-Wars-movie-screen-thing.)

I told Dana my picture had sheep. She told me to look closely - Bouguereau's picture has sheep. But not like mine! My knock-off has SHEEP. I can almost hear them baa-ing.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Read-aloud reading list

Part of my lesson plans each year includes a list of books I think I'd like to read aloud to the children. Usually we read most of the books, but not all, and often substitute others not on the list.

Some of these books have been read-alouds of ours in the past, but I'm considering Marley (9) and Sam (5) to be my primary audience, so this list of books was chosen with them in mind. (Sarah, Joan, and David may listen in from time to time for nostalgia's sake.)

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry has been one of my favorites since my friend Sherry introduced me to it back in the third grade. This story of the colt, Misty, and the Beebe family who takes care of her has been a read-aloud of ours many times over, and I'm looking forward to enjoying it again with the youngest children.

The Cat and Mrs. Cary by Doris Gates is a good mystery involving an aunt who has retired to the California coast, her nephew who has come for a restful visit, a stray cat who talks to (and is heard and understood by) the aunt, and smugglers.

Hurry Home, Candy by Meindert deJong is a quest-type story about a little dog with no home, and no owner. I read this several times to myself as a child, but I've never read it aloud. Hopefully I can do it without sobbing and alarming my children.

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey is a perennial family favorite. I know Sam and Marley will love hearing about this family with twelve children, and Sarah, Joan, and David will listen, too, and perhaps even do some of the reading for us.

The Mitchells: Five for Victory by Hilda van Stockum is another family read-aloud favorite. Actually, all of Hilda van Stockum's books are great as read-alouds, but we'll start with this story of the five Mitchell children, set in WWII-era Washington, D.C.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody is long overdue to be re-read here. I think it has been 23 or 24 years since I last read Mr. Moody's account of his family moving to Colorado and making a living as ranchers. I can barely remember this book, so I'm looking forward to the exciting adventures as though it were my first time.

The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin is a good fairy tale about greed, kindness, doing-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-to-you, and how siblings should and should not behave towards one another. My children love fairy tales so they should enjoy this short book.

That gives us seven books to start with, and we may add others as the year progresses. I'm always open to suggestions... .

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Drought on the lake

David, Marley, Sam, and I went to the lake this morning. The children did some yardwork for their grandfather while I wrote up more lesson plans. Cocoa came along and swam and ran.

The lake is at or below winter level. For the first time this summer I went out on the point at the end of Mom and Dad's peninsula.

Looking from their yard to the other side of the inlet, the low water level isn't too noticeable:

But when I got out on the point, it went on forever!

The bands of white are beds of mussels, exposed when the water level dropped:

Cocoa didn't care. She'll swim no matter what the water is like, but Sam said the water was as warm as bathwater.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Arctic Lace

Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas was not what I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it. The small collection of native Alaskan folk tales and bits of history fleshed out Ms. Druchunas' account of her visit to one of the tiny Alaskan villages associated with a knitting co-op that knits various items from qiviut, the soft and extremely warm fiber from the musk-ox. Ms. Druchunas emphasized several times that she was able to visit only one village because of the great expense entailed by travel to remote Alaskan villages - it's pretty much all by airplane. She included quite a few patterns of different lace, based on items knitted by the Oomingmak Co-op, suggested different fibers that could be used (since qiviut is rare and pricey), and gives much encouragement for the reader to develop her own lace patterns. (No color photos.)


Friday, August 17, 2007

Joan is 15 today

Today is Joan's 15th birthday. It has been a very low-key day, due in large part to the fact that Sam threw up at breakfast.

Joan opened gifts after Jacy arrived this evening. Tomorrow she'll have Beth come over to spend the night. Whenever we receive her birth certificate from New York she'll get her driver's permit.

Happy Birthday, Joan! We love you!



Yesterday I finished reading Witness by Whittaker Chambers. This was my reading list choice for July, but I should have allowed myself two months to read it. It deserves at least that much time.

At 799 pages, it is a big book, but more than that, Chambers was a gifted writer, and I found myself re-reading passages I'd just read or read a few days before in order to enjoy the pictures they presented. Then there was the primary subject matter - the Alger Hiss case - which demanded my attention. I found myself re-reading passages and chapters because I couldn't believe what I was reading. The number of high-placed federal government workers who were Communist Party members or sympathizers astounded me. The cavalier way in which Chambers's warnings were dismissed astounded me. And Chambers honestly tells of his sad family-life, and his search for something to fill a void in his life. He found the Communist belief and wholeheartedly served it for a bit more than a decade, before he left the Communist Party and found a faith in God that displaced his faith in Communism. As I came to the last few pages I was sad to be at the end of this memoir/autobiography/political thriller that had been such wonderful reading. Was it as good as Dad, Grandmother, and Dan had said it was? Yes.

I marked up our copy of this book as I read it, and was delighted when Jill told me she'll be reading it soon, and she'd like to discuss it with me afterwards. But I told her she should give herself about eight weeks to read it, allowing a week per hundred pages.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Classes began today

Jacy had a chemistry class and Tom had a computer science class and a calculus class. They both will have busier schedules tomorrow. Jacy will come home after classes with Tom tomorrow evening.

On Monday night Jacy went to "Cousins' Dinner Night Out" with Kira, Page, Kelli, and Robert. Missing were Tom, Karin, Rob, and Ryan - and Oliver, who should be included because he is the fiance of a cousin. Regular get-togethers of the cousins attending Auburn was the brain-child of Helen, who suggested it to Kira when the family was together last Christmas. When my generation of cousins was coming along, five of us went to Auburn at the same time (or close enough) and three of us also married other Auburn students. We'd pass one another on campus from time to time, but none of us ever thought to try to get together with any regularity. (And Helen and Sumner were the only cousins who did not go to Auburn.)

Now this generation of cousins has seven currently enrolled at Auburn, and one (Kira) newly graduated, but still in the area. Add Karin and Oliver and it makes a possible group of ten that will try to meet at a specific deli on the first Monday of each month for supper. Sometimes the group will be smaller; sometimes it will be larger. Hopefully they'll manage to see one another often enough that they can enjoy the family ties that bind them together.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cool books for hot days

It's the middle of August and the temps here are in the triple-digits for the 8th day in a row. I think that the dog days of summer officially ended (calendar-wise) on August 11th, and I always look forward to more moderate temperatures at the end of August.
However, because the heat is still with us, I've been reading books that take me away - at least temporarily.

Amateur Sugar Maker by Noel Perrin was written over thirty years ago "in conscious admiration of Henry David Thoreau... ." Perrin chronicles his attempt to spend as little money as possible at making maple syrup by himself. It's a small book, but interesting and it made me feel a little cooler as I vicariously experienced early spring in Vermont.

After Vermont I went (book-wise) to Canada, specifically Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. Calling the Maritimes Home is a book of facts and trivia that was perfect for reading while sitting on the beach at the lake and watching the children swim. The descriptions of food made me ready to suggest to Steve that we make a trip to the Canadian Maritimes next summer... .

Finally I ended up in France, but a part of France that I've never before visited either in fiction or non-fiction: the Lot region in southwest France. In her memoir, At Home in France Ann Barry does for the Lot region what Peter Mayle did for Provence in his books. She describes the people, the food, the weather, the wildlife, and her travels around the area so perfectly that this armchair traveller wanted the book to go on forever. But it didn't.

I have two more "cool" books to read in the next few weeks:

Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas...

...and Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure by James West Davidson and John Rugge.


Lesson plans, etc.

(This is for you, Marla!)
Next week is looking very good for doing the year's lesson plans. Steve will be away every day for work, and I have kept my calendar clear of any obligations. I know everyone else has already started school - both homeschoolers and public schoolers - but we're going to enjoy the last of summer and begin our lessons on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

I have my weekly planner that covers July 2007 through August 2008. This helps me keep track of various appointments, activities, and obligations throughout the year, and I take it with me whenever I go out (unlike my wall calendar, which also helps us keep track of what family members are doing).

For each child each year I write up a syllabus and make a fairly extensive list of books for science, history, and reading. We don't always get through every book listed, but the list is there if we need it. The syllabi are kept in a three-ring binder, along with the syllabi from years past. I use this "master plan" as a framework for the individual lesson plans, and the children often refer to it if they want to work ahead, or ask for substitutions, etc.

After I have my syllabus completed I can make actual lesson plans. I use a teacher plan book and usually write plans for two children in each book, using different colored inks so the children know which lesson is whose.

Each morning the children check the plan book for their assigned work. When a child completes a lesson or assignment, he checks it off in the teacher plan book. If he decides to work ahead, that's fine - he just marks whatever he completes. Completed work is checked by older siblings, and any mistakes are corrected with me. Paperwork goes in a folder with the child's name on it. Some work has no paper trail, because we do it orally. Every two or three weeks I check the plan books to make sure we're not getting behind. (Getting ahead is fine!)

Lessons that are done together are written in black ink.

And that is what works for us.


Cottage exterior photos

Here are two pictures of Tom's cottage. That's all I'm going to post until the building materials have been removed. (The oak hydrangeas are wilty and sad-looking due to drought and excessive heat. Normally they are beautiful.)

It's slightly under 700 square feet, according to Steve. (Does this help you get a better idea of the space, Donna?)


Thursday, August 09, 2007

A high of 102...

... so Amy and I took the children and dogs to the lake early this morning for a few hours before it got unbearable.

And would you look at the water level? It's at least as low as it is in the winter, if not lower! The beach is like a desert of burning sand - so we left for home around 10:30 a.m.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Brief update

Jacy has moved into the dorm. Tom has poison ivy all over him and is suffering. David is helping Chuck at the high school football practices in the afternoon (and it's nasty-hot here: 98 to 100 degrees this afternoon). Marley and David also have choir day-camp this week. Amy and the girls arrive Wednesday. Glenn follows on Thursday. Lesson plans are NOT completed, but we'll start lessons anyway before the end of the month.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

The Dangerous Book for Boys arrived today. Steve told me he'd ordered a copy for David, based on a review he read in World Magazine. I've read various reviews of the book on the internet, and thought it sounded good, so I was very happy that Steve wanted to buy it.

From the forward - preface? - at any rate, it's from the front of the book:

"In this age of video games and cell phones, there must still be a place for knots, tree houses, and stories of incredible courage...

"How do latitude and longitude work? How do you make secret ink, or send the cipher that Julius Caesar used with his generals? You'll find the answer inside. It was written by two men who would have given away the cat to get this book when they were young. It wasn't a particularly nice cat. Why did we write it now? Because these things are important still and we wished we knew them better. There are few things as satisfying as tying a decent bowline knot when someone needs a loop, or simply knowing what happened at Gettysburg and the Alamo. The tales must be told and retold, or the memories slowly die...

"When you're a man, you realize that everything changes, but when you're a boy, you know different. The camp you make today will be there forever. You want to learn coin tricks and how to play poker because you never know when the skills will come in handy. You want to be self-sufficient and find your way by the stars. Perhaps for those who come after us, you want to reach them. Well, why not? Why not?"

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Not lesson plans, HOUSE plans

The lesson plans for the upcoming year are not finished, but a lot of work on the cottage has been done.

Steve put in the tiles for the bathroom floor:

Tom grouted:

Then they put in the trim:

Wayne worked on installing the toilet and lavatory yesterday, and plans to come back tomorrow to finish those.