Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Scenic Route


Russ and I decided to take the scenic route detour before heading home. You can’t blame us, right? Just a couple extra hours…


This was the first stop. See that observatory on the cliff? That’s where we were headed next.

Img2014-08-20_0032fpmVista House

The Vista House overlooks the Columbia Gorge—Oregon on this side, Washington on the other.


And then the gorgeous, lush, winding road with the ferns and mossy trees and arched stone wall on the gorge side. Oh, and all the waterfalls.

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This bridge had drainage holes through which you could see the water and land far, far below.

A Hole

You can see the distance down in the next picture on the left. The photo on the right is Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls

Yes, a successful 30-hour get-away.


It’s a busy rest of our week with a photo session, Hamlet book club in my studio, and the local Art ‘n Air Festival. Next week is our transition week as we head back to concentrated studies for the fall. It’s going to be a shock to our system after this summer absence of schedule!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Celebration and Relaxation


I cannot express how much Russ and I needed a night away. It has only been more than five years since we’ve gotten away for the night, just the two of us. Our best friends invited us on a short getaway to celebrate my best friend’s 40th birthday with three other couples (family). Yes, please! [Char and I have been best friends for 25 years, and her family is my family. Russ and her husband, John, have been best friends for even longer, so John’s family is Russ’s family!]


[We made a stop at IKEA before ending up at our final destination. Which meant that we had some shuffling to do in the car. We weren’t planning on buying a piece of furniture!]

We stayed up at McMenamins Edgefield. McMenamins takes random old buildings and turns them into pubs and hotels. Edgefield is one of the most fascinating locations—an old poor farm!


The walls are covered with old photographs and hand-painted (quirky) murals of all sorts.


Each room is named after a musician. We stayed in the Etta James room.


The grounds are gorgeous. We all started the afternoon together at the outdoor soaking pool next to the spa—fluffy white bathrobes and all.


We dressed up a little for dinner and toured the gardens while waiting for our table at the outdoor café. (The very top three windows in the picture on the left belonged to our room.)

Birthday WeekendImg2014-08-19_0047fpmImg2014-08-19_0060fpmImg2014-08-19_0068fpmImg2014-08-19_0072fpm

After a long, rousing dinner, we walked back to the hotel building in the dark, twinkling café lights guiding our way. We went up to John and Char’s room, which her sister, Lori, and I had decorated all over with candles and flowers and birthday banner. We feasted on the yummiest cupcakes and the three younger couples sat around chatting until we were all falling asleep.


The guys went mini golfing the next morning before breakfast, and then we all ate together (scrumptious!!) before packing up our rooms. Russ and I took the round-about scenic route before heading home. More pictures coming…


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Food for Thought


Catching up with a few links and quotes from the past month or two…

::  Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt @ Momastery. [If you read nothing else from this quote and link list, read this one. Trust me.]

::  Mother as Student by Pam Barnhill @ Schole Sisters [Check out all the lovely articles on this fantastic new community!]

“The fact of the matter is that we are all at different stages of this journey towards the true, the good, and the beautiful. I have yet to make it to Augustine and Pieper — I’m still reading Lewis, Esolen, and Caldecott and that’s okay, because I am reading and learning. My journey has begun. We all bring different backgrounds, different expectations, and different educations. We also bring different experiences of classical education.”

::  Violinist Plays During Brain Surgery To Help Surgeons Find Exactly What’s Causing Tremor @ Elite Daily [Whoa, what an age we live in!]

::  2014 Conference Recordings are up at Society for Classical Learning if you need some fresh inspiration as you head into a new school year.

::  If you’re in the mood for a quiz, try these 10 world history questions.

::  The Most Trying Part of Living a Good Story by Jeff Goins

“Good stories involve conflict, which is just a nice word for pain. People don’t become heroes without sacrifice, and as creatures of comfort, this is the last thing we want to endure.”

::  Ask the Headhunter: The sign of ignorance all employers hold against you @ PBS

“What’s a discussion about language doing in Ask The Headhunter? Poor spelling, incorrect grammar, lousy writing and poor oral presentation are all signs of illiteracy. I don’t care what field you work in, how much you earn, or whether you’re a production worker or a vice president. The way you use language reveals who you are, how you think, and how you work. And that will affect your career profoundly. You can pretend otherwise, but you can also walk around buck-naked believing you’re invisible because you’ve got your eyes closed."

::  We Miserable Sinners @ Christianity Today

"Movies and TV shows built to transfer particular abstract ideas wind up fitting the story to the ideas, instead of letting the story and characters breathe and live like real people, who are messy and inconsistent and confusing. Like you. ...Like me...

"Humans actually are pretty good at figuring out if someone is telling them a story in order to talk us into believing they're right. We hate it. But we also like seeing the results of our ideologies played out on screen in ways that are favorable to us."

::  What Do the Arts Have to Do with Evangelism? @ The BioLogos Forum (video)

:: And God Rested @ Story Warren

“All I know for certain is that, if a limitless God can call something good and sit down and rest and enjoy his work, who are we to battle long past the end of our strength or obsess over trivialities or hover anxiously over what ought to be released and laid aside?”

On Math

::  25 Gifs That Teach You Math Concepts Better Than Your Teacher Did @ Distractify

::  Don’t Teach Math, Coach It @ New York Times 

“Baseball is a game. And math, for kids, is a game, too. Everything for them is a game. That’s the great thing about being a kid. In Little League, you play hard and you play to win, but it doesn’t actually matter who wins. And good coaches get this. They don’t get mad and they don’t throw you off the team. They don’t tell you that you stink at baseball, even if you do — they tell you what you need to do to get better, which everybody can do.”

::  Peek into brain shows how kids learn math skills @ Daily Mail

If your brain doesn't have to work as hard on simple maths, it has more working memory free to process the teacher's brand-new lesson on more complex math…'So learning your addition and multiplication tables and having them in rote memory helps.'

Monday, August 18, 2014

Birthdays and Boys and Summer Fun


I’m trying not to sweat the fact that I didn’t get Luke’s birthday pictures posted back at the end of May and that I didn’t take a single picture at Leif’s birthday party on Saturday. And that I have summer fun pictures that I haven’t yet posted. C’est la vie.

These boys were 2 years old and 6 months old when I started my blog. I still can’t fathom that.


Luke’s birthday kicks off our summer at the end of May, and Leif’s birthday wraps it up on August 18th. Somehow, I’m never ready for either birthday. Leif has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to parties the past couple (or more?) years, so I wanted to do something fun for him this year. We had a big BBQ with friends, feasted at a build-your-own ice cream sundae bar, and watched an outdoor movie (The Lego Movie) from lawn chairs when it got dark. Lots of fun—no pictures.

I do have pictures of Luke’s birthday that I never posted, though, so maybe I’ll share those. We spent the evening in the garden at my parents’/sister’s house, playing games and making s’mores. I asked Luke what he wanted for dessert and he said rice krispie treats and red vines, so this was his cake.

Happy BirthdayImg2014-05-31_0035fImg2014-05-31_0019fImg2014-05-31_0068f

My little boys are now 8, 10, and 12.

The Boys

But there is never a dull day around here, as you well might imagine.


Friday, August 15, 2014

The Trivium: Instructions for Living a Life

Be Astonished


The word trivium means, very simply, “three roads” or “three ways.”

[You probably already know that tri means “three” and via means “by way of.”]


In the context of Classical Education, the word trivium is often used in three different ways.

  • As the first three of the seven liberal ARTS (or skills)
  • As STAGES of childhood development
  • As the STAGES of learning


:: Liberal Arts ~ Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric

The tradition of the seven liberal arts began with the Ancient Greeks and was further developed during the Middle Ages.

The trivium consists of the first three of the liberal arts—grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric—which are linguistic. [The quadrivium consists of the remaining four mathematical or physical arts.]

What is an art?

Andrew Kern defines an art as a system of patterns, derived from experience by means of reason, a way of doing something governed by reason. An art in this context is a skill or formal subject of study.

‘According to Hugh of Saint Victor [during the Middle Ages], “Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear-sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing.”’ [from Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott]

The arts of the trivium are systems of patterns, governed by reason, by which we speak well, think well, and communicate well.

The Ancient Greeks did not invent these patterns; they observed the systems by which human nature naturally used language well. The patterns are the tools by which we as humans perceive reality.

Why liberal?

The liberal arts were considered the essential skills of a free person (from the Latin liber which means “free”).


:: Stages of Development ~ Poll-parrot, Pert, Poetic

Dorothy Sayers, in her 1948 essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, asserts that the arts of the trivium correspond well to three stages of development in childhood and adolescence. 

“Looking back upon myself (since I am the child I know best and the only child I can pretend to know from inside) I recognise in myself three stages of development. These, in a rough-and-ready fashion, I will call the Poll-parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic—the latter coinciding, approximately, with the onset of puberty. The Poll-parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorises the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things. The Pert Age, which follows upon this (and, naturally, overlaps it to some extent) is only too familiar to all who have to do with children: it is characterised by contradicting, answering-back, liking to "catch people out" (especially one's elders) and in the propounding of conundrums (especially the kind with a nasty verbal catch in them). Its nuisance-value is extremely high. It usually sets in about the Lower Fourth. The Poetic Age is popularly known as the "difficult" age. It is self-centred; it yearns to express itself; it rather specialises in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence; and, with good luck and good guidance, it should show the beginnings of creativeness, a reaching-out towards a synthesis of what it already knows, and a deliberate eagerness to know and do some one thing in preference to all others. Now it seems to me that the lay-out of the Trivium adapts itself with a singular appropriateness to these three ages: Grammar to the Poll-parrot, Dialectic to the Pert, and Rhetoric to the Poetic age.”


:: Stages of Learning ~ Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric

When we learn a new subject or skill—French history, knitting, Hebrew, glass-blowing, linear algebra, or skin care—we must start at the beginning regardless of our age.

During the grammar stage of learning we gather the facts, vocabulary, definitions, stories, and basic knowledge of the subject. The logic or dialectic stage is when we begin to ask questions such as “why?” and “how?”, compare and contrast, find relationships between facts and ideas, and gain experience by trial and error. The rhetoric stage is the end result of our studies, when we integrate ideas, apply what we’ve learned, create original artifacts, and share with or teach others.

The stage of rhetoric is the culmination of study.

In The Office of Assertion, Scott Crider states, “Rhetoric is a productive art, the principled process of making a product.”

The Rhetoric Companion challenges us by asking, “What’s the point of ideas, if those ideas are never made flesh?”


The gift of the trivium is part of our essential human nature, given to us as souls made in the image of “I AM,” the Creator, the LOGOS.

We have been given the gift of language—of naming, of contemplating, of creating.

Psalm 33:6 “By the word (Logos) of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

Merriam Webster defines logos as “the divine wisdom manifest in the creation, government, and redemption of the world.” The word logos comes from the Greek, meaning “speech, word, or reason.”

Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 2:19 “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”

And we have been given the gift of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Proverbs 2:6 “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”


:: Biblical Model ~ Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom

How often have you read those three words together in the Bible?

Knowledge: the sum of what is known; the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind

Understanding: the mental process of a person who understands; comprehension; personal interpretation

Wisdom: the ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight


Echoes of the Trivium

I have found the essence of the trivium echoed over and over again in the course of my reading and studies.


:: Body, Mind, Spirit

Using one’s senses [body] to observe the world around us.

Using one’s mind to process ideas.

Using one’s spirit to discern truth and apply it.


:: Presentation, Comparison, Incarnation

Andrew Kern applies the stages of learning to the microcosm of individual lessons with his “Liturgy of Learning.”

1. Invitation (the teacher determines student readiness)

2. Presentation (the teacher shows particular types or models such as various addition problems)

3. Comparison (the student imitates and then compares with the teacher’s model)

4. Definition/Expression (the student puts into own words what he or she has learned)

5. Embodiment/Incarnation (student embodies artifact, presents original or independent creation)


:: What, Why, Whether [Or Concepts, Reasoning, Judgments]

Peter Kreeft says, “Concepts tell us what. Reasoning tells us why. Judgments tell us whether.”

[I took those notes when watching a video of a lecture about judgments, and now I can’t locate it. You can read a shorter transcript of that lecture, Living Well On Earth and Entering Heaven: The Nineteen Types of Judgment by Peter Kreeft.]

Andrew Kern says that wisdom is the ability to make judgments, and we’re exploring the “whether” judgment with The Lost Tools of Writing.

“Who cares if Jane runs? I sure don’t. But everybody wants to know whether the ants should have fed the grasshopper, whether Caesar should have crossed the Rubicon, and whether Odysseus should have slaughtered the suitors. These things matter because they arouse the right questions. They help students clarify their thoughts about what is just and fair, what is wise and prudent, and what is noble and honorable.” ~Andrew Kern


:: Information, Imagination, Creation

From Imagionality: Understanding Your Child’s Imaginative Personality by Clay Clarkson @ Story Warren:

“Here’s a pattern from the Genesis creation account that I want to suggest: Information, Imagination, Creation. In other words, information feeds imagination which fuels creation. If our core personality is all about mentally processing information—how we gather it, and how we act on it—then God’s order of creation seems to suggest that imagination is not just a product of our mental processes, but rather an inherent capacity within us. Imagination stands apart from personality.”


:: Memory, Thought, Speech

Stratford Caldecott:

“The key for me was to discover that the three elements of the Trivium link us directly with three basic dimensions of our humanity. No wonder they are so fundamental in classical education! ...To become fully human we need to discover who we are (Memory), to engage in a continual search for truth (Thought), and to communicate with others (Speech)."


:: Input, Processing, Output

Who doesn’t deal with technology on a daily basis?


:: Tools, Skills, Creativity

What Does Creativity Have to Do With Classical Education? by Briana Elizabeth @ Sandbox to Socrates

“What I had given them was the scaffold to be creative. I taught them the skills (rhyme and meter) and gave them the tools (hearing poetry and a deep well of ideas).

“Now, how can I more purposely build a scaffold, and foster even deeper creativity? What kind of schoolwork is making the creativity for them, and what type of schoolwork is giving them the ability to create with the skills and tools they’ve learned? What type of schoolwork enables them to behold glory and represent that glory in their own medium?”


:: Knowledge, Comprehension, Evaluation

Blooms Taxonomy initially presented a framework of six categories of knowledge, skills, and abilities: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Knowledge and comprehension created the foundation, with evaluation being the highest level of ability. The framework has since been revised with the verbs Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create. [The link shows what skills and abilities fall under each category.]


    :: Reading, Reflection, Response, [Rest]

    Lectio Divina is a traditional Benedictine practice of reading Scriptures.

    “[T]he first stage is lectio (reading) where we read the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us…

    “The second stage is meditatio (reflection) where we think about the text we have chosen and ruminate upon it so that we take from it what God wants to give us.

    “The third stage is oratio (response) where we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God. This response is inspired by our reflection on the Word of God.”

    [“The final stage of Lectio Divina is contemplatio (rest) where we let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. We simply rest in the Word of God.”]


    :: Lectio, Meditatio, Compositi

    The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation by Jenny Rallens (video lecture)


    :: Research, Record, Relate

    Two Jobs All Our Kids Will Have by Jennifer Courtney @ Classical Conversations

    “In order to become responsible voters, students must be trained to research, record, and relate. In other words, they must research issues in order to make informed voting decisions. They must be able to record their findings in an organized way in order to shape them into a logical argument. Finally, they must be able to relate their ideas to others in order to be leaders.

    “In order to become effective ministers of the Gospel, our students must engage these same skills. They must search Scripture to refine answers to the questions of our times (research). They must memorize Scripture and form logical arguments in defense of their faith (record).  Finally, they must share The Truth with others (relate).”


    :: Perceive, Pursue, Proclaim

    The Classical Conversations Rhetoric Trivium Table defines rhetoric as “the use of knowledge and understanding to perceive wisdom, pursue virtue, and proclaim truth.”


    :: Prepare, Practice, Pass it On

    If you attended a Classical Conversations Parent Practicum this year, you very likely heard the trivium expressed in these words.


    And, in closing, “Instructions for living a life” by American poet Mary Oliver:


    Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.


    I think that sums it up nicely.


    Have you noticed echoes of the trivium in your life and studies?

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    Just Keep Swimming

    Swim Meet Camping

    We spent this past weekend at the Bend swim meet. It is an annual big event at a gorgeous park and facility. Most of the swim meet participants camp out in or near the park. This is the first year we’ve slept in tents rather than our trailer. Actually, it happens to be the first time our whole family has camped anywhere in a tent.

    The first year we attended, when Lola was a year and a half, was a rough year. Last year was quite enjoyable despite the crazy storm that accosted us on our way over the pass and caused the pool to close several times over the course of the weekend. This year, well, not so fun.

    A few things were easier: Lola is getting older and more independent. It was nice to have the tent and chairs near other friends and closer to the pool. The weather wasn’t hot. Leif is older and more independent. Levi and Luke don’t need quite as much parenting and micromanaging while swimming. The officials changed to a split format meet and only in the outdoor pool, so Russ wasn’t trying to swim indoors while the boys were swimming outdoors.

    A few things were not so fun, but I’ll spare you the whiny details.

    Lola and I spent the weekend together, just hanging out. Or, rather, waiting and waiting and waiting. It was torturous waiting for her chance to swim in the outdoor splash pool the second day. And then there was a major hysterical meltdown when it was time to get out (two minutes early because her mother was freezing cold and couldn’t stand another 120 seconds), and we endured the walk of shame all the way back to the tent.


    I didn’t hang out much on deck due to limited space and I didn’t haul the camera around much, but I was able to watch each of the boys swim at least once and snap a couple pictures of Russ’s 100IM. His swim time has been almost non-existent in the past few months because of his work schedule and increased coaching duties, so he was brave to jump in and compete with all the young whippersnappers with endless energy. Ha!


    In other news…

    We’ve all been reading, reading, reading.

    All four kids, hallelujah, spent three days at a VBS this week while I had a few moments alone, hallelujah. [Thank you, thank you, thank you, to Eastside for hosting 3 year olds as well as middle schoolers. I love you people.] It was my honest intention to get a bunch of stuff done, but I should have known better.

    I spent some time Tuesday morning exercising my willingness to step outside my box and be brave (and waaaay out of my league).

    An afternoon in a boat on the river with best friends was electrical-stormed-out Tuesday, so we just spent the time together eating pizza and chatting and playing and watching a movie.

    We have Book Detectives this evening and a birthday party for Leif on Saturday.

    One week left of summer, and then the rubber meets the road. I’m a little bit terrified. We’ve had such a lazy, oh, year (or 12), and I think this new schedule is going to be a shock to our systems (for at least two of us). We have only one week to ease into things.

    Do you have any last hurrahs planned for the end of summer, or has your school year already begun?

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

    Divinely Aware


    [I need to find my happy place today. I’ve only been aware of the mess. mess. mess. mess. and dirt. and disobedience. and mess.]