Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Detectives ~ The Boy Who Held Back the Sea


The Boy Who Held Back the Sea is a picture book retelling of a traditional story set in Holland. The gorgeous, moody, dark illustrations are reminiscent of Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer.

For our Book Detectives meeting this past month, I read the picture book aloud. Then, as a group, we asked “should questions.” [I asked the kids and parents whether they wanted to do a story chart from Teaching the Classics or an ANI chart from The Lost Tools of Writing, and everyone chose the ANI chart. We used the story chart last month with Corgiville Fair by Tasha Tudor.]

Should [character] have [action]?

No question is irrelevant or too small.

We wrote our questions on a white board:

  • Should Jan have lied to his mother?
  • Should the captain have acted drunk when trying to get help?
  • Should the constable have neglected to send help?
  • Should the guards have arrested the captain?
  • Should Jan have broken the window?
  • Should the guard have gone for help?
  • Should Jan have kept his finger in the dike and risked his life?
  • Should Jan’s mom have let him skip church to read to Mr. Schuyler?
  • Should the town have held a festival for the naughty boy?
  • Should Jan have given his lunch to the dog?
  • Should Jan have yelled for help?

We chose one question, changed it to a more general question, and created our “issue.”

Should Jan have kept his finger in the dike when no help came?

Whether Jan should have kept his finger in the dike when no help came.

Then we separated another white board into three columns: “A” for affirmative, “N” for negative, and “I” for interesting. We wrote our issue at the top of the board. We added reasons why he *should have* to the A column and reasons why he *shouldn’t have* to the N column. We weren’t so great at filling up our I column (which is odd because kids often spout ideas that don’t fit into affirmative or negative categories!). Answers were given randomly. We didn’t work specifically on one column at a time.

In our A column we wrote:

  • possibly saved lives in town
  • needs of many outweigh needs of one
  • paying consequences as a liar
  • paying consequences for not being where he was supposed to be
  • life changing event; transformative consequence
  • changed his character for the better
  • selfless acts are honorable
  • made mom proud
  • be a hero, receive honor
  • saved own life from drowning
  • because he could
  • unplugged holes get bigger

[You’ll notice that we just jotted down ideas. They can be obvious. Or bad reasons. Or awkward wording. This is essentially organized brainstorming and I want kids to participate and share ideas. And we’re exploring human nature and the reasons humans do things, even when they shouldn’t.]

In our N column we wrote:

  • he could have died
  • townspeople needed to pay consequences for disbelief
  • should have gone back to town (hold might not have gotten too bad)
  • should have come up with a different way to plug hole
  • he could have lost his finger
  • could have gotten hypothermia
  • his mother was worried
  • he had already done his duty
  • it was a job for an adult, not a kid
  • his mother could have been hysterical
  • his mother could have been angry that he risked his life

In our A column we only noted that there are dikes in Holland because it is below sea level.

And that’s it!

This exercise helps kids learn to think in a disciplined way about characters and actions in stories. It is a tool in their tool box for thinking deeply about literature, learning about human nature, applying wisdom to their own lives, and also coming up with material for persuasive essays!

If the kids were older than elementary/grammar students, we’d go deeper and use the five topics of invention (definition, comparison, relationship, context, and authority) for longer discussions.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Art & Air Festival


We’ve done so much less at the festival this year. Mostly because I didn’t have the energy this week. But we did spend hours and hours at the airport yesterday where my father has his extensive WWII artifacts collection.


All three boys were able to fly in airplanes this year with the Young Eagles program. Leif was so excited that he was finally old enough! I didn’t get good pictures of them, though, because I spent most of my time following Lola around.

Img2014-08-23_pmAir Show Lola

But there may have been a little of this, because Mama was tired.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Reading Wrap-Up


It slays me that summer is coming to a close. Truly. But it makes sense to wrap up our August reading lists in preparation for a new focus in the next few weeks. (You can read July’s book post at this link.)

Let’s start with Levi.

[He reads so many shorter books, and re-reads so many, that I only get a smattering of the new ones on his list. I’ve never known a kid to inhale books like this.]

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (I also read this one and enjoyed it. This novel blends Renaissance Art/Raphael, WWII, and Monuments Men, which is a great combination, but there are a couple little objectionable things that I didn’t care for so I didn’t have Luke read it. I think I prefer Blue Balliett’s books.)

[This article at Story Warren reminded me of Chasing Vermeer, which Levi, Luke, and I all enjoyed. So I picked up the other four books by Blue Balliett.]

The Wright 3, The Calder Game, Hold Fast, and The Danger Box by Blue Balliett

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins [I was trying to get Levi to branch out a bit.]

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens [I proposed this one as a challenge. He made it about a third of the way through and was floundering, so I told him to set it aside. No reason to slog through it. He’ll enjoy it in a few years.]

The Hunger Games Trilogy [He had been begging to read this trilogy, and I finally caved. But I’m holding out on the movies for, like, forever.]

The Warden and the Wolf King (The Wingfeather Saga Book 4) by Andrew Peterson [The boys have been waiting and waiting for this final book in the Wingfeather Saga!]

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge [Also our current read-aloud, so he’s getting this one twice—not that he minds.]

[He’s currently working his way through the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. I think we’ll have to re-watch the movie version, Alex Rider - Operation Stormbreaker.]

Stormbreaker, Point Blank, and Skeleton Key

Series Levi has re-read. Seriously:

The Ranger's Apprentice

Swallows and Amazons (so lovely)

Harry Potter

He also re-read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham from his upcoming CC Challenge A literature list.



[This son has inhaled series like never before—ever since finishing off Harry Potter this summer.]

He finished up the three books in the Seven Wonders series.

The Ruins of Gorlan and the next FIVE books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and the following THREE books in the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson [That’s some heavy-duty reading!]

Peter and the Starcatchers and the following THREE books in the series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson [More LONG books!]

Currently Reading:

The Danger Box by Blue Balliett and Stormbreaker (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz

[If you’re counting, and I am, that makes well over 40 chapter books—many 300-800 pages long—just this summer. Whew!!!]



Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White

Mystery of the Missing Necklace by Enid Blyton 

Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos and Mr. Revere and I: Being an Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere,Esq. as Revealed by his Horse by Robert Lawson

Three new Imagination Station books

A couple more Treasure Chest books by Ann Hood

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and he’ll be working on the rest of the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis

[As usual, he has read and re-read a ton of shorter books, non-fiction, and comics.]



Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson [This one reminds me a little of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.]

Working on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald [middle grade novel as mentioned above; enjoyable but with a smidgen of annoying questionable content]

Son by Lois Lowry [I loved this conclusion to The Giver Quartet! Now I’m really looking forward to seeing The Giver in the theaters.]

Working on The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott [This one is from my original to-read in 2014 book list. While and after reading this book, half of me desperately wanted to write a book and the other half of me didn’t want to become so neurotic.]

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Working on A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman [Another book from my to-read in 2014 book list. I’m really enjoying this one.]

I finished watching William Shakespeare's Hamlet with my Hamlet ladies, and now we are starting in on the reading.


Reading Aloud:

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge [We’ll be re-watching the movie version, The Secret of Moonacre, when we finish.]


Book Detectives read and discussed The Boy Who Held Back the Sea this month. I’ll try to share details in a separate post.



We’ve been listening often to poetry songs by Ted Jacobs. A Child's Garden of Songs and Back to the Garden are all Robert Louis Stevenson poems and The Days Gone By: Songs of the American Poets features poetry by Edgar Allan Poe (my two favorite songs in the collection), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and more. Don’t tell my boys that it isn’t cool to sing along to these…



I think that about wraps up our summer reading! What was your favorite book of the summer?

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.

Latourell FallsImg2014-08-20_0081fpm

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.