Tuesday, February 25, 2014
“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told. As almost any barber can testify, there is also more than needs to be told, and more than anybody wants to hear.”
~Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
[Speaking of more than needs to be told, and more than anybody wants to hear, have I got a blog post for you… This is a couple weeks’ worth, as I won’t be able to post again for a while.]
Travels (and Education)
The familiar ebb tide of February has, this year, given way unexpectedly to a flood tide of activity in which I am having trouble coming up for a breath.
After “the great snow” and our slightly extended vacation, we started the week late (detained and distracted by the white stuff) and ended it early with our movie-and-errand day. I traveled to Medford with family and friend this past Monday to see Andrew Kern and arrived home late Tuesday, inspired but tired and sick—which is how I spend the following two days.
On Friday I had the distinct pleasure of driving to Eugene to sit in on a lunch discussion with Andrew Kern, Gutenberg College tutors, and a few others in various educational realms (charter schools, online schools/classes, and homeschooling). I was in over my head (speaking of flood tide) and out of my comfort zone, but listening to the conversation was an incredible experience. To give you a little taste, the following are short videos featuring a few of the tutors at Gutenberg. (I’m fitting a great deal of life and learning in this post, so be sure to scroll down to read the rest.)
Saturday brought a return trip to Eugene, this time with my sister and two friends. Again, we listened to Andrew Kern and others discuss classical education. I crave some time for contemplation and organization of my thoughts, but the most significant concept I came away with is the “liturgy of learning” or form of masterful teaching that was demonstrated for us on stage.
Liturgy of Learning with Andrew Kern:
1. Invitation (determine student's readiness)
2. Presentation (of particular types or instances, model)
3. Comparison (of student's attempt and model)
4. Definition (student expression of concept)
5. Embodiment (student produces artifact)
I am also mulling over the ideas of analogical thinking versus analytical thinking that Andrew talked about on Tuesday. In The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers writes, “The fact is, that all language about everything is analogical; we think in a series of metaphors. We can explain nothing in terms of itself, but only in terms of other things.” She goes on to compare the experience of a writer with the existence of the Trinity. I now have a much clearer idea of the Trinity (and of the writing process) than I’ve ever had before. Reading her analogical writing reminds me of Beauty for Truth's Sake wherein the reader is invited to think analogically of the Trinity and mathematics.
And I recently came across this excellent article about the analogical teaching of Jesus:
:: Don’t Be Original @ Story Warren (Go read the whole blog post.)
“…Jesus exercised a different kind of creativity. Faced with a needy but argumentative woman, he took a word-picture from the prophetic writings and used it to communicate both the original message, and something specific – something new.”
I must move on, or this will be the longest blog post in Mt. Hope Chronicles history.
Oh. my. goodness. Speaking of Mt. Hope Chronicles history, I totally missed my SEVEN YEAR blog anniversary this month!! Speaking of anniversaries, Russ and I also celebrated eighteen years of marriage yesterday. But I simply cannot fit everything into this post.
Really, I’m moving on. Where was I going? Oh, yes. Going. Travel.
Yesterday, Monday, was our full day of Classical Conversations and choir for the boys. Russ headed out early in the morning for a flight to San Francisco, so I am single-parenting this week…and we have a big week to tackle without him!
Today I left the house with the kids before 9 am and didn’t return home until 4:30. My sister took Leif and Lola to her house while I took Levi, Luke, and Ivy up to Portland. My best friend arranged a field trip to see The Oregon Symphony in concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Three moms and ten kids caravanned in three cars. The driving was somewhat stressful for me due to my inexperience at driving in downtown Portland, but the whole trip was a great success. The music selections were perfect, the narration lively, and the atmosphere exquisite.
After we returned to town and I had exchanged Ivy for Leif and Lola, I got my hair cut and ran several errands with the kids in tow.
And, now, I have one day (with kids underfoot) to do laundry, house cleaning, shopping, and packing for a trip south (while figuring in swim practice for all 3 boys and AWANAS). I need to be completely packed by tomorrow night so that we can be off before dawn the next morning for our 13+ hour drive sans Russ. We are caravanning with my dad. Ilex and Drake will be along to help us both, for which I am immensely grateful. Russ is renting a car and driving from San Francisco to meet up with us at my aunt and uncle’s house where we will be staying for a few days. We don’t have specific plans for a return date, but the boys have standardized testing next Thursday and a swim meet that weekend. Because life isn’t yet full enough. Ahem. (On a related note: the boys will be doing lessons in August. Sigh.)
The reason for our trip south? To celebrate the life of this woman:
My grandmother was an incredible woman who lived a full-to-the-brim life, and she deserves her own tribute post when I return. I will miss her terribly, but I cannot wait to see all the family that will be gathered for her funeral this weekend.
One request: I am not sure how my sensitive oldest son will handle her funeral. He has already been quite emotional the past few days. Could I request a few prayers on his behalf, that he would feel a sense of peace and encouragement? That would be greatly appreciated.
Geography and That Other Stuff
40 Days of SPS
Last week was off-kilter with travel and illness, but I’ve been back at the early-rising and morning quiet time this week. It is still extremely difficult for me to get to bed at a decent hour. Argh! The 40 day challenge was technically finished this past weekend, and I’d call it a success. I’ve created a positive habit that I intend to continue.
40 Days of (Good) Food
Um. Well. [cough] I think I am going to have to repeat this challenge. Repeatedly. (The 40 day challenge is up this weekend, but I would only count it a partial success.)
40 Days of Geography
Wahoo! I have exciting things to report! I’ve conquered Africa. And that is sayin’ something. I spent some time working through Africa on the Sheppard Software site, but what really lit a fire under me was this timed quiz. It gives you 12 minutes to type in the name of every country in the world. Which means you also have to be able to spell them. Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan. Liechtenstein. Mauritius. Cote d’Ivoire. Seriously, some of those gave me fits. But. BUT!! I can now type (and spell) the name of every country in the world except for 9 of the islands in Oceania in just 10 minutes! That is 187 out of 196 countries mastered!
I have a little over a week left to finish mastering Oceania and spend more time drawing maps.
:: The true true size of Africa @ The Economist
:: The Happiest States in America @ Business Insider (just for fun)
40 Days of Movement
I knew going into this one that it might fall through the cracks with all that has been going on around here. But it is sitting there, on my mind. And it made me get off my rear end on Friday and take a walk in the fresh air with my little independently-dressed pal. Which meant that I enjoyed the sunset in honor of my grandmother, who loved the sunshine.
40 Days of Memory Master
If I had had it all together, I would have posted a new 40 day challenge yesterday. The boys and I have about 40 days to prep for our Cycle 2 Classical Conversations Memory Master proofing. If I can pull this one off, I will be a Grand Memory Master with all 3 cycles of memory work under my belt. Whew!!
Good grief. It’s the post that never ends. Are you still there? Would you like some encouraging links for reading while I’m MIA?
:: The Long Way @ Story Warren
"C.S. Lewis called it the inconsolable secret. It’s the deep desire to be able to slow, to enter, to quench an ineffable thirst. It’s an ache in my chest, a wild need to hold on to the invisible source of the beauty before my eyes. It is my soul trying to swallow."
:: Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators @ The Atlantic (I think this could extend to all artists/creators.)
"As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package.... By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end."
'Unfortunately, in your own work, you are confronted with every clunky paragraph, every labored metaphor and unending story that refuses to come to a point. “The reason we struggle with"insecurity,” says Pastor Steven Furtick, “is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”'
And this. Yes.
“Work finally begins,” says Alain de Botton, “when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.”
:: Focusing on the Important Stuff in an Age of Distraction by Jeff Goins (His book The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing is on my to-read stack this year.)
"In the in-between, that place where we spend most our lives, we learn to recognize the temporal nature of life. Eventually, all waiting must end. And when it does, we are left with what we did with the time in between the beginning and the end."
:: On Changing Dreams @ A Beautiful Mess
“Being successful in whatever you are pursing in life is never going to magically happen one day and then it's done. It's an ongoing thing. You don't always feel it. It doesn't look the same in everyone's life. And another really weird thing about it is you don't always know it as it's happening. Like I said, choosing to be a failed actress is what led me to my current dream job. This was a successful move, but it sure didn't feel like it at the time. I felt anything but successful that year of my life. Don't be discouraged if you're not feeling successful this year. Keep going. Work hard. Play to your strengths. Take opportunities as they come. Be brave.”
:: The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work (And Why You Should Use It, Too) @ Huffington Post (On constraints. What is the size of your canvas?)
“Limitations drive you to figure out solutions. Your constraints inspire your creativity.”
:: A good life is a good story. What do you want? (Donald Miller of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)
Friday, February 21, 2014
My beloved grandmother, my heart and mind are filled with memories of you. You were life personified. Vivacious. Attentive. Interested. Enthusiastic. Energetic. Always up for a game, a party, or an adventure.
You were my cheerleader. My fan club. You always had a kind, encouraging word. You had a way of making your grandchildren feel like they were the most important people in the world.
I am so thankful that my children had the opportunity to meet you. I am so thankful that we were able to spend time with you this past summer and then again at Christmas. Levi will always treasure the fact that you came to his birthday party the day before you left to return home.
And then you went to your true home, of which this one is just a shadow.
I can imagine you singing with the angels. They are blessed to have you.
Love, your adoring granddaughter.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
My sister Holly, cousin Amy, and friend Cheris joined me in a quick get-away. We left first thing Monday afternoon and headed south, picking up my cousin along the way. It was a short but much needed respite.
The company and conversation were wonderful, even if the weather—torrential downpour, blinding spray, and standing water along the curvy, hilly interstate for hours—left a little to be desired. We had a delightful, leisurely dinner out, followed by some shopping. I’d like to say we took full advantage of our child-less night, but we craved uninterrupted sleep above all else (though I suppose that is certainly an advantage). We propped our eyes open with toothpicks for an hour or two of Olympics and then fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
Tuesday morning, after breakfast at the hotel, we drove a couple blocks to the seminar location in plenty of time (it is astonishing how easy it is to be on time when one doesn’t have four other people to get ready!) to situate ourselves right up front. The only time I sit up front is when I’m child-less and desire to hang on every word.
From six hours of listening, I have pages and pages of notes and my mind is mush. I pray it recovers by Friday, because I have the privilege of listening to Andrew Kern on two more occasions this week.
Andrew Kern is a self-described non-linear thinker and my notes are all over the place, not to mention that so many things he said tied into other things I’ve been reading and thinking about. It may take weeks, months to sort it all out into something coherent enough to post. Until then, let me share a few random quotes from my scribbles to whet your appetite.
"Anxiety is produced when you ask something (or someone) to do a thing it isn't meant to do or cannot do."
"A creative mind is an analogical mind before it is an analytical mind. True knowledge *of* things comes to us analogically. Knowledge *about* things comes analytically."
"Rhetoric without truth is manipulation."
"If you've done the day's work, be done with it."
"It is already yours."
"Every command from God is an invitation."
"If you like math more than art, it is because you see beautiful things in it."
"Perceiving truth is very different from getting through a lesson."
"If things don't have a nature, you can't know them."
"The principle of harmony works across the curricula."
Home beckoned as the afternoon waned, and we were on the road again by 5:30. The sunshine immediately turned liquid, and we had hours of torrential downpour, blinding spray, and standing water along the curvy, hilly interstate. I pried my fingers off the steering wheel at 9:30, and sent my numb mind and body to bed.
Monday, February 17, 2014
I’ve been a blogging slacker this week, and I’m not even sure where to begin. Whew.
Our snow stuck around for another day or two after we arrived home from vacation this past Sunday, causing our school week to go a little wonky. Area schools were cancelled on Monday, and our CC day was postponed until Tuesday. I was glad for an extra day to get caught up, but we paid for it later in the week. Wednesday and Thursday were fairly normal days, though no where near as productive as they should have been.
On Friday morning, we attended a home school movie day with a couple hundred other homeschoolers (there are so many in our area!). All four of the kids LOVED The LEGO Movie, and I thought it was fantastic. So hilarious. Such a great message. And all I’ve heard since then is…
If your children have seen the movie, then I’m guessing you know exactly what I mean. Ha! This review of the movie by Jeffrey Overstreet @ Patheos is excellent. (I realized that Jeffrey Overstreet wrote Auralia's Colors, which Levi read and loved thanks to the book recommendations over at The Rabbit Room.) If you don’t want to read the whole plot, skip to the end. He compares The LEGO Movie to the philosophy of Tolkien (yes, he does), and what he has to say works so perfectly into my year’s theme of story and creativity:
A flourishing world is a harmoniously creative world, not one in which a sub-creator stifles freedom and relationship. Individualism leads to anarchy, meaninglessness, and death. Life is meant to be symphonic, a community that balances improvisation and cooperation, under the guidance of a benevolent conductor.
This was how Tolkien designed his fictional cosmos. And he believed it reflected what human beings do with their imaginations in a world created by, and governed by, God. In exercising our own creative impulses we both reflect, glorify, and enter into intimacy with our creator. Madeleine L’Engle echoed this idea in what remains for me the most rewarding book on the subject of faith and art — Walking on Water — “God is constantly creating, in us, through us, with us, and to co-create with God is our human calling.”
(Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art happens to be one of my favorite books, on the re-read stack this year.)
Okay, back to the week in review…
We had unavoidable errands to run Friday afternoon, so we essentially had a very short school week this week!
And…it will be another strange week this week. After a morning of Classical Conversations tomorrow, Russ is taking over parenting duties and I’m headed down to Medford with my sister Holly, my cousin, and a friend for an overnight getaway. We will be listening to Andrew Kern speak about Assessment That Blesses and Teaching From a State of Rest. (You can listen to a free audio of Assessment That Blesses here.) You have no idea how excited I am. I had the privilege of listening to Andrew Kern in person a little over a year ago, and it was a phenomenal experience. Not only do I get to hear him speak all day on Tuesday (we are returning home that night), but I am planning to attend events closer to home (Eugene) on both Friday and Saturday. So, again, Wednesday and Thursday will be our main school days. Should be interesting…
If you want to enjoy some Andrew Kern while I’m gone, here is another video for you to watch:
This is the end of week 3 of my geography challenge. I’m doing well on all but Africa and Oceania. Both are big challenges! This past week, I’ve made good progress on Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, Northern Africa, and the islands. I’m still struggling with West Africa, and only half way through Central Africa.
This is the end of week 4 of my good food challenge. I did very poorly. Note to self: keep *nothing* tempting in the house during PMS week. I’ve had much better days yesterday and today. This week is going to be another off week. I might have to extend this challenge through next month…
This is the end of week 5 of my SPS challenge. I think I missed getting up early one weekday morning due to not feeling well, but overall I’m pleased. Note to self: It helps tremendously if I get clothes set out the night before and get to bed at a decent hour. Sigh.
This is the beginning of my movement challenge. I’m not sure how this is going to work with all the extra strangeness in my schedule coming up, but that’s why it’s called a challenge. Knowing it might be difficult to fit in exercise the next two days, I started early. It was finally not raining outside (it started raining on Monday and hadn’t stopped since, including major downpours and crazy wind—I can’t believe how long it took for the snow to go away despite the rain!), so I grabbed the kids and told them we needed some fresh air. Nothing fancy, just walking/jogging/racing up and down the driveway, but it felt wonderful. And the company was pretty lovely, too.
It is so, so wet outside. But what else would we expect in the Willamette Valley in February…
I need to write a separate post about what we’ve been reading and watching. The highlights:
The kids watched all 40 episodes of Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? (mostly on our crazy drive to and from Great Wolf Lodge). It was a huge hit, and it was a blast to hear so many places, people, and events mentioned that the boys have learned in CC.
I’m finishing up The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers and have just begun Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry and Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by my friend Tsh Oxenreider (see photo at top of post). The boys and I are still working our way through Watership Down, which has to be in my top 10. It is an exciting thing to share it with the boys!
I’ll post quotes and reviews coming up…
And, last but most importantly, my mom arrived in California today to be with my grandma. The treatment she has endured for the past year has not be able to rid her of her cancer, and she is not doing well. We may be taking a last-minute trip down soon. If you happen to remember her and my family in your prayers, it would be appreciated. I am so thankful we were able to spend time with her this past summer and at Christmas just a month and a half ago!
The next few weeks may be whirl-wind-ish around here. I’ll post as I am able!
Monday, February 10, 2014
I found the following doodled in his math book:
Musings of a Student
Math, be not proud. Thou art mean and base. Thou hath no royal luster in thy eyes. Give me those who art tired of thy blusters and brags. Send these to me. Math, thou shalt die. Thou shalt die a death so profound that none shall remember thee, or revive thee. Thy death shall be cause of rejoicin’. All the school masters shall be merry for math was a subject none would learn. The schoolboy would no longer creep like a snail, now he would run faster than a cheetah. A cheetah would wonder why he had been so challenged. One king will decree that addition symbols will be fed to his falcons. Ah, these simple musings do no good. I must be done, gentle listeners, for even papers have ears.
I don’t know what to do with this child.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
I’ve mentioned it before, but my family doesn’t “vacation” all that often (for several reasons). Last year, we managed three overnight “vacations.” The first was to Bend for two nights. We were all very sick. The second was a single night in a hotel before visiting Wildlife Safari. The hotel stay…notsofun. The third was back to Bend for two nights for a swim meet “camp-out.” We hit a crazy thunder-lightening-hail storm as we went over the pass, towing our trailer.
Our vacation track record = not so impressive.
But I’ve been craving a real vacation. A relax, have tons of fun, make great memories VACATION vacation. Oh, on a tight budget with three boys and a three-year-old girl. Russ finally gave in to my desperate pleas. Thanks to a Groupon deal, we booked two nights at Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark, just about two and a half hours north of us. I thought this will be perfect: a room that sleeps six, built in entertainment that everyone will enjoy (which is almost impossible to come by), we won’t have to drive anywhere once we arrive, and it won’t even matter what the weather is like. And we’ll feel as if we’ve actually been on vacation!
Two and a half hours north of us. Did I say that? It won’t even matter what the weather is like. Oh, I should NOT have said that.
The night before we left, Russ mentioned that we might have some snow on the ground when we woke up the next morning. I dismissed the idea as unimportant. After all, we’ve already had our one stint of (unusual) crazy bad weather for the year. And a dusting of snow? Not a big deal. Indeed, there was a dusting of snow on the ground around 6:30 am. Not a big deal.
A short time later it started snowing again. Really snowing. And it did. not. stop. I’m not a news-watcher. I should have been watching the news last week. But I sure started watching Facebook that morning. Schools were still open. The buses picked up kids. WAIT! Schools were closed. Buses turned around and took kids home. Russ went to the local Les Schawb to buy chains for our new rig. While he was gone, Facebook exploded. There was a 20-50 car pile-up on the interstate just five miles from our house. Freeway closed. Then I-5 open, chains required. Oh. My. Goodness.
We knew the storm was headed north, and we wanted to get off as soon as possible to hit Portland metro before the storm did.
By the time we left the house around 10 am, we had 4 inches of snow.
We traveled back roads until around Salem to avoid the interstate freeway mess.
Salem to Portland I-5 wasn’t so bad. There was only a light dusting of snow. We were home free.
But Portland traffic was insane. Everyone and their brother’s uncle must have been driving home before the storm.
We were north of Portland. NOW we were home free.
And then brake lights just over the Washington border. And stop and go for the next couple hours as the snow dumped and turned the world white. It was 0-5 miles an hour. Our windshield wipers were freezing up. It was CRAZY.
I was so thankful for our new Suburban. It was not my intention to let the kids watch the DVD player a bunch, but it was a life-saver as a 2.5 hour drive turned into hours and hours of stressful driving conditions. I entertained myself by taking pictures of our windshield.
Then we passed the accident. Southbound I-5. Several hours after the accident occurred, it was still a mess.
Traffic lightened up a bit past the accident, and we exited to grab some food and use the restroom. The parking lots were crazy full of snow. Many places were closed or closing (we had 15 minutes at Subway until they closed). Then…our windshield wiper broke when Russ was trying to clear the ice. After trying three different gas station shops for a new wiper (no luck), Russ had to improvise with duct tape.
At least we had the road almost to ourselves as we got back on I-5. We were breezing along at 20-30 miles an hour. Southbound was a parking lot for miles and miles.
Finally, Hallelujah!! The snow ended, the roads were clear, and we made it the last 20 or so miles to Great Wolf Lodge, where our snow-covered rig drew attention from a flabbergasted onlooker. Where did you come from?
Our 2.5 hour drive took 7 hours.
We went straight to the water park, where the weather was a constant balmy 84 degrees, the water was refreshing, and the fun was non-stop. We closed down the park at 9 pm.
I started to take pictures on our second day, and my camera went dead almost immediately. So this is all I’ve got. No charger, and Russ left his phone at home (what? he is never without his phone!).
It was a totally relaxing two days, and everyone (even the parents!) had fun.
On Saturday we had a decision to make. The weather south of us had deteriorated. Freezing rain on top of a foot and a half of snow. The authorities were advising emergency travel only. Russ booked a room at a cheap hotel about 30 miles south. We started driving that afternoon, and the roads were clear until we got near the hotel and then the snow was dumping. We stopped, but the snow didn’t. We took a walk, Russ and the kids swam in the dinky hotel pool and hot tub, we snuggled in three to a bed, and all watched the Olympics until late that night.
I told Russ we should drive home the next morning instead of staying another night, despite the road conditions. Either way, I was going to need a tranquilizer gun. So we left around 10 am. The snow was high, but I-5 was fairly clear. Our drive home was uneventful, other than the treacherous stretch through Portland.
The ice did a bit of damage to our willow tree. Rest in peace, tire swing.
Some of the snow had already melted.
This is the only picture of me from “vacation”:
And that’s all folks.
Area schools are closed tomorrow, but it’s back to the grindstone for my boys…