Friday, August 29, 2003

Learning Languages
We have floundered around for several years trying to figure out what to do in this area. I always wanted to learn several languages myself, and I've wanted the children to learn too, but we kept pushing it aside, thinking that Other Subjects were more important. It's so hard to get out of the habit of thinking that we should be following some ideal program of study developed by tradtional schools, or even other homeschoolers, instead of figuring out what God wants for our children!

We've always prayed that God might call any or all of them into the ministry or to missions,* so a facility in languages will be important for them - both Biblical and modern. And now, our three oldest have been asking to learn languages, so we are even more motivated than ever.

Katherine, who has already invented at least one language of her own, wants to learn Gaelic. She has always been interested in our ancestry and dreams of visiting Scotland someday. She also has a Japanese penpal and would love to learn Japanese.

Stephen is fascinated with my copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in middle English and has spent a lot of time comparing it to the translation by J.R.R. Tolkien. He also started a notebook on Old English using the translation of Beowulf by Seamus Haney, which has the Old English and modern translation on facing pages.

Mary Rose wants to learn German, which she says is a beautiful language. I learned that two years of German is a pre-requiste for Old English in colleges that teach it, so I think it would be worthwhile for Stephen to learn it, as well.

Right now we're forging ahead with our Latin studies, thanks to the Lingua Latina curriculum that Matt recommended. Katherine began chapter five this week. She has been able to cover about a chapter a week so far. Stephen works at about half that speed, and Mary Rose is just finishing up chapter one.

They are all benefiting from studying Latin. This curriculum makes the student think hard, and this is especially good for my 12yos and 10yod who tend to want to be told the answer instead of having to figure anything out. I believe Matt said that Lingua Latina teaches the student to think grammatically and lexically.

Also, when Katherine begins studying Gaelic she will already have some experience with strange things like people's names changing depending on whether one is simply saying the name, or is addressing the person. In Latin, the change is fairly simple. For instance, Medus in the nominative case is Mede in the vocative. Davus becomes Dave, and dominus, domine. But it is much more complicated in Gaelic. In a man's name, an "h" is put in after the first letter and an "i" before the last, so Tormod becomes Thormoid. But this makes a big changed in the pronunciation. Tormod is "TAR uh mut" (with a slight trill on the "r"), but Thormoid is "HAR uh mitch" (don't forget the trill).

We haven't really started officially studying Gaelic, even though I've bought a Teach Yourself Gaelic tape and book set. I think the vocabulary and grammar of the language should not be too hard to learn, but the really hard part is the pronunciation and rythym of the language. Once or twice a week, we just listen to the tape and imitate what they are saying, not worrying yet about meaning, just trying to train our ears and tongues.

My younger children are still working on English. :-)

Nathan, who has apraxia, a neurological condition that makes learning to speak extremely difficult for him, is managing five and six word sentences now, but his pronunciation is still funny (Naythun, Ah b'leeve youh Chinese! as his great-grandmother, Nanny Jewel says).

Poor Grace, my four-year-old is still trying to figure out why she has to say "Yes, Man," to me and no amount of explaining that the word is "Ma'am" and that it is French for Madame and means "my lady," has enabled her to call me that. She thinks "sir" is prettier, so she calls me "Yessir, Mama," and her Daddy, "Yes, Man." :-D

John has that sweet three-year-old lisp, so that you have to pay special attention to the context to understand exactly what he's saying. For instance, the word "Toe-wee" can mean either "story" or "toy."

And last but not least, 7 month old Lilian is learning the sign for "please" so she can ask politely for more food at the table.

*Slight qualification - we pray that God calls our sons to the ministry or to missions. We pray that our daughters might either marry ministers or missionaries, or be the mothers of future ministers and missionaries.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

In all the discussions about Judge Roy Moore lately, the most disturbing thing I have seen is Christian men arguing that there is no inalienable right to install a 10 commandments monument in a public building.

They seem to say that the only rights the states and the people have are the ones that are specifically and minutely detailed in the Constitution. The problem with this way of thinking is that inverts (or should I say "perverts"?) the Constitution, which lists specific and detailed powers granted to the Federal government, and clearly says that everything else belongs to the states or to the people.
There's nothing funny online anymore!
I used to get my daily dose of belly laughs from Duane. Hey! Has anybody checked his blog lately? It doesn't say "Used to be a blog," anymore, it's back to AmberBach, and Sarah's blog is back to normal too, though the latest date for both is February 20. I wonder if this means something?

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

For Carmon
Because she asked so sweetly and she's such an encouragement to me.

Early this summer I ordered a boxful of books from Carmon which contained, among other things, Dorothy L. Sayers' The Nine Tailors, the first of her books I've ever read. Since then, I've read four more Lord Peter novels plus a collection of Lord Peter short stories. There are still about a half a dozen others that I haven't read yet, and I'm enjoying them so much I would be glad to own her complete works.

As he spoke, the sound of a church clock, muffled by the snow, came borne upon the wind; it chimed the first quarter.

"Thank God!" said Wimsey. "Where there is a church, there is civilization."+

Even though the Lord Peter stories are mysteries, some of them involving murder, what Miss Sayers wrote about was Christian civilization. Born near the end of Queen Victoria's reign, Miss Sayers lived through the revolutionary social changes of the early 20th century, and a recurring theme in her stories is the contrast between the coarseness of modern behavior the more genteel manners of the past.

"How about a punt at 3:o'clock from Magdalen Bridge?"

"There'll be an awful crowd on the river. The Cherwell's not what is was, especially on a Sunday. More like Bank Holiday at Margate, with gramophones and bathing-dresses and everybody barging into everybody else."

"Never mind. Let's go and do our bit of barging along with the happy populace...."

Harriet smiled to herself as she went to change for the river. If Peter was keen on keeping up decayed traditions he would find plenty of opportunity by keeping to a pre-War standard of watermanship, manners and dress. Especially dress. A pair of grubby shorts or a faded regulation suit rolled negligently about the waist was the modern version of Cherwell fashions for men; for women, a sun-bathing constume with (for the tender-footed) a pair of gaily-coloured beach-sandals. Harriet shook her head at the sunshine, which was now hot as well as bright. Even for the sake of startling Peter, she was not prepared to offer a display of grilled back and mosquito-bitten legs. She would go seemly and comfortable.

The Dean, meeting her under the beeches, gazed with exaggerated surprise at her dazzling display of white linen and pipe-clay.

"If this were twenty years ago I should say you were going on the river."

"I am. Hand in hand with a statelier past."

The Dean groaned gently. "I'm afraid you are making yourself conspicuous. That kind of thing is not done. You are clothed, clean and cool. On a Sunday afternoon, too. I am ashamed of you...."

She was punctual at the bridge, but found Peter there before her. His obsolete politeness in this respect was emphasized by the presence of Miss Flaxman and another Shrewsburian, who were sitting on the raft, apparantly waiting for their escort, and looking rather hot and irritable.*

But Peter and Harriet are only pretending.

"You will find the tea-basket," said Wimsey, "behind you in the bows."

They had put in under the dappled shade of an overhanging willow a little down the left bank of the Isis. Here there was less crowd, and what there was could pass at a distance. Here, if anywhere, they might hope for comparative peace. It was, therefore, with more than ordinary irritation that Harriet, with the thermos yet in her hand, observed a heavily-laden punt approaching.

"Miss Shuster-Slatt and her party. Oh...! and she says she knows you."

The poles were firmly driven in at either end of the boat; escape was impossible. Ineluctably the American contingent advanced upon them. They were alongside. Miss Schuster-Slatt was crying out excitedly. It was Harriet's turn to blush for her friends. With incredible coyness Miss Schuster-Slatt apologized for her intrusion, effected introductions, was sure they were terribly in the way, reminded Lord Peter of their former encounter, recognized that he was far too pleasantly occupied to wish to be bothered with her, poured out a flood of alarming enthusiasm about the Propagation of the Fit, again drew strident attention to her own tactlessness, informed Lord Peter that Harriet was a lovely person and just too sympathetic, and favoured each of them with an advance copy of her new questionnaire. Wimsey listened and replied with imperturbable urbanity, while Harriet, wishing that the Isis would flood its banks and drown them all, envied his self-command. When at length Miss Schuster-Slatt removed herself and her party, the treacherous water wafted back her shrill voice from afar:

"Well, girls! Didn't I tell you he was just the perfect English aristocrat?"

At which point the much-tried Wimsey lay down among the tea-cups and became hysterical.*

The "good manners" of several generations ago were not just about wearing the right clothes and using the right words. The way men and women treated each other, the way parents regarded children, the way social superiors took care of their inferiors and inferiors defered to their superiors, was all a part of a culture that lived out Christianity, each esteeming the other better than himself. Christendom was not perfect then, but at least then we had an idea of what it meant to live as a people of God, and our standard was the world's standard.

Lord Peter lived with the disillusionment of post-WWI England. The political intrigues, the knowledge that the old security was gone and that another war could erupt at any time, the realization that the old way was dying and the "new cilization grow[ing] in on it like a jungle*" and that his nephew, the heir of the family estate, might be just as inclined to sell the property for the development of strip malls as to preserve his heritage, leads him to long for the peace, for the escape, of Oxford. I loathe haste and violence and all that ghastly, slippery cleverness. Unsound, unscholarly, insincere - nothing but propaganda and special pleading and 'what do we get out of this?' No time, no peace, no silence; nothing but conferences and newpapers and public speeches till one can't hear one's self think.... If only one could root one's self in here among the grass and stones and do something worth doing, even if it was only restoring a lost breathing for the love of the job and nothing else."

She was astonished to hear him speak with so much passion.

"But, Peter, you're saying exactly what I've been feeling all this time. But can it be done?"

"No; it can't be done. Though there are moments when one comes back and thinks it might."

" 'Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.' "

"Yes," said he bitterly, "and it goes on: 'But they said: we will not walk therein.' Rest? I had forgotten there was such a word."*

He longs for the university, not the Church, for though Lord Peter was raised in the Church, he admits that he is not devout, and this is why his search for rest ends in bitterness.

I haven't read enough of Miss Sayers' books to know if she offers a solution, but in the short story "Talboys," Lord Peter has settled down, married, and is the happy father of three children. The quiet domesticity of that story gives a clue to the answer.

I believe a large part of rebuilding a Christian civilization lies with families who live out Ephesians 4 at home, at work, wherever the Lord calls them.

O Almighty Father, thou King eternal, immortal, invisible, thou only wise God our Saviour; Hasten, we beseech thee, the coming upon earth of the kindgom of thy Son, our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ, and draw the whole world of mankind into willing obedience to his blessed reign. Overcome all his enemies, and bring low every power that is exalted against him. Cast out all the evil things that cause wars and fightings among us, and let thy Spirit rule the hearts of men in righteousness and love. Repair the desolations of former days; rejoice the wilderness with beauty; and make glad the city with thy law. Establish every work that is founded on truth and equity, and fulfill all the good hopes and desires of thy people. Manifest thy will, Almighty Father, in the brotherhood of man, and bring in universal peace; through the victory of thy Son, Jesus Christ our LORD. Amen.#

+ The Nine Tailors
* Gaudy Night
# The Reformed Episcopal Prayer Book (1963)

Monday, August 25, 2003

Thursday, August 21, 2003

I think it's time to ditch the VeggieTales
Today I was reading the story of Daniel in the lion's den from my Bible, and Grace calmly informed me that Daniel was a cucumber.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The heat wave is broken!
For the last two nights, after weeks of highs in the 100s, the temps have gotten down into the 60s! Oh, I love this weather. The mornings are cool, and I can open up the house and have all the fresh air I want.

Of course, my children mostly resort to sweaters, because they think they are freezing to death if it gets below 70. :-D

They are all outside right now making bricks in the back yard. We have just read about the Tower of Babel, and they are building their own ziggurat, for the glory of God, of course! The prototype was about 2 1/2 feet high. I'm not sure how high the real thing will be.

Tuesday evening, John came in and told me there was a great huge beetle digging in their dirt, and he wanted me to come look at it. It was not a beetle; it was some kind of hornet! It was tunneling into our yard, presumably to lay eggs, thus creating an enemy colony not eight feet from my back door and only two feet away from the picnic table! Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets are all enemies and they are not allowed to live in our territory, so Stephen armed himself and went out to battle.

For bugs like this, we have a special long-range weapon: Real Kill Wasp and Hornet Killer with 20 ft Jet Spray. Strategically placing himself about 6 feet to the west of at the enemy at an elevation of three feet (on top of the picnic table), Stephen took aim and fired a salvo. It was a direct hit, and though the enemy resisted bravely, it was overcome by Stephen's superior firepower.

The next morning I went out and measured the thing. It was nearly 2 inches long, with a diameter of 1/2 an inch and a 2 or 2 1/2 inch wingspan. I scooped it up with a shovel and dumped it in the garbage can. I wouldn't want anyone to step on it. Blech.

Mary Rose just came and informed me that she and Stephen have pet grubs. *shudder* I played with bugs when I was a kid too, but somehow they just don't have the same attraction for me.

Now it is time for morning prayers and Bible lesson. We have added Te Deum to our little liturgy. We sing it just after confessing our faith.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Well.... I'm speechless!

You're the United Nations!

Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long way to go.  You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result.  But your heart is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Actually, maybe this is why I've been having such a hard time arguing politics lately!

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Our visit with the Clinging Vine
I already blogged about the visit to the Kimbell Art Museum, but the really fun part was getting to meet Anne in person for the first time. She was a very gracious hostess and had lunch for us: grilled burgers and some heavenly chocolate thing I've forgotten the name of. Anne even knew all my kids' names! Quite a feat -- I don't even get them all right all the time.

Anne's daughter and son kept the three youngest while the rest of us went to the museum. After we got back, her son, Charles took this picture of us.

Nathan is in the front, then behind him is Mary Rose, then Grace, and John. On the couch: Katherine, me holding Lilian, Anne, and Stephen.

(Anne, I stole this picture from you!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

My Katherine and me
Just now I went back to the girls' room to tell Katherine to turn off her light. She was reading, for the dozenth time, I guess, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates. Earlier today, she was reading a book that has four of Kipling's novels, so I ask her, "What's your favorite book that you read today?"

"Kim," she says. "It's my favorite Kipling story."

"I saw the movie once," I say, blushing.
Studying History
We love history and we love reading good books, so naturally a good deal of our time is spent reading historical fiction.

Five years ago when we were studying ancient Egypt for the first time, we read two books by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Set during the reign of Amenhotep III (c. 1411-1375 B.C.), the main character of The Golden Goblet is Ranofer, the orphaned son of a goldsmith, who discovers that Gebu, his half-brother and guardian, is part of a gang of grave robbers. Mara, Daughter of the Nile is a slave who becomes involved in a plot to overthrow Queen Hatshepsut (c. 1505-1484 B.C.) so her step-son, Thutmose III (c.1490-1435), can rule alone.

Mrs. McGraw is so good at drawing the reader into her stories that I came away from those books feeling as though I had an extensive knowledge of ancient Egyptian culture. When I'm reading good historical fiction, I have to remind myself that it is fiction!

This year in our study of history, we have come back to the benginning and will be studying ancient Egypt again in the coming weeks. Two weeks ago, the kids and I went to the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth with Anne to see the Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt exhibit. It's taken me this long to comment on it because I am silly enough to be so intimidated by Anne's excellent observations that I didn't want my mention of it to limited to "It was totally cool."

So my official observation is: I liked it. ;-)

The artifacts were beautiful and reminded me of many things we read about when we studied ancient Egypt five years ago. In The Golden Goblet, one of the goldsmiths is making a necklace for Queen Tiy set with little three dimensional golden honeybees. There were two pieces of jewelry that reminded me of this necklace. One was a necklace made of gold wire and gold beads set with about two dozen enameled gold amulets, one of which was a honeybee. The other was a bracelet that was designed a lot like the slide bracelets that were popular a few years ago, that had two 3D lions crouching like a Sphynx.

There was a life-size statue of Thutmose III, and a statue of a scribe that I have seen before in history books. There was a statue of Senefer, Queen Hatshepsut's Royal Architect, and his wife and daughter. Senefer is one of the main characters in Mara.

In spite of all the beautiful artifacts, I was a little disappointed in one thing. Most of the information given described the Egyptian religion. Very little of it was about the people represented, and I had hoped to learn more about the people and events that we'll be studying this year.

Still, it was a good experience overall. If we could go back, I'd only do one thing differently. Instead of everyone in the party wearing headphones and listening to the audio tour, I'd have only one person wearing headphones who would then share the information so we could discuss what we were seeing together.
The Discoshaman has moved!
Well, John and Alexandra are still in Ukraine, but John's blog, Le Sabot Post-Moderne has moved.

Friday, August 1, 2003

I have been so remiss
We were out of town so much last month and I wasn't online much the month before that, and I completely forgot to put a link up for fellow blogger Jane, AKA Pentamom. So it's there now, Goldberry's blog.

Oh yes, Tim Berglund, too.