Sunday, December 13, 2009

A hymn for Advent

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.

Not as of old a little child
To bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun
That lights the morning sky.

O brighter than the rising morn
When He, victorious, rose,
And left the lonesome place of death,
Despite the rage of foes.

O brighter than that glorious morn
Shall this fair morning be,
When Christ, our King, in beauty comes,
And we His face shall see.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And earth’s dark night is past;
O haste the rising of that morn,
The day that aye shall last.

And let the endless bliss begin,
By weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong,
And truth shall be extolled.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light and beauty brings:
Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray,
Come quickly, King of kings.

Words: Greek, tr. by John Brown­lie, 1907
ST. STEPHEN, William Jones, 1789

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Morning Prayers for Thanksgiving 2009

Just in case you're looking for a liturgy, here's what we're doing this year.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

O give thanks unto the Lord, and call upon his Name; tell the people what things he hath done. Psalm 105:1

Confession of Sin

The Officiant says to the people

Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation. And so that we may prepare ourselves in heart and mind to worship him, let us kneel in silence, and with penitent and obedient hearts confess our sins, that we may obtain forgiveness by his infinite goodness and mercy.

Silence may be kept.

Officiant and People together, all kneeling

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts,
we have offended against thy holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
spare thou those who confess their faults,
restore thou those who are penitent,
according to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord;
and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

The Officiant remains kneeling and says

The Almighty and merciful Lord grant us absolution and remission of all our sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

Officiant: The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy spirit.
Officiant: Let us pray.

The Collect of the Day

Almighty and gracious Father, we give thee thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we beseech thee, faithful stewards of thy great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Invitatory and Psalter

All stand

Officiant: O Lord, open thou our lips.
People: And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

Officiant and People

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Psalm 145

I will magnify thee, O God, my King; *
and I will praise thy Name for ever and ever.

Every day will I give thanks unto thee; *
and praise thy Name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD, and marvellous worthy to be praised; *
there is no end of his greatness.

One generation shall praise thy works unto another, *
and declare thy power.

As for me, I will be talking of thy worship, *
thy glory, thy praise, and wondrous works;

So that men shall speak of the might of thy marvellous acts; *
and I will also tell of thy greatness.

The memorial of thine abundant kindness shall be showed; *
and men shall sing of thy righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and merciful; *
long-suffering, and of great goodness.

The LORD is loving unto every man; *
and his mercy is over all his works.

All thy works praise thee, O LORD; *
and thy saints give thanks unto thee.

They show the glory of thy kingdom, *
and talk of thy power;

That thy power, thy glory, and mightiness of thy kingdom, *
might be known unto men.

Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, *
and thy dominion endureth throughout all ages.

The LORD upholdeth all such as fall, *
and lifteth up all those that are down.

The eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord; *
and thou givest them their meat in due season.

Thou openest thine hand, *
and fillest all things living with plenteousness.

The LORD is righteous in all his ways, *
and holy in all his works.

The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him; *
yea, all such as call upon him faithfully.

He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; *
he also will hear their cry, and will help them.

The LORD preserveth all them that love him; *
but scattereth abroad all the ungodly.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD; *
and let all flesh give thanks unto his holy Name for ever and ever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son*
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning; *
is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Lessons

A Reading from Deuteronomy, chapter 26, verses 1 through 11

And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein;

That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there.

And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us.

And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God.

And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:

And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:

And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression:

And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:

And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.

And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God:

And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.

The Word of the Lord
Answer: Thanks be to God.

Hymn “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” Trinity 715

A Reading from John, chapter 6, verses 26 through 35

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

The Word of the Lord
Answer: Thanks be to God.

The Apostles’ Creed

Officiant and People together, all standing

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Prayers

The people stand or kneel

Officiant: The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy spirit.
Officiant: Let us pray.

Officiant and People

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Then follows this set of Suffrages

V. O Lord, show thy mercy upon us;
R. And grant us thy salvation.
V. Endue thy ministers with righteousness;
R. And make thy chosen people joyful.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in thee can we live in safety.
V. Lord, keep this nation under thy care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V. Let thy way be known upon earth;
R. Thy saving health among all nations.
V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R. And sustain us with thy Holy Spirit.

A General Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all men.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee,
give us that due sense of all thy mercies,
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful;
and that we show forth thy praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to thy service,
and by walking before thee
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost,
be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Officiant and People read the following verses in turn

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

A Litany of Thanksgiving
Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

The Collect
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Officiant: Let us bless the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.
2 Corinthians 13:14

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Red Beans and Rice

1 16-ounce package red kidney beans
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 leftover ham bone, 1 1/2 cups meat left on
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or 2 or more tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
6 cups hot cooked rice

1. Rinse beans in running cold water; discard any stones or shriveled beans. Put into large bowl and cover with 2” water; let soak overnight, at least 8 hours.
2. Three or four hours before serving, drain beans and rinse; place in 8-quart Dutch oven, cover with water, and heat to boiling, uncovered. Skim all the foam that rises to the top. Add bay leaf.
3. Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, in hot olive oil, cook onion and garlic until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Stir onion and garlic into beans with all the remaining ingredients, except rice.
5. Return to boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 2 hours or until beans are tender and mixture is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove ham bone to cutting board; cut meat into bite-size chunks. Return cut-up ham to beans, discard bone. Serve spooned over rice.

Serve with greens, cornbread, and slices of sharp cheese. Also goes well with grilled fish.

Recipe says it makes 8 main dish servings, but for us it’s only about six, probably because I don’t ever have a hambone.

Pre-soaking the beans, discarding the soak-water, and skimming the foam are absolutely necessary if you don’t want unpleasant side-effects from eating dried beans.

If you don’t have a hambone, you can use a quart of chicken stock for part of the cooking water. If you don’t have real stock made from bones, add a packet of unflavored gelatin to a cup of cold water, stir, and add to cooking water. The gelatin from the bones makes more protein available, and really does make the meal stick to your ribs longer than it would without it.

The veggies and seasonings except the bay leaf can be added to the last half-hour of cooking – I prefer it that way, but adding them at the beginning means you don’t have to remember to do anything else to them later on.

I like to add a generous spoonful of gumbo filé after putting the beans into a serving dish. It helps thicken it and adds a little je ne sais quoi.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009 make our lives an art...

[Originally posted 4 January 2006, to explain the phrase in my header]

One of the books I received for Christmas was one I’ve been wanting for several years, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, a collection of essays by twelve Southerners, originally published in 1930. There’s so much good in here that I’m afraid I’m devouring it too rapidly to be able to taste it all, so I’ll have to reread - perhaps to the family. I think it would make a nice read-aloud in the winter evenings after Christmas is over. In the four essays I’ve read so far, several common themes keep reappearing, and today I’d like to share a bit of one of them - the idea of an aesthetic life, of living beautifully and graciously, which has nothing at all to do with material wealth.

We feed and clothe and exercise our bodies, for example, in order to be able to do something with our minds. We employ our minds in order to achieve character…. We achieve character, personality, gentlemanliness in order to make our lives an art and to bring our souls into relation with the whole scheme of things, which is the divine nature.
(John Gould Fletcher, “Education, Past and Present,” pp. 119-120)

The arts of the [antebellum South], such as they were, were not immensely passionate, creative, or romantic; they were the eighteenth-century social arts of dress, conversation, manners, the table, the hunt, politics, oratory, the pulpit. These were arts of living and not arts of escape; they were also community arts, in which every class of society could participate after its kind. The South took life easy, which is itself a tolerably comprehensive art.
(John Crowe Ransom, “Reconstructed but Unregenerate,” p. 12)

The art gallery or art museum theory of art to which philanthropists and promoters would persuade us views art as a luxury quite beyond the reach of ordinary people. Its attempt to glorify the arts by setting them aside in specially consecrated shrines can hardly supply more than a superficial gilding to a national culture, if the private direction of that culture is ugly and materialistic…. The truly artistic life is surely that in which the aesthetic experience is not curtained off, but mixed up with all sorts of instruments and occupations pertaining to the round of daily life. It ranges all the way from pots and pans, chairs and rugs, clothing and houses, up to dramas publicly performed and government buildings.
(Donald Davidson, “A Mirror for Artists,” pp. 39-40)

[O]nly in an agrarian society does there remain much hope of a balanced life, where the arts are not luxuries to be purchased but belong as a matter of course in the routine of his living.
(Ibid, pp. 51-2)

Monday, October 12, 2009


Joni and Friends recently did an episode on Chuck Colson and his autistic grandson, Max, and RC Sproul and his granddaughter, Shannon: When Disability Hits Home.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

O day of rest and gladness, O day of joy and light,

O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright:
On Thee, the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
Sing holy, holy, holy, to the great God Triune.

On Thee, at the creation, the light first had its birth;
On Thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth;
On Thee, our Lord, victorious, the Spirit sent from heaven,
And thus on Thee, most glorious, a triple light was given.

Thou art a port, protected from storms that round us rise;
A garden, intersected with streams of paradise;
Thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain, we view our promised land.

Thou art a holy ladder, where angels go and come;
Each Sunday finds us gladder, nearer to heaven, our home;
A day of sweet refection, thou art a day of love,
A day of resurrection from earth to things above.

Today on weary nations the heavenly manna falls;
To holy convocations the silver trumpet calls,
Where Gospel light is glowing with pure and radiant beams,
And living water flowing, with soul refreshing streams.

New graces ever gaining from this our day of rest,
We reach the rest remaining to spirits of the blessed.
To Holy Ghost be praises, to Father, and to Son;
The church her voice upraises to Thee, blessed Three in One.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1862

best sung to WOODBIRD, traditional German melody

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leisure, chapter 3

The theme of Sabbath runs all through this chapter, and Pieper gives us the helpful analogy that leisure is to work as intellecus is to ratio, but the idea that most intrigued me was that of acedia and especially of its cure.

Acedia is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is a “capital vice,” in that it is a source of many other faults. In the modern list of sins, you’ll find Sloth rather than Acedia, but sloth, which we interpret as idleness or laziness, isn’t the same thing.
Idleness, in the medieval view, means that a man prefers to forgo the rights, or if you prefer the claims, that belong to his nature. In a word, he does not want to be as God wants him to be, and that ultimately means that he does not wish to be what he really, fundamentally, is. Acedia is the ‘despair from weakness’ which Kierkegaard analysed as the ‘despairing refusal to be oneself’. Metaphysically and theologically, the notion of acedia means that a man does not, in the last resort, give the consent of his will to his own being; that behind or beneath the dynamic activity of his existence, he is still not at one with himself, or, as the medieval writers would have said, face to face with the divine good within him; he is a prey to sadness (and that sadness is the tristitia saeculi of Holy Scripture).

That Latin phrase refers to II Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation… but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” [Emphasis added]

One of the sins that springs from Acedia is despair. Acedia is a sin against the fourth commandment (Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy), and its opposite is love.

Kierkegaard’s phrase, “despairing refusal to be oneself” is what first caught my attention. Pieper later says that “despair and the incapacity for leisure are twins,” and that “Leisure is only possible when a man is at one with himself; when he acquiesces in his own being.

What does that mean, to acquiesce in ones own being? What is your own being? The imago dei? Your personality or character? Your “bents” and inborn preferences? Your limitations because of circumstances, physical abilities, hormones? I don’t know the answer.

Whatever Acedia is, Pieper says its opposite is not work, but “man’s happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God – which is to say love.” So loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is the place to start. Eagerness for work will certainly be a result of this love, but the work itself isn’t the point.

All this is important in understanding leisure because leisure isn’t a vacation or spare time, it’s “a mental and spiritual attitude.” In order to be at leisure, one must possess an inward calm, must know how to be silent in the face of life’s difficulties, must be “content to let things take their course.”

Another important element of leisure is “the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation,” which tells me how important it is let our children be outdoors a lot, just playing and enjoying it, as well as leading them in focused nature studies.

Feast days and holy days are also important, not only because they lift us out of the workaday world, but because they make us accept the reality and goodness of the creation and of our participation in God’s purposes. Leisure flows out of this kind of celebration.

Leisure is what keeps man Man, and not just a functionary in society, a cog in the machine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Leisure, chapter 2 part 2

In the second part of chapter two, Pieper defines the servile arts as “those which have an end beyond themselves, and more precisely an end which consists in a utlitarian result attainable in practice, a practicable result.” Compared with this, the liberal arts are “all forms of human activity which are an end in themselves.”

By making this distinction he is not saying “This is a bad apple; that is a good apple.” He is saying something more like, “This is a transitive verb, and that one is intransitive.” The servile arts are utilitarian -- that is, there is an object outside of themselves, just as when “Sally throws the ball” the action is performed on some object other than herself. But if “Sally smiles,” the action remains with herself, even though it may have an effect on the people around her.

We have trouble with his distinction because he is saying that the servile arts are inferior to the liberal. Egalitarianism is in the very air that we breathe and so we tend to view this kind of hierarchical distinction as being one of good v. bad, or better v. worse. But I think he's saying that the servile arts are inferior to the liberal in the same way that a foundation is inferior to the walls of a house, which are in turn inferior to the roof.

The foundation is, well, fundamental. But it's not there for its own sake; it's there to hold up the rest of the house.

Likewise, the servile arts are absolutely necessary to life. But we don't live to work, do we? We work so that we may be at leisure. Or, as John Gould Fletcher put it:
We feed and clothe and exercise our bodies, for example, in order to be able to do something with our minds. We employ our minds in order to achieve character…. We achieve character, personality, gentlemanliness in order to make our lives an art and to bring our souls into relation with the whole scheme of things, which is the divine nature.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Leisure: The Basis of Culture, chapter 2, part 1

[I love this chapter, but it's so full that I'm going to have to go over it a little at a time. This is a summary of the first half of the chapter. Be sure to read all the other posts on the book.]

Near the end of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Captain Wentworth realizes how foolish he has been and how little deserving he is of Anne Elliot’s love. It is a painful realization:
“I have been used to the gratification of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed. I have valued myself on honourable toils and just rewards. Like other great men under reverses,” he added with a smile, “I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve.”

This is the heart of Pieper’s second chapter. “Man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.”

According to Pieper, the philosophers of Greece and the Middle Ages saw knowledge as two elements that work together: ratio, and intellectus. Ratio, the Reason, is active. It searches and examines, defines and draws conclusions. Reason is hard work. But intellectus is passive. It is contemplative and meditative. “Intuition” seems to be the English word that is closest to its meaning. There is a strong element of grace in human knowledge, since the intellectus is, according Aquinas, “not really human but superhuman.”

But modern philosophy has come down to us through Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who held that “knowing and philosophizing… must be regarded and understood as work,” since for Kant, knowledge “is realized in the act of comparing, examining, relating, distinguishing, abstracting, deducing, demonstrating – all of which are forms of active intellectual effort.” In this view, knowledge is Herculean labor, therefore:

[I]f to know is to work, then knowledge is the fruit of our own unaided effort and activity; then knowledge includes nothing which is not due to the effort of man, and there is nothing gratuitous about it, nothing ‘in-spired’, nothing ‘given’ about it.

Kant’s idea is that the effort involved in philosophizing was its justification, and intellectual contemplation, intellectus, is worthless because it is effortless. Pieper says this leads to the idea that the effort of acquiring knowledge is a reasonable assurance of the truth of that knowledge.

And here, in turn, we are not so very far from the ethical notion that everything man does naturally and without effort is a falsification of true morality – for what we do by nature is done without effort.

Even moral good is judged by the standard of effort: “the more difficult a thing, the higher it is in the order of goodness.” But, to quote Aquinas, “The essence of virtue consists in the good rather than in the difficult,” or, as Pieper says, “The highest moral good is characterized by effortlessness – because it springs from love.”

This is not to deny the importance of hard work in acquiring knowledge or in pursuing virtue.

The highest forms of knowledge… may well be preceded by a great effort of thought…; but in any case, the effort is the cause; it is not the condition. It is equally true that the effects so effortlessly produced by love presuppose no doubt an heroic moral struggle of the will. But the decisive thing is that virtue means the realization of the good; it may imply a previous moral effort, but it cannot be equated with moral effort.

Think of our faith, how rooted it is in Grace. “In the beginning,” says Pieper, “there is always a gift.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Work and Sabbath rest

A rabbit trail off of the Leisure discussion.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Genesis 2:1-3

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Exodus 20:8-11

I've spent so much time thinking about issues raised the first chapter that I've only read the first page or so of the second chapter. I need to plow ahead, but in order to do that I've got to get this settled first. I'm sure Pieper is going to define what he means by "servile work" in his book, so I want to clarify where I am right now before proceeding.

Mike and I didn't grow up in a Sabbath-keeping tradition so when we decided we needed to do something to make Sunday a more special day -- to remember it and keep it holy -- one of the things we did was excuse the family from certain chores on Sunday: making beds and doing laundry, for instance. (There were "positive" things too, but in this post I'm only focussing on "negative" things we did since I'm trying to get at the nature of work.)

Then, three and a half years ago we got dairy goats. Dairy animals have to be milked, fed, and watered twice a day every day, and the barn has to be cleaned every day in cold weather, which is the only time we keep them indoors.

Also, we're trying to grow more of our food, but that's a different story -- the garden doesn't have to be plowed, planted, weeded and watered, nor the crops harvested every day, but only at certain appropriate times. The first thing you come to realize when gardening is that you don't have to set out plants or build new beds on Sunday -- those are things that properly belong to the "six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work" part of the commandment.

So what does it mean to work six days and rest one when there's so much work that has to be done every single day?

The younger children and I have spent the better part of the past year memorizing the creation week from Genesis 1:1 to 2:3, and it's been such a blessing. One thing it did was make very clear the kind of work God was doing on those six days -- the work of creation. He has entered his eternal Sabbath, as Hebrews 4 says, so he is no longer doing the work of creation, but obviously he is working every day to sustain that creation.

That, then, is the model that we use in our family. We've had to redefine work into two categories: work proper, and chores. Chores are the things that have to be done every day in order to sustain life. Work is productive in nature, and is the kind of thing that can be rested from on Sunday in order to enjoy the blessings of that rest.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Work and honor

(Reposted from September 1, 2007)

Good human work honors God’s work. Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love. It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasue and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for.

(from the essay “Christianity and the Survival of Creation,” by Wendell Berry, in The Art of the Commonplace)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Leisure: The Basis of Culture, chapter 1

Randoms thoughts on the first chapter of Josef Pieper's book, which I'm reading along with Cindy's Book Club this fall.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Pieper says that in our "world of planned diligence and 'total labour'" we have trouble understanding the concept of leisure because we overvalue the sphere of work. Contra the modern idea that one lives to work, Aristotle says that "We work in order to have leisure." Literally it is, "We are unleisurely in order to have leisure," as Pieper points out that "Greek only has the negative, a-scolia."

I realize the New Testament Greek isn't quite the same as the classical, but still I thought it would be instructive to look up the words that get translated as work, toil, and labour in the Bible. Here's what I found from Strong's online concordance:

Strong's G2038 - ergazomai
1) to work, labour, do work
2) to trade, to make gains by trading, "do business"
3) to do, work out
    a) exercise, perform, commit
    b) to cause to exist, produce
4) to work for, earn by working, to acquire

Strong's G2041 - ergon
1) business, employment, that which any one is occupied
    a) that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking
2) any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind
3) an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasised in opp. to that which is less than work

Strong's G2872 - kopiaō
1) to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief)
2) to labour with wearisome effort, to toil
    a) of bodily labour

That was a worthwhile study because I'm the kind of person who's inclined to quote from what I've been reading, and it would have been embarrassing to quote this passage to a Bible scholar who is familiar with the three words above. I suppose the disparity is because Koine is different from the classical Greek.

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A passage that gave pleasure to my sorta-Sabbatarian eyes: "We still speak of 'servile work' as unsuitable on Sundays and holidays."

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On the theme of Sabbath-keeping: It is often pointed out to us that before the Resurrection, the sabbath came at the end of the work week, showing that we work in order to rest, but now it's at the beginning, signifying the reverse -- we rest and worship in order to work.

At the end of the chapter, Pieper says that we must "base our conclusions on a philosophical and theological conception of man," so it will be interesting to see where he goes with this.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Ephesians 2:8-10:
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The word works in "good works" is ergazomai, and I like to remind myself that not only the traditional "good works" of evangelism, charity, et al, but all my labour at home is "good work" for which Christ saved me.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

But here's something beautiful I didn't know before -- the word "workmanship" is the word poiēma. We are his poem. :-)

That word is used only one other time, the phrase "the things that are made" in Romans 1:20, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It feels like nothing's happening. Our Missouri house is finished but we're waiting on paperwork so the construction loan can be converted. And waiting... The renovation cost us a lot more than we'd estimated, so we're rethinking our original plan, which was for me and the four younger children to move out there next month. We think we ought to get the extra debt we went into paid down first before starting to move...

On the other hand, a lot is happening. My oldest son has been taking EMT classes this summer, and right now he's running some errands related to putting in his application for a volunteer position at the local fire and rescue station. This afternoon will be his first day on the job as a bagger (working for tips) at the commissary.

Tomorrow, the kids are going down to the county fair -- their group of volunteers at George Washington's birthplace is putting on a play in the evening. Mike won't be able to go since he has to stay home and milk the goats, but a friend and I are going. I haven't been to a county fair in ages and I'm looking forward to it.

We had a yard sale last weekend, advertised in the local paper and everything, but we had a lousy turnout. We've always done really well at yard sales, but this (along with an unadvertised attempt two weeks earlier) is the first time we've had one since moving here four years ago. I don't think it'll be worth it to try again. We were trying to get rid of stuff preparatory to moving, plus make a little money. Usually we just drop stuff off at the local charity thrift store. We have a few items that the thrift store won't take, like a bed, so I guess we'll try Craigslist or something like that. I'd hate to have to take it to the dump.

And of course, there's painting and repairs that we need to do to get the house ready to go on the market in the spring.

So I have plenty of regular, daily work to be doing, but I don't like not knowing for sure what our longer-range goals are. I have a hard time staying on task when I don't have a clear goal and timeline before me. So far, all of our deadlines have been receding, which makes it feel like we're not accomplishing our goals, but when I compare where we are today with where we were this time last, we really have made progress... just a whole lot slower than we originally thought.

All this slowness and waiting gives us plenty of time to second-guess ourselves, too. We keep wondering if we're really making the right decisions. We know that in the end God works all things together for good, but it sure would be comfortable if we had some way of knowing that what we're doing now, today, is Good in itself -- is pleasing to the Lord -- and not just stupid mistakes that he'll eventually make good in spite of us.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


by Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old —
This knight so bold —
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow —
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be —
This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied —
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Good news!

I just discovered (tipped off by a commenter at Cindy's blog) that all my blog posts from the WordPress blog are still available. I subscribed to them myself via Google Reader so I could figure out how the thing worked before I started subscribing to other people's blogs.

Of course, the comments are lost, and I'm sorry for that -- the conversation is the fun part of blogging -- but I'll be reposting the worthwhile ones here, under their original dates, as time allows.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not every "environmentalist" is a wacko

It's been a while since I mentioned this, but when we moved out here four years ago our area hadn't had enough rain in a couple of years. The people we bought our house from told us to be careful about watering gardens because we have a shallow well (it's about 40' deep and also known as a surface well, as opposed to a deep well -- the kind that's hundreds of feet deep and goes into the underground water in the bedrock).

When a contractor started putting up two houses close to ours a few months later, a visiting neighbor and longtime resident of this area said that he was worried about how many people were moving out to our county and drilling deep wells. He said that the water table was dropping and he was concerned about there simply not being enough. I thought it was a bit of an overreaction.

Then, a year later, our well went dry.

The next day, the level had come back up enough to reach the pump, but we instituted emergency rationing of water.

We also bought a truck load of water from a company in a nearby town, which resold city water they bought from various municipalities in our area. I've forgotten how much it was now -- something like 300 gallons for several cents a gallon. It filled our well, and it's never gone dry again for which I'm very thankful because the drought has gotten so bad that the cities here quit selling water a month or two after we bought.

It's been raining a lot this year -- almost back to normal as the natives tell us, but I've only let up a little on the water-rationing.

We never watered our grass, but since the well went dry we no longer water our gardens from the hose. Instead we use old water from the animals' drinking buckets and grey water from the house. We don't let the water run at the sink while brushing teeth or washing hands. We scrape plates into the chickens' scrap bucket instead of rinsing the dishes. We take quick showers (or "military" showers where you get wet, turn off the water, soap up, turn on the water and rinse). And guess what -- we don't flush the toilets after every use.

I've gotten so much in the habit of not wasting water that it freaks me out when I see people running the kitchen faucet full-blast while they slowly rinse dishes... one at a time... and place them... slowly... one by one... into... the... dishwasher...

And it saddens me to read about people wasting water on purpose just to spite the enviro-wackos, as the first commenter under in this post says he did.

People, clean water is a precious thing and not to be taken for granted.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lamentations 3

22 It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning:
great is thy faithfulness.

24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul;
therefore will I hope in him.

25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him,
to the soul that seeketh him.

26 It is good that a man should both hope
and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

27 It is good for a man
that he bear the yoke in his youth.

28 He sitteth alone and keepeth silence,
because he hath borne it upon him.

29 He putteth his mouth in the dust;
if so be there may be hope.

30 He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him:
he is filled full with reproach.

31 For the LORD will not cast off for ever:

32 But though he cause grief,
yet will he have compassion
according to the multitude of his mercies.

33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

Monday, June 29, 2009

blog worries

I'm getting ready to update my blogger template -- I never have before because I prefer doing things in HTML and I'm a little worried that if I get the "new and improved" template it'll make things worse for me, but I can't figure out what else to do. Blogger's comments have never worked for me (there's some conflict with my code) and I'm trying to get Disqus comments instead, since I already have an account with them, but trying to figure out where to put the code is taking too much time -- I can't simply replace the old Sensus Plenior code for some reason. It makes the comment box and all the comments show up under each post on the main page.

Well, here goes nothin!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thankful Thursday

[Reposted from]

As I've mentioned, summer is my least favorite season, but there are lots of lovely things to be thankful for.

lightening bugs
magnolia blossoms, fully a foot across
the smell of freshly cut grass
being able to use the clothesline
home-grown tomatoes
watermelon, home grown or not
homemade ice cream
the Perseids
mockingbird songs morning and evening
crickets, cicadas, and all the other singing bugs
newly hatched guineas

Monday evening as the sun was setting, we stood admiring the pink-gold clouds to the west of the house when a rainbow came out in the east. While we were admiring it, it started raining. We had sunset clouds, sunset rain, and a rainbow all at once. I've never seen anything like it -- the rain took on the clouds' pinkish gold color and the air was filled with a golden light and our roof looked like it was shingled in gold. No lightening, so we even got to run around in it.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Trinity season

On the Church calendar, Trinity season is that long stretch of nothing after Easter/Ascension/Pentecost and before Advent/Christmas/Epiphany seasons. It covers the dog days of summer, which we’re just coming into. That’s a classical reference — it has something to do with Sirius, the dog star, but I always thought it was because you spend your days dragging around, panting like a dog.

Summer is my least favorite of all the seasons, even though I love the home-grown tomatoes, because I dislike being hot and sticky in spite of air conditioning. Someone should invent a set of personal gills for use in the South in summer — maybe the heat would be bearable if I could just get a lungful of oxygen.

I love the spring and we took off nearly the whole two months from Easter to Trinity, so we could be outside doing yardwork, gardening, and just enjoying life. But Trinity arrived, reminding me that we have all kinds of work to do as we wait for Christ’s return. The last Sunday before Advent is Christ the King, when we remember that he really will come again, and we are to be busy about his work until then.

So we went back to school on the Monday after Trinity. No summer break for us this year, which works out well since my mom and stepdad won’t be able to come out here or take the kids home with them for visits this summer as they usually do. We can have a twelve week term and then take off the month of September (my other favorite time to be out of school), when my folks will be free to visit.

I don’t know if we’ll do this again in future years, but for this year, so far it’s working out well.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Responsible, contributing citizens"

Yesterday the newsletter from our local government school district came in the mail (addressed to “Postal Patron,” so I suppose everyone gets one: your tax dollars at work), and the first thing I noticed before opening it was the mission statement:

The mission of __________ County Schools is to engage all students in meaningful learning experiences in order for them to become responsible, contributing citizens and life-long learners.

Sounds fine, but what do they mean by that?

The first article is about a certain brand of video camera and its use in the classroom. The article details kids using it to record their presentations in English and Spanish classes (biographies presented in character, and creating advertisements for English; a fashion show for Spanish) as well as an art teacher creating a movie of her students’ artwork which she’ll post on her website so the students can share it with their parents.

The article is summarized thusly: “The [brand name] video camera has proven to be an invaluable tool for education. Many of our students at [the middle school] say they will ask their parents to purchase one for them.”

Class, what have we learned today?

A Responsible Citizen is a consumer!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Recipe: Creamy Spinach

We had this last week from the spinach Valerie M. brought me from her garden when she came for a visit last Sunday. It’s my favorite way to eat spinach — I could eat it all day long!

Fresh spinach
prepared horseradish*
cream or half and half

Wash the spinach leaves and place in a large covered pot. If you’re using prewashed leaves, you’ll need to rinse them so they’ll be moist. Place the pot over a medium flame and heat until simmering; reduce heat and cook just until wilted. Drain the water; press the leaves with the back of a spoon in order to squeeze out any more liquid, and drain that, too. Add the rest of the ingredients and transfer to a heated serving bowl.

Spinach is high in oxalic acid which can irritate the linings of your mouth and stomach and prevents the absorption of calcium, so if you shouldn’t eat it raw often, but cooking neutralizes it. Don’t skimp on the butter and cream, and don’t use vegetable oil-based substitutes. Spinach is high in carotnoids from which your body makes Vitamin A, but it can only do that if you have animal fat along with the carotenoids.

*Note that “prepared horseradish” isn’t the same thing as the creamy horseradish sauce that looks like mayonnaise and goes on a rueben.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Ascension Day!

O clap your hands, all ye people;
shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

For the LORD most high is terrible;
he is a great King over all the earth.

He shall subdue the people under us,
and the nations under our feet.

He shall choose our inheritance for us,
the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.

God is gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises:
sing praises unto our King, sing praises.

For God is the King of all the earth:
sing ye praises with understanding.

God reigneth over the heathen:
God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

The princes of the people are gathered together,
even the people of the God of Abraham:
for the shields of the earth belong unto God:
he is greatly exalted.

Psalm 47

Monday, April 27, 2009

Good for your ghost

Moderation is medicine no matter how you yearn.
It’s not all good for your ghost that your gut wants
Nor of benefit to you body that’s a blessing to your soul.

(From William Langland’s Piers Plowman, Passus I, lines 35-37, tr. E. Talbot Donaldson)

The older kids and I are reading Piers Plowman to each other during our afternoon colloquium — I didn’t think they’d be interested, but I read the prologue aloud and they all wanted to continue. They were getting a little tired of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (he’s so Victorian, and, well... we’re not), so we’ve set him aside for now and are enjoying the view from the 14th century.

On "Correct English"

I may as well say here that my father did not speak dialect but the standard English of the eighteenth century. In pronunciation the criterion was the oral tradition, not the way the word looked in print to an uneducated school-teacher. For example, although he wrote ate, he pronounced it et, as if it were the old past tense, eat. He used the double negative in conversation, as well as ain’t, and he spoke the language with great ease at four levels: first, the level just described, conversation among family and friends; second, the speech of the “plain people” abounding in many archaisms; third, the speech of the negroes, which was merely late seventeenth or early eighteenth century English ossified; and, fourth, the Johnsonian diction appropriate to formal occasions, a style that he could wield in perfect sentences four hundred words long. He would not have understood our conception of “correct English.” Speech was like manners, an expression of sensibility and taste.
(From Alan Tate’s novel, The Fathers, p. 17)

The main character of The Fathers is an elderly man in the early 1900s recalling something that had happened when he was a child in northern Virginia in the 1850s. I like that last sentence: Speech was like manners, an expression of sensibility and taste.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Economics: changing definitions

It’s interesting to note how word meanings have changed over time. Here are some definitions of capitalist and capitalism (I’m putting each of the entries in reverse alphabetical order since one of the definitions of capitalism includes the word capitalist):

From comes the modern usage:

1. a person who has capital, esp. extensive capital, invested in business enterprises.
2. an advocate of capitalism.
3. a very wealthy person.

1785–95; capital + -ist

an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

1850–55; capital + -ism

From the American College Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1955, we have:

capitalist, n. one who has capital, esp. extensive capital employed in business enterprises.

capitalism, n.
1. a system under which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are in large measure privately owned and directed.
2. the concentration of capital in the hands of a few, or the resulting power or influence.
3. a system favoring such concentration of wealth.

Here’s another older set of definitions from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition, date unknown as the relevant page is missing, but the latest population information in the back of the book is from 1941:

capitalist, n. One who has capital; esp., a person of large property which is or may be employed in business

capitalism, n.
1. The state of having capital; the position of a capitalist.
2. An economic system in which capital and capitalists play the principal part; specif., the system of modern countries in which the ownership of land and natural wealth, the operation of the system itself, are effected by private enterprise and control under competitive conditions.

It’s packed up now, but my circa 1970s World Book Encyclopedia defines it in the modern sense — that is, by focusing on free trade and private ownership and contrasting it with socialism.

I don’t know how important it is to the economic debate overall, but it’s important to remember changing definitions when reading works from previous generations. Belloc and Chesterton both use the word in its older sense — here’s the opening paragraph on the chapter on the capitalist state in Belloc’s Economics for Helen:

The Capitalist State is that one in which though all men are free (that is, though no one is compelled to work for another by law, nor anyone compelled to support another), yet a few owners of the land and capital have working for them the great mass of the people who own little or nothing and receive a wage to keep them alive: that is, a part only of the wealth they produce, the rest going as rent and profit to the owners. (p. 96)

["Rent" is a technical term referring to one of the three divisions of wealth produced, the other two being Subsistence and Interest (or Profit).]

It seems that the current definition has arisen in reaction to the rise of socialism (which, I want to reiterate so there’s no misunderstanding, Chesterton and Belloc were both emphatically against), but it also seems to me that the older one reflects our current situation well. Even though statistics show modern Americans to be homeowners at unprecedented rates, it makes it easy to miss the fact that most “homeowners” don’t own the place free and clear, but have a mortgage. And most of us don’t use the property we do own (mortgaged or otherwise) to produce wealth, so it can’t properly be called “Land” or “Capital” in the economic sense of the words.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reading about economics

Last week I read Hillaire Belloc’s Economics for Helen which was a big help to me. I’m going to read it again with my big kids as soon as we’re finished with Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World, so we can discuss it. I learn things much better when I can discuss what I’m reading, so since I haven’t talked through the book much yet, I may not be able to write well about it, but I’ll give it a shot while some things are fresh on my mind.

Belloc covers all the basics, defining wealth, explaining land, labor, and capital, and the process of production, and introduces a new-to-me concept, the fact that there are three kinds of wealth: subistance, rent, and interest. He discusses exchange (both domestic and international), free trade and protection, money, banking, and national debts and taxation. He also describes the three economies that have been pretty widely practiced in history: the servile (that is, slave-holding) state, the capitalist state, and the distributist state, frankly discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each. He discusses socialism briefly, mainly because in his time (the book was written in 1923) it hadn’t been successfully practiced anywhere and he said he thought it wasn’t possible for it to succeed. Of course we’ve had time to see that the only place it ever “succeeds” is at the end of a gun.

Something I really appreciated about the book was that at the beginning where he defined economic wealth, and at the end in his summary, he differentiated it from other kinds of very good things, like a beautiful painting or a good book or any of those intangibles that makes life pleasant. So many articles on the economy completely ignore this part of life and make it sound like economic wealth is the only kind of wealth, and make the mistake of thinking that if a nation has greater economic wealth at one point in their history, then they must necessarily be better off.

People confuse the word “Wealth” with the idea of well-being….

It is not so. Economic Wealth is a separate thing from well-being. Economic Wealth may well be increasing though the general well-being of the people is going down. It may increase though the general well-being of the people around it is stationary.

Another thing was that after a few chapters he pointed out that what he was talking about in the first half of the book was economic law, not moral law — i.e. the way things work, not whether it’s good or bad. He then made this astute observation: “Some people are so shocked by the fact that Economic Law is different from Moral Law that they try to deny Economic Law. Others are so annoyed by this lack of logic that they fall into the other error of thinking that Economic Law can override Moral Law (p. 47).” The moral law aspect came up in the second half of the book when he started talking about political applications.

The last chapter, Economic Imaginaries, is a brief look at what Belloc calls a new subject in Economics, and is terribly important in helping me see what’s going wrong and how it’s going wrong in our own time. An economic imaginary is “a value which appears on paper but has no real existance (p. 164).” He gives several examples of what causes this sort of thing to happen, the funniest of which is worth quoting in full:

Supposing two men, one of whom, Smith, has a loaf of bread, and the other of whom, Brown, has nothing. Smith says to Brown: “If you will sing me a song I will give you my loaf of bread.” Brown sings his song and Smith hands over the bread. A little later Brown wants to hear Smigh sing and he says to him: “If you will sing me a song I will give you this loaf of bread.” A little later Smith again wants to have a song from Brown. Brown sings his song (let us hope a new one!) and the loaf of bread again changes hands and so on all day.

Supposing each of these transactions to be recorded in a book of accounts. There will appear in Smith’s book: “Paid to Brown for singing songs two hundred loaves of bread,” and in Brown’s book: “Paid to Smith for singing songs two hundred loaves of bread.” The official who has to assess the national income will laboriously copy these figures into his book and will put down: “Daily income of Smith, 200 loaves of bread. Daily income of Brown, 200 loaves of bread. Total 400 loaves of bread.” Yet there is only one real loaf of bread there all the time! The other 399 are imaginary.

Belloc admits that this example is “an extreme and ludicrous case,” but goes on to show how that sort of transaction actually makes up a pretty good portion of our economic activity. He also mentions three other types of economic imaginaries, and I’ll bet modern readers can come up with several others.

I’d definitely recommend that anyone interested in the study of economics read this — both relative beginners like me, but also more knowledgeable people who might benefit from Belloc’s perspective, which is rather different from free-market capitalism.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meal planning

We’re trying to learn to eat more seasonally as part of transitioning into growing as much of our own food as we can. My gardening skills aren’t very good, to say the least. We generally succeed at a tomatoes, and last year we had a bumper crop of turnips, but everything else we plant usually fails for one reason or another, but it’s spring and there’s always hope. So I’m still thinking that some day we’ll be able to grow more stuff (and even if we don’t we’re trying to buy more from local farmers), and when we do that we’ll need to be used to eating what’s available in the garden.

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There’s a cook book I’d love to get some day: Simply in Season. That website posts a new recipe each week — this week’s is spring greens salad, and the page includes recipes for five different dressings. That’s a site worth bookmarking.

Another helpful site is Eat the Seasons, which lists what’s in season each month and has links to several recipes.

Checking out those lists on occasion gives me fresh ideas for meals. I’ve been in an awful rut lately, owing, I think, to the way we’ve changed what we eat. Up until the last couple of years I always planned meals around a chunk of meat (plus had occasional meatless meals) but with trying to raise our own meat or buy it locally, that just doesn’t work out since we only have meat available a couple times a week.

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Speaking of planning meals around a chunk of meat — a neighbor had more ducks than he wanted so he gave us a couple of young males last month that we’ve been saving for Easter dinner. They’ll be butchered this afternoon and I’m going to marinate them in lemon juice till it’s time to prepare them. I’ll be roasting them, so I can do all the prep on Saturday then turn on the roaster before leaving for church Sunday. For the rest of the meal, I took my cues from the list at Eat the Seasons and checked my cookbooks for recipes.

Here’s the tentative menu:

* Avocado Grapefruit Salad (from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions — sliced avocados and grapefruit sections served on a bed of lettuce, topped with homemade dressing and green onions)
* Roast Duck with bacon-rice stuffing and giblet gravy (from Good Housekeeping’s All-American Cookbook)
* Asparagus with sesame seeds (also from Nourishing Traditions — sauteed in olive oil then baked with shallots, served with a squeeze of lemon juice)

What kind of wine would be best with that?

Elai is going to make a chocolate mousse for dessert.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

What are you eating this month?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry;
O Savior meek, pursue thy road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
The angel-squadrons of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
the Father on his sapphire throne
expects his own anointed Son.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, thy power, and reign.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Words: Henry Hart Milman, 1820
Best sung to: Winchester New (Musikalisches Handbuch, Hamburg, 1690

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Topsy-Turvy World

~William Brighty Rands (1823–1880)

If the butterfly courted the bee,
  And the owl the porcupine;
If churches were built in the sea,
  And three times one was nine;
If the pony rode his master,
  If the buttercups ate the cows,
If the cats had the dire disaster
  To be worried, sir, by the mouse;
If mamma, sir, sold the baby
  To a gypsy for half a crown;
If a gentleman, sir, was a lady,—
  The world would be Upside-down!
If any or all of these wonders
  Should ever come about,
I should not consider them blunders,
  For I should be Inside-out!

Ba-ba, black wool,
  Have you any sheep?
Yes, sir, a packfull,
  Creep, mouse, creep!
Four-and-twenty little maids
  Hanging out the pie,
Out jump’d the honey-pot,
  Guy Fawkes, Guy!
Cross latch, cross latch,
  Sit and spin the fire;
When the pie was open’d,
  The bird was on the brier!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lady Daffadowndilly

~Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)

Growing in the vale
        By the uplands hilly,
Growing straight and frail,
        Lady Daffadowndilly.

In a golden crown,
And a scant green gown
        While the spring blows chilly,
Lady Daffadown,
        Sweet Daffadowndilly.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Last year I launched National Poetry Month with a poem about daffodils by A.A. Milne. I just found this one this week, so I thought I’d use it today. Last year I collected poems for April for months beforehand, but I haven’t done that this year so I doubt I’ll have one every day like I did before. Things have been a little topsy-turvy around here.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009


by my daughter:

Sketched in pencil, then inked in, colored with colored pencils, scanned, Photoshopped to brighten colors, and filtered to give it that rough papery texture.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So, where were we?

When I left for Houston last month we were talking about how I use AmblesideOnline’s curriculum, and I had about three posts planned in my head, but unfortunately I didn’t write them down anywhere, so I lost them. One of them, I think, was probably to encourage other moms not to take anything I’m writing here as The Way To Homeschool, but rather as food for thought — what is working for one family at this point and hopefully will give you things to think about about as you come up with your own ideas.

I say “at this point” because the way we homeschool has changed a lot over the years and what worked well when I had only little ones isn’t doable now that I have older ones too, and what we’re doing now probably isn’t much like what we’ll be doing in ten years when I have only older children.

It’s funny thinking about how much our reasons for homeschooling have changed over the years. At the beginning we did it because I wanted to give them a certain kind of childhood which wouldn’t have been possible if they’d been in school all day. Originally we meant to put them into public school at the beginning of fourth grade, but the year our oldest would have started was the year we had moved to Virginia and were expecting Baby #5 — a long-expected baby, given that there were nearly four years between her and the next oldest — and decided it would be best to keep her at home that year too so she could enjoy the new baby along with the rest of us. She used the Robinson Curriculum that year, and I think it was just right for the time, but after that year I only continued using a few elements of that method.

That year saw a pretty major shift in our thinking such that we decided never to put our children into the government schools (note the not insignificant change of terminology), but the next year we considered putting the two oldest into the school run by our church. For various reasons we decided that it didn’t fit our ideas of how children learn and what they should be learning, so we continued teaching them at home for the next two years (and had another baby).

The year after that, we moved to Texas, had another baby, and looked into the Lutheran school for the three oldest. That school fit better with our ideas, but honestly it would have been a huge financial burden, and I admit being very discouraged because I was feeling so overwhelmed. That year our children were 14, 12, 10, 8, 4, 3, and 7 months, and I was, to put it mildly, exhausted.

Well, I’m out of time for now and we’re having out of town guests this week, so I might not be able to continue this right away, but I did want to check in, and ask y’all what I’m supposed to be blogging about.

Monday, March 2, 2009


by George Herbert

Welcome deare feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authoritie,
                But is compos’d of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church sayes, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
                To ev’ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos’d of love and fear
Begins at home, and layes the burden there,
                When doctrines disagree.
He sayes, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandall to the Church, and not
                The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
                When good is seasonable;
Unlesse Authoritie, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it lesse,
                And Power it self disable.

Besides the cleannesse of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
                A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulnesse there are sluttish fumes,
Sowre exhalations, and dishonest rheumes,
                Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
                And goodnesse of the deed.
Neither ought other mens abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
                We forfeit all our Creed.

It ’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
                Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior’s purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he.
                In both let ’s do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
                That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn, and take me by the hand, and more
                May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast
                As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor,
                And among those his soul.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gone to Houston

Got the call Thursday that they want me at MD Anderson on Monday morning, so I’m flying out today. The results of the lab work I mentioned last week aren’t in yet, but they want me anyway, and they want to do a bone marrow transplant rather than stem cells. I’m a little concerned that I still might not be able to donate to her, so please pray that everything’s fine and I can do it.

Don’t know how long I’ll be gone — a week at least. Y’all be good!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Homeschooling tip -- quiet time

No, I’m not talking about devotions, though that’s paramount. By “quiet time” I mean a daily afternoon rest for everyone, including mom.

This tip came from Gregg Harris at the first homeschooling conference I ever attended when I was expecting my second baby. It came at just the right time, because my eldest was just beginning to outgrow her morning nap, and sometimes wasn’t ready for one in the afternoon if she’d already had one in the morning, and I was trying to decide how to handle it.

The idea is that at some point after lunch everyone needs a quiet rest, even if they don’t need a nap. Some moms and children need the quiet space to recharge and get ready to face the rest of the day, but some need it as a discipline — because they need to learn how to be alone and still and quiet. I fall in the first category, and so do most of my children, but I have a couple who are in the second category. They also tend to get even more active and noisy when they’re overtired, and they need to be made to rest, or they’ll wear themselves out, not to mention the rest of the family.

As my children have gotten older, my own quiet time has gotten shorter because afternoon is when the three older children and I have time to study together. It was hard for me to make this transition, because I LOVE my quiet time, but it’s been necessary, and I’m sure when the children are all grown I’ll no end of afternoons to myself, and then I’ll miss our afternoon discussions.

When you have a houseful of children, finding an alone place for each of them can be challenging. My children have rarely had a room alone, but if you have two quiet-loving children they can each sit on their own bed (or in the case of a shared bed, one on the bed and the other on a pallet on the floor). When I have a child who is needing to be trained in quiet time, I usally give him a place on my bed, or a spot on the floor in my room, so he won’t be able to distract the other children. Any cozy place around the house makes a good quiet time place: under the school table, in a corner behind a couch or large chair in the living room, a window seat… Little children love little cozy places like that and it makes their quiet time a real treat to have a cozy spot to themselves

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When it rains, it pours!

The daughter I was worrying about seems to be getting better, but something else has come up — my sister. Last fall she was diagnosed with leukemia. I had some preliminary blood work done back then to see if I could donate stem cells to her when the time came, but I’m only a “half match” which means that only two of the four traits, or markers, that they look for match. Thirty-five potential donors have been found, but this week the results of her latest bone marrow test came back bad and the oncologist wants to do something now, so they’re going to see if I can donate to her after all, rather than wait for the several-week process of clearing the other potential donors. There’s another batch of blood work that I have to do — that kit will arrive tomorrow and then I’ll have to overnight it back to the lab. Yesterday when my mom called with this news, the doctor wanted us all down at the hospital in Houston on Thursday! But there are insurance problems (naturally) that are slowing things down. So I don’t know — I may be flying out to Houston in the next few days.

On top of all that, we’re trying to move to Missouri! Late last summer we bought 39 acres with a little house that needs to be renovated. We were finally able to start work on it just before Christmas, and Mike was planning on taking our oldest son and a load of stuff out there next week, leaving them both. #1Son was going to do as much work as he can on the house to get it ready so that the younger kids and I can move out there, along with all the animals (you must not forget the animals, Best Beloved), as soon as may be. That’s all on hold now though, pending news from the oncologist.

So, if I seem a little distracted, that’s why. I’ve been packing since last week so the house is a wreck, and we need to meet with our real estate agent because we’re not going to put this house on the market till after the younger children and I are moved out along with all the animals (you didn’t forget the animals, did you?), and life is generally nutty right now. :-p

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I’ve been looking over the Simply Charlotte Mason website that Margaret mentioned in the comments earlier, and have found some good stuff I wanted to point out.

First is the Scripture Memory System, which I use, thanks to Margaret, though I’d forgotten where the info came from.

They also have a downloadable book called Masterly Inactivity that I skimmed over. It looks pretty good and addresses something I think is important — the art of letting your children alone. I believe H. Clay Trumbull also talks about this in his excellent, highly recommended (read: I wish I’d paid better attention to it when my oldest kids were young) book Hints on Child Training. Letting your children alone is something (please excuse me if I step on any toes) that nearly every young mom I’ve ever known was no good at. Young dads, too. And many older parents who ought to know better.

Last, they have a planner called A Year of Smooth and Easy Days that I’m ordering for myself. I’ll let y’all know how I like it when I’ve had it for a few months. It’s rather pricey — $20.95, including standard shipping (2-3 weeks), but it covers an area that has always been my biggest weakness: training your children in good habits. So I’m hoping it’ll give me some practical help in finding a place to start, and encouragement to continue. **NOTE, added 7 February 2011** The original link no long works, and the book is now available as a free download, no longer a planner with calendar pages, but a booklet with brief encouraging chapters on developing habits, lots of interesting quotes from Charlotte Mason’s books, plus her list of habits.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Homeschooling experiences

Part I: Background

I was born into a family of book- and music-lovers and as a child I loved stories, reading, learning things, knowing how to do things and doing them well. I remember lying on the couch with my daddy as he read his beloved Asimov, holding my own book and “reading” it. I remember “reading” Miss Suzy to my infant brother when I was only two years old. I guess I had the book memorized and told him the story, but I thought I was reading it. I remember nights spent lying on the lawn with Daddy and my brother watching the shooting stars, and sitting under the carport during thunderstorms just enjoying the enormous sounds and learning to count after a thunderclap to find out how far away the lightening was. I remember setting up my little housekeeping things — my ironing board and iron (that really plugged in and got warm), my baby’s high chair, my dishes — in my room and playing house, and making everything pretty and tidy, imitating my mom’s work around the house. I remember going to sleep at night to the sound of my mother playing Chopin or The Carpenters on the piano.

I also have terrible memories of being in daycare during the two or three years after I was born when my mom was still teaching school. I just wanted to be at home with my Mommy.

When I started kindergarten, I remember going straight to my seat every morning and sitting quietly, watching the other kids as they played noisily together, and thinking to myself, “How do they do that? I have to get used to everyone before I can talk to them.” I remember paying close attention to the brief phonics lessons. And I remember that I was already really reading by the time I started first grade, though I don’t remember actually being taught to read. We had Dick and Jane style stories were so dull I didn’t know how the other kids could stand them. I remember making my own private game of being the first in the class to complete each worksheet the teacher gave us. Getting a perfect score wasn’t victory enough.

I loved first grade — it made me feel so grown up to be there — and mostly liked second grade, but by sixth grade I had come to hate school. I just wanted to be at home reading books or climbing trees or riding my bike, or even working for my daddy at his laboratory (he was chemist, and self-employed). I hated dressing out for P.E. in those skimpy, ugly uniforms. I hated being around so many people every day and all the rushing around. I hated math homework. And English homework. I always listened in class, participated in the discussions (such as they were), did the assigned readings, and always aced the tests (well, except for math, but I didn’t really care what grade I got in math as long as I passed and didn’t have to repeat the class), but I resented the time spent on homework because I already knew the stuff, and often left it undone. The exception was reports and research papers, because they were such a large part of the final class grade, and I hated for my report card to make me look like I was stupid.

But most of what we learned in school was Information and Facts, and what I wanted was Stories. I was good enough at remembering the information and spouting it off again, but what I realize now is that those things just aren’t nourishing, and I was starving to death. As a matter of fact, what I really learned in school was How to Be a First-Class Prig. It’s a lesson I’m still unlearning.

Some time in my mid teens I read C.S. Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, and loved his description of his childhood – the stories he and his brother wrote, the maps they drew, the time they spent playing in their garden. By the time his mother died when he was eight or nine years old, she’d already gotten him pretty far along in French and had started him in Latin. And obviously he could already read and write though it wasn’t till after she died that he began attending school where he studied history and literature, poetry and Greek (and some math in there, too). I was almost jealous, wishing I could learn those things.

Fast forward a couple of years. The family I regularly babysat for began homeschooling their three little girls, so right away I decided that that’s what I wanted to do, and I wanted my children’s education to be as much like Lewis’s (except for the horrific boarding school experiences) as I could make it – though I doubted I could do much beyond giving them a quiet childhood at home with lots of stories and music and time out-of-doors. Looking back on it, what I was wanted was to recreate and improve on the best parts of my own childhood and make it last longer, but knowing how C.S. Lewis was raised and how he turned out legitimized my own desire for a cozy childhood at home. And knowing about homeschooling gave me the idea that it was something that really could be done in this day and age. The children could always go to school when they were nine or ten years old.

More later…

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Back row: #1 Son, 18; Mike
Middle row: Naner, 14; Mosey, 16, with the Laser-Eyed Cat of Doom (aka T.S. Kittens); moi; Elaienar, 19
Front row: Gracie-Pie-With-Nuts, 10; Baby Princess, 6 (six, SIX years old! how did this happen?); My Little Gentleman, 8

Monday, January 19, 2009

How I use Ambleside Online’s curriculum

Kelly P asked me in the comments to the post below to describe how I used AO’s Year 1 schedule, and in thinking about what to say, I thought I’d better make something clear first. I have a nineteen year old daughter at home who helps with breakfast and supper, makes lunch every day, and makes sure the kitchen is cleaned up at all times. This means I’m able to spend a larger chunk of my morning with the younger kids than I ever could when my older kids were eight years old and younger. After about the first two weeks of officially homeschooling, I decided that my academic goal for that year was to have my first grader reading, so I dropped most of the lessons recommended by the curriculum I was using. Maybe I’ll post that background info some time… why I homeschool the way I do, and that sort of thing.

When I started Ambleside Online* in July of 2007, my four youngest children were: 4yod, 6yos, 8yod, and my 12yos, who has severe developmental apraxia [original linked page has disappeared -- apraxia usually refers to lack of speech, but in my son's case it affects not only his oral motor abilities, but also his fine and gross] and is functionally extremely delayed, and may even have some mild mental retardation. These four are still studying together (ages now are 6, 8, 10, and 14), and it’s been a very good thing for us.

Let me give an overview of what an ideal day looks like for us:

Before breakfast everyone has to help out somewhere, whether milking the goats, straining and chilling the milk, letting the chickens out of the coops, collecting eggs, taking the scraps bucket out to them, checking water for all the animals, helping with breakfast… After we eat, everyone is supposed to stay in the general area (the kitchen, breakfast room, and living room make one L-shaped space) and either help clean up from breakfast or make sure the living room is tidy and vacuumed for Morning Time.

What we call Morning Time is for all the children, even the oldest three – 19yod, 18yos, and 16yod. Ideally we start at 9:00 and finish by ten or fifteen minutes till 10:00. Not so ideally, we start late, and cut the hymn and Plutarch so we can still finish before 10:00.

Hymn: sometimes something we’re learning to sing during Communion (our family is the choir and I try to have something we can sing once a month), sometimes an old favorite. I don’t really have a plan for learning particular hymns.

Prayers and Scripture: We started using the 1979 Prayer Book for morning prayers about five years ago when we were attending an Episcopal church, and love it as a framework for our prayer time. We vary what we do a little bit, which I won’t go into now, but I want to later to show how everyone is able to participate. For Scripture readings, we’re using the lectionary in the 1928 Prayer Book, since that’s what our current Anglican church uses. Everyone who can read takes a turn reading.

Plutarch’s Lives: we’re reading the bio on Poplicola, and using the study notes provided at AO’s website. First we review the previous lesson, then those of us who can read aloud well take turns, reading one or two sentences before passing to book (the sentences are very long and complex), and then we discuss the new material.

After this, I send the younger kids outside to run around for a few mintues, go to the bathroom, and get a drink of water, while I go into the school room to make sure I have everything in order for our AO time. The older kids stay in the living for their Japanese lesson together and then go to their individual studies or work.

AO time with the younger kids:

Bible memory passage: we have a new passage we’re learning that we work on each day, plus several that we’re reviewing. I put every passage on an index card and have a file box set up to keep track of the Scriptures we’re working on. I’ll explain the system more in depth later.

Poetry: every day I read one poem from the current author, and one from Ambleside’s collection that is taken from the Oxford Book of Children’s Verse. And, as I mentioned in the last post, there are always requests that I reread old favorites and sometimes one or more of the children want to recite something they have memorized.

French lesson: Just do the next thing using The Learnables, though we talk a little about the weather, and I like to ask them questions that they can answer, all in French.

History: There’s a chapter from Our Island Story nearly every week, so we do that on Monday. Librivox has it for a free download, read by Kara Schallenberg, and that’s what I use. The other history books for year 1 are Trial and Triumph, Fifty Famous Stories Retold, and Viking Tales. In the first part of the year there’s one chapter from 50FS per week (not all of the chapters were scheduled), and in the second part there was one chapter from Viking Tales per week. I read those chapters on Tuedays. The chapters from Trial and Triumph come up about once every four weeks – nine chapters are assigned in year one – so I usually read those on Wednesday, or wherever they fit in best in that week. After the chapter I’d have one or more children narrate it to me. More on narrating later.

Literature: Generally there are two of Aesop’s fables each week and I did them wherever they fit best in the week, which was usually Wednesday. When there was a story from Shakespeare or the Blue Fairy Book, I usually needed to read a little bit each day for the whole week. Kipling’s Just So stories could be read in one or two sittings, ditto the stories from James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. Again, narrations are requested after I finished the day’s passage, but I usually let them have paper and crayons when listening to everything but Aesop. With Aesop, I’d stop after a couple of sentences and ask someone to tell me what was going on – the sentences aren’t terribly long, but they are very dense, and I wanted to use them as a kind of training ground for what I expected in a narration.

Nature and geography: Thursday is for nature, using the Burgess Bird Book. I also have a Peterson’s guide to birds and a disc of recorded bird calls that we listened to. And of course we watched the various birds that turned up at the birdbath and the feeders. Years 1 and 2 also include chapters from Parables from Nature, but I found them so syruppy sentimental that I quit using that book after the first two chapters. I have no problem with the fairy stories (witches, giants, dragons, and all) in Lang’s fairy tales (which evidently some moms have since Ambleside has an apologia for including them in your child’s literary diet) but I cannot stand pietistic moralizing little cutesy stories featuring talking flowers and insects. If anyone knows a good reason why I ought to be foisting these things upon my poor innocent children, please let me know. Friday is for geography (Paddle-to-the-Sea). We have maps on the wall in the school room and followed Paddle’s progress. It took him four years to make his journey and I’m happy to report that it didn’t take us quite that long to read about it! We also located people we were reading about on the maps and placed flags for them. Slightly off-topic, but we have a timeline along three walls of the room and we located people on the timeline, too, and placed flags for many of them and sometimes a picture or something too.

That sounds like a lot of work, and it really is a lot of information, but we were usually done by 11:30. The kids go back outside till lunch, which is noonish. They eat quickly and usually go back out, or if the weather is bad they can play in the attic or basement.

After lunch is when it gets tricky, since that’s when I need to work on their individual studies – math, reading instruction, etc. I don’t have that down pat, yet – sometimes I keep 10yod in after AO time, but other times I work with her after lunch. The three others get squeezed in where I can fit them. I’m not happy with this and need to figure out something better.

Around 1:00 we have a read-aloud time when I read a chapter or two (or three or four depending on how much time we have and how much clamoring for more they do) and the children are allowed to color or play quietly or lie on the floor or whatever, as long as they’re quiet, during this time. No narration required for these stories. Older kids really come in handy here since they can read if I need a break, or on Tuesday, which is music lesson day for three of the children. Last year we read Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Heidi… and I’ve forgotten what else.

After read-aloud they’re free the rest of the afternoon (except for chores that have to be done before supper). They have to spend the first hour in Quiet Time, which is time alone. The 10yod has QT in the girls’ bedroom, 6yod in my room, 8yos in the boys’ room, and 14yos can be in the school room or in the living for my colloquium with the older kids. After that first hour, they’re allowed to go back outside, or play together indoors as long as they’re quiet and don’t disturb us Big Folk.


Update: Seeing the “AO time with the younger kids” section written out reminds me of how daunting AO looked to me before I started doing it. I looked at that site off and on for at least two years before I decided I would just make myself do it, since I need a better structure to our days. Once I made a kind of chart, planning what I would do when, I realized that it’s not really too much after all — you’re spending anywhere from five to thirty minutes on any given topic, so you really cover a lot each day. It’s just like eating an elephant — one bite at a time.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

* In their license agreement, Ambleside Online asks users only to link to their main page, not to individual pages within the site, which makes it a little awkward since I can’t point you to certain useful pages at the site. I’m sure they do this because they really want newcomers to the site to familiarize themselves with Charlotte Mason’s ideas. Just following the AO book schedule will give you plenty of interesting things to read to your children and will certainly be worthwhile, but it will NOT give your kids a Charlotte Mason education. You do need to read over their site and familiarize yourself with CM’s ideas if you’re going for a CM education.