Monday, September 1, 2014

Ready. Set. Go! (Oh, wait. Not quite yet.)



This past week’s TO DO list:

Organize Levi’s Challenge notebooks.

Organize Levi’s workspace in schoolroom/library/office.

Levi complete week 1 Challenge assignments (and get a head start on week 2, due to the short week)

Organize independent work notebooks for Leif and Luke. (that’s moved to this week’s to do list)

Organize filing system for books, completed paper, and supplies in kitchen and living room. (half way there!)

Organize independent reading selections (history, literature, science, art, math, etc…) for the first few weeks.

Spray paint metal book holder.

Back-to-school pictures.

Clean Lola’s room (purge toys and clothes). (part way there)

Clean Boys’ room (purge toys and clothes). (part way there)

Buy CD players and desk lamps for bedrooms.

Clean house. Catch up on all laundry. (never-ending)

Clean up yard and mow. Clean up front porch. (Now we have a tv armoir and huge tv on the front porch waiting for new homes…)

Meal plan for September. Grocery shopping. (I’ll have to go again this week, anyway.)

Finish summer blog posts (just one left!). Finish Book Detectives post.

CC Orientation (Monday)

180 Live Concert (Levi) (Tuesday)

End of summer swim team BBQ (Wednesday)

ChocLit Guild Book Club (Thursday)

Friday night evening at Shan’s

Levi hair cut. (wahoooooo!!!!!!!)

Quit drinking Dr. Pepper/Paleo-ish  (On day 6, other than dessert at book club.)

Schedule hair cut for me. (I’ll try to get it in this week.)

Edit Kelley family photo session.

[Russ completed quite a few handy-man projects such as fixing light fixtures, putting up hooks, etc.]


Tomorrow was scheduled to be Levi’s first day of Classical Conversations Challenge A (and it would have been a short week due to the holiday), but we were given a reprieve due to the tutor being ill. He’ll start next week, but we’ll continue with some of his work (math and geography in particular) so that we have some breathing room.

This gives us a few more days of prep and fun before the school excitement begins. (Whew! I wasn’t quite ready, and Russ has a few days off this week!)

This week’s TO DO List:

Everything not crossed out above.

A day in the mountains.

A day on the beach.

A day at an amusement park in Portland.

A date night.

A birthday party.

[Think I can do it?!]


So now… Levi starts CC Challenge A and Luke and Leif start their 5th year of CC Foundations (and 2nd year of Essentials for Luke) all on the 8th. I might be able to swing Book Detectives that week. We also have our charter school event on that Friday.

Swim team practice for all three starts the following week (on the 16th).

[We have options for weekend activities on the 13th and 20th, and I have my book clubs on the 18th and 25th.]

Choir and AWANA starts the week after that (on the 22nd and 24th).

Full steam ahead.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ChocLit Guild [and a book list]

 A Friend's House 

“Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”

~Baron Justus von Liebig, German chemist (1803-1873)

Eleven years ago, I was out on a shopping trip with a close friend of mine. More accurately, she is my second mom from childhood (my mom’s best friend and the mother of my closest childhood friend). Over lunch she mentioned an idea that had come to her: a book and chocolate club. Because books. And chocolate.

Shortly thereafter, I took the idea and ran with it. Who wouldn’t want to get together once a month to talk about books and eat chocolate?!

In January, more than a decade ago when I was pregnant with Luke, our ChocLit Guild was born and we’ve been getting together to eat chocolate and discuss books ever since! Our members have stayed mostly the same with just a few leaving and a few coming. We’ve been through so much together!

[Scroll to end of this post for 11 years of book lists.]

We rotate through members’ houses/gardens as each person is available to hostess or we’ve met a couple times at coffee or frozen yogurt shops.

Thursday we met in Carolyn’s yard. She lives out in the gorgeous countryside on a working century farm. She also collects everything vintage and lovely. (I love the picture above because it shows the reality of country farm life—the clouds of dust swirling up behind tractors.)

ChocLit 1 

My mom and sister Shannon made an incredible gluten-free chocolate lava cake with ganache frosting. It even had zucchini and applesauce in it, so I’m certain it was healthy (ha!!). (Someone other than the hostess volunteers to bring dessert each month.)



ChocLit 3 

My sister Holly brought garden produce to share, and Carolyn added corn on the cob to the offerings.


ChocLit 2 



We sat snuggled in blankets on the brick patio next to the fire as the sun set on our conversation. I love my life.




Into the Night 

According to my records, this is an accurate list of the books we’ve read over the past years: 


January: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver)
February/March: Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry)
April: Flannery O’Connor
May: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl (N.D. Wilson)
June: Pudd’nhead Wilson (Mark Twain)
July: Till We Have Faces and The Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis)
August: The Red House Mystery (A.A. Milne)
September: Bird by Bird (or any book by Ann Lamott)
October: The Call (Oz Guinness)
Nov/Dec: The Birds’ Christmas Carol or Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas


January: Les Miserables (Hugo)
February: The Harbinger (Jonathan Cahn)
March: Retellings of Iliad/Odyssey
April: Medieval/King Arthur themes
May: Shakespeare
June: Oscar Wilde
July: The Little Prince (Saint-Exupery)
August: Russian Literature
September: Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)
October: Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)


January – Bonhoeffer (Metaxas)
February - Animal Farm (George Orwell)
March - My Name is Mary Sutter (Robin Oliveira)
April - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Mark Twain)
May - An Irish Country Doctor (Patrick Taylor)
June - Salt: A World History (Mark Kurlansky)
July - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (Donald Miller)
August - Peace Like a River (Leif Enger)
September - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (Mark Haddon)
October – Biography (reader’s choice)
November - No Meeting
December – Les Miserables (movie night!)


January: Books set in China
February: The Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen
March: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
April: Easter-themed books (The Silver Chalice, The Bronze Bow, etc.)
May: The Secret Garden/A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
June: Bianca’s Vineyard by Teresa Neumann
July: Not My Will by Francena Arnold
August: Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
September: Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
October: Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
(November: That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis)


January: Biography (reader’s choice)
February: Personality Style Books (reader’s choice)
March: Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, Silver Chalice, The Robe, The Bronze Bow, etc.
April: The Jesus I Never Knew (Yancey)
May: The Devil in the White City
June: Mystery (reader’s choice)
July: Cranford (Gaskell)
August: Twilight (Meyer)
September/October: The Hunger Games (Collins)
November: The Screwtape Letters (Lewis)


February: The Giver (Lois Lowry)
March: Three Cups of Tea (Mortenson/Relin)
April: Louisa May Alcott (reader's choice)
May: April 1865 (Jay Winik)
June: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford)
July: I Am David (Anne Holm)
August: E. P. Roe (reader's choice)
September: Mystery (reader's choice)
October: Jane Eyre
November: No Meeting
(December: Share Personal Stories)

January: Biography (reader's choice)
February: From Jest to Earnest (E. P. Roe)
March: Watership Down (Richard Adams)
April: Murder Myster (reader's choice)
May: What's So Amazing About Grace (Yancey)
June: Ruth (Elizabeth Gaskell)
July: The Inimitable Jeeves (P. G. Wodehouse)
August: The Harvester (Gene Stratton-Porter)
September: Little Britches (Moody)
October: A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
November: Mimosa (Amy Carmichael)
(December: Share Personal Stories)


March: Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis)
April: North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell)
May: I Dared to Call Him Father (Bilquis Sheikh)
June: The Pilgrim's Progress (John Bunyon)
July: Down the Garden Path (Beverly Nichols)
August: Uncle Tom's Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
September: The Richest Man in Babylon (George S. Clason)
October: The Robe (Lloyd C. Douglas), Ben Hur, The Silver Chalice, or Quo Vadis
November: The Little French Girl (Anne Douglas Sedgwick)
December: Belles on Their Toes (Gilbreth)


January: Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
February: Safely Home (Randy Alcorn)
March: Robinson Crusoe
April: To Kill a Mockingbird
May: The Count of Monte Cristo
June: Eve's Daughters
July: The Orphan (Helen Dunbar)
August: George MacDonald (any book by author)
September: Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)
October: David Copperfield (Dickens)
November: David Copperfield (continued)
December: At Home in Mitford (Jan Karon)


January: Lorna Doone
February: Lorna Doone (continued)
March: A Rift in Time (Michael Phillips)
April: The Homecoming (Angela Santana)
May: Wives and Daughters (Elizabeth Gaskell)
June: Francine Rivers (any book by author)
July: Cheaper by the Dozen
August: The Dean's Watch (Elizabeth Goudge)
September: A Severe Mercy (Sheldon Vanauken)
October: The Tennent of Woldfell Hall
November: Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (Skinner/Kimbrough)
December: The Shoe Box (Francine Rivers)


January: Gene Stratton-Porter (any book by author)
February: Presidential Biography
March: Mystery
April: The Robe, Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, or The Silver Chalice
May: Children's Literature: Eight Cousins, The Railway Children, The Princess and the Goblin
June: Jane Austen (any book by author)
July: Patricia M. St. John (any book by author)
August: The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)
September: A Year in Provence (Peter Mayle)
October: George MacDonald (any book by author)
November: Movie Night, The Inheritance (Louisa May Alcott)
December: Maggie Rose or The Birds' Christmas Carol

Thursday, August 28, 2014


stunt man

Luke. He loves adventure, competition, risk, action, money (which has morphed nicely into coin collecting), computers, and sugar. And snuggling with his mom.

He also gets stuff DONE. Like lawn-mowing. Or anything else on his list, really. Especially if he gets computer time, cash, or candy when he’s finished.

So one morning he brought me a paper with “Luke’s Lickity List” written at the top. As in “things to finish lickity-split so I can play on my computer.” It’s become a little thing with us now, his “Lickity List.”

Luke's Lickity List

Today? He’s organizing my junk drawers and cupboard. I think I’ll keep him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Detectives ~ The Boy Who Held Back the Sea


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

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

Should [character] have [action]?

No question is irrelevant or too small.

We wrote our questions on a white board:

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

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

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

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

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

In our A column we wrote:

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

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

In our N column we wrote:

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

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

And that’s it!

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

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Art & Air Festival


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


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

Img2014-08-23_pmAir Show Lola

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