Friday, July 2, 2010


I love this concept. We can gain independence by sharing it with others, especially our kids!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cub Scouts

I felt some trepidation when my son became old enough to start Scouts. I'd heard horror stories from lots of people, especially my little brother, about some of the terrible things they'd experienced at the hands of fellow uniformed boys.

But, despite my concerns, I knew it was the right thing for Junior, so when he turned 8, he joined the Cub Scouts. His leaders have been great and he loves going. He's almost done with his Wolf requirements and it makes him feel a great sense of accomplishment to pass things off and have written proof (or visual proof as badges and beads) of his knowledge. I also love seeing him make friends with nice boys in a safe setting.

I sent Junior to scouts for his own sake, but I was surprised by how much it helped him and me with our homeschooling. Seeing how well Junior responded to the clear expectations of his scout requirements helped me to clarify our homeschooling objectives and make our work more manageable. It turns out we both love charting progress and showing what we've already accomplished, even if it is just to ourselves.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I decided to hold a brief Passover Seder this year. The world religions class may have had something to do with it. Perhaps it was our ongoing study of the Old Testament. Or maybe we were just curious. The holiday is ancient and the first Haggadah was published in the Middle Ages so it ties in nicely with our history as well. Whatever the reason, we learned about Seder, we learned about Judaism, we learned about making a holiday a holy day and we learned that Passover can actually be a lot of fun, but it takes time to prepare. This post will be my go to resource in the future.

I asked some Jewish friends what Passover means to them today. They said it was about remembering that they had been oppressed and acknowledging that oppression still exists in our world in many forms. Additionally, the Passover reminds them that despite oppression they are still here and through unity oppression can be survived and overcome.

This is a fun story of the four sons and the four kinds of learning. It's a good place to start.

For a 3 minute Seder explained by a female Rabbi click here.
This Passover Seder guide and Haggadah will help you prepare an authentic, personal Seder.
Here is another nice one that includes recipes.
This is a one stop boutique site that will address all your Passover questions whether Jewish or Christian, young or old.

Passover Seder recipes:
matzoh to keep it kosher this has to be prepared in 18 minutes or less from the time the water touches the grain.
bitter herb or buy horseradish or substitute romaine lettuce (most common substitute), endive, green onions, curly parsley, or dandelions
charoset juice may be substituted for wine
roasted egg
vegetable Parsley or celery served with salted water
roast lamb or chicken or turkey, vegans scripturally justify red beets as substitutions, but some use tofu
wine we used grape juice

Passover songs
Ma Nishtana "Why is this night different from all other nights?"
Echad Mi Yodea Who Knows One?
Who Knows One? kids traditional
Dayenu means sufficient or it would have been enough and celebrates God's abundant blessings
Dayenu traditional
Dayenu funky
Dayenu kids this one explains the entire holiday in song format
Matzo Man downright silly
Who Let the Jews Out? short and silly

Hero's Journey

Our friends are mapping the Hero's Journey for AVATAR: The Last Airbender. Their enthusiasm inspired this post.
First I gratefully acknowledge Joseph Campbell who laid it out so beautifully in his seminal work, "Hero With a Thousand Faces." He's not the only one in the discussion, but there is no discussion without him. And he's so quotable scroll down to see.

Click here for an outlined explanation of the Hero's Journey.

Lots of maps are available online. Here is one.

1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD, where
2. they receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE.
3. They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL, but
4. are encouraged by a MENTOR to
5. CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the Special World, where
6. they encounter TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES.
7. They APPROACH THE INMOST CAVE, crossing a second threshold
8. where they endure the ORDEAL.
9. They take possession of their REWARD and
10. are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World.
11. They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION, and are transformed by the experience.
12. They RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World.

The Seven Archetypes

Hero: "The Hero is the protagonist or central character, whose primary purpose is to separate from the ordinary world and sacrifice himself for the service of the Journey at hand - to answer the challenge, complete the quest and restore the Ordinary World's balance. We experience the Journey through the eyes of the Hero."
Mentor: "The Mentor provides motivation, insights and training to help the Hero."
Threshold Guardian: "Threshold Guardians protect the Special World and its secrets from the Hero, and provide essential tests to prove a Hero's commitment and worth."
Herald: "Herald characters issue challenges and announce the coming of significant change. They can make their appearance anytime during a Journey, but often appear at the beginning of the Journey to announce a Call to Adventure. A character may wear the Herald's mask to make an announcement or judgment, report a news flash, or simply deliver a message."
Shapeshifter: "The Shapeshifter's mask misleads the Hero by hiding a character's intentions and loyalties."
Shadow: "The Shadow can represent our darkest desires, our untapped resources, or even rejected qualities. It can also symbolize our greatest fears and phobias. Shadows may not be all bad, and may reveal admirable, even redeeming qualities. The Hero's enemies and villains often wear the Shadow mask. This physical force is determined to destroy the Hero and his cause."
Trickster: "Tricksters relish the disruption of the status quo, turning the Ordinary World into chaos with their quick turns of phrase and physical antics. Although they may not change during the course of their Journeys, their world and its inhabitants are transformed by their antics. The Trickster uses laughter [and ridicule] to make characters see the absurdity of the situation, and perhaps force a change."

The Smithsonian has an online interactive exhibit exploring the hero's journey in Star Wars.

Who are your heroes? Where are you in your the journey as the hero of your own story?

"My general formula for my students is "Follow your bliss." Find where it is, and don't be afraid to follow it."

Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth
pp. 120, 149

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great Minds

I’m thinking about Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and JS Bach (1685-1750). They lived so differently and yet were both so brilliant. Newton was able to think clearly and elegantly explain some mysteries of our known universe. Bach was prolific in composing powerful, meaningful music. Both believed devoutly in God. Bach was social with a large family. Newton was a priggish outsider prone to jealous grudges. Both were teachers. Bach wrote and shared prodigiously, even weekly. Newton guarded his treasures of knowledge like a Dragon often only coaxed into sharing by flattery and assurances that there would be no criticism or competition. Bach was undiscovered outside of Leipzig until 100 years after his death. Newton made “natural philosophy” (science) cool, was famous, hailed and even knighted in his lifetime. Bach died making music. Newton, experimenting to the last, nevertheless spent his latter years (27) as head of the English mint for coins and was secretly both a biblical scholar and an (illegal) alchemist.

It seems that a love for music and the responsibilities to his family propelled Bach into a position of constant creation. Whereas the discoveries for which the introverted Newton is most famous were made during an 18 month period of total seclusion induced by the black plague. Bach was welcomed into a family four generations deep in musicians. Newton’s father died shortly before Isaac’s premature birth and was left to his grandparents at the age of 3 as part of his mother’s new marriage contract. Who is to say if Bach would have been so prolific without the support and motivation of his family? Who is to say if Newton would have had the time or inclination to meditate and discern solutions if he had been more social? Frankly, I am inspired and grateful that the potential and achievement of human greatness grows in a variety personalities and circumstances. There is hope for all of us.

I can see myself, like Isaac Newton, paranoid of criticism and anxious to seek knowledge without interruptions, obligations or food. Still, I find that like J.S. Bach, I am motivated not only by a love of learning and love for my children, but also inevitable deadlines. Reading about eminent thinkers and contributors inspires a vision of myself as potentially great. I’m not referring to delusions of grandeur, just applying my honest faith in the greatness of humanity to myself as well as to others. These people were human. They had oddities (especially Newton). They had parameters. Nevertheless, they contributed. What will I contribute? What will I share?

P.S. Bach’s music was launched into outer space using Newtonian
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement
"Gavotte en rondeaux" from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue No.1 in C major

Adam of the Road

Adam of the Road has been the most enlightening book we've read of life in the Middle Ages. It includes old Roman roads, buildings made of Roman bricks, bits of Latin and linguistic history, contemporary superstitions, architecture, fashion, falconry, etc. We catch a glimpse of the drama surrounding the Magna Carta (signed 79 years prior to this story telling) and the first Parliament convened with common folk. Although it is woven through with all aspects of English culture in 1294, it is largely the adventurous coming of age story for a young minstrel named Adam who is guided by his strong sense of identity, his love for his father and his devotion to his dog, Nick. While showing the grit and struggle of the Middle Ages, Adam of the Road also reveals generosity, humor and humanity. I've never seen the Medieval life this way before.

Below are a few of our favorite quotes. We got too interested in reading to stop and write down each one, but we did pause to listen to the bells of St. Paul's Cathedral on youtube after reading Adam's description of them.
"A road's a kind of holy thing," Roger went on. "that's why it's a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It's open to the sun and wind and rain. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it's home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle."

Adam gave her two of his remaining comfits-- a poor widow in a village wouldn't taste such sweetmeats once in a year's time -- and a silver penny. She gave him a cabbage leaf full of strawberries that she had found for him. It was easier to say goodby when you had something to give. (50)

Adam threw back his head too and laughed, strangely eased of his pain. For the first time in his life he had played the part of an oyster. He had taken the bit of grit that was scratching him and made something of it that was comfortable to him and pleasing to someone outside. He had made a valuable discovery, but he did not know it at the moment, he only knew that he felt happy again, and he wagged his head a little. (63)

Green apples ripen in time. (65)

Adam felt as though all his powers of seeing and feeling and wondering had been stretched almost to the snapping point. (66)

They had a great deal of tiresome practicing to do, the same exercises over and over again, with very little praise to sweeten it and even less sympathy when they got tired. (78)

Adam started to say, "But I couldn't sing to it; it takes all my breath to blow, " but he bit the words off short. He saw too plainly in the miller's broad honest face the struggle between the pain of sacrifice and the joy of giving. (301-302)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Maid of Heaven

On January 6th 1412
The Maid of Heaven was born
twelve years later she heard a voice
telling her what must be done

It told her of three missions she must complete
before her time was through:

The first would be the tipping point
of who the war would win
to capture Orleans from the English
because France's it had been

The second task that must be done
Charles the VII, France's leader so young
They told her, the king, he must become

Ousting England would prove too hard
her captors were heartless
her record was marred

The Maid of Heaven was burned
but she knew that she would live in heaven
that is the dream for which her soul yearned

Friday, January 15, 2010


Exploratopia: Making Meringue (pg. 89)

This really was about the elasticity of egg whites and the net they create for the air. We started out with a few experiments with rubber bands and water. We always get excited about tasty science and having our home school exchange friends over made it a bonafide party.

Whip it and measure it and spoon it on a tray

And bake it in the oven for a chocolate fondue par-tay

The chocolate was our idea and it was a good one.

DNA experiment

Exploratopia: We Know Who You Are (pg. 99)

Kitchen Scientists

Everybody gets a piece of the action: Adding isopropyl alcohol

Mixing water and dishsoap
Now for the secret ingredient. Sparkle isn't excited, but ultimately consents to donate a few loose cheek cells to science.

We had to run this one twice and still didn't get stellar results, but we understand how tiny DNA is, that everyone's is different (except identical twins) and we've started a collection of glass jars for future experiments.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Joan of Arc By:Angel Fish

(Siege tower at Orleans by Angelfish)

There was a girl who lived on a farm
With righteousness cradled in her arms
Her name was Joan Of Arc.

Angels said she was to set France free
The missions she had were three
Joan set off

Joan told captains and governors she was to have the prince crowned king
No one listened but Joan kept trying
They gave in

Orleans Joan had to save
Joan led her soldiers brave
Orleans was safe

Joan had the prince crowned king
Everyone was cheering and smiling
Especially Joan.

Her third mission to drive the English out
Did not come about
Joan failed was captured and burned

But Joan would want you to be glad not sad