". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Break Checklist

At the end of last week I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish over spring break. (As homeschoolers, we don't have a spring break per sé, but I have a break from my school and community accompanying, and my husband has a break from his teaching responsibilities. We are not taking a break from homeschooling this week, having taken lots of other breaks as needed over the course of the year!)

So back to the list. Seeing as how we're halfway through the week, it seems a good time to review my progress.

Tasks completed or partially completed:

Catch up on grading/looking at children's schoolwork - almost done
Take myself for an appointment with a gastrointestinal specialist - scheduled for tomorrow
Eye appointments for me and Caitlin - done
Practice driving with Trevor (slight progress: one practice session has been done with Dad)
Take Caitlin shopping for clothing - partially done - Easter/Confirmation outfit is purchased, but she still needs some summer things
Take Evan shopping for shoes - done
Change out antivirus program on computers (we get free antivirus coverage from Comcast and they are changing from McAfee to Norton) - one computer done, one to go
Take van for an oil change--scheduled for tomorrow
Engage in some cultural literacy: watch The Sound of Music with the teenagers

Not yet completed:

Send broken coffeemaker for warranty service (I wouldn't bother except for the fact that this is a Cadillac coffeemaker that is less than a year old)
Take cable box that we are no longer using to turn in at Comcast office
Call for warranty service on new fridge (icemaker not working properly)
Decide on and implement a back-up system for all computers
Load new operating system onto computers (can't wait to replace Vista!)
Send husband's broken laptop out for repair
Write some long overdue thank you notes
Make some significant progress on the taxes
Deep clean the master bedroom
Take older son to the bank to take care of some money matters
Stop by the T-Mobile store to get help with some issues I am having with my cell phone

I got a slow start on my checklist, having spent the weekend nursing a virus. But hey, it's better than I thought! The lists are almost equal. I guess I've accomplished a bit more than I realized. Now, though, we are moving from largely unscheduled days to having something to do every night: "mega" choir rehearsal tonight, followed by Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter services for the next four days. Don't get me wrong: I love, love, love Holy Week. I love the order and purpose that the liturgy brings to each day and to the week as a whole. But I must realistically acknowledge that at this point each day's priority moves from checking things off the list to participating in the celebration of the Passion and Resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If I am able to fit a few chores in around the ages, great--but that will not be the most important thing. And amazingly enough, that is not a source of stress but a source of peace, reminding me that my little checklist is fleeting, but Christ's is forever. There will always be things on my temporal to-do list, because as soon as one thing is crossed off another comes to take its place. But the eternal list--the one with that little detail about paying for my sins--was wiped clean 2000 years ago on the Cross, never to be replaced by anything else.

May we each see, in the empty tomb, a blank piece of paper upon which we need never write another thing, because Christ has done it all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

For Ladies Only - UPDATED

Guys, you can read if you want, but this is a girl post. You have been warned.

I went to Meijer yesterday. Picked up a few things for both my mom and myself, dropped off Mom's things with her, and returned home. Several hours later I realized I was missing a few items. Checked the receipt--yup, they were paid for. Called Mom just to make sure I hadn't inadvertently left them with her. She didn't have them. Checked the car multiple times--no remaining bags. I know I didn't leave them in the cart. I have a clear memory of pushing an empty cart to the cart stall.

If you've ever shopped at Meijer you know that it is quite easy to leave a bag behind. The empty bags are stored in a turnstile, and as the cashier fills one bag he or she rotates the turnstile to start on another. It is easy to miss a bag because you can't really tell from looking whether the bags are full or empty.

So I called Meijer, receipt in hand. First got the Service Desk. Told her what three items I was missing as well as various bits of information from the receipt. Why she needed all that beats me because the next thing she did was transfer me to the store manager. Here we go again.

"What are you missing?"

I told him.

"Okay, let me go check."

(Background noise)

"Thanks for waiting, ma'am, they're still looking."

(More background noise.)

"No, there's nothing like that here. Anytime something is left the cashiers are required to turn it in and log it. But we don't have a bag with those items."

Well, great. Now what? I was missing over $10 worth of merchandise. I tried again.

"But I'm sure it was left in the checkout lane. It was probably put in the cart of the customer right after me. Are you telling me there's nothing I can do? "

"I'm sorry, ma'am."

Okay, I'm getting a little testy now. I want that bag.

"Do you think I'm making this up? I mean come on, this is kind of a weird assortment of items, don't you think? Do you really think I would go to all this trouble and spend all this time for no good reason? I'm sure the bag was left behind. The things in the bag were the last few things in my cart. Isn't there something you can do?"

(Pause.) Then--

"What items are you missing again?"

Sigh. One more time, with feeling.

"Hairspray, chocolate, and feminine napkins." (I am not making this up.)

"That's all? Only those three things?"

"That's all. Nothing else."

"Tell you what. Come in tomorrow and ask for Carlos and we'll replace those things for you."


Phew. I'm not sure if I would have worked so hard for any other bag. But that one was golden.

Update: Went to Meijer last night. Collected my items and went to the customer service desk. Explained the situation to the young, female clerk there and asked for "Carlos."


"Yes, Carlos, the manager. He told me to come today and ask for him. He said he would be here after 2:00."

"Hmmm, I don't know of any Carlos here." [WHAT THE HECK???] "But let me see your receipt. What is it you were missing?"

"Well, there was this, and this, . . . "

"And some chocolates for you, too, I see!"

I looked to my side to catch the female customer at the next register smiling.

"Yes," I said, "it's quite an assortment, isn't it? All the things a lady can't do without!"

Polite smiles turned to broad, knowing grins. It was a fleeting but deeply felt sisterhood forged amidst the otherwise trivial proceedings at the return counter. We, the assembled, understood each other, even if no one else did.

Back to the customer service clerk. "Well," she said, "this receipt IS from our store. I don't see why we can't just bag these up for you. I'm sorry for your trouble."

More smiles. By this time I was feeling so close to these ladies I wanted to take them out for coffee. I'll have to pay it forward some other time.

And to Carlos, wherever (and whoever) you are . . . you have a lot to learn about women, and about customer service. And I know just the person to teach you. She works at my neighborhood Meijer . . . .

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Two videos from today's Palm Sunday liturgy:

1) The processional with cross, acolytes, pastors, and children's choir waving palm branches as the congregation sings "All Glory, Laud and Honor" (Lutheran Service Book 442). I wish I had panned around the church a bit more--we have a beautiful sanctuary--but I was so enthralled with the children that I focused on them the whole time. It took a little while for them to synchronize the palm choreography they had planned, but I think most of them eventually figured it out! Listen for the children's robust singing on the refrain. They loved this!

Palm Sunday Procession, Bethany Lutheran Church, March 28, 2010 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

2) A musical sequence featuring the Verse of the Day ("The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified"--John 12:23, setting by Bruce Backer, sung beautifully by our associate cantor and her mother) and leading into the Cantor's organ introduction to the Hymn of the Day--Lutheran Service Book 444, "No Tramp of Soldiers' Marching Feet" (listen for the en chamade).

The words of the hymn are below the video. I think the Cantor's interpretation dramatically communicates the irony therein: while the hymn notes that Jesus's entry into Jerusalem lacks the martial pomp and circumstance that would normally accompany an earthly king, the martial element is there in the hymn nonetheless, ominously foreshadowing Jesus's arrest, trial, and execution only a few days later.

Palm Sunday, Bethany Lutheran Church, March 28, 2010 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

No tramp of soldiers' marching feet With banners and with drums.
No sound of music's martial beat: 'The King of glory comes!'
To greet what pomp of kingly pride No bells in triumph ring.
No city gates swing open wide: 'Behold, behold your King!

And yet He comes. The children cheer; With palms His path is strown.
With ev'ry step the cross draws near: The King of glory's throne.
Astride a colt he passes by As loud hosannas ring.
Or else the very stones would cry 'Behold, behold your King!'

What fading flow'rs His road adorn; The palms, how soon laid down!
No bloom or leaf but only thorn The King of glory's crown.
The soldiers mock, the rabble cries, The streets with tumult ring.
As Pilate to the mob replies, 'Behold, behold your King!'

Now He who bore for mortals' sake The cross and all its pains
And chose a servant's form to take, The King of glory reigns.
Hosanna to the Savior's name Till heaven's rafters ring,
And all the ransomed host proclaim, 'Behold, behold your King!

Friday, March 26, 2010

With Praise Like This, Who Needs Criticism?

Fidel Castro is applauding the government takeover of health care signed into law this week by President Obama. According to this AP article, "Cuba provides free health care and education to all its citizens, and heavily subsidizes food, housing, utilities and transportation, policies that have earned it global praise."

Well, there ya' go. We have arrived. Our President promised to change the way America is viewed internationally, and he is doing just that, eliciting praise from such champions of human rights as the dictator of Cuba. We are now on track to in due time bring Cuba's high standard of health care* to the United States of America. I can't wait.

*WARNING: This is a link to a page on "The Real Cuba" website. It contains multiple thumbnail images documenting the current condition of "health" care in Cuba. The images are small but nevertheless deeply disturbing. If you would prefer not to see them, you can just take my word that they do not suggest the existence in Cuba of a leader or government that honestly cares about about the health and well-being of its citizens.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Homeschooling and Unschooling

Highly recommended: a GREAT series of posts on unschooling from my friend Jane. I think all parents--homeschoolers or not, unschoolers or not--can benefit from reading because what Jane is essentially talking about is a lifestyle that frees up children to reach their full potential. Yuck--that sounds like such a cliché, but that's really what it's about. In our house we have both schooly and unschooly periods, depending on the prevailing goals and circumstances. But if I h-a-a-d to pick one or the other, I would say we lean towards the unschooly. Our children have been allowed great freedom to pursue their passions and to govern how they allot their time. We don't worry much about grades or "covering" material. We just live together and by the grace of God love and learn our way through our days.

Here are links to Jane's posts, in order:

Gatto (about educational writer John Taylor Gatto, mentioned here in several recent posts as well)

Why Unschooling?


The Company You Keep (about socialization)

One More Unschooling Post (about Jane's kids--a case study in unschooling)

Go. Read. It will be worth it, I promise.

Memo to the Nanny State

So, a California lawmaker wants to ban the inclusion of toys in fast food kids' meals. He says the toys are an enticement to children to eat unhealthy food.

Never mind that it's not the kids buying the meals but their parents. When was the last time you saw a six-year-old drive his trike through McDonald's?

Clearly this is yet another instance of government attempting to usurp individual freedom and in this case the authority of the parent. Expect more of this sort of thing with Obamacare because after all, if the government is paying for everyone's health care, it has the duty to tell us how to eat.

I saw the lawmaker in question on Fox News this morning, and when he was asked, "Isn't it the parent's job to decide what his child should or should not eat?" his response was, "Yes, but we just think parents could use a little help."

I'm reminded of the wisdom of Ronald Reagan, who once stated, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" Who does this guy think he is? The sheer, brazen audacity--to look me in the face and tell me that I can't successfully rear a child without his high-falutin' help.

Well, I have news for him.


It's the French fries, as any parent well knows.

As long as there are French fries in Happy Meals, kids wll want Happy Meals. Wonder how long it will be before they figure that out and Happy Meals are outlawed?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It Makes Sense, Actually

Is it any wonder that a nation of government school products who have been conditioned in alienation, emotional and intellectual dependency, class stratification, envy, confusion, indifference and fear would elect leaders whose message is "Look to me and I will take care of you and tell you what to do" rather than "You are capable and you don't need me to do for you what you can do for youself"?

As John Taylor Gattor observes, our public schools are not failing. They are doing exactly what they were always intended to do.

It's Coming

I have heard it from several people in recent days, most notably Charles Krauthammer. Get ready for a national sales (value added) tax. Obama has had it in his pocket all along and now it won't be long until he pulls it out.

Crossing the Rubicon

No, this post is not about democracy. It's about chicken nuggets. In this case the Rubicon is the realization that my 6-year-old now reads and counts and pays attention well enough to know that his supper should have consisted of ten Chicken McNuggets, not nine. Hmmm, wonder where that tenth one went? Guess they miscounted at McDonald's . . . .

::Sigh.:: He'll be counting his chicken nuggets from here on out.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Call to Action


Sorry. Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

If you read nothing else today, read this from Bill Whittle of Pajamas Media. Please.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The war is actually begun"

The words of Patrick Henry have been ringing in my ears tonight. Amazing how appropriate they are to the situation at hand. Bart Stupak would do well to read them. Trusting the likes of Obama & Pelosi is akin to trusting George III. By the way, take note of the date.

Speech to the Virginia Convention, March 23, 1775

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves.
Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"How dull those walks, and those deaths, made all my toys"

Yesterday I attended a homeschooling conference, where I was privileged to meet and listen to John Taylor Gatto. Mr. Gatto is a former New York City Teacher of the Year who resigned from the teaching profession after 30 years because, as he explained at the time in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, he wanted to find a job that did not ask him to hurt children. Shortly thereafter he began writing books devoted to accurately detailing the history and purpose of what he calls "confinement schooling" in the United States. Those books include Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Education (1992); The Underground History of American Education (2001); and Weapons of Mass Instruction (2008).

Mr. Gatto is not a homeschooler, but homeschoolers have embraced him (and he them) because of their shared realization of the destructive nature of institutional education as it is practiced in this country. In his writings on the development of American compulsory education, he convincingly argues that the motivation of those who originally promoted and developed it was not philanthropic, considering the best interest of the student, but selfish, considering rather the growing need of an industrialized nation to have an ever-ready supply of compliant, non-thinking workers. Schools, then, were designed to "normalize" people--to stamp out imagination and individuality so as to make them more manageable and thereby increase the efficiency of the machine: "When you flip hamburgers, sit at a computer all day, unpack and shelve merchandise from China year after year, you manage the tedium better if you have a shallow inner life, one you can escape through booze, drugs, sex, media, or other low level addictive behaviors" (Weapons of Mass Instruction, p. 14).

According to Mr. Gatto, the seven lessons that our government schools most successfully teach these days are--*

1. Confusion. There is no logical sequence to the way things are taught. Facts are presented in a disconnected way rather than in a context that gives them meaning and purpose.
2. Class position. The school population is segmented according to age, and there is no breaking out of the position into which you are born.
3. Indifference. The school day is governed by an inflexible schedule that teaches that "nothing is worth finishing and hence nothing worth starting" because the learning process is at the mercy of the teacher or the bell.
4. Emotional dependency. "By a skillful use of rewards and punishments . . . schools teach that free will, even in matters as basic as urination, must be subordinated to the whim of an authority figure."
5. Intellectual dependency. "In school, teachers tell you what to think about, how long to think about it, in what order to think about it and what evaluation should be placed on ideas and their management."
6. Self-alienation. "By breaking children away from families, cultures, religions and neighborhoods--private sources of strengths--. . . schools teach that you must not trust yourself, you must wait for the teacher to tell you not only what to do, but whether what you have done is good or bad."
7. You are watched. "Schools teach that you can't hide, that there is no sanctuary from the oversight of the state father."

My husband and I made the decision to homeschool before we were familiar with the writings of John Taylor Gatto, but as we read his books we felt confirmed in many of our gut feelings about institutional schooling. We are Christians, but that's not why we homeschool. If the secular, liberal worldview of public schools were the only issue, we could address it by sending our children to a private Christian school. But private Christian schools are by and large structured and governed by the same assumptions as public schools and as a result have the same frustration-inducing, curiosity-killing effects.

At the conference yesterday, I went up to meet Mr. Gatto before his presentation, my copy of Dumbing Us Down in hand. He graciously autographed it for me and inquired about my interest in a signed copy of Weapons of Mass Instruction. How could I say no? I have been reading it since last night (as I bide my time in a hotel room while my son plays chess) and have already found much on which to muse. Mr. Gatto gives example after example of successful, productive, meaningful lives that came about without the "benefit" of a college or high school degree or much formal schooling at all. Some of these are historical figures (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Daniel Farragut) but others are names from our own time--people like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and human genome project scientists Venter and Collins. I love the anecdote Gatto relates about complaining to his grandfather at age 7 that he was bored, to which his grandfather responded by saying that if he was bored it was his own fault . . . . "The obligation to amuse and interest myself was entirely my own, and people who didn't know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible" (Prologue, p. xiv). Makes me feel better about my own relaxed, often quite unschooly approach to learning at home--"What did you read today? And did you get those socks folded?"--as well as my lack of sympathy when my 6-year-old complains of not having anything to do: "Sorry, honey, not my problem. You're a smart boy. Go find something."

I also love Gatto's description of long, evening walks with his mother when he was a boy in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. After the breakup of her marriage, Gatto's mother had moved back to her hometown, taking her children with her. But because she was embarrassed at her single mother status, the walks always took place at night, after dark. As they walked, Gatto and his sister listened to their mother relate story after story about the town and her growing up years:

Each excursion covered roughly five miles. We wove in and out of the darkened hill streets, reaching zones of settlement I was only dimly aware existed. I still hear our footsteps crunching the fall leaves or the winter snow, or sloshing through the spring rains. I can hear our hushed whispers. Every house had a story, and mother knew all of them. Many had a symbol in the front window telling the world that some man inside had gone away off to the wars. In some windows there was a special symbol . . . which declared the man had died in service to the rest of us.

The presence of death on our walks added something wonderfully deep and profound to the rambles, a sadness reminding me at the corners of consciousness that someday my mother would be dead, too, and my sister, and myself.

From time to time mother would reminisce what a particular soldier or sailor, once her schoolmate, had been like as a living boy. For a little fellow this was like being confronted with ghosts. It was stunning drama. How dull those walks, and those deaths, made all my toys. In the face of a dramatic reality that ennobled, even the most ordinary toys were less than insignificant; they were humiliating by contrast, unspeakably childish. Real stories help a boy grow up; toys beyond a point reached in early childhood retard the hard road to maturity.

I learned more about mother and sister from those walks than I could fully comprehend back then; today I realize that the personal information gathered incidentally as we walked was the most important data I was ever to have about who we Gattos and Zimmers really were. The walks were open-source learning of the highest order. I'd gladly trade Cornell and Columbia for more of them" (pp. 59-60).

Mr. Gatto may not identify it as such, but if that's not homeschooling, I don't know what is.

*Essays by John Taylor Gatto: Notes on Education, Schooling and Curriculum, 2010.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Upside-Down World

This is beyond belief: a pro-abortion, Roman Catholic Speaker of the House praising a health care rationing bill for its supposed life-affirmingness, and invoking Joseph, the husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, as a symbol of the working Americans who would benefit from socialized medicine.

Read The Anchoress to hear what a real Catholic thinks about this travesty.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chalk One Up For Homeschooling

My 14-year-old daughter takes after me. She is a word, not a number, girl. It's not that math is impossible for her. But the manipulation of numbers does not come as naturally to her as the manipulation of words. This is a child who was making up stories in her high chair.

This year Caitlin is studying algebra. She is progressing well, although at times the road gets a bit rocky. Generally she works fairly independently, but when she encounters a difficult lesson she lets me know and I spend some time watching her work through the troublesome problems. What we have noticed, though, is that I don't contribute all that much. It seems to be enough for me to come and sit by her as she goes at it. For some reason, just my being there seems to make the difference.

What gives? Well, as much as I would like to believe that it is my mere presence exuding maternal love and devotion that is responsible for her success, Caitlin and I have realized it is not that but something else. When I am next to her, she works through the problem verbally, speaking out loud the steps as she does them. Eureka! This is my word girl (as well as my highly tactile and kinesthetic can't-sit-still-must-always-be-moving-and-manipulating-something child). NO WONDER she does better when she talks about the problem. Yesterday as she and I were discussing this phenomenon it occurred to us that perhaps she should just always talk her way through her math lesson, whether I am there or not. It would be interesting to try it as an experiment and see if doing so gives her a greater success rate on the first time through a lesson.

Once again, I find myself thankful for homeschooling. No one in our house is going to care if there is someone sitting at the dining room table verbalizing her math lesson. In a regular classroom, she would be disturbing others. Here, if someone does mind (because maybe Someone is studying his chess), Caitlin (or Someone) can simply go to another room. Can't do that in a regular classroom, now, can you?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Suggested Reading

No time to blog today--the day has been full with choir practices (junior high contest is tomorrow), running various errands, and housecleaning (for the fastidious and highly finicky guests that are coming tonight). So I commend to you a rather stunning entry from my brilliant and deep-thinking daughter. If you are EITHER a fan of the TV series Lost OR if you ever give thought to big ideas of faith and human reason, I think you will appreciate this.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Let's Get This Straight

The news wires and liberal blogs are making a big deal about the revelation from Sarah Palin that several times when she was a child her parents made use of Canadian health care. Seems a good time to point out several facts:

1) Governor Palin herself shared the tidbit in a recent speech. It's not as though it was some sort of shameful secret that was dug up by an investigative reporter. Some bombshell.

2) It was Palin's parents, not Palin herself, who utilized Canadian health care. To try to paint her as a hypocrite because of a choice her parents made when she was a little girl is ridiculous.

3) From what I have read, it only happened a few times. The Palins did not have a hospital down the street--they lived in Alaska, for crying out loud. On a few occasions when speedy care was crucial, it was quicker for them to get on a train and cross the border. Mrs. Palin's father points out that in doing so they incurred greater expense because their insurance did not cover Canadian care. But when you have a kid that has had an accident and needs an ER, you go to the closest and most accessible ER, regardless of the cost. The point is that Palin's parents went over the border not because they thought the health care was better but because they needed care FAST.

Can we all move on to more important things now? Like saving the country from the socialists?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell

HT: The Anchoress

When in Rome . . .

Today as I instructed one of my piano students in a certain musical concept, he was reminded of something similar he had heard today from his choir director, who also happens to be my husband. (This young man, poor dear, gets a double dose of our household on Mondays). Attempting to process and connect the two pieces of information, he asked, "Oh, you mean like Cantor was talking about today? That linguini thing?"

Linguini? The Cantor does like his pasta, but I didn't remember him talking about linguini when I attended rehearsal today. I puzzled over this for a moment; then it dawned on me that my student was probably remembering another Italian word.

"Are you thinking of tenuto, Robert?" (Nor his real name.)

"Yeah, that's it! Tenuto!"

Tenuto, linguini, ritardando, lasagna, accelerando, crescendo, spaghetti, fettucini, allegro, fermata . . . no wonder my student was confused. It's all the same, really. Especially when you've had a long day at school and supper is looming!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Young Talent

The first video is of my daughter's junior high madrigal group singing at Solo & Ensemble contest last week. Don't they look and sound great? The ages are 6th-8th graders. Caitlin is on the far right.

The second video is of Caitlin singing her vocal solo (in French!) with her dad accompanying (on something that is supposed to resemble a piano).

Both the madrigal group and Caitlin received first division ratings. :-) Go Bethany Lutheran choir kids! And kudos to their director!

"Sing We, Dance We, On the Green" by Francis Pilkington (1565-1638) from Cheryl on Vimeo.

"Romance" by Claude Debussy from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Life Lesson

Last week one of the high school vocal groups I accompany had a master class with a guest clinician. Last night at rehearsal as the students were discussing the experience with their regular teacher, he expressed appreciation to the music boosters' group for paying the clinician's fee. One of the girls in the choir reacted with surprise: "She got paid for that?"

"Of course," answered my colleague. "She's a professional. Music is how she makes her living. Do you think she spent four hours driving here, working with us, and driving back home simply out of the kindness of her heart?"

"I don't know . . . I just thought you knew her and that you asked her and she came . . . I didn't realize she got paid . . . ."

Giving me a sideways glance as he smiled at his student, my friend and coworker patiently set the young lady straight: "Mary [not her real name], professional musicians never do ANYTHING for free."

No wonder I like working with this guy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spin Central

Evan: "I like to stay up late, Mom, because with the extra time I can get more things done."

Me: "Really? What kind of things?"

Evan: "Things around the house, like chores."

Anyone have the President's phone number? I think I can suggest a name if he ever needs a replacement for Robert Gibbs.