En garde!

I’m baking bread today. Tomorrow is the First Day of School here, since it worked so well to go with Sean’s semester last year. It would have been today but I want to tidy up the kitchen and dining room and also make bread. Abaigeal requested a knitting refresher course s well, so I’ll get out some needles and re-teach her. I think I’ll see if she wants to make some of these cute little bunnies.

I didn’t mention that I started rapier combat before just jumping in to the getting-in-shape part. Well, I did. Start rapier combat, that is. And I love it! SCA rapier is in the round, not on a straight line like Olympic fencing. And of course there’s no electronics to see who made a touch, either, you have to call it as you feel it. I don’t know much about sport fencing, but I don’t think it allows cuts, just thrusts, and SCA rapier allows draw cuts as well as thrusts. No chopping cuts though, those are for the heavy armored combat. The rapier cuts involve placing the blade and pulling it away.

It’s REALLY AWESOME. Here is a charming email + photos of a rapier practice from a Canadian Scadian (how poetic.)

If you have Netflix streaming, you can watch a cool documentary (is that an oxymoron) about the history of modern swordsmanship, called Reclaiming the Blade. Faith and I watched it last week and we give it two thumbs up.

I was given a new sewing machine by my dear mother! So I have no excuse not to sew garb.

I better go bake that bread. And get the stuff for school tomorrow – William the Conqueror! Da-dum!

wall timeline

Here’s a few pictures of some timeline items.

Ha, ha! The fall of Rome (by Abby)


Mouse Guard! (by Faith)


This one is a personal favorite (by Faith)


It’s a long strip of masking tape, marked every five inches, from 4000 BC to AD 2100. The BC dates are by millennium and the AD dates are by century. When we get back around to the Ancients we’ll need to alter the BC scale, but that shouldn’t be a problem – there’s more wall left.

coming out from under a rock

The sickness is still here. I’m almost better. i was ableto clean the living room (big girls helped) and dining room today, which were so messy. It was crazy how messy. And then I made bread, which is on the second rise and aalmost done. I’ll probably be able to turn the oven on after I finish this post.

We, well, only me so far, made a timeline today. It consists of ten feet of wall with marks five inches apart. I’m going to label them from 4000 BC to AD 2100, then we’ll all put stuff on it. I think it will be fun. The BC portion gets five inches to the millenium and the AD portion gets five inches to the century. There’s room on the wall to give the BC portion a bit more room when we come back around to the Ancients.

Gilbert and Abby just gave me an impromptu recital, in part:

G: Pussycat pussycat where have you been?
A: I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.
G: Pussycat pussycat what did you there?
A: I frightened a mouse from under a chair!

And so it goes.

getting carried away

I’m getting back into the SCA. That’s the Society for Creative Anachronism,
>*…an international living history group with the aim of studying and recreating mainly Medieval European cultures and their histories before the 17th century.*


Those guys.

I used to be in the SCA as a teen. I have thought about it for a few years but decided against it because the kids were too young. They keep growing up, these kids, so I’m going to take the plunge.

The two things that tipped me over the edge were S.M. Stirling’s novels of The Change – most particularly the first three, Dies the Fire, The Protector’s War and A Meeting at Corvallis – and the plan of study for the Gleeschool this year: the Middle Ages.

So I want things like this (hold the rayon, please)

Linen Fabrics at Dharma Trading Co.

and perhaps a pair of these, with decidedly non-period soles, thanks.

Soft Star Shoes for Grown-Ups

Of course we’ll need some outerwear from this

Denver Fabrics 100% wool

or this

Wool Blankets

The plan is for me, Faith and Abby to get set up first. Then, we can see whether we like it before going all-in as a family. Bede, while very appropriately named for a historical reenactor, is maybe not so much the fan. We’ll see.

I’m glad that the period I’m interested in has nice, simple clothing. I’m leaning toward ninth century Ireland. And at this point that means everyone gets ninth century Ireland.

This is completely insane.

Mo-om! Abaigeal and Faith are writing fan fiction!

Abby’s fic, To Be Human, is in the Phineas and Ferb fandom, and answers these burning questions: What if Perry the Platypus was human? Does Ferb own any other clothing? And, most important of all, what are Phineas and Ferb going to do today?

Chapters 1-9 are [here](http://ultrafab.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/perry-the-platypus-fanfic-to-be-human-chapter-1/).

Faith’s Warriors fic, Stars of Gray, is also at their blog, but not neatly next-chapter-formatted yet. It features Graystripe, Faith’s favorite Warrior cat of that era. [Prologue](http://ultrafab.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/warriors-stars-of-gray-prologue/) [Chapter 1](http://ultrafab.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/warriors-stars-of-gray-chapter-1/) [2](http://ultrafab.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/warriors-stars-of-gray-chapter-2/) [3](http://ultrafab.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/warriors-stars-of-gray-chapter-3/) [4](http://ultrafab.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/warriors-stars-of-gray-chapter-4/) [5](http://ultrafab.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/warriors-stars-of-gray-chapter-5/)

Homeschool: Theology, Math, Science and Lit

Goodness what a time. We put up the easy-set pool finally, and have been in it every day since. Except for one day when the actual air temperature was 105 and the pool was 97.

It gets quite hot here.

I am, I hope, ready for school this year. Tentatively. I think.


Once upon a Time Saints
More Once upon a Time Saints
Around the Year Once upon a Time Saints (Illustrated by Ben Hatke yay!)
A Life of Our Lord for Children (Illustrated by Ted Schluenderfritz yay!)
My Catholic Faith

Whew. That seems like a lot. But what all of these theology books have in common is utter charm. They are delightful books. I know many Catholic homeschoolers who use the Faith and Life series from Ignatius. I have the second grade catechism, Jesus Our Life, and I was unimpressed with the layout and writing. They are very much textbooks, which are a distant fourth choice on my list of educational materials. The above books are nothing like that. The saint stories are amazing, written like once-upon-a-time, just as the title says. Life of Our Lord is a biography of Jesus, which I hope will segue quite nicely into reading the Gospels after we finish it. My Catholic Faith is the best teaching catechism I have ever read – it was the book I read as a catechumen. It’s like an expanded Baltimore Catechism. (The Baltimore Catechism is written like an FAQ for Catholics, for those among my readers who are unfamilliar with the work.)


Kickin’ it old school here. We’re going to use the Ray’s Arithmetic series. You can get them for free from Google Books or purchase a bound box set (Ray’s Arithmetic Series 8 Volume Set) if you’d rather. That’s first through eighth grade there, too. Hot diggity! Ray’s books are unlike modern math programs in that the focus is on mental math and story problems from the get-go. I’m quite excited about this one too.


The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book: Boil Ice, Float Water, Measure Gravity-Challenge the World Around You! (Everything Kids Series) – an experiment a week.
Nature Study every Friday afternoon


The Random House Book of Poetry for Children – reading poetry several times a week, and illustrating poems the kids especially enjoy.
A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys – this is the hardcover, and worth it!

I think I’ve overposted again. Best be off to bed. I’ll stop being Johnny-One-Note on the schoolbooks soon, I think!

Our friends:
[Ben Hatke](http://letflythecannons.blogspot.com/) and
[Ted Schluenderfritz](http://www.5sparrows.com/).

Homeschool: The Middle Ages

These are the history books I plan to use this year. We’re covering (mostly) Britain, from the exit of the Romans to Henry VII.


Our Island Story: A History of Britain for Boys and Girls, from the Romans to Queen Victoria. This is our history spine. Faith is All About Anglophilia, so we’ll be spending the majority of our time on British history. This should segue nicely into American history.

The Medieval World. The illustrations in this one are really nice. Tends to two-page spreads on a given topic, like ‘Hunting and Hawking’ and ‘Knightly Orders’.

Archers, Alchemists, and 98 Other Medieval Jobs You Might Have Loved or Loathed. This has short sections on various medieval vocations, each around 200 words, with clever cartoony pictures.


The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree. I’m so excited about these. They are my favorite books from childhood, especially The Dark is Rising. Arthurian extrapolation, modern day.

Time Cat (Puffin Modern Classics) You can’t go wrong with Lloyd Alexander. This one dances through history with a boy and his talking cat.

Tales of King Arthur (Usborne Classics Retold). Modern-language Arthurian legend. The best I’ve found, very chaste but not babyish or stilted.

Catherine, Called Birdy. A delightful book. First person, diary of a 14 year old girl of minor nobility in the 13th century.

Son of Charlemagne. One of our ventures to the Continent.

Beorn the Proud . Vikings! Grr!

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. This one is unique – it’s a series of monologues intended to be read aloud or performed. Everyone in it is a child or teen in a medieval English village. It’s really good!

Usborne Time Traveler. The Viking and Medieval sections will be used this year. I read this in fifth grade under a different title and was so happy when I redicovered it.

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page. Be sure you get the large-format hardcover for this one. The illustrations are such a huge part of the book and they don’t translate well to small and no color.

Castle. A classic. The illustrations are most often mentioned but the story behind them is great too.

I also have religion, math, and science. Another post!

still here, still plotting – er, PLANNING

Still gently planning the homeschool year. In fact, I nodded to Luke Holtzmann on Twitter about it: I can see why buying a year’s worth of scheduled readings, with open-ended discussion questions included, all for great, REAL books that are a joy to read… is a heck of a lot easier than doing it all yourself, from scratch.

I didn’t go with Sonlight again for several reasons.

1. *Sonlight is Christian but not Catholic*. Sonlight’s religious materials are Evangelical Protestant in tone and mission, which can be fine – or intolerable. This year, I am focusing on teaching Roman Catholicism to our kids, and I need the materials to support that. In our last Core I used Sonlight’s books and stressed the commonalities that all Trinitarian Christians share. This year, I need more than that. I could have gotten a Core but not the Bible, but the EP overtones are present in many of the other subjects too, notably History, Literature and Science.

2. *Sonlight doesn’t have a Middle Ages Core*. The Middle Ages are covered in Sonlight’s World History Cores, but we wanted more detail. Winter Promise makes a full-year Middle Ages program but they also have the same trouble as reason 1 above.

3. *Sonlight is 36 weeks, and we wanted 45*. We’ll be doing four days a week for 45 weeks. Sonlight has a great four-day option that’s included with every Core but it’s still only 36 weeks.

4. *Sonlight is slightly more expensive*. Honestly, this isn’t much of a reason. I doubt I’ve saved much money. I’ve been able to buy a few things used, and I don’t have the expense of the Instructor’s Guide. Sonlight isn’t raking in the dough. Their Cores are expensive but you get real value for your money.

That’s about it. We will likely return to Sonlight in the future. Their High School Cores are very intriguing, and having everything just In A Box and DONE is worth a lot, let me tell you.

I’ll publish our schedule and booklist when I finish. I’m doing the first 15 weeks, so if we just hate it I won’t have wasted as much time.

getting medieval

I’m trying to plan the year for our homeschool. We school pretty much year round, which lends us great flexibility. Legally I am required to have 180 days of attendance for all of my children between the ages of five and 18 years, equivalent to about 1000 attended hours in a year. Going all year means we do four hours a day, five days a week. These are not like hour-hours, but are attendance hours, and are better thought of as “lessons.” (In other words, I don’t teach them all for four hours every day. That counts the time they read to themselves or work alone and the time they discuss what they have read or worked on with me.)

It is MUCH easier for me to take attendance with Charlotte Mason than it was when we were unschooling. It always felt like unschooling took so much explaining, especially to the governmental types. For such a simple concept it can be remarkably difficult to understand, if you think children only learn when they are taught.. When we were investigated by DHS, Faith was the only child of school age, and she was five – it’s not difficult to demonstrate unschooled learning in a five-year old. But with older kids, it’s trickier, or it can be.

Since we’re studying the Middle Ages, we’ll be covering about a thousand years, approximately 500 to 1500 AD. Conveniently, Our Island Story and A Child’s History of the World both finish up the Middle Ages at chapter 61! This would be even more convenient if they both started at the same chapter. But… no. A Child’s History of the World starts the Dark Ages at chapter 40, and Our Island Story starts them around chapter 8.

(That’s if you consider the Dark Ages to have started at a different time on the continent than in Britain, which I do. If you don’t think that, then OIS starts it at chapter 12. But I digress.)

259 pages for OIS, 93 for CHOW. So what we’ll do is read two or three chapters of OIS for every one of CHOW. There’s several read-alouds in there too. I think they’ll be for another post, as will our math plan…

Homeschool: Trixie and Starfall

Trixie, age four, has a hard time using a computer mouse and becomes upset by her own lack of dexterity. This sets her up to miss again, because the more upset she is, the less skill she has at her disposal. Feedback loop, you see.

As a result, she doesn’t use the computer, and doesn’t get any better. She doesn’t care a bit, as she is content to watch the older children. I don’t care either because she’s four. So what if she can’t use the computer. Except… she kinda wants to, now and again

I guess this is all my roundabout way of saying I had the obvious idea to hold Trixie on my lap and be her mouse, clicking where she told me to on the Starfall ABC page. (Duh. See, six kids and I still miss the soft questions.) We had fun! I’ll try to set aside time for this more often, but I want it to be entirely fun for her, with no sense of work or unease, for several reasons:

1. She’s four.
2. She loses 50% of her ability after one failure, and 100% of it after two.
3. More than fifteen or twenty minutes and she loses focus, and I don’t want to say “Trixie, look here..”

I don’t care a bit when she starts reading. She may be six or she may be ten (although I doubt that) but she will read, and effortlessly. In the meantime we will continue with our vigorous program of lazily reading whatever books she demands I read to her throughout the day.

[Learn to Read at Starfall](http://starfall.com)

[Farenga and Holt on late reading ages in homeschooled children](http://books.google.com/books?id=WjCqjXsvVyoC&pg=PA234&lpg=PA234&dq=john+holt+late+readers&source=bl&ots=ijZrL5430Y&sig=O_J-Ft34HV-jag7buE-xN_3ysso&hl=en&ei=sXUaTKr9FIzYMIXCnNEF&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=john%20holt%20late%20readers&f=false)


We went to Half Price Books yesterday and got some good ones. Everyone else made me leave before I was ready because I can outlast almost anyone in a bookstore. I worked in one for years for a reason, after all.

Today I have baked bread, put away clean clothes, washed dishes. Also listened to the children tell me things of interest: Faith kept having me read from her new Calvin and Hobbes, Abby and I discussed what sort of book she likes, Bede read to me from Flight: Explorers (an excellent graphic novel), Gilbert played with the Cuisenaire rods and taught me about multiplication and division, Trixie showed me the elaborate foods she was feeding to her toys, and Gloria showed me how her toys can dance.

Now we’re off to my folks’ house!

read books -> get free books -> read more books

The summer reading program at Half Price Books is underway! Kids 14 and under can get a $3 card for Half Price Books EVERY WEEK from June 1st through July 31! That’s nine weeks, guys, or $27 bucks!

Your kid (or you, if you have a non-writing kid) have to fill out a log showing at least 15 minutes of reading time each day, but it’s not an annoying log like in fourth grade.

We’ll get $162 in free books chez Glee, and since it’s Half Price Books, it’s actually $324. *Ohhhhh yeah*!

[Feed Your Brain at Half Price Books](http://www.halfpricebooks.com/feed_your_brain.html)

medieval historical fiction

Here’s my preliminary list of Middle Ages or so historical fiction for middle grades. We’ll start a high-tide period with some or all of these in the next month or so.

(This is just novels. We’ll also have nonfiction and some other books. When I get the final list compiled, I’ll post it too. All links go to the books’ pages on Amazon.)

400s Between the Forest and the Hills
597 Augustine Came to Kent
781 Son of Charlemagne
800s Beorn the Proud
1100s Red Falcons Of Tremoine
1167 The Red Keep
1170 If All the Swords in England
1171 The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
1200s The Magna Charta
1200s Adam of the Road
1200s Catherine, Called Birdy
1381 Crispin: The Cross of Lead
1400s The Door in the Wall

Worth a thousand words

No, no, this isn’t going to be my long-awaited picture post. Instead, it’s about picture books! On Twitter, Melissa Wiley mentioned the favorites at her house right now, and I started to reply with ours but quickly hit the 140 limit.

Gloria’s favorite is unquestionably “the big book!”, the HarperCollins Treasury of Picture Book Classics. According to Amazon, I purchased it a year and a half ago and I don’t think a day has gone by since that it hasn’t been read from. It is a great book, and a steal compared to purchasing the titles individually. Unlike many compendiums of kids’ books these are not abridged in word or illustration, nor are the illustrations reduced in size. The paper is heavy and holds up to repeated (and repeated!) readings, although I have had to tape the binding and use a bit of glue to hold the covers to the front papers. It consists of:

Goodnight Moon
Caps for Sale
Harold and the Purple Crayon
A Baby Sister for Frances
Leo the Late Bloomer
William’s Doll
If You Give A Mouse a Cookie
George Shrinks
Baby Says
From Head to Toe
Pete’s a Pizza

(The only one I could honestly do without is the very outdated William’s Doll. It introduced the idea that it was weird for boys to have dolls to my children which is what the story was trying to prevent. Heavy-handed writing is heavy-handed.)

Trixie is VERY into the whole If You Give A… series. Her favorite is If You Give a Pig a Party, but really any of them will do. Have you ever noticed the kids in those books look dismayed pretty quickly as they deal with the capricous whims of their charges? Heh heh. Welcome to my world, buddy.

Gilbert likes the Pigeon series, especially Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Gilbert has the melodramatic nature of many five-year olds, and he simultaneously feels for the pigeon, who just wants to drive the bus, fer cryin’ out loud, and yet loves beyond reason the power of telling him NO. Great, great book.

Bede is all about Seuss and Eastman right now. His decoding skills are mad but his ability to follow a plot is significantly delayed, so he really likes books like The Cat in the Hat and similar. A favorite of his is The BIG Blue Book of Beginner Books, which has six stories in it:

Put Me in the Zoo
A Fly Went By
Are You My Mother?
Go, Dog. Go!
The Best Nest
It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny

Again, a steal to get them all for one price. Bede likes to read them all, out loud, to me and Gloria. My favorite is Go, Dog. Go! but I am also fond of A Fly Went By.

So, yeah, busted that 140 character limit pretty hard, huh?

HarperCollins Treasury of Picture Book Classics

If You Give a Pig a Party

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Big Blue Book of Beginner Books

all in the family

It’s been very familial around here, which is how I like it. First of all, we were given the wonderful, amazing and almost unbelievable news that my older brother Troy’s lung cancer has done R-U-N-N-O-F-T. The hateful tumor in the upper part of his lung is gone. There is a questionable spot in one of his lymph nodes that will be biopsied and nailed with radiation if it proves “hot”, as they say. So, yes, really brilliant, fantastic news.

My niece and her children (the above brother’s oldest child) came to visit on Wednesday. Faith and Michaelie are such peas in a pod. Two smart, funny, weird kids within about a month of each other in age with the same focused interests and both homeschooled. (They both like Doctor Who, Phineas and Ferb, and the Warriors books.)

And tonight, two more of Troy’s kids came to dinner and brought their main squeezes. I made a huge pot of cauliflower-chickpea-potato curry and maaaaan was it delicious. The meal was largely silent but for the sounds of gulping, and everyone looking drugged afterward as we all regarded our distended abdomens and belched softly. So. Freaking. Good. Any time you can make eleven people happy with one meal you’ve done Very Well.

And now G-Lo the little night owl is finally compliant enough to go to sleep without yelling at me, so off we go.

a retraction, musings on winter coats, Capitol Day

Sean said last night that he didn’t resist the idea of a fifteen year mortgage, he just didn’t fall over with girlish enthusiasm. So, there you go.

There are some decent sales on winter coats right now at Lands’ End. I had a coupon for free shipping, so even though the budget is tight until we get our taxes back I bought one for Bede. His current coat is flimsy, poorly made, and bulky without warmth. Really a crummy excuse for a coat. It’s from Wal-Mart (or is that Walmart, now?) and I can say with confidence that we will not buy any more coats from them unless they go up in quality. Really, it’s just junk. Not that they’re alone in that. Why do coat manufacturers think that bulk = warmth?

So Bede gets a new coat midseason. No big deal. One nice thing about having so many kids is the handmedown factor, and this will be worn by at least two of his younger sibs.

Today I need to bake some cookies and decide whether to freeze leftover chili or use it for enchiladas tonight. Enchiladas are winning. I also want to set aside some time to look into different options for midwifery training, but that may not be in the cards for today.

Sean and Gilbert are at Capitol Day for homeschoolers. We have some asinine bills proposed this year that restrict homeschooling, so I hope the turnout was good.

same old same old

Not particpating in a discussion doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I guess discussion isn’t the right prase. I’m talking about something that has no established dialogue.

I’m so tired. Autism and homeschooling are being debated. What will happento the autistic children today, when they become adults who still need support, help? The people today are deciding that, with radically different agendas. Saying they all want what’s best for their kids doesn’t cover it, when the “best” in question (or the Best, which is another story!) is not agreed upon.

In Oklahoma there are two bills introduced that would curtail homeschooling freedom. One is a pain in the neck – yearly registration. It won’t pass but it wouldn’t be a big deal if it did. Sure, chinks in walls, etc etc. But still. The other one says that homeschoolers have to provide appropriate education to their kids, where appropriate is defined as the same subjects and the same time spent as a public school. That would bring Oklahoma into the select group of states that are horrible to homeschool in. It won’t pass either.

But I’m tired. I don’t want to fight. Why do these things happen? Sigh.