30 November, 2005

Mark Twain

Happy Birthday to Mark Twain, born on this date in 1835. This Missouri native perplexes me. We will be studying him in January in American Lit. Is his wittiness hiding true bitterness? Or is it just cynicism? Some would say yes to bitterness. He is still funny.

What is your favorite Twain work? I enjoy Innocents Abroad, reading snippets here and there, when I get a chance, such as waiting for kids when it's my turn to drive in the Wednesday carpool. Hubby used to read it aloud to me, just for a laugh...especially the barbs about old relics in Europe, since I love to travel, people watch; I enjoy old world sites and charm.

Good Twain quotes:

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

Having three brothers, a multitude of nephews and great-nephews, and three sons of my own, I like this quote:

"There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure."

29 November, 2005

Author Birthdays

"'Stay' is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary." ~Louisa May Alcott

Happy Birthday to Louisa May Alcott, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1832. She died two days after the death of her father, Bronson Alcott, in March of 1888.
She is my favorite American author. I think I'd like to study her in Graduate school. side note: There's so much I'd like to read and study, can you relate?

Take a virtual tour of Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts. Read her satirical work, Transcendental Wild Oats, which is said to be a reflection of her own Father and Mother's disagreements about living in the Transcendentalists' Utopian Experiment at Fruitlands. Read this interesting analysis at the Domestic Goddess website.

Even so, Louisa did love and admire her friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and wrote about another side of him that the public did not get to see or know in her Reminiscences of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Switching gears from Alcott and the Transcendentalists, those 19th century writers and thinkers that we are studying in American Literature these days, today also marks the birthdate of C. S. Lewis in 1898. I came to know about and read Lewis for the first time in my college Philosophy class. The first book of his that I read was Screwtape Letters, then The Great Divorce, and Mere Christianity.

The Professor of this class, Mr. Parmer, was probably my favorite Prof. of my college career. He and his wife, whom I had as a writing Prof., opened up the small world in my mind to the opportunities and possibilites (that's a cliché, but so true) that I could only wish for and dream about in my youth....missions, travelling, learning languages, experiencing the Lord's church internationally, just to name a few. They also opened up the world of great books for me.

The day is fleeting, and I've been sidetracked once again*, and I must get back to reading with the boys, and to the duties of the household.


*by my teenaged son who wants me to help him hack into his sister's computer while she is out of town babysitting for a few days. How could she have the nerve to put a password on her computer while she is away? Can you say "boundaries?" Ahem.

28 November, 2005

Home School Helps ~ High School


This is not exhaustive or conclusive, just a starting point, based on the (probably biased) opinions and experience of an eclectic family who have homeschooled from the beginning with our four children, ages 10 to 17 (in a few weeks).

Tonight is our local support group's monthly meeting. I'll be helping out, leading two groups, one on "Things we wish we'd known when first starting out homeschooling," and "Homeschooling for High School."

Since it's a rather open and flexible format that I'll be facilitating~allowing for time for others to share their thoughts, ideas, and to ask questions~it is harder to plan what handouts to take, and what highlights I want to be sure to include.

I am posting it here, just fyc. Please add your own ideas and advice in the comments, if you'd like! This certainly is not complete or comprehensive, but just a starting place.


How to make sure your student is able to study a Subject you are not good at as your children get older:

You might be faced with teaching a subject that you are weak in or never learned. Here are some ideas to help you as your children move into high school level courses. I'm also a believer in adding supplemental video clips, games, where possible, recitations, etc. to help make some of this material more enjoyable, from time to time. I would prefer that students make their own connections, but how can they, if we do not introduce some rich and deep works to them. We should place a rich feast before them, that they may taste morsels of many different dishes. (Thank you, Charlotte Mason)

1. Learn the material along with your child, trying to stay at least a week ahead of them in the assigned reading or work.
2. Team up with another homeschooling family or two and team teach the subjects you're strong in.
3. Contact local support groups for co-operative teaching possibilities.
4. Hire a tutor to teach the subject, possibly a local college student.
5. Use a video/DVD course, or supplement with audio or DVD helps, such as lectures from other sources. The Teaching Company is one I've used as a resource. If you subscribe to their newsletter, they inform you of free lectures you can download at their site.
6. Use a computer course.
7. See if the local junior college offers this course to high school students.
8. Take the class at a local junior college along with your high school student.
9. Check into online schools and the possibility of taking just one course.

Solicit help from a friend who is strong in the subject.

1. Every subject doesn't have to be mastered before high school graduation, but exposure will make college easier. Many times college and high school credit can be earned simultaneously by taking the course at the junior college.

Some families may be curious as to what is generally required or desired (by prospective colleges) that our children take in high school.

A couple of good examples are posted on the
Donna Young website and at CollegeBoard.com.
The CollegeBoard.com website even has a neat little print-off of semester courses, called the
High School planning worksheet for you or your high schooler to keep track of. Don't neglect the importance of extracurricular activites. Boost your study skills here.

Look at these time management tips for high schoolers. Find ACT test prep help here.

When I was in high school, it helped that I had four years of High School Spanish, had won a handful of medals in Spanish State Competition for composition, sight reading and poetry recitation, but also that I was the Spanish Club president my senior year. The college I attended offered me 18 hours of College Spanish Credit toward a minor in Spanish, without my having to take one test.

Know what requirements your students' preferred college choices have, regarding years of foreign language, Science, etc., recommended. Also which test scores do they require or prefer to use?
ACT testing? SAT? And what about CLEP tests?

An alternative to College that some families consider is either College at home or Apprenticeships.

Info for preparing grades for the final transcript:

Figuring grades~ percentage and letter grades:

Here's One Way:

1. Correct the paper or test
2. Determine the number of total questions.
3. Subtract the number of missed questions, and count the number of correct answers.
4. Take the number of correct questions and divide by the total number of questions.
5. Multiply this number by 100 to turn it into a percentage. Typical grade scale: 90-100% = A; 80-89% = B; 70-79% = C; 60-69% = D; 59% and below = F

Add all scores for a term and divide this number by the total number of scores. This will be the term or semester average. You can give as much weight to any particular assignment or quiz that you wish. Determining the final grade, then, will require more multiplication of percentages!

For example, in my Spanish classes, I have given 20% weight to the final grade in the following areas: Tests, quizes, and class participation. Daily (Weekly) lesson assignments account for a full 40% of the semester grade, thereby giving each student up to one more full percentage point in their final grade. Extra credit is added in there, somewhere. Extra credit on a test counts toward a final test grade. General extra credit given for participation in a Latin American or Spanish Cultural experience, or for reciting a Bible verse in Spanish, or for singing a song in Spanish. In my classes, this will count toward the total final percentage, and may bump someone up a letter grade, if they were so close to the break already.

Some things I wish I had known..
What I wish I'd not let myself be duped into believing ;-)

That just because we homeschool does not guarantee that we won't have behavioral or even
serious heart issues with our teens!! Read that again, if you must. We are not guaranteed perfect little geniuses that will respond pleasantly to our parenting at all times.

This is the time in their lives when they are trying to figure out what their talents are, who (and "whose") they are. We can pranet, guide, and love them, but they may still raise their voices sometimes. Is it to be tolerated? Well, no. Some things to consider in our own quiet time...are we exasperating them to wrath? Maybe we should think long and hard about that, and humbly pray that the Lord give us grace when we ourselves are not in His will. Some frustrations and lashing out are because we've put undo expectations on them, or not given them clear communication, enough mercy and grace. Sometimes, they haven't learned how to vent their anger in a healthy, Godly way, and they don't take time to make good choices, they just react. Sometimes, it may just be a case of hormonal imbalances...theirs and mine! In my limited experience with a 17 yos, 14.5 yod, 12.5 yos, and 10.5 yos, They are hitting the "aggravated and moody" hormonal times closer to 14 (daughter) and 15 (son). Some people have said they notice hormonal moodiness sometimes as early as 10, but we have NOT experienced that here.

Well, I'm going to get off the soapbox, and think of a few bullet points, instead.

~ Stay in The Word and pray; keep your relationship with the Lord strong.
~ make sure you're all getting enough sleep, keeping regular hours, not wild, odd hours of getting to bed and awaking.

~ spend special time with your spouse
~ make time for yourself, to include some hobby time during the week
~ pay attention to your children's and your own cues; be attentive for symptoms of stress or burnout
~ consider that you may have hormonal imbalances that need to be dealt with
~ make use of your children's giftings when you help encourage them toward a career or life calling. Find other adults who have a career in these given fields and talk with them about advising you and your children.
~ Encourage appropriate friendships
~ Do things that promote their spiritual discipleship
~ keep up with record keeping for your high schoolers' transcript or portfolio, so that you won't have to make it all up at the end of the semester, end of the year, or even at the end of your students' high school career! It's much easier to accomplish this important task, a little at a time.
~ subscribe to CollegeBoard.com to keep yourself up to date on all the important testing dates and scholarship opportunities available to your students

Other recommended resources:

James Stobaugh's SAT Prep course for the Christian student and real sample SAT's
Inge Cannon's Transcript Bootcamp seminar or tapes

Perhaps I'll update with more, later...It's time to get ready. What other information or tips have you found important and useful?


27 November, 2005

off to war

Yes, another nephew is leaving for Iraq tonight or tomorrow. {sigh}
We are all very proud of him, for many reasons. He is older than probably all of the recruits who are in his group (he's 25, married, with two boys) and he is calm and stable. Therefore, the guys look up to him as a big brother or mentor. He has such an opportunity to minister at this time, to all those around him. We pray for his strength and safety, and that the Lord brings him and his battallion home safe and sound in 2007. So, we're off to Fort Hood this afternoon for the big troops send-off.

(don't mind the chair back behind me, or the odd shadow...I have not grown an extra hip over the holiday ;-)

Do not take anything for granted, folks...


25 November, 2005

Texas Autumn

At Thanksgiving time in Texas, the leaves are all finally turning. The weather fluctuates from 60's to almost 80 degrees. It's a good thing to have mild weather in which to walk off all our Thanksgiving indulgences.

Family is still about town, brothers, their kids, their inlaws, and their grandkids. They're coming over for dessert and coffee today, to be together before another nephew heads off to Iraq with the Army on Monday.

"And now, with autumn’s moonlit eves,
Its harvest-time has come,
We pluck away the frosted leaves,
And bear the treasure home."

~From The Corn Song by John Greenleaf Whittier, fireside poet

24 November, 2005


From Wester's 1828 Dictionary

THANKSGIV'ING, ppr. Rendering thanks for good received.

THANKSGIV'ING, n. The act of rendering thanks or expressing gratitude for favors or mercies.

Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if received with thanksgiving. 1 Tim.4.

1. A public celebration of divine goodness; also, a day set apart for religious services, specially to acknowledge the goodness of God, either in any remarkable deliverance from calamities or danger, or in the ordinary dispensation of his bounties. The practice of appointing an annual thanksgiving originated in New England.

thanksgiving is also found in 13 definitions:

This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for many things ~ Blessings received and lessons learned, people in our lives, moments, pets, beautiful scenery, memories.

GRA'TEFUL, a. [from L. gratus. See Grace.]

1. Having a due sense of benefits; kindly disposed towards one from whom a favor has been received; willing to acknowledge and repay benefits; as a grateful heart.
2. Agreeable; pleasing; acceptable; gratifying; as a grateful present; a grateful offering.
3. Pleasing to the taste; delicious; affording pleasure; as food or drink grateful offering.
Now golden fruits on loaded branches shine,
And grateful clusters swell with floods of wine

GRAT'ITUDE, n. [L. gratitudo, from gratus, pleasing. See Grace.]

An emotion of the heart, excited by a favor or benefit received; a sentiment of kindness or good will towards a benefactor; thankfulness. Gratitude is an agreeable emotion, consisting in or accompanied with good will to a benefactor,and a disposition to make a suitable return of benefits or services, or when no return can be made, with a desire to see the benefactor prosperous and happy. Gratitude is a virtue of the highest excellence, as it implies a feeling and generous heart, and a proper sense of duty.
The love of God is the sublimest gratitude.

23 November, 2005

Zoo Trip

We have not been to the zoo since our high schoolers were young, therefore, our 10 and 12 yo have not been since they were too young to remember. We went this week, as Androcles wanted primarily to see the primates! JAudubon wanted to see the reptiles. We all enjoyed the tigers! They were very active, playing with large toys, growling, and swimming in the water. We got to practice our Spanish, as well. We were in the minority, and I welcomed the practice. The cutest, 3 yo boy was calling the tiger a "gato." His mama snickered and said "no gatos, pero tigres!" I told him "los tigres son muy grandes," as I was squatting down to get a better view of the tigers under a railing.

The nature exchange is an educational building there that we need to visit again. You can take in items from your nature walks, including your nature journal, and get points for these items. Then you may, in turn, save all your points for something larger or something for a particular collection you might have. For example, a large pine-cone not native to your area, or a large, fancy shell, rocks and minerals, or fossils, even a meteorite!

They had a neat collection of bottles of sand from all over the country and the world. That was fascinating. They didn't have any from Italy though, or the Mediterranean, which surprised me. The sand came in many colors and textures, from white to orange, and fine to miniature shell-like. Very interesting.

Well, as soon as I get the picture of one of the primates transferred, I will post it. He was doing tricks for us!

Happy preparations for your Day of Thanksgiving, all!


17 November, 2005

Next Restoration

This is for a friend for whom my daughter works as her kids' babysitter. It was an old book that S's mother and grandmother had, for which they had made a make-shift cover. I'm happy to be able to work on another vintage book, now that hs co-op is almost finished for 2005. Just one more day to go!

This lovely tome needs new boards (these are not original) and several signatures need to be mended and re-sewn. I've already removed the old, nasty tape...just after I took these pictures, in fact. It still needs more cleaning...getting the old adhesive off the spine of the text block. I'll create a new spine for it, and cover the boards in a nice, dark red bookcloth.

I have not yet figured out how to fit in handcrafts for myself into our schedule this fall, since my bookbinding teacher moved in late September.

Ah, the smell (not a musty or mildewy one, mind you) of an old book! Or...half-a-library library full of them!


15 November, 2005

Newest shelves

Several of the Booksncoffeehaus readers asked me to post pictures of the (originally unfinished) whitewashed shelves I recently worked on, so here they are~

This is where our wasteful floor-to-ceiling corner fireplace used to be. Hubby and our 10 and 14 yo kids sledge-hammered it out this summer. It had leaked time and again where the chimney and roofline came together, and hubby faithfully kept repairing it over the thirteen years that we've lived here. Hubster and the kiddos also put down the laminate floor...all while I was in Tennessee! I came home to a nice surprise. Summer school money is nearly always used to buy one improvement for the house each summer, since we can pay cash as we go. We'd owned the laminate flooring for about a year before it got put in, (grin). Such are the home improvement projects in our old house :-). If you click and enlarge the photo, you'll notice that the wall needs to be sanded in a place or two, then I need to do the faux finish that is on the rest of the LR wall. Maybe that will get done over this Christmas break, along with replacing the base trim of all the walls in the room.

I spent the week of fall break last month whitewashing, sanding, and brushing on layers of poly-crylic to these. Hubby put them together as soon as I got them finished! Yeah! These contain mostly Americana, Nature books, bookbinding and restoration books, my Charlotte Mason and Edith Schaeffer books, some art and a Children's classic set (old Scribners set, illustrated by N.C. Wyeth). *All* of the furniture and goodies were found at thrift stores (even the computer armoire), other than the unfinished bookshelves. Most all the books are used, as well. Some free! Our twenty volume set of The Annals of America was only $10 total. Most of hubby's Library of America books were bargain, and some were free for his contribution of reveiwing some of them for the complany.

Two of my exhibit photos from Izamal, Yucatán are resting up against the doors. I have yet to decide which wall I'm going to put them up on. It's a matter of wall-space for bookshelves, or wall-space for photos, etc.

Do you see my big, furry Tigger in the lower left-hand corner? This is the largest room in our one-story cottage, but I love it. I am thankful for what we do have. Making better use of some of our vertical wall space helps us maximize the smaller rooms in the rest of the house.

Maybe I'll have this place totally organized and efficient by the time the kiddos graduate!
...I really do prefer organized (but warm and homey) efficiency. I confess, it does not come to me naturally. Decorating does, but keeping things organized...well...Those who know me very well know my struggle. But yes, I do INDEED prefer it, but have a ways to go...

I tend to be a messy worker whether it's writing and research, bookbinding or quilting. I tend to spread out a project and like to see all my resources visibly while I work. It's out of sight, out of mind, for me. If we had a workroom in the house, or workshop in the backyard, it would help, immensely!

14 November, 2005

Pride & Prejudice

This 'n that...a review in scenes of no particular order.

My best friend and I went to see this new version at our local independent film house last night. My kids were right! It was fantastic in so many ways. Be warned, spoilers ahead!

For starters, all the scenery is much more agrarian and realistic...in a most romantic sense. It contains an artistic feast for the senses! The first public dance scene in Meryton seems more like it takes place in a rural community, than perhaps other film versions. The people are very simply dressed, their hair is a little mussed-up and unkempt, as if they've been dancing all evening, and they don't appear to have on make-up...except you know that they must, for filming purposes. You can see freckles on many of the people, which is more realistic, I think.

I've seen the BBC, the A & E versions, the old, short, southern belle version, even the Wishbone version (haha). We own the A & E. This new version is really nice, and has some neat transitions and absolutely stunning cinematography; very artistic and beautiful. I loved it for it's freshness.

Missing characters: Darcy's party...only Bingley's single sister is depicted in this version. The storyline didn't dwell on the militia men, either. They were able to highlight other areas which I think are important to the story...such as the various scenes of family almost always spying and listening in on conversations at the doorways. I think the movie does a nice job of getting across the pride, vanity, and the prejudice of the main characters.

Wardrobe and makeup did a decent job of making Keira Knightly more plain. Really. She was almost too messy and plain. The actress who plays Jane (Rosamund Pike) is absolutely beautiful. Mr. Collins is funny, and not bad-looking in this verison. His lines, and the spirit of his character are intact. Can you tell that I like this version? I think it will stand on a lot of its own merits. I think some of the classic, quotable lines are delivered extremely well in this version, so that they are more understandable. Perhaps I am just more accustomed to the language of Austen than I used to be.

One of my favorite scenes from the BBC version that weren't in the A & E version does work itself into this version, which is a nice touch, I thought. I'm thinking of the scene where Lizzy receives the sad news from Jane about Lydia running off. Aunt & Uncle Gardiner and Darcy are all waiting anxiously for her to read and tell all. Darcy paces and sits, paces and sits, wishing he could do something, b/c Lizzy is crying so, and can't even speak. The wit and charm remain totally intact. There was a lot of laughter in the theater, and even some tears and sighs...but maybe that's because it was opening weekend, and in limited release.

Another artistically appealing scene: When Mrs. Bennet is chasing after Lizzy from their home after she has refused Mr. Collins' proposal, a gaggle of geese are in the lane between Lizzy and her mother. As the mother runs down the lane holding up her dress and petticoats, the geese run frantically from her. She looks rather like the geese, bellowing along behind them as they run to get out of her way!! Genius!

Enjoy the multiple scenes of the huge, and some gnarly, tree trunks...

The last three minutes are different from any other version, but I liked the ending. I thought it sweet. Some of you may disagree. The kiss was not a "hollywood-over-the-top-passionate and lengthy one. It was sweetness.

The music is peaceful, the scenery is gorgeous. Donald Southerland does a nice job as the father of the Bennet family, although not all of his classic funny lines from the book make it into the movie, b/c of time. Same with Mrs. Bennet. Southerland's last scene with Lizzy in his library was precious and moving! As was the long, adoring stare she casts toward Darcy as she closes the library door to confess all to her father.

A few other things that I really liked about this one...the director was able to capture the absurd and boisterous silliness of the girls and the mom, without having to drag it all out as is in the A & E version. Time constraints, again. At the same time, I believe that other emotions are easier to pick up on in this version. Charlotte is more indignant when she confronts Lizzy about Lizzy's harsh judgement of her engagement to Collins. Also, the physical changes in Darcy's character once he admits his true feelings to Elizabeth, is very noticeable. His whole body language is more relaxed and both postures that he exhibits in the film come across as believeable. In the BBC version, the Darcy character is almost too stiff for my liking. Of course, Colin Firth was fantastic in the A & E, but I want to see the Darcy character more relaxed after he admits his true feelings. I guess that's why I really liked the Darcy in this new version quite well! There is a scene where Bingley is practicing his proposal to Jane with Darcy. I think this scene makes Darcy softer and more believeable.

A couple of things that held more closely to the book in this version than the A & E version: When Lizzy is reading the letter of explanation from Darcy of her complaints against him, it is more as in the book: as she is reading it. In the A & E, we hear Darcy's voice narrating his explanation, pretty much as he is writing it. I read in an interview with Colin Firth that the director portrayed it thusly, so we can see more of the struggle of his inability to express his emotions outwardly. Second bit of artistic license taken in the A & E version that was not in the book, in order to present the physicality of the struggles with Darcy are the scenes of him bathing, billiards, fencing, and swimming.

Wickham is not developed much at all in this version, nor Lizzie's friendship with him. Some may not like this aspect. Also, I wish Mary's character had been developed better. I always feel sorry for her character in every movie version that I've seen. She is a bit prettier in this screen version, though.

Needless to say, this one is *really* worth seeing on the big screen. REALLY. You need to see those country folks' freckles and messy hair up close. You need to be able to feel dizzy when Lizzy is swinging and twisting round in her swing over the passage of the season. So don't be skeptical or afraid, and don't judge it too harshly, if you've not seen it. At least go to the matinee, if you must save a few bucks. There. I've said my peace...(grin).

Javamom, who is already re-reading the book again

13 November, 2005

Robert Louis Stevenson

Today is Robert Louis Stevenson's birthday. (1850-1894)

Some of his works are: The Child's Garden of Verses, Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped, The Black Arrow, The Master of Ballantrae, The New Arabian Nights, and others.

Some of our children have read all of the above books. I'm about to begin reading Kidnapped aloud with our younger two boys, in 5th and 7th grades. We'll do this for the benefit of our 10.5 yo, who is just now getting better at reading chapter books.

Oldest son and I were watching Masterpiece Theatre's version of Kidnapped (part 1) a couple of weeks ago. We forgot all about part two, and now I'm just hoping our local library orders it so we can check it out. Iasked around, but only one mom in our homeschool group even watched it, that I know of. I guess the others don't watch PBS. Or their kids are younger. My friend from our group who did watch it, did the same thing we did...forgot all about part two...[sigh]. Now we are both looking for a copy of part two!! So, if any of my readers recorded it and wouldn't mind sending it my way for about a week, I will gladly pay shipping :-).

12 November, 2005

What Herb are You?


What herb are you?

This is a short, but fun quiz ~ just passing a little time before settling down to grade Spanish tests and looking over lesson 11 for next Friday.

;-) Javamom

Hat tip: Tootle's Time

Pride & Prejudice

Our teens went with a group of friends to see the new release of Pride & Prejudice yesterday. Good for them, I am NOT bitter, hehe. I will just have to go see it with my own friends on Sunday afternoon. In our area, it is only out in select theaters this weekend. It is not until the 23rd that it will be in all theaters nationwide.

They say it was *fantastic.* My favorite movie critic, Gary Cogill says basically the same thing.

11 November, 2005

And most importantly...Veteran's Day

I remember Veteran's Day...in honor of all the Soldiers who have served and fought for our country. More specifically in my own life: Two of my brothers (Air Force), a Great-Uncle (Patton's Army), at least two cousins (Marines), and one--but soon to be two--of my nephews (both Army). Second nephew is joining their ranks, going on his first tour of Iraq on the Monday after Thanksgiving Day.

I remember...for them and their immediate families. I remember so that I can pass the history on to my children, so that they will honor the soldiers, and honor the causes...and honor the people and countries whom we have fought with, side-by-side, on whose behalf we have fought.


Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I don't know much of anything about Dostoyevsky. He is someone I want to read in my lifetime. I know that hubby worked his way through several of D's major works several summers ago. My niece, who lived in Estonia for 2 1/2 years is reading Dostoevsky now. One of her Russian or Estonian friends told her that (in their opinion) the David McDuff translations are the best Russian-to-English translations of Dostoyevsky that they have found. This gives me hope! Dh had said how difficult a time he had reading Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamozov a few years back. He thinks it was not a good translation.

You see, I had reading difficulties as a child in school (probably undiagnosed dyslexia), although I could spell impeccably by second grade! Reading was difficult for me, even up through high school. and I still have to push myself to settle down and focus. Letters, numbers, or even words sometimes come out of my mouth in a swapped jumble, even though my brain was thinking the right thing. But I do enjoy reading, when I can fit it in. Maybe having a better translation will encourage me to tackle it sooner, rather than later!

side note: I do believe that learning foreign languages de-mystified reading the longer and more difficult classic works (for me, anyway). I learned Spanish first, German second, then dabbled in Italian and Latin. Possibly it has to do with learning to "de-code" the phonemes and grammar of other languages. It certainly made my English Grammar better, so that I Clepped out of College English 1 and 2. Cool, eh?

These days, my primary reading relates to and centers around American Lit., as my coffeehouse readers would note. If I ever settle in to read Dostoyevsky, you all will be the first to know, and be the readers of my narrations and research, such as they are.

Happy Birthday, Fyodor! (I should ask my Russian linguist brother, or his daughter, Estonian resident for a time, whose goal is to become a Russian linguist someday) how to say Happy Birthday in Russian!!


“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” ~Dostoyevsky

Happy Birthday

Kurt Vonnegut has a birthday today. This is from my son's blog, b/c he has read and discussed many Vonnegut books with his Dad and some of his Worldviews Class friends. Vonnegut is definitely not for everyone...

Vonnegut (1922-)

"Today, my friends, is Kurt Vonnegut's birthday. In celebration (more or less) of this fact, is an essay paragraph concerning the intellectuality of his works. Kurt Vonnegut is the 20th century Mark Twain, a witty black (dark) humorist never without science fiction or social satire. From his first short stories to his latest essay collections (A Man Without A Country, 2005), his themes remain those of all Americans, specifically from 1950-1990: racism, humor, depression, insanity, morals, labor, religion, cigarettes, and family. He is a humanist (as well as a postmodernist and an absurdist) who is not in denial, perhaps, of the beauty of the world and the possibility of something more. He captures the struggle between the flesh and the spirit (Christian stuff) in his novel, Bluebeard: "My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps right on doing bad, dumb things." He touches on man's intellectual dilemma in Cat's Cradle: "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand." Over all, he seems the kind of man that may be dying off, the one that knows tolerance is not a perfect ideal, but who scathingly criticises while keeping in mind the concept of respect for others. As many of the back covers of his books would say, he's a moralist with a whoopee cushion, a satirist with a heart; but more than that, he's a master of irony who just might be begging the question of what it means to be alive.

Thus, I heavily recommend his works; namely Player Piano, Cat's Cradle, Hocus Pocus, and Bagombo Snuff Box. Happy birthday, Mr. Vonnegut. I certainly wonder what the 21st century "Mark Twain" will look like. These are two of my favorite Vonnegut quotes of all time: "Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules -- and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress." "Sometimes I think it is a great mistake to have matter that can think and feel. It complains so. By the same token, though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic."
~ jonathan.

It is also Fyodor Dostoyevski's B-day, as well...more on him later!


09 November, 2005

Spanish classes

My Jr. High Spanish kids have been writing up Restaurant scenarios. I am very happy with their efforts and creativity. We have two teams. Each team has added in bits of their own humorous lines into a basic structure and scene that I prepared for them ahead of time. Team A performed their skit last week, Team B is up this Friday. When we're all finished, we will celebrate by eating Flan! My assistant and I will have ours with cafe con leche :-).

In Spanish I, my nine students are taking their Unit 2 test this week. I'll give the oral comprehension section aloud in class Friday, then take them home to grade. It's almost time for end of semester grade averaging and progress reports. I am more caught up and prepared for it, than I was at mid-semester! The curriculum is a little hard to follow sometimes, and directions are unclear. It's almost as if the program was written in Spanish, or the directions for the actividades were thought up by a native speaker, because something gets lost in the translation or phraseology in English! Once I figure out what was expected, or decide how many points to give to an unclear section, then my assistant and I can grade fairly well. Sometimes, the section directions are very unclear, so we don't count off at all. We have less than one hour to grade during our grading period on Fridays, so we have to stay focused.

Those who are wondering which program we're using for Spanish I so you can be warned: We are using Spanish is Fun by Amsco publishing.
Understand that each curriculum has its weaknesses, I've simply shared a couple of them here. There probably is no perfect curriculum, although I'd love to find the one that is close. For my Jr. High class, I bought, and am reviewing El Español Fácil-The Easy Spanish. I'll write more about it when I've had a chance to really try it out on the kids.

07 November, 2005

Emily Dickinson

We have been reading a couple of poems each from Whittier, Holmes, Longfellow, Lowell, and Dickinson this past week. The high school kiddos will find examples of Romanticism in each poem.

I added this one to the list, because it is one of my favorite Dickinson poems. Well, of those that I've read. She DID write about 1700 poems, and I've not quite read all of them (grin).


HE ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

~Emily Dickinson

Will Rogers

Funny quote by a fellow Okie, Will Rogers. His birthday was Friday, Nov. 4th...the same day as my Dad, another great Okie. Except my Dad is only 69.

"See what will happen if you don't stop biting your fingernails?"
Will Rogers, to his niece on seeing the Venus de Milo
US humorist & showman (1879 - 1935)

05 November, 2005

More on Bryant

I'm attempting once again to repost one of the editorials written by Bryant in 1839, for Sherry and others who may be chomping at the bit to read it. This editorial by Bryant originally appeared in the New York Evening Post, Jan. 11, 1839. Bryant was the literary editor of the NY Eve. Post and worked with the Post for 50 years. I know the context of this is referencing America's [lack of] national literatutre, but similar thoughts were shared along a broader scale, fifty years after Bryant's essay. The following one by Henry Cabot Lodge briefly includes art, architecture, and fashion in his discussion, with and even stronger statement against Colonialism in politics and it's lingering effect in literary circles. It is called "Colonialism in the United States" by Henry Cabot Lodge. Read both and see what you think. I am stoked by the connections I am learning along the way. It's very interesting that even now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we have been plagued yet again by the thoughts of "What does Europe Think?"

Now, to be fair, I have been blessed to enjoy Europe multiple times over the last twenty years, but hey, I still prefer my homeland. Only in Europe (Italy this last time) will the waiter snub you if you think his capuccino is far too expensive in St. Mark's Square and calmly assert to him, "No thank you!" When you realize what other food you could buy with $8.40 European dollars, it's pretty easy to state your thoughts. Heck, you can buy a whole large package of Italian espresso (maybe two!) to take home and enjoy multiple cups of Java with foam later...on your OWN linen tablecloth. $8.40, simply because famous people throughout history have supped or taken afternoon coffee there. Normally, I like to blend in to the country I'm visiting, speak the language as much as possible, be a quiet visitor, instead of the steriotypical "obnoxious, loud American" (and I have seen those, while traveling) But, $8.40 for one small cup off capuccino???? That is where I draw the line! hrrrmmmppphhhh!

Now, on to the Bryant editorial from 1839...

vocabulary: animadversion - hypercriticism, judgement, hairsplitting

"Sentsitiveness to Foreign Opinion"

Cooper's last work, "Home as Found," has been fiercely attacked, in more than one quarter, for its supposed tendency to convey to the people of other countries a bad idea of our national character. Without staying to examine whether all Mr. Cooper's animadversions on American Manners are perfectly just, we seize the occasion to protest against this excessive sensibility to the opinion of other nations. It is no matter what they think of us. We constitute a community large enough to form a great moral tribunal for the trial of any question which may arise among ourselves. There is no occasion for this perpetual appeal to the opinions of Europe. We are competent to apply the rules of right and wrong boldly and firmly, without asking in what light the superior judgement of the Old World may regard our decisions.

It has been said of Americans that they are vainglorious, boastful, fond of talking of the greatness and the advantages of their country, and of the excellence of their national character. They have this foible in common with other nations; but they have another habit which shows that, with all their national vanity, they are not so confident of their own greatness, or of their own capacity to estimate it properly, as their boasts would imply. They are perpetually asking, What do they think of us in Europe? How are we regarded abroad? If a foreigner publishes an account of his travels in this country, we are instantly on the alert to know what notion of our character he has communicated to his countrymen; if an American author publishes a book, we are eager to know how it is received abroad, that we may know how to judge it ourselves. So far has this humor been carried that we have seen an extract, from a third- or fourth-rate critical work in England, condemning some American work, copied into all our newspapers one after another, as if it determined the character of the work beyond appeal or question.

For our part, we admire and honor a fearless accuser of the faults of so thin-skinned a nation as ours, always supposing him to be sincere and well-intentioned. He may be certain that where he has sowed animadversion he will reap an abundant harvest of censure and obloquy. He will have one consolation, however, that if his book be written with ability it will be read; that the attacks which are made upon it will draw it to the public attention; and that it may thus do good even to those who recalcitrate most violently against it.

If every man who writes a book, instead of asking himself the question what good it will do at home, were first held to inquire what notions it conveys of Americans to persons abroad, we should pull the sinews out of our literature. There is much want of free-speaking as things stand at present, but this rule will abolish it altogether. It is bad enough to stand in fear of public opinion at home, but, if we are to superadd the fear of public opinion abroad, we submit to a double despotism. Great reformers, preachers of righteousness, eminent satirists in different ages of the world--did they, before entering on the work they were appointed to do, ask what other nations might think of their countrymen if they gave utterance to the voice of salutary reproof?

03 November, 2005

William Cullen Bryant

Today in history marks the birthdate of William Cullen Bryant, one of our American Fireside Poets. I had a great post all typed up, with links to some of his most popular poems, such as "Thanatopsis" and "To a Waterfowl." Then, I typed up some stunning sections from an essay he wrote called "Sensitiveness to Foreign opinion," which could also be renamed "Don't worry about what Europe thinks." But alas, Blogger lost the whole post! ACK!!!

So, Happy Birthday, Mr. Bryant...

The the ink impression is of Bryant in his library at Cedarmere from my book Homes and Haunts of our Elder Poets, D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1881.

Good day, all.

One Year Blogging

Happy Anniversary to the Books-n-coffee house. I've had this home on the web for one year, today! It is the chapter in my life that began after a mid-life crisis of sorts...the first of our children becoming a more assertive teen-ager.

My wish for you all today is that you take some time for a cup of Java (or tea, if you prefer it) and kick your feet up with a good book, poem, or essay...enjoy God's blessings in your life.

With His Love,

"Growth is the only evidence of Life." ~Cardinal Newman

Do you agree or disagree?

02 November, 2005

Romanticism: New England

All this reading about the New England Renaissance recently had me dreaming (a couple of nights ago) about our old house where we lived in Belmont, between Concord and Cambridge...near Boston, in early marriage. I dream't that my boss (now much grayer than he used to be) asked me to come back to work at his office part-time, and he also became our landlord at our old house. It was so real, I almost believed it as I awoke slowly to autumn's crisp air wafting in through our window.

The temperature outside is the same as when we first moved up there. I am more of a romantic, and remember those times fondly. I wish we could afford to live there as a family! I'd take the kids to Walden Pond all the time and take classes at Orchard (Alcott) House or visit (one of) Thoreau's Houses...

Visit this informative page: A Concord Chronology, 1820-1890, to see just a few reasons why we loved living literally just down the road from Concord. We rode our bicycles there and to Lexington often, for sight seeing, visiting the old graveyards, or for coffee or ice cream.

Ah, to dream and remember! I already warned hubby that it is time to take the kids there to visit our old haunts and meet our old bosses and neighbors...see if Andros Diner (best Greek food) is still a couple of short blocks away from our old place. I just checked...Oh my, oh *MY.* Andros Diner IS still there!