The Arts

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel guilty for pausing in the day from work? We know there is the Sabbath, but do we actually partake? I’m not talking about the Sunday-strict-by-the-law sort, but an actual rest from work. I just know that I tend to go from project to project and get frustrated when I’m behind or when life interrupts me. But life is living and breathing around me and it will interrupt in the form of phone calls and kids falling and a books wanting to be read and music needing to be listened to. Ever wonder why the pull is so strong to stop and give in to the interruptions? Now I’m not saying we do it responsibly…I’ve had my fair share of anger at not accomplishing what I’d intended to, unintended towards little ones.

Today I had a mission to finish our bunk bed-rearrange-the-whole-house-in-the-process project. If I could just get to the hardware store, pick up a few items I would be back on track and ready to work. But my umpah left me. I did get to the store. I kinda started to put up some shelves. A gate got put up. And the regular maintenance of cooking, laundry, dishes stayed afloat. But I couldn’t find my rhythm. I just kept feeling pulled to listen to music, to sit with the littles and read stories, to just sit in a chair and stair at the one shelf of reorganized books and say, “It is good!” I started to feel guilty about the day slipping by and my work being pushed aside. That is, until I read this:

Olivier Messiaen was 31 years old and a French composer when he was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

Olivier was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose his music. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote a quartet with these specific players in mind. His composition was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp.

Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire and his Quartet for the End of Time is considered one of the most profound musical compositions of all time.

Why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music in a concentration camp? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music?

And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art.

Why?

Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life.

The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art.

Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are.

Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive…”

~An address given by Karl Paulnack

Thank you, Ann, for yet again inspiring me just when I needed it. And I emphatically add that you MUST go read the whole article (just click Karl’s link above)!!! And then I would add this quote from him:

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we cannot with our minds.

Oh how much better I felt. And tonight I will let the lost alphabet puzzle pieces lie where they might, which is NOT in the puzzle board! And I will leave the miscellaneous shelf pieces on the kitchen table and I will drink a cup of tea with my husband and then listen to really good music from here: Enjoying the Small Things.

And to end the night on, another poem rising from the ashes of a concentration camp by our beloved Bonhoeffer in preparation for Lent, when we might be tempted more then other times to give up the Arts!

I Cannot Do This Alone

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised
.

– a poem included in Devotions for Lent, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Homeschool Freebies

Just wanted to let you know about a wonderful site that I visit weekly called Homeschool Freebie of the Day! When you subscribe they send you one email each Monday with that week’s lineup of free things you can download to your computer. It is an eclectic, wonderful mix of things ranging from old children’s picture books now out of print and unavailable, to nature studies, to history audio stories, to phonics primers, and everything in between! Some weeks I end up downloading almost all available and other weeks am not really interested in what they’re offering. But it is nice to be contacted by people who are taking the time to get homeschooling resources into mother’s hands for free. I would encourage you all to visit and partake. You have one week to get what they have available and then it is gone.

Click here to visit the site: Homeschool Freebie of the Day and have some fun today!

Today’s prime choices:

Wholesome Comic Books for Children

The Adventures of PETER WHEAT! (Two PDF comic books) – Okay, get ready for something completely different! Today we want to introduce you to PETER WHEAT and the folk of the wheat field, beautifully drawn by the great Walt Kelly (creator of “Pogo”). These little known comics were originally published in 1950 as giveaways for local “Peter Wheat” bakeries. Though long “lost” and out of print, these contain some wonderfully exciting and fun adventures, and Kelly’s marvelous artwork make them especially attractive to young readers.

We’ve got two rollicking good stories for you today: In “Bitsy and the Beanstalk”, Peter’s little friend Bitsy has been hoodwinked by a sly fox… but brings home some magic beans that lead him straight to giant land. In “The River Adventure”, Peter and Sammy Sweet must ford the river to deliver flour to the bakers, but a hungry otter tries to make them his lunch!

Give these a chance and see what your kids think of these – we think they are going to become instant Peter Wheat fans! They are great for read alouds and for reading practice too.

A Living Book on Grammar. Did you think it had to be all text book? Think again! Charlotte Mason would be proud!

Grammar Land: Or Grammar In Fun for the Children of Schoolroom-Shire, by M. L. Nesbitt (PDF ebook) – Back by popular demand — A classic story book that makes learning grammar a delight! “What is Grammar Land? Where is Grammar Land? Have you ever been to Grammar Land? Wait a minute and you shall hear…” In this classic read aloud book, published way back in 1878, author Nesbitt creates an amazing fantasy land not unlike “Alice In Wonderland”, where the citizens are the nine parts of speech (Mr. Proper Noun, Dr. Verb, Little Article, etc.) and all are governed by the stern but wise old Judge Grammar. It’s a fun, fascinating way to learn some of the basic grammar rules all the while carried along by the very memorable characters and a wild adventure to boot. Highly recommended!

Here’s what one of our readers recently posted about this book:

I had downloaded this book and completely forgot about it until 2 days ago. I started reading it aloud to my boys and they were completely into it. My boys are very wiggly and they usually have to have something in their hands to occupy their physical while their mental is focused on what I am reading. They were completely still…following along on the computer screen. It was one of those awesome moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Thank you for finding and sharing something that is so fun and educational at the same time. What a fun way to learn parts of speech. I’ve a feeling this story will stick with them for a while. The resources you list through the week are wonderful.

Seeking Him First

This past week has been a weekend of growth in seeking Him first. Jesus is teaching me how to follow Deuteronomy 6 – talking to my children when they rise, along the way in the day, when they lie at night. If you are anything like me, we somehow think this needs to be a more formal thing. But I am quickly discovering, as with all of the heavy spiritual stuff, it is actually in the mundane of life.

Gabe has been struggling with the concept of miracles. I have been struggling with obeying the prompting of a new schedule. And the Lord brought us together beautifully like a perfectly played chord. As I sat with the kids (completely tired and not wanting to) and opened our Children’s Bible, we read the story of Jesus asking his disciples to cast their nets. As I am reading I feel prompted by the Spirit to talk about why he would do this. Why fish? Why something so ordinary? Why this time of day? Suddenly I remembered all Gabe’s statements about miracles only being back then and not now. As Peter says (my paraphrase), “Why now Lord when there are no fish? But yet I will do as you command.” It strikes me that he is obeying and being blessed with the ordinary in life. We somehow think that God works in the extraordinary yet we always find Him in the ordinary doing the extraordinary.

I thought of our summer filled with job loss. I thought on the myriad of ways God took care of us and provided in little ways – ways that could be construed by some as coincidental but when put together in number and order and perfect planning turn into quite the miracles! This I explained to Gabe. The ordinary fish suddenly made sense. And it began to grow in his heart that miracles are not filled with bangs and fireworks (unless they’re babies being born, of course!) but with small details attended to by a very BIG God!

Later in the morning as we are searching and searching and searching for 2 library books gone AWOL, when everyone is in tears and frustrated and angry, when our basement is piled high with couch cushions and couch crumbs blanket the floor, when toys are dumped out to find overlooked hiding spots, when under beds are emptied and the bedroom can’t be walked through due to the sheer amount of stuff piled in the middle, only then do I feel that tiny prick in my heart. I stop to hear the still small voice. And I hear,

“Why are you trying so hard? I am right here…right in the midst of this too. You can come to me, even now. I can show them that I AM even in this minor irritation. Can you show them how to look for me right now?”

So I gather everyone around and we pray. We pray our eyes and minds will be opened to new spots. It was not a fancy prayer. It was not a long prayer. It did not “sound” like a spiritual prayer. Yet ten minutes later, after we had spent over 6 hours looking, the books fell into our laps. The kids eyes were bugging out of their head. They remembered our morning reading about miracles in the ordinary. They remembered our many talks on God not answering prayer right away. And Gabe, in awe, whispered that he’d never have to wonder about miracles again. God really does answer prayer! Oh how my heart praised! For it had nothing to do with library books at all, but everything to do with a parent being there talking, listening, and pointing to the Savior that we want our children to drink from. For this I am thankful!

88) Prayers answered no matter how trivial they seem.

89) Little hearts open to HIM who fills.

90) The Golden Guide Children’s Bible that knows a child can handle the big language of the Word, not the dumbed-down wording of most children’s bible stories.

91) For music that feeds the soul.

92) For acts of charity that seem to stretch us and demand more then we are able to give.

93) For Doxology’s and Ancient Hymns.

94) For trash out before I’m bleared-eyed in the morning.

95) For a little girl who says “pppooookkkeeeyyy” (translated spooky) with the finger wriggling to go with.

96) For the Morning Dew that can take us through a day when all looks parched.

97) A husband who suggests videos that grow us together.

98) The weight of deep sleep against my arms.

99) For recycled paper and ideas that turn the ordinary into exactly what I need.

100) For audio books that fill little ears with unabridged beautiful language.

101) The bird I heard chirping amidst the snow signaling the first sign of spring’s return.

102) Crunchy vegetables to satisfy cravings as the comforted heaviness of winter’s food wanes.

103) Monks who are teaching me how to lay down my life.

104) Spontaneous questions that can only come with having a whole day in front of us with no outside commitments.

105) Mismatched, eclectic musical styles – the real, the Holy, the self-focused, the deeply moving, the crazy dancing jigs – because I can’t figure out how to organize my itunes.

106) Long winded words of females I respect and trust who make me pause and reconsider and who lead me to new, longer winded words that knock the breath out of me.

107) My baby who is suckling and not sleeping like she’s suppose to be.

108) Reflections of birth stories and journaling and speaking with purpose.

109) HIS hand right in front of my face – a centimeter away – and, Yes!, I can feel it.

110) A pouring out of love at 1ish in the morning.

111) Little girls who wake up dry.

112) A boy who wrote his very first letter.

113) And who spelled his very first word on my fridge.

114) Space museum, Zoo, and Forest playdates to look forward to.

115) A big brother who read a bedtime story to an eager little sister.

116) A big sister who delights in playing with the baby while mommy is working.

117) Ice in water quenching my parched throat.

118) No runny noses or meds to dole out.

119) Getting the bills done in one sitting of the baby’s nap.

120) Being credit card debt free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

121) Owing nothing to the hospital.

122) Still being delighted by snow crystals on the window pane.

123) Waking up to sunshine instead of darkness.

124) My handmade rose curtains that still delight me to look through.

holy experience

Dearest Adam…

I was sitting here typing out a draft of my blog for tomorrow…hoping to save time. While I was thinking I was perusing and catching up on blogs I haven’t read in a while. And I came across a link which led me to this I’m going to share. And I read it while listening to David Crowder Band’s “Doxology” and Blue October’s “Drop” and my breath was taken away and I remembered our video shared together and I cried and I remembered the orange flower and I thought of our children. Just read and you will understand.

Nella Cordelia’s Birth Story

I love you!

~Amy

The Learning Room

February 8-19

I’m glad I now write down what it is that we actually do during the week. Since we’ve been sick I’ve not been very motivated to “do school” everyday and we have just done a little here and a little there formally and a lot of child-led interests informally as prompted. But writing it down today – even if it pans two weeks instead of one – let’s me know that we did just fine and that I really don’t have to stress about getting it all squeezed in!

History

  • Finally finished Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag.
  • Read A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution.
  • Practiced memorizing the 13 colonies by singing them to the tune of Yankee Doodle (and Lily was pretty proud that she actually memorized the words to Yankee Doodle as well!).
  • Made Colonial Paper Dolls including: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Washington, a Redcoat, a Patriot, Betsy Ross, and a colonial boy.
  • Read IF You: Lived in Colonial Times (kids thought there were some pretty weird things people did – a very kid-friendly book).
  • Narrations of the colonial times.

Math

  • Gabe – finished chapter 15 practice pages and test, watched video 16, did practice page 16A (multiplying by 8)
  • Lily – watched video 21, did practice pages 21A & B (finding the missing sum); worked on abacus
  • Luc – working on counting (and I mean counting EVERYTHING!); counting puzzle

Language Arts

  • Latin ~ Gabe learned new words non, ad; reviewed flashcards
  • Literature ~ Read more chapters from Pippi Longstocking and Return to the Hundred Acre WoodsAudio ~ started listening to Artemis Fowl
  • Grammar ~ Gabe ~ worked on alphabetizing and synonyms, practiced using a thesaurus; Lily ~ learned about the question mark and practiced reading and writing sentences with question marks
  • Penmanship ~ Gabe ~ cursive X; Lily ~ capital and lowercase E, F, G
  • Phonics ~ Lily ~ has really taken off with practicing reading on her own with all kinds of books around the house and is more interested in trying to read to the little ones. Luc ~ has blossomed in ways that I didn’t see coming. All of the sudden he is putting the letter sounds he hears together and asking what words spelled. The other day he spelled cat for me after figuring it out in his head. He will be reading before we know it! Delilah ~ has still wanted to watch Letter Factory every day and we have added in Talking Words Factory to supplement her learning and Luc’s desire to spell and make words. Both Luc and Lilah received an alphabet puzzle and that has been the highlight of their week. Luc is using it to spell words and Lilah is using it to practice letter sounds.

Science

  • Everything Dinosaurs ~ Watched all three Jurassic Park movies. (That’s educational right? I must say I actually knew what every single dinosaur was called this time! And it did inspire me to reread the books again.) Then watched the Nova special The Real Jurassic Park, which Lily kept informing us was boring but Luc wouldn’t let us turn it off.
  • Listened to my new mix of Science songs (kids favorites: Electricity, The Elements, The Sun song, and the Friction song – all of which I’ve heard them humming around the house while playing!).
  • Gabe – played Snap Circuits electricity set.
  • Gabe – made pretend snot and discovered what mucus is used for in the body with his Disgusting Science Kit.

Art

Socializing and Friends

While I constantly hear from family and friends about their well-meaning concerns over the socialization of my kids in what their imaginations must picture – my kids sulking in a quiet house with no outlet for their true passions – I just have to laugh on weeks like this.  After two weeks of being sick, we were finally able to get out of the house this week. We did do some schooling…mainly out of books that are overdue back to the library and a bit of math, but mostly spent the week socializing.

  • Monday ~ Took kids out for a day of shopping where they got to jump on bunk beds and talk the sales lady’s ear off about spelling bees, dinosaurs, and how to spell supercalafragilisticexpealadocious; type on notepads and ask a million questions about computers in the Electronics department; and eat at a restaurant while getting to practice table manners.
  • Tuesday ~ Partook in a Homeschool Coop Valentine’s Day Party full of Chicken Parmesan in red sauce with pasta for dinner, chocolate brownies for desert, exchanging Valentine’s cards, and party favors with home-made white chocolate heart lollipops for the kids. All in all – a big, gooey, chaotic happy mess!
  • Wednesday ~ Spent morning at 2nd Cup (bible class for me; socializing, phys ed and playtime for kids with friends). We came home and cleaned up the house so that we could entertain friends who are moving for dinner. Adam got to cook and Lily, Luc, and Delilah ran around with their friends and played dress-up and dinosaurs all night while Gabe got to go to Pop’s church where he visited more of his friends.
  • Thursday ~ Aunt Becky and Uncle Chuck came over for homemade pizza and got to visit with the kids.
  • Saturday (tomorrow) ~ Will be going to the library and returning a mountain of overdue books (due to being sick last week). The kids will get to play with others in the children’s section with puzzles and the puppet theater.
  • Sunday ~ We will go to church and attend Sunday School where the kids will get to participate in worship then spend class time with peers learning and crafting together.

I must say that next week  I  look forward to slowing down and being a bit of a homebody. I am tired from all the running around and socialing!