TBR List Declutter, Issue 50

Tangent: Gettysburg Address

“‘But in a larger sense,'” I read, “‘we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.'”

In our history studies we’d gotten back around to the Gettysburg Address.

“‘The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.'”

My children had gotten used to me blubbering through the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, but the lull in between tricked them into thinking I’d learned to control my emotions better.

“‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'” I made it through that sentence, barely, but I had to stop to compose myself before I could continue.

“‘It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here—‘”

“Mom, stop.” My son was using the Mom Voice on me, sternly telling me to stop so that I wouldn’t cry.

“No,” I said. “I’m okay. I’m not sad. I’m just full of emotion.”

He went across the room and got me a tissue. Then he let me continue.

“‘…to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.””

I interrupted myself this time.

“What do you think he means here?” I asked, wiping at my eyes.

“That they need to continue the war because the work hasn’t been finished yet,” my son said.

“True. That’s probably one thing he meant. But I think there might be more to it than just continuing to fight the war. What was the war trying to do?”

He thought for a bit. “Stop slavery?”

“Yes, it was to stop slavery, and to keep the country together without slavery. He says, ‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.’ Did the world forget what he said at Gettysburg that day?”

“No.”

“No, because if it did, you wouldn’t be learning about it now,” I smiled at him, and he smiled back.

“Maybe Abraham Lincoln wasn’t talking just to the people in front of him. Whether he knew he was or not, maybe he was talking to all of us, even those of us who wouldn’t be born for another century. Maybe he was reminding us that the work to uphold the ideals that the United States was founded upon continues on and on. We don’t have slavery today, not the way it was in 1860, but you can’t just end slavery and say, ‘Well. Glad that’s over,’ and expect things to be all better. There’s still inequality, there are still people suffering because of the ripples from slavery.”

“You mean the Civil Rights Movement,” he said with confidence.

“Yes, the Civil Rights Movement, and even more work that we’re still doing even today. It’s still not done. Even the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t live up to the words they wrote, but they gave us a framework that they hoped would create a better kind of government, one that would allow us to build a country where we could always get closer to that ideal. We never quite get it right, at least not completely. The best we can do is work towards what we hope we can be.”

“Okay,” he said. He’s eight years old and had had about all the lecturing he could sit through.

“Okay,” I said. “Just one more thing. Lincoln says what we need to work for to honor those who died at Gettysburg. Listen: ‘We here highly resolve…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'”

And then he ran off to play. As an eight-year-old should.

Visual Interest:

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-28,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 711-730:

Read More

Junior Philosopher

cimg5128The past several lunchtimes, my kids and I have been listening to Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates, with varying levels of attention. Today, my son and I had this conversation:

son: “Are both Socrates and Plato philosophers?”

me: “Yes. They are both lovers of wisdom.”

son: “I’m a lover of wisdom.”

me: “Then maybe you’re a philosopher.”

son: “But I don’t even know how to be a philosopher.”

me: “All you need to do to be a philosopher is to love wisdom and seek wisdom.”

son: “Okay.”

I might need brush up on my Socratic dialogue skills now that I have a seven-year-old philosopher in the house.

Raising Readers: Selecting Books

A week or so ago, I wrote about how my spouse and I accidentally created a Reading Culture at our house, and then accidentally inculcated our children into it.

Today, I wanted to write about how our kids get books into their hands. Do they read just what they’re assigned to read by parents and teachers, or do they read only what they pick for themselves? Do my spouse and I limit what they are allowed to read, or do we let them  read whatever printed materials they get their hands on?

In our house, the short answer to both questions is: It’s something in between. Read More

Raising Readers: Reading Culture

I was sitting and reading one afternoon last fall when the cat got up from my lap and, wakened from the world of the novel on my lap, I realized that the house was very quiet. So, I decided to check on the kids. I looked in on them in the room we’ve dubbed “The Library,” and both of my  children were sitting on the couch, reading silently to themselves. They looked up at me and smiled and then looked back at their books.

“Holy cow!” I thought. “Finally, we can all read as a family!” Smiling, I went back to my book and my couch in the other room.

Friends have asked me how we got to this point. How did we get our kids to love reading? How do we get them to choose reading over screens and devices? In a recent post, Cheyanne of Tangerine Wallpaper posited some related questions, and I figured the topic of reading was worth a blog post (or two).

Really, we didn’t set out to make our kids into readers, but when I look at our house, I realize that we have developed something of a reading culture in our house, and even though we didn’t develop this reading culture for the purpose of promoting a love of reading in our kids, I think it contributes to the reading habits my kids have developed. Here’s what our reading culture looks like: Read More

Fruit Punctuation

This morning while I was peeling and chopping and tossing things into the slow cooker, my six-year-old told me about something in a book he was reading.

“It says ‘Anakin’ and then it has those big bananas,” he explained.

“Big bananas?” I asked, clearing onion skins into the compost bucket.

“Yes. You know, those big word bananas that explain what things are.”

I turned and looked directly at him. “Big…word bananas?”

“They’re like giant commas around words.”

“Oh! You mean parentheses?”

A cloud of deep thought crossed his face and then cleared into a smile of recognition.

“Yes!” he said. “Parentheses!”

Big word bananas. Okay.

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To Drink Deeply

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

-from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Over breakfast, the kids and I decided that we’d do our lessons, eat a quick lunch, and then arrive at the wildlife sanctuary early so we could take a hike and enjoy the weirdly warm December weather before our nature class.

We worked well and ate lunch quickly, but by the time we were on the road, we’d somehow lost most of the extra time we’d figured in. We discussed it on the way and decided that if we didn’t mind being a few minutes late for class (which we didn’t), we’d still have time for a quick hike.

We pulled into the parking lot with twenty minutes to spare. Perfect! We jumped out of the car, ran to the office to check in and let them know we might be a smidge late, and then hit the bathroom.

By the time we were at the trailhead, it was five minutes until class.

How the heck had we lost fifteen minutes? Read More

Studying Ancient Egypt

To complement our study of ancient Egypt, we built a pyramid.

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In order to be as authentic as possible, each of these LEGO bricks weighs three tons. Next we need to mummify a minifigure.

Mothering Monarchs

Wednesday before last, I went out to check the mail and discovered a Priority Mail package from Pennsylvania.

It held the ten swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plants and one dozen live monarch caterpillars (and two that hadn’t made the journey) I’d ordered the week before Read More

Pandora’s Homeschool

“Mom, did you say eighty thousand people died in one moment?” asked my daughter.

This afternoon, my children and I sat under the Tree of Knowledge, and they accepted with trust the apple I offered them: I read to them about how our country dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all of the people living in those cities.

“Mom, have they ever dropped atomic bombs on any other country?” my daughter asked.

“No, not in war. Not except for tests,” I said.

“Good. Because that was an awful thing to do.”

Before I started today’s lesson, their world-view didn’t include atomic weapons used to intentionally annihilate two cities and hundreds of thousands of human lives. This knowledge has shifted their perception of the world.

“Mom, I can’t wait until we learn about the Ancients again because even though they did lots of bad things to people, they couldn’t kill nearly so many people at once as people can in modern times.”

And because we homeschool, I’m the one who gets to tell them about Stalin’s purges and the Holocaust and atomic weapons. It’s a mixed blessing. I’m glad they’re hearing these things from me and that I get to be there to see them process the information, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity to look more deeply into these issues myself, but it’s difficult to tell them about these things. It’s difficult enough just to confront them myself.

Maybe I’m less like Eve and more like Pandora. With each lesson, I open the box a little more and let out into their world one more evil. And now I’m wondering, do I leave Hope inside the box? Or do I let it fly free and trust that it can hold its own out in the world and—even more—in the hearts of my children?

The Starry Afternoon: An Artistic Victory

My kids love crafts, but for the past couple of years, my eight-year-old has been very resistant to anything labeled “art,” especially drawing. I think it has to do with perfectionism. No idea where she got that.

My efforts to get her on speaking terms with the world of art have only increased her resistance, which left me feeling awful. But I didn’t despair and have continued to look for programs that might bring the joy of art back to my girl.

Recently I discovered a series of free online art lessons by Sharon Jeffus called Art Through the Year.

The program and the projects looked fun and different from the other things we’d tried, so the kids and I gave it a whirl.

Each lesson consists of a ~30-minute video about a certain period in art history, or a certain technique, with printable instructions for projects that go along with the lesson.

The topic for Lesson 1 was “Post-Impressionism and Line.” Jeffus showed and talked about paintings by Cézanne, Seurat, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, and we learned about pointillism, line, and techniques for using oil pastels.

My four-year-old son's lion (his sister did the one on the right).

My four-year-old son’s lion (his sister did the one on the right).

There were two projects for this lesson, a lion drawn with lines and our own mixed-media rendition of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

My eight-year-old daughter's lions.

My eight-year-old daughter’s lions.

My children liked the lesson, and they loved the projects.

My lions.

My lions (I’m thirty-seven, since I told the kids’ ages).

I think it helped that the lesson was a video—my kids are so video-deprived, they’re happy to watch anything on a screen, but I was impressed with the quality of this video, especially since it was free. Jeffus used some different pronunciations for Seurat and Cézanne than I’ve heard before, but since I embarrassed myself by saying “facade” with a hard “C” more than 20 years ago, I don’t feel confident about the pronunciation of any French-derived words anymore. I knew who she was talking about, so no biggie.

My son's Starry Night.

My son’s Starry Night.

The pacing of the video was good for us, and I liked that Jeffus left a spot after she described the first project for the kids and me to pause the video and do that project before watching the explanation for the next.

While doing the projects, my kids didn’t lose their cool, they didn’t hit each other, and they worked on their projects for longer than I expected, given their prior irritability around any directed art projects. Our thirteen-year-old neighbor came over and did the Starry Night project with us, but she left before I had a chance to photograph her picture.

Top: Van Gogh's Starry Night. Bottom left: My daughter's. Bottom right: mine.

Top: Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Bottom left: My daughter’s Starry Night. Bottom right: my Starry Night.

We didn’t produce any amazing works of art, but we all had a blast, which is all I was hoping for.

My daughter’s review: “I hated art before because then I felt like I had to do something exact, but this art class has you do something general. I like art now.”

Both kids can’t wait for Lesson 2, “Shape & Shading with Pumpkins”!