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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful

This Thanksgiving morning was our third year to take a morning hike across a nature trail close to my sister's house. We (our family, my parents, my sister's family, and my aunt and uncle) parked on one side of the park, walked about a mile through the woods to my sister's, enjoyed a lovely brunch, and then walked back through the prairie to our cars. Actually, this was the first year that Jen hosted the amazing brunch but after we all ate her amazing French Toast casserole, braided pastry, and egg casserole, I'm pretty sure it is now a Thanksgiving tradition! The weather was perfect for Thanksgiving: crisp and sunny.

We are so blessed to have all of us (on my side of the family) together for Thanksgiving. Mr. Edwards and my brother-in-law work odd hours, so over the years they haven't both always been with us for holidays.

We bustled about cooking for the main event and Toby waited patiently most of the time. Finally, after disobeying and attempting to take a drink from his cup before anyone was served (the table was off limits to the kids at this point), he was forced to sit on the couch. That was it for him. After all that walking this morning, he was ready for a nap. He slept through the meal and as we were clearing away dishes, he woke up happy and wandered in to find Grandma eager to give him a plate of food!

Mr. Edwards and I are especially thankful that we get to enjoy our day with his parents and my parents. Although we will gather separately with Edwards relatives Saturday, it is so wonderful that they join us at my parents' on Thanksgiving day, too. We are very blessed to have both sets of parents living in our town. This is so unusual with most families scattered to the four winds, and we are very thankful! It is also a special blessing to our family that my aunt and uncle visit from out of town. They join us for birthdays and holidays and it isn't the same if they aren't with us!

After we returned home from Grandma and Grandpa's house (it's a short drive from their house to ours--two blocks, no turns!), the kids cleaned up and got into jammies. I walked into the living room to find Mr. Edwards reading to our four beloved children. When I looked over at these five people that I love so dearly I thought my heart would burst.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Psalm 145:11-14
They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,

so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Lane has been wondering when he would lose his first tooth. It finally happened!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Battles in Books and Film

We focused our World War II reading this week on D-Day. For Tapestry of Grace Year 4 Week 15, the focus is more on the Holocaust. We did read some books related to this subject and listened to Focus on the Family Radio Theater's production of The Hiding Place . This was a great approach for our family. The kids love to listen to audio books and without the visual images the impact of the horror is softened a bit for young and sensitive hearts.

One thing we enjoy about using Tapestry of Grace to guide our history studies is going to the library and checking out a pile of books on whatever topic we are studying. We use the TOG reading list, but it is always nice to have other books around that are on the same subject. We did this for World War II and found two books that we never would have otherwise (since they are out of print).

First, when we learned about the Battle of Britain, we enjoyed reading aloud from Quentin Reynolds' The Battle of Britain. Written mid-century by a former war correspondent, the book is aimed at boys who were probably reading about the war their fathers fought in. There is nothing like a first-hand narrative and Reynolds delivers with his description of riding along in a merchant convoy meant to lure German Stuka bombers into the Channel. The Stukas arrived as expected, but just as they dove down to drop their bombs, Spitfires dropped down out of the sky and came to the rescue. Lane was hanging on every word. He loved that the ship convoy was called "Bacon" because bacon is a common fishing bait for Channel fisherman.

"Mom, I get it! The ships are the bait, the Stukas are the fish, and the Spitfires are the fishing lines!"

This week I pulled D-Day: The Invasion of Europe out of the library cart. This book is part of the American Heritage Junior Library series and the D-Day book was published in 1962. I read the book aloud to the kids this week at lunchtime and at first wondered if they would stick with it. The opening chapter was a challenge for them (it sets the strategic stage and describes the invasion planning process), but the chapter on the paratroopers had them pretty interested. We also began watching The Longest Day, and found that the movie depicted many of the same anecdotes that we read about in the book. It was a perfect pairing. (See sidebar.) Near the beginning of The Longest Day the soldiers are standing in line to get their dinner at an England base. When the GIs hold out their mess kit to receive a serving of mashed potatoes, Edwards Academy kids yelled out, "Mom! It's the mess kit! Just like George had!"

Lane has a coloring book called, "Airplanes of the Second World War." This afternoon we spent some time looking up on Wikipedia the planes in the coloring book so Lane could see the proper paint schemes. He's lately interested in the PBY, the C-47 (which carried paratroopers over Normandy), and the P-38 Lightning. In our research, we saw these images: The P-38 Lightning flying in the Normandy Invasion (notice the black and white stripes) and the interior of this C-47.

Boys and Books

Yesterday Lane ran up to me and announced:

"Mom! You know what I'm going to do?" I looked at him. He had the same shining eyes and dimpled smile that he had the night he announced his movie-making plans.

"What, Lane?"

"I'm going to write a chapter book!"

This afternoon Lane brought me a sheaf of papers, haphazardly cut to approximately 4" by 6" size. With stapler in hand, he asked me to help staple the long edge for his binding. Since Lane is a very new reader, I wondered how his writing efforts would go. I soon found out.

A look over his shoulder:
Jack and the Wild Bear Mystry
The Bear Mytr
The case is a bad case. the time is 1:00 in the morning.

I peeked in on our sleeping boys this evening. Toby is fast asleep on his back and Curious George Goes to School is open across his arm. Not quite three and he's already sneaking books past bedtime. I can't blame him. I prefer to read until my eyes won't stay open, too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Edwards Academy Magazine

We use the Tapestry of Grace writing program, along with TOG's Writing Aids, to guide us in our composition instruction. Writing Aids is a book of writing tools, teaching talking points, and writing instruction that is arranged topically. It provides the tools and instruction needed to carry out the writing assignments that are included in Tapestry of Grace's Year Plan curriculum.

Sydney and Hope fall into Level 3 (writing levels in TOG roughly line up to grade levels) for the writing assignments and so far this year they have worked on constructing paragraphs, three-paragraph essays, writing a radio play, and practicing with descriptive writing, narrative writing and expository writing. For this week's focus on expository writing (factual writing), I asked them to write about a major focus of our history studies, "Hitler Conquers Europe." They were told to include several key facts, and use an interrogative sentence and an interjection. Interjection is a new part of speech for us in our Shurley Grammar classifications, so it seemed like a good time to practice.

To write the essays below, the girls began with a clustering diagram. Previously, we've filled out our clustering diagram* together, but for this week they had to work on it individually (with some help). With their clustering diagram completed, they started a first draft. After I mark up their first draft with proofreading marks and editing suggestions, they make their second draft. This process takes a lot of time and energy for my kids. They don't particularly like it, but it is quite satisfying for me to see that they are steadily improving.

Hitler Conquers Europe
By Sydney Edwards
November 18, 2008

Hitler wanted to rule Europe. In September 1939 Hitler attacked Poland! Hitler blitzkrieged Poland. Blitzkrieg means “lightning war.” Yikes! Was Poland ready? No, it was not. The evil Hitler hated Jews. When he attacked Poland he rounded up Jews and put them in camps. After Hitler conquered Poland, France and Britain declared war on Germany.

Holland was overwhelmed with Germany’s army. France knew Germany would attack so they sent soldiers to the border. They called it the Maginot Line. France thought Germany could not make it through the Ardennes Forest with their tanks and trucks. But Germany went through the forest! Hitler pushed France all the way to Dunkirk and the Allies piled onto ships. Then Hitler stopped his army for two days and that gave Britain time to rescue their army.

After Hitler conquered almost all of Europe, he turned to Britain. Britain had a home guard training because Britain knew that Germany was coming. In the Battle of Britain Germany did not use tanks and ground forces. Germany used their Air Force in the Battle of Britain. Germany didn’t use ground forces because of the Channel. After Germany conquered Western Europe he attacked the Soviet Union. He stopped moving west and returned east.

Hitler Conquers Europe
By Hope Edwards
November 18, 2008

Hitler wanted to rule Europe. First, Hitler went to Poland. On September 3, 1939 Hitler attacked Poland by closing in at Warsaw, with two of Germany’s armies. What did it mean when Hitler overtook Poland? It meant that Hitler broke his promise with Britain and France. So, that same year Britain and France declared war on Germany.

After Hitler went east Hitler turned west to Holland. Hitler used the blitzkrieg to attack Poland, Holland, Belgium, and France. Blitzkrieg means “lightning war.” France thought Germany couldn’t get through the Ardennes Forest. But Germany did it with their tanks and trucks and France fell. Soon the Germans had pushed France to the English Channel. Germany rested for two days. That gave the British and French soldiers time to escape to Britain. It was followed by the Battle of Britain.

Germany could not bring its tanks and trucks across the English Channel. So they had to use the Luftwaffe. The English convoy was used to attract the Germans so the Spitfires could shoot them. After the Germans lost the Battle of Britain they turned back to conquer the Soviet Union.

*A clustering diagram is a tool for mapping out a three paragraph paper. The central thesis statement is surrounded by three bubbles for the three paragraph's topic sentences. Each topic sentence is surrounded by bubbles for jotting down supporting thoughts. Clustering diagrams should only have key words or fragmented points; it is not the place for constructing sentences.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Truth Treasure Hunting: Hindenburgs and World War II

Our Tapestry of Grace Truth Treasure Hunters group met Monday to finish painting our model Hindenburgs and to meet a special guest, "Grandpa George," who served in the Army during World War II.

Our paper-mache Hindenburgs ended up resembling torpedoes rather than blimps, but that was in part because our original form was too cylindrical. Still, the kids enjoyed painting them as best they could to match the original German zeppelin.

But the high point of the afternoon was meeting Grandpa George. George arrived in his Army uniform and greeted the kids with a smile, then, "All right, troops! It's time for inspection! Line up!"

He brought with him stories of his service and visual aids: a World War II Army helmet, shovel, pick-axe, mess kit, and a lovely photograph of him and his wife at their 1943 wedding. George entered the Army in 1943 and was trained for European service, but an untimely foot infection led to his assignment stateside. He served in a prisoner-of-war camp guarding German prisoners. He told how his group of German soldiers were quite amicable. Two-hundred fifty Germans had surrendered in France to the Americans, making the calculated choice that being an American prisoner was far preferable to being transferred to the Russian front.

Our Truth Treasure Hunters listened to George with shining eyes. After reading about the battles of World War II, they were ready to appreciate meeting a veteran. I was very touched to hear George conclude his visit by saying, "I would serve again if they called on me to do so. I would do it for you kids. Even now soldiers are serving to keep you free."

Coming up for Truth Treasure Hunters: Code breaking, FDR's Declaration of War speech, and preparation for our USO Night Unit 2 Celebration.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Academy Update: World War II

The Edwards Academy is in the midst of Tapestry of Grace's Year 4, Unit 2, study of World War II. Tapestry's book list has steered us to some good selections. Key Battles of World War II is doing a good job of boiling down the military movements in an accessible way. Picture books like The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue of Dunkirk and War Boy help the abstract become more concrete. I could really see my kids connecting the dots when we first read about the London Blitz. Immediately they interjected, "This is when Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy left London!" It is exciting to see favorite literature books suddenly slide into a historical context!

A few observations about teaching this subject to grammar students:

  • It is their first real encounter with World War II and it isn't necessary that they fully understand the event. A few key concepts that they are able to master: the difference between democracy and dictatorship, the corruption of wanting power, the self-deception of sin, the persecution of Jews, and the value of freedom, even at a very high cost.
  • The better they know the geography, the easier it is to understand the events. Reflecting on my own education, I see this as a major gap. Even now, most children's picture books about historical events fail to include maps that show where the places are. We have colored and labeled several maps of Europe and always pointed on the map to follow along with the direction of the war. This has helped them to grasp the impact of Hitler's Blitzkrieg march across Europe.
  • It is important that kids understand that life is very hard and full of sorrow. This is obvious to most children in the world, but in our sheltered hometown it isn't so obvious. I'm not doing them any favors by pretending that God will make everything wonderful for them. There is plenty of opportunity to teach this through a study of World War II, without going too far and giving them knowledge too heavy to bear. We've been able to talk about God's promise to be with us through suffering, even if it isn't something that He takes away.
  • There are enough resources for children that the Holocaust can be presented appropriately. There are many, many aspects of World War II that are too much to bear, but it is possible to find the balance.
  • Grammar-stage boys love to learn about aircraft like the RAF's Spitfire (pictured above), the Japanese Zero, the tanks, the aircraft carriers, and the weapons. This is obvious, but not having brothers, I'm really experiencing this for the first time. I'm amazed that for all my study of World War II over the years, I never have recognized the aircraft by name until now! Lane and Toby made paper airplanes just as soon as the movie Battle of Britain was over, colored them like Spitfires and 109s, and immediately launched into dogfights.
Spitfire image from Wikipedia; public domain.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I have an idea, Mom!

Tonight Lane came to me with shining eyes.

"Mom! I have an idea!"
"What's that, Lane?"
"I want to make a movie!"
"A movie?" I asked, surprised.
"Well..." I wondered what he could possibly be thinking.
"But we'll have to get equipment."
"Won't we need cameras and stuff? Where do we get that?"
"Well, Lane, yes, we'd need cameras. That costs money, Lane."
"How much?"
"Hundreds, thousands...a lot of money."
"Well, could we talk to the company?"
"The company? Lane, I think you'll just have to practice with our little camera. It can take short movie clips--" Maybe that will satisfy him, I hoped.
"Okay! Then we can just put them all together!"
"Right," I chuckled, imagining myself trying to edit together his video clips on iMovie, something I don't do very well or very fast. I'm hoping he'll forget about the whole thing...
"I want to call the movie 'The New York Yankees Strike Out,' but how will we make the field?"
"The field?"
"Right, we'll need a field, and bases, and..."

I continued sweeping the floor, hoping for a change of subject.

"Yes, Lane?"
"I want to make a book to go with it. We can take photographs. That will be easy."
"It can be like that Carnival of the Animals book. The one with the CD in the front pocket. We can put the movie disk in the front pocket of the book."
"Oh." I replied, uncertain how to conclude this conversation.

"Mom? How do you spell 'strike out'?"
Lane disappeared.

Great Books

What will happen to a culture built upon centuries of Western Civilization thought, that suddenly (within fifty years) stops teaching its offspring of their heritage?

Those of us aiming to impart a classical education at home to our children are familiar with the idea of "great books." Homeschool classical curricula are awash in literature and living book titles and classical homeschoolers retain an appreciation for the ancients. Although the professionals might find it uncomfortable, the classical homeschooling movement truly does bring "great books" to the common man.

There have been other attempts to do so. On Monday the Wall Street Journal carried a book review on A Great Idea at the Time, by Alex Beam, a book which briefly gives the history of a marketing attempt made mid-century to sell sets of "Great Books" to ordinary people. All in all, the attempt wasn't successful and perhaps not entirely admirable either. Still, the book reviewer, retells an anecdote that Mr. Beam relates in the book:

Given what has happened to the study of the humanities in the past two decades -- with theory and politics playing a larger role and fewer people reading the traditional canon -- it is hard not to feel a bit nostalgic for Great Books earnestness. In academe, there is only what might be regarded as a saving remnant: "Among major universities, only Columbia, where the whole idea began" -- around the time of World War I, long before the mania erupted in Chicago -- "still force-feeds a much-abbreviated version of the Great Books curriculum to its undergraduates," Mr. Beam notes. "Tiny St. John's College, created by disciples of Hutchins and Adler, still devotes all four years to teaching the Great Books, as Hutchins vainly hoped the University of Chicago would do."

Molly Rothenberg, a student at St. John's in Annapolis, Md., told Mr. Beam of comparing notes when she was a sophomore with a fellow graduate of the public high school in Cambridge, Mass. St. John's sophomores study works by such authors as Aristotle, Tacitus and Shakespeare. Her friend was attending Bates College in Maine. "She told me they were studying Rhetoric," Ms. Rothenberg said, "and they would be watching episodes of 'Desperate Housewives' and listening to Eminem. They were going to analyze it. I just laughed. What could I say?"

I mourn for our culture that so gleefully cuts its ties with great thinkers of the past. For more on this subject, see the book Climbing Parnassus (by Tracy Lee Simmons), and other posts I've written on the subject:

Higher Learning? (Oct. '07)
Mrs. Edwards Reviews The Dumbest Generation(June '08) A review of a book that examines the impact of our digital age on education.
Fighting Without Ammo (Oct. '08) Is it possible to intellectually defeat your enemies when you've given up on the idea of truth?
Give An Answer (Oct. '08) Can a Muslim faithfully lead the United States?
Election Reflections (Nov. '08) This post touches on the impact of a new President educated after this major shift in higher educational focus.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday Night Pretzels

We are creatures of habit and our weekly menu has some definite routine: Every Tuesday morning we have Creme Budwig for breakfast (curious about that?), baked oatmeal on Wednesday and Thursday, bagels on Friday. Friday night is homemade pizza night. And Saturday night has now become pretzel night.

As a teenager I used to make the soft pretzels from The Joy of Cooking. They are very authentic and delicious, but require that the dough rise twice and be dipped in boiling baking soda water before cooking. Not exactly convenient! About a month ago I found this quick and easy yeast recipe on another blog:

(From A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz)

1 tablespoon honey or sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
coarse salt
1 egg beaten
Add the honey to the water; sprinkle in the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add 1 tsp. salt. Blend in the flour, and knead the dough till smooth.

Cut the dough into pieces. Roll them into ropes and twist into pretzels shapes. Place the pretzels on lightly greased cookie sheets and brush them with the beaten egg and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 425 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Our new Saturday night stand-by is simply warm pretzels served with salami and cheddar cheese slices and apple slices. The kids dip their pretzels in honey. I also like them with mustard. If you have a dough hook on your mixer, you don't even need to knead this dough by hand. And it survives the pounding of helpful two-year-old hands that abuse it into pretzel shapes!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pushing Through the Dirt

It is very thrilling when a young reader transitions from painfully sounding out every word to smoothly reading sentences. After teaching three kids to read, it seems to me that it is difficult to predict when this transition will happen. I'm so excited to report that Lane has turned that corner. He still de-codes words, of course, but he is now recognizing the words he knows and able to manage longer sentences and paragraphs.

Here you see him reading Up in the Sky, a Veritas Press First Grade reader from the Phonics Museum curriculum. He was very motivated to read this story about Orville and Wilbur Wright and stuck with it. This was the longest book he has read so far. It was such a change from even last week, I really praised him.

"Lane! You're really reading now!"
"Just like a mole pushing through the dirt."
"What?" I was a bit puzzled.
"Like a mole. I'm reading like a mole pushing through the dirt."

I couldn't have described it better.

School Days

Some pictures of Edwards Academy kids hard at work:
Lane takes a math test. He is working on Math U See Alpha.

Toby's learning to string beads and identify his colors.

Lane and Jessi, our beloved dog. (Okay, not a school shot but taken during the school day! Aunt Leida, I thought you'd like to see this one!)

Sydney and Hope add another layer of paper mache to their Hindenburgs. Our Truth Treasure Hunters co-op met on Monday to make paper mache Hindenburgs, but I failed to snap pictures of them working that day. We needed to shape them a little more and add the fins, so yesterday I took some pictures of Hope and Sydney working on their zeppelins. Lane doesn't like the goopy paper mache paste, so I (graciously) helped him get his fins on. He is much happier with a bundle of colored pencils and a sheaf of plain white paper! (As we worked on this, he drew yet another picture of the Hindenburg for his TOG workbook.)


Inspired by Amanda of Hidden Art posting about The Big Draw, I decided to try drawing some different things while the kids were working on their school work. I'm no artist, but I thought it would be fun to tinker a bit. I decided it is easier--oddly--to draw my hand than it is to draw something more uniform, like my coffee mug or the Elmer's. I stepped away from my drawing and returned to find Lane finishing up the glue bottle drawing for me, so he deserves part of the credit for that one! I've been trying to convince Lane to try drawing what he sees and not what he thinks he sees, but I never could get through to him. After I did these drawings last week, however, I've noticed that Lane has been copying some objects as best as he can and even added a little shading. Hmm.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Reflections

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. (Revelation 19:11-12)

One reason I focus so much on truth at "Veritas at Home" is because of the verses in Revelation that call Christ Faithful and True. The aim of our eduction is to introduce our children to Christ and the prayer that Mr. Edwards and I lift up daily is that our kids will know Him as their Lord and Savior.

Much will be written about the outcome of the American election, but it has opened my eyes to a few things:
  • Although I didn't realize it, I draw security from knowing that my government protects my freedom to worship. What if it stops doing this? How strong am I? "But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:19-20)
  • The President-elect in America is the first American president to be educated in a Muslim elementary school and the first American President to be educated in Ivy League schools (Columbia and Harvard) after the famous rebellion of the sixties. In the years since, American universities have abandoned the concept of truth and tilted toward extreme leftist teachings. Western Civilization studies mostly consist of criticism of the West. Gender, race, and sexuality "studies" dominate. By his own admission in his memoirs, President-elect Obama was attracted to Marxist classes and social circles in his college years. Even today, his writings are kept from the public. The impact of this will be profound and far-reaching, for now the younger generation of voters share his same intellectual upbringing in education. We are now reaping the harvest of the closing of the American mind (see Bloom's book by that name) coupled with the gleeful rejection of traditional authorities. 
November 5, Evening Update:
After reading this, Mr. Edwards said, "Amy, this should be our verse:
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
(Psalm 73:25)"

You're quite right, Mr. Edwards.

Gloria Patri 
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