Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why So Much Memorization?

In Classical Education, the elementary years are called, “Grammar School” where many facts are memorized. Our kindergarten will be memorizing Latin vocabulary, a timeline of the Bible, large chucks of Scripture, grammar rules and parts of speech, songs, classical musical pieces, and how to draw a map of the world. They will also be learning math facts and phonetic rules. Plus, they’ll be memorizing things in science like the names of the planets.
During science, we’ll also be learning Latin prefixes along side whatever we are studying. The first week’s prefix is “gen-” for birth or origin. Does a kindergartner need to know that on the playground or at soccer? Well, how about when he hears that the first book of the Bible is Genesis. Won’t that make something click? Won’t he have a frame of reference for that?
My friend was a researcher in Antarctica. On Saturday she told me about the mountain they could see in the distance. I heard about the same mountain on the news the next day. What made my ears perk up? A frame of reference.
Have you ever had those “coincidences” strike you? You hear about something and all-of-the-sudden you’re hearing about it from different sources? That’s what we’re trying to do with giving our kids so much background knowledge. We want them to pay attention as they learn later in life. We want them to have a strong foundation for building a great wealth of knowledge.
Will it make our kids robots? No! The Grammar years of memorization are coupled with exploring the world and learning to love learning! We are going to be busy with our hands, our voices, our bodies, and our creativity. We’ll have a lot of fun memorizing through poems, songs, and games. And that memorization will just be the beginning.

The Four Maths: Not Chaos but Order

I have always been drawn to literature and writing. I love how words play with each other to create an environment of truth, goodness, and beauty. This trio of virtues was called the triumvirate by the Ancient Greeks and is at the heart of Classical Education.
Even though I find myself at home with words, this past year, I’ve fallen in love with math. I find it a great surprise. I am confident my high school geometry teacher would also be surprised.
Although I’m getting ready for kindergarten next fall, currently I work for a few hours each day with forth and fifth grade math students. In teaching them, I’ve been in awe with the triumvirate math reveals... the octopus-tentacles of how everything is connected, the mirror images, the puzzles, the nity-gritty details... the constant discoveries.
One of my fifth graders wrestled with the distributive property this week. Unless you’ve been around a math classroom lately, you might have forgotten what the distributive property is, so I’ll remind you.
What you’re doing here is multiplying 27 by three. My guess is that even if you don’t know what the distributive property is, you do it all the time. Unless you are a math wiz, if you see 3x27, you think 20x3=60 and 7x3=21. 60+21=81. Ta-da! You have successfully completed the distributive property! ... and so did my student. Whoo-hoooo!
Just look at what you’ve experienced in the process... there is truth that a certain number multiplied by certain number equals a certain number. There is goodness in solving something, in coming up with an answer and having to think through it. And there is beauty in seeing how something big is built by little pieces.
Be still my heart.
And let’s do some math. But, let’s not stop with numbers. Let’s look at math from the four angles of the Mathematical Humanities. Classical Education swims in these and through them answers these questions:
  • Number Sense: How do numbers work and what do they mean?
  • Geometry: How do shapes, spaces, and things physically fit together?
  • Music: How does time, rhythm, and motion create beauty?
  • Astronomy: Where is our place in the universe?
As you can see, in Classical Education, math becomes a holistic view of figuring out the world around us and how God reveals Himself through it.
Math is true. 2+2=4. That’s the deal. Our kids need that. I hope that they find it refreshing and even energizing. It is good. The self-discipline, the accuracy, the working towards an answer makes us better. And then there’s the beauty. The stars, Puccini, the stunning high-rise... the fact that division and multiplication are opposites... all pointing to a Creator God who put order into chaos.

Classical Christian Education

Click on a posts to read about school, Classical Christian Education, and kids in general.

As for the journey here...
When the Not-So-Familiar Turns Out Familar

Who She Shall Become

The other day my husband caught me making eyes with the diner sitting at the table next to us.  She was just the right age to make me giggle.  She was just the right age to maybe become mine.  "I can't wait for my babies," I said.  My husband laughed with me.

Not my baby-babies, you see.  My kindergarten ones.  The ones who will walk into my classroom and spend 180 days with me.  The ones who will teach me with wild abandon as I teach them.  The ones who will enter into my care.  The ones who have already entered into my heart.

I think about them a lot.  I'm waking up in the middle of the night, piecing together how I want to teach this or that.  I am buying books and imagining their faces when the pig tricks the wolf and gets a good massage.  I am thinking through PE and music and art.  I don't want to waste a moment.

I have butterflies for them.  The real kind - well, I hope - that we will watch hatch.  And the kind that stay in my stomach, flitting with anticipation.

I'm dreaming big.  I'm dreaming of the doctors, the leaders, the scientists, the teachers, they will become.

Sure.  Students with a Classical Christian Education are performing well on all those college entrance exams. I hope they do.  I hope they do their best from the first day of kindergarten.  But, I'm more concerned with WHO they grow up to be as opposed to WHAT they grow up to be.

I want them to learn well, think deeply, create joyfully, and love boldly.  I want them to be able to make hard choices and stand up for what is right.  I want them to love truth and to be able to decipher it and to communicate it.  I want them to be generous with their lives.  I want them to love God and enjoy who He is.  I want that to overflow into every aspect of their lives.

Sure, they can go that route of having what the world says is a successful job and I'd be happy for them.  But I'd be tickled to have one wash my hair in the nursing home, if she does it with kind hands and a kind voice.  I want her to tell me something interesting she is still learning.  I want her to describe the tree in her back yard with such poetry I feel like I'm there.  I want her to hum Mozart to me and tell me about taking her daughter to the aquarium. I want her to tell me about the book she is reading and how it is challenging her vocabulary. I want her to tell me what God is teacher her and how she is loving studying Nehemiah. And I want her to look me in the eyes and remember that I'm still human, even if my brain can't create the words.

That little girl at the next table is not going to stay a little girl.  She is going to grow up and I'm going to grow old.  So, on the first day of kindergarten, when my littles are walking in, I'll be thinking of my last days.  I'll be thinking of how these children have a lifetime of love to give to everyone who is blessed to spend a moment or two walking with them.

And I'll be thankful for the 180 that are my turn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chili with a Little Bit More

Hide some veggies and a lot of flavor in your chili by using Mirepoix.  If you don't know what Mirepiox is, find info about it here.  I like to throw it in the pot after the ground beef starts to brown.

Here's a 30 minute recipe if you don't mind the cans!

1 bag of Mirepoix  (about 2 cups)
1 pound ground beef
1 garlic clove (crushed)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 can of crushed tomatoes (16 ounces)
1 can of black beans (16 ounces)

Brown the ground beef in a big stockpot with garlic until almost done.  Drain off any grease and place back into the pot.  Add the Mirepoix and seasonings and continue to brown on medium heat.  When brown, add tomatoes and black beans.  Reduce to a simmer and leave on stove for at least 20 minutes.

What a perfect way to end a dreary winter day.  Top with
a little sour cream or cheese... perfect!

For a variation, you could always skip the beans or the beef but keep the Mirepoix.

If you are doing the beans in the crockpot, throw your Mirepoix in with them - as well as 1/2 your spices.

Find more Mirepoix ideas here!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

When the Not-So-Familiar Turns Out Familiar

A year and a half ago, we left our very secure jobs, family, and church, to jump off the deep end. We were seeking something crazy. Rest. We wanted stillness, focus, and time to really seek the Lord. We would live on a farm (but not work it); David would change career direction and I would write.

I found out that even though I love to write, I happen to be an extrovert. And I really, really love kids. I was incredibly lonely, so I knew I had to get back in the classroom. I picked up an application for a Christian school that was just starting. But, I let it sit on my desk. That was too much for my Sabbatical year. So, I started subbing while I wrote a study on 1st John and multiple drafts of a juvenile fiction story about human trafficking.

In the mean time, we fell in love with our church family, and more deeply in love with the God we worship together. We took classes and made friends. We learned to be still. We learned to live simply. And God was gracious enough to give us Himself.

So, we decided to stay.

And I once again got an application for that school. It hadn't started, but this was the year. Well… not really. God once again didn't send the students.

And so, I became an assistant at the school where I subbed. I love it, my kids, and my cohort there. I don't have the responsibilities of a teacher which allows me to be done around 3. So, I can still be writing.

The novel isn't getting so far. It's in my head somewhere, but it's a big ole mess on paper. But, I'm not giving up. The 1st John study is rolling. I'm in the process of cutting it down by 40%. Like most things both difficult and worthwhile, preparing this study has been one of the sweetest gifts I've ever received from my Father. I have learned more about Him – and more about me – during this endeavor.

As my husband and I spending time thinking about “what next”, we have found God to literally hand us both surprises, job wise.

Mine came in the form of a phone call. Would you come talk to our school board about starting the school next year?

So, here I am, the teacher of that same Christian school. We are starting with a kindergarten. I'm looking a curriculum, scope-and-sequence charts, singing Latin songs, writing Orff Schulwerk melodies. I'm reading Classical Education books and looking through Montessori center ideas.

I'm praying for God to build a school. And I'm praying that these kiddos will love Jesus with all of their lives. I'm praying that they will have a great passion for His Word. I'm praying that they will see their neighbors through the eyes of Jesus. I'm praying that they will travel to the ends of the earth to glorify Him. I'm praying that they delight in who God is and what He has done. I'm praying that they will long for heaven.

Those prayers, somehow, seem very, very familiar.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Squash and Sauce (the Tomato Sauce One!)

Homemade sauce is quick and easy with Mirepoix.  When I lived in Italy, a grandmother taught me how to make her sauce, which is a ton of work... but with Mirepoix, the chopping of the flavorful veggies is already done.

Start with a bag of frozen goodness (See how to make Mirepoix here.)

Now add 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes, one minced garlic clove, a dash of salt and pepper, and just a splash of orange juice.  Add 1/8 cup of red wine - but if wine is not your thing, you can add broth to it.  If you have fresh basil, throw a couple of leaves in.

Let it simmer forever.  Grandma Edna left is simmering all day.  Give it at least an hour.  Keep an eye on it and add water if you need to.

This will be your new favorite for pasta, pizza... or to top butternut squash!

Today I roasted pieces of squash with the rind on it at 425 for 30 minutes.  Easy and delicious.  And healthy!

For more Mirepoix cooking, look here!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chicken Salad Mirepoix Style

My favorite summer food is chicken salad.  I can eat it by the bucketful.  This past summer, I ended up making it often with a healthy twist.  I made a big bowl and we ate off of it for a few days.  Plus, it turned out to be a great dish to have for lunches with friends.  The Mirepoix touch added extra veggies and deep flavor layers.

Even though summer is almost over, there is still time to make it!

(If you don't know about Mirepoix, read this first!)

Throw a bag of frozen Mirepoix in a pot.  Add a 1 cup of water.
Put in 2 large (or 4 small) chicken breasts.  I use frozen.
Let this cook down.  Watch your water, you might need to add more.
After the chicken is fully cooked and cooled, drain it. Make sure it's cooled!
Keep the liquid to use as chicken broth.
Chop up your chicken - keeping the Mirepoix mixed in. Let it get super cool.

Now, the rest - you get to play with!  Here's what I do, but you can always leave something out.

Chop 3-4 celery stocks.
Chop 1 large or 2 small apples dipped in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Add 1/4 cup of light mayonnaise.
Add 1/8 cup of diced onions.  (Not the strong ones!  If you don't have onions - try just a few shakes of garlic powder.)
Salt and pepper to taste.

I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Ready for some variations?  Try 1 1/2 cups of dried cranberries or grapes.  Add nuts, if they are your thing.  Also, if you want to make it just a little sweeter, add a tiny bit of honey to your mayonnaise.

And to be honest, I love mayonnaise - so when I say 1/4 cup - I often loose my willpower and add a little bit more.

Come on, summer.  Stay just a little longer.

Would you like to see what else you can do with Mirepoix?  Find some tasty ideas here!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Emotional Eating and Treasure Hunting

It's hot and I'm running errands and sticking to my budget; I should reward myself with a 69 cent ice-cream cone.

So-and-so was grumpy with me,  What a jerk. Good thing I didn't say what I wanted.  Cheesecake for me!

I worked so hard on that project and didn't get rewarded how I thought I should, so I'll have a few Oreo cookies.  Well, I really did a great job - I'll let myself just eat as many as I want.

I have changed seventeen diapers today and mopped the kitchen three times today.  Three.  Times.  My husband is on night shift tonight, so I can order pizza and eat it all by my self.  All.  By.  My.  Self.

My hip hurts, I'm alone, and not one person has reached out to me today.  Bring on the Doritos and a Netflix marathon.

... and so goes the emotional reward eating.

I've been thinking about this today... while, maybe these haven't been my situations, I often give myself a treat when life is stressful.  I've been trying to process why this is wrong.  Does it have something to do with how the reward of skipping the binge will be found on the scales? Or how God is going to reward me so I don't have to do it myself?

But I think I need to step further back - and look at the first part of the equation ... not thinking about the food and reward part, but thinking through the stress part.

The hard work of life.  And how I think I'm so wonderful, so tried and tested, so good and undeserving of pain?  Do I believe that if God really loves me then life will always be easily lived through Mountain Top Experiences?

When I am tempted to wallow in my woe-is-me pity party, I need to go on a treasure hunt.  I need to take an honest look up, look forward, and then look down.

First I need to look at my God.  Am I, in the midst of this burden, straining towards the fake gods of comfort, control, self-glory, or laziness?  What is really the problem?  My not getting that raise or promotion - what does that really hurt?  What is really wounded?  Even though my disappointment is real, if my eyes are on Christ, I will find that He has given me so much more than I deserve.  If I am weary of taking care of ungrateful people, but I remember God's love for His rebellious people (especially me!), I see that He is so faithful.

But, to keep my mind geared towards this, I need to be looking at who He is... I need to be reading His Word and soaking in His holiness, righteousness, generosity, power, and strength.  I need to be purposeful in seeking who He is - and not just what He has done for me.  I need to ask Him to enamor me with Himself.  I need to ask Him to help me love Him more than I love myself.  I have to ask Him to be my treasure.

Then, I can look ahead.  I can look forward to the treasures of Heaven - where there will be no sorrows.  I won't have to fight my sin-stained mind or my self-centered emotions.  My wounds will be healed.  My heart will be healed.  All because of Jesus.

I deserve hell.  Plain and simple.  My sin cannot allow me to stand before a holy, absolutely good God.  But, Jesus has paid the price of my sins and has wrapped me in His perfect purity.  So, I can be with God.  Now.  Forever.  And that forever will be so very sweet.  And I will find my treasure there.

And now I'm ready to look down - like for real.  As in, bow my head.  Not to look at facebook, or the cakemix I could eat if I just added water. Let me pray. For wisdom and patience.  For extra love for the people around me.  For protection from bitterness.  For a reminder that it's so close to lunch time.

I don't want my treasure to be my self-esteem, control or laziness.  And I definitely don't want my treasure to be a Snicker's bar.  That's a crummy place to land my heart.

Monday, July 11, 2016

An Elegant Omelette

I don't exactly make the most beautiful omelettes, but I was inspired by my husband's procurement of 11 pounds (11 pounds!) of asparagus.  So, I threw the asparagus in a pan with some chunks of frozen Mirepoix and a tiny bit of garlic.  This mirepoix batch had extra mushrooms, so it's even more perfect for a little omelette.  After the veggies were sizzling,  I  poured in beaten eggs and let the heat do its thing.  When it was ready I topped it with blue cheese.  Deliriously delicious.

Of course, if your husband comes home with 11 pounds of a different type of veggie, feel free to throw it in the pan!

Here's how to make Mirepoix.  I keep a bag of it that I chop off when I need it.  However, you could always freeze it in ice cube trays for individual meals like this omelette.

Find more recipes and inspiration here.