Thursday, November 29, 2007

Michael Ward on the Planetary Influences in the Chronicles of Narnia

While I'm celebrating C.S. Lewis today, I had to pass on the link to this wonderful article, recently published in Touchstone magazine. Must reading for lovers of Lewis' work, especially for fans of the Chronicles. Important, enjoyable, thought-provoking. Worth reading not once but several times (by Jove!).

Beautiful Birthdays: Louisa, Lewis, L'Engle

November 29 is one of my very favorite days of the year. It doesn't seem to matter if I'm cold, tired, overwhelmed, stressed, or any number of other things I can often find myself being. This is always a good day because I get to remember and celebrate the birthdays of three writers near and dear to my heart: Louisa May Alcott (1832); Clive Staples Lewis (1898); and Madeleine L'Engle (1918).

When I posted on this day last year, calling it the "literary day of days," Madeleine was still with us. She has since joined the saints in glory. I enjoyed spending time yesterday afternoon reading through a selection from Walking on Water, and also her Christmas poem "O Simplicitas."

The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd;
a stable set apart,
the sleepy cattle lowing;
and the incarnate Word
resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
the folly of the Lord,
wiser than all men's knowing.

I love that whole poem (though I'm only quoting the final part).

But today has belonged to Lewis. That's because, providentially, the sweet girl and I are finishing up our read-aloud of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which we began in the car during thanksgiving travels. Today we came to chapter 16, when Aslan, with Susan and Lucy, arrives at the courtyard of the White Witch. He breathes on the statues and they all come back to life. The sweet girl, who has been enjoying (and seeming to grasp much better than even I expected) the whole book, seemed enthralled with this scene. She kept asking, with wonder, "how did he make the stone people real again?" or saying things like, "you can't melt stone!" to which I keep replying things like, "He's Aslan. He's the King of the beasts, the King of all Narnia. And he's very powerful!"

S. has a wonderful sense of humor too. She often seems to "get" things that are supposed to be funny, even when you can tell she's not entirely sure yet why they're funny. I think her favorite part in the whole scene today was when Aslan breathed on the other lion in the courtyard (the smaller lion whom Edmund, still lost in his folly, half-hoped might be Aslan himself). She kept giggling over there being "two lions in this chapter" and seemed delighted when the smaller lion kept running around, oh so proudly, thrilled to be included by Aslan in the task of rounding up the other animals. "Did you hear what he said? Us Lions. That means him and me." She liked that part so much that, when the chapter ended, she ran to her room to get her two stuffed lions. One is very small (she's had him since she was a baby) and the other is a larger one she got for her birthday. She made the big one Aslan and had him breathe on the little one so he could come back to life.

Happy Birthday, Jack! Thank you for blessing us all with such wonderful stories. Thank you for imagining a faun by a lamppost in a snowy wood. Thank you for giving us Aslan. Thank you for giving me stories I can pass on, with such joy, to my little girl.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Pause to Remember

This afternoon at 4:00 p.m. in New York City, there will be a public memorial service to remember and celebrate the life of Madeleine L'Engle. She would have been 89 years old tomorrow.

Pause sometime today to give thanks for her life and to pray for the family, friends and admirers gathered in New York today to mourn and celebrate. Or spend a few minutes, if you can, reading one of Madeleine's poems or a favorite passage from one of her novels or journals! My advent reading this year is Wintersong (Christmas writings by Madeleine and her good friend Luci Shaw). I hope to spend a few minutes with it this afternoon around 4.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leaves For This Year's Thankful Tree

My extended family has a several year tradition of creating a "thankful tree" each thanksgiving. Colored paper leaves are distributed during the day and everyone writes on at least one leaf (sometimes several) to share what they're thankful for. Then we tape the leaves to a tree picture, usually drawn or painted by one of the many artistic people in the family.

We did it again this year, although our gathering was small...just my parents and the three of us. We still managed to cover the tree with bright paper leaves full of thankfulness.

Last year I instituted the tradition here at home as well, and gave the sweet girl a chance to do her own little tree before we left on our trip. It's not only a good exercise in helping her learn to "count her blessings" but gets her primed to share at the wider family gathering.

This year we didn't actually do a tree here at home, but we did do the leaves. They've been littering the table in a lovely, bright pile, and were still scattered there when we got home from our nearly-week long travels last night.

In no particular order, just as I did last year, here's my dear daughter's list of what she's thankful for:

-Good Food
-Mommy and Daddy
-Our Home
-Fall Leaves
-Jesus Loves Me
-Our Church
-My Grandparents
-Good Books Like The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds; Llama Llama Red Pajama; Thanksgiving at the Tappletons and Thanksgiving Is Here
-Big and Small Things
-My Dolls
-My Drums
-Warm Colorful Socks

A pretty good list, I thought! Yes, I had to do a bit of prompting to help her along, but she got the hang of it pretty quick. And she insisted on listing her current favorite books (note the thanksgiving theme) after saying "good books."

"My Drums" made me smile...her current "drum set" is actually a handful of small, plastic bowls she has confiscated from the kitchen. She has chosen them carefully so that each drum has a slightly different tone, just like the real drum set at church. She uses various things as drumsticks -- the old plastic drumstick from her xylophone, a plastic knife from her toy kitchen set, a small metal pipe from a broken set of musical pipes. In addition to the drum set, she's also created a rather extensive percussion section for herself by making egg shakers out of different things. We had a couple of egg shakers we bought from Kindermusik when she was a baby, and then this summer at VBS she got a couple of plastic easter eggs with rice inside them. She has since made several more from old plastic easter eggs filled with all kinds of things: lentils, unpopped popcorn kernels; small bits of hard uncooked pasta. She loves the different sounds they make.

"Big and Small Things" is a nod to our morning prayers. For years now, literally, one of the morning prayers we have often prayed (almost if not quite every day) is this: "Dear Father, hear and bless thy beasts and singing birds. And guard with tenderness small things that have no words." That became an especially dear prayer to us back in the day when the sweet girl was struggling with her speech delay and quite literally had "no words" coming from her lips for many months on end. It's still a special prayer, but in the past year or so it's morphed into a regular litany she's created of "small things" and "big things" that God has made and which she's thankful for.

My own thankful list to come!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Heroic Stories/Learning to Listen

November always feels like a heroic month. I mean that first on a personal level: as the weather begins to get colder and the tree branches stripped more bare, I often find myself needing to muster up all my inner reserves of strength as I think of the gray, dark, cold winter days ahead.

But November also feels like a month that asks us to look at heroes, or at least to revisit the stories of people who have lived bold, courageous and authentic lives in ages past. I feel that mostly because the month is ushered in by All Saints day. While it's true that "all saints" means what it says (all saints, including the ordinary and perhaps not overtly heroic ones, which includes all of us who follow the way of Jesus now) I do find myself more drawn than ever this time of year to the stories of the saints whose lives burned brightly with God's love.

Even the secular calendar gets on the act. On the 11th, it throws us veteran's day, where we often find ourselves remembering people who have given their lives or the lives of sons and daughters to causes larger than themselves.

I've been wondering lately about the best way to pass on the stories of heroes, saints...role the next generation.

Our culture as a whole seems so much more easily mesmerized by badness than goodness, by worldly power than counter-cultural stands against power, by glamor than truth-telling.

Last week we were reading Dallas Willard on discipleship in our youth fellowship group (kids ages 12-17 who meet weekly at our home) and Willard mentioned Dietrich Bonhoeffer. One of the oldest girls knew who he was, but for the most part, there was little to no recognition. So we decided to try to wrestle our way through some Bonhoeffer this week (we tend to pitch high sometimes) and to share a bit about his life.

It feels painful somehow that the history we learn in school focuses almost exclusively on the "big players." I would guess most high schoolers know about Hitler, Churchill, Stalin? But how many high schoolers, even in our churches, even in families of faith, know about Bonhoeffer and Barth and the confessing church in Germany?

We need to find a way to pass these stories on. And I'm just not sure how. I know this tends to be a very visual generation. So to kick off yet another round of talk about discipleship last night, we decided to show a scene from Amazing Grace, the feature film focusing on the life of William Wilberforce.

D. and I just saw the movie ourselves a couple of nights ago, and we were far more impressed than either of us expected to be. Wilberforce has long been one of my favorite heroes of the faith; I've facilitated discussion about him in various church history classes across three levels in seminary. (I teach Anglican church history to mostly evangelical Anglicans, and Wilberforce was, of course, an evangelical Anglican...). I thought I might see glaring inaccuracies or a lack of willingness to engage the heart's core of his untiring activism: his roots in God. And while I did have minor quibbles here and there, I was really awed by the excellent acting and by the way the truth of his life and his motivations shined forth on screen.

But one of the kids kicked things off by saying he'd seen the movie in the theater and fallen asleep. Which made one of the other kids automatically assume it was boring. My own initial impatient response to the first kid probably didn't help matters (help me, Jesus!). The scene got lost in the back and forth shuffle of inattentive kids talking and laughing.

I know this is just one isolated event. I know I am tired and feeling easily discouraged right now about several things. But it really made me think. How do we find creative ways to pass on the lives of heroes, real heroes of the faith especially, to young people in our churches and communities and families? When young people are surrounded by inanity and "celebrity" and a culture of what feels like almost total irreverence and incivility -- how do we show them what real commitment and grace and courage looks like? In our own lives, yes (and I know that's huge) but how do we pass on the "family stories" of our faith?

Maybe most importantly, how do we show them Jesus? How do we speak Jesus (more than just a great role model or hero...Savior, Redeemer, Way, Truth, Life!) into their lives in ways that they will actually be attentive to and hear? "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." And "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Those are two Scriptures I find myself practically tripping over again and again these days. It seems that listening to Jesus, sitting at his feet, is the most important thing we can do. How do we make sacred space in our lives to do that? How do we make room in that space for our children to learn to do it too?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Last Living American WWI Veteran

An interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times profiles Frank Buckles,the last living American World War I Veteran.

My ongoing fascination with the turn of the 20th century on into the WWI era and beyond made me sit up and notice this one. I was frankly surprised (no pun intended) to find that any WWI veterans were left. Frank Buckles was born in 1901, about a month after my paternal grandfather, whom I knew had been too young to enlist. In the manner of many young men wanting to rush to war, Buckles lied about his age.

And now he finds himself the last living American vet who actually saw action. (The piece does mention there are two others still alive who were in basic training at the time of the armistice, so never saw action. Buckles actually spent time in France.)

Richard Rubin's article is worth reading, especially for his comparisons of the world WWI vets returned to versus the world WWII vets found upon their arrival home.

And I appreciate his thoughtful conclusion to the piece:

It’s hard for anyone, I imagine, to say for certain what it is that we will lose when Frank Buckles dies. It’s not that World War I will then become history; it’s been history for a long time now. But it will become a different kind of history, the kind we can’t quite touch anymore, the kind that will, from that point on, always be just beyond our grasp somehow. We can’t stop that from happening. But we should, at least, take notice of it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Two For the Christmas List

On a blog called Endless Books, I think it's perfectly acceptable from time to time to talk about books I haven't read yet, but certainly would love to.

In that vein, here are two books for my Christmas list, or at least my ongoing book wishlist.

Planet Narnia by Michael Ward looks utterly fascinating. Ward argues that medieval cosmology underlies the Chronicles, giving them a "symbolic coherence."

I'm also interested in A Walk With Jane Austen (well, who wouldn't be?) by Lori Smith. It's a combination of Austen musings with spiritual memoir. Sounds a bit like "Girl Meets Jane." Sign me up!

What's on your booklist for Christmas this year?

Turkey Talk

At lunch today, the sweet girl was recounting one of her favorite moments in one of our family's favorite, funny Thanksgiving picture books: Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's. Poor Mrs. Tappleton loses her turkey. She's about to put it in the oven when the milkman arrives at the back door early to deliver eggnog (and doesn't that sound nice?). The turkey slips out of her arms, slithers down the icy steps, slides down the hill, and crashes into the icy pond. PLOP! SPLASH!

Definitely a story worth recounting, complete with giggling sound effects.

In the midst of her narration today, the sweet girl suddenly stopped and looked thoughtful.

S: Mommy, what are turkeys made from?

M: (not sure I understood) What do you mean what are they made from?

S: (with an amused chuckle, and sounding quite sure of herself) Well, they aren't the BIRD. So what are they?

M: But yes, they are birds. The turkey is a bird.

S: (eyes widening as the content of the only meat she'll eat slowly dawns) Oh. (Another pause) I don't like turkey.

M: You've always liked turkey. (mostly true)

S: No, I don't like the taste of it.

My budding vegetarian is now armed with more reasons not to eat lunchmeat. Not that I'm terribly worried, having once been a full vegetarian myself, and having only eaten poultry or fish (no beef or pork) for over twenty years.

Still, it made me laugh. What did she think turkey was all this time, if not the bird of the same name? I'm not sure I want to know!

All this turkey talk reminds me of an amusing episode from the thanksgiving dinner table when I was in about the seventh grade. Not long before the thanksgiving holiday, my math teacher had set the class a difficult word problem involving turkey eggs. I can't remember what it was now, but I do remember I wrestled with it mightily and couldn't figure it out. I think we were supposed to turn the answer in and then after the holiday break, she'd let us know if we were right and show us how to work the problem.

Well, when I couldn't figure it out, instead of humbly realizing I just didn't know how to work the problem, I had what I thought was a real epiphany. I decided that perhaps there wasn't an answer at all, and my teacher had set us a trick question as a joke. I triumphantly explained this to my family at the dinner table during thanksgiving, finishing with "so the answer was really zero, because turkeys don't lay eggs!" (And hey, I was about eleven years old at the much older than my daughter now!)

I think there was silence for a moment. Then no doubt chuckles. And then my dear grandmother, who lived with us at the time, and who had almost no tactful bones left in her body by then (she'd always been blunt, but I think age had given her more chutzpah so that she always "told it like it was") announced with great spirit: "Of course turkeys lay eggs!"

"No, they don't!" I insisted (full of spitfire that my epiphany would be doubted).

"Yes, they do!"

"No, they don't!"

"Of course turkeys lay eggs! Where do you think baby turkeys come from?"


Well, I couldn't answer that one. So I meekly acquiesed to my grandmother's wisdom (never a bad idea, even when she was less clearly right than in this situation). And my family hasn't ever let me forget the moment. "I hear turkeys don't lay eggs!" is always, always good for a laugh at the McCoy house near thanksgiving.

Hmm. Maybe they really don't lay eggs. I mean, if my five year old is correct, they might not even be birds!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Reading Round-Up, Early November

It's been a while since I've posted a list of what I'm reading. I've been all over the map book-wise lately, so I'll just dive in.

Recently read:

End of the Spear (Steve Saint)

Saint's book was wonderful, far better than the feature film made from it a couple of years ago (though the film was good too). The book was just able to go into the story so much more deeply. And what a story. If you know anything about the five missionaries killed by the "Auca" Indians in Ecuador in 1956 (a story I grew up knowing and reading about) you really need to read this book.

Steve Saint is the now grown son of Nate Saint, one of the martyred missionaries. He was five when his father died. He and his family went back into the jungle to actually live with the tribe that did the killing, to forgive them, and to make sure that they finally had the opportunity to hear the gospel. They embraced the gospel and began to "walk God's trail." Saint grew up with the Waodoni (the real name of the tribe, their name for themselves..."Auca," it turns out, was a pejorative name given to them by others) and was even baptized in the same river his father died in. As a young adult, he left the Amazon to attend college and become a businessman in North America. "End of the Spear" is the story of how he took his wife and children, years later, back to the jungle to live with the Waodoni again -- and helped them to find a self-sustaining livelihood.

This book is one of the most stunning testaments to God's sovereignty and grace I've ever had the privilege to read. See my longer review of it here.

Also recently read, two children's books, one old and one new:

The Talented Clementine (Sara Pennypacker) Ramona for a new generation!
The Doll's House (Rumer Godden) An odd and unusual story, very poignant

Recently re-read:

Persuasion (Jane Austen)
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)

Currently Reading:
The Evolution of the English Churches (Doreen Rosman) This is the text I'll be using as the main text for the C of E course in the spring. A good read so far, helping me think through the big picture of English church history (and making me realize afresh that there's nothing new under the sun). Stay tuned for notes/thoughts.

For the Children's Sake (Susan Schaeffer Macaulay) A good way to get at some summaries of Charlotte Mason's thoughts on education, which I've only read in snippets.

All Aunt Hagar's Children (Edward P. Jones) Wonderful, wonderful short prose. I haven't read short stories in ages, and this is a great way to re-immerse in the genre. Jones has won a Pulitzer but this is my first encounter with him. I believe he's going to be at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Michigan in the spring. Registration for that festival is now open, by the way!

The Elizabethan World Picture (E.M.W. Tillyard) I've been meaning to read this for ages. I'm finally doing it.

Reading "at" (sporadically):

Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture (Walt Mueller)
What to Listen for in Music (Aaron Copland) A nice grown-up complement to the Story of the Orchestra book the sweet girl and I are going through together.

Books I'm Skimming and Thinking About Using for our First Grade Year (or over the summer between K and 1st):

Drawing With Children (Mona Brookes) The copy I got from the library is beat up with use, underlined and highlighted. But I can see why. It's a book that begs for practical use as it's full of drawing (and seeing) exercises for children and yes, for adults who have never felt comfortable with their drawing skills. I've been drawing again in the past year or so; a book like this just encourages me to keep on and gives me confidence and ideas/methods for more formal drawing lessons I can actually do with my daughter.

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (Jesse Wise) I'm fairly certain I'm going to use this book to cover and/or review basic English usage with the sweet girl next year. Some of it will definitely fall into the "review" category for us, but I still think the progression of the lessons is helpful, even if I end up tweaking and supplementing a bit. I also like the helpful approaches to narration and copy work.

Books on Creativity I'm Visiting and/or Revisiting
On Being Human (Calvin Seerveld)
Walking on Water (Madeleine L'Engle)
Scribbling in the Sand (Michael Card)

Walking on Water is in a class by itself on this topic; I love it and have loved it for years. Seerveld and Card both come from a more reformed theological perspective and engage God-honoring creativity in life-giving ways that make me think
and that complements L'Engle's perspective. I like wrestling with all three of these at once. Only wish I had more time to do it!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mahler's 7th Symphony

I've fallen in love with a "new" composer. Well, one that's new to me anyway!

I can't recall ever hearing any of Gustav Mahler's work, at least not hearing it and being conscious that it was his. He lived 1865-1911, which puts some of his work firmly in the beginning of one of my favorite eras.

The sweet girl and I have been reading and listening to Robert Levine's The Story of the Orchestra. This is a book/CD intended for children, but I've been learning as much or more than my little one (though she's loved it too). Each morning we talk about a different instrument in the orchestra and after learning about it, play the appropriate track on the CD that highlights it. It's been a great exercise in learning to pick out instruments as we hear them in orchestral work, something I never really learned to do.

A couple of weeks ago we learned about the tympani, those wonderfully huge drums played in the orchestra. The sweet girl has an ongoing fascination with percussion (seriously...she is longing to play drums and has a great sense of rhythm, though I'm not yet sure can carry a tune!) and so we were both excited to hear the featured track for this one. It happened to be the opening minute of the finale to Mahler's 7th symphony. If you've never heard this particular piece, try! It's one of the most exciting and heart-rending pieces I've heard in a long time. As we've played that one minute over and over, I've had odd but powerful sensations when I listen to it: it makes me feel excited to be alive, hopeful about the future, and (no kidding, though it's hard to explain this about a piece of supposedly secular music) jazzed about heaven and the kingdom of God. I think some orchestral music, because of its communal nature and often majestic brass tones, just gives me a heavenly sense.

The agonizing thing was we only had this one minute excerpt. It trails off tantalizingly, leaving me wanting to know where the music would go next. I hurried to our online card catalog to see of the county system had this particular symphony anywhere. They did, though it took them several days to get it from another library after I requested it.

I picked it up from the library hold shelf this morning. And I did something I basically never do with a good book, I went to the last chapter first. I had to hear that stunning finale, the final movement of the symphony. I felt like I'd been left hanging for two weeks, waiting to find out "what happened."

And it's wonderful. All 18 minutes of it. Now I need to go back and listen to the whole symphony, which lasts over an hour (so stretches my still growing musical appreciation skills). Mahler apparently wrote some of the biggest, longest, most complex symphonies ever. Wouldn't you know it!

The other great thing was how excited the sweet girl was about this CD too. I picked it up downstairs while she was up with her Daddy in the children's section. So she didn't see me get it. She must have remembered it during her rest time this afternoon though. A little while ago when she got up from a nap, the first thing she said was: "Mommy, did you get the rest of that symphony today?" She too wanted to hear the rest of the finale. It's playing in her room right now!

Edited to add: it must've finished. Right as I posted this, she came running into the living room, smiling brightly. "Mommy, can I hear the tympani again?" Time to go push the play button on track five one more time...!

Friday, November 09, 2007

School Journey Notes (always written by lamplight)

Well, we've come to the end of another week of school -- we've got eleven weeks under our belt and we're still going strong. Though I confess I am eagerly anticipating the four days off we will get at Thanksgiving! Partly I just need the break: not so much from schooling itself as from routine in general. I am very much looking forward to seeing my parents in Virginia (we haven't seen them in a whole year, which I think is the longest we've ever gone between visits)! We will also get to see Dana's mom, stepdad, and aunt, both on our way down and our way back. And we're hoping to squeeze in a "field trip" to D.C. as the sweet girl has never been there. That seems almost unbelievable to me given how many wonderful times D. and I spent there in the first few years of our marriage when we only lived three hours from it (and the fact that my hubby, now many many years ago, was a D.C. tour guide).

Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. We still have all of next week and two days of the next before we leave, but I am getting excited. The sweet girl is eagerly anticipating the Thanksgiving trip but didn't realize at first that vacation really meant vacation -- from school as well as everything else. She burst into tears upon the discovery that we are not taking her math workbook with us. (I know, I know, I am a cruel mommy.) She's happy though that we're planning to take our Scripture memorization CD and our current book of poetry so she can do some reciting for the grandparents. She has recently memorized several poems with almost no prompting at all. She loves Mary Ann Hoberman's work and seems to soak up its rhythms so easily. Her favorites, and the ones she's practiced most to share, are "Snow" and "My Sister Saw a Dinosaur."

I'm looking for recommendations about how to proceed with reading in the new year. At the rate we're progressing, we've got only about four weeks to go in our 100 Easy Lessons book. I've been really pleased with it, and the sweet girl has done well with it. I think I will probably spend the run-up toward Christmas doing some review in the earlier sections of the book. I'd love to find some easy readers/beginning readers that focus on Christmas for that time period.

Once we're in the new year, however, I am feeling that we'll still need a component of more formal reading instruction each day...more "lessons" (as S. loves to call them). We play phonics games; I have some other game and worksheet kinds of activities I can use; and I know of some good beginning readers, but that all feels a bit haphazard. One friend suggested that we go with Sonlight's readers, but in looking over their website, I'm feeling unsure about whether or not that's what we need right now. I've been looking through some other resources, mostly Ambleside and Berquist's book on planning your own classical curriculum...I need to re-check The Well-Trained Mind for suggestions too. Anyone out there used Alpha-phonics? I'm not sure about its compatibility with "100 Easy Lessons." Well, we'll see.

Math is going really well. We've spent the past couple of weeks on place value. I wasn't wild about the introduction of the concept in the Horizons workbook we're using, so I went back to Math-U-See. What a wonderful way to learn! Sometimes I wonder if I should have gone with that curriculum as I originally planned. At any rate, I'm grateful I can use it (thanks to a loan from a friend) to supplement the other things we're doing. S. keeps asking if we can do more place values: she loves the fun aspect of drawing the "tens house" and the "ones house" with markers on the white board, and then "building" numbers with the appropriate blocks (the ten blocks live in the tens house, the one unit blocks live in the ones house). Sometimes I write the number and she builds it; sometimes I build the number and then have her write it. We've talked enough about place value that she's recognized the next place (or "house") will belong to the hundreds, and she's begged to do the hundreds place next week. That puts us rather ahead of the Horizons workbook on this particular concept, but I think that's probably just fine...the place value stuff on the worksheets will likely just feel like review for a while.

I may post reader and reader resource ideas as I find them here...this journal is turning into a place where I can post some homeschooling notes from time to time. If you've got other beginning reader suggestions (either curricula, ideas, or just good easy reader titles) please pass them on!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Franc for Your Thoughts

The sweet girl and I were on our way to the post office late this morning. I needed to buy some stamps, and was pilfering our change jar in the kitchen to come up with a pile of quarters. I decided to turn the errand into a bit of a math lesson.

I told her that one stamp costs forty-once cents, and asked her how many quarters she would need to buy one. We took four quarters out and talked about how each was worth twenty-five cents, then counted "by 25s" to 100. She then figured out that she would need two quarters to buy one stamp.

I decided to save the lesson in subtraction (how many cents would you get back in change from the two quarters) until later. That's because on closer scrutiny, I realized that one of the quarters was not a quarter at all. It was a franc.

I have no idea how French currency made its way into our kitchen jar. I occasionally come across Canadian pennies, but this was a first. Actually this is the first time I think I'd ever seen a franc. It's a lovely coin with what looks like a leafy branch on one side and a woman (lady liberty, perhaps?) in a gauzy gown on the other. This particular coin was minted in 1975.

The wonderfully serendipitous thing was that, after our post office run, we were planning to snuggle for some read-aloud time with a new chapter book. And today just "happened" to be the day we were starting Nancy Savage Carlson's book The Family Under the Bridge, which is set guessed it...Paris.

So we spent time looking together at the franc, which will now be the basis of a coin collection. And then later we spent time talking about France. You've just got to love moments like that!