Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Guess who we visited?

Well, maybe not the Holy Father himself, but his cardboard cut out at the Basilica.

We were at the Basilica doing a little pilgrimage of gratitude for the end of the school year.

Actually, we were multi-tasking, we were also hoping to pick up some copies of the new encyclical.

We will be studying it in our Dominican chapter, and I prefer to read (and mark up) a paper copy rather than reading it online. I tend to forget things when I only read them on a screen. 

What were we talking about?   Oh, yes, Amazon won't have it until late July, and we were hoping to get it as soon as it came out... several weeks ago...

Remarkably, the Basilica didn't have it either!  To add insult to injury, they were getting it in the next day!  Ah well, we'll just have to visit again, I guess.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Morning Cutie

Better than a cup of coffee!

Leena handles her gerbils all the time and they keep getting tamer and tamer.  The more you interact with them, the more they want to interact with you.

Vanilla now likes to ride on Leena's shoulder and give her tiny tickly gerbil kisses!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poem of the Week

One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII

By Pablo Neruda

Translated By Mark Eisner
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,   
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:   
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,   
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries   
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,   
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose   
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Vacation Day

Can you see the spider web?
 It's finally summer vacation!

I know what I said before about summer starting when the portfolio review is done, but summer vacation doesn't get going until the Emperor's school year wraps up.

This year that was the agonizingly late June 24th.

 Where I grew up, school started after Labor Day (the first Monday of September) and ended the first Friday of June.

I thought this most unfair.  School after Memorial Day (last Monday of May)? What were they thinking?!

In Maryland, it turns out, they are thinking that you should be in school from mid-August to mid-June!  This is clearly a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Wait, maybe you don't understand how I feel about this.  I'd better start typing in all caps and use more exclamation points.


Which brings us to the last day of the Emperor's school when I saw someone's dahlias blooming.  I wondered what they had done to get them to bloom in early June. Then reality hit me: It's almost July!!

I dumped the sensible plan for the day and we took a hike instead.

If you need me, I'll be over here with a cold drink in the hammock.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Congratulations, Mxyl!

Mxyl has graduated high school!

By the grace of God we really did home school all the way through high school!  And he survived!  

Moreover, since he did fantastically well in the 6 college classes he's already taken, we've eliminated the whole 3 o' clock in the morning,"But did we prepare him well enough for college?" thing.

Believe me, that's a real thing no matter how the kid got the diploma- at least it would be for me!

Thanks be to God!  I'm still sort of wandering around amazed!

We did the graduation ceremony (with about a score of our family and friends) in the party room of our favorite restaurant

Since the Emperor attends his school's graduation exercises every year, he knew how to do an official ceremony.  Except our speeches were shorter!

Congratulations, Mxyl!  We are so proud of you!!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Poem of the Week: Father's Day

A Father to His Son

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
'Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.'

And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
'Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.'
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own. 

By Carl Sandburg

HT: Poem Hunter

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


When Sue, over at Stories of an Unschooling Family,  published a series on using Evernote to record home schooling, I was very curious, but I didn't want to switch methods in the middle of the semester. I bookmarked it and thought I'd look at it over the Christmas break.

Well, with illness in the family, that didn't happen either, but now that summer is here, I'm between school years, and it's the perfect time to try it out!

Here are Sue's blog posts. This is the first post.

And here are her videos.

Between the two, I ought to be able to figure it out.  She makes it look very easy!

My only question is if I could do Evernote and still have enough creative energy/computer time to keep going with my blog.  I started the blog as a way of recording home school stuff, but it's expanded to sharing ideas, meeting friends, and, with Blog 2 Print, making a concrete way to remember all the joys (and some of the sorrows) of our home school journey. 

That's why I've never tried Facebook or Twitter, if I put my energy there, I wouldn't have it here.

Still, with the summer to try it out, I'll have my best shot of making it easy by the time I "need" to record things, and the worst case scenario is that I will have learned a new system.  Evernote looks like it would be useful for organizing all sorts of ideas- maybe I can get the Emperor to learn it with me!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Happy Summer!


The portfolio review ends our formal school year, it's 94 degrees and we are ready to relax and have fun!

We school all the time, in real life, but summer feels different.   It's a hard stop: a closing of the books, and a time to wonder what to read next.

This semester was the best of times and the worst of times and I'm not too sorry to get some distance from it.

Dad catches fish
He always throws them back
The day after the review, I went off to visit my folks.

I went to help them, but it turned into a relaxing vacation: fishing, playing cards, long talks, prayerful moments, watching weather, stars, and wildlife.

 It's such a blessing to spend time with them!
The herons catch fish too, but never throw them back
 For the second year, my parents have a pair of Baltimore Orioles building their curious balloon shaped nest in their New Jersey backyard.

Orioles are the Maryland state birds, but I've only once seen them in Maryland in the 25 years I've lived here!

The picture is a Great Blue Heron, but we've always called them pterodactyls. They have a very similar size and shape in flight (a 2 meter wingspan), or at least, so my Dad tells me.  I haven't actually seen a pterodactyl in flight.

This one is walking about the yard in the morning, answering the question of what was flattening the sedges.

These are my favorite birds on the lake (even beating out the Bald eagles), mostly because it's so fun to watch them eat: you can see the fish all the way down their long necks!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Portfolio Review Today!

 If you are wondering what that is, I explained it here.

Meanwhile this semester we did:

The Big Trip
Mardi Gras!
Their Museums!

Chilled  Out!
English (especially poetry)

It looked like this!


Swing Dance!

Our Museums!

The Big Trip!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Another Question

We've run into a difficulty with Mxyl's diploma.  We need to name the school (us) issuing the diploma.  Hmmmmm.

The Academic Institutional Academy for Higher Learning Institute?  Too formal.

Circus Clown Academy? Not formal enough.

Circus Maximus Clown Academy?  Not helping.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Training Facility M-78? Might be pushing it.

Gallifreyan Institute for Trans Dimensional Engineering? Definitely pushing it.

Institute Eclectica?  Try saying it aloud.

Pavlat Institute for Gifted Children? Might sound braggy to those who don't get the X Men reference.

Zoom School?  I think it's taken, plus it doesn't sound like a high school.

Veritas Academy?  Sounded good until I added "In Vino Veritas."

UPDATE: Thinking about it some more, we realized that the core principle in each child's education has always been: "Helping them become who God created them to be."  Each Zooomlian has had (or is having) a unique education.

We've decided to let each one name their school.  Mxyl chose a favorite saint: Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Monday, June 8, 2015


If Choclo (hypothetically) goes through a phase where he makes lots and lots of fused bead fish (and other creatures), and he sticks them all over your refrigerator, does that mean you have fusion cuisine?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Poem of the Week

No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Big Trip: Postcards from Svalbard Round 2

One of our favorite things about being in the Arctic Circle is the northern lights!

This was a gorgeous and easy project from Kathy's AngelNik Designs.  Kathy seems to be one of those art teachers who posts rarely, but everything she does post is a gem!

 The bottom mountains and river are oil pastels.

The sky is all chalk pastels.

You start with covering the sky with dark blue.

Then you draw swirly lines in medium green and blue. Moving dark to light, draw swirly light green and blue lines over the medium lines.

Add a bit of red near the top. 

The green and blue are from excited nitrogen atoms (wheeeee!).  The red is from oxygen, which is rarer because it takes much more energy to fluoresce.

Next gently blend the lines with your finger, finishing with brushing the light upwards.

Lastly add a few stars with oil pastel. 

Beautiful!  And fast, which means you can do several and experiment with different auroras.

We are also watching Frozen Planet, and I have a snowflake project planned.  We'll see if I get to it!

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Big Trip: Postcards From Svalbard 1

 Getting to Svalbard from Delhi was interesting: we had to go through Dubai and Oslo.  I thought that was curious because Oslo is Sweden and Svalbard is part of Norway.

At any rate, we landed in Longyearbyen, and took off on a cruise around the island.  It's not for nothing that Svalbard is called the Realm of the Polar Bear!

 The island has the highest number of polar bear maternity dens, and this is the time of year when the mothers and cubs have emerged.
 The art project is from That Artist Woman.

You paint the sky purple and sprinkle it with salt.  This was supposed to make snowflake patterns as the salt draws water from the paint, but in our case, we left the salt in place as stars.

The moon is made by removing a circle of paint using tissue over a cup. Leena painted hers black to make an eclipse.

The land is blue and white paint overlayed with plastic wrap.  When you remove the wrap, you get a neat icy crystalline effect.

Oob wanted a daytime sky.

The bears are stencils.  I don't happen to have any polar bear stencils, but the author (presumably thinking she was speaking to competent art teachers) suggested making one out of thin cardboard.

I have to say, it challenged my skills, but I discovered that minor mistakes aren't very noticeable.

The trick with all stencils is to pat the paint in with the brush instead of wiping it on.  An up and down motion gives you a clean outline, side to side tends to get under the stencil.

I had forgotten how much fun I have with art projects!

We also watched Spy on the Ice.