Fridge Facts for Classical Conversations- No More


Fridge Facts… Where did they go??!

These were a very popular file that parents could download from Classical Conversations to help review memory work.

But the files have been removed from their website since the images on them were not paid for and therefore, break copy write laws.

Here is the explanation I found on the CC forum.

“The Foundations PM team is extremely sorry that we had to delete the Fridge Facts from the File Sharing.  The are beautiful and very well done.  However, CC had to pay fees to use the pictures that are on the front of the Timeline cards.  It breaks Copyright laws to reproduce the pictures of the Timeline.  Because you all own the Foundations Guide, you can re-print the information from that guide here, and that includes the titles for the Timeline.  But the pictures can not be reproduced unless you copy them for your own family and keep them there.  This is very difficult because we know how much you ladies love to make life easier for each other.  Please do not re-produce and post any pictures of the front or back of the  CC Acts and Facts Timeline here, or on Pintrest, or Facebook.  We make every effort to respect copyright laws and we appreciate you joining with us in this endeavor.  The memory work that is copyrighted in the Foundations Guide should not be copied or reproduced in other venues where it can be copied and used  by people who do not own the Foundations Guide.  Again, THANK YOU for understanding this issue!   Blessings, PM Team”


Three Things Every CC Mom Needs

If you go to Classical Conversations every week like our family does, these three things will make your life better.

IMG_7763#1. Inch Bug labels and bag tags.  They have a lot of different types to chose from, but I get

  • the stickers with each of my kid’s names. I put them on their sippy cups, maps, charts, etc.
  • the non-adhesive bag tags for their book and snack bags
  • the tag pal clothing labels for our coats, etc.


#2.  A magnetic eraser for your white board- so it won’t get lost (as often).


#3.  Empty plastic pocket folders-

In my experience, you can never have enough of these around the house. I use them almost every week for my child’s presentation materials.

I limited this list to three items, though I could easily keep going.

Every CC mom could probably also use

  • a good thermos for coffee.
  • a nice tote bag
  • a housekeeper
  • colored printer/ copier
  • more bookshelves

the list could go on forever, really.

But I chose three simple things that I find myself thankful for most often.


Creating Copiousness

I recently attended a practicum for home school moms (and dads). I took a lot of notes at the practicum and I’ve been going through my notes on previous posts, if you are interested. Here’s a link to part one of I don’t know how many parts. It may take a while to get through all the notes.

Anyway, one of the things the speaker at that practicum encouraged home school moms to do was to “create copiousness” in their home because our home and our home school are the same place, really. As you home school moms know, learning continues all day long in a home school environment.

Copiousness is an abundance of thoughts or words.  I looked around today and I think I begin to see copiousness on our home.  We have so many delightful, new, rich, yet simple things going on.  Here are just a very few.

My husband reads aloud to our family after dinner.  This is something we started doing for the children, but we find we adults enjoy it and benefit from it as much as they do.  He has started reading Classic Myths to Read Aloud by William Russell.  We are only a few myths into the book and it is already thrilling.

Not only do so many of our words come from these myths, so many fascinating ideas are attached to those words.  For instance, we read the tale of Narcissus, a young man who became so infatuated with his own reflection that he wasted away.

Narcissus by Caravaggio

Obviously, the noun narcissism comes from this tale, so my kids are learning vocabulary that they will use and hear used for the rest of their lives. But more importantly, there are important ideas that we can explore when we consider self-love and its consequences in healthy and unhealthy amounts.  I believe it will serve our family well to have names like Narcissus and events associated with him like his downfall due to extreme self-love to mention to our daughters in conversations as they grow up.

As my husband read, it occurred to me that so many young people struggle with narcissistic tendencies (i.e. selfies, hours in front of the mirror perfecting make up and hair techniques.) Perhaps ancient people created these myths as warning to young people since human nature was the same back then.

I begin to see narcissism everywhere now, in myself, in our culture. Blogs are definitely narcissistic, including this one. This blog is a mirror I gaze into that reflects my life back to me (and perhaps to my parents, if they read it, but I am not even sure they read it). I’m fascinated with my own life sometimes. And now that I am considering narcissism, I am fascinated with the level that I am fascinated with my own life…

Anyway, I am already enjoying the copious thoughts and conversations these stories are fostering in our home.  I know I will continue to enjoy recognizing these stories when they come up in other poetry, literature, music, etc. through the years.

It’s important to give kids great words and ideas, yes. But they also need some practical skills!  What’s the proverb? Give a kid a fish, feed her for a day. Teach a kid to make pancakes and she can make you pancakes everyday for the rest of your life. My daughter has learned to make pancakes.  I’m a genius!

No, seriously. She’s made pancakes every day for a week now. And that means she has made just about every mistake in the book and she’s pretty much a pro, not at making pancakes, but a pro at solving her own pancake-problems as they arise.

Yesterday, for instance, when it was time to turn the pancakes, she realized she didn’t have a spatula and none of the spatulas were in the tub on the counter or in the drawer… She yelled, “I can’t find a spatula! Mom, I can’t find a spatula!” I sat quietly, watching her suffer. I told myself, “Wait for it… Wait for it… Wait…” She spun around in the kitchen with her hands up a few times, yelling for help. Then she stopped suddenly because something occurred to her. The spatulas were probably in the dishwasher with all the other clean dishes. And like all master-pancake-makers before her, she dived headlong towards the dishwasher and the rest of the morning was a complete success. “Well done, young Padawan.”

And she’s so proud of herself. She ought to be. I couldn’t make pancakes until well into my twenties. She’s managing something significant and practical, doing something well, making breakfast, that she will need to do for herself and perhaps many others every morning for the rest of her life.

She even made pancakes for her dad yesterday. He lingered a little longer than usual that morning before going to work, so he was here to have breakfast with his girls.  He sat with her and her sisters and ate his oldest daughter’s pancakes.  It was a beautiful moment.

Very often, all this copiousness creates more and more questions. My daughter has been asking tons of questions about cooking, probably because she’s cooking more and so she’s thinking about cooking. And I don’t know about your kids, but my kids tend to ask their questions at the worst times. It’s like they have a sixth sense for when it is the worst time to distract me with an intriguing question.  Like when we are in the van and I am in heavy traffic and trying not to kill us, it never fails, from the back comes a loud, urgent question.  Or when they are doing chores, out from their bedroom they come with another really good question and it takes me at least a few moments of standing there with my mouth open and with my hands in dishwater to remember they are supposed to be cleaning.

So now, instead of telling them “Ask me again later!” and totally forgetting what the question was entirely by the time we are free to think about it, we agree to write it down right away on a sheet of paper or something and then get back to whatever it is we were doing.  We are using the white board to collect our questions for now, but I think I may actually need to make a permanent place in our house to record our questions because I have a feeling the questions are just beginning.

Another thing, we’ve taken up jacks. I don’t know about you, but I am always jealous of kids in old novels who know how to use a sling shot, or a yo-yo, or marbles, etc. My kids feel the same way.  I think we’ve probably lost as much as we’ve gained with all our technology.  So we are trying to learn to play games that don’t plug in to power outlets. For now, we use this set of extra-large jacks and ball, but we have ordered a traditional set that will come in the mail soon.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult for my kids to keep at this game long enough to see themselves improve. They complain but they keep playing. It’s good for them to confront their own limitations, frustrations, and to practice persistence. It’s not an easy game, so when they actually catch a jack and the ball in the same hand, it feels really good and we all celebrate.

We’ve also ordered marbles (a shooter and a matching set for everyone in the family) and pick-up-sticks.  This fall/ winter in front of our fire place is shaping up to be quite entertaining! We also play chess in front of the fire in the fall/winter, so I am really beginning to look forward to the change of seasons, for once!

I am reading this book to myself right now.  That’s right, I am reading a math book. (As needed, I take out a pencil and do problems so I can make sure that I understand a concept.)  For other people, math has nothing to do with religion.  But for me, I am praying my way through this book. I did not do well in math in school, but I believe God wants me to understand math, even enjoy it, if for no other reason than to help my kids understand and enjoy it.  When my kids are in upper level math, I will probably still hire a tutor and/or have my brilliant husband help them, but the great thing about home school is that I get to redeem my own education as I facilitate my kids’ education.

We will start our school routine again later this month, but for now, I am enjoying an abundance of leisure time (thus this blog post.) It’s been such a rewarding summer since we’ve been able to relax enough to begin reading and learning new things and adding new skills and games to the abundance we already enjoy in our home/ school.




What’s In Your Storehouse?


I’ve taken a few hikes this summer. Most of the time, I take my kids with me, but this weekend, my kids stayed at home with my husband and I went all by myself. Hiking alone, I had no one to talk to or more accurately, I had no one to listen to because my kids weren’t there to chatter constantly.  I enjoyed the rare opportunity to entertain my own thoughts. I walked and I prayed. I thought and my thoughts weren’t ever interrupted.

As I went farther and farther along the trails, I found that I wanted to occupy my mind with something beautiful while I had the chance to do so.  I thought it would be nice to meditate on the some beautiful words, the words of a Psalm, or even recite the words to a hymn. Almost automatically, I reached for my Bible, but I quickly realized I couldn’t walk and read at the same time.  That could be dangerous.  And I definitely didn’t want to put on headphones because I had come to the woods for quiet and I was enjoying the gentle sounds coming from the streams and the birds in the trees.

So I decided to meditate on a Psalm, any Psalm, or hymn, any hymn, I knew by heart.  So I thought about it.  I tried to recall one.  Do you know what I quickly realized?  I couldn’t quote a single Psalm to myself from memory off the cuff- not even one.  At home, as I read the Psalms with a Bible open on my lap, the words just flow through my mind. I had come to believe that I really knew many of them by heart.  But, apparently, I don’t.

I tried to recall a hymn, any hymn.  I had much the same problem.  I was able to recall most of the lyrics to only one hymn: How Great Thou Art.  “When through the woods and forest glades I wander. And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees…”  But I was not able to be totally sure of the order the verses or whether or not I was leaving something out because I had never deliberately memorized that hymn either.  It was very frustrating, disappointing, but also enlightening.

One of the things classical education focuses on, especially during the elementary years, is giving students a value storehouse of information in their minds that they can carry with them all the time and retrieve whenever necessary.  So kids memorize the time line, geography locations, math facts, etc. It seems like a lot of memory work at a time when kids don’t understand any of it, mundane and useless in this age of information where we can just Google anything. But, let’s be honest, a truly educated person definitely should not have to Google the location of Columbia in the middle of a conversation with someone or have to use a calculator to estimate the total of their groceries in the store.

So I realize now how much I still depend on the text open in front of me for the Scriptures or my computer, iphone, etc. for the lyrics to hymns.  I want to really know important things by heart. My hike showed me how little I actually know, really know, of the Scriptures and the great hymns.

It isn’t very likely that my Bible will be taken from me here in America or that I won’t have access to my technology whenever I want to Google the lyrics to a hymn. But the Bible says, “I have hidden thy word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Perhaps that’s because the Psalmist knew what is deep, deep, deep in our minds will affect how we think, feel, and act. I thought I knew the word of God really well. But, as I hiked and looked down at the packed brown earth on the path in front of my feet, I realized I have actually probably just been scattering the seeds of the word of God on the surface of my memory. I’ve been scattering for many years. Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves, take tools and dig deep, and make deliberate efforts to put great words and verses into my mind.

How many of God’s words have been lost to me because I haven’t worked hard to retain them because it was too tedious to do so? How much would my life change if I could carry carry longer portions of beautiful, life-giving Scripture with me to the kitchen sink, the doctor’s waiting room, the treadmill, the park, etc.  How would it change the way I minister to my children?  What if I could lovingly recite Psalms to them at night before I put them to bed?  How beautiful could that be?  The possibilities are endless.

I am not sure how I will begin doing it, but I want to memorize more or perhaps I will just memorize less more deeply.  Even if I had only had one single, complete Psalm to meditate on for those quiet hours while I hiked, it would have made such a great difference in my spirit and who knows what God could have done in my life with that time thinking deeply about His word.

I hope the Lord will help me in this endeavor to hide his word deeper in my heart.  I think I will pick one Psalm to learn and then go on another hike in a week or two just to see what it is like to be able to really meditate on the word of God out of the storehouse of my heart.

Notes from the Classical Conversations Practicum 2014- Part 2

Rhetoric is a stage of learning in the trivium (i.e. the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages.) But rhetoric can also mean the effective use of language to persuade people of the value of ideas. Plato called rhetoric “The use of soul leading by means of words.”  Unfortunately, the word has come to denote insincere or manipulative speech in recent time, but in the traditional sense of the word, rhetoric was a noble art.

A person went through several stages before communicating their ideas to the public. The stages of rhetoric a person would go through are 1. invention (or gathering ideas) 2. arrangement 3.elocution or expression 4. memorization and 5. presentation.

People who have a sincere desire to find truth and who want to convince people without resorting to sophistry use rhetoric in this traditional sense. Rhetoric is hard work.  At other times in our history, people were more educated in rhetoric than they are now and common people were much more capable of weighing the merits of another man’s ideas.

The speaker mentioned three masters of rhetoric in our history just to provide inspirational examples of how the use of language can influence people: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry. When she mentioned Patrick Henry, of course, I thought of his famous speech that ends with the words, “…give me liberty or give me death!” That’s when I realized that Mr. Henry must have practiced this speech at home before delivering it in public.  I don’t know why that hadn’t occurred to me before. But I had always imagined he came up with those superb words moments before he said them from his passion and zeal for independence as if his words were more sincere because they were impromtu. But that was a very ignorant assumption based on my lack of knowledge about traditional rhetoric.  Of course, Henry wished to persuade people to choose independence, but he wasn’t insincere just because he went through all these stages of rhetoric before addressing his audience. He worked responsibly, by thinking the matter through beforehand, arranging his words, and figuring out the most persuasive way of delivering his ideas. Taking a second look at Henry’s speech through new eyes, I see a work of a master rhetorician, truly!  And again I realized how little I know about all there is to know and how much the classical approach to education is enlightening me!


Notes from the Classical Conversations Practicum 2014- Part 1

I attended the Classical Conversations Practicum in Easton, CT this year and I took copious notes.  Copious is a word I learned at the practicum, actually. Someone said to me, “You are a copious note-taker like me.” I smiled and nodded and pretended to know what copious meant. Then I heard the speaker say, “You want to create copiousness in your home school.” I know the only reason I recognized the word copiousness was because I had heard the word copious right before that. Later, I looked it up. Copious means “abundant” and it can also mean “fullness, as of thoughts or ideas.” So I have abundant notes, notes full of thoughts and ideas. I’d like to record and process some of those thoughts and ideas here.  This may take a while.

My notes begin-

Many parents quit homeschooling their kids once they get to middle/ high school because the academics get scary and because they can’t motivate their children to do the work anymore.

Parents with younger children can pick a high school subject and begin working through it on their own now. That way Algebra, Chemistry, or Latin won’t be so intimidating when we take our kids through it.

Parents of younger students should work on their parenting skills because they will need to be able to lead their kids as they get older.  Parenting resources by Paul Tripp are excellent for this. In particular, the speaker recommended his book Age of Opportunity.

Note: I had never heard of Paul Tripp before, but apparently, I should have. When I mentioned his name to my husband, I found out Tripp was a speaker and/or author of resources that were used at Biblical Counseling conferences my husband and I attended in college.

My practicum notes continue-

The Classical model of education begins with the end in mind. C.S. Lewis wrote the first Narnia books last.  Leigh Bortins started Classical Conversations with the Challenge levels and then built the Essentials and Foundations programs based on what students in Challenge would need to succeed when they got there.

So when people ask, “Why so much memorization?” in Foundations, parents can answer, “So students will have a detailed world map, timeline, vital math, history, and science facts stored in their brain to use to reason with when they are in Challenge levels.

Beginning with the end in mind is the best way to ensure you will arrive at your desired destination. So ask, “What do I want my children to be capable of at the end of high school?” and begin working a plan to get to that goal.”

The Trivium, or the three stages of learning- grammar, dialectic, rhetoric- teaches kids how to learn. It also follows the stages they go through as they grow up.

During their early years, children love to memorize. They love repetition.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” -GK Chesterton

Note: As the speaker talked about the fact that children like to memorize, it occurred to me that this is true of all children, not just the home schooled ones (i.e. that Frozen song that everyone knows). Classical parents recognize the fact that children memorize and are strategic about what they give their children to retain (i.e. the timeline song.)

As children grow, they become more (and more and more and more) dialectic (depending their propensity to argue. My daughter is well into the dialectic stage.)  They begin to reason topics out, look for truth on both sides, and pick a side to argue.  Classical Conversations gives kids rich content to argue about and students will study books like The Fallacy Detective that give guidelines for arguing well and fairly, etc.

The speaker said the kids in the early Challenge levels will read The Hiding Place (one my all-time favorite books) and argue about whether or not people in the Ten Boom family should have lied to the Nazis in order to help the Jews.  (That was one of the most interesting parts of the story, in my opinion, the fact that one sister lied and the other would not lie, not matter what. Both sisters were righteous women who wanted to help the Jews escape the Nazis.) Adults are like that. Even Christians don’t always agree.  What great practice this gives pre-teens and teens for real life!

Note: It also occurred to me that all children at this stage of life begin to argue, not just the home schooled ones. But, unfortunately, a lot of children are just arguing about how they should be allowed to buy a Lady Gaga CD with their own money or go to the mall with their friends alone. My kids will probably want to go to the mall alone, too, but God willing, we will still be in CC and they will have other, better things to argue about. And maybe all their practice in thinking will make it easier for to reason with them as to why they won’t be allowed to go to the mall alone until they are out of college.  (I’m being sarcastic.)

The last stage of learning is rhetoric. In this stage, you can communicate about your subject matter in public, apply your subject to create something useful, teach others about it, etc. Anyone who is a master at a subject has gone through all three levels of learning-grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric- whether or not they did so strategically. Obviously, no one can be called a master if they haven’t even mastered the basic grammar of their subject.

Note: That’s when it occurred to me that this is why I love Les Mills. I teach group fitness classes part-time and I have recently pursued a certification to teach an excellent weight-lifting class called Bodypump.  I have to learn every Bodypump routine by heart.  Knowing the routines by heart allows me to focus on other, more important things like changing my tone of voice to fit the tone of the music or intensity of the workout. Or I can focus on the people in my classes, making eye contact with them, watching their form, coaching them they way they need to be coached, etc. Basically, by expecting their instructors to know the material by heart, Les Mills turns their group fitness instructors into fitness rhetoricians!  It was incredible to realize that the Trivium applies to everything we learn, even teaching group fitness classes!

This has to be all for now, folks. I know, I know.  But I’ve got copious amounts of laundry to do. I’ll have to process some more of my practicum notes here later.


Echo in Celebration by Leigh Bortins

IMG_7602I finished reading Echo in Celebration by Leigh Bortins and I want to tell you about the ways this book encouraged, challenged, inspired, and enlightened me.

I was encouraged to keep working hard at educating my kids.

The more I learn about education, the more I realize how poorly educated I was in school and the more I begin to desire for my children and for myself.  I want to strive to give them and myself the level of literacy and capability almost everybody in this country had two hundred years ago. So I have to educate them and myself as rigorously as people were educated them.  I feel inadequate for the task before me, but I want to begin and go along with the end in mind.

Bortins shared a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that I have heard before, but had never considered in the context of homeschooling.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It is humorous to imagine Roosevelt giving this speech to a group of weary, frazzled homeschooling moms. He wasn’t talking to home educators, but nonetheless, the quote fits.  Bortins says, “Raising children necessitates sacrificial labor and an attitude of constant prayer. Nothing I suggest in this book is easy.”  While frank, these words actually really encouraged me.

I was challenged to get rid of even more media.

Bortins says, “Give away the TV and video games… if the screens in your life are stopping you from choosing the best activities with your family.” In the past, I have felt pretty good about how little my kids and I watch TV compared to average families. We don’t actually have television, we have DVDs and we have an old xbox someone gave us and a few games on our computer and tablets. But, like the Bible says, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.  However little we might watch compared to average people, I still find that we sit and talk, read, pray, and play games together far too infrequently. At this point, I am seriously considering removing the computer and television and setting strict limits on the amount of time the girls play games on their tablets during this coming school year. I want to do this in order to make time for more worthwhile activities.  When I was a child, the television was on all day long.  I didn’t read much as a child.  My parents thought I wasn’t interested in reading because I preferred to watch television.  To this day, I believe I could have been a great reader as a child, if someone wiser than me had turned off the television long enough for me to get bored and wander over to the bookshelf.

I was inspired to hire another tutor.

Bortins talks about the importance of mentors in your child’s life.  She says, “Find teachers and tutors for your students and recognize you are not paying for the information that person has as much as for the time spent with someone who loves learning. I have a friend without a lot of money who pays to have her son study with one of the tutors in our… support group. She says she’d pay for her sons haul dirt just to be around this tutor because she knew all they would learn just from being near her.”

We are a part of a Classical Conversations community where my kids get to be tutored/ influenced by some of the most intelligent, virtuous men and women I have ever met. I don’t exaggerate when I say that, either. But, this quote, actually convinced me to sign my daughter up for another group that my friend is going to be hosting in her home. This friend of mine has several degrees including those in math, science, and music. She speaks several languages. She loves my daughter, and perhaps most importantly, she loves the Lord.  I was hesitant to sign my daughter up for anything else that would take her away from home for another day, especially since some of the subjects that will be covered in the group are already being covered in our home school in other ways. But by reading the quotes above, I realized that I would be missing an incredible opportunity for my daughter to simply be around this woman for a few hours every week. So how incredible it is that this woman was already offering to tutor my daughter!  God is truly at work in our lives!

I was enlightened about the idea of catechesis.

I have been in Classical Conversations for a year, so I am beginning to see the value of making my kids memorize and retain the basic facts or grammar for school subjects like math, history, geography, etc. Having facts about those subjects stored in their brain helps my kids understand, appreciate, and recognize those subjects when they see them outside of school and they have already been connect facts in one subjects to facts in other subjects.

But I had not considered how important it is for my kids to also memorize and retain the most basic facts or grammar about God.  We’re Protestant, so our kids aren’t going to be learning a catechism through church. But instead of hoping my kids are gathering and retaining the great truths about God through the random lessons at Sunday School or the random Bible verses I like enough to have them memorize, I plan to begin being much more deliberate about ensuring the girls are internalizing the most foundational truths that God has revealed to mankind through The Bible.  After many years of reading the Bible, I am not entirely sure I could retrieve all the basic truths in the Bible if the Bible were taken from me. Carrying those ideas with them will help them in much the same way carrying science, math, and history facts in their head will help them. They will be ready to connect the truths about God to things they encounter everywhere in everyday life.


Mining for Gems of Rhetoric


An elderly friend brought a calendar with a picture of Joan of Arc in it for my oldest daughter to see since this friend knew Norah had written an essay about Joan of Arc for Essentials.


Joana d’Arc by Gravura de 1505

But as we talked to our friend, we also discovered another image in the calendar that might end up being of great significance to us through the coming years. The painting at the very top of this post is from a French/ Latin manuscript called Les douze dames de rhétorique (The Twelve Ladies of Rhetoric).  The manuscript preserves intelligent correspondence about poetry between Georges Chastellain, Jean Robertet and Jean de Montferrant.

Of course, I’d love to be able to read the manuscript, but apparently it is only available in French and Latin, so that must wait until I can read Latin, a task I should be more equal to in several years. But, this image is serving to inspire me to work toward that end all the more. From what you can see in the painting and what we read from the captions that we found around it, a woman is mining for gems of rhetoric to add to books at her feet.

To me, this is a beautiful illustration of what we are trying to do in our home school. We are making efforts to become capable of understanding and treasuring the greatest ideas, even ideas we find expressed and preserved in other languages, and we want to become capable of expressing great ideas ourselves.

Modeling Clay


My nine year old makes some of the coolest stuff with modeling clay (the kind you can bake and harden) and she comes up with the ideas all on her own.  This is a tooth jar for the tooth fairy.  I usually collect her crafts on a little shelf that sits on the back of our stove and then when there are enough of them, I bake them all at once.  Isn’t this adorable?

Joan of Arc Essay for Classical Conversations


This photo shows my daughter’s Essentials group in costume. The kids dressed as the historical figures they wrote about in their final papers. From left to right we have Leif Ericson, Eric the Red, Eleanor of Aquitaine, two Joan of Arcs (my daughter is the one in armor), Johannes Gutenberg, Richard the Lionheart, Kubla Kahn, Genghis Kahn and Queen Elizabeth.

The kids in my daughter’s Essentials group took turns reading their papers to one another yesterday. They also had medieval games (including jousting with pool noodles) and medieval foods such as meat pies and roasted yams.

I thought I would share my daughter’s essay below so family and friends and anyone else who is curious can read it. My nine year old wrote this by herself. I typed everything as she spoke out the words using her keyword outline for reference. I am very proud of what my daughter has accomplished this year in Essentials. She is gifted, but she could not have done so well without the structure provided by The Institute for Excellence in Writing, the writing program used in Essentials.

 Joan of Arc

England and France were at war, a war that we now call the Hundred Years War. The reason for the war was the fact that Henry V, the king of England, had a grandmother who was a French princess. He thought that he should inherit the French land that his grandmother had owned. So Henry asked the king of France, Charles VI, if he could have the land his grandmother had owned and Charles VI’s daughter Cathryn’s hand in marriage. Charles VI did not want to hand over the land or his daughter because if Henry V married his daughter, Henry V’s descendents would become kings of France. Henry V was angered by this and declared war on France. As the war went on, Charles VI went mad. His queen, Isabella, decided that she wanted the king to sign a treaty that said “Yes” to Henry V’s demands. Since the king was mad, he signed the treaty for Isabella. So Henry got the land his grandmother had owned and Cathryn as his wife. Cathryn and Henry V had a little boy Henry VI. After Charles the VI and Henry V died, the Dauphin, the French prince, decided he wanted to become king of France even though Henry VI was the one who was supposed to become king according to the treaty Queen Isabella had forced the mad Charles VI to sign. Some of France wanted Henry VI to be the king of France. These people were called Burgundians since they were led by the Duke of Burgundy. But the rest of France was loyal to the Dauphin.

It was into this time that Joan of Arc was born. She lived in the town of Domremy, which was a village in French territory, cut off from the rest of France by Burgundian territory on one side and the Holy Roman Empire on the other. Since Domremy was cut off from the rest of France, it had no protection from Burgundian soldiers. Whenever their village was threatened, the villagers had to run to a different town. When they came back, their village was usually burned down to the ground, so they constantly had to rebuild their town and their lives.

When Joan was very young, she started having visions of Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Margaret, and Saint Kathryn. There were statues of Saint Margaret and Saint Kathryn in her village, so she recognized them quickly. The visions started telling her that she must lead the Dauphin and an army to Chinon and eventually to Reims so that the Dauphin could be crowned. Around this time, her father had a dream that she would run off with soldiers and join the army. He told her two older brothers that they could drown her if she ever tried to do such a thing. But later, when he wasn’t so angry, he decided that if Joan married, she wouldn’t be able to run off with soldiers. But she had secretly made a vow never to marry and she stuck to her vow even when a man took her to court for breaking the promised arrangement her father had made without her consent.

Even though her father forbade her from running off with soldiers, Joan defied him and went to a nearby town to ask its governor for a military escort through Burgundian land to get to the Dauphin. The governor refused, but he became convinced that Joan was sent from God when she was able to tell him about a battle that the French were losing three days before anyone should have known about it. He agreed to give her a military escort to Chinon. Joan would be traveling through enemy territory, so she dressed as a man and cut her hair. A local knight gave her a horse and a sword. After traveling for a few weeks, they arrived in a little French town called Fierbois from where she sent a letter to the Dauphin saying she wanted an interview. While the letter was being sent, she went to a little chapel and prayed. A messenger came back after the prince had read her letter and he said that the prince would see her. She traveled on to Chinon to see the Dauphin. As she arrived at the castle, she was mocked by one of the guards. Joan quickly snapped back, “Do not mock God so near your death.” As the story goes, not more than an hour later, the same guard fell into the moat and drown. You can guess how fast this story spread around Chinon and it made people believe in Joan even more.

The Dauphin heard this story and immediately let Joan have an interview with him as she requested in her letter. But before Joan came in, the Dauphin gave his rich royal robes to a man in the crowd and told the man to sit on his throne. The Dauphin dressed himself in regular clothing and hid among the crowd as a test to see if Joan was really sent by God. When Joan came into the room, she ignored the man on the throne and found the Dauphin in the crowd and knelled before him. The Dauphin was impressed with Joan, but he was a cautious man and he wanted to make sure that the spirit working with her was from God, so he sent Joan to a church where nuns and priests questioned her about the Bible. Eventually, the church leaders told the king they found nothing but good in her.

Now that she had been proved holy, the Dauphin raised an army and with Joan leading the charge, they drove the Burgundians and English back so they could make their way to Reims. As long as Joan was in the battles, the French were victorious. Her presence was so stirring among the French forces that it led the English to believe she was a witch. Eventually, Joan and the Dauphin arrived in Reims and the prince was crowned immediately, becoming Charles VII, King of France. As a reward for Joan’s service, her family was raised to the nobility and her village, Domremy, did not have to pay taxes ever again.

The Burgundian and English forces who were occupying Paris were still a threat to Charles VII. Joan wanted to attack the king’s enemies immediately, but Charles thought that he could get the Duke of Burgundy away from his English allies. Charles asked the Duke of Burgundy if he would sign a peace treaty. For fifteen days, neither side would fight and on the sixteenth day, as a sign of his loyalty, the Duke of Burgundy would hand over Paris. But the Duke of Burgundy was not planning to sign the treaty. He was just stalling for more time. He knew that thirty-five hundred soldiers had crossed the English Channel and were marching down to reinforce his position in Paris. Charles VII decided to attack Paris, but then he changed his mind and decided to retreat. Charles spent the next six months hoping the Duke would switch sides. He gave back some of the French towns that he had taken from the Duke of Burgundy, including the town of Compiegne. But the people who lived in Compiegne refused to hand over their city, so the Burgundian troops put the city under siege. Joan thought that Charles VII was wrong, so she went with a small band of volunteer soldiers to the city to help. They attacked the Burgundian encampment surrounding the city. Seemingly taken by surprise, the Burgundian and English ran for cover. Joan and her soldiers chased them, but once they were away from the city, they found themselves in an ambush and were attacked on both sides. Joan and the volunteer soldiers spun around and starting riding back to the city, being chased by their enemies. The governor of Compiegne tried to keep the gates of the city open long enough everyone to get in, but Joan was covering the other soldiers’ retreat, so the gates closed before she got in. Joan was surrounded and captured by the English and Burgundian forces.

The Duke of Burgundy kept her in prison until he accepted a huge ransom from the English king and released her into the hands of France’s brutal enemies. Charles VII never tried to come to Joan’s aid. Joan was tried for witchcraft in an English church court. No one was allowed to speak for her defense, so she was found guilty even though there was almost no evidence against her. She was burned at the stake. Even several of the English people who witnessed her trial and death were convinced that they had done something terribly wrong. The chief prosecutor said he feared the wrath of God over what he had done. An English man in the crowd exclaimed, “We are doomed for we have burned a saint!”

Twenty-five years after her death, Charles VII asked the Catholic church if they would consider the case against Joan. The church found that she was in an unfair trial and they declared her innocent of all the she was accused of. Later, five hundred years later, the Catholic church made Joan of Arc a saint. The Hundred Years War lasted one hundred years, not two hundred or three hundred, because of Joan of Arc. She helped restore the French kingdom and crown to Charles VII and his French descendents once and for all.


Bauer, Susan Wise. The Story of the World: The Middle Ages U.S.A., Peace Hill Press, 2003. Print.

Stanley, Diane. Joan of Arc Hong Kong: Harper Collins, 2002. Print.