A Daring Question, One Remarkable Discussion

Inspired by Miss Penelope Lumley (see The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place), I decided to attempt to read a beautiful poem to my children today.

I didn’t know how it would go. But Miss Lumley often reads poetry to children raised by wolves, so I thought it could not be as bad as that.

Or perhaps it could be as bad as that, but certainly not worse than that. My kids haven’t been raised by wolves, at least. So I told my kids to gather ’round.

Note: They did complain. But I scolded them a little and they have learned to just go along with Mom when she gets in these moods.

So I started with the first poem in the book Christmas Poems called Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

I cleared my throat and read out the title of the poem, the poet’s name, and the dates he lived, which happen to be 1809-1892.

Then, before thinking, on an impulse, I asked a daring question that came to my mind, “Do we know about anything that happened when the poet was alive?”

My oldest (14) said, “The war of 1812 would have happened when he was really young, like three or four.”

My middle child (9) said, “Next comes the Missouri Compromise.”

Then all three children, 6, 9, and 14, proceeded to say the Classical Conversations timeline from the Missouri Compromise through World War 1.

Some of you will know what this includes. For those who do not, they said from memory:

“Immigrants flock to America, the Monroe Doctrine, Romantic Period of the Arts…”

At this, I looked down at the poem and asked the girls, “I wonder if Tennyson is considered a Romantic poet. He wrote this in the Romantic period of the arts.”

They all nodded. We all continued.

“Cherokee Trail of Tears, US Westward Expansion, Marx publishes the Communist Manifesto, the Compromise of 1850 and the Dread Scott Decision, US restores trade with Japan, British Queen Victoria’s rule of over India, Darwin publishes the Origin of Species, Lincoln’s war between the states.”

At this, my fourteen year old noted out loud that he would have lived through the Civil War!

We all said, “Wow!” and then kept going with the timeline:

“Reconstruction of the Southern States, Dominion of Canada, Otto Von Bismarck Unified Germany, Boar Wars in Africa, the Spanish American War, the Progressive Era, Australia becomes a commonwealth, Mexican Revolution, World War 1.”

Once we got to World War 1, they said, “He would not have been alive anymore. That was the early 1900s.” Note that they said this to one another and I only agreed with them.

So we stopped reciting the timeline.

Then my oldest said, “He wouldn’t have been alive in the Mexican Revolution either.”

“How would she know that?” I thought to myself.

Then I answered my own question when I remembered that she’s in Challenge 1 this year and she has to read and annotate original American documents, including Defense of the Alamo and Taney’s Dread Scott Decision, two documents about events that would’ve happened around the time, so her understanding of America’s timeline is being refined and filled in beautifully- That’s how.

Note: I have since checked her dates and she’s right. The Mexican Revolution happened in 1910-20, so Tennyson wasn’t alive then.

So then, after this brief discussion, which was mostly a recitation of the timeline we have all memorized, we read the poem, now with an idea of when the poet lived. I didn’t know if this would matter, since it was a poem about Christmas/ New Year, etc.

But I read it.

And I did not read it well.

And the children wiggled.

When it was over, we sat in silence for a few moments.

Then my middle child (9), said, “Isn’t there a part of the poem that mentions war?”

I found where it says, “Ring out the thousand wars of old” and pointed it out to her.

She said, “Yes. I thought so. He lived through many wars.”

Then my oldest (14) said, “He mentions ‘lust for gold.’ The westward expansion would have happened in his life time. That includes the gold rush.”

Now, since this conversation happened a few hours ago, I can look at the poem and see so much more, too.

Tennyson mentions the “feud of rich and poor.” The Communist Manifesto, published in his lifetime, must speak of that some, too.

I’m so glad I attempted to read the poem today!

And I am glad that I dared to ask that question!

It lead us into one remarkable discussion I don’t want to ever forget! (So I am posting it here.)

Credit goes to CC’s memory work, specifically, their timeline and my daughter’s Challenge 1 reading assignments.

How I Teach the Classical Conversations Bible Memory Verse and Timeline

This year I am teaching the Bible memory verse and timeline facts during our Classical Conversations groups’ assembly time.

Note: I don’t think every single CC group teaches the memory verse or timeline during the assembly time, but ours does.

I’ve come up with a system, of sorts, that works for me. Maybe it will help other CC moms who are responsible for the same job.

First, let’s talk about tools.  Every job, however little, needs the right tools.

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I use:

  • a very basic 2 foot by 3 foot white board with an oak frame and trey (the trey is very important because that’s where I prop up the timeline cards)
  • a black and blue dry erase marker (I use these colors for specific reasons that I will explain below)
  • a white-board eraser (so I won’t have to use my fingers- I hate that- if I need to erase something)
  • timeline cards (available through CC’s catalog/ website)
  • a small binder clip (to hold the seven timeline cards I need each week)
  • a photo copy of page 135 of my Foundations guide in a sheet protector (so I can review the verses without pulling out my Foundations guide)
  • a tote bag (to carry everything but the white board)

I pack all this up the night before and bring it with me to CC.

Note: I may ask to keep the white board in a closet at the church where we do CC, since after only three weeks, the oak frame is already getting loose. I am very careful with it, but the white board is still beginning to show signs of wear since it is not made to travel.

When I get to CC, I prop the white board against a little desk on the stage. That puts it at eye level for most of the audience.

Then I write out the verse in black. That’s always the easiest color to see.

Then I underline the words in the verse that have motions to them in blue. This helps me remember at a glance which words have motions and which motions to teach.

I have been using the hand motions on Andrea Jordan’s You Tube videos.

Note: I chose to start with the English translation of John 1:1-7 first, even though CC says to start with the Latin.  I thought the English would be more meaningful to a group of people who don’t speak or understand Latin yet. And when we learn the Latin translation of John 1:1-7 the second part of the year, the kids and parents will know the motions, so that way, they will better understand what the Latin means as they say it.

After I say the verse out loud for everyone, everyone repeats the verse at least once, maybe twice, and then I teach motions one at a time, and then we do the motions as we say the verse.

After that, I pull out my timeline cards and I say them in order, loudly, as I line them up on the trey. The seven cards fit perfectly across the trey on the 2 foot by 3 foot white board I have.

Then I quickly teach the motions to each timeline fact/ timeline card.  I try to use the same motions that Classical Conversations uses in the official timeline video on their website for consistency. When I don’t understand the motions or when I can’t tell what they are exactly, I watch CCRockStarz You Tube videos to get a better idea.

I usually practice going through all the new material the night before.  It takes me about twenty minutes to watch the videos and then rehearse everything once.



A Mom’s Review of PreScripts- American History Edition


My nine almost ten year old is using the American History Prescripts book this year.


Each week, she will copy a history sentence twice and then complete an art lesson/ drawing activity to illustrate and go along with that sentence.

This first week of Classical Conversations, she copied a sentence about Columbus and completed a drawing of a sailing vessel at sea.


This book is a good fit for my particular daughter for three, particular reasons:

  • She is enrolled in Classical Conversations
  • She already knows how to write in cursive and
  • She likes to draw

The history sentences in this book are the same history sentences my daughter is learning and memorizing through Classical Conversations each week. If she were not a part of a Classical Conversations group, the sentences might not be meaningful to her and they probably would not be timed with what we were doing in history, so I probably would not choose to use this book if we were not a part of Classical Conversations.  I would just find another source for copy work ideas.

My daughter has already completed Zanier Bloser Handwriting workbooks K, 1, 2, and is almost done with workbook 3, so she knows how to write in cursive well enough and does not need much instruction, review, or practice in forming each letter and then putting those letters together to make words. This book provides only one page of review for cursive letters a-z, so it is a more advanced book and kids really should have a firm grasp on forming their cursive letters and making words before using this book.

My daughter also loves to draw and is very confident when given a pencil, pen, paper, paints, etc.  She can copy and even customize just about any image. When she chose peregrine falcons for her presentation this week, she was able to draw a peregrine falcon from a image I found on the computer. That is something she does with regularity and enthusiasm. If she were not that confident of an artist, I might hesitate to give her this book because the drawings students are asked to reproduce are complicated.

There is a good reason for this.  The drawings in the book are based on real artwork done by real artists.  For instance, a drawing lesson on Point of View that my daughter will do in two weeks shows Native Americans watching colonists build a fort from where they are standing in the woods.

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Apparently, this drawing is based on a real piece of artwork by Sidney E. King.  I did a quick search on Google and I found a painting that is almost identical to the drawing.

I like this because it follows the classical model: teach kids how to draw by letting them model great drawings.  Don’t expect them to just know how to make a good piece of artwork innately.  Teach kids to write by letting them model great pieces of writing. Don’t expect small children to be capable of writing amazing stories innately.

But if my daughter were less confident and more apt to stress because she could not reproduce the drawings in this book, I might choose something else or tell her to skip the drawing exercises all together. I sit next to her and tutor her at elbow for many, many subjects that often stress her out like math and spelling and writing, etc. so drawing is not another subject I, personally, would want to have to sit and walk her through step by step.  I like the fact that this copy work book provides her with meaningful, yet independent practice. But if my daughter couldn’t do this book independently, I am not sure it would be worth the trouble of adding it to our home school day.

That said, as it is, it is a perfect fit for my daughter, so this book is a blessing to us.  It provides some review of the history sentences we want to memorize, it provides practice in cursive handwriting, and it models lessons in drawing from real works of art- all good things that work for us.

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.


Joan of Arc Costume


Behold! The wonder we hath wrought with one ancient garment bag, lowly duct tape, and supreme patience! Joan of Arc!

Later this week, my oldest daughter is going to read her final paper on Joan of Arc to her Essentials group at Classical Conversations while she is in costume.

I found a yard of white felt yesterday, cut it, and Norah painted Joan’s standard on it- all by herself.  (I love having an older, more independent student.)

We worked together to staple it to a hiking stick we’ve had and then we fashioned Joan’s armor out of a garment bag and duct tape today.  (See photo above.)

Tomorrow we will put the finishing touches like the works sited page on Norah’s essay and then print it.

Perhaps I’ll share Norah’s essay on the blog later this week, particularly so that our family can read it.

I’m very proud of the work she’s done, the work we’ve all done, this year in Classical Conversations.  We’ve definitely accomplished and learned more than I imagined possible.



Paper Necklaces

Norah made paper bead necklaces to go along with her study of ancient Africa in history. These necklaces are still being made today and they can be very beautiful. We used construction paper this time but I think we will try this again soon with some old, glossy magazine pages and then cover the beads with a mixture of glue and water to varnish. Here’s a tutorial if you are interested in making some yourself.