I'll bet You've Never Seen Kipling Illustrated Like This...

The kids in our co-op have been practicing elocution this year, and for our finale next week they are all planning to dramatically recite a piece of poetry. Kipling's masterpiece about what it means to be a man, If, is the choice of my 14-year old son, Paul. This entire four stanza poem is comprised of one very long sentence. Realizing that Paul was struggling to keep straight the contents of each stanza, the elocution teacher suggested he create some visual reminders of the sequence in this poem.

So Paul turned to his favorite medium: Lego bricks.

I'm not sure if Rudyard Kipling would roll over in his grave or laugh at this, but it makes me chuckle. So here goes...


By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,    

Our hero
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
(Triumph in red; Disaster in black)
       And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son! 

Dear Fellow Trainers of Elephants: Happy Mother's Day! (Originally published in May, 2012)

The Taming of the Shrew, Act 5

When Peter was a junior in high school, his Potter's School English lit teacher would sometimes assign the students to write an imitation of a specific passage of a work. Students had to examine an author's phrasing, word choices, and sentence lengths in order to write a sample in the same style but on a different subject. Peter chose to write about mothers as he created an imitation based on this speech from The Taming of the Shrew:

Shakespeare's version:

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee
And for thy maintenance; commits his body
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience, -- 
Too little payment for so great a debt! 
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel,
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?

 - Katharina to Petruchio, Act 5, Scene 2 

Peter's version:

Thy mother is thy mistress, thy guide, thy teacher
Thy keeper, thy shepherd; one that cares for thee
And for thy health; sacrifices her sleep
To aid you in the night of malady, in the day of fever
Whilst thou benefit from all her meals, strong and sound;
And desires no other payment from thy hands
But love, obedience, and unity with brothers, –
Too little payment for so great a debt!
Such duty as an elephant owes to his trainer,
Even such a child oweth to his mother;
And when he is naughty, lazy, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to her loving will,
What is he but a rebellious fool,
And a corrupt renegade to his loving mother?  


Peter's teacher's comment?
So sweet! Give this to your mama! :) 

Happy Mother's Day!

Martha Washington

Martha Washington.png

Martha Washington. Devoted wife to George. Gray headed and plump. Sweet and grandmotherly.

That pretty much sums up what many of us think or know about Martha Washington. But this is only a fraction of the reality of Martha's life.

For one thing, she wasn't always a gray haired granny. (Not that there is anything wrong with either of those! says she who happens to fits both categories.)

But there's just so much more.

Martha, known as Patsy to those who loved her, had a privileged background. Born into a middle class Virginia family, she married into greater wealth with her first marriage at the age of 18. But her life was anything but easy.

Martha's life required great strength, and fortunately she knew where to obtain it.

By the time she was 25 she had borne four children and buried two. And then her husband Daniel Custis died suddenly when he was just 45, leaving her a widow with two babies. (He was nearly two decades older than she!)

This is what Martha may have looked like about the time of her marriage to George.

Martha immediately took on the task of managing the five Custis plantations. From remaining letters to the buyers in England, it is clear she handled these new responsibilities quiet capably!

Within a year and a half, Martha, now 27, had married George, also 27, beginning what would become a 41 year love story. Though they may not have had the most passionate start to their marriage, all accounts indicate their love only burned more and more through the years. George also loved her children and reared them as his own.

Patsy, age 16
But all was not unalloyed happiness. One great sadness was that no children were born to George and Martha. And when at the age of 12 her daughter began to have seizures, Martha worried. They sought the help of a number of doctors, and became increasingly concerned as the seizures worsened over time. Then one night at dinner, Patsy, 17, had a seizure which took her life. Her stepfather wrote next day to a friend:
It is an easier to conceive, than to describe, the distress of  this Family, especially that of the unhappy Parent of our Dear Patcy Custis, when I inform you that yesterday removed the Sweet, Innocent Girl into a more happy and peaceful abode than any she has met with, the aflicted path she hitherto has trod. She rose from Dinner about four Oclock, in better health & spirits than she appeared to be in for some time; soon after she was seized with one of her usual fits & expird in it, in less than Two minutes without a word, a groan or scarce a Sigh.

A few years later, George was called upon to serve his country as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. This meant leaving his beloved Mount Vernon for the next six years. But George wasn't about to be separated from Martha for that entire time. No, each winter he requested her presence at his winter quarters, even when that meant she needed to cross enemy lines to get there. All in all, she spent nearly half the war with him. Lafayette commented that Martha was madly in love with her General.

Yet once again grief struck, and just at the time when relief was in sight. Martha's remaining child, Jacky, who had a reputation for being something of a spoiled young man, had been serving his stepfather as an aide at Yorktown. While there he acquired a camp illness, and died a few days after the British surrender. At the age of 50, Martha had outlived all her children.

For a while George and Martha enjoyed relative peace, but then George was called upon to once again to serve his country, this time as the first president. Martha argued vehemently against this, feeling that at 57 George was too old to enter public service again. She even refused to attend the inauguration. But once George had taken on this responsibility, she gave herself to again serving him (and her country) by joining him in this work. She moved first to New York and then to Philadelphia, taking their two adopted grandchildren along, graciously serving as the first first lady, even though she felt as if she were a prisoner of state for these eight years.

George and Martha's bedroom at Mt. Vernon
Finally George and Martha were able to retire to their lovely home on the banks of the Potomac. They enjoyed a few years of ease. But while still a strong, vibrant man at the age of 67, George came down with an infection which took his life within a few days.

Martha's smaller final bedroom
Grief stricken, Martha closed up their bedroom, not uncommon for a widow of the time. But instead of returning after six months of mourning as was usual, she never returned to this room which had seen so many years of love and companionship. Instead she spent the last two years of her life living in a simpler room at the top of their home. (When we visited in December, we were able to see this room which is often not open for display.)

Martha experienced much loss throughout her lifetime. She outlived two husbands and all four of her children. She experienced infertility in her second marriage. Often she carried heavy responsibilities and burdens. And she served as the helpmeet to a man who literally bore the weight of the country on his shoulders, both during the Revolution and later during his two terms as president.

How could Martha endure such hardships, and do it with what many described as great grace? In fact, rather than pull into herself, she continued to think of others around her and serve them selflessly, even at the times of her deepest sorrows.

Martha had a secret. She knew where to find the strength she needed, and it was not in herself.

Every day of her adult life, according to her grandson, right after breakfast Martha would retire to her bedroom for an hour of Bible reading and prayer.

I'm convinced this is where Martha drew her strength to carry on each day. To love her children when her heart was breaking. To start anew with a second husband she hardly knew. To later love and rear her grandchildren. To love faithfully her husband and help give him private strength he needed in order to face the world and make difficult decisions that he was called upon to make.

Martha relied not on herself, but on the Lord and His might.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD 
And whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water, 
That extends its roots by a stream 
And will not fear when the heat comes; 
But its leaves will be green, 
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought 
Nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17: 7, 8)

Scripture Memory, II

Zambian elephant (Aug. '14 trip)

Elephants may have phenomenal memories, but I sure don't.

My memory has always been decidedly un-elephantlike, but the older I get, it's more and more goldfish-like.

Not being able to remember something that irritated me yesterday (or half an hour ago) has its pluses. But my sieve-like memory is a decided drawback when it comes to retaining important things like Scripture.

A while ago I wrote about the index card system I've been using to help my youngest sons memorize Scripture.

Tim (l.) on an elephant in Thailand a few years ago

You know what? This easy and effective method works just as well for me as for my children!

At first I figured I would sort of passively learn the same verses they were learning. After all, I was quizzing them every day. "Sort of" was right. Having the answers in my lap meant I only half-way learned them. In other words, not hardly at all.

But setting up my own card deck and box took care of that. Having the boys quiz me occasionally works great, too.

I use a 3x5 binder for the verses I'm working on

I continue to be a huge fan of the index card file box as a way to systematically learn AND retain God's Word. It's simple and effective, and really no matter which input you use to learn your verses.

But I've added a few other tools to my memory arsenal.

1. Scripture Typer
My younger daughters introduced me to this free app/program, and I love it!

Do you remember learning verses in Sunday School by having your teacher write a verse on the board and erasing words bit by bit? Scripture Typer works in much the same way.

First you type the verse while looking at it. Next, you'll begin to memorize the verse, and then some words will be erased. Finally, you type the verse with no prompting. If you need a hint, you can ask for a word to be revealed. Each time you type the verse, you receive a words per minute score, showing how fast you are typing.

This program really aids in word perfect memorization. It won't accept an "almost" word, so it helps you get it 100%. By typing the words, it helps me cement in my memory that it is "yields" and not "bears" or "mercy" and not "lovingkindness," for example.

Scripture Typer allows you to import verses (in 10 translations) and set up your own personal verse collections or use one of their libraries. You can even create collections for groups to use. It works on phones, tablets, and good old computers.

2. Quizlet
This one requires a bit more work, but it also gives you more options.

Quizlet is a powerful tool that allows you to create sets of information. Then you can study by using virtual flashcards, typing (either what you hear or what you see), and various games and quizzes. My daughters particularly like Quizlet.

3. Virtual Sticky Notes
I love to plaster my computer with sticky notes! I use them to remind me of urgent To-Dos, of phone calls I need to make later in the day, and of things to buy. I also use them to remind me of Scripture that God has used to encourage me.

But real post-it notes tend to loose their stickiness after a while. And then I end up with notes fluttering all over my desk and room.

Enter VIRTUAL Sticky Notes!  This is a Microsoft program/app, but I think there is something similar for Mac users.

Sticky Notes can be color-coded.

Here's my computer screen with  sticky notes plastered on the right

I like having the notes pop up as soon as I turn on my monitor. I can also make them disappear if they are visually distracting.

Verses on my screen serve as a frequent reminder, plus a visual encouragement to me as I re-read God's promises!

4. Meditating in bed

This one's completely low-tech. Or no-tech.

But it may be my favorite.

After memorizing Scripture, one of the great benefits is being able to meditate on it. And what better time and place than when lying in bed when sleep eludes? Whether it is before I fall asleep or when I wake during the watches of the night, I love to rehearse the passages I've learned and stop and think about what they mean.

I relearned Psalm 23 in KJV for this purpose. How sweet to lie awake at night and stop and really dwell on each part of this beloved Psalm. "The LORD." - Yes, the creator of the universe! The One who holds all things together!... "Is my shepherd." - Amazing! The same One who created and rules over all, is actually my own shepherd!

    My eyes are awake through the night watches,
    That I may meditate on Your word.  - Psalm 119:148

I'll never have a memory like this fellow, but thanks to these helps, I can at least make progress on storing God's Word in my heart!

Clearnote Women's Retreat

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:2

This weekend the ladies from our church gathered for our annual retreat, and we had such a wonderful time! We did things a bit differently this year, doing it all "in-house." We had the joy of hearing about God's work in the lives of three women, and we also broke up into smaller topical sessions, all of which revolved around the theme of bearing fruit in all seasons.

I gave a talk called "Taking Root: Scripture Memory and Devotions." This topic was one I was so enthusiastic about as these are areas the Lord has really been working on with me! It was a challenge to figure out how to pare down what I wanted to say in the 45 minutes I was alloted. So in the course of preparing for this talk, I wrote a number of blog posts on the same topics. They will expand on the same themes, but hopefully give more clarity. I'll be posting these over the next little while, and each one will have the tag "Women's Retreat 2015."

Here are some posts I've already written on these themes:

Without Ceasing

In the next couple of days I'll be putting up posts on Martha Washington (yes - her story does relate!) and Scripture Memory. And then I'm working on several more posts on prayer including details about the card system and I and answers to questions asked by several at the retreat. 


Newly opened nectarine blossom near sunset tonight
Many things surprise me about prayer. Why, I sometimes wonder, does God want us to pray when He is completely sovereign? After all, He can and will do exactly as He has planned without me asking Him. And yet - He does want us to ask!

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Matt. 7:7

I think there are probably a number of reasons why the Lord wants us to ask. Recently I read of one as illustrated in John Bunyan's great allegory, Pilgrim's Progress.

My youngest daughters and I are now reading through the second part of this story which tells of Christiana's journey. As she is traveling with her four sons and her young friend Mercy, the women are troubled by two "Ill-favored ones" who attempt to assault the women. The terrified women cry out, "Murder, murder!" and a "Reliever" comes to their aid.

Reliever. "I marvelled much when you were entertained at the gate above, seeing ye knew that ye were but weak women, that you petitioned not the Lord there for a conductor. Then might you have avoided these troubles and dangers; for he would have granted you one."

Christiana. "Alas," said CHRISTIANA, "We were so taken with our present blessing, that dangers to come were forgotten by us; besides, who could have thought that so near the King's palace there should have lurked such naughty ones? Indeed, it had been well for us had we asked our Lord for one; but since our Lord knew 'twould be for our profit, I wonder he sent not one along with us."

Rel. It is not always necessary to grant things not asked for, lest by so doing, they become of little esteem; but when the want of a thing is felt, it then comes under, in the eyes of him that feels it, that estimate that properly is its due, and so consequently will be thereafter used. Had my Lord granted you a conductor, you would not neither so have bewailed that oversight of yours in not asking for one as now you have occasion to do. So all things work for good, and tend to make you more wary.

Chris. Shall we go back again to my Lord, and confess our folly, and ask for one?

Rel. Your confession of your folly I will present him with; to go back again, you need not. For in all places where you shall come, you will find no want at all; for in everyone of my Lord's lodgings which he has prepared for the reception of his pilgrims, there is sufficient to furnish them against all attempts whatsoever. But, as I said, he will be inquired of by them to do it for them;"Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock."~ Ezekiel 36:37 ~
and 'tis a poor thing that is not worth asking for.

Mapping the World: More Than a Party Trick

Peter's map from 2011

Maybe knowing how to draw a world map from memory sounds like a party trick.


Kind of fun.
Amanda's map - 2011

But not all that useful.

So why have I had eight of our nine children spend a year or more focusing on world geography, culminating with them making a memory map? (One lone child escaped. She took an online class from an author of a well-known geography program which I thought would be just as good. It wasn't.)

Australia (practice map by Paul)

I decided to ask the kids who have already been through a mapping course what they thought, and you might be surprised at their responses.

Kara, our oldest daughter and now a mother watching her own daughters learn, commented on the difference between studying something well enough to take a test but then promptly forgetting it, and memorizing something so that it stays put in one's memory. Knowing the world well enough to actually draw it requires a greater depth of knowledge than it would to simply match up country names and places.

Here are some of the benefits from learning physical geography well enough to draw a world map:

1. World history becomes more meaningful.

Whether you are learning about the British Empire or World War II, knowing where the events took place and understanding something about the type of terrain makes an enormous difference.  Ben noted that drawing the world helped him understand just how immense Alexander the Great's empire was when he knew how to draw from Greece to India.

2. A memory maps allow students to put all the pieces together.

Kara told me she remembers making salt clay and other maps of Greece while studying ancient cultures. Somehow though, the locale of Athens, Sparta, and Mount Olympus remained in her mind as an other-wordly place until she was learning to draw Europe. Hey, there's Greece!

3. Students will be able to mentally place the locales of those they meet from other countries.

Peter, a sophomore studying accounting at IU's Kelley School of Business, has classmates from all over the world, and he is glad to be able to recognize their home countries on his mental map. Besides that, he's been taking an international business class, plus pretty much most business is global in one way or another, so it is helpful to have an idea of the way the world fits together spatially.

4. Current events make more sense when an internal memory map puts the events in a specific geographic space.
Caribbean islands

Here are some places that have been in the news the past couple of weeks: Vanuatu (cyclone), French Alps (airplane crash), Iran (nuclear arms deal), Syria and Iraq (ISIS.) The students in my co-op geography class should know where each of these places are. 

5. Church history and the history of missions becomes more meaningful 

I am immensely thankful for our local church family. Yet we are just a tiny sliver of the church universal. Reading about God's work throughout the globe and time is a real encouragement. Besides that, we ought to be praying for our brothers and sisters around the world who often suffer greatly. Knowing where their homes are is a start to caring about these ones. Bible geography becomes real as children learn how the locations of the Old and New Testaments fit into global geography. (Mapping the World with Art begins with the Mediterranean area, and children learn these areas with a fair amount of accuracy and detail.)

Building internal memory map helps students to mentally visualize places instantly, whether those places are ones in the news, in their history lessons, the homes of new friends from afar, or locations where Christ is building His church. 

And finally,

6. Tackling a HUGE task and seeing that it can be done by breaking it down into bite-sized pieces teaches important lessons!

This is what Amanda felt was probably the biggest benefit from her year of geography culminating in a memory map. And I agree. If you ask your children if they think they could learn to draw the entire world, adding in either details of city and country names and/or physical features such as mountains, rivers, deserts, bodies of water, and more, they would probably say no. But then they begin to do it, one area of the world at a time. And with hard work, bit by bit, it comes together. 

Many worthwhile tasks are similar. They appear enormous at the onset. But when we can break them down into manageable pieces, and then work diligently on each piece, the whole becomes a reality.

Faith's memory map, 2011
The maps hanging in my stairwell are not simply random representations of the world but are the result of learning discipline and gaining a bigger picture of the world.

Finally, you might want to check out this short video showing a Chinese teacher who rapidly draws the world as he lectures to his students.

Mapping the World With Art

Let me introduce you to my favorite homeschool purchase of the past two years.

Mapping the World with Art is a geography resource unlike any other! Mapping marries detailed but easy-to-follow drawing lessons for each part of the world with chronological history lessons and wonderfully creative learning activities. By the end of the study, your students should be able to make a detailed physical map of the entire world from memory. Along the way they will have learned lessons about exploration and cartography from the Babylonians through Polar explorers of the early 20th century.

Now you might be wondering about the title. Doesn't that sound an awful lot like another curriculum called Mapping the World by Heart?!?!  Well, yes, and that is not unintentional. Author Ellen Johnston McHenry had used MWbH, but like many others, myself included, she found it to be lacking in some respects. My family has used Mapping...Heart twice, and while it has been a great experience each time, using the skeleton of an outline provided in that book required enormous time in planning and preparation. (You can see the maps from our last go round here and here.)

Mrs. McHenry, a professional illustrator and homeschool mom, had a different vision in mind when she created her product. Yes, children will learn to make memory maps, though these focus on physical maps rather than political ones. But a couple of things set this program apart from the other. First of all, it is MUCH more user friendly!

Ben starts his map by making guidelines he'll later erase
Second, Mapping the World with Art is more creative and just more fun. Interesting ways of presenting and reinforcing information must continually flow from Mrs. McHenry's brain. (Check out her "Basement Workshop" for TONS of free games, play scripts, and other resources to teach everything from Bible to nuclear chemistry to Latin. Oh, yes - and geography.) Mrs. McHenry's creativity shines in the Mapping program both in the variety of activities suggested and her clever ways of helping students look at the maps they are drawing, seeing Crete, for example, as an alien lying on his back.

Nile River valley drawn on papyrus
And finally, Mapping... Art is a great value. At $46.95 for the full package ($42.95 from Rainbow), you'll receive the hefty manual, three DVDs with Mrs. McHenry's detailed drawing lessons for each map, and a CD-Rom of the entire book as well. The latter is handy for printing review maps and games from the manual rather than wrestling the book into your copy machine. (Note: If you purchase the book from Amazon, it does NOT include the drawing DVDs. They are totally worth buying, so you are better off to purchase the curriculum directly from Mrs. McHenry or Rainbow Resource.)

Mapping...Art has thirty lessons which can be completed over a year. It's generally recommended for students at least 10 years old. When we began our co-op, the children ranged from 9-12, so we decided to take two years rather than one to complete the program. This curriculum works great as a co-op class!

Each of the lessons interweaves the three segments (history,  map drawing, and activities) beautifully. At first, the order in which maps are taught will seem strange, but give it time, and you will begin to understand the big picture. Since it takes a chronological approach, lessons and drawings begin around the Mediterranean and then move on from there. The activities range from making cookie maps (cuneiform "clay" tablet maps) to crafting a model of the Santa Maria to playing a Viking Voyages board game. Review maps periodically help students put the various smaller maps together into a cohesive world map.

Co-op class prepares to make South America tortilla maps

tortilla features key


A small amount of daily practice makes all the difference.

Ben finished this practice map while I was writing this post

But maybe you are wondering WHY anyone would want to spend this time learning to draw a world map anyway. I'll answer that in the next post!