Haiku – Lost in Translation

We had so much fun with our last Haiku assignment that I assigned some extra-extra credit.  I challenged the students to find Arakida Moritake’s “Fallen Flower” haiku in Japanese and feed it into Google Translate.

Three students took me up on it and I received three completely different translations:

The Original (from our textbook, Abeka’s World Literature)

The falling flower
I saw drift back to the branch
Was a butterfly

Some of us found a different translation of that online, and we agreed it was the better of the two:

Translation by Steven D. Carter:

A fallen blossom
returning to the bough, I thought —
But no, a butterfly.

Carter, Steven D. Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology. Stanford University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0804722124 p338

And here are the translations my students did with the help of Google Translate:

Translation by Sandis Wightman:

I went back to the branch and saw the drift
It was a butterfly

Translation by Darynne Sato:

If you look to the fallen branches and you see it.

Translation by Michael Capparelli:

Lukha.z When you return to the moon butterfly and clothes fallen flower branches, the moon is unprepared.

And this, students, is why it’s so important, when reading literature that originated in another language, to find a reputable translation.

Or you could learn the language.  That would work, too.  😆

Categories: Education, Homeschooling, Literature | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Lit – What Abeka Missed

I’m teaching World Literature to high schoolers this year.  I’ve never done World Lit., so I’m really enjoying it.

We’re using Abeka’s textbook, because it is less distressing than any of the other textbooks I reviewed for the subject.  Apparently, to American publishers, “World Lit” means “American and British Lit with a token Foreign Author thrown in every six weeks or so.”

Balderdash, I say.

So we’re using the textbook as more of a guideline.  Like the Pirate Code.

At any rate, it’s been good so far.  Granted, we had to start in Chapter 11, because that’s when the course finally gets around to starting at the chronological beginning, but the content is pretty darned good.

That is, until you get to the end of Chapter 13 (Roman Times).  That chapter ends with an excerpt from Histories and Annals by Tacitus, which was written in Rome around 110-115 AD.  Chapter 14 (The Middle Ages) starts with an excerpt from Dante’s Divine Comedy, which was written in Italy from 1308-1320 AD.

So according to Abeka, nothing was written, in the entire world, between 110 and 1320 AD.

So we had to fix that.  Here’s a photo of the timeline we put together on the board.  It doesn’t have everything on it that we discussed, but it does at least have some major political events and references to a few pieces of literature.  It’s a stab in the right direction anyway.

Timeline - What A Beka Missed in the Middle Ages.JPGLuckily all this literature is old enough that I was able to find copies of it online and send the students home with a stack of handouts to read.

I’m fuming, however, about the fact that I had never heard of this stuff, other than Beowulf and Everyman and The Song of Roland, considering I was a Lit Major in college.  World Lit was not a requirement back in the day.  Next year I’m going back to finish my degree and boy howdy, Multicultural Lit is one of the first courses I aim to take!

Because for one thing, I’m probably doing most of the homework this year as I plan my lessons…. 🙂


Categories: Education, Homeschooling, Literature | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of the Field Trip

It’s Throwback Thursday, so I thought I’d bring out this blog I wrote in 2012.  Note: This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I found it in the Drafts folder and realized I never actually hit the “Publish” button.  I’m just being cool and retro here.

I’m a Field Trip Wimp.   I would say field trips stress me out even more than glitter glue and Play Doh.   So while my kids have attended field trips over the years, they have been few, far between and inevitably planned by Someone Else.  I am not an event planner.  Just don’t have that gene.  Eight months as the Event Coordinator for a small church 25 years ago convinced me of that fact.  It wasn’t pretty.

At some point, however, I became determined to break the Field Trip Barrier, conquer the art of the educational excursion and get the kids as far away from that blasted X Box as possible.  I forced myself to do a few outings, and then a few more, and along the way I learned a few things.  And since I’m fairly certain that I am not alone in my peregrinandaphobia, I thought I would share:

Steps To The No Fail Successful Field Trip

1) Consider your kids first. The field trip is about them, not about you and your event planning abilities, nor is it even about the photos you can brag-post on social media after the fact.  Small children have short attention spans, need naps and frequent food breaks and will not actually remember the details of the trip when they get older.  They will remember if they had a good time and if Mom and/or Dad were happy.  So set your expectations at reasonable levels for the age and temperament of your kids.  The trip doesn’t have to last all day.  A couple of hours is fine.  If they are older, you can be more lavish.  But a 3 year old will enjoy the play structure at McDonalds about the same as any other place you take them, cost notwithstanding.  So save your money and your lengthy trips until they are old enough to appreciate them.

2) Check the weather before you go. Dress in layers, and bring a jacket no matter what the weatherman says.  You can always leave it in the car or in a locker.

3) Read up before you go.  Just a brief perusal of the website for the place you are visiting may provide a wealth of information that will help you feel more prepared, such as what kinds of bags or backpacks are allowable, what the weather is usually like, as well as directions.

4) Pack your lunch.  As a 15-year homeschooling veteran, this is actually the hardest part for me, because lunch-packing is not something I have a lot of practice with.  I get lunch-packing stage fright. What if I pack something that will get squished?  What if it’s inedible by the time it’s time to eat it?  Will I carry it around with me or leave it in the car?  What if I pack too little and everyone’s still hungry?  What if I pack too much and end up schlepping extra weight around all day, only to throw the wilted remains out when I get home?  The guilt!  The shame!  Seriously, the lunch-packing thing has actually talked me out of field trips a couple of times. More than a couple of times. But packing your lunch will save  you a lot of money, and seriously, it’s one meal.  You can eat a PBJ for one meal.  The point is the field trip, not the food.

Having driven in circles a few times around this road construction site en route to a field trip, we tried to convince the kids this was the Getty Museum.  They didn’t fall for it.

5) Sunscreen.  Do I need to be any clearer about that?  Even if it’s overcast.  Sunscreen.

6) Check a traffic website for any road closures that may occur.  This is not a must-do, but we have arrived at destinations a couple of times, only to find that the road we needed to turn on was closed for construction.  It’s usually not that hard to follow a detour, but it does take extra time and your stress level will be less if you know it’s coming.

Now that I have given you all kinds of boxes to check off and stress over, keep uppermost in your mind the thought that even if you fail in ALL of these areas, you can still have fun.  It may be more expensive that you wished (if you forgot the food and have to buy some), and you may do some unexpected exploring (if you forgot the directions), but honestly, even the worst disasters can be salvaged with the right attitude, which makes this point THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT TO A SUCCESSFUL FIELD TRIP.

Bringing An Adventurous Attitude:

When our oldest kids were 2 and 3, we decided to take a family outing to the L.A. Zoo on a Saturday.  By the time naps were done and diaper bags were packed, the afternoon was getting on, but it’s a quick jaunt up the freeway away from where we live, so we figured we could still have a good hour or two at the zoo, which was more than enough time for kids that age to visit.  We hopped in the car, buzzed down the freeway… and came to a standstill about 15 minutes away from our house.  Traffic jam on a Saturday?  Who knew?   It took us an hour and a half to do what should have been a 30 minute trip, and by the time we got to the zoo and saw that it closed in 45 minutes, it just didn’t seem worth it.  So we got back in the car, and my husband, who at that point had very little experience with spontaneity and had yet to be trained by my British sense of Making The Best Of Things, was intending to drive straight back home.  With some quick talking, I convinced him that we could still make it into an adventure, and the kids would never know it wasn’t according to plan.   So we drove west instead of south,  found ourselves in Santa Monica, bought some ice cream and found a park, and the kids had a great time.  They never knew what they had missed, and we both learned how easy it is to turn a day around with the right attitude.

The point is, the trip is about enjoying time together and having an adventure.  It doesn’t matter if the adventure varies a bit from the one you had in mind. Buying shoes in a drug store because a child forgot to put any on can be an adventure (yep, we did that.  She was so excited to go somewhere, she didn’t notice that her feet were bare).  Eating a burger in an old, local-landmark burger joint while Dad walks back to the side of the freeway and tries to recover the items that flew out of the trailer can be an adventure (the 10 year old is still talking about that one… and asking if we can go back there).  Packing up a campsite in one hour flat and racing home just ahead of a snowstorm in June can be an adventure.  In fact, all our best excursion stories come from the things that went wrong.

In the end, it all comes down to refusing to let a change in plans be considered a problem.  Flat tire? That’s an opportunity to meet new people.  Forgotten item?  A chance to explore a local shop.  It’s not a problem.  It’s simply a change in schedule.

Success on a field trip is not measured in adherence to a schedule you arbitrarily set from the comfort of your home before actually BEING in the location.  Success is measured by smiles, discoveries, and happy memories.

And after that’s covered, sure, by photos posted on social media.

kids at lego land 2004ish


Categories: Family, Field Trips, Homeschooling, Kids, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

“And then she slugged me…”


For the last writing assignment of the year for my twice-weekly Comp/Lit class, I assigned this prompt, which comes from the book Unjournaling by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston:

“Write a paragraph that starts with this sentence: Why don’t you learn how to talk to a rooster? and ends with this one: She slugged me.

This has made for some highly enjoyable grading.  In fact, I have enjoyed reading the responses so much I may just make this an end-of-the-year tradition.  Out of all of them, though, my favorite was the last one I corrected, turned in late by the one student who was often late turning in homework.  She is highly dyslexic and the administration wasn’t even sure she should be in my class.  However, I had already had her in my Classical Conversations class the year before and knew how brilliant she is despite her struggles with writing, so I agreed to have her included in the class.

All that to say, not only do I love this piece for its humor, and for the fact that she wove the sentences together in a less-than-direct manner, but also because this is what a dyslexic, who last year struggled with complete sentences, can do when given a chance (and, I might add, a private tutor, with whom she worked on the side all year).

“Why don’t you learn how to talk to a rooster?” Arnold, I hoped, joked. We were sitting in his living room looking at the classes to take when he made his outrageous comment. When I explained to him that I was in the middle of deciding which language to take, either Japanese or Spanish, that is when Arnold thought of the rooster language.  Mainly, I think, so that he could volunteer me to go to his uncle’s farm this summer and not him.  When he saw that I was not convinced he set out to explain why his made up language was better.

“First off, you only want Japanese because you and your cousin are going to Japan in the summer,” he concluded.

“And what’s wrong with that?” I interjected.

“Nothing, but it’s hard and you’ll need more time to really retain it and you are way too lazy and busy to do that well.”

“I am not!” I yelled like a little kid. “But I do see your point.  And besides, my cousin does speak Japanese fluently and did say she would love to translate for me.  So that leaves Spanish?”

“Well, first off, don’t you speak Spanish effortlessly?” Arnold reminded me.

“Well yes, but…”

“And didn’t you want to really work for your grade and gain something, not just breeze through it like art last year, where you complained the whole time that you were bored?” he lectured.

“Okay, okay, you are right, as always,” I conceded.

“Okay, so rooster it is!” he shouted joyfully.

“No… I have another idea…”

The next day I sat in Latin class, not because that was my idea but because French was all booked and when I told my teacher it was a dead language, she, who must have heard that a lot, slugged me.

Categories: Education, Homeschooling, Learning Disabilities | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DNA Part One – With Fear and Trembling

Since I have four blogs, I’m not always clear in my head. That is, I’m not always clear in my head when typing a post, as to which blog should be the platform for it. And once it is published, it’s too late to change. So here is the first of a four-part series inspired by a Classical Conversations Challenge II Biology experiment, which I posted on one of my other blogs before realizing it really belonged here — you can find the rest of the series once you get there.

Julia's Inner Monologue

strawberrySome of you may know that as a Classical Conversations Challenge II Director, along with tutoring the students through subjects for which I have a personal affinity, I must also work with them on their Biology.  Now, Biology is a perfectly respectable, and may I say, necessary subject for high school students. However, it was the one subject I avoided at all costs during my own high school career, managing to take what amounted to a Biology For Dummies class in college in order to fulfill graduation requirements and hoping upon passing the class to never have to revisit it.

It’s not the dissection.  I have control of my gag reflex, so I can dissect.  I can even appreciate the marvels of anatomy that we are exploring as we dissect, and last year I actually had a lot of fun guiding the students through their microscope labs and dissections.


View original post 915 more words

Categories: Biology, Education, Homeschooling, Kids | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Hobbits and Editing and Websites That Only Link To Images

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug came out on DVD today.  I would like to say that this post is in honor of that, but it is in fact merely coincidence that I thought to write this post today.  In fact, if my far-thinking husband had not pre-ordered a copy for us, and if my long-suffering mail carrier (he’s a very nice man but my dogs hate him) had not just delivered it a few minutes ago, I might have completely missed the fact that I am writing about the Hobbit on the day that Peter Jackson’s second movie hit the DVD market.

Originally, I wanted to simply link a website to the Pinterest board I maintain for all things to do with British Literature (or rather, all things pertaining to the particular British Literature course I direct as a Challenge II Director for Classical Conversations). However, that particular web page does not contain any images, and Pinterest will only link to images.  I will refrain from commenting upon that fact and simply say that this explains why I have written this completely redundant blog entry. Think of this as a gateway-post to a much more informative site.

Herein begins the actual point of my post:

When J.R. Tolkien first wrote The Hobbit, he characterized Gollum as an odd yet cooperative little fellow, who willingly gave up his precious ring as a prize for the game of riddles he plays with Bilbo.  When the ring came into a new light in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien had to rewrite Chapter Five of the Hobbit to make the ring more sinister and portray Gollum as its victim, enthralled by the magic ring and therefore unwilling to give it up.

This means that the 1937 First Edition of The Hobbit has a slightly different story than anyone purchasing a later edition.  Being an erstwhile editor myself, that fact alone was not enough to satisfy me.  I needed to see it for myself.

Fortunately, Jack Barker of Ring Game Web Site offers this marvelous side-by-side comparison of the two versions of Chapter Five.

006cropAnd just so that I can link this to my Pinterest board, so that my students can find it, here is a picture of the book.  I took it myself, so it’s royalty-free.  If you click on the picture of the book, it will take you to Mr. Barker’s comparison.

I think I have jumped through enough hoops for one lesson plan, so I will end this here.

Although I must add, if anyone would like to read further into the implications of the revision, here is another excellent article by William D.B. Loos and Wayne G. Hammond Jr. over at The Grey Havens that discusses it at some length.

No, wait, still not ending… just in case you haven’t yet been deluged on your favorite social media site with one of those interminable lists that are all the rage these days, even making their way into badly-written “news” articles authored by interns who still haven’t figured out the difference between “your” and “you’re,” here is a quite comprehensive list of “25 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About The Hobbit” by Tom Hawker.  While I am pleased to report that Tom Hawker’s grammar is flawless, I apologize in advance for his occasional forays into juvenile locker-room humor.


Categories: British Literature, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stumbling Upon the Unexpected

FFWelcomeSignThis week we took a day trip to Forest Falls, CA, so that our 18 year old daughter could check out a camp where she was considering a summer job. Once that was accomplished, we set out to make the most of the destination; a two hour drive seemed a little much if the only result was a 30 minute visit to the camp. There wasn’t much to the town itself – other than the camp, there were just a lot of charming mountain-cabin type residences, a Mexican restaurant, a post office and a few other businesses.

Had we considered the name of the town, we might have had an inkling of what we would eventually find, but as so often happens, the meaning of the name had become eclipsed by its functionality as a label for the town, and we missed the clue right in front of us. And so it was tempting, after a cursory glance around, to give up and drive back down the hill to the nearest mall and simply take the kids to a movie.

All that promising snow... there had to be a way to get to it.

All that promising snow… there had to be a way to get to it.

But we had driven for two hours. Through L.A. traffic. We were not going to give up so easily, and the scenery around us was so beautiful, we weren’t ready to leave it.  Besides, as a family, we have a history of discovering delightful places and meeting interesting people at the very point where our trip appears to be derailing.

Curious 13 year old wanting to see snow up close + zoom lens = discovery of creepy face on mountainside.

Curious 13 year old wanting to see snow up close + zoom lens = discovery of creepy face on mountainside.

And we couldn’t help but notice that the hills that rose steeply on either side of the town were covered in snow, almost close enough to touch, so we followed the main road, hoping it might lead us up past the snowline.

It ended a disappointing half a mile after the town, but there we discovered a park.

And better yet, actual patches of snow!

No, really, actual SNOW!

No, really, actual SNOW!

You have to understand that my kids have never lived anywhere but Los Angeles. This was only the second time any of them had been able to touch snow, and the first time the younger two were 2 and 4 years old and don’t remember it. So this was road-trip heaven.


After a snowball fight or two, and the discovery on the part of the younger two that snow really is freezing cold and there is only so much snow play one can indulge in with bare hands, my husband discovered a sign that said “Waterfall Trail.”

Again we hesitated, debating whether the trail, which at first glance seemed to lead only through flat, high desert terrain, was named accurately.  Again, the name of the town escaped us.

On top of that, we reasoned, there didn’t seem to be enough water in the creek beside the trail for there to be an actual waterfall at any point downstream.  In true L.A. fashion, we suspected that the whole thing was going to turn out to be false advertising.

0403141546But the last decision to press on had paid off, so we walked a few steps down the trail, and then a few more.

0403141539aThe scenery was breathtaking, and with each bend we rounded it got even better. The kids insisted that that roaring noise in the distance had to be more than just the wind in the trees, so we persevered.


“…with each bend we rounded it got even better.”

The trail was well-marked at some points, lined either side with rocks. At other points it was not so clear, seeing as it led through areas completely covered with the same kind of rocks interspersed with sandy patches that might or might not actually be the trail.  We eventually decided that the trail crossed the creek beside which we had been hiking and ascended the opposite bank.

Since the creek had dwindled to a trickle at this point, we had no problem crossing it. Mounting the bank on the other side and rounding a hill, we discovered that there was indeed a waterfall, and that it had nothing to do with the tiny creek we had been hiking beside.


The lower falls

Further hiking up a steep hill revealed that there was actually a series of waterfalls, with the top one being the most spectacular in height.


The upper falls.

190We found some rocks and sat for a while, taking in the roar of the water and the silence around it. The 13 year old pulled out her journal and spent a good 15 minutes of bliss drinking in the surroundings and writing her thoughts.

212The 12 year old hid under fallen trees and jumped from rock to rock.  The 18 year old tested the temperature of the water and filled a bottle with it, reasoning that the 100 foot drop it had just traversed would have filtered it, and we all tried a sip.

(She later told us she had climbed further up and discovered a half-decomposed dead bird floating in a pool upstream, which gave us pause for a few, heart-stopping moments, until my husband noticed the twinkle in her eye. But that’s a story for another post.  Perhaps one about “why my children are so mean and I’m sure I don’t know where they get it from.”)

0403141611aAnd then it was time to reluctantly retrace our steps back to the van, carrying a camera full of images and refreshed and rejuvenated hearts. I think it was on this part of the trip that one of us said, ‘Ohhhhh, right, Forest FALLS!”  We climbed wearily into the van and wound our way down the mountain road, blasting Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire,” since we felt like we had been on an unexpected journey worthy of Bilbo Baggins and wanted to squeeze the last moments of adventure out of the day.

Categories: Family, Field Trips, Homeschooling, Kids, Los Angeles, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland


Now, this was not really what I had in mind when I created this blog, but I have need of a place to put this, and it doesn’t escape me how perfectly the titles match, so here it is.

My Classical Conversations Challenge II class is reading Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland this week.  Yes, it’s known as a children’s book, but unless you are a child living in Victorian London, you will probably not understand most of the allusions in this book, so it does actually provide a challenge to the 10th grade mind.  To make the enjoyment easier for this book, I will attempt to explain some of the references and allusions here. But first I will digress.

The first thing you have to keep in mind about Alice’s Adventures is that it was written by a British Person.  This is a very important detail.  British people love… LOVE to play with words.  You see that in Dickens, in Oscar Wilde, in Harry Potter (Diagon Alley?  Seriously?  You get that, right?), and you will see that all over Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Especially Chapter 9.  Just look for the puns, people.

Also, British adults love to tell funny stories to kids and weave in satirical political zingers or commentaries on society that only an adult would get.  It’s just what we do.  The kids don’t notice, and the adults who happen to overhear silently bust a gut over in the corner, trying not to interrupt.  That’s how British humor works — as long as one person in the room gets it, it’s worth it.  In fact, if ONLY one person in the room gets it, it’s three times as funny.  There’s probably a mathematical formula for that.

And British people love to be silly, but only when it is agreed all around that it is an appropriate time to be silly, such as when one is telling a story to children.  Or when one is being John Cleese, but that only applies to one of us, so it’s not actually a very good rule of thumb.

At any rate, here are the things that British school-children in 1865 would have found side-splittingly funny, but which probably go right over the heads of the rest of us.

Chapter One

As Alice is falling down the rabbit hole, she begins to recite facts that might apply to her situation.  British education of the time dealt in a lot of memorization and recitation.  The fact that she uses words that apply only slightly, although without knowing their actual meaning, is delightful. It’s like when someone posts a list of really bad answers to test questions; we find it so funny because you can see how the kid ALMOST grasped the concept but then totally didn’t.

The rest of Chapter One comprises mostly of the eating and drinking of cakes and unidentified liquids, which, as they are not explicitly marked “poison,” must be all right.  This is one of those social commentaries that the kids might feel flying over their heads, but as they don’t have enough experience to grasp it, just let the thought fly on by.

This chapter is also why Lewis Carroll is purported to have written this story by simply writing down what he saw while under the influence of a substance he certainly should not have ingested.  But that’s a whole other discussion that has been thoroughly explored by Jefferson Airplane.

Chapter Two

Alice, in trying to pull herself together after a long, hard trip, once again resorts to listing things that she knows, but everything is so muddled she settles on reciting a poem.  Unfortunately, it starts out “How doth the little crocodile…” and goes downhill from there.  Here is the text of the poem Carroll was parodying, which was a poem school children had to memorize, and which was supposed to instill in them a work ethic and make them Good Citizens.

The Busy Bee children's periodical, 1866

The Busy Bee children’s periodical, 1866

How Doth the Little Bee
Isaac Watts

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skillfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.

In Works of Labor or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.

In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last


A Lory

Chapter 3

Alice finds herself in the company of a host of creatures who fell into the puddle of her tears.  Among them are a lory and a dodo.  Here are images of those birds:


A Dodo

Also, here is a definition: A “Caucus-race” is a political competition; the game of campaigning and one-upmanship to get votes and be elected.   Thanks to Carroll, the term “caucus race” has now taken on the added meaning of a confusing, complicated and generally useless exercise.

Chapter 5

The Caterpillar asks Alice to recite “You Are Old, Father William” to demonstrate how everything has become muddled.  The poem Carroll is parodying here is:

The Old Man’s Comforts And How He Gained Them

by Robert Southey

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember’d that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first
That I never might need them at last.

you are old father william

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away,
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember’d that youth could not last;
I thought of the future whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And life must be hastening away;
You are chearful, and love to converse upon death!
Now tell me the reason I pray.

I am chearful, young man, Father William replied,
Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember’d my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.

Chapter 6

The Duchess sings a horrible song to her baby, beginning with “Speak roughly to your little boy…”  What made it funny, rather than horrible, to the children of the day, however, is that it was based on the following poem:

Speak Gently
G. W. Langford

Speak gently! It is better far
To rule by love than fear
Speak gently; let no harsh word mar
The good we may do here!

Speak gently to the little child!
Its love be sure to gain;
Teach it in accents soft and mild;
It may not long remain.

Speak gently to the young, for they
Will have enough to bear;
Pass through this life as best they may,
’Tis full of anxious care!

Speak gently to the aged one,
Grieve not the care-worn heart;
Whose sands of life are nearly run,
Let such in peace depart!

Speak gently, kindly to the poor;
Let no harsh tone be heard;
They have enough they must endure,
Without an unkind word!

Speak gently to the erring; know
They must have toiled in vain;
Perchance unkindness made them so;
Oh, win them back again.

Speak gently; Love doth whisper low
The vows that true hearts bind;
And gently Friendship’s accents flow;
Affection’s voice is kind.

Speak gently; ’tis a little thing
Dropped in the heart’s deep well;
The good, the joy, that it may bring,
Eternity shall tell.

Chapter 9

We called him a tortoise because he taught us.  You have to pronounce this with an English accent to get it.  Go ahead.  Try it.

miss happy crop

Finally, a clothing store for clumsy women.

“French, music and washing – extra.”  This does not, as at least one article I have read suggests, allude to the fact that women in Victorian times were only supposed to know about things like laundry.    Let us all pause a moment and shake our heads at this nonsense, which obviously sprang, fully formed, from the mind of a person with no sense of humor.

No, this line is simply an instance where Carroll, having seen something that always struck him as funny but never having had a place to use it, jumps at the chance and works it into the discussion.  According to “The Annotated Alice,” this phrase often appeared on advertisements for boarding schools, meaning that there was an extra charge for French and music, and for having one’s laundry done by the school. (source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.128))

I find this delightful, because this is the type of thing, when I find it in a footnote at the bottom of a brochure, or a public sign, or a store name, that just sends me into hysterics.  Like this (sadly, now closed) women’s clothing store near my home.  I drove past it one day specifically so I could get a photo of it.

Come on, think about it.  Mishap-y?

At any rate, once Carroll got on a roll in this chapter, he just could not stop the puns from happening.  My British father used to be like this.  He could go on for a good 10 minutes on one subject, working related words into every sentence.  Like trees:  “You’re obviously barking up the wrong tree there.”  “I can’t be-leaf you just said that.”  “This conversation needs to branch out into other topics.”   And on and on.

As much as I hate to ruin a good pun by spelling it out, here is a short list of the puns in the Mock Turtle’s description of his education.  Before you read the list, see how many of the puns you can get on your own.  It really helps to speak the words out loud.  Even if you can’t do a British accent.

Puns about the Mock Turtle’s Education:

Reeling – reading

Writhing – writing

Ambition – addition

Distraction – subtraction

Uglification – multiplication

Derision – division

Mystery – history

Seaography – geography

Drawling – drawing

Stretching – sketching

Fainting in coils – painting in oils

Laughing – Latin

Grief – Greek

lessons – lessen

Chapter 10

The Mock Turtle sings a song while he and the Gryphon demonstrate a dance called the Lobster Quadrille to Alice, “Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail…



Here is the poem being parodied (and a picture of a whiting, just for fun)

The Spider And The Fly

by Mary Howitt  (1799-1888)

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;
“‘Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you may spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show when you are there.”
“Oh no, no,” said the little fly; “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high.
Well you rest upon my little bed?” said the spider to the fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest a while, I’ll snugly tuck you in!”
“Oh no, no,” said the little fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again who sleep upon your bed!”

Said the cunning spider to the fly: “Dear friend, what can I do

To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome – will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little fly; “kind sir, that cannot be:
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

“Sweet creature!” said the spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise;
How handsome are your gauzy wings; how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlor shelf;
If you’d step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say,

And, bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”

The spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready to dine upon the fly;
Then came out to his door again and merrily did sing:
“Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with pearl and silver wing;

Your robes are green and purple; there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer grew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes and green and purple hue,
Thinking only of her crested head. Poor, foolish thing! at last

Up jumped the cunning spider, and fiercely held her fast;
He dragged her up his winding stair, into the dismal den –
Within his little parlor – but she ne’er came out again!

And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words I pray you ne’er give heed;
Unto an evil counselor close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the spider and the fly.

Here are a couple of puns that happen after the song:

soles and eels – (shoe) soles and heels

porpoise – purpose

And finally, Carroll either really liked, or really hated the poetry of Isaac Watts.  I’m inclined to think the latter, since Mr. Watts wrote his little educational gems in the 1700s, which meant that Carroll undoubtedly was required to memorize them as a school-boy himself.  Given the wit displayed in Alice, didactic recitation was probably like nails on a chalkboard to him.

At any rate, he mangles another of Watts’ poems in Chapter 10 when Alice is again required to stand and repeat the poem, “Tis The Voice of the Sluggard” by Isaac Watts.  Her version comes out nothing like this, of course.

The Sluggard
by Isaac Watts

‘Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
“You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again.”
As the door on its hinges, so he on his bed,
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head.

“A little more sleep, and a little more slumber;”
Thus he wastes half his days, and his hours without number,
And when he gets up, he sits folding his hands,
Or walks about sauntering, or trifling he stands.

I pass’d by his garden, and saw the wild brier,
The thorn and the thistle grow broader and higher;
The clothes that hang on him are turning to rags;
And his money still wastes till he starves or he begs.

I made him a visit, still hoping to find
That he took better care for improving his mind:
He told me his dreams, talked of eating and drinking;
But scarce reads his Bible, and never loves thinking.

Said I then to my heart, “Here’s a lesson for me,”
This man’s but a picture of what I might be:
But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding,
Who taught me betimes to love working and reading.

Oh, but we are still not done with Chapter 10.  Carroll was waxing quite lyrical when he penned this chapter.  He finishes it off with his own version of a popular song known as “Beautiful Star.”  Carroll’s version is “Beautiful Soup.”

“Star of the Evening” (1855)
[aka “Beautiful Star”]
Words and Melody by James M. Sayles.

Beautiful star in Heaven so bright,
Softly falls thy silv’ry light,
As thou movest from earth afar,
Star of the evening, Beautiful star.
Star of the evening, Beautiful star.

Beautiful star, (Beautiful star,)
Beautiful star, (Beautiful star,)
Star of the eve-ning
Beautiful, Beautiful star.

In fancy eye’s thou seem’st to say,
Come, come with me from earth away,
Upwards thy spirit’s pinions try,
To realms of peace beyond the sky,
To realms of peace beyond the sky.

Shine on oh! star of love divine,
May our soul’s affections twine A
Around thee, as thou mov’st afar,
Star of the twilight, Beautiful star,
Star of the twilight, Beautiful star

Chapter 11

Queen_of_Hearts_Mother_Goose2The accusation read by the White Rabbit at the trial in Chapter 11 is actually taken from a nursery rhyme.

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he’d steal no more.

Chapter 12

The final poem in the book begins with “They told me you had been to her…” Originally the first stanza read:

She’s all my fancy painted him
(I make no idle boast);
If he or you had lost a limb,
Which would have suffered most?

But for some reason, Carroll dropped this initial stanza.  Without it, there is no way to tie his poem to the one that inspired it; perhaps this is why Carroll dropped it — the poem took on a life of its own and didn’t need the parody aspect, and since the rest of the poem had nothing to do with the original, there was no point in keeping the tie-in.

At any rate, just for the sake of history, with that first stanza, one can trace the poem to this one:

Alice Gray
William Mee

She’s all my fancy painted her, she’s lovely, she’s divine,
But her heart it is another’s, she never can be mine.
Yet loved I as man never loved, a love without decay,
Oh, my heart, my heart is breaking for the love of Alice Gray.

Her dark brown hair is braided o’er a brow of spotless white,
Her soft blue eye now languishes, now flashes with delight;
Her hair is braided not for me, the eye is turned away,
Yet my heart, my heart is breaking for the love of Alice Gray.

I’ve sunk beneath the summer’s sun, and trembled in the blast.
But my pilgrimage is nearly done, the weary conflict’s past;
And when the green sod wraps my grave, may pity haply say,
Oh, his heart, his heart is broken for the love of Alice Gray!

Categories: British Literature, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Getty Center, Los Angeles

A museum trip. What better way to start the school year than with a field trip to a museum? Our timing was a little off, since we don’t technically start our school year until September, but homeschooling is never easily put in the box of calendars and “school hours” anyway, so off we went to the Getty in the middle of August.

Free, but parking costs $15.
You can pay the parking fee with cash or a debit or credit card.

Hours (Summer 2012)
Monday           CLOSED
Tuesday         10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Wednesday    10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Thursday        10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday            10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Saturday        10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sunday          10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

Our Experience

The first thing we discovered was that there was some major construction happening on the freeway and side streets right at the entrance to the Getty, and try as we might to avoid it, we realized that there was no way around but through and got in line with the rest of the cars.  This construction is continuing through 2013, so until then, it’s a good idea to check the Metro website for updates, as well as adding 10-15 minutes to your expected drive time.

Eventually we arrived at the Center, only 15 minutes after it opened, crowded into the standing-room-only tram and rode it to the top.  It was a good chance to meet some new friends.  We didn’t, but it was a good chance to do it.  I actually spent most of the ride trying not to laugh at the women across from me, whose entire conversation went something like this:

Blond lady, holding up printout of website map: “Now here are the exhibits I definitely want to see, this one here, this one over here and this other one here.”

Dark-haired lady, glancing at map: “Oh, and the restaurant we’re eating at is right there, so that will be convenient.”

Blond lady: “Okay.  There are a lot of restaurants…”

Dark-haired lady: “Yes, but we want to eat at that restaurant, right?  That’s the one we’re eating at.

Blond lady: “Yes, that’s fine, we’ll eat there.  But first we’ll go to this exhibit here and maybe the gardens.”

Dark-haired lady: “And after that we’ll eat at that restaurant.”

<pause to look out window at view>

Blond lady: “Now, do you want to go to the modern art exhibit?”

Dark-haird lady: “Oh, I don’t know.  How far is it from the restaurant?”

<Tram comes to a stop and everyone begins to exit.  I follow the ladies out the doors, and as they walk away from me, I hear one last exchange>

Blond lady: “Oh look, they even have a cafe on the Garden Terrace level!”

Dark-haired lady: “Yes, but we’re not eating at that one.  We’re eating at the other restaurant.”

Entering the cool, air-conditioned, light-filled and airy lobby (did I mention it was air-conditioned?  It was 93°F outside.  We really, really liked the lobby), we made a bee-line for the free maps and huddled to formulate a Plan of Attack. We even found a scale model of the Center, and the 10 year old delighted in pointing out exactly where we were standing.  I was impressed with him until he confessed that there was a sign on the model right there that said “You Are Here.”

The thing about the Getty is, it’s so big, you really can’t see it all in one visit.  Especially not with a couple of pre-teens along.  We knew that the tolerance of our two for Viewing Serious Art would peter out somewhere around an hour and a half, so we had until lunchtime to go through the galleries before they were going to be ready to do something else.

The Getty knows this about kids, however, and has a variety of activities that appeal to them and allow them to enjoy the museum in their own special kid way.  The Family Events and Activities section of The Getty’s website gives details on all sorts of things, such as a family room of hands-on activities, family art labs and free Art Detective Cards, which give the kids something to focus on in the art galleries, which might otherwise be overwhelming to young visitors.

We picked up a couple of Art Detective cards, which had closeup shots of details of different works of art, along with a map showing in which rooms these works could be found.  With a 10 year old and a 12 year old, you run the risk of this kind of thing being met with eye-rolls, but these cards were so well designed that the kids actually got into it and started to compete to see who could find the four mystery works of art first.  All of them were in the “Before 1600” art galleries, and since this was their first trip to The Getty, it made sense to start with the oldest works anyway, so we headed over to the North Pavilion.  The 17 year old was more interested in modern art, however, so she headed off in that direction by herself, art supplies in hand, happily looking forward to finding a quiet corner to sketch something that caught her eye.

We started on the top floor of the North Pavilion, where the paintings are displayed in order to make the most of indirect, natural light that filters down through skylights.  The kids found the art interesting, especially as we pointed out features described on the placards next to the pieces.  We were careful to tell them not to touch anything, because most of the pieces were not behind glass and were actually well within reach of curious fingers.  There were plenty of museum workers on hand to keep an eye on things as well.

Guard watching boy watching bust

I found it mind-stretching to stand right in front of a piece of art that was 650 years old, with nothing but my respect for its preservation stopping me from reaching out and touching it.  I don’t know why things are more real when we touch them, but that is just how the human mind seems to work.  So even though I didn’t touch anything, the knowledge that I technically COULD touch it made me feel that much more connected to it.

Eventually we found ourselves in one of the rooms highlighted on the Art Detective Cards, and the kids set out in search of a painting containing the  bird detailed on the card.  The 12 year old found it first, but the 10 year old was having trouble.  A museum worker sauntered over and gave him a pep talk, pointing him in the right direction, but before he could find the painting, the 12 year old called something out to him that distracted him and caused him to change his direction.  The worker marched over to the 12 year old and chided, in a thick accent, “You have interrupted him!  Now he will not find it!”  He then gazed piercingly at her, with a twinkle in his eye, and asked, “Are you his older sister?” When she replied that she was he encouraged her to leave her little brother alone and let him discover things for himself.  A few minutes later he sidled up to my husband and said, “I have talked to his sister.  She will never interrupt him again.”

When we reached the ground floor, the kids were fascinated by the many different sculptures and pieces of furniture, especially a four-sided carved display cabinet with many drawers on each side.  The display for this piece included three augmented reality (AR) touch-screen pads that enable the viewer to explore the cabinet without actually touching it.  This same AR presentation is also available on The Getty’s website, much to the delight of my 10 year old, who just didn’t get enough of it on site.

Italian Filigrana Bottle, late 1500’s or early 1600’s

By the time we reached the display of European Glass and Ceramics from 1400-1700, our feet were tired and our stomachs were telling us it was time to eat lunch, but not until the 12 year old, who was struck by the beauty of these pieces, took photos of every last one of them.  We made sure she knew not to use the flash, and she snapped happily away at the pieces while I stood back and tried to understand how it was possible, considering that glass objects have an expected life-span of 3 months to 2 years in our household, that these pieces had survived upwards of 600 years without being dropped.

After a restful lunch, during which the 17 year old grabbed the camera and took photos of everything she had noticed earlier but hadn’t had a camera to photograph, we made our way to the gardens.  The only other time I had been to the Getty was right after it opened, and the gardens had filled in and grown a lot since then.  As it was the first time I went, the gardens were one of my favorite parts of the Center, as from there I could appreciate not just the imaginative landscaping but also get a good look at the architecture of the buildings.  The 17 year old commented that she could easily spend a day at the Center just exploring, sketching and photographing the gardens and the cityscape views they afforded.






The gardens are so beautiful, in fact, the 12 year old asked for the camera and took her own set of shots:





As I mentioned earlier, however, it was 93°F, so our tour of the gardens was cut short as we surrendered to the heat.  The sculpture garden was quite interesting and offered some unmatched views, but with not one tree, overhang or water feature in the vicinity, it maintained the approximate temperature of an oven prepped for baking cookies. Even the sun umbrella provided by the Center was little help in that area, and we vowed to come back again another time, preferably on a rainy day.

As we made our way out of the gardens, we passed the Getty’s trademark tree-shaped bougainvillea trellises. The middle-aged woman in front of me marveled to her husband about how beautiful they were, to which he paused, and then replied, “Yep, that’s some fine-lookin’ rebar there.”  You could take that as sarcasm or an honest opinion, and I’m not entirely sure which one is funnier.

Insider Tip: We discovered this too late for it to be of use to us, but keep in mind that should you visit the Getty on a blisteringly hot day, the coolest outdoor seating is not down on the Garden Terrance level, as most people seemed to suppose.  There was a breeze coming up the hillside, but it blew right over that level and hit the next level up.  The placement of clear wind-break panels on the edge of the Museum Courtyard confirmed my theory, as the wind is apparently a problem on cooler days.  In 93 degree heat, however, the breeze was wonderful, making the best outdoor seats in the Center that day the ones between the long, thin fountain in the courtyard and the Exhibitions Pavilion.

By the time we arrived at the end of the tram ride down the hill, we noticed that as hot as it had been at the top, it was a good 10 degrees hotter at the bottom.  This didn’t stop the 17 year old from appreciating the architecture of the parking garage, and she paused for a picture in the stairwell.

Whatever your interest in visiting the Getty, be it art appreciation, people-watching, garden-browsing, architecture-studying or restaurant-sampling, the Center has plenty to offer.  The beauty of the grounds makes it possible for even the most amateur of photographers to capture some stunning shots, the collection is beautifully displayed with plenty of information at hand to widen the knowledge base of the viewer, the people who work there are friendly, knowledgeable and ready to help and the whole experience is an incredible deal at $15 per car-load.  This is definitely a place I will return to with my kids; the size of the collection, as well as its constantly changing nature, insures that no two visits to the Getty will be the same.

Categories: Family, Field Trips, Homeschooling, Kids, Los Angeles, Travel | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

The Wonder Of It All

It seems a little strange to start with a re-blogged entry, but since this comes from my other blog, it’s okay. In fact, this is the post that started the thought of writing another blog. The beginning of the spin-off, if you will.

Julia's Inner Monologue

It was not turning out to be a good day.

The day before, I had high hopes that I would Make The Most Of A Beautiful Summer Day and had even rearranged a piano lesson so that I would have the afternoon off.  Seeing as it was August and the school year was looming ever larger on the horizon, I was feeling the pressure of the whole Make the Most thing.  And I was determined to get the kids away from computer games for at least ONE afternoon this month.  High hopes.

However, by the time the morning lessons were finished, I found myself in a funk, paralyzed by the very pressure that was telling me to perform.  It was too late to call any of my friends to make plans, and besides, I was in too much of a funk to even make the call.  Gritting my teeth, I…

View original post 1,026 more words

Categories: Family, Field Trips, Homeschooling, Kids, Los Angeles, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: