100 Word Challenge: The True Story



Pinocchio got it all wrong; that little brat Carlo mixed up everything. He was always hanging around, prying into our secrets.

Isabella was sweet on him, so we didn’t chase him off, but I knew he was up to no good. I was a young man myself, then, and too busy with my own concerns to pay to much attention to my kid sister’s boyfriend.

Anyway, like I said, he got it all wrong. Maybe that stupid story was his revenge for Isabella rejecting him. What’s so special about being human? The real reward is becoming a marionette – becoming immortal.


Part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  This one was delightfully creepy.

My previous stories are here.

Check out Jimmie’s story and roundup.  Lots of interesting takes on this photo, but surprisingly no creepy dummy stories yet. Interesting.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Yesterday’s spark



There are moments in the life of the teacher when an assignment hits a different note with your student, and the ordinary becomes magical. A spark is lit and bursts into flame.

During a routine writing assignment yesterday, I read the poem, “The Brook” by Tennyson to 8-year-old Satchmo. We read a fair amount of poetry, and he likes it okay, but I wouldn’t call him a poetry fan. But something was different yesterday. I could see it spark something in him. “I really like that, Mom!” and “Can we read it again?” And he didn’t even complain about his copywork, which was the last two lines of the poem. He did critique my handwriting, but that’s a different issue.

We also had an impromptu science discussion about the water cycle, and I had to rack my brains trying to remember the phrase “water table.”  We were really putting into practice Miss Mason’s adage, “Education is the science of relationships.” Or rather, Satchmo was. I was following that other piece of her advice and keeping out of the way of the child and the text.

Sometimes homeschoolers are tempted to portray every moment of our lives as a delight-directed fairy land where our kids are fascinated by every story, enchanted by every project, and mesmerized by every science experiment. Generally, my kids do enjoy their lessons, but it’s more like “Nice story. LEGOS!” Or more frequently now, “Nice story. KITTEN!” Our homeschool days are enjoyable more often than not, but they each have their subjects and assignments they aren’t fond of (my boys loathe handwriting, and engage in elaborate negotiations when called upon to write.) And even if they like the subject, it’s silly (and false) to pretend their every moment is a wonderland of enlightenment.

But every so often, something clicks, and a poem, story, experiment, or even (gasp!) math lesson will strike home in the heart and mind of one of my kids. A flame is kindled. It’s a privilege and a little humbling to be able to experience those moments. Here’s the poem that sparked Satchmo’s imagination and that he wants to memorizing, even though it’s not an assignment. An eight year old memorizing poetry for the love of it. Who’da thunk? The italicized stanzas are those that were in his grammar book that he’ll memorize.

The Brook
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,

And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.


100 Word Challenge: Abandon



Great. They left me again. I wonder how long it’ll take before they realize it and turn around. I spent two hours at that roadside fruit stand in Iowa. I didn’t even know Iowa had fruit; I thought they just had corn.

This is getting ridiculous. They take me completely for granted, shoving me in that smelly backpack until all of the sudden they need me. But I’m always there. I always pop out a picture no matter how shabbily they treat me.

Now they’ve forgotten me again, in Yellowstone Park of all places. Sigh.

Wait. Is that a bear?


Part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  This one was delightfully creepy.

My previous stories are here.

Check out Jimmie’s story and roundup.  A glimpse into a world I’d like to learn more of. Write it, Jimmie!

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)


This posts contains affiliated links that are all highly recommended. Buy them, borrow them, or steal them, but you ought to read them. (Maybe not that last option; you’re not Bilbo Baggins, after all.)

While reading Beowulf with the girls, I came across this passage:

A dragon on the prowl
from the steep vaults of a stone-roofed barrow
where he guarded a hoard; there was a hidden passage,
unknown to men, but someone managed
to enter by it and interfere
with the heathen trove. He hand handled and removed
a gem-studded goblet; it gained him nothing,
though with a thief’s wiles he had outwitted
the sleeping dragon; that drove him into rage,
as the people of that country would soon discover

If that doesn’t immediately think of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, you need to turn off your computer and go re-read it right now, or rather when you finish this post.



Tolkien was heavily influenced by Old Norse and Old English tales. In fact, he translated Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, among other works. Those influences are felt throughout all his writings.  C.S. Lewis was famously influenced by George MacDonald, going so far as to have him be his Virgil in The Great Divorce.

When you read Beowulf or The Princess and the Goblin, you see a seed of the magic that blooms in Tolkien’s and Lewis’s works. But if I say Tolkien got the idea of a thief stealing from and awakening a dragon from Beowulf, I don’t mean he copied that idea from Beowulf. I mean that scene obviously sparked something in Tolkien that might have went something like this, “What if we had a the story was told from the thief’s perspective?” And of course, the Hobbits and all of Middle Earth are uniquely Tolkien’s, whatever influences he may have used in his creation of them.

Recently, we read a book that J.K Rowling has called a childhood favorite that obviously greatly influenced her imagination, the effects of which are clearly seen throughout the Harry Potter books. We just finished The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. The heroine reminds me of Anne Shirley, and the story is one Anne would have appreciated: a fairy tale of magic and mystery and reconciliation.

But again, when I say influenced, I don’t mean Rowling copied from The Little White Horse. But I think perhaps that while she was creating her wonderful world, she thought about that book and the creatures that embodied beauty and mystery and elusiveness and longing. I can definitely see the seeds of patronuses in the little white horse. There are all sorts of images and characters that very likely fed and nurtured the imagination that created Harry Potter’s world.

One of the most important reasons we read good, beautiful, imaginative books to our children is so that they will develop a rich imagination. Whatever they read (or otherwise take in – be it audio or visual) plays a role in developing their imaginations. If it’s mainly lowest common denominator tripe, then those are the seeds of their imagination, and that’s the type of imagination they will develop. Whether stories of virtue or stories of conniving, lovely language or dumbed-down insults, rich and intriguing tales or formulaic mind-candy, whatever type food nurtures our imaginations will bear the same kind of fruit.

I’m thankful Tolkien found Beowulf, Lewis found Curdie, and Rowling found The Little White Horse. I think we owe a debt to those original authors for the stories they helped to create. And now I hope they, as well as Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling, will nurture my own children’s imaginations, as well as my own. Who knows what worlds may be created?

100 Word Challenge: Knowledge



Johnny saw his sister sitting on the curb watching the pawn shop across the street.

“You’re not supposed to be here, Lily. What are you doing?”

Lily’s eyes never left the store, “Watching Daddy.”

“Why would Daddy be in a pawn shop?”

“He’s got to pawn his daddy’s gold watch to pay Mr. Jones rent because the money was stolen from his desk.”

“That money wasn’t stolen. Mr. Jones came this morning and took it. You were there.”

“I know. But Daddy doesn’t, so he’s selling the watch.”

Johnny sprinted toward across the street to the tune of Lily’s giggle.


Part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom. 

My previous stories are here.

Check out Jimmie’s story and roundup.  This one gave me the wiggins, in a very good way.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Fine Arts Friday: New Songs, Move Down

clean cup move down


Or I guess to be more true to the filched quote, “Clean songs, clean songs, move down, move down!” Hmmm. Maybe we’ll read Jabberwocky today. Because it is brillig. Or it could be. Honestly, I don’t even know what brillig is, but there are definitely no slithy toves around here.

This month’s folk song is an Australian tune called “Along the Road to Gundagai.”  I like this version for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the name Slim Dusty reminds me of the Three Amigos.


This months hymn “O Thou in Whose Presence” is particularly lovely, especially this a capella version by Fernando Ortego.

We’re still enjoying Corot and Brahms, the latter of which I don’t think I’ve written about. Eh, I still have seven weeks left in the term. I’ll get to it. Maybe.

If you’re looking to add fine arts into your lives — whether you’re homeschooling, using other educational models, or don’t even have children in your home — Ambleside Online has beautiful, carefully chosen selections, as well as a wealth of other good stuff.

Enjoy the clean cups! Er, new songs!

100 Word Challenge: Position Available



Three lousy clues: a key, a bit twine, and mysterious liquid in bottle. Oh, and a deadline. “Find me by sunset and you’ll keep your head.”

He should have been suspicious at the enormous sum offered for just one young princess. Princess, hah! Demon is more like it. No amount of money was sufficient for the misery this brat had put him through. Each “game” was increasingly lethal. But she hadn’t succeeded in killing him yet. Nor would she.

He uncorked the bottle and inhaled. Apple. The tutor headed toward the orchard, casting a wary eye on the climbing sun.


Part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom. 

My previous stories are here.

Check out Jimmie’s contribution (fanfic!) and roundup.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Fine Arts Friday: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

There’s just something fun about that name. Interestingly, with those three names to choose from, he went with Camille. That wouldn’t have been my choice, but he’s the famous artist, so what do I know?

The aforementioned Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot is the artist in the Ambleside rotation this term. He was a French painter who lived a long life (1796-1875), was supported both monetarily and otherwise by his parents, and achieved professional recognition and success in his lifetime. Corot is the unicorn of painters!

More than that, he seems to have been a genuinely nice guy. From the Getty bio, “Kindly ‘Père Corot’ was universally beloved and generous. He supported Jean-François Millet’s widow and bought a house for the ailing, destitute Honoré Daumier.”

We’re quite enjoying his work, and we had the opportunity to see three of his works in person at the Kimbell Art Museum. The National Gallery of Art has a decent biography for those who want more info. Enjoy!


A banner day and a birthday eve

Hobbit cover

The Hobbit was published 78 years ago on September 21, 1937. Providentially, Bilbo’s birthday is on September 22, 1290, according to Shire-Reckoning. Both days ought to be celebrated for the joy, adventure, and wonder they have brought to countless people.

From a review by Tolkien’s friend C.S. Lewis:

For it must be understood that this is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. Alice is read gravely by children and with laughter by grown ups; The Hobbit, on the other hand, will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.

Prediction may be dangerous, but in this case it was accurate. I hope you’ve been invited to Bilbo’s party; he gives the best gifts. And Prof. Tolkien certainly gave us a great gift, not only in The Hobbit, but with all of Middle Earth.

Living a contented life

Today’s C.S. Lewis quote:

The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain—enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.

That’s the programme, isn’t it?

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III.

It’s sound advice for avoiding discontentment, anxiety, flightiness, envy, and a whole host of other ills. Live in the moment; do the thing before you; be thankful for today’s gift; let tomorrow worry about itself. Yes, that’s the key to living a contented life.

But knowledge is one thing, and application is quite another, isn’t it?

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