Here is my daughter knitting a square for the Haiti project, for which you can see yesterday’s post or download the flyer here.


If she looks a little dreamy-eyed, it’s because we are also watching Walt Disney’s Cinderella, made in 1950. My, the animation is impressive, considering it was hand-drawn and painted frame by frame with no computer assistance! Go watch again the scene where Cinderella scrubs the floor, her image reflected in dozens of lovely floating multicolored soap bubbles.

Quilt Raffle for Haiti

Some of you already know about the Quilt Raffle for Haiti Projects that our homeschool cooperative has undertaken. But for those of you who don’t, today I post a flyer describing the project. If you like, you can view a clearer version of the flyer and download a printable raffle ticket form. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.


Amerigo the Beautiful


If you live in North America, when you awaken in the morning do you lie in bed gazing at the sky and thinking to yourself, “Why is this continent named America when it might have been called any number of things?” Well, if so, I can show you this page from our current homeschooling lesson book: it is named for Amerigo Vespucci (1452-1512). Perhaps now a little light bulb goes on in your head, a memory from an old geography class.

Today is Vespucci’s birthday, although how this is known is amazing to me—old baptismal records I suppose. Vespucci was born in Florence, Italy, and in adulthood he went to work for a Medici banking/investment house in Seville, Spain that helped finance Columbus’ second voyage to the New World (the one that was to prove beyond a doubt Columbus had indeed reached India).

Vespucci gives the impression of having been a bright, lively fellow with either great charisma or influential contacts, because he was invited by two different kings (of Castile and of Portugal) to participate as an observer on four voyages to the unfamiliar yet promising lands across the Atlantic. Since he was tiring, as he wrote, of his profession’s “frail and transitory benefits” (which observation remains true in the 21st century), he packed his trunk and off he went.

These expeditions actually ventured much further south than had Columbus’ ships, exploring the coast of what would become Brazil, stopping for days or weeks at a time to look around and trade/dine/lodge/fight with the people they met along the way. It became clear that south of the Caribbean islands was an entirely unexpected continent.

When Vespucci returned to Europe, he published accounts of his travels, describing the new landscape with its strange birds, plants, animals, the people and their customs, and the various adventures he had among them. He wrote in such engaging and entertaining detail (also poignant and dismaying to a modern eye) that it caught the attention of mapmaker Martin Waldseemüller, who decided to name the surprise continent in Vespucci’s honor on his brand-new map of the world. And America it remained, eventually coming to mean not only the southern but the central and northern sections as well. The entire Western Hemisphere! The most you can hope for today is to get an avenue named after you, or perhaps a candy bar.

CakeDaisies Grandma Marie

Oh Canada…Oh Henry


Aren’t you sometimes struck by a peculiar conjunction of events in your life? This is what’s happening here now:

1. The Olympic Games taking place in Vancouver are wrapping up. Every night we’ve had views of the fantastically beautiful British Columbia.

2. In our current homeschooling block, North American History and Geography, we now happen to be studying Canada, at this moment the Great Expulsion of 1755, when the French residents of Acadia (renamed Nova Scotia) were forcibly removed by the British.

3. We are reading “Evangeline,” the poetic interpretation of that event through the story of two ill-fated lovers, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

4. Today is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s birthday (1807-1882).

Longfellow was born actually not far from the setting of the poem, in Maine when it was still part of Massachusetts. He hoped when still in his teens that his would be a literary path, and it was—professor of languages at Bowdoin and Harvard, translator of Dante, novelist, and, in his day, probably the most popular of American poets. He was admired for his character as well as for his work. Twice widowed tragically and never recovered from his grief, he nevertheless forged on, productive, kindly, modest, and gracious in the face of later artistic criticism.

His poetry is definitely that of another era: strongly rhythmical, musical, metaphorical romantic storytelling with a capital S. You can’t listen to “Paul Revere’s Ride” or “The Song of Hiawatha” or “Evangeline” without being carried away on the current of vivid word-pictures and harmonious sound, and chanting under your breath at odd moments during the day: THIS is the FORest primEVal… It is poetry meant to be read aloud. If you haven’t ever done so, read the opening lines aloud now in your best storytelling voice, and wish Longfellow a Happy Birthday.

George Washington’s City


Today is the birthday of George Washington (1732-1799). Washington was a man of many gifts and a genuine 18th-century celebrity: a hero of the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, intelligent, courageous, honorable, hard-working, serious, strong and muscular, modest yet dignified, an enthusiastic dancer, a fine dresser, and, according to a friend, “the best horseman of his age.” He was also unusually tall, which always seems to impress one’s fellow citizens mightily even if one is a prize dunce. The fact that he was pretty much universally admired made it possible for the wobbly, newly-unified country to survive its first few years. He brought people together. Without him we might not have remained the United States.

In fact Washington was, like so many of the Founding Fathers, an impressive fellow in so many ways that I cannot attempt to cover them in a single blog-post. So I offer here only one of his accomplishments, from our homeschool Local History and Geography lesson on The Founding of Washington, DC. And what a story it is, full of intrigue, scandal, and spurious investment opportunities. Plus ça change…

Once the squabbling Thirteen Colonies agreed to band together, shove the British aside, and govern themselves, they had to select a capital for the new nation. Several different cities had temporarily housed delegates and/or the Declaration of Independence itself throughout the Revolutionary years, and others put forward what they considered justifiable claims for their own beloved towns. Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies and so would have been a natural choice if it hadn’t been a hotbed of Quakers, free blacks, abolitionists, and other Yankee troublemakers. The southern states said, If you-all choose Philadelphia, so long USA, we are out of here.

A deal was finally made to carve out a brand-new capital in more southerly location somewhere on the Potomac, and who ought to be allowed to choose the spot? None but the universally trusted and unanimously elected First President. So Washington made an exploratory journey and selected a 10-mile by 10-mile piece of land that included the little ports of Georgetown and Alexandria, situated between the Chesapeake Bay/Atlantic highway and the tempting lands to the west.

No one was really delighted with the decision except perhaps Washington himself, who worked hard both during and after his Presidency to keep interest alive and oversee the exceedingly slow construction of the new Capitol and President’s House (see the young Congress’ unwillingness to pay for anything, Each Day post 2/21). Washington, DC slowly developed from a small muddy provincial village into an interesting city that is at last worthy of its namesake. (I believe a recognizable shift took place sometime during the Kennedy administration.) Happy Birthday, dear George Washington! Our debt to you is incalculable.

Now I am going to go bake a cherry pie.

(For those interested in this subject, I recommend the excellent Washington: The Making of the American Capital, by Fergus Bordewich.)

“Boss” Shepherd


Today is the birthday of Alexander Robey Shepherd (1835–1902). Do you know who that is? Well, if not, now you will. My daughter and I are finishing up a lesson block on Local History and Geography, which has ranged from visiting and mapping our little neighborhood creeks (to follow how they connect to the Potomac River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic) to learning about the prehistory and history of the bit of land upon which we now perch, grow strawberries, and walk the dog.

Among the colorful characters we have studied is the above-named Shepherd, nicknamed “Boss” Shepherd, who served on the Bureau of Public Works, and as governor, in the days when Washington, DC had governors. Shepherd was a powerful and controversial fellow who didn’t sit around waiting for something to be approved by some old committee or the U.S. Congress, and he took it upon himself to make huge improvements in the city’s infrastructure. He was also progressive for his day, promoting universal suffrage and school integration. Shepherd was eventually removed from office, and his statue was put in storage as an embarrassing reminder of the political corruption from which our fair city has henceforth been free… Anyway. Shepherd’s reputation has recently been rehabilitated and his statue is back in front of DC’s Wilson Building, where you can stand today and eat a cupcake in his honor.

Martin Luther King, Jr.



These are pages from a book created by my daughter for a second grade Saints, Heroes, and Heroines lesson block. Born in 1929, King would probably have thought it a fine birthday gift to see one of the fruits of his labors, an African-American in the White House. Happy birthday, Dr. King.

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can listen to Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech.