Friday, August 22, 2014

Presidential Biography: Monroe

Photo of James Monroe

I just finished Harlow Giles Unger's biography of James Monroe entitled The Last Founding Father:  James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness.

Throughout the book, one senses that Unger may be Monroe's biggest fan.  Early on in the prologue, he describes Adams, Jefferson and Madison as 'mere caretakers,' while attributing Monroe with leading nation's ascendence to greatness.  Other passages conjure up images of Monroe thrusting a whimpering Madison aside while he, with cape billowing, single-handedly saves the nation from the British.  There isn't any real criticism of Monroe throughout the whole book.

Despite the obvious pro-Madison bias and maybe because of it (enthusiasm being contagious and all that), the book was enjoyable to read.  Having little knowledge of this time period, I have no reason NOT to believe that Monroe's presidency ushered in and was the source of the Era of Good Feelings.  I'll conclude, along with the author, that Monroe was a visionary leader with a knack for making and maintaining the right kind of friendships and who acted with bravery all through his career.  And, of course, he married well as the great ones generally do.

I may be victim to Unger's prejudices, but I'm going to claim Monroe as one of my favorite presidents--maybe even top five.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Whole 30: Food Edition

If you need a run-down on the Whole30 food guidelines, go here.

In a nutshell it's a 30-day (or more) diet of whole foods with these restrictions:

  • No sugar or sweeteners of any kind
  • No alcohol
  • No grains
  • No legumes
  • No dairy
  • No carrageenan, MSG or sulfites
  • No baked goods, junk food treats or treats with approved ingredients

Although I was initially intimidated,  I had confidence from my round of gluten-free living that I could do it.

Right off the bat, I found it wasn't really that hard to come up with meals.

Almost every one went something like this:   combine a protein (fish or chicken or beef or pork or eggs) with a fruit or vegetable.  My husband or I sauteed, grilled, roasted, fried (in coconut or olive oil), or braised the meat.  We did the same with the vegetables and fruit or ate them raw.  Since I cook a lot anyway, this approach to eating seemed like a simplified version of how we normally ate...just without the complication of making the muffins or the cornbread or the casserole.

It was a huge benefit to do eating program in the height of summer when there's an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I don't want to make it sound easy.  It wasn't.  However, for me, the biggest challenge came from the emotional aspects instead of the food restrictions.  I'll talk about that in the next post.

The Whole30 people provide plenty of recipes and food options, but I just made my own food--oh, except the mayonnaise.  I made the mayo three or four times.

All the meals were satisfying, but when I combined that mayo with left-over roasted chicken, chopped apples, chopped grapes and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, my belly reached a whole new level of fullness.  I was just so perfectly satisfied.  I guess it's the fat.  It was so good.

I also followed Melissa Joulwan's recommendation, and bought some coconut aminos.  Boy, that is great stuff.  Add it to the skillet while sauteing chicken, cabbage, carrots, and onions, and you've got a very tasty meal.  It's very reminiscent of soy sauce.

Daddy Hinkle's All Natural Seasoning and Rub was another go-to product.  My husband and I already used this a lot to season meats.  I was pleased when I read the ingredient list and found it to be Whole30-compliant.  Very delicious!

Although the no dairy thing was a little challenging.  I found that Lindsay Naturals California Green Ripe Olives lived up to their billing and had a nice buttery flavor making them a fine dairy substitute.  They had the texture of beans with a taste that had the essence of cheese, which made them a winner with Whole30-style taco salad.

Necessity led me to another great discovery -- all the breading and the coating and the frying of okra is unnecessary fussiness.  It is one vegetable that is great no matter how cooked and even tastes great raw!

I'll leave you with a confession.  I did not eat out once until the last day when I choked down a restaurant salad seasoned with oil and vinegar (my least favorite meal of the month).  Every other meal, three times a day, was prepared by me or my grilling husband at home.  It's not necessary or even recommended to seclude yourself this way while doing the  Whole30.  I just found it to be easier for me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Klossner Reunion

The most salient memory I have of my Grandpa Klossner is his wooden leg.  Sometimes he would let us kids knock on it.  Sometimes, he'd be lying on his daybed under the windows of the dining room when we arrived and it would be there on the floor, dismembered, beside him.

The thing about my family is that the generations are unusually long.  My grandfather was born in the 1800s (1894 to be exact) and a veteran of World War I.  He was an old man when I knew him.  He lost his leg in a farming accident the year before I was born.  He was no longer healthy.  Combine these factors with my youthfulness (I was only eight when he died), and it's no wonder I did not know him as a person.

This weekend, though, I had a chance to, in a way, draw a little closer to my grandpa.  I drove with my parents to Pershing, Missouri to attend a family reunion.  I gained a connection to the past and a connection to my grandpa.

I learned that the belfry of this church building overlooks the land my grandfather's great-grandfather, John Klossner, an immigrant from Switzerland, purchased soon after his arrival in Missouri in 1843.

Partial view of the Klossner homestead, which is directly below this bluff, and adjacent lands
His son, John Jacob (also a Swiss immigrant), inherited the homestead, which is bordered by the Gasconade River, upon his father's death around 1845.

John Jacob's son and my grandfather's father, John Wesley, later moved 80 miles south to the part of Missouri where five generations of his descendants (including me) have been born and raised.  That 80 miles may as well have been half-way around the world, because our branch of the family lost track of our Gasconade River relatives.  We knew virtually nothing of each other's existence until my fourth cousin once removed, Nelda, brought us together again about 25 years ago.

At that time, she began writing a book called At the Gasconade.  Her book revealed to me my grandfather's story, which is my story too.  It is a family history of three immigrant families, including the Klossners, and their descendants.  It is part historical narrative and part family tree.  Those many years ago, she tracked our branch of the family down to get a record of our births, marriages and deaths.  Since that time, my parents have consistently attended the reunion she organizes every three years.  I went to the reunion in 1990 when I had little to no interest in family history and again for the second time this past weekend.

Every family needs a Nelda.  This book is a family treasure.  It filled in the blanks of my family's history.

Nelda also organized an interesting and informative reunion program.  We heard a speaker discuss the history of steamboats along the Gasconade River, the river that winds past the original Klossner homestead.  There was a second speaker who explained the German heritage of the region.  The German Society of Philadelphia purchased tracts of land along the Gasconade for German immigrants to repurchase.  The intent was to prevent further assimilation of Philadelphian Germans by encouraging them to move to the isolated Missouri hills along the Gasconade where they could live as Germans in 'all the various particulars'.  My Swiss ancestor purchased his homestead among these German folks.

Another bit of information I learned from Nelda's book was the origin of the name Klossner.  It is a derivation of a German word meaning hermit, or "one who keeps to himself."  It would seem that as an introvert, I'm just following a family tradition.

Monday, August 4, 2014

July 2014 Progress

We don't have a clean cut off from one school year to the next.  In my mind, I considered July to be the start of the new school year, but my pupils didn't notice a difference.  For better or worse, we just put one foot in front of the other every day (well, as near to every day as a busy schedule allows) and keep plodding along.

I haven't done an update on our school progress in a while.  I'd like to start up again for the 2014/2015 school year.  My son is in 4th grade and my daughter in second.

As for our first month of the new year, July, I did keep track of the books we read, but for the other stuff, I don't have a clear starting point.  For those subjects, I'll record in this post where we are now and next month I'll note the ground we covered.

Also, in this post, I'll elaborate a little on our book choices.

Classical Conversation

This will be our sixth year in Classical Conversations.  This will be my son's first year in Essentials and both kids' second time through Cycle 3.


My kids are studying the life of Jesus at church using the Shaping Hearts for God Bible curriculum.  It is designed for home use during the week.  We cover one event from Jesus's life each day.  There is also a memory verse that we learn over four weeks.


Her:  My daughter finished lesson 57 in RightStart Mathematics Level C last week.  She is in the midst of reviewing subtraction strategies.  We also do a page or so out of Singapore Math's Challenging Word Problems Level 1 and have just finished page 145, which addresses division.

I'm loving this combination with her.  She also does an on-line math program called Dreambox once or twice a week.

Him: I have loved, loved, loved RightStart since the beginning but for my son who finished Level D in the spring, he's left with only two more levels in RightStart.  We would be forced to make a change sooner or later.  I had a hard time deciding whether or not this was the year we jumped ship to something with more continuity.  He spent the first part of the summer doing Singapore, but I didn't love all the switching between books.  It may be a bad reason to abandon Singapore, but I hated it from the start.  On a whim, I landed on Saxon for him.  He started Level 5/4 a few weeks ago.  It's scope is behind where he was in Right Start and Singapore, but I'm a fan of review and think we'll both do well with the format.

He, too, does Dreambox once or twice a week.


Her:  We're in week 24 of Writing With Ease 2.  We're moving quickly through this because she usually asks for more.  She LOVES copywork and does great with dictation.  The narrations are her weak point.

She's also starting cursive and is two weeks into Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Handwriting.

Him:  The hit of the summer has been Writing and Rhetoric Book 1:  Fable from Classic Academic Press ("CAP").  We started in early April and are two weeks away from finishing.  It has been a real pleasure going through this program... or should I say, progym.  I'm not good at generating the conversation.  This has been a good catalyst to get us started in having good discussions.  I also love the imitative approach to teaching writing.

We'll finish the Fable book in time to start the Institute for Excellence in Writing's  U.S. History -Based Writing Lessons through Classical Conversations Essentials program.  Part of me wants to continue on with the next CAP book, Narrative 1, but I think the outside accountability and the integration with history will benefit my son.

English Grammar

Her:  We're just going to rely on Classical Conversations English grammar memory work for her.

Him:  We'll be finished with First Language Lessons Level 3 by the time Essentials starts.  It's been a great review of Classical Conversation Cycle 2 memory work and introduction to diagramming. From then on, we'll rely on Essentials for all his grammar needs.


Her:  She finished Step 11 in Level 3 of All About Spelling.

Him: He finished Step 20 in Level 4 of All About Spelling.

Both kids do great with this program.  It is a winner.


Both kids memorized Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll and The 23rd Psalm this summer.  I'm not sure what's next, but it will be something out of IEW's Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization.  I think we'll hop around and pick out poems from various American poets to somewhat match up with our history.


I'm sorely tempted to just rely on Classical Conversations memory work, experiments and activities for science.   We've done no science this summer.


We are just going to read various non-fiction, historical fiction books and folk stories related to American History, roughly following our Classical Conversations's history sentence sequence.  This summer, we started with the mound builders.  Here's what we've read so far:

Pre-Columbian Civilizations:

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 by Charles C. Mann (Read Aloud) - excerpt addressing mound-builders only
The Discovery of the Americas by Betsy and Giulio Maestro (RA)
Journey to Cahokia: A Boy's Visit to the Great Mound City by Albert Lorenz (His Independent Read)
Ice Mummy:  The Discovery of a 5,000 Year-Old Man by Mark Dubowski (Her IR)

The Vikings:

Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire (RA)
Voyage with the Vikings (The Imagination Station Series) by Paul McCusker (Her IR)


Columbus by Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire (RA)
Pedro's Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus by Pam Conrad (His IR)
Christopher Columbus (Step into Reading, Step 3) by Stephen Krensky (Her IR)

Native Americans:

North American Indians by Douglas Gorsline (RA)
How Coyote Stole the Summer: A Native American Folktale by Stephen Krensky (Her IR)
Indians of the Plains by Rae Baines (His IR)

Literature and Required and Free Reading

I am slowly reading the kids Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb after lunch.  They are surprisingly attentive while I read this.  They are amused by the similarity between stories, particularly in the number of times a woman dresses up like a man.

I've let our evening read-alouds dwindle to nothing.  It seems there are more exciting things to do of a summer's evening than listening to me read.  Here's a list of additional non-history books they've read independently during July:


The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh (required reading)


Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien (required reading still in progress)
Warriors #4, Rising Storm by Erin Hunter
Warriors #5, A Dangerous Path
Warriors #6, The Darkest Hour
Warriors:  The New Prophecy #1: Midnight


They are continuing their weekly violin lessons and daily pracice.  They learn songs using the Suzuki method and Irish fiddle tunes.  He is in Suzuki Book 4 and she is almost done with Suzuki Book 2.