Salt 2

Sea salt and peppercorns.Image via Wikipedia

After the Civil War, Sherman compared wagon supply to rail supply. During the war 160 train cars a day supplied his 100,000 men and 35,000 animals. He estimated that it would have taken 36,000 wagons of six mules to provide an equivalent amount. (1)

It's hard to even imagine what level of effort it must take to supply an army fighting on another continent nor what the cost of such supply might be.

Interestingly, at the time of the Civil War few civilians, even those who wrote of the war, understood this monumental task and how vital it was and how easy it was for an opposing force to disrupt it.


African American Civil War MemorialImage by dbking via Flickr

For the last 30+ years, I've not been reading enough variety. This summer as I've engaged in my Civil War studies, I've been bombarded with new words.

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Writing In Books

This morning while at church our pastor suggested to members that they circle a certain word in their Bible. My 9 year old, got a red pen, and did so. Causing his mother to shiver.
For the record, I do not write in books if at all possible. If I want to note a quote I use a post it to indicate the location of the quote.


As I've been reading How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War,

Cover of Cover via Amazon

I've learned how the details of a campaign that seem small to us on the side lines can be vitally important to those fighting. Take salt in the Civil War.

The CSA estimated that it needed a cup and half of salt per soldier in the army per month. Through out the war there was an ongoing struggle over salt and its production and distribution. You might wonder why this would be so or why each soldier would need a cup and a half a month which seems a huge amount of salt. At the time food and meat in particular was preserved with salt so the salt ration would have been vitally important to each army.

Contrast this to Mel Gibson's Mad Max movies where individuals are shown fighting over gasoline. Although I can understand a global war beginning over gasoline or other energy supplies, it's less understandable that after that war individuals would fight for gasoline. Instead they would fight for water, food and shelter.

Like most science fiction readers, I'm left to ponder what things we would need to continue. What items our culture would fight for.


Emily DickinsonImage via Wikipedia

To go with my two generals is here is an Emily Dickinson poem

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory!

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

We don't have a time line with her poetry but this poem certainly calls to mind the Civil War which was fought during her lifetime.

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Final Tactics

At least two Civil War generals were considered to be safe from going to hell due to their battle strategies.

Bill Arp said of Stonewall Jackson, "I do not know whether Jackson is a Christian or not, but this I do know, if he decides to go to heaven, all hell won't be able to stop him."

Of William Sherman it was said, "That man Sherman will never go to hell. He’ll outflank the devil and get past Peter and all the heavenly hosts.”

I'm pretty sure this doesn't quite line up with the Bible.


This is not a talent of mine, but we do a drawing a day. This one is from Mike Artell's Cartooning for Kids.

A Dropped Third Strike

catcherImage by a snapshot of our lives via Flickr

Anyone who knows me will tell you I was not much interested in sports growing up. I'd like to think that this was because I was smart enough to know I was no good at any sport and saw no real gain from participating. However, my second child reminds me, that I also don't like to do things that don't come easy.

However, I met and fell in love with a baseball player (pitcher). He's also a smart guy, so although early in our relationship he tried to teach me to play sports, he soon figured out that didn't go so well. I could however learn things like the structure of a batting line up or how to keep score in baseball (although I could never quite figure out exactly what was happening on the field), or how to read the fielders' actions.

So last night at my oldest son's game, I found myself telling some one that the reason a child ran on a strike was that it was a dropped third strike. These don't happen often in the major leagues, but with twelve year old boys, they are a common occurrence, and as in 1941, they can be used to score.

Classical P.E.

Copy of the celebrated group of the “Uffizi wr...Image via Wikipedia

In the homeschool world there's a whole philosophy of education called "Classical." Some private schools have even picked up on this idea. Many use an essay by Dorothy Sayers on what she thought such an education would look like. It's assumed that many of our founding fathers had this sort of education, but it seems few study what exactly they studied.

Instead over the years a shorthand version of a "classical" education has evolved. Generally history is study in a four year cycle. Children learn Latin at a young age and possibly another classical language later on (although this is much rarer). They also often study logic as they come to middle and high school. Most of the other subjects of a standard American education remain in place. Sometimes children are taught chants to aid them in their acquisition of various bits of knowledge (parts of speech, continents, historical facts and dates).

As many people are drawn to this overall idea there have been disputes about what exactly a classical education is. Some don't like Sayer's essay. Others think we should return to the Greeks and study what they meant.

I admit that I've found some of this amusing and I occasionally like to stir the waters with irreverent thoughts about what a classical education would include. One thing that I've yet to see in any theory of classical education is a classical style of physical education. In Greece that would have involved a variety of sports and competitions. Often half the day or more was spent on such activities. Many of these would have been useful to the man who goes to war (and I suspect that modern practitioners of a classical education ignore another related area of study).

Later in history these games changed as the technology of war changed. Some like wrestling continued, but later hunting on horseback and fencing were added to the mix. Thomas Jefferson's father was a vigorous man and is said to have required his children to spend four hours everyday in the saddle.

I often wonder why this portion of a classical education is so overlooked by most sources or classical teaching. How would schools and homeschools change if this was incorporated?
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Selling Ourselves Short

Augustine of Hippo wrote that original sin is ...Image via Wikipedia

On a homeschool forum I occasionally visit there are sometimes deep discussions on points of church doctrine. A mom posted the following in a discussion of Augustine, Calvin and predestination:

Have you actually read Augustine's work? I haven't. Would love to but am in a season of my life where I cannot. And do you believe all of Augustine's work? I think not. Augustine believed that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Augustine is a Rock Star! Which is why it's rather curious that Calvinists and Reformed depend on his writings to support their doctrines that in no way resemble the doctrines the Catholic Church has developed from the very same writings. You see the conflict?

My point here is not to assess the overall question of this discussion, but to instead question her attitude here. She seems to hold Augustine in a very high status, and claim that he believed certain things while at the same time dismissing those who claim he believed other points as well.

That would be fine except for the sentences I've put in bold. It just makes my head spin. I understand being a busy homeschool mom but I would certainly spend a little time checking on this if I was willing to imply others didn't know material that I knew.

I spent a few moments doing some searches on Google to see what the term "Augustine predestination" turned up. The very first link for this search was this one: which includes a direct link to Augustine's Anti-Pelagian writings. A few moments spent on the page would allow a careful reader (or someone using the find function) to turn up Augustine's A Treatise on the Predestination of the Saints which proves to be fairly short document that could be read in an hour or two.

While this might not have sufficed, it certainly would have been a better beginning than dismissing others' arguments while saying you didn't have time to investigate their merit.

I think the saddest part is that she is selling herself short. Yes, reading early Christian writers is a big, time consuming task, but like other big, time consuming tasks it can be conquered one bite at a time. Besides the knowledged learned you also set a wonderful example for your children.

Fie on Historical Fiction!

Dante AlighieriImage via Wikipedia

Have I got your attention? Truth be told I like historical fiction as much as the next home school mom, but over the last two years I've had to reshape a commonly mentioned point about historical fiction: "It really helps me and my my children to understand the time period."

After being challenged by the writers of Tapestry of Grace curriculum to read their high school level literature which is the literature of the time studied, I've found this often stated truism isn't true.

I've always been aware that some historical novels don't exactly get their details right and that often characters are portrayed in ways that don't really fit with the time period. Further it is clear that different periods of historical fiction write differently about a time period than each other. I probably would have agreed that the ideals found in historical characters mouths and thoughts are thrust back into the past from the time of the writer.

But until you've delved into literature actually written during the time period it isn't clear just how different people in the past thought. Just how different and shocking the past can be.

My best examples come from my present year's readings which thus far encompass medieval and renaissance times. But one Roman piece was so different and so flew in the face of what I've heard said and preached about Roman times that I need to mention it. Lately I've often heard commentators talk about how New Testament writers were actually much more respectful of marriage than were those of the surrounding Jewish and Greek culture. I agree that is the case, Greek's didn't raise women and marital faithfulness very high. But in Virgil's
Aeneid written in the decades just before Jesus' birth we have a different picture. Now family is raised very high. Aeneid must turn from his love interest (who also could give him power and money) to instead continue on to find his fate with his family in Italy not Carthage.

On to medieval times and suppose for instance you were reading a novel about Charlemagne. Would you expect to find in it a bishop who rides with Charlemagne as a warrior? How would this character be described? Would he be a positive or negative character?

Yet, in the
Song of Roland written about 200 years after this time period we find just that. The only real details we are given about this man is that he is brave and a good fighter. I can't imagine such details in a novel written today.

Beowulf you find the odd clash of a Christian writer writing glowingly of pagans who lived about 200 years before. In one of two commentaries supplied by Norton the scholar claims that the writer was respectful of these pagan's religion. But in truth that was his (the scholar's) opinion. It is clear that the writer admires these men of the past, but still thinks they are doomed.

In my final work, I found myself on a voyage through hell. A hell populated with notable people of the writer's day. If such a novel was written today who would be there? Hitler, Stalin, other super bad guys right? Would you put any relgious figures there, if so which ones? Would a writer in a fairly controlled society where a dominant ruler and religious rulers could easily condemn you to death for a slight include those folks in his work in a negative light? Especially if he wasn't writing for political or religious reasons?

Yet, again, right there in the
Inferno is Dante with hordes of clerics, bishops, and yes, even popes. Further he even includes that the current pope will be joining the previous one in the same hole in Hell. All very odd and shocking to my modern mind. It makes me reevaluate many things: how much control rulers had in this past time and how religious folk were viewed by others in their culture are just two of the points I find myself considering.

I find myself becoming cautious about whether books written about a past long gone can really capture that time. Yes, they may get many historical details correct, but will they be able to capture how differently people thought then? Will their heroes and heroines instead think like modern Americans?

Certainly by the time your student reaches high school, it is time to read some of these pieces of literature and ask how they differ from the historical novels not written in the time period you've assigned. Will this be easy reading? No, but it will open the past in a way historical fiction cannot.
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"Good Dog"

Yesterday, while walking Sunshine I passed a woman with a smaller dog. Since Sunshine had been fairly rambunctious and demanding with the previous dog we had passed, I put her in heel and continued on. She did pretty well in part because this time we were passing someone on the other side of the street. The lady said to me as we passed, "Good dog."

While I agreed, I had to also ponder why no one every says, "Good trainer."

I love Sunshine and she is a sweet creature, but left to herself, she'd drag anybody down the street, chase after every rabbit, crown and squirrel she saw, and jump on every passer by. It's been my hard, daily work with her that let's me walk along with a loose leash and be able to say "heel" to her and get a dog that stays by my side or say "Leave it" and "Watch me" and have her look away from which ever of her foes she's spotted in the grass. She certainly hasn't read any books on good dog behavior (chewed on one or two but not read) nor has she ever been sad that she wasn't a well behaved dog.

Greek at Eighty

This is something I've said on occasion. Recently when a friend told me they were impressed by this goal, I pointed out that if I was dead before then, I was pretty sure that it would be easier to learn Greek in heaven than on earth. Even if you had to study, you'd get to go to Paul's school of Areopagus Greek.

The other reason to wait until I am eighty is there is good research that shows an active mind stays in better shape than an inactive one. What better way to train my brain than studying a foreign language that has its own alphabet?

Finally it has recently struck me that there are times to learn new things and that some things need to be learned when your body can help as part of the process. After a year of dog training, I know that at eighty most folks would not be able to train a Labrador because physical strength and balance are two necessities.


My oldest (12) is in his first year of Algebra and Geometry (we use Singapore's New Elementary Math which blends these plus Trig together over a four year cycle).

He struggled a bit early in the year, but has hit his stride and is doing well. The biggest thing to hold him back is his own handwriting.

I am absolutely loving the material. I don't remember having problems in Geometry that were really Algebra problems in disguise, but I've loved this last section in his book.

Just tempt you here's one:

A piece of wire with radius 1.5 mm is 10 m long and weighs 423.9 g. Taking pi = 3.14, find a) the volume of the wire, in cm(cubed) and b) the density (in g/cm(cubed) of the metal.

The ones with drawings are even better. Makes me wish I hadn't skipped all those Calculus classes in college.