Forgive us the radio silence here. This past weekend saw a houseful of visitors and two sacramental celebrations: Confirmation for Eleanor, and First Communion for Jack. These two grand events were not originally scheduled for the same weekend. Jack's religion class is making first communion this weekend, and we'll have a party just for him on Saturday. But there's no better explication of my character than the fact that when my mother-in-law wanted to fly out to attend the first communion ceremony, I accidentally gave her the date for the confirmation, because they were on two successive Saturdays at the same time and I wrote them down wrong on the calendar. But Jack made his first communion a week early, and Grandma was able to attend both sacraments, and it worked itself out fine.
I do not know the solution for the problem that it seems obligatory for capstone events to be wedged into the end of the school year. Everything for which people have been preparing happens within a space of four weeks: sacraments, dance recital, piano recital, school play. I found myself calculating whether we could get away with just ending the school year now, only to remember that it's just mid-April.
We're doing testing this year. This is the first time -- not because I'm opposed to testing, but because we just haven't. In early June the four oldest will be taking the Woodcock-Johnson tests. These are supposed to test a variety of cognitive abilities, not mastery of particular subject material, so the best way to prepare is what I guess we're already doing -- working on math skills and cognition, analyzing literature and building vocabulary, etc. One reason I've been leery of testing is the very reason we probably ought to have been doing it all this time -- I fear that I'll learn that I haven't taught them anything, in the final analysis. I guess we'll find out! The kids don't seem to care one way or the other, so I'm glad we don't have any anxiety issues here.
Trying to read more lately, despite all the craziness. Interlibrary loan has been my friend, delivering to me three volumes this past week.
Without Prejudice, by Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt. An autobiography written two years after the 1934 custody battle that riveted the nation, in which Vanderbilt and her sister-in-law, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, fought for custody of 10-year-old Gloria Vanderbilt (later to found her own fashion line and become the mother of Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor). One isn't entirely sure how far to take Mrs. Vanderbilt's assessment of her life experiences, but the book is written in a lush and fascinating style that sets it above most recent autobiographies.
Ghosts Along the Mississippi, by Clarence John Laughlin. Chockful of gorgeous black-and-white photos of great plantation houses in Louisiana, most of them in the final, irreparable stages of decay. The prose is as purple as the buildings. Included are some fascinating full-sized photos of Belle Grove, the house that served as my model for Stillwater.
Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. I can't get to Europe right now, but Twain is taking me along on his own trip. Occasionally I wish he would turn off the acerbity, but in general he's a valuable tour guide.
But never let it be said that I don't school my kids in the classics. Today's adventure in culture: