That Wonderful Brain: Thoughts on Home Education pp. 20-41

One thing I love about Charlotte Mason is that she recognizes the whole child. She recognizes that when you are interested in educating a child’s mind and spirit, you must of necessity also be interested in caring for the child’s body and health, because they are inseparably connected.

So, she explains, because your child learns with her brain, you must make sure that brain is as healthy as can be.

We might say much on this one question, the due nutrition of brain, upon which the very possibility of healthy education depends. […]

I fear the reader may be inclined to think that I am inviting his attention for the most part to a few physiological matters––the lowest round of the educational ladder. The lowest round it may be, but yet it is the lowest round, the necessary step to all the rest. For it is not too much to say that, in our present state of being, intellectual, moral, even spiritual life and progress depend greatly upon physical conditions. […] For example, is it easier to be amiable, kindly, candid, with or without a headache or an attack of neuralgia?

Charlotte has a great list of considerations for brain health based on the wisdom of the Victorian era, and shoot, I just got curious and wondered how much of her advice still holds water in the days of 2017. So, here we go!

Brain exercise. First up: use your brain power regularly, or you’ll lose the ability to do so and become “silly”. Yup, this one checks out! It’s also thought that exercising your brain decreases your chances of developing dementia late in life. So Charlotte’s advice to make sure kids have some mental work everyday is a great idea!

Rest for the brain. Charlotte rightly points out that alternating between work and rest is better than simply working, working, working all day long. There is evidence that occasional breaks contribute to better functioning and productivity, whether at school or at work or at home.

Rest after big meals. The main thing here is that bodies like to focus blood supply on one thing at a time, so if you were to go running after Thanksgiving, the fresh, oxygenated blood in your body would be pouring into your exercising muscles rather than your full digestive system. That’s a recipe for having your dinner sit like a rock in your belly, and you probably won’t feel that well during and after your run! Charlotte points out that this same principle is going to apply to your brain and the learning process. Try not to make your digestive and cognitive processes compete, so don’t eat too big of a meal before learning time. Sounds legit to me, but I’m unaware of any studies that might shed more insight into this question.

Change in occupation. “The child has been doing sums for some time, and is getting unaccountably stupid: take away his slate and let him read history, and you find his wits fresh again. Imagination, which has had no part in the sums, is called into play by the history lesson, and the child brings a lively unexhausted power to his new work.” This is brilliant advice as far as I know, but I have neither my own homeschooling experience to back it up (my kids are too young) nor do I have any cool neurosciencey stuff to say here. Darn. (Well… Except that while it is true that different areas of the brain are used for different tasks, the whole right-brain vs. left-brain thing as popularly claimed isn’t actually true. Areas on both sides of the brain are used most of of the time during both creative-type and logical-type tasks!)

Nourishment. Here’s a big one. Children need good-quality food (think high nutrient density, and free from harmful chemicals). A varied diet is indeed important so that kids get the variety of nutrients they need. Nowadays we know that children need extra in the way of good fats (like omega-3 fatty acids), because lots of brain development is happening. Brain tissue contains lots of a fatty substance called myelin, which acts as insulation and helps electrical messages pass quickly between neurons.

Talk at meals. Charlotte is probably right that food from a happy dinnertime is better digested than food from a lonely or even contentious one. One of the first things to go awry in a psychosomatic response is digestion. So having pleasant conversation during dinner sounds legit to me as well. Plus, there is considerable research that having family meals is strongly correlated with success in life.

Indoor air quality. The great indoor air quality bugbear in Charlotte’s day was the oxygen level, because homes were heated with fire. And, of course, fires eat oxygen, and we need oxygen to not die. Nowadays this isn’t usually the issue, because we don’t use fires indoors much anymore. What is the far bigger issue now is not depleted oxygen levels, but too many other harmful compounds in the air. Our many possessions (courtesy of modern manufacturing), wonderful as they may be, have all sorts of harmful volatile organic compounds in them, so a lot of that gunk ends up in the air we breathe. And of course, our indoor air has tons of carbon dioxide in it because we exhale the stuff. Did you know that high carbon dioxide levels in your air can make you sleepy and impair your cognitive functions? Yeah, true story. So Charlotte’s advice to regularly ventilate our homes is still valuable advice, even if her reasons for originally recommending it are not as important.

Daily walks. Getting outside is seriously fabulous advice, and chances are, you and your kids are too sedentary and need more movement. Our bodies thrive on walking! Sunshine is also extremely important: we need vitamin D, and the light itself helps regulate our mood and Circadian rhythm. There is also evidence that sunshine is involved in keeping our eyes healthy, and the current myopia (nearsightedness) epidemic is due to decreased exposure to sunlight rather than increased time doing close work, like reading. Also, exposure to nature is important for connecting to the world around us and learning to care and play and love. The moral of the story is: get outside and go on a walk, provided the weather isn’t prohibitive!

Free perspiration. Yes, sweating. But Charlotte was on to something! Our bodies regulate our temperatures by sweating to keep cool, so obstructing this process can lead to heat stroke. But also, as Charlotte suggests, one way our body removes toxins is by excreting them in sweat.

Daily baths. And then Charlotte says a daily bath is necessary to stay healthy, because of the gunk we’re excreting out of our pores. So, yes, change your clothes daily, because those collect your gunk. But though daily baths are the cultural norm, with the claim that bathing daily with reduce rates of illness… It’s not true! While it is necessary to bathe regularly (a few times a week, perhaps? who knows…) to prevent disease transmission, daily bathing is overkill unless you work with sick people. Simple hand-washing is enough to keep most germs at bay for most people, and a wet washcloth in the super smelly areas and nether regions is usually sufficient to keep smelling fresh. And actually, overwashing can be harmful. Your skin (and hair!) benefit from your oily secretions, keeping good things (like moisture) in and bad things (like germs) out. Furthermore, we need a healthy community of friendly bacteria to help skin cells learn to defend against bad bacteria! So… Sorry, Charlotte, you didn’t get it all right, but we can forgive you for suggesting overbathing!

Porous garments. Namely, wool. Grandma Charlotte says wool is awesome because it’s breathable, keeps in body heat in winter, and wicks sweat from your body to keep you comfortable in all seasons. All true! She thinks sleeping in wool will make for better sleep, which is also true. (There have been studies, actually…) Other things we now know about wool? It’s naturally fire-resistant and antimicrobial! … Darn, now I want wool bedding. But before you go on a wool craze, remember that Charlotte lived in cool, damp England, so there may be other fabrics better suited to your climate than wool. I grew up in Arizona, and there, the virtues of cotton, not wool, were proclaimed widely!

So how’d Charlotte do? Do you have have any additional insights?


Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov (1950)


I realized last year that I hadn’t read much classic science fiction despite claiming to be a sci-fi fan. So I am going to remedy this, starting with Isaac Asimov.

I now have plans to read the Empire, Foundation and Robot series, but in publication order, meaning I’ll be hopping around between series as I go. So, first up: Pebble in the Sky (1950).

It was simply splendid.

Here’s a bit from page 2, to give you the flavor of it.

In another part of Chicago stood the Institute of Nuclear Research, in which men may have had theories upon the essential worth of human nature but were half ashamed of them, since no qualitative instrument had yet been designed to measure it. When they thought about it, it was often enough to wish that some stroke from heaven would prevent human nature (and damned human ingenuity) from turning every innocent and interesting discovery into a deadly weapon.

Yet, in a pinch, the same man who could not find it in his conscience to curb his curiosity into the nuclear studies that might someday kill half of Earth would risk his life to save that of an unimportant fellow man.

Can you tell that WWII was fresh in Asimov’s mind?

Oh, I could hardly put this book down. And then, when I finished, I wanted to jump up, run around the world, yelling in glee and telling everyone that it was such a good book. I didn’t do that, but suffice it to say: this is a living book.

A man named Schwartz from the 1950s is accidentally sent untold eons into the future, so far that no one remembers that humans, who now populate millions of planets throughout the entire galaxy, were originally from the planet Earth.

Earth is still inhabited, but it is the only radioactive inhabited planet in the entire Galactic Empire… in theory because of some nuclear shenanigans in ancient history. And citizens of the Empire look down upon Earthmen as less than human… Surely all that radiation has made the people of Earth inferior to the rest of humankind! (Can you say, excellent opportunity to think about racial issues?)

Anyway, all this hate toward Earthmen has naturally led the people of Earth to hate the rest of the Empire in return, and so… Earth decides to destroy the rest of humankind, and only Schwartz (the random 1950s guy), an archeologist, a physicist and his super cute daughter can inform the Empire of this evil plot!

And then the Empire laughs and says, You’re kidding, right? Puny little, stupid Earth can’t destroy millions of planets! Haha! 

And so, doom. Or is there doom?

And all of this exciting plot is couched in questions like, when a repressed people revolt, where is the line between seeking real equality and seeking to become the new tyrants?

This is an exceedingly pertinent issue in our day. Sometimes it seems as if (to use one current example, though I can think of many) the feminist agenda goes beyond promoting equality for women and instead puts down men while glorifying women: effectively replacing themselves as new dictators. Who hasn’t seen the new popular image of men in the media: the stupid, lazy buffoon? At one point I saw an ad with a woman in bright red high heels climbing up in the world by trodding upon men. Nowadays, I am less worried about finding my daughter role models of amazing women in the media than I am about finding appropriate male role models for my sons!

And the saddest thing about it all is, equality for women has still not been achieved in many respects.

This book is definitely worth a read for the portrait of Earth-Empire relations alone. It is a warning to us–not to shoot beyond the mark. As we seek to make the world more comfortable for ourselves, do not simply transfer the tyrannical leadership to ourselves.

And this is only one of the many ideas in the book I could have expounded upon!

So, conclusion:

Good book. You should read it.

Trailing Clouds of Glory: Thoughts on Home Education pp. 11-20

William Wordsworth penned a lovely poem called Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, but it’s rather long. Here is one of the most lovely bits, in my opinion:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!


Thou [child], whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,—
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;

William here has hit upon an interesting question. What is a child?

Why, a child is a person. Yes, their tiny, clumsy bodies and brains are still growing, but underneath that is the immense soul of a person, recently departed from God’s presence.

LDS doctrine also teaches us that a person is the literal offspring of God: a god in embryo, if you will.

So the responsibility to raise a child is a great one.

In Home Education, Charlotte Mason explains:

It may surprise parents who have not given much attention to the subject to discover also a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ. It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye OFFEND not––DESPISE not––HINDER not––one of these little ones.

So run the three educational laws of the New Testament, which, when separately examined, appear to me to cover all the help we can give the children and all the harm we can save them from––that is, whatever is included in training up a child in the way he should go.

First, to offend a child in this context means to create a figurative stumbling-block for them, that trips them and causes them to fall.

Charlotte gives many examples… A parent might neglect a child’s health, or not provide healthy food. A parent might harm their children by practicing favoritism. A parent might fail to teach love for learning, life skills, or even right and wrong!

Next, to despise a child in this context means to undervalue them, or to have a low opinion of them.

Charlotte points out that, strangely enough, it is still quite possible to undervalue our children even while holding them dear to our hearts if we forget who our children are and who they are capable of becoming. Do we forget that underneath the cute exterior, there’s a noble and great soul? Do we fail to remember that our children are “trailing clouds of glory”, fresh from God’s presence?

And lastly, to hinder a child is to get in the way between the Lord and the child. Here’s a lovely thought from our Charlotte:

“Suffer the little children to come unto Me,” says the Saviour, as if that were the natural thing for the children to do, the thing they do when they are not hindered by their elders. And perhaps it is not too beautiful a thing to believe in this redeemed world, that, as the babe turns to his mother though he has no power to say her name, as the flowers turn to the sun, so the hearts of the children turn to their Saviour and God with unconscious delight and trust.

The LDS has a sweet, simple and darling little hymn called I Am a Child of God, which I think Charlotte would have liked. It goes like this:

1. I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

2. I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words
Before it grows too late.

3. I am a child of God.
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will
I’ll live with him once more.

To be continued!

A Thinking Love: Thoughts from Home Education pp. 1-10

I am reading all six of Charlotte Mason’s volumes on homeschooling in the next two years, reading just a little bit every week.

So I pulled out the first pink volume today, and after just one page, I knew I’d have to blog my way through it. This is good stuff.

Take the following, for instance. This is on the first two pages of volume 1, Home Education (1905):

Now, that work which is of most importance to society is the bringing up and instruction of the children––in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman. It is a great thing to be a parent: there is no promotion, no dignity, to compare with it. The parents of but one child may be cherishing what shall prove a blessing to the world. But then, entrusted with such a charge, they are not free to say, “I may do as I will with mine own.” The children are, in truth, to be regarded less as personal property than as public trusts, put into the hands of parents that they may make the very most of them for the good of society. And this responsibility is not equally divided between the parents: it is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children’s early, most impressible years. This is why we hear so frequently of great men who have had good mothers––that is, mothers who brought up their children themselves, and did not make over their gravest duty to indifferent persons.

This is a powerful statement. Where circumstances make it possible (and we all know that, unfortunately, in today’s world it isn’t always possible), a parent at home can have a tremendous impact upon what sort of a person a child grows into.

It humbles me, because after all, I have chosen to stay at home with the kids instead of pursuing that career in medicine I was planning on. I hope someday my children will be remembered as great people with a good mother. Something to shoot for, that.

Charlotte’s quote reminds me of the late prophet David O. McKay’s famous statement (some of which is a paraphrase of another famous statement from Benjamin Disraeli):

The home is the first and most effective place for children to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self-control; the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.

Charlotte continues:

“The mother is qualified,” says Pestalozzi, “and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love. […] Maternal love is the first agent in education.”

We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own. And they will take it up as their profession––that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours.

Charlotte has articulated some feelings that I have had. I remember when I got the rejection to a neuroscience graduate program I had applied to… Upon opening the letter and reading the rejection, I had the most overwhelming sense of relief, release and peace… And surprise!

I hadn’t known before that moment that I didn’t actually want a Ph.D. in neuroscience. But upon rejection, it all became clear. What I wanted more than anything was to start my family, and I wanted to stay home–from school or work, or whatever!–and raise them.

And now that I’m here with three young children, I am pouring my soul into it! And the demand upon me, as a mother, is to consider and think upon how to teach the children God has gifted me. I wonder sometimes if this is a harder task than it would have been to conduct research in the graduate neuroscience laboratory.

Charlotte urges parents to use their thinking love to envision the end result of their child’s education (and this means more than just school, it means the development of character!). By keeping the vision of this end in mind, the little decisions parents make while raising their offspring will naturally guide the way toward it.

The parent who sees his way […] to educate his child, will make use of every circumstance of the child’s life almost without intention on his own part, so easy and spontaneous is a method of education based upon Natural Law. Does the child eat or drink, does he come, or go, or play––all the time he is being educated, though he is as little aware of it as he is of the act of breathing.

To be continued…

Jadzia and the Copper Tape

Today the late Marjorie Pay Hinckley helped me work wonders. She’s been dead for a while, but I can still read things she wrote.

This week I read the following in an LDS church manual:

Gordon and Marjorie established a home of love, mutual respect, hard work, and gospel living. Daily family prayer provided a window for the children to see their parents’ faith and love. As the family prayed together, the children also sensed the nearness of their Father in Heaven.

The Hinckley home was a place of few rules but great expectations. Marjorie spoke about things that were not worth a battle. Describing a parenting approach that she shared with her husband, she said: “I learned that I needed to trust my children, so I tried to never say no if I could possibly say yes. When we were raising a family, it was a matter of getting through every day and having a little fun along the way. As I could see that I wasn’t going to be able to make all of my children’s decisions anyway, I tried not to worry about every little thing.” As a result of their parents’ trust, the children felt respected and gained experience and confidence. And when the answer was no, the children understood that it was not an arbitrary restriction.

I think sometimes my parenting suffers, because I say no to fun things out of exhaustion rather than anything else.

Today Jadzia (4) ran up to me and asked for tape. Now, I pretty much always tell her no when she asks for that. The lazy, exasperated-with-wasteful-messes part of me immediately says, No way! I can already see the mess of mangled and tangled sticky tape all over!

I said what I usually say: No, we don’t play with tape.

And what did Jadzia want it for, you ask? Well, she hasn’t been satisfied with simply drawing. She has also been cutting out shapes and exploring the realm of what I’m going to call paper sculpture. And when she can’t get scissors, she *rips* her paper into sculptures.

Of course, the next step is to start putting the pieces together, and that’s what the tape would have been for. 

So later today after I’d refused to sacrifice my tape supply, I discovered these:

 First, a house–a house on fire–with a door taped on… with copper tape. And me taped on… with copper tape. And front porch stairs taped on… with copper tape.  

And a headband pieced together… with copper tape. 

So, um, we’d left a roll of copper tape out to slug-proof our threshold once it finally stopped raining. (Hey, it sounds like magic, but a line of copper tape kept the slugs out until Garak pulled it off… And then the slugs came back.)

And now Jadzia had used all my copper tape! The horrors! I really don’t enjoy stepping on slug in the middle of the night (ask me how I know), and I had a heck of a time trying to find it locally, and eventually had it get it on Amazon. Annoyance, yes.

But since I was still dwelling on what Marjorie Hinckley had said about trusting her children, I took a deep breath and had a conversation with Jadzia about what we do when we reeeally want to do something we know isn’t right.

I got to tell her that we need to ask Heavenly Father to help us, and then I testified that He would! The Spirit of God filled the room as I told her that just last night, I had needed to ask God for help and had then succeeded!

Parenting success! 

And then, you know, Garak (2) decided to poop in a pan, stir it up with with a whisk, and paint with it–and Odo (8 mo) joined in. I didn’t manage to handle that discovery nearly so well. I, uh, need to level up my parenting game. I’m feeling humble again.

School of Wizardry by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald (1990)

Okay, so I started out the new year by reading a Christmas gift… That I gave to my husband! I haven’t read my own gifts yet. But I promise, it really is a great gift for him, even if it was, in part, purchased and wrapped because I also wanted to read it.

So the story behind this selection is:

Once upon a time, there lived a family of avid readers who loved fantasy books. In the middle school library there was housed an obscure series of books and most of the older children in this family all checked them out and read them when it was their turn to patronize that little library.

And now, they’re all grown up. And sometimes at family reunions, this obscure little series of books is mentioned (usually by my husband, kid number four in this family) and some of the other grown-up kids pipe up: “Oh yeah, I remember those books! Those were AWESOME!”

And then, since I’m there, my insides start twitching madly. There’s a series of fantasy kids books that are amazing, and I haven’t read them or even heard of them? This must be remedied!

So yes, I checked my libraries. Alas, no. They’re seriously obscure, so I can’t check them out.

And then we found books #2, #3 and #6 at a used book sale. Sadly, they’ve been republished, only with much lamer titles and  revoltingly pathetic cover art. It’s a shame we never found #1.

So I finally broke down last year and scoured the web for all six of the original books with the original intriguing titles and original pretty cover art.

And now I’ve finally read book 1 of the obscure Circle of Magic series by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald: School of Wizardry.

I enjoyed it. It was an easy chapter book, but I found plenty of vivid and beautiful descriptions in the simple words, which is one of the first things I look for in books.

But the ideas also had me thinking and pondering–that’s the other thing I look for in books.

A common trope found in fantasy is the extraordinarily gifted new adventurer. We have a new adventurer, Randal, and more than anything else in the world, he wants to be a wizard. Now, here’s the interesting thing about Randal: he has an exceptional untapped potential for raw wizarding power, somewhere. But he sucks at magic. Like, flunking kindergarten, sucks at magic. Oh, and he’s completely illiterate. And he’s never even heard of the Latin-equivalent necessary to study old tomes of magical theory.

And then he works his tail off. And after two years of working at remedial level, he’s still practically flunking.

Does he eventually get any good? Yes. By the end of his third year of school, where the book ends, he still kinda sucks, just not as bad as before.

Randal is persistent, thoughtful and friendly, but hardly successful. By the end, barely successful, but there’s no huge triumph. And yet, there is much to be admired… These are great ideas to expose children to.

Oh, and the ending. Randal is in a terrible, no-win scenario. And he has to act anyway.

Ideas galore.

So, since I hope to count this toward Amy’s Up and Coming Classics Challenge in the children’s fiction category, I need to decide whether it will become a classic or not.

And sadly, given that it is already so obscure and was only published in 1990, I’ve got to say… No. This will probably never be a classic, despite its merits. Alas, that Twilight will be remembered and this won’t.

But it’s staying on my shelf, and I’ll be reading its sequels before long!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017

So I have so many books. I bought so many this year. It’s only right that I now read what I’ve acquired…

I’m signing up for the Mt. Vancouver level: read 36 books from off my To Be Read pile.  I suppose there’s always that chance I’ll manage to read over 150, but… given that I’m *moving* this year, I’ll be cautious.

Here’s a 70-ish-book glimpse of what my TBR (to be read) pile is like at the moment:

Classic literature & historical fiction:

  • Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Pride & Predjudice by Jane Austen
  • Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Those Who Love by Irving Stone
  • The Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien
  • Fierce Wars & Faithful Loves by Roy Maynard
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Sir Gibbie by George Macdonald
  • Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Science fiction & fantasy:

  • The Empire series by Isaac Asimov (3 books)
  • The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (7 books)
  • The Robot series by Isaac Asimov (5 books, plus another I don’t own)
  • The Circle of Magic series by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald (6 books)
  • The Green Ember by S.D. Smith (I also have the prequel, The Black Star of Kingston)
  • Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
  • Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
  • Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Dune series by Frank Herbert (I have the first five)


  • Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling series (6 books; I have plans to read 4 of them this year)
  • Norms & Nobility: A Treatise on Education by David V. Hicks
  • The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater
  • A Touch of the Infinite: Studies in Music Appreciation with Charlotte Mason by Megan Hoyt
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws
  • What’s Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot, Ph.D.
  • Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement by Katy Bowman
  • Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear by Katy Bowman
  • How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger, M.D.
  • The Age of Revolution (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, volume 3) by Winston Churchill
  • Euclid’s The Elements, Book 1
  • Adventures with a Microscope by Richard Headstrom
  • Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

LDS theology & Church history

  • The Doctrine & Covenants
  • Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
  • Revelations in Context: The Stories behind the Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants 
  • Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley

Do cookbooks count?

  • Serbian Cookery
  • The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoë François
  • Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moscowitz
  • Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero
  • The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon

Goodbye, 2016 & Hello, 2017

So this whole blog started because I needed somewhere to reflect upon self-improvement. I suppose it is time to reflect upon the past year’s goals, then!


Well, we did manage to get outside more. My kids played in the backyard for hours and hours most days in the summer and early fall, though I did notice they were less willing to play in the “cold” as the weather cooled down. So… score! 

In order for this to happen, our family had to cut waaaay back on screen time, though. We purposely did not replace the computer ruined by mice, which helped. 

By the end of the year, we only really watched under half an hour each day, with perhaps a movie once a week as a special treat. Many days were completely screen free for the kids! So another success.

Now lest you get suspicious that I’m too good to be true, know that mischief from the littles went way up once we we cut back on the screens.

Jadzia (4) took to dismantling bookshelves and climbing over the backyard fence. Garak (2) took to smashing eggs on the kitchen floor. Both children somehow hauled the the entire contents of the kitchen drawers and cupboards and dirtied it all while playing house out back. Multiple times for each offense, and I could go on.

As for getting more movement and moving away from a sedentary lifestyle, I’ve made very modest gains. As expected, the progress has been slow going, because I was wasted after a hyperemetic pregnancy. 

I have now managed to fit comfortably into my pre-pregnancy jeans again, though, which is a good sign. And I’ve recovered enough from pregnancy that I am strong enough to carry Odo (8 mo, 20+ lbs) in my arms whenever we go out, and I do!

The food situation hasn’t been as spectacular… James is doing all the cooking. All of it. We’re eating two or three healthy, homemade dinners each week, based on how busy he is. We need more progress here, but I must remember that we’re doing much better than we were during pregnancy.

So I’m pleased to report 2016 a success, especially since we managed to increase our number with Odo’s birth.


Now, my plan for next year looks like this:

It looks one a lot, but a lot of it is simply maintaining habits I’ve already made, or have come close to gelling in the past year. So really the big ones will be walking and cooking… And actually studying the scriptures rather than simply reading them. Everything else is a slight change.

In addition, James has elected to start a new math blog, and I will be providing the art for it. He is aiming for a post each week for the next six months, so that should keep my artsy side busy.

Good luck to all in your plans to work wonders! 🙂