Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Other Thoughts

    Seven Quick Takes on Curly Hair, New-to-Me Latin Curriculum {Yes, REALLY}, The Princess and the Goblin, and MORE!

    October 16, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    I’ve had some people ask me about dealing with little girls who have curly hair. They must be asking me this because of my curly hair — my girls have straight hair. Anyhow, if you are a straight-haired woman raising a curly-headed daughter, it really is important that you understand that curly hair requires a very different kind of care. Tip #1: Don’t brush it! I use a pick to get tangles out after a shower, but other than that, brushing is dangerous. Blow dryers? Similarly dangerous {unless you’re straightening}, if you don’t know what you’re doing. So do yourself a favor, and start with the best beginner’s guide to curly hair ever.


    :: 2 ::

    So my awesome kids went and lost the CD for Song School Latin. You can imagine how thrilled I was about this, and so we didn’t do Latin for a while because I was waiting for it to turn up. But up it did not turn! {←Latin sentence construction, people!! Check it out!}


    I was trying to decide what to do about this because it was only going okay with Song School. While it went really super well the first time I used it years ago, I just wasn’t thrilled with it. It’s not really a curriculum problem, but more of an execution problem. I chose to put Latin into Circle Time this year — not for my junior higher, but for my other children. I thought that Song School would work for my needs {because I’m a CM foreign language slacker, as you know}, but after one half-term I’d say I was only ho hum about it.

    Anyhow, I somehow found out that Phyllis was using I Speak Latin, and I thought I’d check it out since I was apparently in the market. Can I just say fantabulous? I’m way excited. I was trying to turn Song School into an oral {or at least mostly oral} curriculum, but this is designed that way — it can be oral, or oral plus written, depending on your needs. It’s based on Total Physical Response — so, for example, the first lesson involves giving commands to the students — telling them to sit or stand, etc. We’ve only done a little bit of it so far, but it is a much better fit for Circle Time, and I think it’ll lead into my overall Latin plan of using Visual Latin to lead into Lingua Latina quite well.


    :: 3 ::

    This week’s links collection:


    :: 4 ::

    This month in 2013:

    Christians, Charlotte Mason, and Fairy Tales

    I was running my 31 Days of Charlotte Mason series, and this was Wendi Capehart’s contribution … one of my favorites!


    :: 5 ::

    I have been a laundry ninja this week. It all comes from cleaning out all the outgrown clothing, which all come of participating in our semi-annual local consignment sale. The number one reason to participate in something like that is to have a deadline by which you have to clean out your house — twice a year, even! It gets me to do something I would otherwise put off for umpteen years. So anyhow, getting rid of the outgrown clothes led to the discovery of the winter clothes, which led to the discovery that they were in need of a good washing, and so wash them I did.

    This had a point, but I forgot what it was.


    :: 6 ::

    Who is the grandmother? This is the most important question you could ask yourself about now if you are using AmblesideOnline Year 3 and reading aloud {or pre-reading} The Princess and the Goblin. George MacDonald is awesome, but not very obvious.  The grandmother is real, but Curdie has to believe without seeing in chapter 22. What the heck?

    Chapter 22 is a pretty important chapter, what with Irene no longer doubting that her grandmother is real, and learning to follow her wherever her thread might lead, even if it doesn’t seem quite safe or correct.

    But before this, chapter 14 was very instructive as well. At that point, we already knew that the grandmother has the power to heal, and also that she is very ancient while looking simultaneously both old and young — in fact, she implies that she hopes to someday be two thousand years old! The old lady leads Irene home with a light by which she can see her path and avoid bad falls. The fire in her room is no ordinary fire, but a bouquet of roses glowing between two cherubs, filling the room with the scent of incense. This fire can clean a soiled garment, if the wearer can stand the heat. The grandmother has spent much time spinning a fine thread, and she has attached it to a ring. By this thread, she will lead Irene in times of need.

    This book, my friends, is not a mere fairy tale — but if you miss the identity of the grandmother, you miss everything. Anyone want to venture a guess?


    :: 7 ::

    Answering Your Questions:

    • Question: Is Visual Latin too much to incorporate into morning time? I realize that my youngest won’t completely grasp everything, but he’ll get something out of it right? What are your thoughts?
      • Answer: I have only ever done Visual Latin outside of Circle Time. I think that possibly it could work during Circle Time, but my guess is that that would be when you have a smaller age range, or are dismissing some children before starting. I never even tried it at that time, and that is because it requires video, and I have learned from experience that, for me, video and Circle Time just don’t mix. So there’s that. I already mentioned in Take 2 how I’m currently doing Latin during Circle Time, so maybe that helps?


    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Rhiannon October 21, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    As to laundry: my military spouse friend who also runs a farm and homeschools 7 kids only does laundry 2x/week. I figured if she can do that, I can too w/only 4 kids. It’s awesome! Just run it all day those 2 days and I don’t have to touch it or stress about it not getting done the rest of the time.

    As to curly hair: I didn’t even KNOW mine was curly ’till after college! I’d always treated it as straight! Imagine how well that worked (not). And explains why I lived in ponytails. But that book saved my hair and sanity about my hair! I LOVE now that I have 3 girls with curls that I get to teach them how to care for their curls.Eek! They’re so cute!

  • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 8:39 am

    About the grandmother: I think she’s a fusion of a lot of things, and I’m not sure that it’d be right to expect a 1-to-1 correlation in the way, for example, Aslan corresponds to Christ. In many ways, I think the Church fits best — most notably because the grandmother is female, and because her age seems to correspond to that of the Church. With that said, her fire seems to correspond to the Holy Presence that was in the ancient Tabernacle of the Jews, and her ability to lead — her thread — seems to be more like the Holy Spirit. In many ways, she reminds me of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs, but obviously she would be much older than 2000 years. I see something new in her each time I’ve read it! She is definitely the key to going deeper with this book. 🙂

    • Reply Sara McD October 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Hey, trick question!

      That fusion probably explains my personal discomfort. Not to disparage benefits of complexity and nuance, but I like precision – sometimes to a fault. It’s not the book’s problem, it’s mine. I should probably learn to ask myself questions like, “In what way is the Grandmother like…. And in what way is she like this other thing?” so that I can learn to loosen up.

      I think the reason this is difficult for me is that I’ve conditioned myself to be on guard for heresy. And certain doctrines are difficult enough without further complication – for example, the Trinity – three persons in the godhead but only one God and those three persons are not each other – it requires exactness of thought and word.

      On the other hand, I’ve been purposely making myself crazy lately thinking about the interconnectedness of things – science and art mostly.

      I hope I’m not coming off contentious – I just get so excited when I’m actually able to understand one of your interesting conversations!

  • Reply Rebekah October 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    I’ve taught Spanish for 8 years and have always used TPR method. It’s the best!!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 8:25 am

      Have you really, Rebekah? What ages do you teach?

      • Reply Rebekah leland October 17, 2015 at 10:33 am

        All ages, right up through high school. Now I have my own kids, so I don’t do it full time anymore. But TPR is the best, even in high school (my high schoolers loved it). I have looked at the Cherrydale press language programs based on CM and they are essentially the same. So good.

    • Reply Amber October 18, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      I was looking into TPR last spring, but I couldn’t figure out how I would actually get started teaching it or what materials to use. How did you learn to teach it?

      I ended up choosing the Cherrydale Press Spanish book and so far I’m really liking it. I’m glad to know that you think that it is essentially the same as TPR!

  • Reply tess October 16, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    I’ve always kind of leaned towards a multi-layered approach to the symbolism of the grandmother (I’ve been reading this book since I was a kid, myself). I see the Church symbolism, and of course the fire calls to mind the Holy Spirit (cleansing and healing). But I also think there’s definitely some pointing to the Theotokos Mary— the rose is a traditional Marian symbol.

    But the grandmother also calls to mind the other fairy tales of GMcD where the wise woman is a main figure, and I think she can also be interpreted as a figure of feminine spirituality.

    Anyhoo, two cents from a MacDonald lover. 🙂

    Thanks for the excellent resource, Brandi!

    • Reply tess October 16, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      Sorry! It’s late! I meant, “Brandy!”

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Tess — being Protestant, I didn’t catch the roses as a Marian symbol, so that is VERY interesting. Have you read At the Back of the North Wind? I feel like the grandmother is very similar — as you say, he has a “wise woman” theme throughout his work.

      • Reply tess October 17, 2015 at 7:56 pm

        Yep, I’d agree with the similarity. It’s definitely a motif worth meditating on because it recurs so often in his children’s lit— I think my favorite example is “The Lost Princess,” but it’s all over the place.

        It was a big deal for me that Ambleside Online included Princess and the Goblin on its list— because I know from experience that it’s a book that can continue to change you years and years after that first read! 🙂

        I dearly love McD. He was prolific, but I think his Unspoken Sermons is the most important spiritual book (other than the Bible) that I’ve ever read. I’ve known Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant friends who actually all agree with that!

  • Reply Kate October 16, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    My son is halfway through The Princess and the Goblin. I’ve never read it before (and haven’t pre read). Thanks for the intriguing question–it’s just what I need to remind myself to pre-read so that I’ll be able to discuss the book more fully with him.

  • Reply Melissa October 16, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    …just ordered Curly Girl from our local public library. After 15 years of having a short pixie style, I’ve decided to grow my locks out again….uffda, now I remember why I went short 🙂

    • Reply Jessica October 18, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      I have very curly hair and I agree that a curly girl must read the book! Everything about it is spot on. I’d also recommend finding a hair stylist who is trained in Deva Curls cuts to do your hair. Most hair stylists have no idea what to do with curly hair. I used to always be asked if they could straighten my hair right after they told me how pretty my curls are. But with my Deva Curl trained stylist, she knows how to do my hair better than me and I walk out looking fantastic!

  • Reply Sara McD October 16, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I thought she was supposed to be a Christ figure. I didn’t think so at first because I’ve never seen a female metaphorical Christ, but it was the only thing that made sense to me.

    When I re-re-read it in two years with my next third grader I’ll think about Virginia Lee’s idea about the Trinity and Holy Spirit because I think she may be on to something.

  • Reply Dawn October 16, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I very much look forward to sharing The Princess & the Goblin with my oldest son in Y3 next year. My understanding is that the grandmother represents the Holy Spirit. I am sure that I did not come to that conclusion on my own, however, lest anyone think I am intuitive in that way. I am confident that I read that tidbit on the AO forum.

  • Reply Virginia Lee October 16, 2015 at 9:53 am

    I have 1 curly haired child. Her hair is beautiful the day after she bathes. The rest of the time I struggle. Tangled or frizzy or poofy, must be because I’ve been brushing it. So thank you for that link.

    As for the Grandmother, I always thought she exhibited different aspects of the Trinity. But maybe most often like the Holy Spirit. This is at least what my Y3 student last year and I discussed.

    What conclusions did your family come to?

    • Reply Rhiannon October 21, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      Even if you just wet it a little and scrunch it with your fingers, it’ll look a lot better after naps & on non-bath days. But definitely get the book, it’s the BEST!

      • Reply Virginia Lee October 22, 2015 at 9:25 am

        Thanks, Rhiannon. The wet and scrunching is a good idea.

        Yes, my daughter with the curly hair is 7. So just entering the age where she’d like her hair to not always be in the pony tails or braids that I put it in on non bath days. I’ll check the book out for sure.

  • Reply Amber October 16, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Wow, I remember using I Speak Latin when it first came out. Let’s see… I think my oldest was in third grade? Or maybe fourth?

    Anyway… I remembered that we really liked it at the beginning, but bogged down mid-way through the year. I think it was a combination of factors – needing to review previous material more, lessons getting more challenging and we started having trouble with them, and there’s a good chance that I either was pregnant or had a newborn, both of which have a way of completely derailing subjects that require a lot from me. I remember also losing confidence in my pronunciation, and having difficultly being consistent in my pronunciation. But it looks like he has audio now, so that should be a huge help! I hope your family continues to enjoy it and find it valuable!

    And regarding The Princess and the Goblin, I would venture to guess that the grandmother is the Church.

    • Reply Kelly October 16, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      I agree with you about the Grandmother — she’s the Church. The biggest clue is her age.

      • Reply Sara McD October 17, 2015 at 8:18 am

        I’ve been thinking this over and while I agree that Grandmother’s age is good evidence that she symbolizes the Church especially since God and all the Trinity is eternal and ageless, the one thing I can’t get past is the question, How does the Church Invisible guide in the way that Grandmother and her ring and and string do? Is it like being surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses?”

        I just read a bit about George MacDonald and his theology seems to have been somewhat unorthodox (universal salvation?, no substitutionary death of Christ) so maybe that’s why this book gives me a kind of uncomfortable feeling. I’m not dismissing the whole thing out of hand, just saying that it gives me a bit of the willies (how’s that for vague?).

        • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 8:42 am

          Sara, I have actually wondered if his mixed up theology is one reason why the symbolism is more vague? Maybe it takes strong theology to make an Aslan, and weak to make a Grandmother? Even if the Grandmother be beautiful and mysterious and wonderful? I don’t know.

          I’ve been meaning to read his Lilith, which I recently read was a reaction to Calvinism. Should be interesting! 🙂

          • Kelly October 17, 2015 at 9:03 am

            Actually, I don’t see the symbolism as vague, but as multi-layered, as Tess mentioned just now — it’s a very medieval approach, which is a lot richer than the 1:1 correspondence of the way we moderns tend to interpret allegory. Which, by the way, is the reason Lewis said that Aslan isn’t meant to be allegorical — he isn’t meant to symbolize Christ. Instead, Lewis was thinking, What if there was a world of talking animals, and Christ appeared to them, what would that be like? which really isn’t the same thing as allegory.

          • Rebekah leland October 17, 2015 at 10:40 am

            Lilith might be my husband’s favorite book ? And i read it as a staunchly reformed calvinist! And still thought it was amazing. (Now I’m Recovering from my previous calvinist roots haha ?) So anyway, I’m sure you will love it regardless.
            Also, as to his hints of Universalism, Lewis had very, very similar ideas. Just pointing it out, not making a theological argument ?

        • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 9:41 am

          Ooh! I like the way you said this — not vague, but multi-layered.

          In my own writing {I don’t share story writing here, but I do it in a journal}, I prefer to shy away from 1-to-1 correspondence simply because it frees me from having to be exact — if the goal is to correspond to one thing, rather than sharing some general truths, then there is a responsibility upon the author to be True, and it isn’t so much that I don’t want to be bound as that I don’t want to be accidentally false, if that makes sense. Anyhow, I really like your thoughts here, Kelly!

          • Kelly October 17, 2015 at 10:07 am

            Oh, well, I can’t take credit for it. When I read Amber’s post, I thought, “The Church! Yes, of course!” and then I read Tess’s, and thought, “Multi-layered! Yes, of course!” :-p

            Anyway, her response fits so well with what I’ve learned in the last couple of years about medieval allegory — Angelina Stanford mentioned it in either her CiRCE talk this about Orpheus, or last year about Cupid and Psyche (or maybe both times and it’s all running together in my head). Have you listened to either of those? You’d love them.

        • Reply tess October 17, 2015 at 8:00 pm

          Sara, I’d encourage you to go to the source. Unspoken Sermons is probably the opus of his theology, and it is actually *very* orthodox— but it’s so incredibly meaty and chewy that it really takes time to understand. I’m a fast reader and it took me 3 years to read the book from cover to cover. 🙂 I had to stop ever paragraph and meditate and pray.

          (Also, it’s public domain! Free ebook!)

  • Reply Pam October 16, 2015 at 7:16 am

    “In which science proves the obvious.” *snort*

    Oh man, between the two of us we could write our own curly hair guide, couldn’t we? Love that book. I have been no-poo since I bought it. I find that I have to use more product than the average person — as in it costs me more to have good hair. That might be a humidity problem more than a curly one, though. Once I got over my fear of slathering on, my hair got better for longer periods. And I almost always air dry unless I need to rush things a bit. Then I diffuse, which works wonderfully (can look better too) if you don’t futz as you dry. But then that takes a long time.

    Totally checking out that Latin. We love SSL, but do not do it in MT. Besides I have a responsibility to try out all potential great MT resources so I can report on them, right? 😉

    The Princess and the Goblin — We listened on Librivox a couple of years ago. Need to revisit because it I knew who the grandmother was I have since forgotten. Come to think of it I am not sure we finished the book. :-O

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Pam, I actually thought about contacting CAP and telling them I thought they should get this guy to publish I Speak Latin through them so that they have a Circle Time-ready option!

  • Reply Melanie October 16, 2015 at 5:12 am

    I am currently reading The Princess and the Goblin aloud to my daughter, and now you’ve got me terrified that I will not grasp the grandmother’s identity. At what point are you supposed to know? We’re not quite half through it.

  • Reply Juanita October 16, 2015 at 5:04 am

    the Curly Hair book is the best. My daughter is 16 now and still gets lots of comments on her hair. The best advice in the book is not to shampoo, or at least very rarely. She now uses a pick in the shower with conditioner and always leaves some conditioner in at the end. If I had a small child again with curly hair, I would not shampoo, just rinse, and use a conditioner (doesn’t even have to be a leave-in one) and a pick while it is still wet to comb through.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Amen! Not shampooing — or in my case, very rarely shampooing — changed my life. 🙂

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog October 16, 2015 at 4:46 am

    I did The Princess and the Goblin as a read-aloud several years ago with my oldest and thought it was a great book! There were times I could hardly put it down! And Song School Latin….I’m only using it with one child so I don’t have to make it work for a circle time with multiple kids. 🙂 I must admit, we aren’t 100% consistent with it right now…as in we don’t necessarily work on it every.single.week. I kind of focus on the songs for the most part and then my daughter likes doing a lot of the activities in the workbook. We’ll continue to work through this program and then I have to decide whether to continue with the second Song School Latin or move on to a different program. I’m thinking we might go ahead and move on to something else.

    • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog October 16, 2015 at 4:48 am

      Regarding my last statement, I meant we might go ahead and move on to a different Latin program *after* we finish Song School Latin this year.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 17, 2015 at 9:45 am

      Karen, I *loved* Song School the first time. I think the issue is a combination of using it with a wider age span this time, and my oldest being a bit *too* old {she’s 10}…

    Leave a Reply