Friday, December 23, 2022

An Act of Faith

In Jan Karon’s Christmas story, “Shepherds Abiding,” she wrote, “In the face of losing everything one hoped for, lighting a tree was an act of faith.” The main character, Father Tim, is cheered by the sight.

“Well done! he thought, pulling his hat down and his collar up. 

“He walked more briskly, glad to be alive on the hushed and lamplit street where every storefront gleamed with promise.”

This Christmas, you may be surrounded by hard things. It may be the loss of a loved one this past year (we at AmblesideOnline grieve our beloved friend and Advisory member, Wendi Capehart), it may be a shattered dream, it may be a financial struggle or a wayward child. But Christmas takes courage, as Advisory members Donna-Jean Breckenridge and Lynn Bruce recounted recently in an episode of The New Mason Jar with Cindy Rollins. And sometimes just the act of lighting a tree, baking some cookies, and wrapping a gift takes all the courage you’ve got. 

Know that we pray for you. In the prayer of Father Tim in that same book, “Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

To our beloved AmblesideOnline Community around the world, we on the Advisory wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy and Blessed New Year, and a reminder of the greatest news of all: Emmanuel! God with us. Jesus is real -  the Story is true! 

To hear the entire podcast, click here:

Friday, November 18, 2022

What We Talk About When We Talk About Chili

by Anne White

In her 1995 book The Tightwad Gazette II, Amy Dacycyzn included an article called “The Chili Chart,” explaining it this way: “It's always interesting to examine how widely the costs can vary when you purchase or prepare a particular dish in different ways: in this case, chili.” Using a basic recipe (ground beef, beans, tomatoes, etc.) to define the proportions and ingredients of  “chili,” she used a graph to show that, even within that definition, the cost of a cupful of chili could vary wildly according to, say, whether one used dried vs. canned beans, or homegrown vs. store-bought peppers and tomatoes. And that  variation was only within the recipe as given: reducing the amount of ground beef, or replacing it with plant protein, or choosing a more luxurious meat option such as, say, ground-up steak, would have changed the price even more.

The cost of homeschooling is, similarly and exasperatingly, almost impossible to calculate, even limiting it to material costs (as opposed to lost earning opportunities for the teaching parent, or, on the other hand, money saved through not having to pay for packaged lunch food and fashionable shoes). Even for one year, for one child, using a definite curriculum such as AmblesideOnline, there are many variables. New or used? Print or e-book or audio? Owned or borrowed? Do you include your math curriculum, or outside classes like Latin or co-op drama? Do you count in a percentage of your electronic equipment? Board games? Craft supplies? Museum admissions? Gardening seeds? Biscuits for afternoon tea? Will you try to recoup some of your expenses by reselling books afterwards, or do you have other children who will take their turns with them? And don’t forget about professional development for the teacher, such as books and conferences; and memberships in various sorts of homeschooling associations.

We could create, as the government food experts do, “food basket” versions of a typical AO year. There would have to be some parameters, such as no substitutions, and exclusion of math curriculum, microscopes, and watercolour paints. We could, perhaps, create a Chili Chart of options from “luxury” to “economy.” Super deluxe: leatherbound first editions. Moderate: Some new books, largely paperback; some used, and some borrowed from the library. Super cheap: homemade printouts of online free books, in the smallest readable font. Super cheapest: somebody else’s homemade printouts passed on to you.

Part of the problem, though, with statistical “food baskets” is that they can be misinterpreted so that you think that’s exactly what you should be buying. This happened where I live early in 2020, when a news source published typical food items people should keep on hand in case they were unable to access supermarkets. Customers quickly emptied the shelves of spaghetti sauce and beans, because that's what was on the list. But it wasn’t meant to be a specific shopping list, more of a reminder that one should have some extra food—of whatever sort one normally eats—on hand. In the same way, the real-life version of homeschooling is that you might have multiple children sharing a resource, you might be doing science in a weekly group (and not need to buy any books), or you might have accidentally read or listened to one of the literature books before and have to substitute. You might be overseas, or travelling, and have to use as much free and online as possible. You might need to buy a full-on foreign language curriculum, or you might have your in-laws happily teaching it for free.

But is the point of a Charlotte Mason education to keep the cost as low as possible? On the “yes” side, Mason boasted that her methods were “economical,” as indeed they can be.  She was also interested in seeing her ideas applied in low-budget situations: with young working adults who had to buy their own books; in schools in mining areas; and with families overseas who likely would have had to keep shipping costs to a minimum even in those days.

On the other hand, she used the word “generous” to describe the ideal curriculum. She criticized those who did have sufficient financial resources, but who refused to buy the books that, she believed, would not only enrich an educational curriculum, but actually form its backbone. She made the point that, as we do not feed children’s bodies on “smoke and water feasts,” so we cannot feed their minds properly without acquiring nutritious mind-food. One imagines Mason, perhaps not settling for the cliché of “for the price of a cup of coffee,” but insisting nevertheless that the best books are not simply an expense, but an investment in children’s minds.

John Ruskin, in the preface to Of Kings’ Treasuries, had this to say about book-buying, and the example of ourselves as readers that we set for children:
… valuable books should, in a civilized country, be within the reach of every one, printed in excellent form, for a just price; but not in any vile, vulgar, or, by reason of smallness of type, physically injurious form, at a vile price.  For we none of us need many books, and those which we need ought to be clearly printed, on the best paper, and strongly bound.  And though we are, indeed, now, a wretched and poverty-struck nation, and hardly able to keep soul and body together, still, as no person in decent circumstances would put on his table confessedly bad wine, or bad meat, without being ashamed, so he need not have on his shelves ill-printed or loosely and wretchedly-stitched books; for though few can be rich, yet every man who honestly exerts himself may, I think, still provide, for himself and his family, good shoes, good gloves, strong harness for his cart or carriage horses, and stout leather binding for his books.  And I would urge upon every young man, as the beginning of his due and wise provision for his household, to obtain as soon as he can, by the severest economy, a restricted, serviceable, and steadily—however slowly—increasing, series of books for use through life; making his little library, of all the furniture in his room, the most studied and decorative piece; every volume having its assigned place, like a little statue in its niche, and one of the earliest and strictest lessons to the children of the house being how to turn the pages of their own literary possessions lightly and deliberately, with no chance of tearing or dog’s ears.

That is my notion of the founding of Kings’ Treasuries; and the first lecture is intended to show somewhat the use and preciousness of their treasures: but the two following ones have wider scope, being written in the hope of awakening the youth of England, so far as my poor words might have any power with them, to take some thought of the purposes of the life into which they are entering, and the nature of the world they have to conquer.
So take some thought, as you budget and plan, of the real purposes of your homeschooling. Treat your bookshelves, and their contents, as the most studied and decorative things in the room. Then enter in and conquer.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Introducing... Our AO Folk Songs for 2022-2023!




We are so excited about this year's selections! 

For selected video/mp3 links, please visit our Folk Songs page at 

This year, we are featuring each folk song on its very own post here on Archipelago, linked in the list above. These posts will be linked from the AO Folk Songs page, too. This way, when you start preparing to introduce a new song, it will be easy as pie to click straight to that song's blog post. Be sure to check out each song's post for recommended lyrics and recordings, and interesting info about each song.

My Youtube playlist for AO Folksongs 2022-2023 is where you'll find carefully selected versions of the term’s songs (the versions recommended to go with our lyrics, and many more besides). I enjoy hearing different interpretations by various artists. I find it helps us enter into the creative stream of these timeless songs, and to better understand their enduring appeal to all generations and to all kinds of folks. 

And Now For A Few Helpful Hints

If you’re new around here (and if so, welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!), please (we beg you!) read/re-read Wendi Capehart’s post Folk Songs: Some Back Story. It'll do you good.

Then read her brief but terrific introductory comments here, where she shared some of her easy but brilliant ideas for living the folk singing life.

And if you’re still not quite sure why we AO folks make such a fuss about singing, please read Folk Songs: Some Real Life Experiences for a hearty dose of encouragement. 

You may also enjoy my essay Folk Songs, Unplugged

Here's to a jolly great year of folk songs! 

Many heartfelt thanks to 
Nicole Capehart Ramsey
Rebecca Capehart Judy
Caitlin Bruce Beauchamp
 for sharing their invaluable insights about this year’s song lineup. 
I love you girls so much, and I love that folk songs matter so much to you, and 
that you’ve all grown up to be folk singing mamas.

Folk Song for April 2023: Red River Valley

Sometimes things just ain’t what they seem. Turns out, there are two Red River Valleys on the North American continent. There's the Red River which defines the border between Texas and Oklahoma, and another which runs northward (one of the few North American streams that do) from the southern borders of North Dakota and Minnesota all the way up into Manitoba in Canada. Though many associate this song with Texas cowboys and western lore, it actually originated around 1870 in Manitoba (with possible Celtic/Gaelic origins going even further back). 

Edith Fowke, the noted Canadian folklorist, said it was the best-known folk song across at least five Canadian provinces well before the turn of the century. 

For more juicy folklore on the song’s roots in Canadian history, this page is helpful

Recordings that feature all of the typical verses are a real challenge to find! This live performance by Stevie Nicks and Chris Isaak (who learned the song as small children from their grandparents) absolutely nails it. They sing the exact set and sequence of the lyrics I remember from childhood. 

Red River Valley

From this valley they say you are going

We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile

For they say you are taking the sunshine

That has brightened our pathway awhile

Do you think of the valley you're leaving

O how lonely and dreary ’twill be

Do you think of the fond hearts you're breaking

And the sadness you’ve cast over me


Come and sit by my side, if you love me

Do not hasten to bid me adieu

Just remember the Red River Valley

And the one who has loved you so true

I have waited a long time my darlin’

For the sweet words you never would say

Now, alas, all my fond hopes have vanished

For they tell me you’re goin’ away

As you go to your home by the ocean

May you never forget those sweet hours

That we spent in the Red River Valley

And the love we exchanged with the flowers


See my playlist for versions of Red River Valley by Gene Autry, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Wills. 

Lynn's Youtube Playlist for AO Folk Songs 2022-2023

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.

These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for June 2023: I'll Fly Away

I'll Fly Away is one of the most recorded gospel songs of all time and also a folk standard, particularly among Bluegrass performers. It’s been featured in numerous films and TV shows, and performed in styles that cross many genres of music. It’s in most good hymnals. (It’s still protected by copyright by the songwriter’s descendants, so sing away to your heart’s content but maybe don’t record it for profit!)

These lyrics best follow this a cappella recording by Truth & Peace, which uses the traditional version found in hymnals.

I’ll Fly Away

1. Some glad morning when this life is o’er

I’ll fly away

To that home on God’s celestial shore

I’ll fly away


   I’ll fly away oh glory

   I’ll fly away (in the morning)

   When I die hallelujah by and by

   I’ll fly away

2. When the shadows of this life have grown

I’ll fly away

Like a bird from prison walls has flown

I’ll fly away


3. Just a few more weary days and then

I’ll fly away

To a land where joy shall never end

I’ll fly away


Allison Krauss & Gillian Welch sang I'll Fly Away on the O Brother, Where Art Thou movie soundtrack album, which won 2 Grammys. Later the track was included on the album Down From the Mountain, which also won a Grammy. 

Check the playlist and our Folk Song page for this and other exemplary versions which span many music genres.

Lynn's Youtube Playlist for AO Folk Songs 2022-2023

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for March 2023: Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, Git Along Little Dogies

In cowboy lingo, a dogie is an orphaned or runt calf. 

This is an old classic western song which has appeared in several old Western movies and TV shows, and has been recorded widely by cowboy singers, folk singers, and country singers. It's written in ¾ time (a waltz), which lends an air of clip-clopping along on horseback.

Roy Rogers sang this song in the film, West of the Badlands. These lyrics follow his version.

Whoopie Ti-Yi-Yo, Git Along Little Dogies

1. As I was a-walkin one morning for pleasure,

I spied a cow-puncher all riding alone;

His hat was throwed back and his spurs were a-jingling,

And as he approached he was singin' this song,


Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies,

It's your misfortune, and none of my own.

Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies,

For you know that Wyoming will be your new home.

2. It’s early in spring we round up the dogies,

We mark ‘em and brand ‘em and bob off their tails;

Round up the horses, load up the chuck-wagon,

Then throw the dogies out on the north trail.


3. Your mother was raised a-way down in Texas,

Where the jimson weed and sand-burrs grow;

We'll fill you up on prickly pear and cholla

Until you are ready for Idaho.


See my playlist for old recordings by Cisco Houston and a 1937 movie clip of Gene Autry singing this song in his cowboy movie of the same name.

Lynn's Youtube Playlist for AO Folk Songs 2022-2023

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.

These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for November 2022: The Fox

One of the oldest known folk songs, The Fox dates at least as far back as the 15th century! (Check the song's Wikipedia page if you’d like to see the lyrics in Middle English.) This one becomes more fun the faster you sing it, so start at a comfortable learning tempo but do gradually pick up the pace as you learn it!

It’s the longest lyric set of the folk songs for this year, but it's easier to learn than you might anticipate because it tells a story, so the verses have a logical narrative sequence, and also because there are repeated lines in each verse. So take heart! Just bite off one verse at a time and soon you'll all have it down pat. 

Also, we oh-so-helpfully scheduled it for November in case your kids want to keep plugging away at it over Christmas break. You’re welcome. 

The recording by Peter, Paul, and Mary is jolly and funny, while the Nickel Creek recording showcases superb musicianship (this track is from their 2000 debut album, which was nominated for 2 Grammys)— and is perfectly suitable for dancing a reel if you’re so inclined!

Peter, Paul, and Mary's version (Youtube)

Nickel Creek's version (Youtube)

The Fox

Oh the fox went out on a chilly night

Prayed for the moon to give him light

For he had many a mile to go that night

Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o

Many a mile to go that night before he reached the town-o

He ran till he came to a great big pen

Where the ducks and the geese were kept therein

He said, "A couple of you are gonna grease my chin

Before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o

A couple of you are gonna grease my chin before I leave this town-o!"

He grabbed the grey goose by the neck

Threw the ducks across his back

He didn't mind the "quack, quack, quack"

And the legs all danglin' down-o, down-o, down-o

He didn't mind the "quack, quack, quack" and the legs all danglin' down-o

Then old mother Flipper Flopper jumped out of bed

Out of the window she popped her head

Cryin', "John, John, the grey goose is gone

And the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o

John! John! The grey goose is gone and the fox is on the town-o!"

Then John he ran to the top of the hill

Blew his horn both loud and shrill

The fox he said, "I better flee with my kill

For they'll soon be on my trail-o, trail-o, trail-o,"

The fox he said, "I better flee with my kill for they'll soon be on my trail-o!"

Well he ran till he came to his cozy den

There were his little ones, eight, nine, ten

Cryin', "Daddy, daddy, better go back again

'Cause it must be a mighty fine town-o, town-o, town-o

Daddy, Daddy, better go back again cause it must be a mighty fine town-o!"

Then the fox and his wife, without any strife

Cut up the goose with a carving knife

They never had such a supper in their life

And the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o

They never had such a supper in their life and the little ones chewed on the bones-o!

Here's a music video which features Peter Spier’s picture book illustrating The Fox song, which younger children will enjoy.

Lynn's Youtube Playlist for AO Folk Songs 2022-2023

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.

These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.