Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Inspiration for Writing Instruction

Thanks to Andrew Kern for the link to the Geneva School (Winter Park, Florida) newsletter, which contains an article, interview, and writing samples from the 7th-8th program in writing. The team approach used at Geneva is similar to what I have done with hybrid courses and evaluation arrangements across the country. The instructors introduce a lesson, grade the students' responses to it, and provide opportunity for the students to receive individualized consultation on the work that they have produced. Evaluation is critical to effective writing instruction, and I am glad for the opportunity to participate in this crucial part of a good education.

Delightful, inspiring.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"A Mighty Child," by Anthony Esolen

Sometimes I just revel in something beautifully written, and here I get to share it. This piece has bits that remind me of my own writing, which is encouraging, and it has other parts that reach far beyond what I expect of them. Writing that lifts me out of my own thoughts to greater thoughts is such a joyful refreshment.


"A Mighty Child," by Anthony Esolen

Sunday, November 29, 2009

25 Great Short Stories

Click on the link above to find one man's list of some great reads. I just wanted to save it here for future reference. :-)

I like to use Twenty-One Great Stories  for my classes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Poem

I present this poem in honor of Lynn's Ceilidh, and I've now used this term twice in less than two weeks!


In Spring the Earth bends and melts toward the South,
Gathering the orb of sunrise in her left hand,
Then passing it along her breast, warming herself,
Until she lays it gently among the bare trees at dusk
And basks in the rosy glow chilled blue at the edge.

The days warm as she lifts her orb-passing hands higher and higher,
'Til over her head she brandishes fire,
Stretched to utmost peak,
Dazzling the fat green grown full all about her.

Her midsummer glory she cannot sustain,
But slowly limits the extent of her reach.
Day by dog day,
The sun's heat parches,
The dusty summer wearies.

Then, arms outstretched, she relinquishes her hold:
Drawn down toward heavy harvest,
The sun's blazes graze the trees.

Spent with the year, she lets go her hands,
And the dawn orb and dusk roll down to her feet.

Still, she waits, spent, chill,
Almost dead with the year.
But a freshet stirs, and calls her to listen.
And again she bends down, melting toward the South.

© Cindy Marsch
13 March 2007

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Abundance of Shakespeare

Peter Saccio, the lecturer for the Teaching Company course Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, had a great closing line in today's lecture on The Merchant of Venice. He was talking about how the Bard transforms stock forms and familiar stories:

[Shakespeare] can fill the abstract patterns with something like the pulse of life itself. That is the abundance of Shakespeare.

It's just a little quote, but it said a lot to me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Off-Topic: A New Blog

This is a brief message to announce a new, completely different blog I have started.

Please visit Nutritarian Recipes and to learn more.

Facebook allows me only one blog to post in my notes automatically, and I want to keep this one for that.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Review in *The Old Schoolhouse* Magazine

Quite a while ago I sent a copy of my Progym: Classical Writing Workouts--Narrative to Heidi Shaw of The Old Schoolhouse homeschooling magazine, and she's just let me know that the review is posted.

The specifics of additional services have changed since the version she saw, but the work is substantially the same, one of the three types of exercises taught in my Progymnasmata Tutorial: Beginning, a six-week course many students enjoy each year.

So take a look! Click here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Really Great Thoughts About Leading Discussion

Jeff Baldwin does a great service for teachers everywhere with his inspiring essay "Iron Sharpening Iron: Why the Socratic Method Matters So Much." Click that link and enjoy!

In a related item, my friend Renee Mathis has a little mantra that I tested nicely this week: "Ask specific students specific questions." I believe she got it from Andrew Kern. He'll have to 'fess up where he got it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"The Write Stuff," by Reid Buckley

Thanks to my friend Martha Spotts for pointing me to this great article. It's so much fun when eloquent people rant and rave over things I like to rant and rave over. A taste:

Not once in their educational lives had they been taught to impose order on chaos, that being contrary to the central dogma of liberal-arts education in our country today. There is no such thing as choosing, as distinguishing between the false and the real, discriminating between good and bad. The cost of this heresy to our nation is beyond calculating: for two generations our businesses, professions, universities, and politics have been populated by moral illiterates who reject reason.

Warning: frank sexual language in one spot

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Classical Christian Books for Sale!

My daughter Betsy has been commissioned by Grove City Christian Academy to sell some leftover textbooks and other books for them, and she has created a LONG list of these titles. Readers of this blog are just the type to be interested in these sorts of books, so here you go!

Please write Betsy at if you would like to make a deal with her. Purchasers of larger quantities get great deals!

Approximate shipping and handling costs will be added to these prices, which are negotiable. Significant discounts are available for buying multiple items, and shipping will also be cheaper that way. Multiple copies are available of most things, usually in between 25 and 5 copies of each. Prices vary as quality does; specific info is available upon request. N means most copies range from Brand New to Good, G means Good to Doubtful; most copies are in very nice condition overall. I figure if y’all just really need books, you would want me to list some that are old and worn out too. I won’t send you anything gross or sticky though! My email is Thanks y’all!

‘Adam of the road’ Elizabeth Janet Gray 1970 Scholastic 5 copies G 1.00

‘the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ 1982 Burdett G 1.00. 1990 Dramatic publ. Co. G 1.00. 1994 Dover G 1.00

‘the Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ 1998 Dover 13copies G 1.00. 1973 Scholastic G 1.00. 1962 Airmont 3copies G 1.00

Alice’s adventures in wonderland’ 2000 Signet classic 2copies N 2.00

‘Around the world in 80 days’ Jules Verne tr. Edward Roth 1874 Apple 10copies N 3.00

‘Ascent to love’ Peter J Leithart 2001 Canon press 4copies N 6.00

‘Building Thinking Skills’ Parks, Black 1985 Critical Thinking Co. 9copies N 8.00

‘the Calling of God’s Tribe’ Teacher’s Guide Binder 1999 CSI N 75.00

‘the Calling of God’s Tribe’ junior workbooks 1999 CSI 2copies N 7.00

‘the Church in History’ B.K. Kuiper 1978 NUCS, Eerdmans 4copies G 3.25

‘Earth Science’ Joseph Exline et al. 2001 Prentice Hall N 10.00

‘the Epic of Gilgamesh’ translated by Andrew George 2000 Penguin N 2.50

‘Foxe’s book of Martyrs’ John Foxe, rewritten, updated by Harold J Chadwick 1997 Bridge-Logos 18copies NG 3.00

‘the Heidelberg Catechism’ G.I. Williamson 1993 P&R 7copies N 3.00

‘Heritage Studies 6’ Eileen M. Berry et al. 1998 BJU 17copies G 1.00

‘a House for My Name’ Peter J. Leithart 2000 canon 4copies N 6.00

‘the House of Israel’ De Boer, Lantinga, Wiersma 1998 CSI 20copies G 10.00

‘the House of Israel’ Teacher’s Guide Binder 1998 CSI N 75.00

‘the House of Israel’ Senior Workbook 1989 CSI N 9.00

‘Johnny Tremain’ Esther Forbes 1971 Laurel-Leaf, Dell 2copies G 1.00. 1978 Yearling G 1.00. 1971 Houghton-Mifflin N 1.50(hardback). 1987 Laurel-Leaf N 2.00

‘Know Why You Believe’ Paul E. Little 2000 IVP 5copies G 2.00

‘the Life of John Calvin’ Theodore Beza 1996 BHI 18copies N 7.00

‘Richard III’ Shakespeare 1995 Dover N 1.00

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Shakespeare 1993 Dover 2copies N 0.75. 2000 Wordsworth N 1.00

‘the Shorter Catechism’ G. I. Williamson 1970 P&R 11copies N 2.00

‘the Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow’ Allen French 2001 Bethlehem Books 12copies G 3.00

‘This was John Calvin’ Thea B. Van Halsema 2004 I.D.E.A. 2copies N 8.00 (out of print)

‘the Westminster Shorter Catechism’ G.I. Williamson 2003 P&R 7copies N 4.50

‘the Victor Journey through the Bible’ V. Gilbert Beers 1996 Cook 16copies G 1.00/3.00

‘White fang’ Jack London 1988 Tor classic 3copies N 2.00

‘Witnesses to the Gospel’ Teacher’s Guide Binder 1998 CSI G 70.00 (missing page with ISBN and publishing info, but I can give y’all that info separately)

‘Witnesses to the Gospel’ Junior Workbook 1999 CSI N 14.00

‘Yankee Doodle Boy’ Joseph Plumb Martin 1995 Holiday House copies N 2.00

The following books are primarily reading guides and teacher’s materials, most of which I have only one of.

‘the Child’s Story Bible; New Testament’ Catherine Vos 1986 Banner of Truth N 5.00

‘the Child’s Story Bible; Old Testament’ volume 2 Catherine Vos 1986 Banner of Truth N 5.00

‘Classics Then and Now; Around the World in Eighty Days, the Prince and the Pauper, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ Kay Wallace Wilson 1991 High Noon Books N 7.00

‘English for Christian Schools 2’ Scudder, Yost 1982 BJU N 10.00

‘Heritage Studies 6’ worktext Various Authors 2000 BJU 4.50

‘the Hiding place’ Study Guide Carol Diehn 1992 Progeny G 2.00

India: the Culture’ Bobbie Kalman 2001 Crabtree N 3.00

‘a Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Oxford School Shakespeare 2001 Oxford N 4.00

‘Shakespeare’s Theatre’ C. Walter Hodges 1965 Coward-McCann N 2.50

‘the Shurley Method’ Student Workbook level 3 Shurley, Wetsell 1997 SIM N 6.00

‘Story Bible for older children’ (O.T.) Anne DeVries 1978 Paideia 2copies N 20.00 (out of print)

‘the Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow’ Comprehension Guide Emily Fischer ? Veritas N 4.00

Prices ???

‘Story of the Old World’ 3rd edition De Bie, Evenhouse 1992 CSI N 15.00

‘Story of the Old World’ Teacher Guide Evenhouse 1992 CSI N 8.00

‘Starting Shakespeare’ Eric Boagey 1985 UTP 5copies N 3.00

‘the Usborne World of Shakespeare’ ? 2001 Usborne N 3.00

Study Guides from Teacher Created Materials Inc. N 3.00

Adam of the Road

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Call of the Wild

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

The Red Badge of Courage

Romeo and Juliet

A Wrinkle in Time

Friday, August 7, 2009

Update: Free Writing Course Really Free!

I solved the payment trouble I had with a $0 order and now have the short course "Writing Prep Workshop for Great Books Papers" available REALLY for free.

Please visit to get your copy.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Free Writing Short Course

I wanted to let you know of a new offering I have at my website, a free (or nearly free) self-study of my previous four-week short course "Writing Prep Workshop for Great Books Papers." I designed this course to walk students through my little downloadable handbook, *P.E.P. Talk,* designed for students facing Great Books papers in online tutorials. It would be appropriate for students doing Gileskirk, Omnibus curriculum, and other Great-Books-type courses.

The basic self-study course is free, but I am offering free evaluations for those who enroll (or are already enrolled) in a variety of my courses and evaluation packages. This represents a $50 value.

I hope you find this helpful!

Please visit to learn more.

Cindy Marsch

Friday, July 3, 2009


Why do we persist, so many through the generations, in straining our souls’ eyes and our flesh to discern a touch from those beyond death? Why a séance, a gasp at a breeze? Why do we imagine that a long-departed loved one--one we perhaps have rosier memories of than do those who knew him better-- cares for us more than do those here with us now? We are all so beleaguered by this world, so buffeted and strained with the business of living, that we haven’t time or capacity to be so all-focused on another, or to believe that anyone else can be so focused on us, not in this world. So we remember the tenderest moments, the closest care, the happiest days with those no longer enduring the storm with us, and we imagine that they have the attention to pay us, the longing to relieve us of our troubles, if only in our confidence.

But how blind we are, such short-sighted children, to reach for those just rescued from our shipwreck, those still trembling on the deck, wrapped in scratchy blankets, clutching tin cups of steaming coffee, having their faces dried by ministering hands. The same strength that has borne them up to safety, to solidity from our wobbly, leaky boat, is even now capably reaching for us, in fact has already grasped us, even before we know it. We are insensible, blinded by tears and rain, numb to the strong arms gathering us in. We look beyond those rescuing arms with feeble longing for those no stronger than ourselves, only rescued. They know they have nothing to offer us that is needful, all their best intentions swallowed up in His greater love.

Inspired by a passage from Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, quoted here:

Cindy Marsch
July 3, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

One-Hundred-Twenty-Four-Word Sentence

I am currently working my way through the Teaching Company course "Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft," taught by Professor Brooks Landon of the University of Iowa. This is definitely an English major's course, and I would not inflict it on the average high schooler, but I intend to use its principles and exercises in a live writing course I'm teaching this year.

The course has 24 lectures, and I've just finished the twelfth, which has an exercise in cumulative sentence-writing. My task was to write a sentence of at least 100 words, making use of course elements like modifying phrases, parallel structure, comparison, etc. in its construction. I was also challenged to try working from just one base clause. As Professor Landon explains, the purpose of the exercises is not to create ideal sentences to be worked into prose, but to exercise our skills at different forms, so that they come to us easily and naturally when those constructions could be of use in our writing.

Here is my sentence, only slightly edited as I went along:

The swallows burst from the barn at twilight, the old structure dry and splintered, creaking in the wind, its base crowded by weeds, concrete blocks, and broken ancient rusty machines, the dimming sky one dusk purpled by clouds, streaked with that sunset's orange, another night clamped suddenly down with the sun slipping quickly into the west, still another evening held so blue, so clear, so watery green at the edges, like a still spring with tiny silent bubbling in its depths, the birds swooping out in a curve up into the sky, in a whirl of wings, in a tossing of acrobatic antics, as if they waited for their cue--the rising music, the streaking stage lights, the crowd's anticipation--to begin their daily dance.
Come join us on the deck one sunset to see what I mean!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Justifying Literature

This blog post, reviewing a current production of Waiting for Godot, explains a bit of why Christians should experience and study "difficult literature." I had a parent challenge the choice of Frankenstein for an upcoming course, and I should have had a better response than that it explores the nature of creation and the image of God in man. So I'll be working on that soon. :-)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Student Sin

One of my students transgressed an English teacher's arcane commandments in a paper I am evaluating today, and I knew another English teacher out there would have a clever way of glossing on the point:

"From the Beginning of Time"

Stephen Hawking writes about the beginning of time, but few other people do. People who write “from the beginning of time” or “since time began” are usually being lazy. Their grasp of history is vague, so they resort to these broad, sweeping phrases. Almost never is this usage literally accurate: people have not fallen in love since time began, for instance, because people arrived relatively late on the scene in the cosmic scheme of things. . . . If you really don’t know the appropriate period from which your subject dates, you could substitute a less silly but still vague phrase such as “for many years,” or “for centuries”; but it’s better simply to avoid historical statements if you don’t know your history.

See “today’s modern society.”

Thank you, Paul Brians, of "Common Errors in English." :-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Invention Lunch

I am trimming up a new course I have worked on this year, Apprenticeship Writing Workshop, and I came across this passage on invention I wrote and would like to share. I hope it will pique your interest and you'll enroll for the summer or the next school year!

If you have ever been faced with the horror of a blank page and an invitation to “write about anything at all,” you should appreciate the suggestions in this section. Consider an analogy from non-writing life:

You are a houseguest, perhaps staying overnight with friends-of-friends in a town where you are visiting a prospective college. The woman of the house welcomes you warmly and apologizes for needing to leave for a while, inviting you to “help yourself to lunch.” You’re really hungry, and it will be a long time until dinner. But you don’t know this lady, or where she keeps everything, or what she had in mind for you to make for lunch.

What you really need are materials—for her to set out the things you might make lunch from, so that you know the limits and the extent of what she intends. At the very least she could make a broad sweeping gesture toward the kitchen.

So let’s say she has put out cooked chicken, eggs, cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion, tortillas, bread, and a skillet, and she’s opened the herb cabinet, pots/pans cabinet, dishes cabinet, and utensils drawer to show you where those things are. That’s better.

But you also need some guidance on form—does she intend for you to COOK something or to assemble a sandwich? With the things available, you can make all kinds of things—sandwich, salad, quesadilla, omelet, wrap.

So in writing we need to create for ourselves or have provided to us in an assignment an occasion, materials, and form. This is invention—the beginnings part of it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Much from Little

I cannot remember how I found the recommendation for this novel, but On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin has been on my "wish" list at Paperback Swap for a while. I have found some gems of prose in it, but this little bit illustrates how much characterization may be made from just a few words. It is about 1900 and Sam is a Welsh-border father-in-law who has taken foolishly to doting on his son's new bride:

Sam had the face of a sad old clown.

Fifty years of fisticuffs had flattened his nose. A lonely incisor lingered in his lower jaw. Nets of red string covered his eyeballs and his eyelids seemed to rustle as he blinked. The presence of an attractive woman drove him to acts of reckless flirtation. (p. 38)

And now, because I cannot help it, I offer a moving paragraph from the framing introduction of the book, which describes the lives of that bride's twin sons, now 80yo bachelors about to pass their farm on to a grand nephew:

So now, when they looked at that faded wedding picture; when they saw their father's face framed in fiery red sideburns (even in a sepia photo you could tell he had bright red hair); when they saw the leg-o'-mutton sleeves of their mother's dress, the roses in her hat, and the ox-eye daisies in her bouquet; and when they compared her sweet smile with Kevin's, they knew that their lives had not been wasted and that time, in its healing circle, had wiped away the pain and the anger, the shame and the sterility, and had broken into the future with the promise of new things. (p. 14)

On the Black Hill
, by Bruce Chatwin. New York: Penguin Books, 1984

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Elusive Life

As a self-employed homeschooling Mom, I have the luxury of "reinventing myself" from time to time, as I have interests leading me one way and another in my work, my hobbies, and my studies. I've been learning astronomy from excellent lectures by Alex Filippenko for The Teaching Company, I recently finished my first needlepoint project in a few decades, and I'm doing more consulting and curriculum development for schools. But I have nothing on Lev (Leo) Nussimbaum.

As his life is discovered through his aliases--Essad Bey and Kurban Said--the mysterious man trapped between revolutions emerges in Tom Reiss's The Orientalist. Born into a far-east European Jewish family that had dealings with Alfred Nobel and Joseph Stalin both, the millionaire boy grew up considering himself different from others and eventually became a cosmopolitan Muslim. As the Soviets took over his home town of Baku, Lev and his father Abraham fled with their fortunes sewn into their clothes and eventually settled in Germany, where Lev established himself as a talented biographer of many important people and himself married a millionaire girl and got into the gossip columns in America. As the Nazi regime came to power he had to flee Germany and, abandoned by his wife, finally went into hiding in coastal Italy, where he died in his mid-30s of a painful disease.

All along the way Nussimbaum played with his identity, dressing up like a sheik and calling himself by different names and giving different accounts of his background. Because he could not be published in Germany during World War II an eccentric baroness friend took on his alias Kurban Said so that what has become his most famous book could be published: Ali and Nino, a love story.

That book is my next to pick up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Credit Where Credit is Due

Well, golly.

I never realized I was misquoting when from time to time I brought up the little snippet that Elisabeth Elliot talks about the necessity for Christians to live "a long obedience in the same direction." It's so . . . EE . . . a thing to say, bracing and insistent. She says it here, in pretty much the kind of context I think of when I think of it.

But I just discovered she didn't originate the idea.

Eugene Peterson wrote a book by that title, and a "search inside" at the Amazon site shows that he gives credit where it is due.

I'll give credit where it is due--here is where I discovered who originally said it:

“The essential thing “in heaven and earth” is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” - Friedrich Nietzche, Beyond Good and Evil

Now I'm sure EE is just more educated than I and assumed that others knew the source and that she didn't need to give it, but from now on I'll be saying "Elisabeth Elliot and Nietzche agree . . ." Or maybe not.