For Isabelle and Levin

A few nice and possibly useful things:


Once Round the Sun by Elsa-Brita Titchenell in English.

  1. You May Call Me Uncle Peppercorn
  2. Build a Snowman, Peter!
  3. Grrmph! Peter, Grrr!
  4. I Have to be Somewhere Else Soon
  5. But You Do Babble, Don’t You?
  6. It All Has to be Washed
  7. It All Comes from the Root, You Know
  8. You’ve Got Something Very Precious
  9. I’m Getting Very Sleepy
  10. I’m Going to Take You Back Now

Auf Deutsch

Einmal um die Sonne

Erste Kapitel gelesen von Kim Titchenell

Heather Anne Louise, an illustrated poem.










Pu der Bär

Erstes Kapitel

Zweites Kapitel

Drittes Kapitel

Viertes Kapitel


College Prep English for Homeschoolers of Any Age! A Different Approach

English language study is found extremely difficult by many and for many very good reasons. The College Prep English Class for homeschoolers is one approach to addressing these issues and overcoming them.

The ability to write a persuasive letter, place a cogent and cohesive phone call or make a positive impression in an interview all require perhaps the most important skill anyone can acquire, whether one is heading to college or not. However, students of English in American classrooms are faced with a nearly insurmountable task. They are expected to express themselves in a language that they rarely ever hear and which is utterly foreign to them. We will discuss ways to address this problem below, but that is rarely done and is largely infeasible in the public school environment.

It is possible to acquire language skills without the onerous tedium of classroom study – indeed, it’s what all young children do automatically and intuitively with whatever language surrounds them. Though not quite as easy as it is for a two-year-old, given adequate exposure, this automatic language learning facility can still serve as a painless alternative to arduous study and repetition. One must provide good examples however. Ideally, no teacher should ever utter language in a classroom that does on at least conform to, if not surpass minimal language standards.

Unfortunately, a study of the language of educators can lead to a very dismal revelation. When listening to teachers in class or school meetings televised on community access channels, one is struck by the banality of the language even when the grammar is not irredeemably awful. What hope does the student have whose ears have been so thoroughly steeped in communication contaminated with misusages and largely bereft of any spark of inspired expression? With nothing but flawed and feeble verbal examples, an eloquence vacuum exists that no rules and theory of writing, no discussion of motifs and metaphors, no vocabulary lists can easily fill.

Far worse, most commonly heard speech also violates logical and grammatical standards consistently, as mangled idioms, colloquialisms, syntactic mismatches, dangling and misplaced modifiers, confused and inconsistent tenses, misused words and nonparallel constructs pollute commonly heard informal American English so thoroughly that reliable sources of language worthy of emulation can be very hard to find. Add to that the use of meaningless filler words which, even when not profane, waste time and space while conveying no significant semantic payload. How can today’s student hope to learn, sense or feel the right way to express an idea when perpetually subjected to a verbal inundation of ill-formed syntax – in common speech, the popular media and indeed also in the classroom? It is a losing battle.

Though Standard Edited English is, for all practical purposes, the same in America as it is anywhere else, American scholars seem to stray further from the written standard in their speech than does the rest of the academic world. Even highly educated professors in the US, noticeably more than their foreign counterparts, tend toward an informal and generally very sloppy form of English that would require a great deal of editing to become acceptable on any college paper. It seems that most British, German, French, Swedish, Danish scholars speak flavors of English that are much closer to acceptable edited prose. It’s hard to know exactly why Americans are so slovenly in their speech, but this auditory environment certainly explains why American students have such difficulty mastering standard written English and underscores the crucial need for an effective way to teach the subject outside the traditional classroom.

It is a common contention among American educators that “Everyone makes mistakes in informal speech.” This is complete and utter tarradiddle. Though perhaps everyone missteps occasionally, elsewhere in the academic world, it is not at all uncommon to hear a speaker straying briefly down an ungrammatical path, becoming aware of the problem and making an instantaneous correction. But in the US, speakers charge ruthlessly, unabashedly and remorselessly on, callously mangling and mutilating their spoken language with unconscionable, indiscriminate abandon and utterly without embarrassment or contrition. See our college prep English practice text, Chapter 7 for specific examples.

However, it is important to recognize that there are educators whose unscripted improvisatory speech is worthy of transcription, could be published without the need for editing and is ideal matter for study and emulation by students. Listening to and scrutinizing such masterly examples is at the core of a solid language curriculum.

Another well recognized American language phenomenon is that, although official education levels are generally increasing in the US, the vocabulary of these educated citizens is diminishing. A relatively tiny corpus of words dominates communication and it is shrinking. There is very little nuance expressed in most teen-spoken American. One can hardly avoid noticing that if something is good it is “awesome,” otherwise “It sucks.” There are no doubt many reasons for this but one dominant cause for the confinement of common vocabulary is the perception shared by many publishers, that books, and textbooks in particular must have the vocabulary or “Lexile level” of their texts aimed very low so that almost anyone can understand them. Of course it is easy to see that, after a few generations, this bar becomes set very low indeed, and schools, media and quite notably, politicians are also forced to lower their expectations of audience vocabulary comprehension. This is very frustrating for textbook authors who would like to produce something of both literary and didactic value. The ubiquitous admonition to “write for your audience” has often been construed to mean “dumb your writing down to a level at which it can’t possibly confuse, mislead, challenge, or inspire anyone.” The first book I wrote, a computer textbook, had had its language so thoroughly eviscerated by the editors of Dryden Press that the final product little resembled the original work. The assumption that a college text must ineluctably be written as though intended for an audience of seven-year-olds, is demeaning both to author and reader, and it reflects a growing tendency, at least within the US, to abandon, suppress, and prevent the perpetuation of much that is great about the English language itself – nonetheless, such are the guidelines most publishers follow.

Revealing another disturbing publishing tendency, my homeschooled daughter, once a member of our homeschooler’s College Prep English class, then an English major, and now the author of over a dozen books, recently expressed her frustration with editors who, fulfilling some sort of mandate to have visibly edited a work, make changes that insert grammar or usage errors into it in the text, much to the embarrassment of the author.

It is therefore not in the least surprising that many ostensibly “educated” individuals rarely encounter, and scarcely ever use, more than the most basic rudiments of the English language. This is not to say that skill in sophisticated verbal expression is not needed for college nor for the SAT, TOEFL, and AP college preparatory exams, only that, in an environment of simplistic and popularized usage, such skill is hard to acquire and one must make an effort to find and study it.

The College Prep English Class at EIE has been serving homeschooled students for over 20 years, exploring erudition as well as form, style, vocabulary, syntax and semantics, and strives to address the shortcomings and disadvantages of American English language study. In addition to treating the major grammar and stylistic problems plaguing American usage, the class strives to provide tools and encourage habits that support a continual learning trajectory.

  • Students are exposed to spoken and written English that not only complies with standards but soars far above that which they are likely to have encountered before.

  • Students interact in class using the language they are studying.

  • Students learn to deal with, and even delight in encountering unfamiliar words and concepts – which they have learned to look up with two clicks and a few seconds and incorporate into their constantly growing vocabulary journals.

  • Students are encouraged to define their own realms of study and are not confined within a fixed curriculum.

  • Students learn to find and study nearly any written, audio or video work handily.

  • Students learn to research ideas in both popular and scholarly sources.

  • Students amass a body of work to be used in an academic portfolio, and possibly produce published works.

  • Students are encouraged to give scripted and improvisatory oratory presentations.

  • Students of different ages and levels of expertise interact and support each other.

  • Student work is examined by the teacher and (optionally) the whole class with extensive corrections and suggestions.

  • Students engage in correct and sophisticated language study, writing for personal enjoyment, writing with a purpose and for an audience.

Student work with suggested emendation

                                      Student work with suggested emendation



It is very hard to generate enthusiasm for writing when one’s labor results only in an ephemeral entity whose sole purpose for existence is to be the subject of a cursory critical evaluation and a single mark in a grade book. Writing is often much more exciting and interesting when one is writing for an audience and not just for a teacher who will glance over the paper quickly, make a few red marks, and return it. Unfortunately, few alternatives to uninspired and anemic instructional mediocrity exist, our little English writing class being one possible exception. Everyone has the opportunity to write for an audience – for the class as a whole, the teacher, and ultimately, after some honing and revision, for a larger audience of fellow students and parents, for the public in web and print media, and for inclusion in individual student portfolios.

Polished formal standard English dominates in the classroom, in both written and spoken examples, for emulation is one of the most powerful pedagogical devices and it is a crime to use it to propagate errors and misusages. At the same time, there is no reason for grammar and writing study to be dry and boring.

Writing can be an utterly jubilant activity, but a significant level of creative ecstasy is rarely encountered by highschool students and is very nearly impossible to achieve in the traditional school environment. A class grade in an accredited highschool is certainly of some value, but it becomes somewhat feeble when placed next to a portfolio of published works whose message and mastery are directly evident to the observer. Such a tangible record of student achievement is far more compelling than a simple letter on a piece of paper reflecting a perfunctory perusal and a possibly skewed evaluation by an only marginally interested and probably harried and preoccupied instructor. A student who finds his/her voice and whose work burgeons in a class eager to see the next contribution is the ultimate reward for the writing teacher. It is not guaranteed to happen but it frequently does when fostered by a benign and encouraging environment, and that makes all the difference.


The Pernicious Potentials of Gmail

A recent suit against Google for its abuse of personal information collected through Gmail is being countered by the argument that Gmail users have absolutely no expectation of privacy, that anything sent or received  through Gmail is subject to scrutiny, analysis and commercial sale.

Gmail has nonetheless become very popular, largely due to its integration into the Google suite of online programs, and most Gmail users resign themselves to having their personal correspondence used for targeted marketing — often thinking little about their being included on lists of purchasers of pool equipment, weight loss supplements and sumo furniture.  Many though would have more serious reservations were they to discover that, based upon analyzed correspondence, their data, that of their children and Aunt Elsie are being sold, indicating that they are promising candidates for gambling offers,  medications sales, property scams or a vast array of other less savory enticements.   All assurance to the contrary, there is no question that data with high potential financial value will inevitably find its way to market, and may well lead to the appearance of slot machine displays, loan offers, and questionable programs in the mail and on screen which Aunt Elsie is probably unprepared to evaluate intelligently.  The potential uses for the content of prolonged correspondence are mindbogglingly horrendous, particularly given the psychological analysis tools that can and could be brought to bear.

These problems of Gmail and other pay-with-your-data free services are still relatively benign when compared to what they can grow into.  This “horizontal” information, that is, what list and categories one’s name appears on, can be converted into vertical information — a relatively complete dossier on an individual compiled from that horizontal data — opinions, weaknesses, inclinations, infirmities, embarrassing events, ill considered decisions and relationships, plots of financial history, diseases, menstrual cycles and many other things one might not want public.   Who would want to compile or pay for data of that sort?   Well, if one is in litigation over, say, alimony, child custody, settlement sums, these data could be of great value to the opposing attorney and could demand a significant price.  Similarly if one is running for office, the opposition candidate might be eager to have such info compiled and would pay well for it.  Here again one must understand that if the data exists, particularly if it is collected for commercial purposes, and if a high price is being offered for it, it will find a buyer, even if it must exchange hands a few times and pass through a few middlemen.

A complete record of one’s correspondence, easily combined with shopping habits and other marketable info, can provide, and be analyzed into forms that reveal far more than just about anyone would want known.

There are a few things one can do to minimize the existence of potentially insidious information and more are being developed, but one simple and obvious approach is not to submit voluntarily to its collection.  Don’t use insecure communications channels when corresponding; enough good alternatives do exist.





Allotment poems

allotment garden poems

The Garden

D. Titchenell

Allotment or community
Such gardens are, where e’er they be
But plot or glebe of fecund soil
Which yields when blessed with simple toil
A trove of carrots, chard and beets
And pristine veggies that one eats
Commensurate with what was sown
When we have nurtured on our own
A crop without the toxic sprays
That taint the food for which one pays.
But can a garden so conceived
Survive without support received
From state or county? – possibly
We’ll do our best, but we shall see …










Elegy in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Grey


Narrator: K. Titchenell

THE curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea;
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield;
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:—
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
Chill penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton, here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country’s blood.

Th’ applause of listening senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of luxury and pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev’n these bones, from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply;
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resigned,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of the unhonoured dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,—

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say:
“Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

“There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

“Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love.

“One morn I missed him on the accustomed hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree.
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood, was he.

“The next with dirges due, in sad array,
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,—
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”


Here rests his head upon the lap of earth,
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown;
Fair science frowned not on his humble birth,
And melancholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere;
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to misery (all he had) a tear,
He gained from Heaven (’twas all he wished) a friend.

No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God.



Tink’s Fanfare

Tink’s Fanfare Score



Video Tutorials: Greystone Gardening with George

Greystone Gardening with George

Los Angeles County UC Master Gardener George Pessin, in collaboration with Greystone Mansion, has put together a series of short, informative videos that cover an array of gardening topics. I have included a list of links and descriptions below. Perhaps, you will find just the information you are looking for in one of them (or all of them)!

Episode 1 – Getting Started
Choosing a location, seeds, or seedlings, make a sketch.

Episode 2 – What to Grow In
Containers, raised beds, or directly in the ground? If you have the available space do all three.

Episode 3 – What to Grow and When to Grow it
In mild winter areas, we have two main growing seasons, the fall/winter and the spring/summer. We grow cool-weather crops in the fall and warm-weather crops in the spring. Please click here to view the 
vegetable family chart that I reference in the video.

Episode 4 – Essential Tools
What are the essential tools of gardening that you need to get started? Probably a lot less than you think.

Episode 5 – Plant Nutrition & How to Amend a Bed
To improve the structure of the soil as well as to add back nutrients we amend our beds every season by adding compost or manure. During the season we use organic fertilizers to feed our plants the essential nutrients they need in order to thrive.

Episode 6 – Tomato Planting from Seed to Transplant
From starting tomato seeds in trays to potting up, to transplanting, follow along as we grow our tomato plants.

Episode 7 – How to Grow Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a warm-weather crop with a long growing season. Potatoes are a cool-weather crop, though here in southern California we can plant potatoes practically all year. See our video on how to get started.

Episode 8 – Composting and Worm Composting
Composting involves the decomposition of organic matter through environmental methods that speed up the process. Vermicomposting is the decomposition of organic matter by worms.

Episode 9 – Irrigation
Like humans, plants need water to survive. See best practices of irrigation for your garden and for your containers including different watering methods.

Episode 10 – Garden Activities for Kids – Homemade Gifts
Six different garden activities that parents and children can do together at home.

Episode 11 – DIY Potting Mix
Making your own potting soil can save you money and give you a superior product. You can use this mix for containers large and small as well as for raised beds.

Episode 12 – Pollination and Pollinators
Pollinators are the insects and bees that facilitate the sexual reproduction of plants. Learn about the male and female parts of a flower through The Honeybee Poem.

Episode 13 – Harvesting
Enjoying the fruits of our labor is what it’s all about. Pick early, pick often!

Episode 14 – Mulch and Mulching
Mulch is indispensable. It provides nutrients, looks nice, and cuts down on watering.

Episode 15 – Integrated Pest Management
How we deal with pests and disease in our garden.

Season 2
Starting the Winter Garden
In southern California, the season for cool weather crops is approximately October through April.

Saving Seeds and Sexual Propagation
Saving seeds from our summer fruits for next season.

Winter Garden Maintenance
We discuss fertilizing, thinning, pest control, blanching, and harvesting.


Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg

They say she’s alarmist; her science is wrong
That the gloomier models were wrong all along
But the scholarship’s lacking; one doubts what they cite
Why they can’t even learn how to say her name right.

Overcoming Attachment

Overcoming Attachment

Why send me a bloated great MS Word file
Or a PDF picture with format and style
To convey a few lines of text easily said
Or an address or date I can keep in my head?

An email’s text content is all that I need,
No attachments that need a vast program to read
Which could contain viruses, trojans or  worse
When the content is just a place, time or some verse!


— K. Titchenell





A Note to Greta Thunberg

We applaud your resolve when you sound the alarm
And disparage the deeds that will cause our world harm
When one sees how depravity took us so far
It’s hard to believe how dimwitted we are!

But despite noble efforts from scientists who
research and conclude what what we really must do
So much of our leadership shrugs and says “No”
To making commitments best made long ago.

Are we really so shortsighted, puerile and mad
That we’ll throw away any last hope that we had
Of saving Earth from a Venusian fate
By making adjustments before it’s too late?

But there are those whose goals tend a different way
Who erode common sense in our minds every day
For PR folk are clever at sowing confusion
They’re expert at image, desire and delusion

And their skills are for sale — at the bidding of those
Who can pay for the misleading prose they compose
No rigorous testing can get a fair trial
When well-funded campaigns are intent on denial!

With the end of the quarter’s net profit at stake
There’s no limit to what drastic steps they will take.
But take heart, it might be that we will not all fall
To catastrophes stemming from climate at all

With technology’s future, pandemics and war
There’s so much to choose from and every day more
Though the best case for climate might well be the worst
We may well kill ourselves off some other way first.

K. Titchenell