Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Investment of Time

Time is a valuable commodity. A precious resource. An endangered breed. In this day of instant foods, microwaves and high speed transportation and communication, we have less time than ever before to invest in one another.  There are only two things that will endure the test of time in this world, God's Word and man's soul. Therefore I try to base my decisions on that. Anything I do is usually a deeper act to reach a human heart. I guess for me this is rather paramount since my love language is the gift of time.  It is extremely important to me to invest time in those I care about.  This exudes into my teaching.  I used to teach in public school and one of my greatest joys has been to invest my teaching time into my own children.

Teaching my kids began with motherhood. The fullest expression came when I shared and prayed with them to take Jesus as their personal Saviour. It has extended into the classroom. I only have my children with me a few years. In the great eon of time, that is a drop in the bucket.  In that scheme of thought, I have prioritized my time around God's plan for my life in ministry to my husband, my children and to those around me.

Within that framework, I have put aside a few personal ambitions in order to impact my family. God has shown me huge ramifications in how I could possibly impact the world through them. James Dobson of Focus on the Family has told a similar story in encouraging his wife, Shirley who wondered if her life would count for something more than raising children. As he encouraged her, she raised their children well and one day they left the house into ministries of their own. Today, Shirley Dobson leads the National Day of Prayer. Her impact is four fold, beginning with her self sacrifice to each of her three family members. Would they be who they are today, in their ministries, if God had not given them her?  I am certain that her impact in her personal ministry today is strengthened by her focus on her own family, while her children were growing up.

Therefore I, along with many other homeschool moms who feel the same way, consider it an honor to take advantage of this incredible window of opportunity we have with our children today. To that end, I'd like to reflect upon something that I've been discussing with a friend this week in light of one of my recent posts.  It has led to her discussing with me about Christian worldview.  One of the hallmarks of Tapestry of Grace (TOG) is that it presents a humanities based classical homeschool curriculum with a Christian worldview. My children and I had our eyes opened to Christian worldview at the church we used to attend in Texas. My friend and I were discussing how I've been looking for this in a new church home now that we are in Virginia. In the meantime, I've been helped with the TOG curriculum to teach my children world history that spans the ages with a Christian worldview.

That brings me to my post that has led to varied comments from many of my readers, that of author bias. We are surrounded by bias, not only in print but also in media. As my friend discussed with me, are we going to simply do the basics of feeding and clothing our children, yet turn them loose on a world that has anti-Christian bias and distorted information? What are we allowing to be fed to our children mentally? We were basically talking about this history book we had for the entire year that was full of bias.

In our busy society, I know how easy it is to heavily rely solely on other's recommendations, great book lists, blogs, curriculums, etc. Even though I blog about a lot of this, you really can't take my word for it either. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves.

As I type this, I am reminded of a rencent literature book my daughter and I have finished reading, Fahrenheit 451.  That book spoke volumes to me. The book, written in the 1950's, is about a society that gets so caught up in technology that interpesonal relationships are wiped out, the controlling government does not allow free time to think and books are burned. Interesting that the only books mentioned were the deep thinking books, the classics. No one cared about the mundane books that were burned. It was the classics that became the central object in this story. Interestingly, the few characters in favor of the classics talk about the necessity of time, which this society no longer permitted, to deeply ponder great truths of the ages and to think for oneself.

Bottom line here is, as much as I might trust many different  individuals and groups, as much as our Christian thinking lines up along similar lines, I cannot blindly trust anyone other than God.  I am personally responsible for what I feed my kids, whether it is physical food, spiritual food or mental food.  Taking the time to at least skim their educational material is paramount.  I confess that it is easy for me to set aside time to read our numerous history and literature books because I have an insatiable hunger to learn. I only have two children. If I was blessed with a larger family, I would have far less time to devote to some of the things I value doing now.  However I would have to weigh the priorities and consider the implications and far reaching  effects of each thing I do, pray about it and priorititize.

On a similar note, I have a lot of moms ask how to liven up the discussions. I think one thing that helps me is that I do read the books. I know, I know, it takes time. But it livens up the discussion! I know if my kids are pulling my leg when they say the information in the AQs and TQs are not in the book.  (Sometimes they are and quite frankly sometimes they are not.) At minimum, let me encourage everyone to at least skim the books. I read all the recommended books and more. Literature takes the longest time so I try to stay one book ahead. History books at the D level usually take me 30 minutes to 2 hours to read. Actually I do not think that is a huge amount of time each week. If I sacrifice any weekly  history reading at all, it is the World Book articles in  the Teaching Notes. They can be biased too. However that is where some of the obscure answers are hidden (if you are looking for unanswered AQs or TQs) and sometimes the curriculum inserts valuable  information. Nevertheless, if I have to forego one for the other, I'll skip the World Book articles. I know it's supposed to be condensed quick information for busy moms. Quick does not always mean quality. Also I think a lot of us  are book lovers anyway. I'd rather read real books than encyclopedia articles if given the choice.   When I preread a book, I know how to use it to it's best advantage. Sometimes I find that the book is wonderful and I look forward to using it. Other times there are issues that concern me.  If it's not the right fit for my kids, I choose to find an alternate. As mentioned in another post I've even used heavily biased books to teach recognition of bias, whether too liberal or too conservative.   Bottom line is I'm fully aware of what is in the book, so that I can use it to it's best advantage. 

I know time is valuable. My son and I almost lost our lives at birth. He was born 6 weeks early. I spent 3 weeks with him in the NICU whie trying to balance time with my precious 2 year old daughter who had deep developmental delays. I finally got to bring him home to nearly 3 years of sleepless nights, while I sat up with him due various health issues. I was talking to medical staff on the phone weekly and everyone at the hospital knew me due to weekly visits.  Life was a blur. When moms are going through this themselves and wonder how to find time to homeschool, I say to just give the books to the kids and have them read, read, read. The lessons learned are paramount.

I know we are all seeking to train our children in a Godly heritage. When we are faithful to that, I believe that God carries us through that in times of deep duress and need.  I also believe that God wants us to redeem the time, making the most of our resources as we have the time. The key is balance with God as our fulcrum point. If we begin our days daily at the feet of Christ, like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, we will be led down the right path to His will. He will show us how to use our time to His glory, even in ministering to our families, whether at home or in the hospital or wherever He leads our paths.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

18th Century Waistcoat in Blue

Tada! Here is my son's new waistcoat for his summer colonial attire!
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 He wore it for the first time the other weekend. I had to size down a much larger pattern, one that I got for my husband. I'm not sure if it's long enough though. It is made of 100% linen (purchased at 40% off at JoAnn). The buttonholes are handsewn.  My son wants death head buttons for his waistcoat. These are gorgeous silk thread covered buttons that I have not yet perfected. One of the tailors last summer told him how easy they are to make.  Ahem. They are not easy.  They'll be the death of me! However he did a great sales job on my son and he has wanted some eversince! Until I figure those out, he decided to take it easy on me and asked for fabric buttons. He envisions navy blue buttons (to match the waistcoat) with gold dimples. Actually that would be easy for me to do.  However I need to research where to purchase special button forms so that the dimple (or even death head) buttons can be made. The same form is used for both. In the meantime I have a few other projects on my sewing list. Until then he has gold buttons.  I am reusing the ones from all of his old unit celebration military uniforms that he outgrew.  My son was sort of disappointed in this, yet willingly decided to be patient since he has the hope of fancier buttons...someday. While I was at my sewing class, my son met up with his favorite actor and they talked about the waistcoat. My son told him about his desire for the fancier buttons and the actor told him he liked the gold buttons!  I like that kind of support!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Printed Fabrics as Discussed by the Colonial Williamsburg Tailor

A recent visit to the Colonial Williamsburg tailor allowed us an opportunity to learn about these lovely printed fabrics!

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Governor's Palace Gardens

During Drummers Call weekend we went to the Governor's Palace and walked around the gardens and took pictures.
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...and we played in the maze. Can you find them walking through the maze?

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Ah what fun the pleasure gardens of the 18th century upper class are!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Drummers Call 2010 with Lafayette Performing a Dragoon Demonstration

Drummers Call weekend was quite busy. Although we attended this annual weekend long event last  year, this was our first time to visit the Friday evening program.  In the front of Kimball Theater all the CW Fife and Drum Corps alumni played for us! Then we went indoors to the theater to listen to today's CW Fife and Drum Corps and the Old Guard. That was wonderful!
The next morning my daughter and I attended classes at the Costume Design Center to learn how to trim 18th century hats. As soon as class was over, we scurried over to the Capitol to meet my husband and son where the Grand March began!



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We followed everyone down to Market Square for the Grand Review!

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In the middle of the performances of all of the invited Fife and Drum Corps, a special event was set up. A cabbage head was stuck on a pole in the middle of the field over there.  A medusa looking head was stuck on a pole over here. Indescribable looking things were being set up in various places on the field. Then Lafayette and a dragoon arrived on their horses to display a traditional event from the 18th century at military gatherings to display skill.  It reminded me of a milder version of jousting tournaments from centuries before.
Here is Lafayette about to whack off the Medusa head...
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Now the dragoon will try to knock off the Medusa head...

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On Saturday night we attended the Tattoo, where all the Fife and Drum Corps march and play with torches at dusk.  An hour before it began we met some guests who had just arrived from California. They had wanted to see the event since they had never seen a Fife and Drum Corps before, but the husband didn't want to wait around for an hour.  The kids told them how wonderful it was going to be and went into great detail.  I told them the temperatures had cooled down, the sun was setting and it would be very comfortable to sit on one of the benches while they waited. The husband liked that idea so I think they stayed!

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On Sunday morning we visited General Washington behind the gardens followed by a small program by the Magazine to see the different military groups. One of them advanced with their bayonets right up to us! My husband took this picture but I was sitting on the ground to the left, meaning they were in my face! The little boys in front of me thought of running away but we all stood (sat)our ground. It was the most fun group to march around!
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Thus concluded Drummers Call programming.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Conservator Tour

We had a wonderful time  in Colonial Williamsburg for Drummer's Call Weekend. As we drove in, we drove by the horse stables and the kids exclaimed that they saw Benedict Arnold. He really has a way of standing out! Then we arrived at the labs where we met a new friend and her family. She had contacted me earlier in the week and agreed to meet at the labs where we had a wonderful time. My family and I had taken a lab tour in January, where we got to meet the archaeologist. This time we got to meet a conservator who is a painter. She had a lot of great stuff out and applied many aspects of her job to the studies my kids are doing now in math and science, allowing them to make connections between today's studies and her job as a conservator in preserving and restoring history.
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Over my shoulder you might be able to see a painting of a lady.  Next to her is another one of a man. The conservator told us they were the Nelsons of Yorktown. She said he used to be governor of Virginia. I exclaimed that I had met General Nelson. At first that took her a bit by surprise then when I explained that I talked at length with him at Prelude to Victory, she caught on to what I meant and we started discussing details about him. We learned about how this painting is being restored. In the process, she mentioned an art technique that we were familiar with from our art history studies earlier this year. That caused the kids and I to really engage on that!

This was an interesting piece of painting that they are restoring. It is painted behind glass. The glass has broken and was taped together long ago. They are carefully researching how to best go about restoring this. For this she discussed the scientific principle of refraction. (You know when you put a spoon into a glass of water and look from the side, it looks broken?) This was perfect timing because my son has been studying refraction in science this week and his test is on Monday!  The application of refraction here is in the repairing the broken glass.  They need to find an adhesive that has the same refractive properties as the glass. That is when she opened her chemistry book to show us the different diagrams on that, which my daughter recognized from her current chemistry studies.
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Another test was to learn about the use of different ingredients they use, according to whether they are bases or acids. We all got test strips to identify whether a highly effective cleaner was a base or acid. We constantly referred to the last EFT, Treasure Keepers (she was in it!). This highly effective cleaner was mentioned in the EFT. Does anyone who watched it remember? It's something that every one of us has in common. It's saliva! We tested our saliva and it is neutral. That means it is a safe cleaner when taking care of artifacts. When she said this I told her the CDC staff have told me to use saliva if I drop blood on my kids' costumes when I am sewing.

We got to see all the microscopes and learned about their uses.  We saw parts of the Carolina Room which is being restored and assembled in the museum.
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She also had the kids do an activity that will soon be going into the museum.
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She read directions while they did their investigations.
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We were all interested in what would turn up...
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I just loved how she broke down all the detailed concepts of her job (which requires a masters degree with training in art, chemistry and history...what a combination) to make everything understandable to us and to help the kids see the value of the school work they might consider mundane.
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She joined us all for dinner and we got to talking about the Liberty Tree in Boston. We were discussing whether details on it were fact or legend. I shared what little I knew from my background and her eyes got really big because it was matching up with stuff she was researching. That was fun. Then I shared about the mysterious pottery pieces my husband dug up in the middle of the yard. I mentioned this on my post about the Treasure Keepers EFT. I told her that I realized it might have merely belonged to previous homeowners. But when I told her that our house is only 10 years old and our land used to be part of a large plantation 200+ years ago her eyes got really big. I get excited when her eyes get really big! It was so much fun learning and talking about all this stuff.



Monday, May 10, 2010

Writer's Club Cafe

How to solidify history concepts with kids? How to enhance writing skills? Is it possible to do both...at the same time? If so, can it possibly be fun? Yes!  My kids have done just that with a sort of Writer's Club Cafe. I set this up using a combination of techniques from our classical history curriculum and our writing program (IEW). 

     As my kids learned to write well with IEW, we settled into a cozy pattern of writing about history topics.  Mon and Tues they did their readings from various books on the week's  history topics. That was the year we studied the Ancients, as in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hebrews, Greece and Rome. Wednesdays we had our Socratic Discussions, which took about an hour. Discussions were a great way to broaden understanding of historical concepts, as well as see how different events connected with each other. While discussing, we'd analyze ideas of the past from different angles.  

     After discussion we prepared to synthesize all the information from the week into an assigned composition using IEW methods.  The first year I did the prewrite, or Key Word Outline (KWO), with them. I wrote on the white board while they copied onto their papers.  For the first part of the year, we wrote on the same topic. I'd assign the topic and we'd go through the books to find the key words to include in the outline.  I modeled it at first, then in successive weeks the kids would tell me what they thought should go in the KWO.  If it was good, I'd write it down and they'd copy it. If it needed tweaking, I guided their thoughts, and like a Socratic Discussion, asked leading questions to try to pull ideas that they had read out of their heads. This helped them to see that they already knew the information.  My guidance modeled for them how to take all those ideas that they read and put them into a logical sequence that would make sense to the reader. Eventually they started to get the hang of this and came up with their own ideas for the KWO, which were equally good. Sometimes I had my own idea.  Then we each wrote our own ideas on our own KWOs. The beauty of this was proving that there is more than one way to tackle a writing assignment.  If only one of the kids got an idea of their own and got stuck, they could feel free to choose my idea or the sibling's idea. 

     On Thursday afternoon they used their KWO to write their rough draft. It is important to separate these tasks to different days. For one, it's difficult for the brain to process such a huge task all at once.  Kids would tire out working for hours on the entire process in one afternoon, from research to KWO to final copy.  Better to break it up. Also they forget how the authors of the books wrote the ideas. By Thurs they can pretty much come up with their own sentence formulation without plagiarizing. 

     On Friday afternoon the kids were to type the paper into the computer with dress ups and decorations, which add variety.  Before IEW they had to hand copy rough draft after rough draft after rough draft.  They hated writing.  With IEW Andrew encourages us to let the kids complete the paper on the computer, where they can easily edit out mistakes and put in dress ups and decorations.  Then my kids color code their dress ups in red and decorations in blue and e-mail it to me.  Oh, I forgot the music. 

     Friday afternoons were special...sort of a Writer's Club Cafe. After lunch we settled down for an afternoon to complete the final draft of the week's papers.  My son would pop in a classical music CD into his computer and play it softly. Of course he had to have a little fun. His favorite CD to play has the "Surprise Symphony" on it. Are you familiar with it?  That starts out ever so softly, yet crescendos loudly as it moves through the notes until BANG! The final note would have my daughter and I hitting the ceiling, while my son would laugh and laugh! Because he put the CD in he knew it was coming!  During the music we'd have the lights turned off so there was atmosphere in the loft.  They were especially free to break for snack, though not quite so free to bring it to the computer area.  But the point was that it was different and relaxed and casual and fun...which was great while writing heady historical papers on Archimedes, Etruscans, and Roman arches.  They progressed from writing single paragraphs weekly to five paragraph essays by the end of the year. 

     The next year we studied the Middle Ages, Renaissance, the Colonial Era and the American Revolution. By now the kids were getting more independent with their writing, doing five paragraph essays on St. Patrick, King Alfred, Chivalrous Knights, and more.  Always Friday's Writer's Club Cafe topped off a week of adventure in history in a fun and relaxed way while solidifying historical concepts, never knowing when the "Surprise Symphony" was going to explode!    

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Field Trips: Meeting Presidents

    When I was a student at Trinity Univeristy in San Antonio, Texas, one of the guest speakers was past President Gerald Ford. I was taking political science so of course my professor required attendance to the event.  I'm sorry to say I don't remember anything about what President Ford said.  I do remember seeing all the Secret Service agents running around and seeing President Ford on stage.  I took lots of notes and wrote the required paper for my political science class.

     A few years ago when we were living in San Antonio, I somehow discovered that past President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara were coming to Trinity Univeristy. I had to take the kids!  I prepped them on everything I could think of.  I'll write more about it in a separate article.  It was a wonderful memory that my kids still remember!

     A few weeks ago my husband called home to ask me what the best route for him to come was????? We now live in the Washington DC area and President Obama was speaking at George Mason University about the Health Care Plan (ahem, enough about that) and exits were closed. Turned out my husband had no trouble coming home.  I have no idea if that event was open to the public or not. Then a few weeks later many world leaders descended upon Washington DC to discuss nuclear disarmament.  That certainly brought up discussion with the kids, especially since we were studying the Cold War. My daughter was surprised that there was still a Cold War, since our books say it ended with the Soviet Union collapse. Our books say that technically the Cold War has ended.  Perhaps, but I told my daughter, the Soviet Union may have collapsed, but who has access to the bomb today? Oh. I doubt this was open to the public. But it was going on in our "backyard" and made it more real. I heard a joke recently that in Northern Virginia, local news is the same as the world news.           

     Be sure to check the colleges and universities near you. You never know who may arrive and usually it's free.     

Friday, May 7, 2010

April Blossoms at Home

      April blossoms from our garden...

Pear Tree



Phlox from Mount Vernon...



Bleeding Heart from Colonial Williamsburg...



Clematis from a nearby store. I have seen these vines climbing up the lightpoles in the neighborhood. They are gorgeous.  This was just planted near our lightpole. I wonder how long it will take to get established.

  

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jefferson and Henry Debate their Religious Bills then later Meeting a Baptist Preacher and a Presbyterian Preacher

April is Religion Month at Colonial Williamsburg and that is the specific reason we came. My daughter asked her Awana leader if the programs we attend would work for  one of her Awana requirements and they said yes!

The first religious event we saw was a debate between Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry about their differing religious bills before Congress. One of the purposes of this trip was to practice notetaking skills. I sat between the kids and we pulled out our notebooks and we all took notes. The kids kept checking mine as they did theirs. As a result, they got the key points of the debate and we talked about our thoughts afterwards. We were surprised by the details of the bills  and which one we leaned towards, although we definitely saw the ideas behind the other one. I have a feeling if you came to the debate, you'd be surprised by which side you'd choose too. One interesting thing at the end of the debate was when the two gentlemen decided to put their bills to a vote. Of course women could not vote, so only the men stood up...the men from Virginia. A list of voting requirements were run through and more and more men kept falling like flies. To vote one had to be a white Protestant male with property. Less than ten were left standing. Then the clincher. To vote in Virginia, one had to reside in one of the two major cities in Virginia, Williamsburg or Norfolk! I was surprised Richmond or a town in Fairfax County was not larger! Only one man was left standing. Thomas Jefferson told him Virginia's future lay in his hands!



After this wonderful time, we went to the Presbyterian Meeting House to meet with Baptist preacher Gowan Pamphlet, the only African American preacher in America at the time, and Reverend James Waddell, a Presbyterian preacher. They talked about their backgrounds. It was a great program and I took lots of notes on this too. One interesting thing they acted out was how the preacher handled a packed meeting house. Rev Waddell stood inside preaching to us and Gowan Pamphlet stood outside next to the window. After every few phrases Rev. Waddell paused and Gowan Pamphlet shouted those phrases to the people outside.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Quiet Moments in Colonial Williamsburg Gardens

After a busy day at Colonial Williamsburg, we found a quiet garden to enjoy a bit of rest...



...where the kids enjoyed watching  a cardinal near a trickling brook. 







At one point my daughter beckoned to a robin who cocked his head at her and hopped on over. My daughter has always been able to get wild creatures to come to her or sit up for her or something.

Colonial Williamsburg Coming Alive with People of the Past

On a recent visit to Colonial Williamsburg, we of course visited Revolutionary City. My daughter especially enjoys seeing this. I think she's become quite taken with it, not only due to the interaction with the interpreters, but also due to studying several plays in her classical literature studies this year. She's learned about several forms of drama, including street theater, which made everything click for her. My son is always out and about taking "renderings" of the townspeaple while I am analyzing the costumes and absorbing the history.





Before the program officialy starts, the town comes to life with townspeople of all walks of life to interact with.
My son wanted to see the musicians playing under the shade before the start of the program.We were asked if anyone played an instrument and my son said he had his fife. He got to play Yankee Doodle with them!



When we sat down on the wooden curb to prepare for RC, an older couple sat down next to us and I overheard the man say, "I hope this is worth it." I had to jump in! I told him the program is wonderful...it was my 100th time! (Okay, so I exaggerated. My husband was laughing when I told him but we agreed I must be getting close!) They were flabbergasted we had done this so much. What could be a better way to learn history than to see the pages of a history book come to life, in an actual historic setting with horses everywhere?