Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CW Costume Design Center UTR Weekend Sewing Classes

In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center has been offering monthly classes this year.  So far I've been able to attend each one.  I've learned different 18th century hand stitches, made dorset buttons and death head buttons, made wallet bags, work bags and pockets, tied knots for trims, and learned millinery skills in making my own hat. We learn not only 18th century techniques, but also the history behind it. Our fee pays for not only the staff's time, but also supplies and various resources.  This time however, was different.  Friday afternoon I reserved a session for consultation time with the man (T) and lady (B) who head the CDC!  I got to take in any 18th century projects I wanted and ask questions galore! How cool is that?

Therefore I got to spend time asking them questions about stays and gowns!

After our consultation I told (B) about my daughter's completed pocket. When my daughter showed her, B got excited and took us to see N, who raved over her work!

That evening we attended a costume presentation at Bruton Heights, an additional CDC program for its 75th anniversary.  We got to see several different 18th century garments. B and T talked about some military uniforms, colonial enlisted and British and I think another. I forget, I didn't take notes on those. My son is only interested in the Lafayette coat.

On the other side of the stage were three fancy costumes.  We saw a fancy Lord Dunmore coat with tons of embroidery on it.  We saw a stage costume which is really a costume.  T explained that what we call costumes, that which the interpreters wear in the historic area are not costumes, but actual articles of clothing. However stage costumes are costumes, because they break the rules of the day with imaginative details that 18th century society would never consider for wearing in the home, streets, balls, or anywhere. Yet seeing an actor or actress on the stage in the 18th century, was an experience, because the costume would be out of the ordinary. There was a gown/costume from an 18th century stage play of Othello, where the petticoat looked like festooned curtains!

But my absolute favorite was a Lady Dunmore polynaise that was recently worn in a special production on May 1 by a Hollywood actress who portrayed Lady Dunmore for the day.  It was fascinating to hear how the fabric was reproduced or created. I had seen the hat before in my hat class. I love many elements of this outfit, including pink buttons on the outside to hold the string for the polonaise.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Kids' Latest Colonial Attire at Colonial Williamsburg...

I always forget to take pictures of my kids in final product.  I prefer to take their picture in costume in the proper setting.  However my work is sorely lacking and once in the historic area I usually get caught up in taking pictures of the incredible costumes walking around town!  Friday night at a costume lecture, I met some neat gals who told me they were glad to see my daughter's gown completed.  I had no idea how in the world they knew I had been working on it. They laughed and said they had been keeping up on my blog! The one sister does all the sewing and the other does all the wearing! My next post will be about my CDC class, and meeting her and another lady who are challenging and helping me!

Anyway, here are the costumes at this point. It was funny in that while I was working on angles and positioning my kids, other guests cut in to have their children stand with mine to take their picture. I  had to take my turn to take pictures of my own kids!

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Post Modern Dialectic History Presentation

On Father's Day we had our final history presentation of the year.  In fact, it was also a wrap up of our four year classical humanities-integrated dialectic study of history from the beginning of time to the present. Whew! And my husband graciously allowed us to deluge all of this learning into his brain cells on Father's Day!

When we came home from church, we began with our unit celebration dinner with a twist. After all it was Father's Day, so I knew  the traditional meal this represented would not fly.  I couldn't really explain to my husband why his dinner looked a bit odd, especially since we were not yet in costume. He'd just have to trust me. Perhaps he could figure out from the clues.  No, he didn't even go there. But he enjoyed dinner immensely.  Perhaps you can figure out the clues?  Our menu consisted of grilled steak with blue cheese garlic butter spread, Caesar salad, Texas toast, deviled eggs and orange flavored iced tea.
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Then we had cheesecake for dessert. As we ate dessert, I had my husband open his gift. I had stumbled upon something totally cool at Colonial Williamsburg and he loved it!  Perusing the gift kept him busy while we changed into costumes.

 Here we are! My daughter was missionary Heather Mercer who was imprisoned by the Taliban in 2001. I was Christa Mcauliffe, the first teacher in space on the space shuttle Challenger.  My son was an imaginary Lt. Col. in charge of a stealth bomber flying wing.
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I was up first as Christa Mcauliffe in 1986, holding a press conference.  At the time, I had not followed the huge media blitz of selecting the first private citizen, a teacher, to fly on the space shuttle. However I'll never forget that sad day of the explosion. As Mcauliffe, I answered questions from the "press," telling "my"  story of my selection and role on the space shuttle. Her teaching motto was displayed during the press conference.
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Then like the infamous last photo of Christa as she waved, ready to board the doomed space shuttle, I waved goodbye and went behind the curtain. Then my son played a siren sound effect while my daughter explained that on Jan 28, 1986, the space shuttle exploded. Although President Reagan was set to give the State of the Union address that night, he canceled that and gave a speech from the Oval Office about the explosion. My daughter played this clip of the speech. (It does not directly link.  Go to directions at the end of this post.)  The final words of the Great Communicator sends tingles down my spine. "...touch the face of God."
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Then we moved to 2001 with my daughter's portrayal of Heather Mercer, who was a missionary to Afghanistan.  I'll never forget hearing about her and Dana Cury's imprisonment by the Taliban on the news.  I prayed for them everyday.  Honestly I did not expect them to get out alive, especially after 9-11.  I've always thrilled at the story of their rescue by US Special Forces. (They are also from a church in Texas!)   As we rehearsed Fri, I got to thinking, "My son and I are dressed like Special Forces, kinda sort of."  I mentioned it to the kids and asked them if they had ideas on what we could do with that.  They decided to reenact the rescue scene.  So my son arranged a helicopter sound effect (Can you tell he likes noises? He's had sound effects in every unit celebration.) while my daughter hid in my husband's office around the corner in the basement.  On cue, I opened the helicoptor door (curtain) for my son and I, we popped out from behind the curtain...

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I stood guard while my son rescued his sister. When they came running back, I opened the helicopter door (curtain) for them and we all went behind the curtain. After a pause, my daughter went back on stage to tell the Heather Mercer story. My daughter chose of her own accord to read their book, Prisoners of Hope, on top of all her other assignments.  I did help her fine tune her speech, to focus on key concepts. Then she rehearsed it on her own and by rehearsal time she had  it memorized. She did the entire monologue from memory! For the first time in all the unit celebrations she had no notecards! I knew she could do it! She did great!  By the way, she is wearing a burqua, which the Taliban made the women in Afghanistan wear.

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Then my son set up a realistic briefing for his stealth presentation.  We were each assigned parts. My daughter was a lieutenant, new to the group. My husband was a major, I forget his role. I was a captain, pilot of a stealth bomber!  We were part of a mission in the War on Iraq in 2003.  My son created this entire concept, based on a real life incident he heard about a few years ago.  He thoroughly researched everything, wrote up several pages of information and put together a power point presentation.  We truely felt like we were part of a real briefing! (By the way, I had ordered real flight suits from an Army Surplus Store for a rather cheap price. My husband was impressed with them. I couldn't find baby blue for Christa's. More details when I blog on the costumes."

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During the question and answer we learned about the uniqueness of yaw with a Stealth bomber...

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We even got hand drawn diagrams to explain some of the information...

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Then we did another costume change, into the present, for a sort of dialectic graduation ceremony.  My daughter changed quickly. She had her outfit on under her burqua.  After she slipped off the burqua, she arranged our TOG books for Y4U4 on the coffee table while my son and I changed.  Yes, my kids read all these books.  Most were read completely in unit 4, while others had been read in other units as well.  They were all read in their entirety, except for the TOG binder which is my teacher information.

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Here we are, at long last, after four long years of studying the eras, "dressed" in the 21st century!

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For this we gathered for an interview of the impact 4 years of TOG dialectic history study did for us. I went first, bridging Christa Mcauliffe's teaching motto to mine, "Reach for the highest stars."  This would definitely represent TOG.  Years ago we had been frustrated with our text book approach to history, even though the texts were well written. TOG brought information, cohesiveness and enlightenment to our history studies.  I referenced one of the most powerful books of the year for me, Fahrenheit 451, which talks about a controlled society that burns the Great Books.  I talked about the value of freedom to read and think deeply from the Classics.  I talked about today's world view that has bothered me as a professionally trained teacher, steering us away from opportunity to read and think deeply. I talked about one highly acclaimed "historical fiction" book, that completely changed facts to portray creative license.  This has brought lots of discussion around here and everyone agrees. I feel that the true talent of an artist is not wrapped up in changing facts. Anyone can do that.  The challenge is to weave the artistry around  the facts.  In my four years use of TOG, with the variety of books I've read, I have found some incredible books and some books sadly lacking in content and quality.  How I wish I had the gift of writing with beautiful artistry to write children's books of history myself.  Sadly there were gaps in some of the eras we studied, with lack of great information at a kids' level. How often had I heard on our lists, "Is there anything extra to read for this era? My child wants more books." Sometimes the question was, "Is there anything at all to read on ______ era?"   Hopefully those with great talent will write as accurately as possible while weaving an artistic web to capture the imaginations of young and old. I definitely have a few favorites off the  top of my head (I hope I'm not forgetting anyone.)  Nancy Rue and her Christian Heritage Series, Jean Fritz and Rosemary Sutliffe. (sigh) How I wish I could craft a tale like they do.

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Then we shared our favorite eras studied over the last four years. We all agreed the American Revolution was our favorite.  I also enjoyed studying the mystery of the Middle Ages. Mere paragraphs in a textbook never did that era justice. Now it makes sense.  Surprisingly I also gained some interest in the early 19th century, especially as far as costumes go.  Then we shared about the favorite person we studied about. My son and I agreed on Lafayette. No surprise there! My daghter's favorite was Florence Nightengale! Then my daughter shared about her worldview studies and gave examples from today's society for each one. Boy did that bring out some angst!

Oh, did you figure out our steak dinner? Astronauts have a special meal on the morning before they take off into space. They get a special breakfast with steak.  I had had this astronaut meal planned, then we decided to do the unit celebration on Father's Day. Knowing my husband would want steak, I also knew he wouldn't want an astronaut breakfast. So I combined the two.  Orange tea-orange juice, steak, deviled eggs-fried eggs, Texas toast-regular toast. Also the Texas toast was in honor of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

To access President Reagan's speech from the Oval Office on the Space Shuttle, go to this link, Click "Interactive Version of the Presidential Timeline" which will open a new window, click "Exhibits" at the top, then click "Ronald Reagan" from the list.  Then click "Address to the Nation on the Explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger."

Now what? We boldly go forth into another round of history studies, this time at the hefty Rhetoric level. We'll see you next school year in TOG Year 1 Unit 1 which begins the study of Ancient History.  What in the world will we do for unit celebrations with our next rotation?  I truely feel we have given the last 16 (yes 16!!!!)  our all.  Well, I suppose something will pop into my head.  It usually does!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Harpers Ferry

Saturday we went to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.  Harpers Ferry has a little something for everyone! My husband and I had been here with his sister several years ago. We were excited about sharing this unique town with our kids this time.

Harpers Ferry is a great place for Civil War buffs. Infamous for its role in the Civil War, a national park is located here.  We'll come back in cooler weather to do the Civil War stuff.  There are trails to hike of varying difficulty levels.  There are also museums and things to walk around and see.  With difficulty in finding parking in town, we parked at the national park, using our national park pass to get in. We left the car there and took the shuttle bus into town.  It took a while to get to our destination but it gave us an opportunity to see the variety of things to see in the Civil War category.

Harpers Ferry is an interesting place for food. Once we arrived in town, we had lunch. I decided to be different and my daughter followed my lead.  We ordered soft shell crab sandwiches. We had never had these before.  It was definitely an odd experience to eat a sandwich that had appendages dropping out.  I'm not a big fan of fried food but this was well done, cooked light and crispy, not at all greasy. My husband insisted that I take a picture of this!
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Harpers Ferry is a great place for unique shopping. After lunch, we walked through the shops. There are not many. I liked the shops a lot, since they had nice items that were cheaper than I can find around here. I got an inexpensive crinkle skirt in turquoise blue, a good color for me.  The lady who ran the shop was extremely friendly.  I especially liked a jewelry shop with unique items made by artisans.  I was taken by some vintage looking jewelry that would be perfect to go along with a Victorian gown.  I was able to find a couple of  inexpensive pieces for such an occasion.  Actually my husband realized he had never gotten me a Mother's Day gift, so my new jewelry is my gift. 

Harpers Ferry is a great place for mountain climbing!  You can pretend to be a mountain goat in town, which is built into the side of a mountain. The friendly shop owner I had talked to explained to me that Harpers Ferry is not in the moutains.  That was news to me!  Harpers Ferry is the lowest spot in West Virginia, around 400+' altitude.  Well, true, I'm used to 7000'-14000'+ in Colorado!  She told me their winters are usually mild, like we normally get in the Washington DC area, with the exception of last winter with 3-4 blizzards amassing a record breaking 60"+ of snow! 

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This is an actual working train station, as in not tourist but passenger. We don't have those in Texas!  There are mountain climbers rapelling on the face of the mountain.

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Below the train station, we walked to the John Brown's fortfrom the pre Civil War days.  Like I said, we'll come back another time to do the Civil War stuff.  This was mainly a trip  to scope out the town. Besides it was a hot and humid day.

Harpers Ferry is on the Lewis and Clark trail! This is the frame of a boat that Meriweather Lewis was going to use in the West.  Below us is the Potomac River.   There is a museum across the street on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
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Here is a better view of the Potomac River.

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Harpers Ferry had a canal!  The Shenandoah Canal is somehow linked to the C&O Canal (which I think is nearby), according to this article. This is the confluence  of two rivers...the Potomac is to our left and beyond. To our right is the Shenandoah River.  We are in West Virginia.  Across the Potomac is Maryland.  Across the Shenandoah is Virginia! This area was so important in the 18th century, that a town and ferry was built to carry goods across the river.  Later in the 19th century, a railroad and canal paralleled each other. We are in the canal area now and I think that is the railroad bridge across the way.  I am a huge canal fan and have been so since I first discovered a real canal on my first trip to upstate New York.  We have been to so many canals, we can now recognize a historic canal without the need for a sign.

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We started walking to the right, along the Shenandoah to return to the park to our van, about 2.2 miles away.  On the way, we walked alongside this railroad.

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Further down the road, we started walking alongside the canal on the old towpath. The canal was built because the river was full of rocks. Today tubers enjoy the whitewater. (Harpers Ferry is a great place for tubing!) Although it's great for recreation, it is not at all convenient for transporting goods across the country.  Hiking the canal trail was definitely at the top of our list for the day.  There is too much scope for the imagination to simply drive by!

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These are the remains of an old pulp factory.

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Raspberries...

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Harpers Ferry has great hiking trails! Our hiking path to the visitor center took us up this mountain...

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that had a stream with waterfalls trickling alongside these great rocks and boulders.

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Here's one of the waterfalls, not quite as large as what we saw in the Rocky Mountains. Yet, very soothing nonetheless.

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There's still more to do.  There's a hike above town we didn't do this time (too hot) but my husband and I did it years ago.  As I recall there is a Jefferson Rock with a great view.  I'm sure we'll be back. Gotta love those National Park Passes.  They get a lot of use here on the East Coast.

Learning to Trim Hats at Colonial Williamsburg CDC

During Drummer's Call weekend, my daughter and I took a class with the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center in celebration of their 75th anniversary. This class was on trimming 18th century hats.  I had visions of sitting down at the table, immediately getting to work trimming a straw hat and finishing in 30 minutes and having a hat to wear all weekend.  I thought I'd finally have a piece of my costume to wear.  Oh, the class was much better than that!  There were several hats that have been made for the interpreters to wear in the historic area that we looked at for ideas.

Then we chose a straw hat and silk in a color of our choice.  I fell in love with a teal colored silk, so I chose that.  Then we learned to draft a pattern for covering our hat.  We did not have time to finish.  However we had enough information now to finish on our own. 

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My daughter chose a taupe colored silk and trim.  We chose to do the same type of trim, so hopefully she remembers what we opted to do!  She is working on her hat now!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Patrick Henry College

While we were driving to Harpers Ferry, much to our surprise we drove past Patrick Henry College. We turned around and found a parking spot so that we could walk around. This college opened when my kids were babies, and I've been reading their newsletters all these years. In fact, I modeled our homeschool program after theirs, since they teach in a classical format. I figured if my kids were ready for Patrick Henry College, they'd be ready for any college.

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Here they are posing as if they are reading books, because if they attend this college they have to read many books and be quite studious.  In fact to get into this college they have to read many books and be quite studious!

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

He's Hired!

Need your lawn mown?  The pastor next door has hired my son to mow his lawn.  Our neighbor has been great, hiring my son in the past year to watch his cat or water his plants when they go out of town. Now he has a mowing gig. Not only is my son learning about responsibility and perhaps growing a muscle or two, he's also getting paid well! That excites my son, and me! He's putting all the money into his savings account for college, although it's a small drop for college.  I keep telling him his smarts can gain him scholarships as well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Awana Awards and Scholarships

The other night, my kids had their Awana awards night. My son has now received his Meritorious Award. This is given to those who have completed all six books, from grades 3-8, full of Bible verses and projects.   Next year my son will gaduate into the high school group. My daughter won her Meritorious Award two years ago. Here she is with her high school second book pin.  She had to memorize Bible verses, complete service projects and go through Bible training. In high school, the entire Bible is read over four years. To meet that requirement, she read 1/4 of the Bible this year and memorized summaries on the key elements of the books she read. She had to recite the summary memory work to the handbook leader after she did her verses.  She is now 2 books down and 2 books to go to get her Citation Award.
June 2010-Warrenton, VA

Despite all the snow we had this winter, my kids kept up with their memory work despite Awana club being repeatedly canceled for weeks.  As a result, they finished their books over a month before most of the other clubbers.

Many colleges provide scholarships for Meritorous and Citation Awards due to the high level of work involved.  The scholarship amounts vary by college.  Also, over time, more colleges join the list.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bye Bye Missy Dog

Sadly my mom recently broke the news that their Missy dog has died. I am heartbroken.  That black lab, bit younger than my son, grew up with my kids, providing much love and entertainment.

When I first heard about her, I thought my parents had lost it. It's called the empty nest syndrome. My brother and I left home and got families of our own. So my parents got a dog.   Apparently my parents were broke when they raised us. They suddenly had more money when we left the house and used it to spoil that dog rotten.  I could not believe how that dog was pampered above and beyond what my dauchschund got while I grew up.  I used to tease them all the time about it and they'd laugh and shrug their shoulders. Mom first introduced to her to me as Missy Ann.  I looked at Dad. Missy Ann? He just smiled.  Ann is my middle name.  Often Mom would say,  "Now Missy Ann, this is your sister, Laurie."  My sister, the dog?  I always wanted a sister...but really.  Now I finally had a sister and it was a black lab that looked at me adoringly with soft brown eyes. 

"My sister" did not know how to behave. She was a great imitator.  When Mom pulled up weeds in the garden, Missy helped...by pulling up flowers from the garden.

This dog was so spoiled, she had the entire sunroom for her bedroom.  We'd joke the couch was the queen size bed, the love seat was the double and the chair was the twin bed. That used to be my hang out room to read books when the kids were asleep and my dad had the tv on. It would be at night and Missy wasn't sure about me laying on her queen size bed.  Then if Mom and I got to talking in the sunroom at night, Missy felt all disturbed and rumpled because we were interrupting her sleep.

Whenever we'd visit for a week from Wichita Falls while my kids were toddlers, I'd do my daughter's hair and put a bow in it. Missy would get so excited every morning when it was time to do hair.  I just knew she wanted a bow in her hair/fur too.  We had great girl times together!

We'd have so much fun playing out back. She liked to run with the ball during baseball!  There's a picture somewhere...

After we moved to San Antonio, my parents went on a cruise with my brother and his wife. They left Missy with us.  That was a blast...a positive blast for us but a negative one for Slipper kitty, our cat.  I kept telling the cat to stay upstairs but she wouldn't listen to me.  She had to find out for herself we had a doggie guest.  Slipper could hold her own though. She had no front claws  but slapped Missy in the face one time and Missy ran away crying. Hmmmm....those black labs can really have an overactive imagination.

While Missy stayed with us, we had fun playing in the backyard and going for walks. When my parents picked her up, she happened to look up in our two story foyer and saw the giant teddy bears in the second floor window. She went bonkers! She wanted those bears.  She always had a thing for stuffed animals. My daughter has had a soft pink dolly since she was a baby. It went everywhere with her. When we were at my mom's when she was about 5, Missy found Miss Dolly (the soft pink dolly) in the bedroom, picked her up in her mouth, went to the sunroom where my daughter was, and dropped Miss Dolly in my daughter's lap. One Christmas my mom gave my kids stuffed animals for Christmas. Missy acted so hurt that she didn't get one too.  Ever since I would give her a stuffed animal for Christmas.

When we moved out of our house in San Antonio last year, we stayed with my parents for a week while preparing to leave for Virginia. Missy seemed rather disrupted by all the extra activity of having us live there for a week. She didn't get any sleep at first but quickly got acclimated.  By the time we left, she missed us. Dad said she wouldn't sleep at night well. She was looking for us. She used to lay at the front door waiting for us. Whenever she saw a van like ours come up the street she went bonkers.   Except we haven't been able to go back. My parents won't be coming here. Virginia is dog heaven. I told my parents they should put Missy on an airplane and send her over. She'd have a blast walking all the nature trails through the nearby woods and river with us. She'd love DOG street in Colonial Williamsburg. I really, really, really wanted to treat her to all the fun dog stuff in Virginia. My kitty died a month before we moved.  Now Missy is gone.  Two beloved pets leaving warm memories within a year and a half of each other.  I miss them a lot.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fahrenheit 451 Essay and the Classics

Surprisingly, Fahrenheit 451 wasa recent literature book that spoke volumes to me this year. I never dreamed that a book about a fireman who burned books would be difficult to put down. It wasn't the burning that drew me in.  It wasn't the technology of the ear buds and the family in the talking walls, nor was it the thrill of speed that spoke to me.  It was the types of books being burned that drew me.  I wanted to rescue them.   They weren't burning newspapers, newsletters or magazines. They weren't burning nickel romances or comic books. Apparently those books were never missed. They were never mentioned. They were never hidden from the firemen.  The issue was the Great Books of classical literature.  Amazing that the author, who was not a Christian, used the Bible as the centerpoint in the message of the value of time and thinking deeply, inspired by reading thought provoking material with substance that deals with questions of mankind from the beginning of time.

Ray Bradbury, of Twilight Zone fame, wrote Farhenheit 451 for a reason.  Written in the 1950's, he uncannily foresaw a future where society read less and got hooked on technology more.  Eerily he talks about tv walls, speed, earbuds and lack of relationships. Ironically he wrote this book in a library.  He was so passionate about the message in this book, that he lives (I think he's still alive) a simple life without technology.

While reading this book, my daughter and I reflected heavily on the Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip we were recently extras in.  Although they were different stories, the parallels were thought provoking. We've discussed greatly the implications of similar attitudes in our society today.  As a result, I decided we should close out our literature studies for the year with a literary analysis paper on Fahrenheit 451 and implications to the future. There are some incredible quotes in this book so I am  requiring her to include pertinent ones in her analysis.  I am also going to teach her a new style of documentation (for her) with page numbers in parentheses after each quote. Also we have recently concluded our study of essay writing with IEW's The Elegant Essay, so I am requiring a three pronged thesis statement.  She will also be required to use techniques learned  in The Elegant Essay for interesting introduction and conclusion paragraphs.

We are using IEW techniques. I'm sure there could be a better arrangement, but this is what we decided on. Basically this is an analysis of settings.

Intro-background to the book

Topic paragrah 1-Fahrenheit 451 setting, considering it was written in the 1950's

Topic paragraph 2-Similarities to today (basically today's setting)

Topic paragraph 3-Importance of Great Books and implications for the future (basically implications to the setting of the future)

Conclusion

Friday, June 4, 2010

Science Lab Oral Presentations

Always looking for ways to manage my/our time in school, I have hit upon a fabulous new idea to streamline science labs. In the beginning, I taught my kids how to write the qunitessential lab report. That was actually quite easy, since we had been using IEW writing methods which streamline the writing process. However the problem was the time it took, when there were other assignments which were more needful of their time.  Realizing that they were strong in writing lab reports, yet weak in oral presentations, I made some changes.  Now instead of writing out their reports, they give science lab presentations.  Not only are they practicing their speaking skills, they are cementing their science knowledge for the test. Also it is easier on me to see exactly what is happening, so that I can catch any mistakes and guide them along.

 Actually my son is brilliant with science and he is primarily practicing his speaking skills with meaningful props. My daughter, however, struggles with labs.  Our lab time is more an opportunity for me to guide her along. Either way, they are working on their weak areas, I am still able to assign a valuable grade for the lab, and we are all managing our time in the most productive way.

As far as writing goes, that is not being neglected. Most of their writing assignments are in history and literature.

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Upon reflection, I'd love to have purchased or sewn lab coats so they could pretend to be actual scientists during labs and oral presentations. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Boston's Freedom Trail

Boston. Boston, Boston, Boston. What can I say?  It was nothing that I expected, yet was definitely all good! When I was a little girl I read Make Way for Ducklings. (I should have gotten a clue from the ducks that there is a lot of traffic.) Then I read The Trumpeter Swan by EB White. (There were a few more clues in that book.)I watched the Walt Disney movie Johnny Tremain and read the book and was charmed by this historic town by the sea. (Even then they were overrun by Redcoats.) Then I became a teacher and made available to my students Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? by Jean Fritz. I read several biographies of Benjamin Franklin (He lived in Boston before he fled to Philadelphia. The key word is "fled". Well, there is more to THAT story.) Obviously I tend to focus on the charm.  Well last weekend I had a reality check as we were cut off by drivers galore! The amazing thing is that the people you meet in town are really nice! The drivers though are crazy! The Italian food is wonderful! Surprisingly the history was tough to find. If you are planning a trip to Boston with kids for the history, I have a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience.

First watch the Walt Disney movie, Johnny Tremain.  Can you tell I really like this movie? I love, love, love this movie. If I wasn't so overwhelmed by traffic (one if by foot and two if by car...no wait, I'm getting my poetry mixed up!) I would have walked through town singing, "The Liberty Tree."
"Plant the seed in our homeland, boys.

Let it grow where all can see.

Feed it with our devotion, boys.

Call it the Liberty Tree.

It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree

And we are the Sons

Yes, we are the Sons

The Sons of Liberty!

Save it from the Storm, boys.

Water down its roots with tea.

And the sun will always shine

on the ole Liberty Tree.

It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree.

And we are the Sons

Yes, we are the Sons

The Sons of Liberty!

March along with the piper, boys.

We were born forever free.

Let's go pay the piper, boys,

beneath the Liberty Tree.

It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree.

And we are the Sons

Yes, we are the Sons

The Sons of Liberty!

Pay the price their asking, boys.

Always pay the tyrant's fee.

Never give up the struggle, boys.

Fight for the Liberty Tree.

It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree.

And we are the Sons

Yes, we are the Sons

The Sons of Liberty!

Stand for the rights of man, boys.

Stand against all tyranny.

Hang the lamps of freedom, boys,

High on the Liberty Tree.

It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree.

And we are the Sons,

Yes, we are the Sons,

The Sons of Liberty!

N' it will grow as we grow, boys.

It will be as strong as we.

We must cling to our faith, boys-

Faith in the Liberty Tree.

It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree.

And we are the Sons,

Yes, we are the Sons,

The Sons of Liberty!"-Walt Disney's "Johnny Tremain"

Here is a youtube link to see this sung from an excerpt from the Disney movie, Johnny Tremain. This is so good, that my kids stopped National Treasure II to sing this with me. Made long before I was born,it was shown every year in the grade school I attended and it's still one of my favorite movies. Sadly I did not see Johnny Tremain anywhere in Boston. But I did imagine him quite a bit, walking through the streets, looking for a job after he injured his hand, running errands for the Sons of Liberty...My kids couldn't believe I was imagining all this. Well, I have an overactive imagination. But do show the movie and read the books mentioned above with your kids before you come to Boston! They will see a lot of sites along the Freedom Trail from the movie!

If you can, go to Minute Man Historical Park before doing Boston. Their visitor center has a lot of these books and the movie. They also had tour guide books on the Freedom Trail, none of which I found on the trail. We enjoyed the particular version I got: Boston's Freedom Trail, 8th Edition, Illustrations by Jack Frost; Text by Robert Booth ;Revised by Cindi Pietrzyk. It has a map, illustrations and text. The illustrations were great so we knew what we were looking for. Otherwise we might have walked past everything! Although there is a red line painted on the street and red bricks in the pavement, other markers are rather obscure, at least for us. When we arrived at each place, I read the most interesting bits and pieces from the text. Of course, any reference to Lafayette was important!

Although everyone told us to take the T (subway), we drove.  That went very well, until we came upon the barricades for a marathon. Imagine that, a marathon in Boston! It was not THE marathon but it was a race. We parked near Boston Common, which begins the Freedom Trail. As we walked along Boston Common, I noticed a sign to my left that said, "Public Gardens." Wait a minute, isn't that the place where Make Way for Ducklings and The Trumpeter Swan hung out?  Let's take a detour!

Here are the swan boats...

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Here are the baby ducks...

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Wow, here is the swan's nest!

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An image of loveliness against the backdrop of modern Boston...

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Back to Boston Common where we saw the Memorial Day flag display...

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I read aloud a lot of interesting things about Boston Common, but perhaps the most interesting was that Lafayette was there on his 1825 Grand Tour, when the Boston schoolchildren sang "La Marseillaise."

Not far from here is where the Liberty Tree once stood. The Liberty Tree was the scene of a Stamp Act protest where the stamp collector was burned in effigy. Hmmm, they were a tougher crowd than the men in Colonial Williamsburg who had "words" with their stamp collector at Charleton's Coffeehouse! It's always interesting to note the similarities in the protests of the colonies when they were otherwise quite different from each other.
Apparently the Sons of Liberty did hang lanterns in the tree. Due to its symbolic nature, the British eventually chopped it down.

Here is the Granary Cemetary, where we found the graves of Sam Adams, James Otis, Paul Revere and John Hancock.

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I thought I got a picture of the Old Corner Bookstore, but I can't find it. We had an ah-ha moment when I read about this place. It was the publishing house for Nathaniel Hawthorne! He told us all about it the day before! He told us all about his publishers, Ticknor and Fields (which eventually became Houghton Mifflin). Humorously it is across the street from a modern bookstore on the corner, Borders. In front was this statute...or is it? The bird in the palm of her hand is real!

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This is the Old South Meeting House, which you see in the Johnny Tremain movie. That is the scene where Sam Adams speaks code words in front of a crowd, signaling Johnny to blow his whistle to alert the "Indians." For a small fee, you can tour the building. I would have liked to but we were pressed for time.

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I was looking forward to the site of the Boston Massacre, but it was all torn up. Finally we reached Fanueil Hall.
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Modern music was blasting. At last we found Quincy Market which was highly recommended by a friend for lunch! That place is neat. It was frustratingly ultra crowded when we were there. We got delicious Italian food at Al Mercatino. My family had been leaning towards Mexican but they were so glad I had picked this spot!

Refueled and reenergized, we headed to the spots I was most looking forward to. The Paul Revere House...

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Then we saw the Old North Church.
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"One if by land, two if by sea." The Paul Revere House and Old North Church are in what's called the North End which felt a long way from everywhere we had toured that morning. Even though the entire Freedom Trail is about 3 miles long, I gained a huge appreciation for the colonists who traveled the town. Most of the streets are modern but the street in front of the Paul Revere House is cobblestone and I had to be very careful walking on them so I wouldn't twist an ankle. I always hear that roads weren't great back then. Today we have great roads but crazy drivers...

We crossed the Charles River
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and as we did so, I looked for the Old North Church.
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Hmmm, not quite the setting Paul Revere had the night of his midnight ride.

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Then we went to see the USS Constitution  We were running out of time, nearly 4pm, so we did not do the tour or museum. I was thrilled to see this flag...just like the one I made for my son as a prop when he portrayed Oliver Hazard Perry in our early 19th century history presentation.

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then we went to Bunker Hill. Lafayette was here for his Grand Tour in 1825. He helped to lay the cornerstone. He also took home to Paris some soil from Bunker Hill. Later when he died, he was buried with that soil. Finally we went to the scene of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Sadly there is no longer a view. It is surrounded by modern buildings. The story though is great. The Redcoats occupied the city. The patriots occupied the hill. General Knox got the idea to transport cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York over the mountains, in the snow, to set up on Bunker Hill. He did it with his men. The British woke up one morning with cannons staring them down and they fled the city! We made the obligatory climb up the monument, nearly 300 steps!
My friend had told us that we HAD to go to Mike's Pastry shop, which was somewhere near the Paul Revere House. No one at Bunker Hill knew where it was so I suggested we cross the river. That much was obvious. Well if you walk, they will come. As we crossed the bridge, I saw someone carrying a box that said, "Mike's Pastry." I asked for directions and got a rough idea. We headed that way and saw more of Mike's pastry boxes. The closer we got the more boxes we saw! Finally we were there. Talk about crowds! How would we ever get through that line? Well the gelato line was much shorter. We aren't huge ice cream fans if there is no Bluebell. Since moving to Virginia we have discovered gelato and that is pretty good! Mike's gelato is certainly delicious,but I can't imagine how those pastries taste. There were empty Italian pastry shops everywhere...the crowds were all at Mike's!