Thursday, September 30, 2010

Annotating Literature

To make literary analysis study more engaging, we color literature! I print enough copies for each of us, then I have my kids lightly read through it each day. Dscussions are usually held on Friday afternoons during which time I have the kids use colored gel pens to mark literary elements side-by-side with me. This was a powerful way to hook my son last year, when he was a first year rhetoric student, who would normally be bored out of his gourd during lengthy literary analysis discourse.


In this sample, you can see where we marked similes which are easy to find! They've been doing that for years. After marking the similes we found a pattern. Then the literary comparison was strengthened in the finale with the metaphor, which is a stronger form of literary comparison. Visually, they saw the impact that could easily be missed by merely talking about it.

Creating Bookworms

Notified by my IEW yahoo group,  I read this article posted recently in the Wall Street Journal, addressing the modern dilemma, How does one get boys to read? I concur with the conclusions of the article. How would I know?  Experience. Experience in the classroom getting kids turned on to books.  Experience getting my kids turned on to books.  Even my son!

I've been dreading my son's entry into high school, when he would technically be ready to begin reading Rhetoric classics.  I was certain he'd mutiny on me.  To my surprise, my son is reading classical literature this year and enjoying it.  No hype. No sensationalism. No gimmicks. How did this happen?  Simply by surrounding hm with good books, reading to him (mostly when he was younger) and surrounding him with people and opportunities to experience great books.  You can't ignore a great plot line that just reels you in. Specifically we began with junior classics.  Now, there are classics added to the bookcases.

I did allow my kids to watch two television shows about real books, while they were growing up. Wishbone and Reading Rainbow were wonderful. Sadly both have met their demise.  Wishbone was about a little dog with a big imagination who imagined his modern day adventures as paralled in the Classics.  We have lots of classics in children's book format starring Wishbone. Since toddlerhood my kids adventured with Odysseus, looked for dragons to slay with Don Quixote, brandished swords with the Three Musketeers, and convinced neighborhood kids to whitewash the fence with Tom Sawyer.

Another favorite show that encouraged kids to read real books was the long running Reading Rainbow, hosted by the amiable LeVar Burton, who made reading fun.  The powers that be decided that phonics shows were more important than books.  Sadly, the pendulum swung again.  I have a degree in elementary education with a specialization in reading. That pendulum swing was highly analyzed in college.  For a while the "experts" believe the focus should be on phonics, then they decide the focus should be on books. I was trained to blend the two and personally I agree. Where's the motivation to learn the phonics without the adventure of listening to real books?

Sadly modern conventional "wisdom" now dictates that the way to motivate kids to read books is by doing everything but surrounding them with great books. Classics bring everything to life, allowing the reader to sink into someone elses adventures with a plot line that is common to humankind across the eras of time.  Hype can't do that. Sensationalism can't do that.  Gimmicks can't do that.  The Wall Street Journal will give you the scoop. Like LeVar Burton used to say, "You don't have to take my word for it."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God Heard Their Cry

We watched one of the newest DVDs from the Ray Vanderlaan series, That the World May Know.  Someone commented here on my blog to let me know. Thank you!  It recently arrived in the mail and we opened it to watch tonight after our evening walk.

Interestingly, tonight at dinner was the first time my husband started asking questions about what we had been learning the last three weeks, about Ancient Egypt.   He didn't believe us! (gasp)  As we settled down into the DVD, we were thrilled to see the massive pyramids.  Looking at them in the distance, we could see people riding camels in the distant foreground, putting into perspective the ratio of the size of the pyramid to the size of humans.  It's incredible!  We were looking at Kufu's pyramid, the largest...the length of one wall is over 7 football fields!  The kids and I were thrilled to hear and see a lot of what we've been studying, meaning that it all substantiated everything we tried to tell my husband!

One of the things I like the most about the series, is that Ray Vanderlaan focuses on helping our Western mindset shift to an Eastern one, thereby allowing us to understand not only the Bible, but also ancient history more clearly.  When we looked at the pyramids, he asked, "How were they built?"  That is the obvious question...to a Westerner.  Actually no one knows how they were built. There are no primary source documents to tell us.  Many have guessed, many have tried to replicate the fete of moving millions of massive stones into place hundreds of yards into the sky.  In the end, we don't know.  The point was the Eastern question...why were they built?  That is precisely what we studied in week 2 of our Ancient Eygpt studies.  This is some of the stuff that my husband doubted when we told him.  Now he knows!

Another impressive sight was the land of Goshen, near the Nile Delta where the Hebrews lived.  It completely destroys all preconceived thought of Egypt!  It is beautiful...lush, green, fertile. This is where he went into our week 1 study of The Gift of the Nile and its yearly inundation.  Then we went down to Thebes on top of a high elevation, where we could have a panoramic view of the contrast of the diverse geography of Egypt...the lush fertile green land against the stark barren desert.  It looks exactly like a map, where one could easily draw a line of demarcation between the two.

Ray Vanderlaan discussed aspects of this week's study, comparing Egyptian polytheism to the one true God.  Then he took us to the Red Sea. Azure blues and emerald green waters set in the middle of the stark desert.  it was beautiful.

Everything reviewed our Ancient Egypt studies, built upon them and added more.

I would recommend this for Rhetoric students. Although we have most of the series, which we watched during our study of the Ancients four years ago, my brilliant deep thinking son was bored with them at that time.  He's not been looking forward to watching them this year.  Therefore I assured him we'd watch one segment at a time.  There are 5 segments to this DVD, each about 30 minutes long.  After each segment, he asked to move on to the next one! We saw three the first night, before 10pm.  The next night we watched the final two.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Visit to the CW Milliner-Sept 2010

This visit to the milliner a couple of weeks ago allowed us to see a continuation of the yellow jacket project from our last visit.
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Here she is gathering a sleeve ruffle for the yellow jacket.
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Here is the blue ice cloak.  I asked how anyone would ever keep warm in this.  I know it would probably only be for autumn/spring but the milliner kept talking about warmth. I also knew there must be some little hidden detail just waiting to ooze out.  She said that since it is 100% silk, it carries a degree of insulation with it.  Hmmm, perhaps I don't have enough 100% natural fiber in my wardrobe.  The yellow jacket and blue cloak are interpretations from a painting, called the Spruce Sportsman, that were to be ready for a photo shoot the following week. You can see the pictures at the CW Margaret Hunter Shop facebook.
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A new hat on display...
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Someone asked about the gold dress. I was surprised it had come down from the display. Here it is when it was on display a month before.
Lady Dunmore Gown

Here it is as it was laid out for us from the back. The sides of the petticoat had drawstrings.  When ready for dancing, Lady Dunmore could take off her hip pads, draw in the string, and then move with greater ease.  I think the big hoops were primarily for the first dance, the minuet, which was more of a performance.
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I think I have a pin similar to this.I love pearls. Hmmmm...
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Kitchen Remodel

When we were house hunting last year, I saw that the houses that went the quickest and made the most money were the ones that were move in ready with a nice pulled together look. That's really saying something because the housing economy was awful.  We bought a house that sat on the market for 6 months and sold for much, much, much, much less than it sold to the previous two owners.  (Somehow the seller still made money.) We got a nice little home with awful paint colors on the walls (a friend said it looked like someone had splattered blood on the walls), countertops that were stained and poorly seamed, and appliances that did not work. All that despite being an upper end neighborhood. Obviously houses that are freshened up sell and my husband was up to the task to freshen up our new fixer upper.  He enjoys working on the house and there was plenty to do.     

Early this summer my husband finished remodeling the kitchen.  We've had a lot of compliments from friends who are now inspired to do a few things to their kitchen too. When we were house hunting, we saw hundreds of houses over the course of a month (we put in many offers and lost bids and had to start all over again.) Amazingly few in Northern Virginia remodels kitchens, at least not in the hundreds we toured. Since seeing our kitchen one friend has already painted the walls and cabinets of her kitchen. Now the neighbors are talking and getting ideas.  Our kitchen was done in stages, with a similar plan to what we had in our Texas house, which sold quickly. Why mess with success?

Last summer my husband painted the dark green walls (which I liked but they were too dark) yellow.  That really brightened things up!

Next he fixed my lack of a microwave problem.  We'd rather not have a microwave take up counter space. We couldn't simply put one up over the stove, because the cabinet was too low and wouldn't meet code.  My husband was going to raise the cabinet over the stove so that cabinet would rise higher than the surrounding cabinets. I said I would never be able to reach things in the cabinet.  I suggested that he cut the cabinet down to size and keep off the doors, so that it could be a display cabinet. He also added bead board to the back (he knows how I love French Country).   

Last January he began painting the cabinets. He dissassembled the kitchen. He put blue painter's tape with labels in each door and drawer area to mark where each door (marked on the back) should go. We learned the hard way that doors and drawers have permamament homes and like to go back where they began. Otherwise they hang wonky and don't shut completely.  It's good to mark each door/cupboard A to A, B to B, etc.  He also added bead board to all the sides of the cabinets and island.

As doors were drying in the basement over the weeks and weeks and weeks (because it's not good to paint in freezing temperatures in the garage when there is snow that blizzards in and hangs around for weeks and weeks and weeks), he took me shopping at Lowes (nice but inexpensive) to choose tile. My husband chose one he thought would be easier to install than the one he did in the Texas house.

Then we looked at handles for the cabinet doors.  I suggested we settle on a French Country wrought iron look that matched the dimensions to the ones my husband took off the drawers. The holes are already in the door fronts and we will never be able to conceal them otherwise.

Then we chose the same countertop look we had in San Antonio, a faux granite that is actually formica laminate. It is highly durable and has a great look.  Although we live an hour outside of Washington DC, and granite is highly desireable, it is definitely out of our budget. 

Since I have such a tiny pantry, we went shopping at the Container Store to buy some adjustable shelving that I found on-line for the pantry door.  It significantly maximizes the space of my wee pantry! My husband also painted the walls of the inside of the pantry, which were all marked up for some reason.

Here is the kitchen the day we moved in...

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Here is the kitchen now...

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Leader in Training

Tonight my son started Varsity (high school) Awana Club.  One of the reasons I have my kids in Awana club is so that they can be LITs (Leaders in Training) where they help the younger clubbers.

Last week they began their LIT opportunity.  My daughter got to be an LIT for Sparkies, the grade K-2 club.  She forgot a few things, but that is one of the reasons I want her in.  I know she can be great if they train her and give her a chance.  It takes her a while to learn something, but once she has it she owns it!

My son's eyes glowed as he told his story. He loved being an LIT. The little boy he worked with said his verse correctly, so my son got to sign his name on the boy's verse page so that the boy could get credit. From the exuberant look on my son's  face, I knew exactly what he felt...power!  When I asked he smiled really big and said yes. After all these years of adults signing him off on things, the roles were reversed. The graduation point of moving from learner to teacher is an exhilarting moment. It's another step to growing up!  I remember that feeling myself when I was growing up and helping teachers with various things.  He told me how he trained the boy to learn his verses and the boy learned another verse with my son.  I was fascinated to hear my son's explanations to the boy.  At one point, the boy was stuck on a verse in I John. The boy didn't get that he needed to put the "first" before the "John". My son tried to explain but the boy was confused with the auditory explanation. Then my son got the idea of being visual. He got his Bible out and showed the boy the Table of Contents. He showed them there were 4 books in the New Testament named John and then the boy got it. My son was elated!  Who knew my son had this teaching gift? How exciting!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Telescope Lenses and Microscope Lab

As my son began his first biology lab the other day, he opened the lab box and eureka! He found his telescope lenses!  I had misplaced them during the move from Texas last year.  I remember one of the packers at the Texas house giving them to me to put in a safe place.  I distinctly remember putting them in a very safe place...so safe I couldn't find them when we moved here.  Actually I don't know if they ended up in the box in Texas, because they were given to me when the house was nearly already packed, or if I put them in there after unpacking them on this end, or something else.   ????
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I'm glad he found the lenses, because it's easier to see the stars Virginia than it was in San Antonio. Here he is with his first experiment, learning to use the microscope. (Instead of dragging everything up to the kitchen, he wanted to work at the coffee table. You can see he's a bit squished. Now I'm brainstorming how to set up a science space in the basement. When house hunting a year ago, my favorite house on the other street had a wet bar in the basement. At first I thought the wet bar was a waste of space, but then I realized it would make a perfect science lab spot.  It was basically an open closet, with sink and large counter built into a wall with cabinets above and below. The lighting was great. We tried so hard to buy that house but it wasn't to be.  Now I am brainstorming a functional space down here, since we do have a basement bathroom.)

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His objective was to make a slide with threads.  He chose red and purple threads from my sewing kit.  The threads were cool to look at under the microscope.  The red one was more fuzzy but the purple one was more smooth and twisted.  I couldn't understand the reason behind the difference.  After taking a close look, I was surpised to see that I had purchased two completely different spools of thread. Usually I always use  a basic Gutterman thread for machine sewing.  The red one is a cotton polyester Gutterman, but the purple is a rayon blend.  You can tell the difference in the picture. The red is more matte and the purple reflects the light.  Why in the world I bought dark purple, much less a rayon blend, is beyond me!

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Homeschool Week at Colonial Williamsburg 2010

We spent last Friday and Saturday at Colonial Williamsburg, which happened to be Home Educators' Week.
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Since my husband actually got to come this time, he had charge of the schedule.  He wanted to see Lafayette at the Tucker House. He has never been able to do that before, always missing him for various reasons.  The Tucker House is for donors from $100+.  We were seated when Lafayette arrived.  He walked in enthusiastically, as always, making various greetings. Then he walked over to me, bowed and said something to the effect of, "What a pleasure to meet you Madame, since we've never met before!"  My kids were laughing and laughing and so was I! Never before had he engaged me in his program.

Then he started to tell a very different story than I had ever heard. We've only been to his program about 100 times, and we obviously enjoy it because he is so good!  However he had me riveted to see where he was going with his more in-depth story line of sharing his background in France. The amazing thing is that he discussed various things my kids and I have commented on to each other over the years.  It's uncanny, almost as if he knows what we talk about. It was fun to hear a whole new range of questions for the guests to consider and ask.

After chatting with him, we had our lunch and considered the next program. One of our stops was to see the milliner.

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After that we watched Revolutionary City.  This is the scene where he announces the victory at the Battle of Saratoga and has us yell "Huzzah!" for the man responsible for the victory, Benedict Arnold!  This scene meant more to my family now that we've recently been to Saratoga Battlefield and West Point.

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This was a new scene for us.  The conclusion of the Barbary Hoy story took place. She had been a camp follower in the South.  When her husband was taken prisoner of war, she returned home to Williamsburg to find a job to make ends meet, praying that her husband was safe.

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Then the Reverend James Ireland gave a short sermon of hope.  It was wonderfully encouraging!  I had never seen this before either! (This actor is another favorite!)

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That evening, we attended a Constitution Day concert in Merchant Square, featuring George Washington, James Madison, the CW Fife and Drum Corps  and the USAF band from Langely AFB.  This was a great patriotic concert! The evening was lovely too!

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The next morning I attended my final sewing class commemorating the CW Costume Design Center's 75th anniversary. This time we learned all about pinballs. While I did that, my family went to the Tucker House to see Thomas Jefferson.  Apparently my husband kept mentioning Poplar Forest.  President Jefferson talked a bit about it then would say, "I think we're done with that topic." But my husband would keep bringing it up and Jefferson would say, "Shhh."  When my husband told me about it later, it took me a few minutes before I got it.  Poplar Forest was Jefferson's *secret* retreat!  Well, my husband blew that one!  Then at some point they got to talking about cravats and Jefferson was shocked when he got a good look at my son's cravat.
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 They are the same. Well, that's because of the great advice of a certain somone and I guess they talked about that a bit.
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Sounds like it was a great time. I wish I could have been there. There are always so many wonderful things going on that it's hard to pick and choose, especially when they are going on at the same time.

That afternoon we attended Revolutionary City, portraying the first half of the American Revolution. Before RC starts, the interpreters mill around, engaging with the guests.  The day before one of the interpreters took the cayenne pepper challenge from one of the tavern ladies. He ate the whole thing!  This day we watched Mann Page engage a group of children who peppered him with numerous questions. One of them was one I've always wondered about myself.  Why must one mount a horse from the left? I only caught part of the answer, but I think I heard that traditionally, cavalry officers mounted while wearing swords on their left side, so they mounted their horse from the left so as to not harm the horse or get the sword stuck while mounting. 

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Then my husband fought his way into the jury for the trial of Mr. Hardcastle, a Loyalist, accused of expressing overtly treasonous comments against the patriots.  Will my husband vote that Mr. Hardcastle be tarred and feathered?

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My son has a handy dandy 21st century compass/mirror he had his dad hold so he could see what he was doing.

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We probably spent about 30 minutes on the photo shoot, as interpreters walked by en masse on their way home for the day.

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Ta da!  Hmmmm, I keep comparing his costume to everyone elses.  I think the cut of his waistcoat is too low, but I don't know how to fix that. Or...something is different.

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