Tuesday, November 30, 2010


From toddlerhood through elementary school we used the Betty Lukens flannelgraph.  When I was growing up, there was a neighbor lady who ran VBS at her house year round!  She used a variety of methods, but primarily she used flannelgraph.  I think this is a lost "art" of storytelling for the younger set these days.  Computer graphics and media can now do "anything."  But I've always found kids mesmerized by pictures that stuck to a board!  They were so enamoured with the mystery, they had to do the touchy feely thing and try it themselves. This is where true creativity resides!

When my kids were little, my son was not doing well health wise.  Although he was an extremely happy and active boy, we practically lived at the base hospital.  We lived on base and I'd find a sense of noteriety from most who "knew" us from seeing us around the hospital.  In short his being around other kids caused him to constantly get sick, requiring more meds (at one point at the age of one he was up to 10 meds) and his weight continued to plunge further and further below the growth chart.  I kept my kids at home, sort of quarantining them.  I no longer placed him in nursery situations, which meant no church.  We did various other outings, but he and my daughter seemed more predisposed to illnesses in the nursery.  With this radical decision, we all stayed healthy for the next few years, my son finally put on a wee bit of weight and was reduced to one med.

During this time I was gifted a generous sum of money that I invested in the Betty Lukens flannelgraph which provides every conceivable background, props and characters for Bible stories.  An excellent resource book was included.  We did these every Sunday. When we began homeschool it became part of our morning devotions.

My kids learned all of the major Bible stories.  They worked on Sensory Integration therapy by playing with the flannelgraph (fuzzy texture). They learned problem solving as merely placing the pictures on the flannel did not guarentee it would stay in place.  They improved their delayed speech skills as they retold stories afterwards during free time, playing with the figures.

It's amazing how God coordinates everything. When they were preschoolers, I had a sense that my kids understood the salvation story.  I was honored to be the one to talk to them about Christ and lead them in the sinner's prayer for salvation.  What greater honor is there for a teacher/mom?  Through the story of Noah's Ark, my preschool daughter learned not to be afraid in her room at night, or even during storms.  We were living in tornado alley at the time, on the Texas Oklahoma border and our final years there were perilous with wicked winds that began near us and swept down Oklahoma City.  One morning my mom called to tell me about the plane that crashed in the tower in New York City.  I turned on the television and we watched the horror unfold.  Sitting near the tv was the flannelgraph with the story we had done before all this happened, about how all Christians will go to heaven.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mysterious Secret Sister 2010 Part II-From Indiana

My Secret Sister struck again...another mysterious box...this time from Indiana! 

Um...even though I coordinated this program...something must have gone haywire. (This isn't following the rules.) For once I don't know something! (Even my daughter is confused, who secretly contacted my Secret Sister.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mysterious Secret Sister 2010 Part I-From North Carolina

Um...what to my wondering eyes should appear in my mailbox but a mysterious box from....Raleigh, North Carolina...

with an equally mysterious note...

Well...thank you! Whoever you are!???!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Creative Dramatics

One great way to do school is through Creative Dramatics.  I took a Creative Dramatics class with the wonderful Dr. Chuck Pascoe while I attended SWTSU.  (BTW he looks really stern in that photo but he's super nice!) He is noted for his incredible skits for children.   His tour group of college students went to the public schools of central Texas, but also performed at the university, meaning I got to see them!  These are the best skits for children I have ever experienced.  (They are great for grown up kids too!)  I forget the title of one of my favorites, but I remember it was about a charming spider and robin.  One of the few highly effective sceneries was a huge spider web from floor to ceiling on the stage.  The costumes were fun and colorful.  The story was fun and poignant. Yet his most famous skit is Foxtales which is still featured.  Here's a sample of some of their music!  Foxtales is a bunch of Aesop's Fables, told without scenery or props, because the actors *become* the setting and props!  When I saw it the costume was  a colorful tshirt (each one a different color of the rainbow) with white overalls.  When crow sat in a tree, one of the actors was the crow sitting in the tree, comprised of the other actors!  This is the essence of Creative Dramatics.

Dr. Pascoe also taught classes to education majors like me, teaching us how to use students to become a verb, act out a haiku, become safety signals, reenact the Oregon Trail, be a lonely hammer waiting to be used.  Course work was never spent with our nose in a book or our ears tuned in to lecture or eyes riveted to a screen.  Course work entailed us acting out math facts, becoming history lessons, portraying scientific ideas, even being a part of speech!

We all know that the depth of a well crafted lesson entails several components: audio, visual, tactile and kinesthetic.  Creative Dramatics employs not only the kinesthetic, but opportunity for creativity. Dr. Pascoe rarely told us what to do.  He'd often have us sit in a circle on the stage, set an item in the middle of our circle, and ask us to come up one by one to use that object anyway we want, without words. The rest of us had to guess what the actor was doing. Other times he'd ask how could we act out a subtraction fact. If we were totally stumped, he'd give us ideas.  My absolute favorite was "visual gossip!"

Always his lessons were intermingled with laughter and encouragement.  I'm an extremely shy person. I need another person with a good encouraging personality to draw me out to help me feel safe...then I become a more outgoing person.  There are definitely students in the world who fit my description.  Dr. Pascoe taught us how to inspire by encouragement, not by demands. He was one of my greatest motivators as an educator.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Timeline Creator

As we ended our Eyptian and Hebrew Patriarch studies, my kids caught up all the Bible dates from the Pentateuch to put on their Timeline Creator computer program from Knowledge Quest.  My kids had already input data (dates) from Ancient Egypt.  As they input dates from Adam to Moses, my son became impressed at the overlap of peoples' lives in different parts of the Ancient World.  That is the whole point!  It's one thing to see these dates in books, to talk about these dates in discussion, and to write about these dates in papers. But when it is seen visually, connections are made!

I have pretty much let the kids loose on this project. Dates are debatable in the earliest years of history, since there are few written records.  We stick to a Young Earth timeline ourselves.  Nevertheless specific dates are still debatable.  I have given my kids the resources which explanations to various theories and told them to make a decision and go with it.  They have risen to the challenge.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

18th Century Man's Cloak in Black Wool

My son's proper colonial cloak is finished!

This cloak was easy to make and I think the most successful of anything I've attempted in historic sewing!  I followed the instructions in the Colonial Williamsburg book, Costume Close-Up, by Linda Baumgartner.  I made item #21.   I ordered black broadcloth wool from William Booth, Draper.

For a pattern, I followed directions in Costume Close-Up #21.  Because of the expense of the fabric, I made the cloak shorter than the one in the book. Basically I made it as long as I could with the fabric that I had.  I made a muslin, playing around with lengths, and estimated from the book the cut out scooped neck. I drafted the under collar, upper collar and cape, then sewed everything together, paying special attention to the methods for sewing the collar as described in Costume Close-Up..





Now what?  I am going to finish the new Lafayette coat that my son wants. He's outgrown coats #1 and #2. Then the CDC tailor was suggesting that I make a wool waistcoat and breeches for my son for him to stay warm. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg EFT: The Bill of Rights

This week we had our monthly Electronic Field Trip with Colonial Williamsburg, this time focusing on The Bill of Rights.  We have been especially excited about this EFT, because the kids and I were extras in scene III!  At the time of the taping last April, my daughter and I were reading Fahrenheit 451 for literature class, concurrently while studying dictatorships in the 1950's when the book was written.  The book is about a controlled society.  Ironically, the part of the EFT we were extras for, was set in a controlled society.  Our costumes were 21st century drab and dreary.  Our expressions were...expressionless. We were controlled by the government. Afterwards the kids and I had continuing discussions for the rest of the school year on the ramifications of controlled society!

Since my kids and I had already carried that level of discussion, this week we focused on the Bill of Rights themselves in preparation for the live broadcast.  Monday afternoon we read the historical background of the Bill of Rights in the EFT teaching documents. The Bill of Rights was not a novel idea.

First we explored the Magna Carta, which King John (brother of the previous King Richard the Lionheart of Robin Hood yore) was forced to sign in 1215. King John had abused his power. This is the first document that declared a set of rights. Did you know that you can see the Magna Carta at the National Archives in Washington DC? (The four documents linked here will take you to the National Archives.)  My kids remember seeing it on vacation a few years ago! In fact, we also saw the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution while we were there!

 Then there was the English Bill of Rights which King William and Queen Mary (as in the College of William and Mary) were forced to sign.  We took a quick look at each of these documents and the kids immediately recognized common ideas and words to our Bill of Rights.

Tuesday we summarized the Bill of Rights, using one of the activities in the EFT teacher packet.  To help the kids understand the wording better, we analyzed the ten amendments one by one.  It was fascinating to consider them from an 18th century perspective, which heightened our understanding of them from a 21st century perspective.

Wednesday afternoon we did another activity from the EFT teacher packet.  The kids were given a sheet of paper that listed the first ten amendments with space to list names of famous documents/moments of history that influenced or defined the Bill of Rights.  I read those famous moments in chronological order. The first half were important documents like the Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights (and amazingly many others) that led to the Bill of Rights. We learned that the Magna Carta led to the 5th amendment.  The English Bill of Rights was a power house, influencing the 1st, 2nd, 8th and 10th amendments.   After we got to the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I read about court cases/historical moments that defined the Bill of Rights. Wow! Most of these court cases my daughter and I had studied in government in the last two years with our history curriculum, although the legal-eze of those lessons were confusing. This activity clearly explained each court case, which interpreted different parts of the Bill of Rights.  She and I kept saying, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"  It didn't take long for the kids to realize that the amendment most affected  by a search for a clear definition of rights, was the first amendment.  My kids ran out of room for the first amendment space and had to continue their list at great length on the back of their paper. This was a terrific activity!

Then the kids did the on-line activities: to vote,  to participate in the message forum with other EFT subscribed students and CW historians, and to play 2 computer games on the Bill of Rights. They both fussed that they could not win one of the games. That bothered them. They tried and tried in vain and finally gave up.  It was impossible.  My son said it was about ratification. "Maybe we weren't supposed to win," he commented.  We learned that James Madison proposed 12 amendments for the Bill of Rights.  Only 10 were adopted. Two had nothing to do with rights of the people.  One of them, limiting Congressional pay raises, was finally ratified, after nearly 200 years, as our 27th amendment in 1992! Perhaps if my kids persevered for the next 200 years...

Thursday morning, before the live broadcast, my kids checked into the EFT message board. My daughter's responses gained further promptings from CW employees.  It was a lot of fun for me to read their discourse.  If I wondered before, there is no doubt now that my kids learned a lot about the Bill of Rights.  In response to a question, my son wrote):

It is actually important to be able to change the Bill of Rights. For example, when segregation was an enormous issue, it was necessary to be able to add amendments to protect the freedoms of the African Americans. The main amendment that dealt with this was the 15th Amendment, which gave African Americans and other minorities the right to vote. (Other rights that African Americans should have had under the Bill of Rights but were not allowed were resolved by the Supreme Court.) With the ability to add rights, the likelihood that an amendment is bad increases, so the ability to take away amendments must also be given. For example, on January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified. It prohibited liquor. During the following period of "Prohibition," gangsters and smugglers found their heyday by selling illegal liquor. This was a problem. Also, the people clamored for the removal of the amendment. Thus, on December 5, 1933, the amendment was repealed. All of this demonstrates the necessity of being able to change the Bill of Rights.

My daughter posted this about why she thought the Bill of Rights was important:

I think the Bill of Rights are important because they specifically detail each of our rights that we have as citizens of the United States. Also, if a right is not included, it still protects us under Amendments 9 and 10. We are also allowed to speak freely about something as along it is not going to hurt the government or another citizen. We can peacefully protest about something that we disagree with and we can worship anyway we choose. Among these are other rights like the freedom of the press and a trial by jury. Thank God for the Bill of Rights!

One of the CW historians posted: Well said! However, are those rights unlimited? When does your freedom of speech impose on my freedom of privacy? Who should decide those matters?

Naturally, our freedoms do come with responsibility. Our rights are limited, because we cannot say or do something that infringes on the rights of other people and get away with it. If we talk about people's private lives in public, then they have the right to sue us. As to the people deciding those matters, it should be the person whose rights are potentially infringed and then a court of law who decides, not a congressperson or an executive. If it goes all the way to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court should be the ultimate decision maker. Additionally, the justices have to know their Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Another CW historian responded: Well put! Do you think it's important not only to have these rights, but also that we exercise them? That we really use them, I mean?

I think it is important to exercise our rights as citizens. For example, if we go to trial for something, we have the right to have a public trial in front of a jury. We can also have a lawyer to speak up for our behalf. Even if we don't have enough money for a lawyer, then the court will give you a lawyer to plead your case. If the opposing lawyer asks us to give information that he could twist around to incriminate us, we can plead the fifth. Now when we plead the fifth, we should do so responsibly. If we plead the fifth just so that our sin won't be found out, then that is the wrong way to approach it. We also have the right of privacy. If a police officer comes into your house without a search warrant just because he thinks you have something you shouldn't, then the information he does find cannot be used in court to discourage repetition of the offense. Most importantly, if the government makes a decision we don't agree with, it is our right as citizens under the freedom of speech to protest peacefully to convince the government to reconsider. Of course, this is just one way our freedom of speech can be applied. Additionally, these are just a few of the ways the Bill of Rights protects us and how we should exercise our rights.

Then my daughter was ready to e-mail George Mason, the Founding Father who insisted on a Bill of Rights at the Constitutional Convention.  She asked:

Mr. Mason,

How did you influence the Bill of Rights?

Mr. Mason replied:

The influence I had was in writing what is considered the first listing of rights in our country.  This is known as the Virginia Declaration of Rights.  Virginia was the first colony to declare independence (May 15, 1776) and we immediately began writing a constitution for our state.   The Declaration of Rights was made a part of that constitution on June 12, 1776.   It then served as the basis for the Bill of Rights you are studying.
                By the way, I did not write the Declaration of Rights by myself.  I was part of a committee but I am honored that many feel I had the most influence on the document.

Your most obedient and humble,
George Mason

My son didn't e-mail George Mason because he couldn't think of any questions. We've been able to talk to him in person though! Here is a picture my husband took of him talking to me about the Virginia Declaration of Rights!

Then the morning's live broadcast began.  The EFT opens at the Constitutional Convention. The delegates are tired. Weeks of debating and finally drafting the Constutional layout for the framework of the federal government has concluded. It was time for the states to ratify the historic document.  Delegate George Mason of Virginia declares that now they need to draft a Bill of Rights.  Debate again ensues.  Many argue there is no need for a Bill of Rights.  Mason argues that historically a Bill of Rights was required to protect the people from the infringement of the government.  The dissenters argue that this government is different. History won't repeat itself. Not with this republican representative government.  George Mason argues, "Can you imagine what our nation might become if we don't have these rights we fought for?"

The setting changes to an everyday typical 21st century high school government class, discussing the Bill of Rights. Ashley isn't paying attention, since she takes her rights for granted.  She can't even tell her teacher the definition of a right.  She drops her pencil....and the setting eerily changes to another existence.  Everyone is dressed in controlled drab and dreary.  The environment is drab and dreery. The lighting is drab and dreery.  The students are to reference their approved textbooks to write a 5 page paper on how anyone who is arrested IS a criminal and has lost their right to a trial by jury.  Class dismissed. Suddenly Ashley seeks for her rights in this controlled environment.  In her search, Ashley unknowingly breaks some laws, such as going to the library for a book (all the books are under lock and key and only a few approved books are available, which she declines.) Also she is denied access on the computer when she searches for answers to her controlled environment.  Because she has illegally used the government issued computer, the one her mother signed for, her mother is arrested. She is read her right: she has the right to confess her guilt.  

The ending is great!  If you want to know how it ends, subscribe to the EFTs, made affordable to homeschoolers by Homeschool Buyer's Co-op!  Although the live broadcast has passed, subscribers can access the video broadcast, activities and lesson plans throughout the year!  After the morning broadcast on PBS, my mother-in-law e-mailed me.  This EFT was the first one for her to watch, spurred on so she could spot us in the crowd, and she was impressed!  She wrote, "Wow!  I can see why you love these so much.  What a wealth of information."  I e-mailed a schedule to my mother-in-law and she said she will definitely watch them!

During the question and answer session, students were able to ask questions to 2 historians and an 18th century gentleman, who was a Virginia statesman, Edmund Pendleton.  My daughter's e-mail question was directed to Edmund Pendleton during the afternoon broadcast. That was fun to get another angle from the same question! 

Mr. Pendleton, how did you influence the Bill of Rights?

In May 1776, Edmund Pendleton was president of the convention that met in Williamsburg, when George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights. In fact, the results of this is reenacted in Colonial Williamsburg's Revolutionary City and is detailed at the Colonial Website linked above.  In this scene, it is May 15, 1776 and the delegates announce that Virginia has declared itself free and independent from Great Britain. Here, from left to right, are Edmund Randolph, Patrick Henry, and Edmund Pendleton. Virginia is the first colony to proclaim independence, before Thomas Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence.  
Virginia Declaration of Rights

After the announcement, the British flag above the Capitol...
is changed out to an American flag.


I think my favorite EFTs are the ones that take complex pivotal concepts, such as the legal-eze of the Bill of Rights, and make them understandable, meaningful, and relevant.  Huzzah!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg with Friends

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from Sherry, telling me that she was in Colonial Williamsburg with her kids for a couple of weeks. Could we join them?  I was hoping she'd let me know when they'd be in town!  Our kids enjoy dressing up in colonial costume, doing all the programs and have the same favorite actor.  Obviously they have a lot in common!  With plans made to stay for one day, I got another e-mail from Sherry telling us to spend the night with them.  Excitedly the kids started packing!  That would give the kids more time to hang out and us to visit Friday *and* Saturday.  We only get to see each other a few times a year so we try to make the most of it. My son was even informing me, "Mom, my brain cells are fried from school."  It was time for our autumn break with some of our CW friends!

Our first stop Friday morning was the Tucker House where we met with the Marquis de Lafayette! This time he had props, some scrolled parchment.  Intrigued, I couldn't wait to see how he would incorporate them, but he told his usual wonderful story without the props.  When he stepped out of character, I asked what they were and he said that they were maps. Then he gave them to me to look at!  Wow! That was fun!  They were historic 18th century maps of Virginia, the peninsula and Williamsburg. After the other guests left, we talked further about numerous things. We are always full of questions and only hit the tip of the iceberg each time we see him, although he graciously gives us a goodly portion ofhis time! (photo by Jurgen)

When I handed the maps back to him, he shared a bit about them. To my utter surprise, he even gave me a project to do about the maps! (photo by Jurgen)

Then Flat Stanley had an opportunity to have his picture taken with Lafayette. Since I have a reputation for costumes, I asked my artist son to "properly dress" Stanley in 18th century attire! 
After the Tucker House, the kids and I met with Sherry and her kids, with whom we ate lunch at picnic tables behind the Raleigh Tavern. It was a bit chilly but a beautiful sunny day.  We spent a lot of time talking, the kids enjoyed visiting and generally we enjoyed the leisurely 4mph society.  Eventually we headed to the afternoon program, Revolutionary City, where Jurgen met us.  I introduced her to Sherry and her kids, whom I said were Lafayette fans!  I'm not sure how it started but we each showed Jurgen that we can say Lafayette's entire name:  Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. That inspired her to learn his full name too! By the way, one of his names is the same as my daughter's middle name!

Before RC, Jurgen wanted us to have our picture taken with one of the interpreters.  In fact, she took lots of pictures of us standing near him.  After looking at my pictures of RC, and looking at her pictures, I decided to use hers instead of mine!  My pictures are the same as all my other pictures. Jurgen is a great photographer and took classic shots!  She's a director of movies and that is obvious when she takes pictures, because she's very specific in how she wants us to stand and pose, etc.  As a result, our two families now have great pictures for memories!
Later we saw the scene where a man announces that Benedict Arnold has won a major victory for us at Saratoga!  He does an excellent job of working up the crowd, getting them to feel all kinds of emotions, causing us to cheer and boo!  Jurgen had worked her way behind him and all of us in the above picture, several RC scenes later, just happened to be in the front row and she was busy capturing our reactions! (On the left is the actor in the blue coat, then me standing next to my son, and to the right you see my Sherry's daughter in a red cloak.)


The next two images capture all of us. If we had staged this, it would have been impossible, especially on a day like that one where the crowds were especially huge.  I can't believe we all happened to be in the front row.  What are the odds?

Originally I had planned on driving 2.5 hours home after RC, but Sherry had invited us to stay with them that evening. I have a great story about her kids' influence on mine.  Last spring we joined them for dinner at their condo and stopped by the grocery store to purchase dinner.  The 5 kids were running around in costume, although my kids were a bit shy about that.  My kids had always banned any ideas my husband and I ever have from eating outside of the histoic area whilethey are in costume.  So, they mentioned to Sherry's kids that they must really be embarrased being out in public dressed in 18th century clothing.  Their friends looked at each other in confusion and just shrugged their shoulders.  In disbelief, my kids looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.  Ever since, they've been willing to eat outside of the historic area (in Williamsburg only though) in their costumes!  Those kids get together and talk about everything from Lafayette to history to costumes!  I'm not sure if they talk about anything else or not!  

  The next morning Sherry's son rode with us to the historic area, except I zigged when I should have zagged and I was on my way to Yorktown!  At least the drive was lovely with bright blue water and autumn colors!  We finally arrived at the Visitor Center where the girls decided to join us for the walk into the historic area.  We all finally met up in the historic area, talked to some interpreters and then went to the Tucker House to meet with Thomas Jefferson!

When Thomas Jefferson stepped out of character, my son asked the actor a great question. In fact, it's the question he asked me a couple of years ago when we studied Jefferson's presidency.  My son brought up the fact that Jefferson did not support a standing militia.  I loved Jefferson's answer, because it was the same answer I gave my son 2 years ago! Gotta love good books!  Although Jefferson did not support a military, as president he was faced with the Barbary pirates and needed a navy to deal with them!  Most of us are like Jefferson...we hold certain opinions until a need comes up, then our opinions might change according to need.  Jefferson must have had important business to attend to, since he left right after the talk.

Before Jefferson arrived and after he left, we visited while the boys played checkers at a small table in the next room.  I wish I had gotten a picture of them because they were so into their game! Eventually my blood sugar was dropping so I suggested lunch. It was cold so I suggested something warm!  Sherry suggested corn chowder at the Chownings backyard. I had no idea that was an option. Eating outdoors was a bit chilly but the soup definitely warmed us up! Jurgen asked us how we met. We started laughing.  A year ago Sherry saw my son in his Lafayette costume and asked him all about it while touching it, opening the coat to see the inside, etc.  I stood by and watched, flabbergasted! It was the beginning of a great friendship! After lunch we went to different places that turned out to not be open.  Finally we decided to go into the millinary shop where Sherry introduced me to one of the milliners that she knew. We recognized each other but now we know each other better through Sherry!  We all started asking various questions.

Then we went to RC which to me got colder and colder and colder...yet it was only in the 50's.  We were all getting cold.  We stood in the sun as much as possible.  While I was talking to Jurgen, a prairie dog from Nebraska came over to have his picture taken with the kids and Mrs. Randolph.   (This is Sherry's picture...I missed the entire thing!)


Finally I was too cold and my blood  sugar was dropping again. I told the kids we could get something warm to drink...hot chocolate!  Sherry thought that was a good idea so we all went into Raleigh Bakery for hot drinks.  It warmed me up enough to see the final scene, one of my favorites, about Virginia's Declaration of Rights on the dawn of America's Declaration of Independence.

Finally it was time to say good bye to everyone and head home.  On the way, we were stopped by Miss California who wanted her picture taken with the kids!  My son asked, "THE Miss California?" Later I asked him if he knew who she was and he said she sits on floats and waves.  (He's used to the parades in San Antonio, Texas and the Rose Parade where the queens sit and wave.)  She was in the area to christen a ship, I think it was the USS California. She met a couple there and told them that she wanted to visit Colonial Williamsburg. Since they live in Williamsburg, they became her tour guides and gave Sherry and me all the details during the picture taking.


Then we said goodbye again when other guests asked if they could have their picture taken with the kids.  Sherry and I were laughing. We spend half our time waiting for guests to finish having their picture taken with the kids.  With my 2 kids, I wait for lots of photo ops but with them walking around with 3 other costumed friends, it's double the fun (triple the fun? 2.5 the fun?) for the guests to take photos.  I think the bigger the group of kids in costume, the more guests they attract. It's an 18th century novelty! Then the guests deluge us with fun questions. My favorite that I often hear is, "So, do you kids enjoy it here?"

Monday, November 15, 2010

November Visit to the Milliner

While in Colonial Williamsburg a couple of weeks ago, I visited the milliner, intending to ask several specific questions about eyelets and lacing of stays, which I forgot to ask!  Another time.  There was a flurry of activity and much sewing in progress in preparation for the big conference in March. (No, I will not get to attend.)

This is part of a silk gown.  You can see more pictures of it here at their facebook page.


This is a short cloak sewn with changeable silk.  In other pictures, somewhere I forget where, I saw that it was pieced in the same way I did my daughter's red cloak.  I was not able to capture the full effect of the changeable colors with my camera. But it is really lovely, because the colors change from red to blue when the fabric is moved.  Silks like that was fun to wear while dancing in candlelight!


Trim was being fastened to a pocket for an apron.  Ah, I've been wondering how the aprons were secured, since they had to come off for undress.  I did get that question answered!




Jurgen asked me a few questions about a riding habit we saw on display, which I thought I already had a picture of but turns out I don't.  Little did I know where those questions would lead me.  I think I'm making a riding habit for Jurgen!  (wilt) I don't know if I can do this!

I did ask the milliner other questions about my daughter's gown...which now I forget what I asked!  In the process, my daughter showed her the lavendar gown, which I was a bit embarrased to show.  It's all wrong.  It is my first draped back but many mistakes and piecing otherwise.  I think that was a question.  I noticed a puckered type of ruched bodice neckline that one of the milliners wore which looked quite nice and seemed to be a solution to my daughter's ill fated gowns (LOL "fate" I always use adjectives from my homeschool lesson planning.  I am reading the Iliad right now and I can't tell you how many times I've read the word "fate" .) In the process I tried to show her what I meant but that was the blue gown she wore the day before that has the problem. The neckline of the lavendar gown isn't too awful, I think because I draped the back.  We talked about it a minute and admitted my mistakes but the milliner was quite encouraging, told me it was fine, but to ammend the waistline by dropping it next time because my daughter's petticoat was slipping so that the stays could be seen. I said that is always a problem. She said another solution is to just tie the petticoat higher, as she has the same trouble with hers. Or to drop the waistline in the next gown!

Another problem with the neckline is the shift my daughter has.  I told the milliner I need to take off the ruffle from the shift.  She told me to make a ruffle for inside the bodice. Then I asked about the drawstring, which I think I should do on the shift and she got a baby's shift to show me how the drawstring would be placed.

So lots of ideas...sew little time...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Adventures of Flat Stanley in Colonial Williamsburg!

One day we found a package in our mailbox. Sent by some children in North Carolina, they asked us to take their friend, Flat Stanley, to Colonial Williamsburg!  What a wonderful idea!  Huzzah!

As we highly anticipated our upcoming visit to Colonial Williamsburg for Prelude to Victory weekend, Flat Stanley asked, "Can't I have a costume too?"  My reputation for sewing costumes had reached even Flat Stanley.  Not wanting to leave him out of the incredibly fun experience of being properly dressed in Colonial Williamsburg, I eagerly consented.  However my specialty is in 3D costumes, so I asked my son, the artist, if he would make a proper 2D suit for Flat Stanley. He auditioned several color combinations, asking Stanley if he had a preference. They agreed on a certain blue and green combination.
Hmmmm....interesting that the coat and waistcoat are the same color combination that my son's favorite CW actor often wears!  Now Flat Stanley was ready to time travel.  With exuberance he properly exclaimed in 18th century style, " Huzzah!"  He couldn't wait to go!

We traveled back in time to September 1781, when the French and American troops had arrived from the north with Generals Washington and Rochambeau  to meet General Lafayette in Williamsburg. The British were cornered in Yorktown. Victory was certain!

While walking in to town, we passed by a pasture of sheep.  As soon as they saw us, they started bleating quite loudly. They kept up the cacophony for quite some time.  We think they were hungry for more hay which was on its way! Stanley joined my son in bleating with the sheep. Baaaaa!
The troops were encamped all over the town of Williamsburg.  We took Flat Stanley to the encampment at the Courthouse. Within the Courthouse we got to see a strategic planning meeting by the generals. Stanley listened very carefully in case he would be called upon to become a spy for General Washington.

We also took him to the encampment near the Governor's Palace. Stanley enjoyed walking around, meeting the troops and camp followers and asking lots of questions.
The Governor's Palace used to be inhabited by Royal Governors before the American Revolution. After America announced its independence, the first two governors of Virgnia, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, lived here.  Then the capitol moved north to Richmond for better protection.  Now the palace is being used as a hospital.  We warned Stanley that the doctors can be quite graphic.  He decided to talk some more to the troops!


In the pasture near the Governor's Palace, Flat Stanley enjoyed seeing the horses. He wished that he could ride a horse, just like Lafayette! When they were done horsing around, we made our way to a very important meeting with General Lafayette, himself!
Amazingly, General Lafayette found time in his busy schedule, as aide de camp to General Washington, to meet with Stanley and others at the St. George Tucker House, down the road from the palace.  General Lafayette told us he was first inspired by the idea of freedom after hearing the reading of the Declaration of Independence. He also told us about his travels to America and through America to help our cause for independence. Since Stanley enjoys geography so much, he was especially thrilled to hear about Lafayette's journey to America from Europe on a ship and his travels along the Eastern seaboard on a horse!  When General Lafayette caught us up on the news that the British were now cornered in Yorktown, he assured us of certain victory, since Cornwallis had no hope of escaping nor receiving needed supplies.   General Lafayette kindly allowed us time for a quick rendering with Flat Stanley, before returning to his important duties!

After hearing about how the Declaration of Independence inspired General Lafayette, we took Flat Stanley a block outside of the historic area to see a statue of Thomas Jefferson drafting this pivotal document in world history.  Thomas Jefferson actually wrote the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1776.  This statue reminds us that Jefferson was educated at the College of William and Mary, which is across the street. He also learned law in the historic area from George Wythe, who later signed the Declaration of Independence.  Isn't that something, for a teacher to sign a famous document written by his former student? It was here in Williamsburg that Jefferson received a classical education, learning and forming ideas that would later help him craft the Declaration of Independence.


Here is what Flat Stanley saw while peaking over Thomas Jefferson's shoulder.


Flat Stanley had an incredible time. Like us, he didn't want to leave. However it was time for him to return to the children in North Carolina, to share with them his adventures in Colonial Williamsburg! Huzzah!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Flanders Fields...

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

To all who fought for our freedom...THANK YOU! To all who are fighting for our freedom...THANK YOU!

(Images from Arlington National Cemetary, Aug 2008)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

18th Century Red Cloak

My daughter needed a new 18th century red cloak.  I found an extant ladies' cloak in Costume Close-Up, which is also part of the Colonial Williamsburg e-museum.  I also analyzed ladies' cloaks that I had seen at CW. Since I already had a Kannik Korner pattern for a short cloak.  I asked the milliner if I could merely use that to adapt to a longer cloak. She said defintely, with great confidence in me! 
I made a muslin (or toile...is it okay to use the word toile for this application?  I like it better!) with excess fabric that I'll never use in my fabric stash.  I'd much rather make a mistake in my muslin than in wool! Also I found it mentally freeing  to be aggressive with my choices on this cotton fabric than with wool.

I decided not to use the body of the Kannik Korner pattern. Also I decided not to draft the Costume Close-Up pattern.  I had no paper large enough for a cloak and it would be crazy to tape lots of large (but too small) sheets together.  I decided to be bold (or crazy?) and do this from my head.

First I analyzed the Costume Close-Up layout and focused on the body.  I measured out the width that I knew I needed.  Then I measured my daughter for the length she needed.  After I cut that out, I estimated from the Costume Close-Up layout strategic measurement points for the neck curve, sketched it out with a black marker (I told you I was bold!) and cut it out.  I had my daughter try it for a fit and it looked like it should!  I used that for the pattern on the scarlet broadcloth wool that I purchased from William Booth, Draper.

Why scarlet broadcloth wool?  Scarlet is a traditional fun color that my daughter wanted!  Broadcloth wool, the CDC told me, was ready to sew without the need for fulling or felting! I was not up to that challenge!  I do not plan to put the cloak in the wash, but to take it to the dry cleaner about once a year. I've also learned that broadcloth wool is so tightly woven, that there is no need to turn it under. Love that time saver! Also wool is so thick, I'd rather not turn edges under if I do not need to.  This was the first I have ordered from William Booth, Draper. I had the fabric within the week, even though I didn't pay extra for the speed in shipping.  It is a bit pricey, but this should last because it is high quality fabric.  Therefore it should be a one time investment.  I have talked to some of the CW interpreters who have said they have had their cloaks for years, and they don't look any worse for wear, despite being worn throughout the winter.  That is great advertising for me!  Secondly, it will keep my daughter warm and dry in the winter.  It's the same important investment we put in our 21st century coats to keep us warm. This is my daughter's most expensive garment, but didn't cost anymore than I normally spend on a 21st century coat.

The Kannik Korner hood pattern looked very similar to the one in Costume Close-Up. Otherwise that is the one piece I would have drafted. I even estimated the measurements on the Costume Close-Up diagram and compared it to the KK pattern and it was very close. I decided to use it. The KK pattern also includes a collar. I've never seen a collar on any of the other cloaks I researched, so I left that out.  I cut out the hood and followed the directions in the KK pattern.  Their directions are for gathering of the small back opening of the hood, wherease all the CW cloaks I've seen are pleated.  I do not like how mine turned out.  I just got the idea to redo it with larger gathering stitches than KK suggested.  If that doesn't work,will ask the millliner next time I'm in the historic area.  For now, it works!

The CW cloak in Costume Close-Up has gathering at the neckline, but KK has pleating.  I thought the fabric would be easier to pleat, however I could only do one pleat per section even though KK says to do 2-3.

Interestingly, KK says that machine sewing is impossible.  I have a Pfaff 2.0 Expression, which is an entry level computerized sewing machine.  It's certainly not industrial strength, but I boldly dared to use my machine and had no trouble. Machine sewing is quick (especially since I homeschool) and I have a few more winter garments to make (a wool cloak for my son as well as a new wool Lafayatte  coat-he outgrew the old one.)

I purchased reproduction hooks from Burnley and Trowbridge.  When my daughter came home from Awana club last night, she was thrilled to see the cloak. It was everything she wanted. Personally I'm disappointed in the piecing in the front, but that is precisely how it was done in Costume Close-Up. In the 18th century, frugality with fabric meant piecing...and everyone had pieced garments!  Thomas Jefferson had a pieced collar on his great coat. As I recall, John Hancock had a pieced frock coat.  I've been encouraged with piecing with these stories from the CDC and the CW tailor!





If I ever get to make myself an 18th century cloak, I plan to do it with a seam in the middle back like the female interpreters wear in CW.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ancient Egyptian Costumes


10-23-10-I'm writing this as I make the costumes, so you can see how my brain works since some have dared to ask!

One of the most revealing costume research sources for Ancient Egypt are tomb paintings.Fashion-Era on Egyptian Costumes.analyzes tomb paintings to detail how the look can be achieved.

Since our interpretations were based around 1400BC, I looked for a 1400BC era Egyptian style. Much of what I read at the site was substantiated from our rhetoric studies this year and our dialectic studies four years ago.

Most of the clothing was white linen. I read that the beautifully colored silks came in during the time of Greek Hellenization and Cleopatra. Even though Edith Head chose to use gorgeous colored sheer silks in The Ten Commandments, I don't think they are accurate. Many things in the movie are accurate, but the costumes are a bit off. Not completely but a bit. The decision might have been made to go with colored silks to help hold the audience's attention. Can you imagine all the Egyptians in white in that movie?

After going through the Fashion-Era site, I found the look I wanted for my daughter and myself. Surprisingly there would be no sewing. The look is achieved by wrapping! I am going to use Instructions for Draping Model S.

Next I went fabric shopping at JoAnn. I looked for white 100% linen. It's not exactly like Ancient Egyptian linen. It's the same problem we have with colonial linen. The fibers from the flax plant are processed differently today than it was in the past. I think that linen is considered a summer fabric around here, because I am finding limited supplies lately. There simply wasn't enough. I had to go to plan B as suggested by the fashion-era site...use sheers for a better drape. I found a crinkled sheer for less than $4 a yard. I got 5 yards for each of our gowns.

Oct 29, 2010

Today I pulled out the fabric to prepare the costumes. Because of the sheer fabric, I took down the curtains in my daughter's room that came with the house and were poorly sewn. I've had fabric set aside for new curtains for her anyway.

I held one of the panels up for me to consider the options. I decided to drape it like a toga, to form a base for the formal wrapping of style C from fashion-era.com. This meant I wrapped the length around the length of my body. There will be one seam, the side that ties over my left shoulder. I decided to tie it because they did a lot of tying, wrapping and tucking back then from looking at original tomb paintings. The other side goes under my right arm. I decided to take in enough fabric so that it would be somewhat slim. Also I decide to stop the side seam so that I have a slit from my knee to my ankle. Why not? It seemed like an Edith Head thing to do. (I've always thought she designed gorgeous gowns!)

I took measurements and cut the fabric to size, based on height and width measurements. Then I machine sewed the seam. My sewing machine tension was wrong which became a happy problem! I liked the ruching effect. Although the ruching itself wouldn't be seen, what would be seen is the gentle absence of fabric from beneath the sheer wrapping. I'm thinking the styled finesse of the tunic will lend itself to the sheerness of the drape overlay. Here's hoping....

I then repeated the same for my daughter. I also used extra strips of the curtain fabric to become a belt for the tunic, in which to tuck the pleating of the sheer drape overlay.

On the day of the dressing, I merely had us put on the tunics and then wrapped us according to the directions in the link above. Due to slippage of the sheers, I pinned my daughter and everything stayed secure. Since I ran out of pins and couldn't remember where more were, I went pinless. I kept falling apart so I did a last minute adjustment in front of the mirror, wrapping the extra drape around my one arm to secure it in place. I liked the look and it stayed in placewell.


Finally came my son. I did have some white linen fabric to be used for 18th century shifts and shirts. I have too much for the Egyptian kilt my son wants, but I'm not willing to cut this expensive fabric when I need the yardage for the shift or shirt. So it will have to do. Ideally he should have a gold belt. That project is below. I wrapped and pinned him to look like the ones seen in tomb paintings.


My son has been in charge of the collar project. I printed out a base from Danielle's place. My son freehanded collars on white card stock, fitting one to each of us. Then he designed tiny papyrus tabs to decorate the back. Then somehow that clever kid incorporated the teeniest of hooks for tying. (I think they were kindly donated by my daughter from her beadmaking kit.)

Last weekend my son painted the jewels. He put sweetened condensed milk into styrofoam cups, added a few drops of food coloring to each and stirred. Paint! He painted each sheet of white cardstock a different color (blue, green, yellow, red and purple). It took forever to dry! He ran a small fan over it. When company arrived earlier this week (my mom and uncle) he strung a clothesline in his room and hung up the papers to finish drying.

Yesterday we spray painted the collars gold.

Today he cut the jeweled paper up into precisely measured strips. They have a look of leather, which I think I read somewhere was a base for the jewels or something. Then the kids used that to layout and then glue a design on their collars. My son made one for me too! It feels a tad heavy and not quite dry. That has been an issue but I thought the condensed milk would give a jewel tone effect.

My son's...


My daughter's...


Mine, which my son made for me...
A papyrus tab...



My son cut out from white butcher paper a shape for his belt. To give it strength he glued card stock on the back. (We used what we had instead of buying posterboard, which would also have worked well.) Then he used puff paint to squeeze on a curved design. After that dried, he spray painted it gold. Then he punched holes in the back for ties.

Eye Makeup

I was so caught up in the fabric that I forgot about the eye makeup. It was just as well since it tends to bother my contacts.

The Big Day

You can read all about our history presentation with our Egyptian costumes here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lafayette and Teddy Roosevelt Nearby!!!

My son has met a girl. In Awana club. In the high school group which he just graduated to. They share a common interest about which they talk every week. History. They are living and breathing history pages that come to life and sharing all kinds of ideas. They've discussed the best colleges for history majors. They've discussed their favorite eras. I think she's more Civil War and my son is more American Revolution. (I bet none of you knew that. ;) Somewhere along the way, Lafayette was discussed! (No surprise there!)She told my son that Lafayette was in town and there is a stepping stone that he stood on (apparently). Well, when you're a Lafayette fan "apparently" is good enough!

The stepping stone was down the hill and around the corner from our church so we went exploring and guess what we found?


I hopped on it then everyone else did too. No camera. Bummer. So we came back last Sunday! The story goes that when Lafayette made his Grand Tour of America in 1825, he came to Warrenton and stood on this stone. And now, so have we! Why not?



He also attended a banquet down the hill at this hotel...


How did I know that? Because the stepping stone is in front of a gaol and behind the gaol is the hotel. Here's the outer walls of the gaol (British colonial spelling of jail) from the hotel.


Up that hill and to the right is the courtyard where the Lafayette stone is found, the entrance to the gaol...


It's a museum!


The docent must have seen us, because she came out and invited us in. It was free. As Lafayette might say, "Why not?"

It was actually a museum of more than the gaol, but also the local area history. I found out that the town of Warrenton was named for Dr. Warren of Boston, Massachusetts. He was one of the early movers of the American Revolution. He's featured in the Disney movie Johnny Tremain and in the book. He died at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

I've been looking for local history and I got a handful of free pamphlets that told all! The docent said her husband was related to Richard Henry Lee. I told her we knew him and she sort of looked at me. I assured her we had met him at Colonial Williamsburg!

We walked through and saw lots of this and lots of that. My favorite in the first building was an advertisement of General Washington and an 18th century gentleman who tells Washington, "I am your must humble and obedient dentist."

We walked into the courtyard of the gaol to enter the next building. I decided to pass on the steep stairs but my daughter told me Lafayette was up there! Wow! They did an entire display on his 1825 visit. I found it interesting that at one spot they called him Gilbert Lafayette. Hmmmmm, only the very closest to him get to call him Gilbert. I don't think even we are on close enough terms with him to call him Gilbert. Then somewhere else they listed his full name, which should have been Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, but they left out part of his name and threw in other names. (oops!) The display also said he was born poor. (oops, again!) I knew he amassed great wealth with his marriage, but he had some money before that. He was born at Chateau de Chavaniac with the great responsiblity to carry on the inherited duties from his father and his father before him...for many generations back...of a marquis.

With the Lafayette display was this gown. The gown was definitely period accurate.


Interestingly the display said Lafayette's mother would have worn that while he was growing up, however he grew up in the 1760's and I think this is more of a 1770's style gown. Also as prestigious as his mother was, and being French, I think her gowns would be quite a bit more fru fru. Nevertheless it's a great period gown to study up close and enjoy!


I especially enjoyed the fly fringe...




and seeing these poufs stuffed with wool peaking from the trim!




Across from the Lafayette exhibit was the Teddy Roosevelt exhibit! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine Lafayette, fly fringe and Teddy Roosevelt all in one room!

For those who might have forgotten, my husband is a huge Teddy Roosevelt fan. The story is great. In the early 1900's, army officers were required to ride 100 miles in 3 days for a physical fitness test. Bully! The Secretary of the Navy and President Roosevelt were certain they could do that in one day! Specifically the bet was that they would return to the White House by dinner. They left early in the morning, arrived in Warrenton for lunch at the same hotel Lafayette visited (above) and then left at 12:30 for the White House. If it wasn't for the sleet storm, they'd have arrived in time for dinner but they were a couple of hours late. Bully! (That is Washington DC to the right on the map and Warrenton on the left.)


Who knew about Lafayette out here? All this time I assumed not at all. This was back woods during the American Revolution. I forgot about the Grand Tour. He visited Monticello. He could have taken a road from Charlotesville to Warrenton. It's easy today.; Many of today's main roads are built on the main roads of the path. Cur non. Why not?