Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do Sonnets Have to be About Love? Teaching Shakespeare Part I

We began our Shakespearan literature study with his Sonnets. Since they are smaller in scope, I thought they'd help us to tackle his larger works. My goal was primarily to start breaking down the complexity and intricacy of Shakespearan language patterns.

At the white board I made drew out the development of the sonnet, from it's origins in Petrarch to the classic Shakespeare. The kids copied onto their own paper. We had first learned about Petrachan sonnets weeks ago when we studied the Italian Renaissance. This was a review, connecting that information with how Shakespeare refined the style.

One of my kids' writing assignments will be to write a sonnet for a contest at the Folger Shakespeare Library, so they were paying close attention to the elements of Sonnets. My kids are hoping to win the entire set of Shakespeare's plays! We were going by notes in my TOG binder and from their notes, they defined Sonnets being on the topic of love. My son asked, "Really?" Um, well, that's what my notes say. In triumph he asked, "What about Sir Thomas Wyatt's sonnet, "My Galley? I deadpanned, "The galley is a metaphor for lost love." Disheartened response, "Oh." I decided to leave it at that, teasingly, and see if he finds examples that are non-love related and perhaps more military related.

The Folger does a great job of laying out the elements of a sonnet, and its literary history. This page (which I found tonight, gives permission to write sonnets on subjects other than love! Funny though, my son is suggesting we study "Romeo and Juliet" on Valentine's.)

In the midst of our discussion on the sonnet form, the kids asked a lot of questions about Shakespeare which were fun to discuss. I sensed the kids getting excited about this literature unit.

Then we did some movement activities that I found at the Folger Shakespeare Library to teach iambic pentameter, which form the foundation for the language patterns in his writings. I knew my daughter might remember what iambic pentameter was, since she picks up literary concepts quickly. However I thought this would be new to my son but he already knew what it was. Well I insisted they do the activities anyway, because it's one thing to know about this type of meter in poetry. It's another thing to recognize it in spoken Shakespearan performances. We are also going to do some recitations for our history presentation, so this would be good preparation.

Specifically we did the activity "Stomping and Romping with Shakespeare," from the Shakespearan Sonnets pdf. I let my son lead, because all week he's been creatively stomping through the house on his own for some reason I've yet to figure out. Little did he know it would become a literature lesson, of stomping through the house in iambic pentamenter. As they stepped lightly with their left foot and heavily with their right foot, I read some lines from Shakespeare's sonnets, then I threw in some lines from Dr. Suess' Green Eggs and Ham! That brought a lot of laughter because of the unexpected. Then I asked which part of our body replicates iambic pentameter. It took some guessing but they finally realized it was the heart!

Next we practiced exaggerating iambic pentameter from "A Winter's Song" in Love"s Labour's Lost and another sonnet from Macbeth. After analyzing word meaning in "A Winter's Song," they pantomimed while I read it aloud. By the end of the activities, the kids understood these sections better. When they come across them again in the actual plays, the memories will form a foundation of comprehension. Through all this practice, we were walked through the unexpected meter shake-ups and how they could be purposely and effectively used.

Finally we read one of his 154 sonnets. I chose to study one that is the most familiar of all Shakespeare's sonnets, #18 "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" With their being so many Sonnets, I decided to make them optional reading. My daughter wants to read them all, but my son isn't interested. That's okay, I know he'll want to read some plays on his own. We have a lot of books full of Shakespeare's plays. I am going to require reading, but let them choose. Their other reading assignment is a biography on Shakespeare. My son is already done with that.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Shakespeare, Did he or Didn't He?

Today we officially started our in-depth studies on Shakespeare. Last Thursday I completely surrounded myself with all the materials I had in the house from books to DVDs. Then I perused the internet to pull together a high school literature unit which incorporates history and political intrigue! Our first stop on the Shakespearan journey was in the form of Sonnets. However, midway through my discourse on the Sonnet form, I was detoured by my son who asked a question.

Well funny he should ask. I was saving the biography component for after the Sonnet discussion. But far be it for me to pass up a teachable moment. The mini-discourse I had been planning all poured forth through the various questions and comments from my kids, resulting in a natural discussion. Although I started this lesson with trepidation, I was surprised at how much I was able to share.

We talked about how Shakespeare developed the Sonnet form, where he got his ideas for writing, and if he actually wrote anything. The latest Shakespearean movie, "Anonymous," is based on the long held debate on whether Shakespeare actually wrote any of the plays or sonnets. One news article I read talked about the heated debate this movie has caused between the two sides of the issue, adding that if Shakespeare knew, he'd be delighted.

I laughed when I read that, because it supports something one of the Colonial Williamsburg interpreters was telling me when we were discussing theater. He didn't think that the movie was meant to be historically accurate. He explained to me that Shakespeare wasn't always accurate in his works either (I told the kids to be on the hunt for that when we study some of the plays). Instead Shakespeare sort of spoofed everyone...sort of like how this movie spoofs Shakespeare. That's certainly a different way of thinking about the movie, because my original thought was that the movie was simply inaccurate. However this gives me a whole new way to approach our study of Shakespearan literature. I told my kids to keep his humor and inaccuracies in mind to evaluate for ourselves.

As I read more of the article, I thought it interesting that the actors in the movie spent breaks debating the issue themselves. Many of them were swayed to the idea that Shakespeare did not write the plays. Because Shakespeare's education was limited to his youth at a grammar school, they find it impossible that he could write incredible literature. I think it is possible that Shakespeare could have written these plays, because of what I know of grammar schools in the past.

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washingtin DC has possession of many primary source documents related to Shakespeare and provide a reading room for those doing scholarly research. They conclude that based on all the evidence thus far, Shakespeare is the author of the famed dramas. Also it is generally accepted that Shakespeare received a grammar school education, as was common for boys whose father's held high positions in town, like his did.

This description details that early 17th century grammar school boys, aged 7-9 read and memorized Aesop's Fables, Latin, Bible, Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, and many, many, many other Latin works. From ages 7-11, their grammar school work elevated to writing their own rhetoric from the Latin and Greek studies. This classical model of education reigned for centuries, until recent times. Even the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg (across the street from today's Colonial Williamsburg), as well as the other colleges and universities of Europe and the colonies, taught with this classical model.

In 1947, Dorothy Sayers presented a speech to Oxford University that called for a return to the classical model to give our students "the tools of learning." It is this idea that I wrote about concerning literature memorization. Memorizing huge chunks of quality works of literature, many of which are deemed classical, build language patterns in the brain which students can draw from when they begin their own composition work. Patrick Henry had a classical education, schooled at home, and ignited a revolution. Thomas Jefferson received a classical education from the College of William and Mary, and wrote many well-known ideas from classical authors about freedom in the Declaration of Independence. James Madison received a classical education at Princeton Univeristy, introducing to the Constitutional Convention his ideas about self-government, based on studies of past governments' successes and failures and classical political theories.

Benjamin Franklin had only a 2 year grammar school education, persisted in teaching himself and is reknown for his publications, inventions, and community service. He represented America in Europe during the French and Indian War and during the American Revolution. He signed his name to the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Of course he was generally known for his good wit.

George Washington attended school until the age of 15, when his father died. He was not as well versed in literature and languages, yet he continued to read classical books, his favorite being Seneca. He was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Why couldn't Shakespeare write great drama? If he was born with one of those brilliant minds waiting for nurturing, had a classical grammar school education, had the exposure to theater, and the passion to perform and create great works, why couldn't he?

We cannot base our theories of Shakespeare based on what we know today. We have to base it on his world. If Shakespeare had that grammar school education, and leading authorities on the subject say he did, then I can see how he could have written those great works.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Native Americans in Texas-Texas State history Notebook part III

This is the third part in how I wrote my Texas state history curriculum for my kids. In my previous posts on state notebooks, I shared how we focused on geography and basic state facts. Understanding geography sometimes drives and impacts history. Our next study focused on Native Americans, since they were the first settlers to America.

Some of my resources for this unit were these books full of coloring pages and information. I also used a travel brochure.
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My favorite resource for Texas history information was the Texas State Historical Association: Handbook of Texas On-line. They are thorough and well documented, citing their sources. If I had a question, I searched at their site with a key word and took notes, developing my own history notebook.

Here is a free resource from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a 52 page coloring book on Texas Indians.

For mapwork, I printed out blank maps of Texas, to identify where the various tribes lived regionally. There were four key phases of Indian settlement driven by history. We learned about each of these groups from the Handbook of Texas, linked above.
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Then I made a graphic organizer for the kids so that they could detail these Indian tribes...
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These were my notes from which the kids copied onto their own graphic organizers.
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We read the opening page of the beautifully illustrated book, Voices of the Alamo, about the history of the Alamo, with historical notes in the back. The opening page is about the Papaya Indians who lived in present day San Antonio in 1500. Whom are they most like on the above maps?
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Our history focus for this unit was primarily before the New World was discovered. Indians who lived near the present day San Antonio River named it "Yanaguana," meaning "Clear Water." Today guests to the San Antonio Riverwalk can take a Yanaguana River Cruise aboard special boats. NOW my kids knew where the boat company got their name from. They knew their history! (This is where the travel brochure comes in, because it was about the Yanaguana Riverboat cruises.)

A few times we went hiking at a famous Indian lookout on Nacogdoches Road (so named because this was the route that took the Spaniards to the 17th century Texas govenor in the East Texas town of Nacogdoches). Comanche Lookout Park is one of the highest points around, at 1,340', making it the prime spot for the Indians to scout. Little did they know, the Spaniards were coming (that will be in part IV)

I put together a lovely choral reading of "Hiawatha's Childhood" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Choral readings are scripted so that in some parts only high voices read and in others only low voices read , sometimes all read, some parts are solo, etc, etc, etc. This is a great way to practice reading skills and learn to enjoy the rhythm and rhyme of poetry.

For a writing assignment, I would have the student choose one aspect that interested them the most to research and write a paragraph on, using IEW techniques. They can do a pop-up book to display their paragraph and illustrate it in a unique way.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Keeping Up with Grading Papers

When I was in first grade, I was thrilled when teacher asked me to be her helper. The best part was grading papers. Every year the teachers let me help and then I became a teacher and was deluged. I often hear homeschool moms ask how to manage grading all the papers of all the subjects of all their children of all the ages. I manage the grading by doing what public schools and private schools do. Let the kids help grade the papers. When I taught in public school, the district told us to let the kids help grade the daily work so they could get instant feedback. We were to only choose a selection of assignments to grade ourselves. I always graded tests, science labs, compositions, projects and other subjective items myself. This was a great benefit to not only save my time but to give the students instant feedback.

When I attended a Christian private school, students in grades 2-12 graded their own daily work. We went to the answer key table to grade our work and marked mistakes with a red X. That signaled to the monitors we were grading, providing accountability. After checking our work, we returned to our desks to correct our mistakes. Then we returned to the answer key table, where we marked our corrections with a red pen, drawing a circle around the X. The teachers graded the tests.

Kids thrive on independence. We should let them become independent in small ways when they are young and in increasingly more ways as they grow up, to prepare them for adulthood. Grading their own daily work gives them the instant feedback they need, so that they can move on with lessons and prepare for chapter tests. I think this is one of the greatest things we can do to help empower a student and let him/her succeed.

When my kids were younger, they phased in to this. Now that they are in high school, they are fully independent, as they should be, since they are preparing for college. They grade their daily work. I grade tests, science labs, compositions and subjective things like projects.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

16th to 18th Century Maps at Colonial Williamsburg

My imagination soars with maps! My daughter is a genius with geography so she has always had a natural affinity for them. My son had the logical mind to edge out my daughter in local level competitions for the National Geography Bee. However an interest in maps was non-existent for my son until he was inspired by none other than...can you guess? The Colonial Williamsburg Lafayette. Through some great interactions at various events, my son is now intrigued by maps, especially the military ones. I have to admit, even my imagination soars with these 200+ year old maps. And there is nothing like seeing maps come to life than when they are used by the people who used them.
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When the Colonial Williamsburg museum opened a map exhibit, "More Than Meets the Eye," in the last year, I knew we had to visit. A couple of weeks ago the kids and I drove down to CW on a cold and dreary rainy Wednesday afternoon to be in place as extras for the Electronic Field Trip, "Colonial Idol," the next day. (Stay tuned for that.) Although our preference is to be outdoors, indoors is good on such days as this!

When we first walked up to the display, my kids said it was too bad that the maps wouldn't be in our time frame of history that we were studying, which was the late 16th century. Well surprise, surprise! The very first map was of Walter Raleigh! We were two weeks away from studying him, so that was fun. Obviously my kids expected 18th century maps only.

Meanwhile my first thoughts as we approached the display, was about the theme. What was the point of this collection? The introductory information explained that these maps were selected for their dual purpose. They had the literal purpose of charting the new lands of the colonies, fitting the obvious purposes of maps. The artistic renderings and cartouches held symbolic meaning, often expressing a message. These maps might even add or leave out information according to the mapmaker's agenda. That was fascinating! I'll never look at maps the same way again!

Also interesting were seeing two unique items that are rarely on display. One is the Bodleian Plate which was found in England in 1929, the decade when the 18th century restoration of Williamsburg's historic area began. This 18th century engraved copperplate contained a primary source treasure...detailed drawings of Williamsburg's capitol, Governor's Palace and the Wren Building (College of William and Mary). Also unique to the collection is the Frenchman's Map. This is a 1782 map, presumably made by a mysterious French officer who created this map months after the victory at Yorktown. Defining locations of basic streets and primary structures, including a few trees like Catalpas on the Palace Green, this map was key to the beginnings of restoration. These rare specimens now on display were the foundational primary sources for returning the historic area to its 18th century splendour we all enjoy today.

We arrived an hour before closing and I only got halfway through before we had to leave. About 10 minutes before the museum closed, I moved to the end of the maps, neatly displayed in sequential order because I remembered something the CW Lafayette had mentioned so my radar was on...I suspected there had to be a Lafayette map and there was! This massive map was specifically designed for Lafayette when he was chasing down Cornwallis in Virginia in 1781. I called my son over and he was fascinated by that map as well as a map container with French markings similar to one that Lafayette might have used. That and a few others are some that I know he'd like to have reproductions of to add to his small collection. (I'll be searching.)

My kids were barely halfway done by the time we had to leave. We made another visit Thursday late afternoon after we were released from the EFT shoot and then again on Friday when we were finished eating lunch, before we rushed to visit with Patrick Henry. My kids still aren't finished! We need to hurry back because they still haven't officially perused the Lafayette map and others from the American Revolution! This exhibit is only open through September 3, 2012.

Do You Know These People?

Last month my friend Rebecca, from A Fashionable Frolick, sent this flicker photo she had stumbled upon.

Then this morning, my friend Stephanie sent this blog post to me. Actually I've been following Living in Williamsburg for quite some time. This is strictly a photo blog, full of a photo or two a day, of the Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown. I've wondered if we'd ever see ourselves on there.

I showed this to my kids and they were dying laughing! I was laughing so hard at their reactions that I was crying!

"Suave???"

"Looking for girls????" (He's interested but not looking...yet.)

"But I wear tennies because I have to walk all over that town and my feet hurt!"

I'm sure more reactions will be forthcoming since he gets a lot of blog traffic.

Enjoy!

Oh, I want to return to Colonial Williamsburg. Sigh....I could live there. I think another trip is due...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snowbird...The Dark Eyed Junco

Update 1-22-12 Mystery solved! I e-mailed my friend, Molly who identified it as a Dark-eyed Junco! I immediately looked it up at the Cornell University Bird Identification website to read all about it. The family clustered around me to hear the story and to listen to their gorgeous song!

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We've been enjoying the various assortment of beautiful birds set against the bit of snow we got last night.
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Having recently moved to the East Coast, we cannot identify all of them.
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The only one I could get pictures of are this one.
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He seems to be shaped like a chickadee but his colors don't match the pictures we looked up in our bird identification books or on-line. He kept hopping from the railing to the bird feeder.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Anabaptists, Mennonites and Amish

Last autumn we visited Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Immediately we were full of questions. The Mennonites and Amish were obviously similar yet different. What was their history? I had forgotten I had a book about the Amish at home in the bookcase. I found it in San Antonio at Half Price Books years ago in the clearance aisle. I couldn't pass up this $3 book that might give a clue to some family history. My mom's side of the family is from Pennsylvannia, dating back to the 18th century. Mom remembers visiting a relative as a little girl. She had married into the family and spoke a form of German that everyone called Pennsylvania Dutch.

Busy with school I forgot about the book again until our history studies a couple of weeks ago. We have been studying the Reformation in 16th century Europe. While reading about the Anabaptists, we stumbled upon the name Menno Simons, whose beliefs varied a bit from the Anabaptist. The people who followed them became the Mennonites. Prompted by that bit of information, the kids started asking questions again, so I pulled A History of the Amish by Steven M. Nolt from my bookcase and started reading.

I am quite impressed with the book. It was published in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, located in Lancaster County. Oh, we spent a lot of time there last autumn! The author is from Lancaster County and was educated at Mennonite colleges. I was quite impressed that the book is not biased. It simply lays out the history of the Amish (and Mennonites because you have to know Mennonite history to understand Amish history) dating from their beginnings in the 16th century to the present. This book is heavily detailed and well documented. I learned a lot of stuff that I shared with the kids.

In 17th century Switzerland, Jakob Ammann felt the Mennonites were straying from their original tenets. The lifestyle of the Mennonites impressed their neighbors to the extent that they reached out in friendship to protect them in the dangerous times of state persecution. The Mennonites felt conflicted. Without the help of the neighbors they'd be imprisoned, yet their beliefs were partly tied in separating from the worldly. In gratitude they returned the friendship, calling these neighbors Half-Anabaptists or True-Hearted People. After all the Half-Anabaptists had put their own lives at risk for the Mennonites, exemplifying the teachings of Christ to "give a cup of cold water." (p29-30)

Ammann believed the Mennonites were weakening and should more fully complete the practice of shunning which had previously been the standard practice for those who were not 100% in line with Mennonite beliefs. Ammann felt that not shunning the Half-Anabaptists was not keeping the church pure. The Mennonite leader, Hans Reist, claimed, "What goes into the mouth does not defile the person but what comes out of the mouth, that defiles the man. (Matthew 15:11) Long story short, there was a schism. Followers of Ammann became the Amish. (p33-36)

Over time there were other separations of varying degrees of Mennonites and Amish. It gets confusing but it's all detailed, without bias, in the book. Despite their differences, time seemed to heal wounds so that they were overall able to live side by side while keeping their various distinctions.

Persecution in Europe continued so that colonization in 18th century America looked hopeful. Several families immigrated to the land of religous freedom of Pennsylvania, predominantly in Lancaster County and nearby areas. Pennsylvanians called all the German peoples who came to their state, "Pennsylvania Dutch." The Pennsylvania Dutch called Pennsylvanians, the "English." My kids thought that was odd, which I understood because I learned that fact from my mom and I thought that was odd, partly inspiring me to learn about them. But if you think about it, Pennsylvania was an English colony before the American Revolution, when the Amish and Mennonites first came over.

During the American Revolution, the Battle of Brandywine was fought on Quaker/Amish/Mennonite land. Interesting in that they are all pacifists. Little immigration of their brethren in Europe occured during these years. Then the French Revolution and later the Napoleonic Wars kept immigration at bay.

Good news and bad news came with Napoleon. He granted all religious freedom. For the first time, the Mennonites and Amish were no longer persecuted by the state. Yet with civil liberty comes civic responsiblity. Napoleon expected their men to join his Grand Army. There was no other option. That is what they did.

After the Napoleonic Wars, immigration resumed. America was moving west. The European Amish and Mennonite immigrants settled partly in Pennsylvania, others in parts of the newly opened Ohio and Indiana. Later others moved to other parts of the midwest and Ontario. Some journeyed back and forth between the midwest and Pennsylvania by rail.

When I was a teenager, one of many favorite books of mine was a historical fiction book called, Not Regina by Christmas Carol Kaufman, a Mennonite. This is a meaty well written book set in 16th century Switzlerland during the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement. This is available from Christian Light Publication, a non-profit Mennonite publishing company based in Virginia. It is also available by MennoLink Books and Music, another Mennonite company based in Minnesota.

Although I read many of Christmas Carol Kaufmann's books while growing up, my other favorite was, Hidden Rainbow, available also at the above links. (I have copies from each company.) This book is based on a true story about a Catholic family in early 20th century Yugoslavia. It shares their journey of poverty, how the husband made trips to America to earn needed money to support the family, how they took Christ as their Lord and Savior, and the resulting persecution they endured from friends and family in the small village. Greater persecution and poverty sends the husband on yet another trip to America to earn money, while the priest threatens to kill the baby because the mother refuses infant baptism. WWI erupts in their backyard. Mother must perform guard duty for the soldiers. No news from Papa. Eventually the war ends and a letter arrives that says he has purchased a house in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He wants her to come to him. She is to sell the farm to finance the trip for her and the seven children. Traveling from Yugoslavia, to Switzerland to pick up the passports, to France to board ship, with dangerous men lurking about, will they reach Pennsylvania?

Electrical Conductivity of Compounds Dissolved in Water-Chemistry I

In my son's tenth grade science lab, he used baking soda and distilled water in this set...
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(bubbles result)

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as compared to sugar and distilled water in this set...

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(no bubbles)

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Monday, January 16, 2012

"Westward" CW EFT

A month ago Colonial Williamsburg aired "Westward," one of their many wonderful Electronic Field Trips. I'm finally getting around to blogging about it, not because I think less of it, but because I have finally found "my voice" on this. Because of our hectic pace of life in December between the holidays and college prep school work, we didn't do tons of activities with this EFT which left me feeling less than apt to blog about this. However we did do some new activities and we had fun with it. I felt less than best in sharing our meager schedule, thinking we'd squeeze in more fun activities, but it is time to move on to the next EFT which is premiering in 4 days! That is when I decided to showcase how EFTs CAN be effectively used in homeschools when life is crazy, because that is common to life. That doesn't mean education stops. That is when education becomes creatively accessible with effective time management.

Last week my kids and I were extras for an EFT shoot, "Colonial Idol," which premieres next season. (That will be great! Stay tuned!) I got to talk to a lot of the production team and interpreters, all of whom thrillingly initiated conversation with me! Love that! Anyway more than once I heard from the interpreters, "Isn't this geared for 4th and 5th grades?" The EFTs are advertised towards teaching the middle grade students, but I find them highly effective for highschoolers as well, even adults! My kids, who are in high school, continue to learn a lot. My mother-in-law has begun faithfully watching them on PBS eversince our first appearance as extras a year ago and keeps telling me how much she learns. I have a college degree in education and have taught all levels my entire life and love to read non-fiction books yet I still learn from the EFTs myself! Don't let an age stop you!

Much of what I write about the EFTs these days sounds very high schoolish, because my kids are in high school. When they were younger, I did more hands-on actvities, all of which are supplied in the Teacher Manual that comes with an EFT subscription made possible to homeschoolers through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op! There are so many activities, from hands-on, to discussion, to media, to on-line games, to interaction with historians, to reading, to watching the EFTs themselves 24/7, that any homeschool can pick and choose and do as much as they want.

The "Westward" EFT was great but fell on an incredibly busy week for us. My kids are busy with college prep and have many meaty courses. December was incredibly busy due to the holidays. Then we just HAD to travel down to Colonial Williamsburg Wednesday and stay through Friday for some unique one time programs available in the historic area. For the days we were actually home that week, I wanted my kids to focus on their regular college prep classes, because they'd have Thursday and Friday completely off from those subjects, as they immersed themselves in the historic area history offerings. But we STILL worked in the fun and learning of "Westward" which is totally doable on the road!

Fortunately we had done "Westward" a couple of years ago, so this was a review. (At the link you can read about all the other activities we did.) Also we had read a biography of Daniel Boone a few years ago, studying about his blazing of the Wilderness Road. On numerous trips between Texas and Virginia (we used to live in Texas) I planned overnight stays mere miles from the beginning of the Wilderness Road. That foundation had been laid.

How did we execute actual participation on a limited time-frame? Thursday, while we were visiting various programs in the historic area, we made one of our stops at Bruton Heights, where they have an auditorium to view the EFT on a big screen! This is shown during their live broadcasts at 10am and 1pm. Just around the corner the student hosts and historic experts (some in costume as characters represented in the EFT) are taping the live show! That day the historic experts were none other than Daniel Boone himself, his daughter, and a professor of history from nearby Christopher Newport University. Before the program one of the staff members give a preview of what the EFTs are in general. I love this. This lady I had met a few weeks before at a CW Grand Illumination Party given by one of the employees. When I saw her I was a bit stunned and said, "I know you!" She remembered us too! She was so exuberant she talked and talked and talked until the show began! I love that!!!! You definitely get your money's worth at CW! They know their stuff! They are all subject matter experts and are FRIENDLY to boot! Love that!

Even though we have seen "Westward" any time we want (the year it is offered) on our computers, because we are EFT subscribers, and on our largish tv (which my husband was responsible for buying...you know that is a guy thing) there is nothing like seeing it on the big screen! So this was a treat to see it at Bruton Heights! After the broadcast, tours are available to see the studio where the program is aired, and to see where all the e-mail questions that students get to send in. We didn't get to do the tour on that day because we had another program to attend, however we have done that tour before and it was great! We got to see "Benjamin Franklin" in the studio and we saw all the "John Adams" who were answering the e-mails upstairs.

After a full and busy day in the historic area, we returned to our hotel and I pulled out my laptop. We did a few activities together from the EFT member accessed website. Sometimes internet at the hotel is sketchy, so before we left the house I downloaded everything I could to my hard drive so we were able to access many activities even if the internet went down.

The kids wanted to review the historical background, provided in the Teacher section, so we read through that. They have a new way of accessing it on their website, complete with snazzy pictures. Then I went to the Teacher section to pull up the Historical Literacy Activities which we hadn't ever done before. First, we read an excerpt about Daniel Boone, as written by John Filson, who was featured in the EFT. "Westward" portrays vignettes from the life if Daniel Boone, as he is interviewed by John Filson who writes a biography on the famed man. The plot line revolves around a questionable event in Boone's life. He was often criticized for choices he made when he was captured by the Indians. All of these events and characters are historically accurate. The resulting book from the actual interview was widely read. Daniel Boone became famous not only in America but also France and England. It is from that book that we read an excerpt.

Then we read an excerpt of the speech that famed Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, made to Governor Harrison. This was fun because we got to see their interaction when we saw a preview of the EFT "War of 1812" last summer!( The premiere of that is in 4 days!) You can have your students predict what they think Tecumseh's thoughts were of all the pioneering before they read this! We discussed the conflicts that ensued from the clash of opinions.

Next we read diary excerpts of a lady who pioneered with her family into Kentucky Territory. This first hand account was entirely different from the others, which we discussed in great detail.

In the media section we followed a link to a recent podcast by the historian from Christopher Newport University featured in the Q&A.

Although our activites weren't broad, they were definitely flexible for our busy schedule. We were still able to pack in the fun of learning more about one of America's most noteable pioneers, reviewing some details and extending the information to other areas of the movement, "Westward!" Don't hesitate to subscribe, just because of a busy school schedule. Lesson plans, the movie, the forum, and on-line games and activities are available 24/7 for the entire season, from September through August. Only the live broadcast, the e-mails and on-line vote are specific to the day and week of the live broadcast. Also, I purchase the DVDs of each broadcast for future viewing at our leisure. Furthermore I download all the teacher lesson plans and activities that I can to my hard drive and even print them out, to store in binders. (I'm a hands on kind of gal!) Homeschoolers can subscribe through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Machiavelli's The Prince

While we've been studying the Italain Renaissance in history, we've been reading Machiavelli's The Prince for government. We've also been reading literature and studying art of the era. I love learning this way because each separate component supports the other, magnifying the depth of meaning of the whole. Historically we read about the conflicts between the Italian city-states as well as the individuals who participated in the unfolding drama of control. From popes to merchants to artists we saw how they vied against one another or supported each other in various combinations. Conflicts from abroad heightened the tensions. Enter The Prince.

I'm not sure that I agreed with the commentaries, especially in our curriculum, that I've found about The Prince. All of them talk about Machiavelli's cold-hearted ruthless cut-throat tactics in conquering. I couldn't see that. Now, if I had read the book in isolation I might have thought that. However I've been studying world history sequentially for 5 years now in context of all the humanities. Instead I thought Machiavelli was extremely well-versed in history. The Prince is a point by point analysis of history, matter of factly listing what worked and didn't work for those who conquered and those who tried to conquer. He gave lots of examples from history. I recalled many of them from our previous studies from the dawn of time to the Renaissance. None of the commentaries explained his purpose for writing the book. That should be part of every commentary, because it explains the worldview and theme of the piece. However I did know that it was dedicated to Lorenzo the Magnificent, head of the di Medici family and Florence in the 15th century.

While the kids and I were reading this book, we went to Colonial Williamsburg and got to meet with Patrick Henry. This book came up in conversation with him last spring, before I had read it. Now that we were reading it, I was hoping to talk to him about it. My son beat me to it, as he spoke up and told Mr. Henry about it. We had a great conversation and found out that I was on the right track with my thinking about the book. I also found out that Lorenzo the Magnificent commissioned Machiavelli to write the book for him to be a manual. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That made perfect sense, because we've read the history of Machiavelli's era!

There was a great deal of internal strife in Italy, which is partly why it had not become a unified nation. Divisive Italian states, powerful popes and invading countries wove a network of political intrigue. My kids and I enjoyed The Prince. Time and again I have caught myself relating one of the principles to controlling events that pass my way. It's also great to line up with the political intrigue of current events.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cardinal Red Trimmed Hat in Time for Surprise Snow

Meanwhile I couldn't help but capture a few pictures of my newest colonial costume accessories, all in cardinal red to buffer the cold, cold snow. I tried in vain to capture the furiously falling snowflakes.

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A handtrimmed rosebud hat with pearls...

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The wintery scene from my kitchen windows, set among the pointsettias.

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Lafayette and Napoleon..a Journey

Three years ago when I first began reading Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution, I never dreamed I would learn the things I have. Because I am so busy reading a pile of other school books from other historical eras, I decided to make this book my "enjoyable pasttime" book, to savor in the heroic adventures of the idealistic Lafayette. I've read shorter biographies on him and attend the Colonial Williamsburg Lafayette programs often, learning more and more little details into this man who has so long intrigued me. Recently my readings in this book have taken me to the French Revolution, full of details that fill in the scant facts that I knew of Lafayette heading the National Guard, overseeing the storming of the Bastille, his quest to bridge the gap between the social classes for the peaceful establishment of a constitutional monarchy, to his ultimate imprisonment. Surprisingly the journey of Lafayette has had powerful detours of meaning from none other than Napoleon. I have been left speechless. I'm not sure I can articulate the impact of what I have learned.

The most bizarre thing for me to read is that Europe saw Lafayette as public enemy number one, seeing him as a key instigator to the French Revolution. In disbelief I read on but more and more I understood. No wonder Austria imprisoned him when he fled France. Although I knew that Washington tried to gain release from prison for Lafayette, I had no idea that he was treading on ice due to political tensions from abroad. The preservation of America was at stake, but his adopted son was suffering in prison. All of Washington's political advisors warned him of any involvement. Finally Washington couldn't take it anymore and openly took Lafayette's son (who had escaped France) into his home. Typically known for his stoic reserve, the written descriptions from and about President Washington toward George Washington Lafayette are quite warm and affectionate. President Washington then used his powers of persuasion to gain Lafayette's release...according to the book his letter merely ended up in a pile with all the others from concerned American citizens for their beloved friend. Lafayette remained suffering in jail.

Suddenly the announcement that Lafayette's release became imminent, at the hands of none other than Napoleon! I've heard that before, but I had no idea exactly how he succeeded. Napoleon's successful attack on Austria set the ball in motion. Then letters, on the condition that Lafayette not return to France, clinched the deal. Lafayette was an unwanted man. France's lower class saw him as an upper class traitor. France's powers that be saw him as a threat. Europe saw him as an instigator. Meanwhile America continued to love their French hero from the American Revolution. How did that animosity happen, when Lafayette tried to be the bridge to temper the zeal of the lower classes and tame the power of the autocratic monarchy.

Although I know the basics of what happens next, I am on pins and needles wondering about the details. I left off where Lafayette has finally been freed. Napoleon has led a successful coup and has tamed the revolution.

Personally I am seeing both Lafayette and Napoleon in vastly different ways, perhaps in more balanced ways. Both are human with their good points and their bad points. New to me, from the journey of reading this book, are the weaknesses of Lafayette and the strengths of Napoleon. Two or three short sentences about Napoleon magnified his impact in time of crisis, building on what I've been learning from the actor-historian I've met who portrays him. If I had never met the actor-historian, I doubt these sentences would have impacted me at all. But the interpreter has himself impacted me, I suppose in a way preparing me for this chapter in the book. I "get" Napoleon now. I flipped through a few other pages in other sources about Napoleon and now they make sense. There is always something to learn, forging a pathway to new discoveries. Who knew that Napoleon would detour my journey?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Brass Buttons for my Son's Lafayette Coat for Christmas

My son has always wanted authentic brass buttons for his Lafayette coat. It all began back when my son met the wonderful Colonial Williamsburg Lafayette.
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Suddenly my son wanted a Lafayette costume. He implored me to make it exactly like the CW Lafayette's. To my son's dismay, my skillset couldn't accomodate that, though the third attempt, which he currently wears, looks much better. The latest version was sewn a year ago, when my son again asked for brass buttons. I've hesitated to get them due to expense. Besides, there's only one Lafayette at Colonial Williamsburg and I have endeavored to make my son's coat better, but still subordinate to the actor's. I thought the common look-alike buttons, which I also use for my son's breeches and various waistcoats,from JoAnn would suffice. Then the Colonial Williamsburg tailor saw those buttons and told me that brass buttons would look great! My son, who was standing nearby, beamed. Nor would they be that expensive, the tailor assured me. My son beemed even more.

Well, I put it off and put it off and put it off. Finally Christmas came and I had no idea what to buy for my son. Then this beam of light sort of flashed through my mind...it was those buttons from Burnley and Trowbridge just begging to be purchased. I ordered them. They arrived. I wrapped them. They cheerfully sat under the tree, trying to refrain from allowing their gleam to shine outside of the packaging. Christmas morning my son got the package, opened it and his eyes became HUGE!
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Look at that! It takes 34 buttons, according to my research, to complete a Lafayette coat. I finally sewed them on tonight. My son happened by and he got a huge smile on his face. He's now in bed, the buttons are done, and here is the snazzy new coat. The coat itself is 100% wool with 100% linen/cotton lining. I did a great bit of research for this coat and although it's not perfect, it does cause me to turn my head, thinking the real Lafayette is sitting in the chair.



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Now the next trick is to keep those buttons polished. I would love to find an 18th century brass button polisher (scroll midway down to the "artifact of the month") for my son to use to authentically polish his buttons. I am no good at finding nifty things like this, nor do I know if I could even afford one as a birthday or even Christmas gift. We'll see. It's fun learning about these things anyway.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

18th Century Deep Red Cloak with Faux Mink Fur Trim

I have recently completed my very own 18th century cloak, with waistcoat, death head silk buttons, and faux fur trim.

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This cloak was completely hand sewn. I chose a deep red broadcloth wool that has a beautiful drape from William Booth Draper. I used some extra black silk from my fabric stash to line the hood.
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The reproduction hook was purchased from Burnley and Trowbridge. It is based off a pair found in an archaeological dig at Carter's Grove Plantation. (This Carter, one of a multitude of Carters in Virginia who descended from King Carter, was a cousin to Robert Carter, who lived in my favorite house in Colonial Williamsburg, the one with the long porch. In fact, there was another Cater cousin in 18th century Williamsburg and it gets a bit confusing sometimes but I'm figuring it out! I have a post I've been working on about Robert Carter, "the first emancipator" but I'm trying to make sure of all of my facts first.) Anyway the discovered hook set possibly originated from Martin's Hundred, an early 17th century colony near Williamsburg and Jamestown and I'm still trying to get all those facts settled in my mind. I am quite excited about this bit of history so that I will have a story to tell if anyone asks. If anyone pushes that it is 17th century and not 18th, I can just tell them I am wear my dear grandmother's clasp. Don't we all have something vintage in our homes/collections/etc from our grandparents/the past? Of course people of the past did too!
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The buttons are deathhead buttons, which I made by winding silk thread around wooden molds.
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I had drafted a cloak pattern a couple of years ago from Costume Close-Up, published by Colonial Williamsburg.

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The waistcoat part I figured out by twiddling with the fabric, based on what I had seen on display at the Costume Design Center. When the tailor saw my daughter's last winter, he told me I was right on target.

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The hood has the typical cute pleating to form the hole.

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Finis.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tradition, History, Saviour, Grace-A Royal Christmas Message from Her Majesty the Queen


With the beginnings of radio and the BBC, King George V gave the first Royal Christmas Message, written by author Rudyard Kipling, in 1932. However it took the darkness of WWII, advancing terror across the world stage that made the Royal Christmas Broadcast a tradition. In 1939, King George VI, dressed as Admiral of the Fleet, encouraged his people with words from poet Minnie Harkin, "“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!”
The tradition continues today with a profound, timely message from Queen Elizabeth II who wrote her own speech, heralded by an Agape Europe ministry friend of mine based in England with this, "possibly the most succinct and widely heard gospel message in history."

“Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
'For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today. It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord. I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”-Queen Elizabeth II, 2011 Royal Christmas Message
Check the links for more information, CBC video of King George VI and youtube of Queen Elizabeth II.
Thank you to Queen Elizabeth II, noted and respected among world leaders, simply stating the truth that apparently other Christian leaders have feared to proclaim, the timely truth of the Saviour and Grace.
My Agape Europe friend, based in England, sent the above blog link.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Conquering Continents and Other Games for New Years' Eve

RISK, a game of conquering the world invented by a Frenchman (imagine that) is one game that I've always wanted. As a little girl I was intrigued by what I saw of it on commercials, so as soon as my son got old enough I've been on the hunt for a vintage version of this game. A couple of weeks ago I saw the original version at Target and I was so excited for
my son. I couldn't wait for him to open it. When he did I told him it was a conquering type of game and he was impressed!
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We couldn't wait to play the game. Only he and I played the first night since the others weren't interested. That game the young Napoleon blew me away. Through the course of playing the instructions made a bit more sense and I started scheming for the next game. The next night we talked my daughter into joining us. She did great, hanging in to the final round. This time my son was calling me Napoleon! Yes, yes, yes! I won! I won! I won! I have to get that out of my system because it's likely the only time I will ever get to say that in my entire life, because my son is now scheming for the next
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Another fun Christmas item was a special game table. We have a nice bay window in the living room that I thought would make a nice setting for a game table but I've never been able to talk my husband into it. My son loves game tables. Often when we go to the Tucker House in Colonial Williamsburg, he can be found in the refreshment room playing checkers at the game table. Then we were invited to a friend's house for a Grand Illumination party and my son spent most of the evening playing at the game table in her foyer. When my husband and I were at Hobby Lobby recently I saw a lovely game table on mega sale which perfectly fit our budget. I suggested it again to my husband and he loved the idea! We bought it unassembled in a big box, he hid it, then I wrapped it and it so intrigued my son that he couldn't guess what it would be. My husband made sure it would be the last gift opened because it would be the hit of the day. It was. The guys spent the day putting the table together and then playing a few games. It comes with pieces to play checkers, chess and backgammon.

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The other night my son asked me to play checkers with him, which I usually lose when I play him. This time we had a tie as we both nearly identically moved our men to the center of the board. We think a lot alike so our pieces were all in the same places, blocking each other, voiding the game.

All of this build up is about our traditional New Year's Eve game night. Games are great for educating kids. The game does not have to be about a specific topic, but the skills built into the game work on focusing, logic, computation, etc. Applying elements I try to teach in school become more meaningful (and fun) at game time. After all, the proof is in the pudding.

The kids played a few games early in the day while I sewed the breeches. By late afternoon he asked me to play a game with him while the others were busy with other tasks. He wanted to play chess!
2011

Oh dear. I haven't played that since high school. I had a friend who played this game all the time and whenever I came over, she insisted I play. I had no idea what I was doing but I always won. If nothing else, I did remember how to move the pieces. However I had no strategy...and my son won.

Then he wanted to play Macala. We were first introduced to this game at the Powell House in Colonial Williamsburg. I think the game originates in Africa. My son won! Here's how the game looks at the beginning of play.
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After dinner my son chose the first official family game of the night and it was RISK! Here is the initial set up. We had nicknames for everyone.
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We called my husband the Black Plague. My daughter was Big Bird. My husband called me Pepto Bismol and he called my son the Smurf. My daughter did rather well, then my husband got quite strong, then my son started domineering. We knew it was only a matter of time...but someway, somehow...I WON!
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Since the winner gets to choose the next game, I chose Scrabble! This game is usually a toss up as to who wins. It was close, but this time I WON! How fun! Traditionally the winner gets to put his name in the game lid. It's been years since my name has regularly gone into the lid.
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Risk took so long, that we finished Scrabble around midnight. My son felt cheated out of more games, so Sunday afternoon we resumed play. I chose Blockus, even though I knew I'd lose as usual. However I'm determined to figure out the strategy. I've one once before but the guys usually split up the wins. My son dubbed us with nicknames via the colors years ago. My husband is the British. My daughter is Banastre Tarleton. My son is Washington. I am Lafayette. The winner of this game was ME!
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I had run out of games I was really wanting to play. However I knew my son was wanting to play Monopoly and it is rare we have the time to play it. So Monopoly was our next game. Guess who monopolized this game? My son! I was the first one to lose so I went to make dinner. I usually take photos after the game but I was busy cooking. I didn't even think about it until we sat down for the next game.

My son chose Yahtzee next, which we are still playing. My goodness. We are watching Iron Chef but my husband keeps flipping the channel to the Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants game. He never had any interest in the game until we moved here. My dad's influence and living in Texas for so many years has reformed the New Yorker. My husband really has no interest in football but when these two teams played in the past, and if my husband knew about it, he rooted for New York. Tonight he is rooting for Dallas, to my complete surprise. I think another influence are all the guys at the office who root for the Washington Redskins and he always has to be antagonistic.

My daughter won the first Yahtzee game and my husband wanted to keep playing even though it was her turn to choose. She was willing to keep playing and the next game was won by my husband. Then I joked that this is a pattern so the next game would be won by me and it was! That means my son should win this game...but no. I won! That means I won the tournament! What fun! Better enjoy the moment...this is rare!
onslaught
myself