Monday, February 28, 2011

Discussing Democracy with Patrick Henry

On the Friday before President's Day weekend we got to see Patrick Henry at the Mary Stith house! My husband got front row seats for us! Now how in the world to legitimately ask him about democracy, which was frustrating, because I knew he could give me great information. But how to ask? Someone who shall remain nameless stepped up to the bat and asked about the democracy he was helping to form. Uh oh! That got a rise out of Patrick Henry! He definitely did not help to form a democracy...that destitute institution of anarchists that failed in the throes of dictatorship! Benjamin Franklin said, "Democracy is like two wolves and a lamb voting on what will be for dinner." I furiously scribbled down lots of notes. The books I had studied the night before didn't go into this much detail! A few questions later I suddenly thought of one I've been pondering for a while. I asked him if the Burgesses found more freedom of authority during the French and Indian War since the king was a bit tied up with the Seven Year's War in Europe? Mr. Henry found that question quite interesting and gave an answer that has me questioning even more things now!


After the program I talked to him about my lesson planning on Athenian democracy, the fact that I knew he helped to form a representative government, but where would I learn more about the failure of democracy? His eyes lit up and he gave me a list of several books to read. Two of them are over 800 pages!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Learning about Greek Masks at the Actor's Trunk in Colonial Williamsburg

We arrived in Colonial Williamsburg for President's Day weekend on Friday morning, about 20 minutes before the end of a great program, The Actor's Trunk.

One of the guys is really "in the know" so I went straight to him to ask a question about Greek theater, pertaining to our upcoming history presentation. I had to suppress a smile, because I just knew he'd laugh when he saw me...because I am always asking him questions. Sure enough he laughed! (We were just at this program a couple of weeks ago where I asked questions for the entire program.)

I told him we were studying Greek Theater, we were going to act out the Greek play, Trojan Women, and the kids were in the process of making paper-mache masks.

I had done all the reading I could find on Greek Theater and masks, but I found a massive lack of thorough information. Could he help? What timing! He had just been reading about Greek Theater! (All the interpreters get research days to read, read, read or explore, explore, explore. I think I need research days. Actually I think my research days are every trip to CW! The interpreters are a huge data base of information.)

He filled me in on everything he could and made 18th century connections which was new information for me. Through his assessment, he confirmed that there isn't a huge record of information out there. I told him I had read that part of the problem is that most of the masks have deteriorated over time and he said that was absolutely correct.

Well at least now I know not to go too crazy looking for information on masks. He even gave me great tips on making the masks! What a wonderful quick visit this was! The Actor's Trunk is one of my favorite programs!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg's President's Day Weekend 2011

President's Day weekend came at a great time this year, coinciding with our studies from Greek theater to Athenian democracy. What a better time to analyze its implications than while talking to our Founding Fathers who studied many forms of early governments while establishing the framework of America's representative government!

It was a beautiful spring-like day. A few days before had felt like the depths of winter. Now not even I (the gal from Texas) did not need a winter coat. After walking to Market Square to meet my family, I found a spot to wait and wait for them. Meanwhile I enjoyed the clip clop of horses hooves, the rolling of carriage wheels and watched some 18th century gentlemen riding their mounts on Market Square. Before the big weekend events we filled our Friday with tours to The Actor's Trunk, Patrick Henry and the Burgesses at the Capitol who told us about the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Saturday morning we quickly journeyed to the Capitol to meet the great men of Williamsburg and future presidents: Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. At this program, we get to meet them before their presidencies, as they recount their past, state their present time, and ponder their future. First we met with Colonel Washington. Did you know that he was a Burgess before the American Revolution? Then we met with Madison, who talked to us about the Constitution, which he helped to draft. Finally we went to meet with Jefferson, who was sitting with his back to us, near the window, reading a booklet. He was most surprised when he got up and found all of us in there with him! Did you know that Jefferson was educated at the College of William and Mary (down the street), studied law under George Wythe (who lived in town), and was a Burgess in this very Capitol? The Burgesses did not meet in this room though. This is where the Royal Governor met with his counsel and prisoners met their fate.


After lunch we went to the Tucker House to meet with General Lafayette! He was on a secret visit and we were there!

Later that afternoon there was a special program for President's Day weekend. The Fife and Drum Corps opened the event by marching down Duke of Gloucester to Market Square.


Presidents Washington and Jefferson stood in the wagon, observing all the festivities. The Fife and Drum Corps opened the ceremony with the Star Spangled Banner. The ceremony honored all the past presidents. All of the presidents were grouped by the states they represented. After each of these were announced, the Fife and Drum Corps played a song in honor of them, followed by the firing of the cannons. This continued for each state that had presidents associated with it. At the end, Washington and Jefferson stepped down from the wagon to fire the cannons.


Jefferson fired the cannon for the presidents from Virginia after the Fife and Drum Corps played "World Turned Upside Down".


Washington fired the cannon for the presidents from Illinois, like Lincoln and our current president, after the Fife and Drum Corps played "God Save George Washington." (Do you kow the tune? You might be surprised!) When Washington and Jefferson returned to the wagon, I saw them stop to retrieve their hats and walking canes from someone in the crowd.


The next day we went to the Courthouse to meet with the presidents. First we met with President Washington. After two terms in office, he was announcing that he was stepping down. Washington was looking forward to returning home to Mount Vernon, like the Ancient Roman Cincinnatus who returned to the plow after serving his country. After several technical questions about presidential issues which I now forget, animal stories became the memorable topics and even brought a smile to Washington's stoic manner. I had forgotten that Lafayette had given Washington a dog, who stole the ham from the dinner table. Lady Washington wasn't too pleased with that but General Washington thought it was sort of funny. It's one thing to have heard that story years before by a's another thing to have President Washington, himself, tell the story with an affectionate memory and concern of Lafayette (who was now in prison in Europe). Questions arose about the French Revolution, causing Washington to explain the need for America to stay out of that war, yet share his concern for Lafayette and his family. He assured us though that Lafayette's son, George Washington Lafayette, was safe in an undisclosed location. I happen to know the secret. Do you? Don't tell. We want to protect the Lafayette family as much as possible. Then a little girl stole the show. She asked what his favorite horse was. He admitted to owning hundreds, but did mention that his two favorites were Nelson and Blueskin. Then the little girl told him *all* about her little friend who wanted her to say hi to President Washington for her. Washington smiled and told her to tell her friend hi for him!

Next we got to meet with President Jefferson. You never know how he's going to open a program. This time, he gave a little fashion show! Since he is president in the early 19th century, he demonstrated that the coat and waistcoat are cut completely differently. The coat is cut away far more, yet has tails. The waistcoat is much shorter. Pants are now in fashion, but he still prefers his breeches. He was about to apologize for his informal appearance when he realized that most of the audience were wearing long pants. Even the women were wearing pants! Horrors! Then he got into technical aspects of his presidency, which, hmmmmm, I can't find any notes on in my notebook. He must have had me so mesmerized that I forgot to take notes! Now a week later and having read volumes on democracy, I have forgotten what he said. Hmmm, now wouldn't he be an interesting one to discuss democracy with?

After meeting the presidents, we got to see the dragoon program. Every one I've been to have been completely different. I love their creativity! It's always a challenge to capture the horses in action.


The dragoon's voice is not miked but his voice carries extremely well. It's amazing...the entire time he rides around the field, he is telling us about the history of dragoons!


We've seen these programs before and they are always different. It took on new meaning for us this time because we had recently read the origins of dragoons, which he confirmed in his monologue, in our GA Henty book!


This is the first I have ever seen this regimental coat. This was the uniform of the Fourth Regimental Continental Light Dragoons, who escorted General Washington around Williamsburg in Sept 1781.


Here they are showing us the importance of the horses working together as a team. It is important for the horse and rider to become one, as it is for the horses to work well together.


I loved that the dragoon even mentioned the Greek Xenophon, whom I've been reading about today. I knew this would be a great place to continue my Classical Greek research!


Later that evening we went to the Kimball Theater for an Evening with the Presidents. A moderator opened the evening by reading about the president's duties, as listed in the Constitution. Then he asked each president (Washington, Jefferson and Madison), a question connecting an event from each of their presidencies in light of 21st century issues. Ooo, they were challenged that they did not follow the Constitution with certain decisions, which they had to explain, causing them to defend their positions. After that the moderator called on guests in the audience to ask questions of any of the presidents they wished. It is an absolutely wonderful program, allowing us to see past presidents interact with each other about things they might agree with or might not agree with. Then there is a surprise element. You just have to come! After the program, some of us were talking with the presidents, when the moderator announced that he had just heard a great idea. We should all sing Happy Birthday to President Washington. We did which embarrased Washington! Then Jefferson more appropriately led us into three rounds of Hip Hip Huzzah! I looked at my husband and said, "You are the one who suggested the idea to the moderator, aren't you?" Yes, it was him.

Monday we went to the Kimball Theater for a very special, very secret meeting with you know who...(shhh...don't tell was General Lafayette). Please don't tell him I told you this. It's a secret I'm only sharing with you and that's all I'm saying was absolutely wonderful!!!

Then we went to the Tucker House to meet with President Jefferson who is always great! I tried to talk to him afterwards but the line was long. I decided to defer to the guests and we went out to the rain threatening weather. We saw some horses come by, carrying Alexander Purdie and his cousin. They stopped and waited for us to visit with them. I asked her about her footwear and that led to a discussion on saddles and jumping. It was all very interesting. The horse was so calm...he just stood there, took lots of petting, closed his eyes and absorbed all the attention.


Mr. Purdie pulled his almanac out of his pocket (see it?) and told us the weather report. He declared that it's going to rain. I was thinking that a 1774 almanac couldn't possibly work in 2011. Seeing the dubious look on our faces, he showed us the almanac. Hmmmm, he's right. It said "rain." Not only that, it did feel like it would soon rain, as we had noticed as soon as we left the Tucker House.  


Friday, February 25, 2011

Silversmith, Coins, Spoons and a Bank

During President's Day weekend, we visited the Colonial Williamsburg Silversmith.

We visit a few times a year, but this is the first we've seen him in over 2 years! We first saw him while we were on vacation from Texas in 2008. He is definitely entertaining! He was holding coins in the bag, explaining that they could be melted down to a spoon, which is in his other hand. That was the 18th century bank.

It was a cold day (for me) and I relished warming up near the fire place while listening to him. The other work area had the bellows in operation, which was a first for us to see.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Apology of Socrates-Socratic Discussions and Thought Provoking Quotes

This essay is part of our government for the week. Written by Plato, a student of Socrates, it is an account of Socrates defense, or apologetics, during his trial. He was accused of heresy because he dared to make people think outside the box through his method of questioning, today called Socratic Questioning. Instead of mere chit chat, Socrates asked leading questions to guide his students to make connections, helping them to pull information they already knew into new ideas.

 For those who are struggling with how to do a Socratic Discussion, Plato has some examples of the line of questioning in the essay. This would be the primary source document accounting for the origin of the Socratic Discussion. The Founding Fathers would have certainly read this as part of their classical education.

As I've read this essay, I was struck by a few things.Some of the phrasing reminds me a lot of Patrick Henry! Also, I think I read this in college, at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, in my freshman writing class. We had to develop an arguable thesis from the reading. Since this is part of our government reading and Athenian democracy is key to this unit of study on Greece, I think I will assign a similar paper to my high school students. Aren't my kids going to love me? Actually, I know it will be great and will provoke great discussion around here and perhaps even in their interactions with the Founding Fathers in Colonial Williamsburg. When I taught fifth grade, at the end of the year in American history class, I assigned a one page paper to my students, comparing socialism to capitalism, based on our reading and discussions from the history text. No one thought they could do it, but I knew they could! They had one night to write the paper. The next day they handed in incredibly well developed informative essays that I proudly read out loud to the class to continue our discussion! Kids are really capable of far more than the general public gives them credit for! =)

Here are some thought provoking quotes...

"The difficult thing, gentlemen, isn't escaping death; escaping villainy is much more difficult, since it runs faster than death."

"On the contrary, what's best and easiest isn't to put down other people, but to prepare oneself to be the best one can."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg Milliner-Surgeon's Coat, Silk Petticoat, PinkingTrim, and Silk Selection

Last Friday afternoon, I entered the Colonial Williamsburg Milliner Shop to a flurry of activity in preparation for the upcoming Accessories Conference. Here's a sneak peak, and then some...

Surprise, surprise...a surgeon's coat was being stitched! It was a plain, plain brown. I asked if it was common for the mantua maker to sew one of those, thinking the tailor would make that. Because the coat is as simple to stitch as a shift, using sets of rectangles and squares, meant the mantua maker stitched it. The tailor works in patterns. No pattern needed for the surgeon coat. I was told that even in the 18th century, the surgeons had a bit of an idea of preventing the spread of infections. Thus the coat would be worn only during surgery.

In my last milliner post, I had shared that a new silk gown was in progress. That day they were sewing the sleeve ruffle.

Friday they were sewing trim on to the petticoat!




I am getting ideas on how to design my silk gown! Speaking of which, if I was ordering my silk gown from the mantua maker, instead of sewing it myself, I would select my silk from the sample book. Hmmmm, I think I'll order a gown in the aqua/teal in the bottom right corner. I wasn't able to quite capture the luminoscity of the changeable silk.

She is pinking trim! In fact, on the same day it was posted at their facebook page. (See Feb 18). Photobucket

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kitchen Organization

Crash! Clang! C-l-a-t-t-e-r! Those were constant sounds my husband endured every time I opened my kitchen cabinet to reach for a baking pan. No matter how I organized it, it always became "creatively" organized later from any one of us being in a hurry or forgetting the original layout. Finally my husband decided to fix my problems. Yea! I was going to get vertical shelves for better and easier organization! No, he had a peg idea. He spent an entire afternoon drilling holes for numerous pegs. He reorganized my pans to stand between the pegs. The first time I reached in...Crash...Clang...Clatter! Perhaps now I can get vertical shelves? No, he had a second plan. I forget what it was. The first time I reached in...Crash...Clang...Clatter! Finally he conceeded...vertical shelving. He wanted specifics from me. Exactly what did I mean by vertical shelving? Um, I'm no artist, so I can't sketch anything. I tried describing it with my hands. (Anyone talk with their hands? I do. One time my roommate proved it. I was in the middle of a story, when she grabbed my hands and I stopped talking. She let my hands go and I started talking. She grabbed my hands and I stopped talking. Now you all know how to turn my volume off!) As I moved my hands around the cabinet, I said that Alton Brown had vertical shelving for his baking pans and sheets in his kitchen on Food Network's show, "Good Eats." My husband loves that show, but he doesn't remember seeing them. I don't know if he found a picture of it somewhere or not. But this is what I got! I now have a quiet kitchen...well, I do a lot of humming of favorite tunes while I cook now, since I'm no long frustrated by my baking pan cabinet!

Friday, February 18, 2011

18th Century Waistcoat in Beige Linen

I finally finished my son's colonial regimental waistcoat. I purchased the pattern from the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center, at their recommendation. Perhaps you recall them fitting him for it?
This is made with linen and will be worn with his Lafayette coat. His breeches are of the same color.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ladies' Red Cloak with Waistcoat and Death Head Buttons

I finally finished my daughter's red colonial cloak. This photo was taken at our house, right before leaving for CW, a few weeks ago after a blizzard the night before.

This is a recreation of the red cloak with waistcoat in the CW collection.
I even wrapped wooden button forms with silk thread in the 18th century manner, which I learned in a CW sewing class. These are called death head buttons.

I purchased the hook from Burnley and Trowbridge.

It is a reproduction hook.


button #2...

button #3...

button #4...

button #5...


Colonial Williamsburg EFT Freedom Bound Part II

Last week Colonial Williamsburg aired the Electronic Field Trip, Freedom Bound. We first saw this program two years ago, which I blogged about here. These EFTs are made affordable to homeschoolers through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op, which allows access to on-line activities and a teacher's guide full of more activities and information!

This poignant drama, filled with series of vignettes of slaves seeking freedom over the course of time from the 17th century to the 19th century, is a heart grabber. Each story is different, yet all with a common theme...the search for freedom because of the right to have freedom. The first story, set in the 17th century, surprisingly ends in favor of the slave, so that was definitely our favorite story! The rest became increasingly more heart wrenching. Another favorite for us was set inTexas, because we used to live in Texas! We were busy picking out every single element of that one for accuracy, even down to the number of rivers the escaping slave had to cross to reach Mexico, and the possibility that there could be a cotton plantation five rivers away from Mexico! Speaking of Mexico, this EFT brings out little known facts of slaves escaping to freedom, such as Mexico being a destination as well as Canada!

We began our studies in preparation for the EFT with reading the Teacher's Historical Background notes. Even though we had read them two years ago, a refresher is a good thing. In fact, my son found an obscure detail, that none of us had captured before. It became the basis for his e-mail question and was even featured during the live Q&A. More on that in a moment.

After reading the background notes, I chose the primary source document for us to do together. They were role playing cards that I read aloud. I gave the situation for the slave and the kids had to choose if they would stay or run, if they were the slave. I also had them explain the reason behind their decision. Then I read aloud the slaves' choice and the results of the choice. The information contained within these scenarios were based on written sources of past events. Nothing is like actually being there, but this did give the kids a chance to think critically. Sometimes the answers were surprising, as in the account of the slave woman who left a lovely home, had good masters, was well treated, yet she ran away so she could be free. Most would be surprised to find out who the master was.

After this I let the kids do the computer activities of doing the on-line vote, participating on the message board, playing the two computer games, doing the extra literary resources, and listening to Colonial Williamsburg podcasts on slavery and freedom. In the process, I stumbled upon another teacher resource. I usually scroll over the teacher resource section and click on the different readings. This time I accidentally clicked on Teacher Resources and surprise! There is a pdf file of activities to do with the literary resources. Wow! These are really age appropriate and right on target for my kids to do. I backtracked and downloaded all of these from all of the EFTs. We'll make sure to incorporate these into our next EFT activities!

One of the Literary Resources activities was to read the account of Henry "Box" Brown. It didn't take long for us to realize we had already "met" him. In 1849, he escaped from Richmond, VA to Philadelphia, PA in a box! We got to see a replica of that box in Richmond, near the James River, a couple of years ago. (If you're in Richmond and want to see it, go to the area where the Canal boat rides are and walk around.) Here is my son curled up inside the box. Can you imagine a full grown man inside that box? We read his account of being jostled around and riding upside down. Cramped and as uncomfortable as it was, it was worth it for freedom.

The morning of the EFT live broadcast, the kids e-mailed Arnold Gragston. He was a slave featured in the 19th century, who was approached by a Quaker lady who gently encouraged him to take a little girl to freedom in his boat across the Ohio River. This was my favorite. Well, I've said that about a lot of them, haven't I? They are all my favorites for different reasons.

My daughter asked:

What were some of the challenges that you faced as you helped the girl run away to freedom?

One of the most difficult challenges that I faced was making the decision to help that first young lady to get across the river. My life as a slave was pretty good. True, I was not free. But I had a good master better than most. He treated me well. And he trusted me. He allowed me a lot of freedom to do things on my own without supervision. To take that young lady across the river was a betrayal of the trust that my master had placed in me. That was very difficult for me.

Another challenge was just getting the young lady across the river at night. I usually rowed across the river in the daylight when I could see the landmarks. The current was swift, and it would have been easy to have missed the house with the light in the upstairs window. If I had failed to find the proper landing place I would either have had to set the young lady ashore at some place where she would be lost, or take her back to the Kentucky side where she would have had to wait for another opportunity to cross the river. In either case she would probably have been recaptured, and returned to her owner. And she might tell someone that I had tried to take her across. That would have gone very badly for me with my master when he learned that I had betrayed his trust. I was scared. Very scared. But I didn't fail. I found the proper landing place, put the young lady ashore, and got safely back to my home with no one knowing what I had done.

After that first trip, it was easier. I knew that I could do it. And the more trips that I made, the better I got. There were some close calls. I got a little careless after many trips and almost got caught a couple of times, which reminded me that I could never let down my guard. I always had to be careful.

I guess the final challenge that I faced was deciding to cross the river and not come back to get my own freedom. That was a challenge because the life of a slave was all I had ever known. My master treated me well and took care of all of my needs. He fed me. He clothed me. He gave me a place to live. As a free man, I would have to find a way to do all of these things for myself in a strange place among people that I did not know. I did not know how to do that and I was not sure that I could learn. But I thought of all those other enslaved people that I had taken across the river. None of them had ever had to do for themselves either. But they went. And they did not return. So pretty clearly they had been able to learn how to provide for themselves as free people in free territory. So I finally got the courage to say to myself if they can do it, I can do it. I made that final trip across the river, got out of my boat and walked away a free man. And I have never regretted that decision.

Thank you Kindly for your question,
Arnold Gragston

My son asked about an obscure one sentence reference to "absentees" that we had read in the teacher notes.

Why did some runaway slaves decide to be "absentees" if they knew that they would be severely punished when they returned?

Massa ___________, I is hard to say whys folks decide to do what they do. I think that the feelings they has for their loved ones that may have been sold away were so strong that they just decide that those few hours of visiting would be worth the pain of being whipped. Others might just hope against hope that their massa's wouldn't be harsh upon them, them knowing that all they did was be absent to see family not far away. Possibly, if they chose the time they left correctly, their absence might not be known until they returned. Other folks could cover for them, tell massa that they know the runner was too sick to work and the like. Imagine your being taken from your mother, wouldn't you consider leaving to be with her, if only for a few hours! I have thought about this as I helped all those folks who I ferried across the river to Ohio where theys could be FREE.
I hope this answers your question alright.

Thank you kindly for your question,
Arnold Gragston

During the live broadcast, there is a live Q&A session where kids can phone call, send video questions, the Skyper schools are featured, etc, etc, etc. Answering the questions were 2 slave women from the 19th century, one from Louisiana and one from Texas. There was also a modern day CW historian of African American history. This day my son's e-mail question was asked to the panel. They substantiated Arnold's answer 100%. Throughout the Q&A, the slave women helped us feel their pain at being locked into slavery. As they portrayed their concern of safety for those who would run, they were also concerned for those left behind who could be cruelly punished if they didn't reveal information about the escapee. They were all bound for freedom, either through running or through supporting those who ran by protecting their information or providing services if they were capable. Freedom Bound.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Presenting "A Legacy Walk Through Marine Corps History"

I'll never forget my first visit to Quantico's National Museum of the Marine Corps After boot camp (where we became marines for a few hours), the kids and I went to the prodigious and beautifully lighted timeline wall, arching around the showcasing of the incredible exhibits of Marine Corps history from the American Revolution to the present. After about an hour of hanging on infamous dates between the Marine Corps and simultaneous world and national events, I had to sit down and rest a minute (an arched row of cushioned benches are conveniently provided in front of the time line wall.) There was no way we were going to get through this entire timeline and interact with all the exhibits in one day. It was nearly lunch and there were incredible sounding exhibits coming from the other arched wall behind us. Usually out to conquer a historic site, the timeline wall outlasted us, curving ad infinitum around the corner. Couldn't there be a book about it to take home? It would be a great reference for our history lessons.

Apparently I am not the only one who had the idea of a book for this timeline! I have recently discovered that numerous other teachers have asked, "Can't this timeline be put into book form for classroom lessons?" The National Museum of the Marine Corps heard our cry (I bet the benches told them) and have published their first book, A Legacy Walk Through Marine Corps History. So guess what? I now have the timeline (in the form of the book) readily for use in our homeschool classroom!"

As I opened the book to the introductions, I was delighted to read about others who had the same thoughts I had when I first saw it. In fact, these comments stood out the most... "It was an unexpected refresher course in history, drawing together a balanced selection of world events...and events that shaped the Corps for the last 200+ years...Yes, the timeline got very personal...You may dip into this book to find a quick fact, but expect to be sidetracked, entertained, and informed. Expect memories." -George P. Schultz, former Marine and former Secretary of State who lived through some of the events on the timeline.

There are two facets to the timeline showcasing parallel events, with the top half telling the Marine story and the bottom half showcasing simultaneous world and national events. Mixed with familiar events are new ones, with sudden surprises of how they might intermix. Who knew the McGuffey Reader had something to do with the Marines? Do you know which president established the USMC? When did Marine band begin playing? Do you know what important object was discovered a year later in Egypt! For which president did the Marine band first play, "Hail to the Chief?" I was surprised to see when the New York Stock Exchange first opened! Do you know where the first oil well was drilled? Hint: Not Texas!

Juxtaposed alongside Marine Corps history, the timeline of world events has something for everyone: Napoleon! Beethovan! An artifact from The USS Constition! Literature! Art! Science! Sports! Entertainment! Transportation! Food!

The timeline is more than dates and names of events, but succinct 1-2 sentence descriptions. Knowing about the Purple Heart and its origins, I learned the rest of the story and the surprise of when it was reestablished! My son portrayed Oliver Hazard Perry in a history presentation a few years ago, so we thought we knew all about his infamous battle. Yet from the timeline we learned how the Marines helped this naval commander!

The book can be purchased as either hardbound or paperback. Either way it's a great reference for USMC events and world history.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Daughter's Double Irish Chain Quilt

Since moving here to Virginia, I realized I had never posted about my daughter's quilt. Now that I've found the photos (from the old hard drive), I can share!

My daughter's favorite colors are pink and purple. Can you tell? This is a Double Irish Chain pattern for the quilt. This quilt went together so beautifully! The fabrics she'd love were easy to find and were lovely to work with! The block pieces went together perfectly! I had a lot of help from one of my favorite quilt books, The Quiltmaker's Gift, which is full of easy to follow, colorful and highly informative details on how to make various styles of quilt blocks, yardages and directions for a variety of quilt sizes, as well as ideas of different color combinations to bring about different elements of a quilt pattern. Even more fun, especially for children, is the picture book that inspired it all, a story that includes various quilts beautifully rendered throughout the story, each of which is detailed in how to reconstruct in the informative how-to quilt book.    


The bed skirt is a lavendar floral print. I did a sheer overlay, where I sewed both selvage edges to the seam and gathered to the top of the bed skirt. Inside I had slipped in large silk gerber daisies, to pop against the purple bedskirt.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Tonight we watched the movie Newsies, based on an actual strike set in 1899.  Set in New York City, newspaper boys for the famous newspapers owned by William Randolph Hurst and Joseph Pullitzer go on strike.  The price of newspapers has gone up, not for the customer but for the newspaper boys who already have to pay out of pocket and absorb the cost of any papers that do not sell.  The boys are poor already. The increased financial hardship causes them to go on strike.

As the movie played out, the kids and I thought more and more that we had read about this in school last year.  In fact, we did!  It was briefly mentioned in Kids at Work by Lewis Hine and explained in significant detail with photos in Kids on Strike! by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. 

After the movie we watched the Behind the Scenes segments, which we always enjoy.  It was fun to watch how the movie was made.  This is a musical and I thought surely the boys had come from Broadway.  As far as I know, they did not.  All the boys interviewed had said they had never danced before and laughed that this was their first musical.  We got to see lots of fun moments, teamwork, and practical jokes!  We also heard about their attention to historical accuracy.  The teenage girl in the movie got to wear an authentic gown from 1899, loaned from someone's antique collection! She talked about how fragile it was!

We also got to see commentary on the actual newspaper strike in 1899.  The footage moved from interviewing those behind the scenes (including the author of Kids on Strike!) to photos and newspaper accounts from the strike to scenes from the movie that portrayed that portion of the event.  I have just reread the account of the strike in Kids on Strike! and the movie is extremely close to the account documented in the book.

For primary source documents, check the link at  the Newsies Article which appears to be posted by the University of Texas.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Grammar with Flare using Fix It! and Punctuation Comedian Victor Borge

When my daughter left the PSAT exam last autumn, she felt pretty good about the language portion, partly in thanks to Fix It, an IEW product. Sure enough, her highest scores were in the language portion of the exam!

Fix It has five stories in it, each taking one school year to complete. About 3 grammatically incorrect sentences a day, four days a week,are to be fixed by the student.Then they are to be handwritten neatly for copy work.

Now for True Confessions: As in everything else in life, I change things up. We are on the third story of Fix it! and a bit behind in its usefulness.For that reason we do a week's worth of sentences daily. (gasp) The kids' are up to the challenge and it takes about 30 minutes, unless my son starts asking a million questions.

Another wayI change things up is that I do not have the kids do the copy work. Instead I have my kids use edit marks to correct their sentences.In all the students I have ever worked with, including my own kids, I have found that they always rewrite corrections incorrectly. In lieu of focusing on copy work to cement correct grammar, I rely on a method I have found to be far more powerful...we hold Punctuation Socratic Discussions!

Absolutely sold on Socratic discussions, I go through the correction list and ask questions galore: why did an indention occur, why did a comma go here and not there, did they catch the homophone, etc. If they know WHY a grammatical element needed to be corrected and can spout off a grammar rule, higher level processing skills will kick in their brain wavesto actually learn the elements.

This week I decided to lighten things up with some comedic punctuation. As I read each sentence correctly, inserting all correct indentions, capital letters, punctuation marks, etc,I think about Victor Borge, who did the same thing with flare! I showed the kids a video of him, linked below,and now they have a fun new image in their minds when we study grammar!

You might want to preview Victor Borge Phonetic Punctuation to see if it would be appropriate to bring a bit of flare to your grammar lesson.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Actor's Trunk Connects Harlequins and Waiting for Godot to the 18th Century

During a recent trip to Colonial Williamsburg we visited the Mary Stith House for the Actor's Trunk, where actors from the Playbooth Theater share costumes, props, playbills, renderings, etc of 18th century theater related items for a come-and-go session where we are free to ask questions.

Even though we had done this before, we found lots of new items that prompted new questions from us.

My son asked a lot of great questions and one was about the harlequin. As the actor detailed information about harlequins, my daughter said that she thought we had read a book about harlequins. She kept struggling with that idea while I asked the actor if the court jester was a precursor to the harlequin and he went into great detail about how it was.

After he told us all about that my daughter exclaimed that the harlequin stories reminded her of a play we had read last year, Waiting for Godot! The actor said she was correct! Wow! I was quite impressed! Waiting for Godot didn't make any sense to me, not even with the teacher's notes I had tried to use. I learned so much more from listening to the actor discuss the play with my daughter!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leaving Snow for Music and More at Colonial Williamsburg

Last Thursday we made a late but successful journey from the NoVA tundra to Colonial Williamsburg. The afternoon before a heavy blizzard descended upon us, leaving roads slick according to the news reports. My husband called to tell me the roads themselves were good in our area and just GO to CW, even though we had the deepest snow. Before we left I found snow chances for Friday both in NoVA and Williamsburg. (oh my) My husband still said, GO, STAY and come home someday! Why all this craziness? For a special opportunity that evening for my son to audition for an EFT. So off we went.

(I only took two pictures the entire trip, at the milliners. But I did snag this photo before we left home.) My daughter's cloak had new fur trim and the pleated hood was fixed.

We arrived in CW close to 1pm so we made our first stop to the Tucker House. For the first time we got to see Alexander Purdie there. Since he runs the Gazette, he's the go-to guy for information. He informed us of the latest breaking news. Being January 1774, Lady Dunmore had recently arrived in New York and was expected to arrive in Williamasburg later to join her husband, the Royal Governor. I was confused at first, because I had met Lady Dunmore at Christmas. Mr. Purdie smiled and stepped out of character a bit to explain to me, ever so patiently, that we are starting 1774 all over again. Oh that's right! How can I forget that time flies in Colonial Williamsburg!

Then we went to the Mary Stith house to meet a Nation Builder. While waiting the crowd grew and some of the guests marveled over my kids' costumes. I had fun listening to them. Perplexed, they said about my son, "He looks like someone we've met before. In fact we met him yesterday at the Mary Stith house. His name is Lafayette and he said he had just arrived from Yorktown." I played along with comments like, "Imagine that!" =)

Thomas Jefferson was the Nation Builder who had arrived to speak. He asked lots of questions and my son and daughter correctly answered many of them! They weren't the easiest questions either! Thomas Jefferson looked increasingly pleased after each of their answers too! I told the kids they get A+. I really can't take credit for these answers. They learned all of them from all their trips to CW and engaging with these great interpreters and listening to their programs! I love driving down and letting the interpreters teach for the day!

Then we went to the Raleigh Tavern for a program called, Drive the Cold Winter Away. Mrs. Vobe greeted and teased us. Then we watched a couple of games. I was interested in Whist, since I always hear about that in Jane Austen novels. My son remembered it from "Around the World in 80 Days". It reminded me a bit of a game I've played before, like hearts or spades. But it's been so many years since I've played that I don't remember the details. Then we were taken to the Apollo Room where there was dancing and singing with 18th century townspeople. Sometimes an 18th century person comes over to sit with me during parts of the program to engage me, in 18th century manner, which is always a chance for me to try to keep on my toes in some way. One time a lady came to gossip with me and a few times a gentleman came to join me. It moves the experience from performance to participatory, which I always find to be a lot of fun! Much of the fun and uniqueness of going to Colonial Williamsburg is to be IN the 18th century, instead of merely looking AT it. It is always fun to see everyone having fun.

After this program we purposely went to the museum to see the new exhibit on accessories. When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly volunteer who started gushing over the kids' costumes. He called another volunteer over to see them and they said I *had* to go see the accessories exhibit which had just opened a few hours before. Playing with them, I told them that sounded like a great idea! Then he wanted to know if my daughter had a pocket. Yes, it was under her skirts. He wanted to know how she accessed it so we demonstrated. Wow, he was thrilled that she was wearing it just like the people in the video in the exhibit. He exclaimed that we *had* to see the video so that we could see how 18th century people get dressed. The lady incredulously looked at him and said, "I think they have that part figured out." I smiled. The man exclaimed, "That's true! You all should go up anyway, then you kids should just stay there so people can see how it all goes together!" Excellent idea! So off we went!

That evening we attended a candlelight music program at the Raleigh Tavern with the piano forte, German flute and viola de gamba! The music was so beautiful and soothing I could have fallen asleep (because I didn't get any sleep the previous two nights) but I didn't. That was a lovely concert with great commentary and humor from the gifted musicians. On top of that, after the program they told us they always mix up the music so anytime we come back, it will be fresh. CW is really great about mixing up rograms to keep things fresh for the performers as well as the guests!

Our final day was relatively warm and sunny. We went to the Mary Stith House to chat and listen to music with the gentleman who plays the viola de gamba. There was a lot of time for asking questions and I learned a lot of interesting new things and enjoyed the music. I had to leave towards the end. Later when I met up with the kids, they excitedly told me that they got to end the program with him entirely to themselves!

After lunch we returned to the Mary Stith House to meet another Nation Builder. While waiting to enter, my son was standing behind me and a guest said to me, "I wonder what the speaker behind you will talk about?" (referring to my son in costume) I laughed and said I didn't think he was talking that day. The guest noticed my son had a tag on his cloak, which was backwards. Apparently the man didn't believe me. The guest flipped the tag over, expecting to see the name of the great historic person whom he thought would speak. He didn't recognize the name. I'm sure his wheels were turning. Surely he must have read about this name in a history text once upon a time. As the guest read, paused and pondered...he finally declared in shock, "This is a pass!...A seaon pass!... You're a guest!" =) Then he looked at my daughter and said, "She's in costume too!" I smiled and calmly said, "I don't think she'll be speaking either."

Well guess who the Nation Builder was for the day? Patrick Henry! There were so many guests that I told the kids I thought we should hold back and let the other guests have the first opportunity for seats since we always get to come. When the final person went in, I asked Juba if there was room for us and he ushered us in. Not all the seats were filled, so he quite politely shifted us around to make sure we all got seats. He seated me in the front quite near Patrick Henry! From that vantage point I enjoyed watching the guests' reactions to his statements because he has great rhetoric about the political situation in January 1774.

After the program a lady asked me if I was responsible for the costumes in the back seats (my kids'). I said yes and she started asking lots of questions about them. She asked, "Is this a hobby?" I told her that's what my husband calls it!

After this we went to the Raleigh Tavern to finish the day. Out front we got to listen to a flutist, who took requests, then started playing Name that Tune. It's always great hearing different renditions of tunes we play today or hearing familiar tunes that we have different words to today. We got to see the Playbooth Players in two different programs, performing skits, music and poetry in the first program, Pleasures of the Playhouse. After that was the program, The Player and the Pulpit, where we got to hear readings illustrating the separateness of the times between church and theater. We got to hear a couple of very interesting pieces written by the Great Awakening preacher, George Whitfield!