“Love thy neighbor as thy self.” Matthew 22:39

Source: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” Matthew 22:39

The Expository Prose…FDR: His Library, His Life… Sandwich

Teaching beginning expository prose is never fun.  Not fun for the teacher and certainly not fun for the young student.  So now is the time.  This year Bounce and I will be exploring the wild shores of expository prose and I hope to arrive at the other side with a competent writer in tow.

FDR Bounce with flag So where do we start?

As part of Bounce’s Boy Scout (Webelo) Citizenship Badge, he is required to write a short paper on an American president.  We chose FDR because his New Deal program has some obvious parallels to current politics.  Why not see where it all began?

fdr1 cartoonWe began by reading short books on FDR and doing some quick Internet research.  Bounce wrote a muddled 2-page paper on FDR.  Not surprisingly, it was evident that Bounce didn’t really understand any of the Big Ideas:  Great Depression, Dust Bowl, New Deal, WWII, etc.

FDR and BrooksWe decided to take a field trip and visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York.

The Library does an amazing job of telling the story of crisis and intervention between 1929-1945.  Each room has short videos that explain the “facts”, followed by artifacts from the era.  The entire exhibition, gallery upon gallery, provides an excellent view of history.  One has the sensation of riding a time-travel train through the lives of Americans, both wealthy and indigent.

Bounce finally understood each of the salient points of the time period.  We were left with the impression of the monumental importance and success of Roosevelt.  Where would we be without him?

FDR 100 daysUnfortunately, there are few counter arguments and questions about alternative paths or the ultimate effect of the rising scope and growth of government.

As Edward Rothstein noted in his June 27,2013 review in The New York Times,

The most intriguing displays are actually scanned documents on video screens that present the controversies and debates during the Roosevelt years: Did the New Deal really end the Depression, or did the coming of the war? Why didn’t Roosevelt support federal anti-lynching legislation? (He did not want to lose Southern Democratic support.) What were his attitudes toward race? What was behind the executive order that interned Japanese-Americans along the West Coast? Did Roosevelt do what was possible to help Jews fleeing Hitler’s executioners? (At one point Alaska was considered as a refuge.) And did he give away Eastern Europe to Stalin at Yalta?

Please see complete article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/arts/design/a-revamped-roosevelt-library-and-museum.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

No matter one’s political view, the FDR Library is impressive and educational.  Bounce learned more in one afternoon than would have been otherwise possible.  We bought and read three new books about FDR.  Bounce noticed that all three told different versions of the “truth,” a fact certainly worth noting when reading secondary sources.

For great online resources directly from the FDR Library check this out:

http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/education/students.html

Bounce struggled through creating an outline for a formal paper, with thesis statement and supporting evidence.  We discussed that each paragraph should contain one topic only, and begin and end with bridge sentences that would lead to the next topic.  Finally, his new 3-page paper is complete.  We both heaved giant sighs of relief.

Bounce remains blissfully unaware that my real goal in this exercise is the teaching of expository prose. I am happy to “hide” expository prose in a history-Boy Scout sandwich.  Am I a genius or a coward?  You decide.  But it is working.  Word by word, Bounce is learning to write.

FDR 1932 Presidential Election

1932 Presidential Election map.  Need we say more?

As FDR famously said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

But what if I fear government take over and the loss of liberty and individual freedom?

FDR Pequot warNext topic of government intervention (also prompted by the Citizenship Badge):  The Great Swamp War.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is munching on expository sandwiches composed of real life experiences, while sailing the high seas of independence.  

Up, Up, and Away! 1,500 books prepare to travel to Anglican Seminaries in Africa

The Wonderland BookSavers are continuing with their mission to spread the joy of reading through the distribution of used texts to new readers.  In this capacity, we were called upon to find a home for approximately 1,500 books from the personal library of the (deceased) prominent Episcopal minister, Rev. H. Boone Porter.

Porter basementWe began our project in the catacomb-like basement of the parish rectory.  With flashlights and extension cords for our computers, we created an initial bibliography of the books we discovered.

Porter Sept

Porter Greek Porter Hebrew

Each box was like a surprise Christmas gift.  We discovered Bibles from the 1800’s, ancient prayer books in miniature (designed for portability) and texts in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Porter St.Paul'sAfter our initial assessment of the books we began looking for a recipient.  After much research we contacted the Theological Book Network in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  We were thrilled to finally locate an organization that could organize and distribute our large volume of theological texts.

The following is a letter the Theological Book Network received from South Sudan from a previous (not ours) book donation.  We are so grateful that the human spirit will continue to rise even after decades of desperation.

RECONCILE-Peace-InstituteThe RECONCILE Peace Institute is so thankful for your (Theological Book Network) partnership!

Your affirming e-mails, phone conversations, and library resources are an absolute blessing! The Theological Book Network’s generous commitment to provide 1,500 books will help improve the vital ministries of trauma recovery and conflict transformation which we offer in South Sudan. Thank you. Without question, life in a nation scarred by decades of
civil war, lack of development, extensive trauma, and profound community wounds is quite difficult, but the Lord has called our organization to this service. God is using people of faith from around the globe and in the Church in South Sudan to accompany the world’s newest nation in her journey towards hope, healing and reconciliation. Thank you for
investing your resoures into God’s vision for South Sudan.

As I write this letter, the South Sudanese pastors, teachers, bishops, NGO peace workers, and community leaders pictured above are traveling into places of unrest and conflict to make a difference. They all studied and trained at the RECONCILE Peace Institute. Your partnership reminds them, Christians of all nations support their efforts to rebuild their
communities. Thank you. I am sincerely honored to call you partners and friends.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Shelvis Smith-Mather, M.Div., Th.M
Principal of the RECONCILE Peace Institute
RECONCILE International (Yei, South Sudan)

Theological Network builds “libraries” from donated books and ships them around the world.  Rev. Bonne Porter’s books will be traveling to Anglican Seminaries throughout Africa.

This is particularly appropriate as Rev. Boone Porter is best know for his efforts to find common ground in the various denominations representing the Christian faith.  His scholarly work led him to rewrite the 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

As noted in the New York Times on July 1, 1999:

“The vision of Reverend Dr. Cannon H. Boone Porter’s 44 years of ordained ministry aimed to revitalize the Episcopalian Church through education, liturgical reform and inclusion of its marginalized members.  His work of raising up new membership, enriching Christian worship and creating a central place for women, Afro-and Native Americans and rural communities in the Church was often opposed but succeeded in redefining the Episcopal Church’s relationships within itself and with the world.”

Porter taping boxesWe found that Boone’s personal library contains approximately 1,500 Christian texts, ranging from prayer books, books on Christian doctrine, books on the importance of architecture and discussions of faith-based questions such as personal responsibility and the ethics and ethos of free will.

Porter pen and inkAs we handle these books we imagine the human beings who have come before us, hundreds of years of readers who have gained insight and inspiration from these very same pages.

“If God’s love is for anybody anywhere, it’s for everybody everywhere.” — Edward Lawlor, Nazarene General Superintendent

Porter lifting boxes

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is connecting our lives with the lives of others, in a meaningful, tangible manner.

Aftermath and Leisure: A poetic taste of Indian summer

The end of summer and the beginning of autumn begins with blurred edges and ends with a sharp quick taste, like too-dark chocolate.

Aftermath Scooter in oceanThis year fall we have been graced with long Indian summer days paired with apple crisp evenings.  Our too short summer is now extending into October.

Aftermath library pillow fight 1

Aftermath library pillow fight 2

Our local library hosts an evening pillow fight.

Aftermath kayaks 1We daily wear bathing suits and T-shirts while frisking in the riotous spanking yellows and poignant orange pigments of the season.

Aftermath bioDespite the weather, school is open…and with it we have new lessons, sharpened pencils, more Shakespeare, biology experiments and new poems to memorize.

What better poem to capture the season than Aftermath by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

Aftermath Scooter w:bird

Aftermath Bounce w:bird

When the summer fields are mown,

Aftermath Bounce hands w:bird

When the birds are fledged and flown,

And the dry leaves strew the path;

With the falling of the snow,

With the cawing of the crow,

Once again the fields we mow,

 Aftermath tents

And gather in the aftermath.

Not the sweet, new grass with flowers

Is this harvesting of ours;

Aftermath vase 

Not the upland clover bloom;

But the rowan mixed with weeds,

Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,

Where the poppy drops its seeds

In the silence and the gloom.

Or perhaps we need to hold a nugget of summer in our hearts, as expressed in this poem, Leisure, by William Henry Davies.

Aftermath butterfly

What is this life, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is spending just the right amount time studying this butterfly, and every other thing of beauty.

Save Pequot Library!

My kids and their Destination Imagination Project Outreach teammates have been working hard all year to encourage global literacy. While they were redistributing books to children around the world, something terrible happened at home. Funding cuts threatened to close our local Pequot Library.

The kids interviewed people in their community about the library, donated their proceeds from a lemonade stand to the cause, and created this video and emailed it to to elected officials. They will be speaking at a rally on the Pequot Library Lawn at 1:30 pm tomorrow, and will were also invited to speak at the special RTM meeting to encourage the town to restore Pequot’s funding.

Happy Easter to All! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

Lord, open our lips, and our mouth shall proclaim your praises.

Easter sunriseEaster beach crossThis Easter began beautifully on the beach, where nature was as elegant as scripture in defining the moment.

Easter sing

Christ the Lord is risen today—Al-le-lu-ia!

Earth and Heaven in chorus say—Al-le-lu-ia!

Easter sand tomb and crossBounce was delighted to build in the sand throughout the service.  He proudly recreated Jesus’ tomb.  Children everywhere dug their toes into the sand and built crosses, tombs and raised small toys from the dead.

As Scooter later said, “That was the best church service ever!”

Easter Bounce the BunnyBut where was the Easter bunny?

Easter peep groupHiding eggs and spreading joy with the help of the Peep Patrol

Easter peep patrol

Easter hatScooter after eggs

And with the clang of the bell, they were off!

After singing, prayer and egg hunts, we all settled into our own pursuits.

Easter kids book

Scooter counted Bunnies

Easter christ bookAnd I counted my blessings.

Two quotes I particularly enjoyed today from this 14th century monastic work are,

If you consider what peace a good life will bring to yourself and what joy it will give to others, I think you will therefore be more concerned about your spiritual progress.

And, Keep an eye primarily upon yourself, and admonish yourself instead of your friends. 

Easter scooter and alliaLet Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is, As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be..  Amen.

Destination Imagination State Champions!

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 12.19.25 PM

Last saturday, two teams competed in the Destination Imagination state competition.  In case you haven’t read my previous posts on the subject, Destination Imagination is an international problem-solving and teamwork competition.  Each year, thousands of teams (composed of seven members) can choose to solve one of six annual “challenges,” each one focusing on a different skill set: technical engineering, science, fine arts,  improvisation, structural engineering, or community service.  The teams work together to adress certain requirements and present their solutions in the form of eight-minute skits.  They cannot have adult help developing ideas, writing scripts, or creating props.  At a regional, state, or global tournament, teams present their skits (which count for 75% of their final score) and also compete in “Instant Challenges” which test their ability to think on their feet by requiring the completion of unexpected timed tasks (such as building a tower or writing a quick performance).  Instant Challenges make up the remaining 25% of their score.

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Wonderland Booksavers, about to compete in Instant Challenge

Our middle school level team, the Wonderland Booksavers, chose to complete in the community service-based challenge: “Project Outreach: Real to Reel.”  For this challenge, they had to work together to adress a community need.  They also had to create a short documentary film about their project.

In their performance, they were required to showcase their film, review their project, and participate in a simulated press conference, where they answered questions about the experience.  The team, which sprung out of an informal book club, chose to donate used books to those in need.  They donated over 5000 books to places within the US (such as Bridgeport, Connecticut and Appalachia) and to places across the globe (including Haiti and South Africa.)  They also donated teddy bears and new books to survivors of the Newtown shooting.

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The team packs books to be donated

The team won first place in their challenge and age level.

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Team I.C.E. in the launch area, prepared to set up their props.

Our high school-level team, Team I.C.E. (Imagine. Create. Empower.), competed in the science-based challenge, “Wind Visible.”  They were required to research wind energy, and incorporate this knowledge into a skit about an invisible visitor, who, like the wind, cannot be seen but sets something in motion.  They had to create kinetic art powered by the wind and designate two additional items that they did especially well on  (“Team Choice Elements”) for score.

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Team I.C.E. during their performance

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The team’s skit was about the inhabitants of a coral reef (two jellyfish, a sea serpent, a mermaid, and a school of fish) who, with the help of the Great Wind Spirit, build a wind-powered lighthouse to ensure that sailors will no longer crash into the surrounding coastline.  They are motivated by their invisible visitor, the ghost of a sailor who drowned there.  The team worked especially hard to build creative props and costumes, including a haunted shipwreck, an ocean backdrop and coral reef, jellyfish made from umbrellas, and a mermaid tail covered in scales that were really foil cupcake liners and gold and silver candy wrappers.

Both teams qualified to compete in the Global Finals, held every year at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  Over 1200 teams, who qualified at state, province, or national finals, are expected to participate in this week-long celebration of creativity this year.  The Wonderland Booksavers and Team I.C.E. are very excited to be a part of the event.  Meanwhile, they’ll continue to meet to practice Instant Challenges, repair props, tweak their performance, and rehearse.

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