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.

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.

Inspired by Angie: Solving a Homeschooler’s Dilemma

Recently, Angie, a Homeschool HappyMess reader, sent me a series of questions that I thought might make an interesting post, and so with Angie’s permission, she and I will together tackle the intricacies of designing a homeschool curriculum..

A climbing Angie:  Allia, I have been following your blog and am inspired beyond measure.

A leap of faith

Believe me, I am grateful for your confidence in our humble homeschool.  Homeschooling is a leap of faith.  You have to believe in yourself and believe in your children.  It is my hope, through this blog, that people can see themselves bringing inspiration and creativity to their own children’s education.

A Bounce hand paint

Mine is one step in an effort to right the wrong of boring, stultifying education whose tenants of secular equality for all has whitewashed history and distilled learning to nothing more than a series of meaningless platitudes, creating a generation of children with no interest in reading and little ability to write, let alone create.  Break out the paint, glue and glitter, read original documents, apply literature to history, perform a science experiment…together we can explore the planet.

Angie:  I have a few questions:  Do you use the literature to guide the history lessons or do you teach history in a chronological order (like other classical homeschoolers) and choose literature that corresponds with that time in history?

I am a strong believer in the benefits of teaching history in chronological order, after all, that is the order in which it all happened.  Like domino’s, each event was the catalyst for the next, each shift in beliefs, a result of the immediate past.  That being said, I have found that if followed too literally, it is difficult to ever get out of the Middle Ages, let alone Ancient Mesopotamia.  So, although I enjoy reading A Childs History of the World, by Virgil M. Hillyer, and my children love The Story of the World (especially on tape), by Susan Wise Bauer, sometimes (often) I will jump around.

 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.  Hall of Armour

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Hall of Armor

HappyMess boys wearing "real" armor!

HappyMess boys wearing “real” armor!

I am an even bigger believer in grabbing opportunities as they present themselves, and building a quick mini-lesson around an exhibit, or a play or an article in the newspaper.  History, and science are so much more interesting when a child can see the immediate application of the knowledge.

Joan of Arc, MET

Joan of Arc, MET

 

HappyMess kids studying Joan of Arc at MET

HappyMess kids studying Joan of Arc at MET

History at the MET

History at the MET

Museums are a great place to learn about the past.  Here we find that ancient peoples had similar aspirations as ourselves.

History books that we have enjoyed include:  The American Story, by Jennifer Armstrong and A Young Peoples History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. There are countless wonderful books about ancient Egypt and Greece and about every corner of the world.  I like to choose books with engaging pictures as I usually begin every History lesson with shared reading.  Initially, it is the parent, or teacher, who breathes life into the history lesson.  A good history lesson is like a piece of theater, filled with anticipation, suspense, surprise and resolution.

We have found that many literature books dovetail nicely with our studies.  When reading historical literature we concentrate on understanding the feelings of the characters, asking ourselves, Why did they make these choices? Respond in this manner?  How is this different, or the same from our experiences, desires, actions?  Frequently we will read a book that is so compelling, we will read the literature first and then research the time period afterwards.

Celadon pottery at the MET

Celadon pottery at the MET

This was the case with A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park.  We read the book, chose a quote as our school motto, and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to view original pieces of celadon pottery.

A wonderland boook picturesOh..and built an entire book club, around that experience, and created an Outreach Program, Wonderland BookSavers, that has so far, since September, donated 4,000 books to needy children both in the US and abroad…

A doc filmand created a 7 minute documentary film and a Destination Imagination theatrical presentation…see the importance of just one piece of quality literature…?

So, what was the answer?  Usually I am running at least two concurrent history programs.  One is plowing forward through time, looking at facts, geo-political factors, resulting changes, etc., the other is inspired by current events, great literature, museum exhibits or lectures on a topic.

Additionally, Homeschool HappyMess kids participate in National History Day each year. This leads to very in depth research into a specific topic.  This year we are focusing on the TET offensive and the media misinformation that surrounded that event, causing the American people to further turn against the Vietnam War.

A TET 1A TET 2 fall_of_saigonA 1968-Tet-Offensive-3Our older children have created a theatrical piece in which the “war fought in the living rooms of America,” literally comes home through investigative journalism.  They recently won First Place for their local presentation, and are off to the State competition next month.  Working on projects and competitions allows the student to “own” a piece of history.

We are also engaged in learning the fine art of the “research paper,” through a project on the Economy of Ancient Ephesus, as an offshoot of the study of Latin and a subset of the history of the Roman Empire.

History is the wonderful and terrible story that envelopes us all.  There are 1,000 ways to study, memorize, examine, and theorize about history.  Choose any path, as they say, “All roads lead to Rome.”

Angie:  How do you relate the sciences?

Well, we again take several different approaches to the study of science, for younger children I am content with doing fun experiments and visiting hands-on science museums and randomly choosing interesting science books or biographies from the library.  My goal is simple:  awaken curiosity and provide answers about our physical world.  Science and history can often be studied in tandem, as is the case with Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo and Copernicus.  Science, like history, is not a series of facts but a series of people.

A Truth at farm

leaf classification

leaf classification

Our 3rd grader is also following the BJU curriculum.  This provides many interesting facts and experiments in a more organized fashion.  Again, we read books, biographies and enjoy the world.  As our students get older we follow specific studies so they can learn the basics of chemistry, biology and physics.

Angie:  How do you go about choosing your reading list for the year?

A Bounce libraryI love classic literature. Generally those books, which have been known and loved for decades, are well written, use correct English grammar, have interesting vocabulary choices, reflect clear values and tell a compassionate story that resonates with young readers.   In other words, they are worth struggling with and will make your student a better reader and a more thoughtful person.  My annual reading list is comprised of those pieces of quality children’s literature which are at the appropriate reading level.  I mainly choose books the child can read himself, but also include a few that can be read aloud and discussed.  For our book club we have focused on books that reflect a message of personal growth and responsibility.  These books have included A Single Shard by Park, from which we took as our motto, “One hill, one valley, one day at a time…,” Old Yeller, by Gipson, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Carroll, Classic Poetry, Ancient Greek and Roman Myths and now, Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan.  With each book, our book club performed a community service project…but that is a long story for another day…

Angie:  Also, a fun one:  is your schoolhouse an outbuilding or connected to the main house? 

 

HappyMess schoolhouse visitors

HappyMess schoolhouse visitors

In this case, since homeschooling has taken over our lives and thus, every corner of our living space I think it might be more accurate to say that our home is a modified outbuilding connecting to our schoolhouse.

Angie, I hope this helps.  Thanks for your faithful reading!  Allia

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is sharing the experience of growth with an unseen, but forever perspicacious community.

Adventures in Bookland: Destination Imagination (again!)

Homeschool Happymess is counting down to Christmas and the vacation that surrounds this wonderful time of year.

WBS Truth and Bounce atlasWe are crazily trying to complete all our fall projects, blasting through those half-discarded spelling books, competing with one another,

“How many chapters have YOU completed in Wordly Wise?”

Our older students have final exams in Latin, Witty Wordsmith, Chemistry, Algebra, and History of Science, to name just a few.  They can be found up at all hours, musing over flashcards, strewn across couches, reciting archaic languages and studying arcane scientific facts.  They are dedicated.  They are restless.  They anticipate the conclusion and yet, 15 page term papers still loom in their immediate futures

Our younger students are delighting in the wreaths that are newly hung on all the doors and windows.  They eagerly search every magazine for clues as to what Santa may bring.  They are crafting and wrapping small games and puzzles for their favorite stuffed animals.  Adventure Bear will receive a lovely pot of marmalade, purloined from a breakfast buffet.  Gifts are wrapped and hidden.  Bounce has an elaborate pirate treasure map detailing all the locations.  I encounter these odd items as I search the back of cupboards and behind doors looking for missing Christmas china and wrapping paper.

WBS reading trainAnd throughout the mayhem emerges our newest project:  The Wonderland BookSavers:  Inspired by Literature

This year Bounce and his friends formed a new book club dedicated to reading and discussing   Classic Children’s Literature.  The book group members are young enthusiasts who are committed to making the world a better place.  Following their reading of Old Yeller, (previous post), the group read, and became entranced by, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll.

alice-in-wonderland white rabbitThey decided to name their Destination Imagination Project Outreach team after Alice in Wonderland and after great thought they have created the already amazing, Wonderland BookSavers.

WBS researchingTheir mission is to redistribute gently used children’s books to children, libraries and schools who have need of these books.

WBS donate 1WBS donate 2Thus far they have donated 685 books to a local charter school library.

WBS boxes and bookThey are currently preparing another 1,000 books to be sent to a community in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.

Wonderland BookSavers has already had a strikingly positive influence on this initially simple homeschool book club.  The children are able to see the tremendous impact that literature can have upon the imagination and the spirit of the reader.  They understand that reading is a form of communication, both with the author and with other readers.  They value the time that they spend reading and discussing literature and thus they see the value that books have for all children and communities.

WBS Bounce with booksWonderland BookSavers are committed to enlarging the community of children that have access to books.  The children love handling all the “used” books.  They pore over the pictures, read aloud sections to one another, and generally have the opportunity to enjoy hundreds of books that they might otherwise never have seen.

Occasionally they will hold a book up in disgust,

“This is TOTALLY inappropriate,”

as a modern and heavily pregnant Mary goes lurching along on a donkey in a parody of Mary and Joseph, and out the book goes in the trash.

WBS stacked boxesBut mostly, these discarded and unloved books are wonderful classics and our children fall in love with them before carefully placing them in the box with the other treasures.

Wonderland BookSavers are wondering, “Who are these other unknown children?” and, “Will they like these books as much as we like them?”

And so, as the Christmas Season is upon us, we find once again that, “Giving is better than receiving.”

WBS Bounce on boxesWhat we didn’t realize is that we would be watching 4 young children locating and donating literally thousands of books to communities across the country and even across the oceans, with their motto, “Inspired by Literature.”

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is watching a small book club reach out and touch the world.

Hurricane Homeschool

Hurricane Sandy has swirled, uninvited, into our lives, and like our neighbors near and far, our lives have been temporarily rearranged.

The leaves are now gone from the branches.  They hover in clumps at the bottom of the pool, shimmering on reflected trees.

We, like many, were Mandatory Evacuated.  In a matter of 45 minutes we grabbed groceries (everything we could see), clothing (not much), schoolbooks (the basics), one computer and the dog.  Of course, we forgot the flashlights.  And so we returned to our Traveling Homeschool mode that marked so much of last year.  This time, with our previous experience, we knew just how to do it.  Hint:  fastest packing item, the laundry basket.  Grab everything you see and toss it in a basket.  Throw basket in trunk and drive away. 

Meanwhile the kids were most distraught about missing their friends and Halloween.  In fact, that was the only salient point they understood about the entire evacuation process.  Prompting my husband to question their sanity.

“But we will be missing Halloweeen,” they howled in unison, as our car pulled out of the driveway.

“It is a National Emergency,” Husband replies matter-of-factly.

“But we can’t miss Halloweeeen.”

Husband turns the volume up louder on the radio.

Three hours later, when we arrive at our new temporary housing,

“When can we go home?  It’s almost Halloween.  We HAVE to go home for trick-or-treating.”

A revolt was imminent.  I unpacked the kids, dog and books and promptly set up a portable classroom.  This shocked the kids into silence.

You may ask, Why school?  With every single school in half the nation closed, why do we continue, undaunted, as we are pummeled by wind and rain?

Simple.  Parental sanity.  With 5 kids in a small space, schoolwork is the most direct route to peace and tranquility.

 We brought only our most basic books, math, spelling and vocabulary.  With many online classes and textbooks we quickly created a computer-share system with priority going to kids taking classes on the West Coast, where there are no weather-related delays.  Remarkably, they got everything completed and uploaded in time, despite being granted extensions.

With few textbooks we quickly turn to the best education:  classics.  By late afternoon each day we are draped about the room, swathed in blankets and reading the available books.  Athena is reading My Antonia by Willa Cather, Quantum finished A Raison in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and then found a copy of Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  Truth is happily reading Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Bounce has finished Alice in Wonderland and is now reading Through the Looking Glass, both by Lewis Carroll, and I am finishing Black Boy by Richard Wright.  Happily, with few clothes and much food, we are comfortably dressed in our pajamas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Scooter found a box of alphabet letters and spent several hours figuring out how to arrange them in alphabetical order. Soon we may use these letters to show Scooter how to create three letter words.  He now knows there is a pattern to word-making.

The lights began flickering and I began steadily cooking all the food in the house.  My husband asked, as the second roast chicken came shimmering out of the oven with several dozen baked potatoes, “What ARE you doing?”

“Cooked ford is more useful than raw food,” I responded, and went on to hard boil another dozen eggs.

So now it is officially Halloween and the police have canvassed the neighborhood and forbidden children from wandering around in the danger-ridden dark.

Needless to say, our neighborhood is now scarier looking than the best Halloween and it looks like real ghosts have been playing havoc with the town.

Our family, like many others, is thankful for our safety.  We are grateful for simple family moments: meals shared together by candlelight, games played by the fireside, and long afternoons spent reading cherished classics, all punctuated by long rainy-day dog walks.

Hurricane Sandy has provided us the opportunity to stop moving at the speed of light (electricity) and begin to move at the more natural speed of the human being.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is being grateful for the miracle of safety and educating your children through literature in the midst of chaos and adventure.