Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Packing Up

So here it is. The last few days of our summer sojourn in Maine.

As always, it's been lovely. We've done some fun things, visited with dear friends, had fun in the boat, ate some lobsters, relaxed, and read a lot.

It's hard to say goodbye to our life here.

But, as this leaf attests, time marches on.

And so must we.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Day in Our Life -- At Least for Now

We are still at the lake, but we started "back to school" two weeks ago. Since summer's in the air, I like to keep things light, refreshing, and different.

Each day, the girls complete a math workbook page as a review. We also read from Abraham Lincoln's World, which we are about to finish. Yesterday, we learned about Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister and discussed their impact on medical practices of the day. We then read from either This Country of Ours or "Brutus," from Plutarch's Lives. We are just about to complete those, as well.

Today is "Scope Day." We have checked out a neat telescope from our town's library. It's clear today, so I'm hoping for good viewing tonight. There is not much light pollution where we are, so even without a telescope, we can see much more of the night sky than we can at home.

Tiny Girl found a butterfly's wing on our deck table this morning. We brought along our new microscope, which has yet to leave its box (!!!), so we're going to take a look at the wing with the microscope. I'll post photos later.

Our life at home is busy, activity-filled, and, now that the girls are in middle school, more academically rigorous. We don't tend to have or take time to venture out. While we're in Maine, I look for things to do and places to see.

Yesterday, we visited the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester. It is the last remaining Shaker community in the world, and there are five Shakers who live there. Volunteers and hired employees help run the community. Miss Priss had wanted to visit here for two years since she read Lois Lowry's Dear America book, Like the Willow Tree. The main character and her brother are sent to live at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community after her parents die in a flu epidemic in 1918.

 A view of down the road at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village

We took a guided tour of the village, which was very informative. (Miss Priss related to me later that she knew much of the material already, but I did not.) None of us knew that the Shakers invented the roll-up shade, circular saw, and the flat straw broom!

As part of the tour we were able to go into some of the buildings. The worship building was built in 1794 and is still used today. Visitors are welcome to attend the Sunday service at 10:00 AM. I wished we lived nearby so we could experience worship with them!

House of worship

Interior photographs are not allowed. I wish I could have snapped a few photos for you. The dark blue painted trim is original and in fine shape. Shakers enjoyed painting the interior elements of their buildings. The three colors used most were the dark blue, a dark red, and a very popular mustard yellow. The ministry house sported a light aqua blue interior trim as well.

The Girls' Shop, where the younger girls lived and worked

We enjoyed a special exhibit on the children's lives at the village. Often, orphans or children whose parents fell on hard times were brought to the community to live. We learned about Sister Mildred Barker, whose widowed mother took her to the village when the child was seven. When her mother returned to collect her, nine years later, Mildred chose to stay. At 21 years of age, Mildred decided to become a Shaker herself, and signed the covenant. She died in 1990. Sister Mildred was an important figure in Shaker music, and she was also a poet. Here is the first line from her poem, "A Prayer":

I am so small alone, and weak,
Defeat I often see;
But by the strength of Thy right hand,
A conqueror I'll be.

The community still functions as a working farm, keeps an orchard, and sells goods in their store. It is certainly not the successful concern it was back in its heyday, but focuses now on preservation and education. Also, their herb garden provides much in the way for herb and spice sales, sachets, and TEA! All are reasonably priced. Here's a link to their online herb catalog.

At the store, we purchased two CDs of Shaker music; a kitted hat for my niece; and two bottles of homemade flavorings: mint water and rosewater (with recipes!).

The store, which smells wonderful!

I was surprised to see Highland cattle, which I'd only seen in Scotland before. The girls were delighted as well.

Sheep, too!

It was quite a fantastic and enjoyable day. If you're ever in the area, make plans to visit. You'll be glad.

So there's a look at A Day in Our Life! When we get back home, we'll hit the books hard. But doesn't everybody enjoy this style of learning, too!

Friday, August 24, 2012

She Is Too Fond of Books: Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures

My eyes lighted on the small, square book displayed at the library, and I instantly recognized the face on the cover. Numerous small black and white photos of a small girl exhibit a variety of emotions: hesitant, unsure, and thoughtful, but mostly smiling, even grinning.

Anne Frank, circa 1936. And I could not resist her.

Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures, written by Menno Metselaar and Ruud van der Rol and published in America by special license from the Anne Frank House, is, quite simply, a jewel of a book.

Its thick, coated pages are rich in photographs, providing a photobiography of Anne’s life as well as not-to-be-missed photos of her diary and many of its pages. Her handwriting, her funny comments, the very items she chose to save, to hold on to, all work together to bring a deep sense of realism to a life so well known as to almost be de-humanized, like a celebrity.

“I once asked Margot if she thought me ugly. She said that I was okay and had nice eyes. A little vague, don’t you think?” – Anne Frank, October 14, 1942

The authors’ text serves as a narrator. Their style is simple and straightforward, stripped almost bare, like the rooms in the secret annex themselves.

“During the war they took everything and I want to leave it like that.” – Otto Frank

This journalistic approach allows Anne’s voice, as well as those of other people, in the form of quotations, to take center stage.

“I wander from room to room, climb up and down the stairs, and feel like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage.” – Anne, October 29, 1943

Helpfully, terms that might be unfamiliar to readers (Kristallnacht and Occupation of the Netherlands, for example) are asterisked and explained in the glossary at the end of the book. Although some terms were, of course, familiar (Gestapo, Adolf Hitler, anti-Semitism), I found myself flipping back to the glossary a number of times. Have you heard about the Hunger Winter of 1944 in the Netherlands? What about Dolle Dinsdag (Mad/Crazy Tuesday)? Did you know the word holocaust literally means “burnt offering”? Did you learn about the Dutch Resistance when you were in school? I didn’t.

Another feature: this book does not end with the betrayal and arrest of the eight people hiding in the Secret Annex. Through the narrative, photos, and eyewitness accounts, readers learn of Anne’s later experiences: her life at Westerbork, Auschwitz, and Bergen-Belsen; Anne’s and Margot’s deaths from typhus; the liberation; Otto Frank’s return to Amsterdam, where he hoped to find Anne and Margot alive; publication of Anne’s papers; the birth of the Anne Frank House; and investigations into who had handed them over to the Nazis.

“Everyone out! Leave all luggage behind! Women to one side and men to the other!” – Loudspeaker command to newly-arrived prisoners at Auschwitz

Heartbreaking in its simplicity, Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures merges both into an undeniably vivid and moving depiction of Anne’s short life. Further, as a companion resource to The Diary of a Young Girl, this book provides an essential visual to the voice in the diary. It is one thing – a moving thing -- to read Anne’s story of what happened. It is quite another to put faces with names, to see these characters as real people – children who swam in the ocean and played with their friends, mothers who scolded and loved, fathers who did their best to provide and care for their families, teens who argued and bristled. . . .

I can't find words to describe my connection with this book.

“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” – Anne, July 15, 1944

When I closed the book, I couldn’t help but doubt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hammer and Sew: Making Our Own Journals in a Bookbinding Class

A few months ago, I got interested in bookbinding. I perused several websites and blogs, reading over their how-tos and studying photos. Ultimately, I decided this was an activity I'd never do on my own, so I gave up thinking about it.

So imagine my delight when I saw that our library -- which has always had an outstanding children's summer program -- was offering a bookbinding class! I signed us up immediately.

Two Crazy Women, a Maine-based educational partnership, conducted the class. There were quite a few folks, young and older (thank you very much) alike. I appreciated the way Pam and Amy prepared for the class. All our materials were ready for us, but we participants actually did the work of making our own journals.

Here, Miss Priss hammers holes into her first "chapter," more formally called a signature.

After hammering, we stitched the signature pages together with -- get this -- dental floss. You can, of course, purchase much more expensive bookbinding materials, but why would you? Then we hammered and stitched two more signatures, and then stitched the signatures together, as Tiny Girl demonstrates below:

After stitching everything together, we selected our cover materials. Here is what Miss Priss selected:

Next, we glued the material to thin cardboard, then the signatures to the cardboard, and lastly, the wallpaper pieces to the inside covers of the journal.

And here they are!

Will we ever do this again? I don't know. It was a LOT of work, especially for those of us new to the craft. But we are all pleased with our results.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Don't Miss CurrClick's Back to Homeschool Sale!

CurrClick is having a fabulous Back to Homeschool sale! It ends August 24, so don’t wait too long to spend some time perusing the site for lapbooking and notebooking resources, Bible studies, bundles, curricula, ebooks, audiobooks, and other downloads to enrich your children’s studies this year. So many courses are at their best prices, some up to 75% off. And there are plenty of free resources as well.

Here’s a list of resources I purchased:
We are looking forward to incorporating these resources into our studies. Why not click over to see what CurrClick can offer your family?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Finds at the Antique Mall

I love browsing around antique malls. I don’t always find treasure, but the hunt is the biggest part of the fun. Book stalls are my particular favorite.

During my folks’ visit, the girls, my mother, and I took a trip to a nearby antique mall, housed in what was once a roller skating rink, wood floors and all. We found delightful items around every corner, but Mama and I spent the most time in a stall featuring nothing but carefully organized old books. Oh, joy abounding!

My mother was thrilled to spy a 1921 Zane Grey entitled The Man of the Forest, which she’d never heard of (he’s a favorite of hers), as well as a 1941 edition of Edna Ferber’s Saratoga Trunk.

I was delighted to find a few for the girls and me:
  • Passages from the Diary of Samuel Pepys (Modern Library, 1921)
  • A Wonder-Book for Boys and Girls, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1929)
  • The Prince and the Pauper, by Mark Twain (Heritage Press’s illustrated and boxed edition, 1964)
  • Life in the Castle in Medieval England, by John Burke (British Heritage Press, 1978)

The most I paid was $4.00, which was for the Twain. Talk about a win/win situation!

Many homeschooling parents carry lists of books they're looking for, so as to always be at the ready; but I prefer to give serendipity free rein. Besides, if I focus on searching for certain titles, I may overlook a particular gem. With so many book selections in the public domain and available online, I can afford to be cavalier and simply enjoy myself in book stalls.

And you? Do you enjoy spending time amid the dusty stacks of used books? Have you ever experienced that particular delight of finding unexpected literary treasure?

Friday, August 10, 2012

An Installment from Tiny Girl

Tiny Girl found this wonderful short video on YouTube, and she asked me to share it with our blog friends.  It's a little glimpse into her heart and life. Here 'tis:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Photo courtesy Foter.com.

I love to sleep. I could happily sleep until mid-morning and then indulge in siesta that afternoon. My penchant for sleep is one arena in which Himself and I completely differ. After 15 years of marriage, he still manages to look astounded when I announce I’m going to take a Sunday afternoon nap. To him, it’s a waste of time. To me, it's anything but.

I get a lot of thinking done when I’m dozing, in that twilight time between awake and asleep. I make plans. I consider decorating ideas. I plot books I might one day write. I percolate. As an introvert, I consider this time well spent.

But the percolating is merely a nice by-product. My end goal is rest, and I’m serious about it.

When I turned forty (we won’t discuss when that actually occurred), my neighbor, who is older, asked knowingly, “How’s your sleep?” Not good, I had to admit. And for someone like me, this was a crisis situation. She nodded. Turns out, when she turned forty, her sleep changed, and not for the better. Sleep, or the lack of it, is a hot topic of conversation for friends my age.

I set about trying to remedy my difficulty, and over the last few years, I discovered a few things that have worked for me. Just in case good sleep is eluding you, I’m happy to share these ideas. I’ve even come up with a really catchy title:

Ellen’s Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
  • No caffeine after 3:00 PM. Chocolate, of course, is excepted. If you are susceptible to blood sugar rises and dips, then consider avoiding sugar after 3:00 as well.
  • A cool room. When it’s too warm, good sleep is impossible. When I’m in the land of constant air conditioning, I turn on my ceiling fan when it’s time to sleep, since I can’t lower the thermostat (unless I want a hefty electric bill, which I don’t).
  • Darkness. I use a sleep mask. I’ve tried several, and the best I’ve happened upon is made by Earth Therapeutics. It’s larger than most, generously padded, and features an adjustable headband with Velcro. This is much more comfortable than trying to rest with a big knot at the back of your head.
  • Quiet. I’m a light sleeper, so noises interrupt my rest. In college (dorm life is loud), I slept with a small fan for white noise, and sometimes I still do. But for about a year now, I’ve used soft foam ear plugs. Bliss!
  • Pillows. The right pillow is essential. It took me a few years to find just the right one. It's a firm feather pillow that I inherited from the family from whom we bought our cabin. What good fortune! I also sleep with a body pillow, which I acquired when I was expecting Miss Priss.

Some people swear by scents such as lavender, but these aren't crucial for me. You may want to try some aromatherapy to see how it works for you.

What sleep tricks and techniques do you use? I'd love to hear about them.

Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: MasterMath FREE Middle School Online Math Lessons

Going toe-to-toe with middle school math -- again? Pop over to Curriculum Choice to read my review of MasterMath, free online middle school math lessons.

Curriculum Choice Homeschool Review Blog