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It is a great sadness to me that the Arts are being pulled from public schools.
With budget crunches, faced with the choice of fire a math teacher or let go an art teacher, when funding is dependent on test scores… tests in which art and music do not appear, it’s easy to understand why the choices are made. Still, it makes me sad, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a member of the larger community who believes that it’s the arts that give the sciences meaning, and form, much of the time.
As with most things, children pick up a love for the arts because it’s modeled for them. One of my husband’s most precious memories as a child was his Dad taking him to see the opera, Carmen. I’ve never been to an opera, but I remember my parents spending the big bucks to take us to see stage productions and ballets, and cultural dance performances in Mexico. I’ll never forget seeing Guys and Dolls, starring Liza Minelli, at the Pantageous Theater in Los Angeles. I felt so cosmopolitan. (more…)
I remember reading Pioneer woman’s blog several years ago and was fascinated by her husband’s family story. I realised that all it takes sometimes is one person/couple willing to venture out on their own and with the help of their children and they could do just about anything. Hard work and determination were a given, all we needed was a plan. It didn’t take long to realize that if we wanted to be able to feed our growing brood we needed to grow/raise our own food, and so the dream began.
Five years ago we moved to our little piece of ground with our five kids in tow, most were too little to help but that didn’t stop us from getting started. Each child was given an animal that they would receive any money that was made. Our oldest son, Andrew, has branched out from his first calf to adding some pigs to his holdings. Our second oldest daughter, Harley, has added meat birds this year in conjunction with our second oldest son, Scottie.
We have eight children now and the younger kids and our oldest daughter with down syndrome have stuck strictly to calves, this year we are raising bottle calves and they are loving being able to play and bond with their babies. In the past we would just assign them a calf as they were born, those calves were never as friendly. It is heartwarming to watch them prepare bottles and get out there every morning and evening to feed their babies.
Our 2yr old loves helping to water or feed or whatever we are doing. For our 4 youngest children this is the only life they have ever known and for the 4 oldest it is life they prefer. Whenever we get out to the city we are reminded of why we moved to the country, the traffic, noise and claustrophobically close houses are just not for us.
We are on a journey to sustainability, it isn’t easy work, the days are long, the losses are tough and the mistakes are often expensive. The trick is to diversify, and keep going. We had a small break last year and boy has our grocery budget taken a HUGE hit, that time away reinforced our determination to get back to work and make it happen. There is no get rich quick scheme to farming, we just have to keep working hard at it and learning from our mistakes.
Homeschooling makes this life far more manageable as we work on our schedule not someone elses. Every morning we get out to the animals, then we can settle to enjoy our breakfast, a quick clean up and then the school day begins. Sounds simple right? Not exactly, cows and pigs have a thing for testing fences and enjoy finding new and creative ways to get out. Since we live right on the highway that makes an animal escape a very dangerous problem. Thankfully we have gotten a lot better at putting up and fixing fences and generally don’t have many issues there anymore.
Of course the animals aren’t the only ones that can throw the proverbial monkey wrench into things, just having eight children can do that with the help of a freak change of weather and send us into cold and flu land. Or add a few new teeth for the baby and the day may need to begin and end a bit later if it is all to be done. There are no weekends as the work doesn’t end. That said we do get away from time to time but it takes a lot of careful planning to make sure all the animals have what they need. Bottle calves cannot be left so we have to wait until they are weaned.
Last night I watched my middle 3 children chase a few escapee hens and even as we lost daylight, they laughed and continued the chase. I turned on the van headlights and they cheered as the last hen was captured. We do our chores together as a family and it isn’t really such hard work anymore. They dream of more animals and their own personal ventures, Scottie hopes to have goats and sheep someday, so we’ll likely look into it next year as we continue to plan and grow.
I am a big fan of doing adventurous things as a family and encouraging kids to step out and do big things, hard things!
A friend sent me a link to the website of Trish Herr and her daughters, who at the time were walking the Camino de Santiago (500 miles from France into Spain) for charity. To say I was “wowed” is an understatement. But when I learned that this walk is really just the tip of the iceberg for these girls, I had to talk to them.
The girls agreed to an interview!
A few years ago I found myself confronted by two brand new texts titled: Essentials in Mathematics Grade 7 and Essentials in Mathematics Grade 8.
My hair was not quite standing on end but the prospect of teaching the “New Math” to my 26 scholars had me gibbering like a chimp. On paper at least, the letters behind my name would have qualified me for any position (except secretary) in the Frontenac County Schools but my most recent encounter with math (Grade 10 Algebra) had been somewhat less than inpiring. I scored a D-minus only because our teacher could not access D-minus- minus and he had no desire make me re-take his class. In Grade 9 Geometry I had been “given” a D-minus.
The year before, Gary White, as the newly minted principal at the public school in Plevna, had been sufficiently desperate to fill his staff that he hired me over the phone, sight unseen, mostly on the “He’ll be okay,” recommendation of Mrs. Sproule, the grade 5-6 teacher. My second year I was given “the big kids” and, if that was not worrisome enough, I had to teach them “The New Math”.
My own teachers had been very comfortable with the subject. Their university degrees were in Mathematics. They were not prodigies and may not have had any aspirations toward pioneering new mathamatical theory nor becoming famous, but they knew their stuff. I clearly recall Mr. Richards, chalk in hand, turning to his class and asking “Are there any questions?” Some of the kids had questions …. but not me. I never did figure out what the heck he was talking about. Never.
So, when it came time to teach the young people at Plevna I told them the whole story, “My most recent math was Grade 10. I got a D-minus. Mr. Richards was a great teacher and he always asked if we had any questions. I never had a single question because I never figured out what he was on about.”
It was no use in pretending to them I was smarter in math than they were but, I assured the class, I’d stay at least a couple days ahead and would NEVER ask them if they had a question.
“In this room, if you are not following what we a talking about, yell WHOA! Shout it out!”
Kids would yell, “Whoa!” several times a class some days.
I’d ask: “Okay. Where were we when you did understand?”
And so we would step back and start from where everyone got it and then move ahead again.
“Whoa!” And I’d work it through a third time and usually the second or third variation would be enough and we could go on. But if there was a third whoa I’d give it up.
“Any one else want to try?” And I would take that kid’s seat and she or he would teach the lesson. Sometimes a second student would teach (or 2 or 3 piping up) and when we all “got it” we would carry on together.
There were sevens and eights in that classroom, so I taught from the Grade 8 text our first year and Grade 7 the next. That worked out very well. In multi-grade classrooms all the youngsters are sitting through all the other kid’s lessons in any event and instructing them together was best.
During the first seventeen of my Mom’s fifty-five year teaching career she taught all subjects to all eight grades in Sharkie Elementary School just south of Erie Michigan. She always maintained they were the most productive years in her life even though they spanned the Great Depression and the school board was unable to pay her salary a lot of the time. With upwards to ninety children aged 6 through 17 years they all attended the other’s lessons. Older kids worked with the younger and things went well enough, she said.
At some point … within the first week or three … one of my scholars grumbled “Why are we studying this stuff … anyway?” That was a pertinent question with no obvious answer. I had already assured them that all they would actually need to get along in adult life was addition, subtraction, multiplcation and division. Those everyday skills were the useful tools. The arithmetic problems read to them from my grandfather’s grade 8 text (published in 1888 ) kept us all sharp with regard to the fundamentals.
But New Math? How did it fit in?
That puzzelled us for a while. It was in the curriculum but we were not seeking a faith commitment. We were after reason. Eventually we decided that doing New Math made us smarter. Taking it on as really challenging puzzles was great exercise for the muscles in our brains. Being “smarter” would be useful for repairing cars and other life challenges.
As I remember it, all the students had earned A’s in Mathematics on each report to their parents and also at years end. One of the moms thanked me for, “Giving Steven the A.” It was a pleasure to share his test scores with her. Gary White said I would likely get in trouble for it and, in fact, the Superintendent for our area did quietly dress me down. “You cannot give all A’s. There are one or two A’s a few B’s and mostly C’s and two D’s. That’s how it is in Frontenac County.”