Monday, August 10, 2015

Between the Moon and New York City

I had a summer fun failure. I never got around to connecting my phone to my computer and downloading pictures. After you neglect it for a bit, you realize that the amount of time it will take to have your computer scan and find all of the many pictures will take up more time than you feel like spending at any given moment so you put it off again. More pictures and more time passes and it just gets worse.

By the time I finally tended to all of the picture downloads I was behind a couple of months. Exciting months, too.

So, do I post the whole summer in one post, or in multiple little ones? I thought I'd do one big post so people could just scroll through, then I started posting and realized it was asking a bit much of my attention span. I'll hit the highlights of the Big Apple first, then get to Gettysburg, Atlantic City, and Montreal in a later post.

New York City

We had the privilege of visiting some long time friends from Colorado, who are now living in New Jersey. They spoiled us rotten for a few days and included a wonderful day trip into the city.

Two years ago when we went to NYC we took a tour bus, but you can't really get a feel for life in the city without riding the subway. So this time we did! I think my ladies look like they belong here.

The new One World Trade Center is absolutely stunning!

A volunteer at the memorial gave us a full description of the survivor tree.

I love the different layers you see through out the city.

I love to see unique buskers! I always try to have a few dollars available to give out and the more I'm blessed by the presentation, the more I give. It's a weakness.  The jazz band in the subway was amazing! I caught it on video but my wifi is too limited to upload. Trust me, they rocked the subway!

 Stopped off in Central Park where Katie did what Katie does best - a cartoon sketch of whatever catches her eye.

As the sun set we walked from Central Park, by Radio City and the Rockefeller Plaza, over to Times Square so we could enjoy the lights at night.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zeal!

Today is the final day of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I don't know if I will join next year, but it certainly did give me a good kick to get writing more.

Alex and Katie  have pushed to get me to write a novel during the NaNoWriMo challenge in the fall, and though I don't really care to write fiction, but I may write on a non-fiction subject, or a memoir of our journeys, something. Anything I find for which I am zealous! I'll decide in November.

But for the end of  the challenge, Z is for Zeal!

I obviously have several things for which I am zealous and covered a few in this challenge. They include folklore/music history, arranging new music, and definitely children's music and instruction. I find it interesting that performing doesn't seem to be something I'm nutty over enough to write about, though I certainly love performing, but I think it follows as a result of the others. I think this gives me some clues as to what I may gravitate towards as we wind down our travels next year.

There is at least some zeal for fun with essential oils, sewing, crafts, etc. but it is perhaps secondary. The secondary ones are usually in the "mental health therapy" boat, being there to give my brain a break.

NOT that the band is ending - I don't want to give that impression, but for us to stop full time travel next year the band will need to move more local, wherever local may be. Bands usually have to travel to where the action is if they wish to bring home the bacon, so this means supplemental income may be helpful. I'd really like to supplement it with something I love.

Economically supporting zeal is the best kind.

Side note: For the MLM zealots, one thing I likely will not be doing is selling for a Multilevel Marketing company, so please don't ask. (I write this because of the sudden high jump in friends I have who now sell with MLM and invite me to one e-party after the next.) I'm not against it at all and even sold Usborne Books briefly ages ago. I liked the books and wanted some, but I was my usual broke self. Personally, I think liking the product is really the only reason to sell anything from an MLM company. Economically, it really doesn't add up.

Speaking of zeal...

Did you see the super cute necklaces I'm working on??? The little ice cream cone has a hole in the back where you can drip some essential oil. Hidden in the cone there is a different type of clay that is more fragile, but absorbs and holds the oils wonderfully. I want to make some for kids. I have a few interesting adult necklace ideas too, when I have time to play with clay.

You want one, right???

Sorry, they're not for sale yet. They're in experimental mode right now, but soon I will have your money, er, make these wonderful trinkets available.

I will admit, zealousness can be wonderful but it is also sometimes a dangerous thing. Not everyone is going to be zealous over the same things, and sometimes those things clash. I have friends on facebook who go at it now and then in a rather subtle fashion. One will post a string of articles that demonize GMOs in our food. Another will then post articles about how many lives GMOs have saved and the bad science behind the anti-GMO crowd. Food seems to be a big one lately, but I suspect politics will start to heat things up over the next year. I sometimes just get a mental bag of popcorn and watch the fireworks. I don't participate much anymore.

I haven't the energy.

I have clay necklaces to make, opinions to formulate over children's music programs, and a few new gospel arrangements going through my head that I need to get into the kids' heads so we can play them. Since Sean, Alex, and Katie all just got a new book on jazz improve for their instruments, I eventually need to figure out how to smush jazz licks into a few songs.

And I get to help Mary learn her new U-Bass. Isn't it cuuuutttee!

There is a lot of zeal in my head. You cheer mine and I'll cheer yours, deal?

That's it for my A to Z Challenge. We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging program.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for "Yeah, I got nothing."

As the A to Z Challenge starts to come to a close, I am running out of ideas, at least anything that can be moved into a Y or Z.

We just returned from our fifth show this week and my brain is shot. With kids suffering from pollen allergies and food intolerance tummy aches, I am simply weary of try to come up with a topic, so... Y is for Yeah, I got nothing.

The challenge was a good experience and I found out I really can write regularly if I simply sit down to do it. Not that I have to at the moment, but I am far more confident now that I can if the opportunity ever presents itself to get rolling on a formal blog or book.

Maybe tomorrow a "Z" topic will come to me, but tonight, I'm letting myself off the hook.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xylophone!

Earlier in the A to Z blogging challenge I discussed popular music programs for children under K is for Kodály. One of the programs I mentioned that I highly admire is the Orff Approach, largely because I agree with the basic belief that children should ideally learn music the same way they learn language, through making music.

I remember my favorite part of teaching Kindermusik was when the kids all received their little glockenspiels. They were cute and made such a pretty little sounds.

I am addicted to percussion instruments, particularly xylophones, marimbas, concert bells, and other barred instruments, which is odd for a flute and mandolin player, I suppose. I even played the marimba in marching band during high school, but mostly I love the tiny ones in the hands of little kids.

In honor of Orff, X is for Xylophone.

After teaching children's music using only glocks and tone bars, I remember purchasing a metallophone as a personal birthday present one year, stalking it on ebay and then sniping it. I was so excited when I won and would always look forward to when I could justify bringing it in to classes. In the Montessori and homeschool programs it was easy to incorporate, but Kindermusik was far more constructed. However, there was enough flexibility that I was able to share it with the kids now and then, substituting it for the tone bars common with the program.

Giving children a chance to take a part in a group setting, playing their part and experiencing how it fits into the whole musical composition is a wonderful opportunity for children. Of course, it's one my younger two completely missed out on in a group class situation, because they were too busy making music in a group family situation. Ultimately, I don't think it hindered their musical development.

Orff and those cute little Orff arrangements are designed for settings that are, in truth, not natural to musical experiences for children. They fit a wonderful need in a classroom setting, but prior to the last century and a half, most children were learning music the way they really did learn language, by participating in it, only their participation was simply a natural extension of life.

Yesterday at Jamestowne we had a wonderful conversation with one of the men in character working on the ships. He talked about the many things they did to pass the four months at sea, stuck on the "tween" deck. They would play games, tell stories, and sing. They would sing a lot. In fact, everyone sang and knew many songs. This passed the dreary days, made light of work, and helped lonely sailors keep their sanity in dark, crowded conditions.

The twins went through all of my Kindermusik, Montessori, and homeschool programs, so they experienced the basics in Kodály, Orff, and more. Sean was in classes from infancy, but before he reached the glockenspiel class, I stopped teaching and he went straight to violin lessons. He was not doing well in the classroom settings anyway.

Mary was never in any of the classes. By the time she was born, her older siblings were all involved in private music lessons. She still danced with me, we sang songs, and she enjoyed a lot of music making on the side. I never taught her to keep a steady beat or match pitch. She was singing in tune almost as early as she was speaking because she liked to participate with the family. Now and then I would help her find her singing voice if she was singing something that challenged her range, just to make it easier for her, but I have always been fairly hands-off with my little kids on their singing, loving the natural expression.

Part of me wishes she could have experienced a group class, since she's very social, but trying to teach Mary with Orff and Kodály at home would never work. It would be awkward. I know, because when the twins were in the 3rd grade we temporarily joined up with an online charter school and I saw first hand what happens when you take a program meant for institutionalized settings and stand in your living room with mom instead. Awkward. 

However, I kind of wish I had pulled out my lovely metallophone and took off all of the bars that didn't match the chords for Old Dan Tucker, then let her have at it when she was three. That would have been a blast!

What is right for one setting completely fails in another. I understand why Orff and Kodály developed their methods. They fit a very needed void when music was taken out of the family/community and put into schools. Children are natural music makers and it's always a privilege to share it with them, no matter the setting.

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for Williamsburg (and Jamestowne too!)

Despite the cold, illnesses, and allergies, life lightened up enough today to get down to Jamestowne! Though we drove through Historic Williamsburg the other day (just drove by on our way to a show) we didn't explore that yet, but since today is "W", we'll call it close enough and say W is for Williamsburg, updating on that specific location later in the week if we get down there for a closer look.

The historical set-up of Jamestowne was amazing! They had so many hands on opportunities that gave you a real sense of what life was like back then, from the perspective of the natives as well as the colonists.

However, I will say, that one family member looked tremendously out of place in this time period. It would be centuries before the birth of the beloved android phone and wifi. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure that's what she kept thinking.

The ships didn't seem too small until they start telling you about the number of people and the amount of supplies on board. Yikes.

I went away with a much better appreciation of my kitchen and even the
bus when it rains.

Always looking through the wrong direction. I think he's related to Wild E. Coyote. 

I know the twins love boats, but I think the details surrounding these voyages probably are not what they have in mind. However, put in a few modern conveniences and a few minions to boss around, and I'm pretty sure they'd have a grand time.

This guy was so much fun! He kept calling Sean a minion and telling him to go in front when we go downstairs, and to go last when we go upstairs, so if we fall, we can land on him.

He told Katie to post this picture and make sure we tell everyone that he said she's the prettiest flower in the garden.

Another great guide! This guy sat and told Sean all kinds of dirty details of the real situations a young sailor of his age would have to deal with, including detailing entertainment, discussing the music, games, and taking a bit of extra time to show them the chamber pot. 

Sean managed to pull him out of character and reveal the fact that he has a PS4. I think that impress Sean more than his historical information, but historically stuff still managed to get into the noggin, I believe.

The town was so charming! Never mind all that disease and starving stuff we learned about. We'll just live the fairy tale, looking at the cute buildings.

Um... I think Michael is just a wee bit too big for that. 

Fits Mary a lot better. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

V was supposed to be for Virginia...

So, the plan was to have a bunch of amazing pictures for the blog of a great time seeing some lovely sites, but instead what I have here is a cold front, weather in the low to mid-40s, and lots of rain.

We were supposed to go to Historic Jamestowne on Wednesday. It rained.

We then were supposed to go to Jamestown on Thursday. Alex was feeling sick and Sean has had allergies and a possible ear infection because it has been raining pollen.

Seriously. It doesn't do this in Colorado on anything close to this level. Last couple of Aprils we were in Texas, and it also doesn't pollen like this in Texas. The pollen around here is kind of stunning.

We had shows yesterday and today, so no Historic Jamestowne, rain all day tomorrow too. No amazing sights and sounds of Virginia to post. Just a rainy, cold, wet Virginia. We really should have stayed in North Carolina for a couple weeks as we originally planned. It may have rained, but it would be warmer. Pfthhh.

Did I mention that rain in this bus is sort of not very fun?

Thankfully, this is not our first trip through Virginia so we know it is really a lovely state with wonderful things to see and do. We'll try Monday. Perhaps, if we're successful, we can title W for Williamsburg?

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for "Underground" and the History of American Education

I've been homeschooling for 15 years, though I admit to now having trouble remembering why I started homeschooling. I had some friends of the family who homeschooled and it was a novel idea at the time. I really liked hanging out with my daughters, and I liked teaching, so I figured we'd go for it. But, I admit I did not start with some wild vision of homeschooling vs. public schooling, just some feeling that it was somehow better for my girls and their educational needs.

Shortly after we began to homeschool I found a book at the library by John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing us Down. After reading this I kept following his writings, and on a homeschool board I traded some of my unused school books for a prepublication copy of the Underground History of American Education. That was a turning point to me, when homeschooling stopped being a fun idea and perhaps a good choice for my kids, and turned into an honest passion, which turned me into a rather opinionated homeschooling advocate.

So, in honor of the book which was a turning point in my thinking on educating children, this letter on the Blogging from A to Z challenge, U is for "Underground", as in the Underground History of American Education.

(Side note: It would seem they are going to republish and updated version of this book so they have taken it down from the website where Gatto, believing the information too important to not make available to everyone, always made this book a free download. However, you can still find it with a quick google of "Underground History of American Education pdf".)

Fast forward now to an older, somewhat less dramatic me. Since that time my thoughts have relaxed a bit and I now can see why a parent would utilize the public education system, even though I haven't changed my mind about the system itself. I still do not like the public education system in this country, but I do acknowledge that it is, for many parents in need, the only real game in town that can give them the help they require for their child, and it is therefore the best for their particular circumstance. In other words, I am a fan of any parent who will honestly advocate for what their child needs, even if I do not like the system. I am also a fan of a teacher who will work in a flawed system because there will be parents and child who have no where else to turn, and if ever I am in such a situation, hope to get some good ones on our team.

Back to Gatto... Yes, sometimes he also sounds a bit like a conspiracy theorist, (and sometimes his streams of thought can be really difficult to follow), but dang, sometimes I'm convinced he is right on the conspiracies!

And sometimes, I'm not.

Or at least, I think that is what I decided, after reading some countering arguments on a few of his details. It's been a very long time since I reached some of these conclusions, though it became a part of me over the years, even as the details gradually faded. I hope that makes sense.

That is really what this post is about, in truth. How an understanding of a system of schooling changed so much about how I would raise my children, and remained even later after I read countering arguments and had to reevaluate a few things. Then it remained even when enough time had passed that I had forgotten the details necessary to formulate the arguments that used to come so freely.

In the end, minor differing views on the minute details would never be enough to change my mind. I have made some dramatic u-turns in my life, but I never could take away what I learned about the historical building of our public school system, and what I believed was a dehumanizing view of these young human individuals. I cannot stand for any system that lumps children as a resource for use in a government social system and forgets the fact that they are individual souls of infinite value.

However, what I have added over the years is an understanding that these infinitely valuable souls sometimes need to work in a system that doesn't love them, because their parents do love them, and it offers what they need as a family.

On a final note, it may be wise to remember this modern schooling is a tiny little blip on the human historical experience, having been around in the current form for less than 100 years and should not be considered a natural thing, but instead still a social experiment that needs to be continually evaluated, not blindly followed. So, when you meet a nutty homeschool mom, try to at least remember that historically speaking, maybe she isn't the weird one.