Monday, April 30, 2012

Summer Porch

Today Mother decided to clean her screened-in porch and prepare it for summer use. What a joy a nice porch is! Care to have some tea and sit a spell?
 She swept the floor. After the long winter, and pollen season, it's pretty dusty out there.
 There are mighty fine views from the porch. Mother spends a good bit of time out here.
 She's fond of plants, and just re-potted most of these in fresh soil.
This is a doggy-friendly porch with a basin of cool water.

Mother has two short clotheslines on the porch. She can hang things out to dry, even in rainy weather, without traipsing into the yard.
 Still some tidying to do, but she's taking a short break to chat with me. My mother is a firm believer in pillows, especially on chairs, especially on the porch. See the stack there?
 Children have been playing with dogs on this porch for many years :)

Looking back through the glass doors, into the house -- I thought this was a nice framing of that pot. Inside? Outside? The joy of a summer porch is that you get both at once. Enjoy this glorious weather!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Memorization List

Julia memorized and recited poetry this year for homeschooling. I've used poetry memorization in my teaching for 16 years. Here's her list for this past year:

"Sonnet 18" by William Shakespeare (98)
"October" by Robert Frost (100)
"Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne (99)
"When I Consider How My Light Is Spent" by John Milton (98)
"A Poison Tree" by William Blake (99)
"The Tyger" by William Blake (98)
"Jerusalem" by William Blake (100)
"Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth (97)
"Uphill" by Christina Rossetti (100)
"In Memoriam #27" by Tennyson (99)
"The Declaration of Independence" [first 2 sections] (98)
"Sonnet 1" by Elizabeth Browning (98)

I require poetry memorization for these reasons: 1) It places excellent literature into the student's head, often for a lifetime. 2) It requires maximum work from the student, and minimal work from the teacher. This is best for the student. The one working is the one learning. 3) It is beautiful and pleasant. 4) If one requires public recitation, it teaches public presentation skills. 5) Memorization skills are useful in many other subjects.

The goal of teaching is for the student to master the material. I usually allowed Julia a week to finish memorizing. I often did pre-recitations, to get a feel of how the first quatrain or few lines were progressing, and to build her confidence. I told her about the author's life, and discussed the meaning of the poem, to increase her interest.

I used to require my high school students to recite one poem each Friday. This was rather rigorous, and later, as my students became less able to master it, I reduced the requirement to one poem every other Friday. I try to choose poems that are about the length of a sonnet, and then I count off one point (on a 100 point scale) for each word that they miss. I allow them to begin again, or go back and correct themselves, but I never give hints, clues, or correct their mistakes. I will tell them if they omit an entire line. One must be reasonable.The numbers in parentheses above indicate Julia's grades this year, for each poem.

When one homeschools, flexibility is possible. I can increase the difficulty, take a break for a month from memorization, choose poets or subjects that appeal to Julia, and otherwise fine-tune the task to her. In homeschooling, it's important to design the curriculum to appeal to the student's strengths, but never to compensate for their weaknesses. I know some may disagree with this. But our goal as educators is to eliminate the weaknesses as much as possible by weeding them out, not ignoring them, and to build the strengths through challenging work. Both of these will give the student confidence and courage. Kids know when they're being hood-winked with easy work. They won't complain, but they won't admire the teacher, themselves, or the material.

Julia's poetry memorization will become more difficult each year. She did 12 pieces in 30 weeks. She also did poems that I usually give to high school students. I look forward to the challenges she'll master in high school!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Can It Be Any More Fun That This?

At knitting group today, we were very happy. Here's an old shot of our knitting group, from last autumn.
 Julia has become a proficient knitter. She has fine, small, even stitches.
 The sky was stormy this morning, and hail fell three times. This little sparrow flew into the window and dropped to the deck. He sat there, stunned, for about ten minutes.
 At the same time, this squirrel was up on the deck ledge. When the bird fell, he peered down at the wounded animal, looking and inspecting, hovering. I couldn't decide whether he was concerned for his fellow seed-nibbler, or checking out his lunch.
 Meanwhile, at the knitting table, here's Martha. She's making a gorgeous cabled shawl, and giving her weary hands a rest.
 Joan is working on one of her very-cool scarves -- so ruffly and fun!
 Hunter completed two squares today for her next afghan!
 Today was special -- we had a knitters' luncheon! That broccoli salad was scrumptious :)
 Our friend Blair was with us today. I taught her how to make the crocheted wash clothes. She did a great job! Mother is rather fond of her, as you see.
 Hunter, me, mother:

I love this pic of Martha and Joan -- both such lovely ladies! Thank you, thank you, dear friends, for being such a comfort and joy to me this year.

Thursday already?

This week is flying by. Monday: Biltmore House all day. Tuesday: visit my friend Lynn in town. Wednesday: ladies church luncheon, and then a visit with my friend Carolyn. Thursday: knitting group and then a luncheon with those ladies. Friday: shopping in town with my mom all day. Phew! All that fun is exhausting! But I do love playing with all my friends.
What's on my mind these days? (I mean, besides various political and religious topics which I won't launch into this morning...) My brother's farm is on my mind. He grows blueberries. His whole year's income for his family lies in the hands of God, and particularly this time of year. One killing frost can radically alter their plans and their finances. We're praying daily for mild spring temps.
 Anna's on my mind. She's finishing up her first year of college, and she has done so well! I'm extremely proud of her. She's grown and matured spiritually in amazing ways. She'll be working this summer at the college, living in an duplex house with about five other girls, earning money and being more independent than she's been before. She has no clue yet just how much fun she's gonna have this summer! Once you have that first independent summer, life becomes exciting and you never look back.

 Peter's also on my mind. Finishing high school. Working his first job for the summer. (And no, it's not digging out stumps!) He's a happy, hard-working, hard-headed, longing-to-be-independent young man. We've done this leaving-home transition twice now with the other two, but it's never easy to shove a kid out of the nest. I'm praying for a smooth first year for him in college. I watched a show last night. On it, a man described the accident he had when he was 17. He jumped off a height, with a rope, supposedly to land in a deep pool of water -- a swimming hole. Only, he missed, and landed in 8 inches of water. He's been a quadriplegic for 15 years. All of us mothers of teen boys worry that they'll do some foolish, reckless thing like that. God preserve the silly teenage boys of this world!
 Philip. Travel plans and summer schedules are really complicated this year, and I'm doing my best to work out smooth plans for all these college kids, as they try to get where they need to be for the summer. He's had a great year of music, in his new major. He has a long way to go. At some point, we parents just have to gently lift our hands off their lives, and say, "I'm cheering you on! Do your best! Keep us posted!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of Bullfrogs and Bumblebees

The one place at Biltmore House that (I think) they don't mind photography, is the gift shops. My favorite shop is the large one in the old stable area. Things of beauty, things of tackiness, things of pure expense -- they have it all!
When I saw all these froggies, for some reason I thought of Pom Pom :) Aren't they friendly looking?

Perhaps Toad of Toad Hall would like to live in the Biltmore Gift Shop?
This green fellow is actually a small fan. An unusual idea, I think.
I couldn't resist this splash of color.
And look at this display -- oh my! What color! What ladybugs! And are those .... teapots?
Over it all, a rather staid-looking Peter Rabbit presides.
This is cheering. She's a little teapot too!
I hope this post adds a little sunshine to your spring day. I have a busy day ahead, part of a very busy week. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Very Happy Birthday

A very kind friend gave us 3 tickets to Biltmore House and Gardens, to be used anytime before next March. Isn't that sweet? I showed the tickets to Adam. I was thinking we would go sometime next fall. Guess what the first thing he said was? "It's my birthday tomorrow!!!" Oh yeah, that man loves a day at Biltmore.
 This time I did not snap the predictable picture by the front doors with the lion statues. I didn't even get my camera out until we were away from the house and in the walled garden.
 See those gray, billowy clouds? It was cold and windy all day -- uncomfortably so. Adam wore his wool suitcoat and old-guy hat, so he walked the grounds. Julia and I stayed indoors. Here's a shot of the greenhouse. Adam roamed in there; I did not. By that time, my feet were killing me.
On our way driving to Antler Village (a new place full of shops and restaurants, a winery and a separate exhibit on the Vanderbilts), we passed some geese crossing the road. Make way for goslings!
 I thought this was a lovely plant to grow just outside the winery.
(They are very picky about where they allow photography; otherwise, I'd show you many of the glories of the house and the exhibit.)

 They had one of George Vanderbilt's cars on display. It's a rather rare model from 1914.

I think Julia was a bit chilly. The roses, however, were fine with the weather.
Happy birthday to my dear husband. This year, he has been married as long as he was single in his life, a landmark that he's been eagerly anticipating. He truly loves being married, and I don't know that I can take credit for that. Some men are just happy with a wifely companion. I'm very grateful for him.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Latest Senior --

Peter isn't really interested in senior pictures, so I had to snag a few (that's all he'd allow), when he was dressed up on Saturday for a wedding.
 He's a fine-looking young man, if I do say so myself. He insisted on having his pictures taken on the dolphin toy at Silvermont. Sigh. He's still attempting to relive his childhood, it was so good.
 It's a bit rare to get these two in a photo together. Soon she'll be the only one at home. Sniff!!
 He's a sweet boy. Hard-headed, but sweet.
 What do you think? Good senior shot?

(That's three high school graduates in four years, in case anybody's counting.)

Monday Morning Blogasbord

How Obama Became a Senator -- I've been hanging onto this article for a long time because I find it fascinating. I'd never heard about how the ugly politics were hashed out in Chicago. Worth reading, especially for conservatives, since we weren't even involved.
Playing Homeless -- What happens when a man who looks homeless walks into a church? I loved reading this, because this guy is the father of a former student, and he clearly has a heart for ministry to the needy.
Shacking Up -- GREAT article from World Mag about this very damaging epidemic trend in America. Best quote: "In their 20s when they moved in together, they married in their 30s seemingly by default. How romantic." Wouldn't you hate to get married by default?
The Juvenilization of Christianity -- Excellent brief article and interview video of Thomas Bergler on his new book. He gives both the good and the bad about the immaturity of the American church.
Telling Our Story -- I found this World article worthwhile, as a fiction writer. Christians have the best story ever to tell, and we've let the world destroy and twist it. This is written by the author of Hank the Cowdog.
The Brutish Brit -- After reading this, I'm not sure I'm going to England anytime soon! His description of the crumbling of civility in Britain is disturbing, but I see it here in the U.S. too. In a way, it's connected to the "Juvenilization" theme mentioned above. Who is in charge of civilization in a society? Do we allow the lower orders to rule, in the name of tolerance?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rhododendrons and Such

Yesterday, Joan had the most luscious rhododendron on her table.
 She also had a rock star squirrel on her deck. I had a hard time getting his picture -- see his tail? From the front, it looked even crazier, really "punked up," as they say.
 Today I went for a long walk. New things are always blooming. Mother has some particularly lovely honeysuckle.
 Vibrant orange honeysuckle is blooming in the woods too. It's very large. Adam says this is called "trumpet honeysuckle." After 22 years of marriage, a man can still surprise you with the odd pieces of knowledge he carries in his head.
 Here's a close-up of them. What colors! If they weren't up at tree-level, I'd think they were tiger lilies :)
 From honeysuckle, we move on to azaleas, which are nearly spent here. You can see the similarity of structure, between the two. Azaleas have rounder petals and are more full.
 And this. Azalea? Rhododendron? The leaves indicate a rhodie, but I'm not sure.
 Rhododendrons, especially the cultivated ones you pay money for and put in your yard, look a lot like super-sized azaleas. Mother's rhododendron below looks very similar to the one on Joan's table.
 Before it opens:
 Doesn't this clay bird house look snug among the blooms? If I were a bird, I'd live here!
 The Guard Rabbit takes his job in the flower bed very seriously.
 Just down the lane are more stunning rhododendrons in a friend's yard. This photo doesn't do justice to their deep red hue.
 The actual flower has not a tint of pink. I wish my camera behaved better.
 And here I found the gorgeous lavender/pink one again! It must be a favorite.

That's your tour of the rhododendrons. In our area, the woods are loaded with wild ones and piles of mountain laurel too.