Art, Book Recommendations, Memories

World Letter Writing Day #2

Because today is World Letter Writing Day, it seems appropriate to share my favorite published letters. (See here)

From October 1951 to May 1952, Juan and Rie Munoz taught native children on an Alaskan Island in the Bering Sea. Their main contact with the outside world was by radio. They received one airdrop and one visit by an icebreaker. Even knowing that their letters could not be mailed until their service ended, they wrote over forty to their families.

These letters and accompanying photographs were discovered in 2005 and compiled by their son. Like the letters of my family, The King Island Journal contains the mundane: bathing, tanning hides, making clothes, gathering food, cooking, and, especially, their dogs’ and students’ antics. Also like my family, their mundane is both revealing and entertaining.

My current kitchen posters

Rie Munoz settled in Juneau and is best known for her artwork depicting native life in Alaska. I love both Alaska and art, and my search for an Alaskan artist led to what I consider an even greater treasure—letters.

Rie Munoz’s watercolors, (See here for more)

My husband enjoyed reading John and Abigail Adams’ correspondence. Any favorite published letters?

Art, Book Recommendations, Homeschooling

Art Responders

“No, Benjamin can’t be in my art class,” I said.

The six-year-old was known for his extremely bad behavior. Not only was the class already crowded, but also he was younger than the average student. Most importantly, I had volunteered to teach, not wrangle with a difficult child.

The next time I saw his mother, she was cool. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“You didn’t give my son a chance. You wrote him off.”

I was convicted. “You’re right. He can come.”

And he did. He behaved. He responded. He was transformed. I was amazed.

Another year, in another art class, another child had a bad reputation. His mother—who was in charge—assigned him to my class because she had “Nowhere else to stick him.”

He participated well. At the end of the semester, I took my students to the National Gallery of Art to see the works we had studied. He begged to go. His mother said, “No.” My class was “Just a place to keep him out of trouble.” It had. Marvelously.

My favorite resource.

Two examples are not scientific research, but other art teachers confirmed my experiences.

Have you witnessed a child responding to art?

Book Recommendations, Parenting

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Twenty-six years ago, my husband’s co-worker recommended a fictionalized juvenile biography. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Latham became an immediate favorite. I read it to our sons and insisted my husband read it during his bus ride to work.

As a child, Nathanial Bowditch constantly overcame obstacles pursuing an education. As an adult, he faced danger sailing internationally after the American Revolution.

However, I believe the life lessons flowing seamlessly from the narrative were the reasons for the book’s impact. Serving others, duty, self-directed learning, perseverance, perspective, the value of teaching, the non-academic benefits of education, and patience with people of different talents were learned, and later, modeled by Nathanial as he struggled from childhood through adulthood.

I’m just like a chair you stumble over in the dark,” Elizabeth said. “It isn’t the chair’s fault, but you kick it anyway.

Nat blinked. “What are you talking about?”

Your brain. It’s too fast. So you stumble on other people’s dumbness. And—you want to kick something.

But you shouldn’t because even if people are dumb, they aren’t chairs are they?”

… He always remembered how she said, “Your brain—it’s too fast.” He would bite back his impatience.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Latham

Any book recommendations?

Book Recommendations, Winter

Winter Book Flood

Icelanders read the night away on Christmas Eve. (See Here for Christmas Book Flood) Our family never read the night away, but one winter, we did read the day away. My youngest still remembers the book I read aloud in its entirety—Trapped by the Winter Storm. Coincidentally, that son now lives near the setting of this favorite.

If I had children at home these days, I would officially declare a Winter Book Flood. What would I read aloud? Below are my favorites in order of difficulty.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton, and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Brave Irene by William Steig, Winter Story, and The Secret Staircase, both by Jill Barklem.

The Tough Winter by Robert Lawson, Trapped by the Winter Storm by Aileen Fisher, The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Prairie School by Lois Lenski, and Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. As a bonus, the first two teach about animals’ winter needs while the remainder teach history.

Giving myself “permission” to read the day away was a great winter gift.

Ready to declare a Winter Book Flood?

Book Recommendations, Homeschooling

One-Word Summaries

I wish I had read Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning by Rick Wormeli before I homeschooled. (See my favorite technique Here)

My second favorite technique is One-Word Summaries, which is not easy as many writers have noted.

I have made this (letter) longer because I have not had time to make it shorter.*

Pascal Translated from French

A One-Word Summary is simply choosing one word to summarize the lesson’s topic and explaining the choice. This method also works with favorite books, Scripture passages, best friends, trips.

Choosing requires processing an experience.  Eliminating excess words gets to the heart of a matter.

My husband chose “honor” to describe last year’s trip to Oklahoma.We traveled to honor an inheritance and the man who left it to me.

Explaining solidifies the understanding. We treated my uncle’s possessions and wishes with respect. We did our best to make sure his desires were satisfied.

Which one word summarizes your childhood? Your parenting? Your homeschooling experience?

*Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain—among others—have used variations of Pascal’s statement.