The last couple of months in our homeschool history club, History’s Heroines, have been really fun ones (both for me and the girls). In February, we met to discuss Lucille Ball. Before their study, I don’t think any of them knew who she was, nor had they seen any episodes of the I Love Lucy show. I’m happy to say that even after all these years, Lucy is still relevant. The girls loved her! There was more to this lady than just a character on tv. The girls and I learned a lot from studying about her. As a young woman in acting school, Lucille Ball had been told that she would never have an acting career. She just didn’t have what it takes. The girls discussed different ways that they have of dealing with and rising above discouragement. They also learned about Lucy being questioned by the Committee for Un-American Activities regarding a possible affiliation with the Communist Party*. We had a great discussion about the public good vs. personal freedom and who should have the right to make those kinds of decisions.
Surprising facts that I learned about Lucy:
Her hair was not naturally red. She used a secret formula made from Egyptian Henna in order to keep her signature color in place.
She was sometimes called the Queen of the Bs for her many pre-I Love Lucy roles in Hollywood B movies. I’d love to watch some of those.
The real Lucy and the fictional character Lucy were pregnant at the same time (season 2). Lucy’s onscreen pregnancy kept pace with her real one. They filmed a couple of episodes ahead so that her real-life c-section could take place on the same day as her tv delivery.
photo credit: google images, original source unknown
The activity I chose for that month was chocolate making. Anyone care to guess why? If you are reading this through email, click over to watch video.
The girls had a little better luck than Lucy, thanks to a wonderful guest instructor.
Next week, I’ll share our March activity and discussion on Julia Child.
*If you are looking for a good middle-grade historical fiction book that discusses the red scare and the Commtittee for Un-American Activity’s hearings, I’d recommend The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman.
Newt is a planner. She wants to know what’s going to happen, when, where, why and how. Every night, she has to check the calendar to see what’s going on the next day and Walt’s iPhone for the weather forecast before she can go to bed. Even with all her advance preparation, Newt still starts each day with: What’s happening today Mama? and What are we doing for school today? I bought her a planner to help her keep track of her schedule, but it never really caught on. For one thing, it kept getting misplaced. Then I’d get: Mama, I can’t find my schedule. and What are we doing today?
In an effort to help preserve my sanity her keep track, I created a big magnetic board that holds all of her activities and lessons for the week. I looked around for a big magnet board, but they were all more expensive than I wanted to spend. Instead, I contacted a local heating and sheet metal place and asked them to cut me a 3′ x 5′ piece of sheet metal. That cost me $34. Walt and I hung it using six picture-hanging strips (click link to see product on Amazon). I made a list of our main subjects and activities and figured out how many I might need. For example, we do spelling three times a week, so I planned for three spelling cards. I also planned for several blank cards that I could use to write in subjects or activities as needed. I created the cards in a word document using a business-card template, with Newt helping to choose fun fonts. In order to make things easier on myself, I added a light colored border around each card to aide in cutting. I printed the cards on plain white copy paper, cut them out and stuck them to self-adhesive business card magnets . A strip of packing tape over the top (which just happens to be the same width as the cards) turns them into little dry erase boards. Every weekend, Newt and I take a few minutes to review the upcoming week’s calendar. We place cards for activities (horseback riding, girl scouts, 4H, etc.) on the appropriate days then fill in the rest of the week with the lessons I have planned. Each day as Newt completes the lesson, she moves the card to the “Done” column. Any that don’t get completed for whatever reason get shifted to another day in the week. My total cost for this project was about $50, but it’s worth so much more. Though it has given Newt a new thing to check before bed every night…
I am a reader, happily married to a tv watcher. Most nights, while he watches, I read. Sometimes, he’ll rewind a show to show me a particularly funny or interesting scene. Sometimes, I’ll ask him to pause it while I read him a particularly funny or interesting passage. There are a few shows I find worthy enough to put down whatever book I’m reading and watch with him. There are a few books he finds worthy enough to click the tv off and read. A tv watcher and a reader… against the odds, we make it work. Doesn’t that sound like the premise of a great tv show book?
What I’ve Been Reading I’m all over the place lately. From classics to non-fiction to YA to light romance (but no bodice ripping for me). Here’s a sampling of what has been on my nightstand:
Across the Universe Loved it. YA distopian future society, murder mystery, and even a bit of romance all taking place on board a giant space ship. The very first scene, of the protagonist’s mother being cryogenically frozen for a 300 year flight to a new planet, hooked me right in. I happily stayed up too late for a couple of nights in order to finish. Can’t wait to read book two.
The Seer of Shadows A deliciously creepy ghost story set in the early days of the art of photography. A short read, I finished in one evening, but I haven’t stopped thinking of it.
What I’ve Been Reading to Newt
Poems of William Blake Free for Kindle These poems are a mixed bag. There have been some that we both have really enjoyed (The Lamb, The Chimney Sweeper) and others that have been less than interesting (The Laughing Song, The Blossom). And then there is the rather racist The Little Black Boy. I skipped over that one…
The Princess and the Goblin Also free for Kindle This is the first time I have ever read this classic fairy-tale. I’m glad I found it; it’s a good one. Newt can’t wait to see how Princess Irene and her friend Curdie, the miner boy, will outwit the goblins that live under the mountain.
What We’ve Been Listening To We both love a good CD in the car. Our latest choice is Ella Enchanted. This is such a fun twist on the Cinderella classic story, and I love the youthful voice of the narrator. She sounds familiar… I wonder is she has done some of the Dear America audiobooks. Note: If you have seen the movie, it really, really does not do the book justice. The book has far more depth and feeling.
What Newt Has Been Reading Lucille Ball: Pioneer of Comedy This is for next month’s History’s Heroines Club. It’s fun to hear Newt tell me facts about the I Love Lucy Show. We rented a DVD of season two and both laughed out loud several times watching Lucy try to “teach Ricky a lesson”. Even after all these years, Lucille Ball is still relevant and funny.
A Series of Unfortunate Events Newt rediscovered these on our bookshelf a few weeks ago and has been working her way through the series. I enjoyed them when I read them a few years ago too – all but the last one. I’m not telling Newt that though. I wonder if she’ll find the end as annoying as I did?
History’s Heroines is the history club that I lead for Newt and several other 9 – 11 year old girls (and one 16 year old Jr. Leader). Each month I assign a different remarkable woman from history. The girls choose their own sources to study about her, tracking those sources on a study log. They meet at my home one afternoon a month to discuss her life, share original writings inspired by her life and do a fun activity. For January’s meeting we planned to discuss the amazing Mother Teresa. Newt was slightly less than excited. She perused the biography shelf at the library and chose to read Mother Teresa’s Alms Bowl. It’s not terribly long, but still informative. Although she began this month’s study reluctantly, she soon found the subject far more interesting than she expected. I love the discussion that takes place in these meetings. The girls expressed that they were both inspired and amazed by the life of service that Mother Teresa lived. They talked about ways that each of them could make a difference in their families and communities. I was impressed with their willingness and drive to make this world a better place. After our discussion, we moved on to the activity. This month, in honor of Mother Teresa, we did a service project. Kathryn, my Jr. Leader, did an excellent job teaching the girls to make a great, easy fleece scarf. The girls were able to learn/practice using mats and rotary cutters and sewing machines. Sidenote: Yup, we still have a mix of plywood and 1970s vinyl flooring. It’s a process. Each girl made two scarves, one to share with the needy (I’m taking them to a local shelter) and one to keep. While the girls are all sure to be warmed by their scarves, I was warmed by their willingness to share.
My mom homeschooled me for kindergarten. She and three other moms formed a little co-op. The four children would alternate between each other’s homes, one house per week. In addition to the standard subjects, each mom had a particular focus. One taught music, another crafts… I’ve been wracking my brain all day, but I can’t remember the other two. What I do remember though is that all of the moms taught reading. I loved that about each one of my teachers, that they all wanted to help me learn to read. I still remember the feeling I got when I was finally able, all on my own, to read about Sally getting a skinned knee and Dick drawing a smiley face on her bandage. From that moment to this, it has been a rare time when I wasn’t in the middle of some sort of book. I love books, but you knew that didn’t you? I love the weight of a good one in my hands, the feel of the pages, and the smell. Nothing can compare to a real book.
Because of my book infatuation, I have resisted the idea of ebooks and e-readers for quite some time. No electronic device could take the place of my beloved pages. Still, I kept hearing things like convenience, portability, free classics, more room on my shelves, more room in my suitcase… I was intrigued. Last month, I caved and put a Kindle 4 on my Christmas wish list. It’s the basic model, not a touch screen, but at only $79, very affordable. Christmas morning, I opened this little beauty: Sidenote: It’s time to give myself a manicure. I’m happy to report that I was wrong about e-readers. I love it. Already I feel like it has made such a difference in my homeschooling. Need a book? Ten seconds to download, and boom! it’s yours. No waiting for delivery or driving over to the library or bookstore. Most classics are part of the public domain and are free to download. Many others are inexpensive, costing only a few dollars. The Kindle has already more than paid for itself in money saved from books that we are studying this term. Having most of the books we are studying from on one device makes it so easy to school anywhere. I don’t have to lug a bunch of books from one room to another or out to the car. I just grab my one little Kindle. Newt sometimes judges a book by its font. If the font is too small, she assumes that the book is going to be boring or hard. Unfortunately, many printed budget versions of classics are printed with a smaller font. On the kindle, I can adjust the size to something that looks easier. It may be just a trick of the mind, but it makes it so Newt feels more comfortable right up front. Besides all of those reasons, it’s lightweight, portable, and easy to read. The biggest problem? Looks like I’m going to need to buy one for Newt. I don’t think ebooks will ever make printed books obsolete, but I have discovered that there is room in my heart for both.
Between Newt’s bout with a stomach bug, a puppy that just has to put. everything. in. her. mouth and [still] living in a construction zone, I’ve not had as much time as I like to spend with a good book. I realized how much I had been missing it today. Newt was absorbed in a book for school so I grabbed my book and pulled up a comfy chair. After reading just a page or two, I literally felt my body begin to relax. A quiet home and a soft chair in a patch of winter sun; it didn’t even matter that the book was not a favorite, I was in heaven.
What I’ve Been Reading Children of the Mind (Ender, Book 4) I finally finished this terrible book. Why, oh why did I feel the need to put myself through the torture? Because I had read all the other books in the series and I just felt the need to know how it would end. Even after I stopped caring how it would end. The need to know was just too strong. The need to read every single word was pretty weak though; I’m not ashamed to admit that I skimmed my way through to The End.
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats This is the fourth and last time I will check this book out from the library. The first time, I picked it up on the advice of a friend. I didn’t get it. Most of the recipes seemed really weird. The second time I got it because I wanted to try making mayonnaise and I remembered that it had condiment recipes. I ended up reading more than just that section, nodding my head a little as I went, though there was still a lot that was strange to me. (And I never did get around to making the mayo.) The last time I checked it out specifically because I heard that it could help me learn what to do with all the leftover whey I had from yogurt making. As I tasted my first batch homemade lacto-fermented sauerkraut, I really began to appreciate this book. Now, I’m reading over the chapter on stocks and using the information to make some excellent bone broths. This book has changed for me, or more to point, I have changed the way that I both eat and think about food and this book is an illustration of my transformation. I won’t check it out again. I just ordered it and am looking forward to reading it many more times.
What I’ve Been Reading to Newt The Taming of the Shrew Does that seem like an odd choice for a first introduction to real Shakespeare? It does to me, a bit. However, I wanted to go with a story she was familiar with and thanks to Jim Weiss’s most excellent storytelling on the CD Shakespeare for Children, Newt was not only familiar with the story, she already loved it. Sidenote: By the way, if you are not familiar with Jim Weiss and you enjoy good storytelling, you must remedy that right now. His CDs have done much to inspire a love of the classics in my daughter. We started reading an unabridged, untampered with version of The Taming of the Shrew this week. It is going even better than I had hoped. The whole play within a play aspect was new to Newt and she is loving it. She’s a bit of a prankster herself so she really appreciates the joke being played on poor Sly. I’m happy that her first exposure to a Shakespeare original is so positive. What Newt Has Been Reading Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods The Gregor the Overlander Series is one of Newt’s absolute favorites. She has checked them out from the library about as often as I have checked out Nourishing Traditions. She now owns three of the five books and has extracted a promise from Walt and I that we will make a trip up to Powell’s [insert choir of angels] this weekend so she can buy the rest. Funny little fact about the way Newt is reading the series this time around: she has turned them into “school-books”, assigning herself copywork and memorization. I love it!
Call my hometown bookstore, The Book Bin at 503-361-1235, and place an order!
This is my blog.
I have a newsletter.
Do you like my book and event news, prizes, and having fun? Do you enjoy receiving emails from me, but no more often than once every month or two? Well, then, this newsletter is perfect for you! Register here.