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Prescription for the New Year

Welcome to January, 2013!!

Now, unlike homeschooling moms in the southern hemisphere (who are just getting ready to start school — it is mid-summer there!), you are probably facing a wall of inertia at the moment.  I mean, didn’t you just give every ounce of energy into creating a fabulous Christmas experience for your family??  Not only that, only a few months ago you launched a new school year for your kids!  Whew!!  No wonder an insurmountable Wall of Inertia—sort of like the Great Wall of China—is looming over you.Great Wall

 

So, what’s a mom to do?  Here are three suggestions that come from my own struggles to get through that wall, particularly when January can be so grey and tedious.  Here’s the list:

 

 Inspire  
Analyze
 Energize

First of all, Inspire.  When facing obstacles of any sort, it has been remarkably helpful to read someone else’s story about how they overcame the odds, broke through the wall, and achieved their goals.  Inspiration provides that first step of getting our hearts to believe that it is possible to keep going.  That is why we love stories of people like Joni Eareckson Tada and Corrie ten Boom, because they remind us that there is incredible blessing on the other side of our pain.  So, I want to encourage you to read or reread another family’s story of homeschooling, one that will inspire you!  (If you aren’t sure what to read, check out my Once Upon A Time ebook, part of our downloadable collection.)

Gladys AylwardOne inspirational story that I think of often is the story of Gladys Aylward. Gladys was convinced she was supposed to go to China to serve as a missionary.  Unfortunately, her lack of academic ability—they told her she was too dumb—caused her to be dismissed from missionary school and rejected as a candidate for missions.  This setback, however, did not change Gladys' determination to do what she felt God had called her to do.  In 1930, after saving up her wages as a servant, she bought a ticket to travel to China by train—across Russia!  What was she going to do in China?  It didn’t sound profound, because her opportunity was to become a servant, a helper, to an aging missionary, Agnes Lawson.  But in this position, Gladys learned to speak Chinese and to love the Chinese.   In 1932, after Mrs. Lawson’s death, Gladys was appointed "foot inspector" for the Chinese government, as a new imperial law was decreed to eliminate the practice of foot binding—and no one else in this region was as suited as Gladys to radically break with cultural tradition.  This amazing job gave her an opportunity to share about Jesus with villagers all over this province, something no one else had been able to accomplish.  Later, when the region was invaded by Japanese forces, she led one hundred hungry, tired, and frightened orphans across the mountains to safety.  Gladys did many other amazing things that you can read about in Geoff and Janet Benge’s biography of her, part of the YWAM Publishing Christian Heroes: Then and Now series.  Her story is just one among many that remind us that God never calls us without providing the strength and resources we need to accomplish that call—including homeschooling!   

The second step is Analyze.  Take some time—alone, with your spouse or with an encouraging friend—to ask yourself specifically what factors are weighing you down.  Are you the Type-A driven homeschool mom who can never say “no,” and who thinks that if maxing out is good, then adding a few more pieces would be even better?  (I can speak from experience on that one:  simplify, simplify, simplify!)  Do you have a child who is not thriving on that expensive curriculum, but you are determined to wring every bit of value you can out of it?  (Simply put, which is more valuable, your child or the money you spent on the curriculum?)  Are you suffering the exhaustion of trying to keep up with the the Joneses — homeschooling style?  (Ah, dear one, NO ONE keeps up with those guys.  Did you know they don’t really exist?)  Write down the specific issues and then prayerfully and carefully consider your options.  What can go out with the trash????

Cute KidsAfter you've decided what to toss, take some time to map out the rest of your school year.  I'm not talking about a rigid schedule, just a framework to help you captain the ship more effectively.  (After all, your homeschool may look a little different without that curriculum that takes 5 arguments and 6 hours to finish every day!)  I find routines with flexibility are incredibly helpful to enable kids and moms to relax.  Somehow, knowing generally what is happening next, gives a family a sense of stability and comfort.  If you are already a schedule type and your family is overwhelmed by your military-like transitions, you can map things out too–just remember your challenge is to schedule time for fun and relaxation!

Last, but not least, Energize.  As a Homeschool Practitioner, I am going to write you a prescription for beating the winter blues.  If you are not someone who typically exercises, insert a 15-minute walk into your day.  This will actually release endorphins that help improve your mood and clear your mind!  Read a chapter of Proverbs every day.  I believe that there are thirty-one chapters for a reason!  Proverbs will give you the wisdom you need in the moment that you need it.

CatanFinally, make lots of room in your heart, your mind and your schedule to add in great doses of humor, fun and games!  It will provide an energizing zest for both you and your children, making each day easier and more profitable for all.  Some games that promote logic and strategic thinking are "The Settlers of Catan", "Risk" and "Monopoly".  Some fun word games are "Boggle" and "Scrabble" (check out a variation of Scrabble called "Take 2" that is faster paced.)  For younger kids, an interesting game that isn't too tedious for parents is, "Snorta" and little children can usually play "Toss Up" if they have good counting skills.  With the possible exception of "Snorta" these games can be integrated into your school day without guilt because of the skills they teach and your kids will love it!

I hope these ideas will encourage you, and don’t forget, you can get a HUGE dose of encouragement from my “Encouragement for Homeschool Moms” collection, which is 100% downloadable and is on sale for the next 5 days!

Remember, stay relational.

 

Using the 5 senses to bring history to life

Using the 5 senses to bring history to life

Bringing history to life

My very first book in 1989 was all about bringing history to life. The premise was that American history could come to life—and be FUN—when a folk song and its history were connected to actual events. But there are lots of other fun, hands-on ways to play with history! You can learn ancient history, medieval history, modern history, ANY history through utilizing your five senses.

The 5 senses bring history to lifeHere are just a few suggestions to get you started:

Experience “living history” through planting a garden using heirloom seeds favored by Thomas Jefferson OR planting a dead fish underneath your corn seed, á la Squanto. Make a mouth-watering bite of the American frontier in a Laura Ingalls Wilder gingerbread, OR get a taste of Bible history with milk and honey. Create a cardboard medieval castle, OR fashion a Roman-arched bridge with sugar cubes. Let your puppets perform history from the other side of the couch, OR set the stage and costume your kids for their unique take on an event.

Touch, taste, see, hear, smell as much history as possible.

Then, to make it really stick, sing and dance, plant and eat, design and display, or write and read something fun of what has been learned.

Trust me on this one: they’re gonna love it!!

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With time and effort

With time and effort

Working with a horseA few years ago, I was invited by visiting friends, who are horse-lovers, to attend a natural horsemanship clinic with them.  They were thrilled that this traveling clinic was going to be so close to my home—because it was a lot closer for them to attend than from their home in Australia!! During one section of the clinic, we all sat watching in amazement as an instructor demonstrated the relationship she had developed with an "untrainable" horse.   The two of them played together, performing beautiful and intricate maneuvers, while constantly reaffirming the special love, trust, and respect they had between them.
 
Two things struck me about this incredible relationship:
 
1) It took a LOT of time. The trainer, working little by little, day after day, unobserved by others, eventually developed the extraordinary trust and working relationship which we were seeing.
 
2) We were the passive audience. Very few of the thousands of the people entertained by this beautiful sight would be willing to invest the necessary effort to experience it for themselves.
 FewPeople-1
What a rich analogy this is for homeschoolers!
 
Have you noticed how much time you spend with your kids??  Of course you have.  That's one of the inescapable facets of homeschooling.  So, right from the get-go, you are already spending what is absolutely required to develop a relationship with your kids—hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks, months and months, years and years together.
 
And, you are working at it. You've probably heard someone say that they would never be able to homeschool because they couldn't stand being around their kids that much. It's sad, but, oh, so common.  You, on the other hand, are already miles down the road toward building relationships with your kids because you are investing the effort to figure out how to do this in real life. You keep learning, moment by moment, how to get along with each other. You keep discovering the nuances of how to teach them math facts while you learn important subjects like "laundry off the table and dinner on the table!"
 
You have chosen to take the time and effort to be "corralled" with your kids. . . And I, for one, want to take this moment to recognize the amazing progress you have already made, and enthusiastically say, "Well done!!"
 
Now that you recognize that you have made progress in leaps and bounds toward achieving a relationship with your kids, I have two quick suggestions (that take a lifetime to implement):
 
mini-pony working with trainer1) Laugh more. A lot more. Intentionally find ways to add humor into your daily life.  Read funny books out loud, practice funny jokes, play funny games, observe funny animals. You name it.  If it's funny (the good kind of funny—not making fun of somebody else), do it!
 
2) Enjoy your kids. Right now, just as they are. Those things that drive you crazy are actually the immature version of their adult giftings. (Can you imagine Mikhail Baryshnikov's parents trying to get him to sit down and be still? Or Barbara Walters' parents trying to get her to stop asking so many questions??)
 
Take the time. Savor the journey. Reap the healthy relationship with your kids. Believe me, THIS is the life!!

And, just for your delight, here is a beautiful video of Parelli foals.

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The Adventure of Art

Art is Relational!When it comes to the arts—and how to nurture your child’s inner artist—I have some opinions.   At one time, all three of my children were majoring in the arts in college: one studying classical ballet, one studying piano at a conservatory, and one studying theater.  Life happened, challenges came, and only one graduated with an arts degree. (The other two graduated in other fields.) However, the arts play a huge part in our family's culture.

So, how does this happen? How does this sort of arts-loving, beauty-making thing develop in kids?  Obviously, there are natural giftings and talents that come into play.  You already know that.  But beyond what is hard-wired into them, there are two suggestions I would make that can inspire and nurture your child in the arts.

The first is to recognize the wonderland of opportunities moms and dads have for exposing their children to greatness in art. 

My husband taught me this when our kids were 9, 7, and 5.  He knew we would be driving through Helena, Montana, and was aware that this city boasted a number of Charlie Russell paintings.  To prepare our kids to really “get” this great American painter of the West, he went to the library and found a children’s book of Russell paintings.  As we traveled, my kids—especially seven-year-old Michael—pored over the pages.  When we actually arrived at the museum, I was stunned to see my elementary-aged son stand mesmerized before one of Russell’s paintings, “When the Land Belonged to God,” which depicts vast herds of American bison on the plains.  After many minutes of his absorbing the painting, I tentatively suggested that we leave.  Michael turned to me with shining eyes and said, “Mom, that’s MY painting!”  He was noticeably moved by the greatness of what we had seen.

So, think about it.  What can you see, hear, or watch in your local area—or on your upcoming summer vacation—that displays the beauty of a master painter, composer, dancer, or playwright?  If at all possible, prepare your children beforehand for what they will see, using books, CDs, or DVDs.  It will help your kids “own” the actual art as something uniquely special for them.

Second, consider your own approach to the arts. 

Nurture your child's Inner ArtistIf you want to nurture your child’s “inner artist,” how do you personally respond to art?  Whether or not you find that music, painting, dance, and theater touches your heart, you can still be supportive as you intentionally begin to appreciate the beauty, power and expressiveness of the creative arts.  Your children learn a lot from your responses.  If you are interested, chances are they will make a note of it.  If you are bored, they will pick up your cue.

Art is a very relational subject.  The way you expose your children to its greatness, and the way you respond yourself, will be the most significant ways you can help your children develop a love for the arts.

 

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The world-changing gift of languages

The world is bigger than us!The world is bigger than us. 

That should be obvious, but sometimes we live with cultural blinders.  What I mean is that we go through our day, thinking thoughts in our own language within our own culture.  And we don’t really pay attention to the reality that there are multitudes who think thoughts in another language in another culture.

I have some experience with this myself. When I traveled to Europe with my father in 1971, I remember standing at Piccadilly Circus in London and watching a young salesman handling several international customers at a time—each one in a different language.  I was incredulous that anyone could speak that many languages, let alone use them in rapid-fire succession!

My second experience was when I traveled across the U.S. with a Youth With a Mission team to the Montreal Olympics and then to Boston.  It was there, in Boston, that I met an Egyptian who spoke English with a perfect British accent.  It was fun to chat along in English about our shared experiences, and it felt like I was speaking to someone from Great Britain. But, when he turned to an Egyptian friend and spoke in Arabic, it was absolutely shocking to realize that English was not his native language! I could barely grasp the fact that these two Egyptians really understood each other as they chatted along in Arabic—it seemed to my very American ears to be a very difficult language.

Prague RooftopsRight about then, I came to the life-changing discovery that lots of folks speak and think and live in a language other than English.

The lesson was that learning someone else’s language is a gift—and a responsibility.  It opens doors and expands horizons between people and nations. And it very efficiently helps to remove those cultural blinders that Americans so easily wear.

Dear ones, there is a huge wide world out there to serve, and learning a foreign language is great preparation.  Perhaps more potently, it will better equip our children to change the world!

 

 

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Balancing character and academics

When it comes to character, we are the textbook our children are reading.I love new days, new years, new opportunities!  There is an invigorating freshness when we start new, isn’t there?  All things are possible.

And, for homeschool parents, this is a great time to bring fresh eyes to this age-old challenge: how DO we balance building character and academics?  After all, academics is a big deal. It’s half our job title: Homeschool (Parent). It occupies most of our waking hours and we think about it through many sleepless nights.

How do I teach Sally that 2×2=4? 
When will Bobby finally read on his own?
Should Jessica take the pre-SAT tests this year, and have I taught her everything she needs to know?

This makes sense. It is logical, measurable, and students can win awards with this stuff.  

Character, on the other hand, is not so much taught as caught.  What I mean is that, if we read a book on generosity to our kids, for example, will that make them generous? Obviously not. . .  If only it were that simple!  

In many ways, our kids will pattern their character after us.  If they observe our honesty, if they see that we highly value honesty, and if we lovingly call them to the same standard, honesty will become foundational in their lives.  And, contrarily, if our kids see us lie and cheat, they will learn that character lesson from us.

The somewhat uncomfortable truth is that, when it comes to character, we are the textbook our children are reading.  What a good thing that it is a NEW YEAR and we can have a fresh start!

Okay. So, we have logical, measurable academics and the real deal of our kids learning about character from us.  Now, how do we balance the two?  Do we spend 4 hours a day on academic lessons and 4 hours a day on developing character? What do real people do?

To answer this, let me ask you a question:
How do you balance eating and sleeping?

It’s obvious, isn’t it?  You eat when you’re hungry and you sleep when the lights go out.  You aren’t puzzled about this.  You seldom sit down to a meal and wonder, “Oh, dear, should I eat or sleep?”  The situation (and your body’s needs) give obvious clues to what is appropriate.

In the same way, academics and character-building provide obvious clues. When Mary asks, “Mom, what is a preposition?”, you know that what is needed is an academic explanation (and maybe some fun “Preposition Charades”).  When Jimmy says, “Mom, Willie took my truck and won’t give it back!”, you know that it is time to talk with Willie and Jimmy about respecting one another’s property AND sharing.

You are good at this!  You’re the mom!!  Enjoy the journey!!!

This is one of my articles from The Homeschool Minute. Here's where to subscribe: www.TheHomeschoolMinute.com

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Slow down and enjoy this time

Family walking through a winter garden
Have you ever noticed that your kids keep getting older. . .and bigger? Amazingly, the longer you parent, the older your kids will become. And, in the blink of an eye, they suddenly become adults. 

Just yesterday I had three little kids, and today I have one applying for a Ph.D. program, another applying for a Master's degree, and one walking through the unimaginable grief of losing a child. I had no idea that life would happen so quickly.

If I could go back to the beginning of the journey, knowing what I know now, I would make a few significant changes.

I would slow down and savor the relational time.
I would not yield to the "hurry, hurry" pressure.
I would remind myself that this moment, this day, this season is where we can enjoy life—I must not put it off till later.

If you are just beginning to walk along the parenting path, there are so many competing voices trying to tell you what to do, what you are doing wrong, what your children should be doing, and how to parent (and homeschool) better than anybody else.

But, if you can take a moment to imagine your little children as fully functioning adults, living outside of your home, you might be able to sort out these "expert" voices for yourself.  Look at your kids and ask yourself, "When they are grown, what will they be like?  What will they be doing? What will they enjoy?"  I can promise you that the seed of whom they will be as adults is living in your house today.

TreesI remember when one son would drink deeply of amazing adventure stories, particularly of people being rescued.  Today, he is an officer in the Navy Medical Services Corps.  Another son would often become an incredible cartoon character as a child. Today, he is an extraordinary theater professional.  My daughter always wanted justice in our family, with each of us doing what was right.  Today, she is pursuing justice on a much wider scale as she researches issues affecting the poor.

It was all there in seed form. But I had no idea how large the trees would grow.

When we grasp the fact that our kids are going to be adults one day, it gives perspective to the choices we make right now.

The take-away is this:  Enjoy your kids in this season of life. Before you know it, they will blossom!

 

 

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What brings history to life?

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a customer on the phone.  She had ordered quite a few of my What in the World? history CDs—with some duplication—and we wanted to verify that she actually intended to order duplicates. What a delightful call that turned out to be!  The things Alicia had to say about the CDs was so encouraging that I asked if she would mind writing out her thoughts for me to share with you:

"I cannot say enough good things about Diana Waring’s What in the World? series. I am a homeschooling mom of two young children who are not quite old enough to listen to the CDs, but my husband and I listen to them ourselves for FUN. And every person I have shared them with all love them too! I have never before listened to history for the fun of it, but Diana has a captivating style that brings history to life and makes it applicable in a way that none of my school history classes ever did. I now have retained more history than I did in all of my school years combined!"

Which brings up this question, "Why does learning history in school seem so forgettable?"

To answer this, let's consider what normally happens in history class.

School deskWalk in.

Sit down.

Open the textbook, filled with forgettable names, dates, places.

Listen to the football coach drone on about something dry as dust—UNTIL someone asks a question about last night's game. With history easily pushed aside, football enthusiastically comes to center stage.

Take a test on how well you memorized the forgettable names, dates, places.

It doesn't connect to us personally when the information comes as sterile facts.

There is another way to do this, however.

Let's go back to 1975, to an African history college class to see what is possible.

Prior to the start of class, the prof required us to read a fast-paced spy novel set in Africa. Frankly, I LOVE spy novels, so that was not a hardship. A little surprising, yes, but not hard.

On the first day of class, this professor immediately began to weave an amazing story of events in pre-colonial Africa. Class after class, he would tell unbelievable stories of colonialism, independence, and current day events in Africa. . . Mesmerized by what we heard—and fifty-five minutes at a time—the history of Africa came to life for us. And though I do not remember all of the details forty years later, I still remember the gist of what he taught us.

But history is not all we learned in that class: he also taught us how to teach!  His example of how to bring history to life with sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-in-suspense stories became a model for me when I created the What in the World? CDs.

Stories well told. Personal connections. Fascinating anecdotes. All of these bring history to life for students, regardless of age. . .and bring a lot of FUN to the process!!

 

 

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Learning Like a Buffalo, Part Two

Vore Buffalo  JumpGazing at the IMMENSE hole of a buffalo jump in Beulah, Wyoming (as described in the previous post), I suddenly saw a relationship between making it easy to process buffalo for winter and making it easy for kids to learn. 

To explain, let me start with a few questions:

Do you remember when you were in school?
Were you sometimes bored?
Were you uninterested in what had to be memorized?
Did it seem that school work was disconnected from "real life"?
Would you ask your teacher, "Why do I have to do this?"

If so, you are not alone.

For me, school often felt like being sentenced to twelve years—with no chance of parole! Occasionally, there would be a flash of interest, an insightful teacher, a momentary experience of discovery, but that was certainly not the norm. Mostly, we were shuffled from one class to another, regardless of interest, until graduation.

You may be one of the lucky few who do not relate to this, but thousands upon thousands of homeschooling parents have agreed in workshops that this was their experience.

When we try to teach our own children at home, these school-days experiences can come back to haunt us. Here sit our precious offspring, yawning, their eyes glazed over, and asking, "Mommy, do we HAVE to do this?" Ouch! We understand exactly what they mean, but we don't know how to make their experience different from ours.

Excited to learn!Buffalo Jumps in Learning

In contrast to the yawning, glazed-eye student, have your children ever been totally self-motivated to learn about something? Whether baseball, dead bugs, piano, or how to make fried ice cream, they were eager, rarin' to go, and couldn't wait to know!

That, my friends, is a Buffalo Jump. Your student's natural hunger to discover and learn is one of the most powerful forces that you will ever find! The trick is to recognize it when it is happening (or to offer opportunities for it to happen), and then allow the full "weight" of their curiosity to propel them deep into whatever they are learning.

Here's an example:

Twenty-two years ago, after we had moved from the West Coast to South Dakota, my nine-year old son asked me, "Mom, why do steel ships float?"

Nowadays, this would be a no-brainer. An iPhone, a quick Google search, and an answer. But not in 1992.

Why do steel ships float?With out a single steel ship in sight, I was sunk.

But then, I did what homeschoolers used to do all the time.  "I don't know the answer to your great question, Michael, but I know where we can go to find out!"

And, with great expectations, we sailed off to the library. When the librarian was asked, "Excuse me, do you know why steel ships float?", she looked around in dismay. Evidently, that question was not real common in South Dakota.

"Hmmm… Try this book." It was a college level book on boat building, and way beyond me. I slunk out of the library, kids in tow, still clueless.

Never one to give up, my son kept asking the question:  "Why do steel ships float?"

We looked through other books at home. We looked high, we looked low. We looked through every book we thought might have the answer. Still clueless.

It got so we were asking everyone we met, "Excuse me, but do you know why…?"

After two weeks of searching, late one night I remembered a box of books in the closet. "Mmmm. I wonder…" I sprang from the bed to the box, found a book on how things work by Reader's Digest, and quickly turned to the index. Incredibly, I saw this listing, "Why steel ships float". EUREKA! Our answer was at hand.

As the whole family learned about the principle of buoyancy, about surface tension, and about the ancient scientist/mathematician/inventor Archimedes, we thought up several creative ideas for experiments with lead fishing weights. We pounded and dropped and observed and recorded. By the time it was done, Michael's curiosity about why steel ships float had motivated the whole family to jump into exploring with him, learning things beyond our ken and certainly beyond our lesson book!

Many, many dinner table discussions have resulted in perusing encyclopedias, requesting library books, searching internet listings, and questioning experts. Questions have come up during mathematics that were totally off the point but worth pursuing nonetheless. Ideas have been generated during car rides that require lots of thinking and discussing. There have been on-the-spot opportunities to learn while having an x-ray (How can you tell if my finger is broken?); while eating at a Chinese restaurant (What was your home like in China?); while visiting a cattle ranch (Where did those brands come from?).

These moments, when someone wonders, "why?" or, "when?" or, "how?" or, "who?" or, "what if," are the Buffalo Jumps. They present the perfect opportunities to use the tremendous force of natural curiosity to propel a student into interesting, meaningful learning.

BuffaloJust as the buffalo jumps were used as an effective, efficient means of procuring meat for the tribe, so are the buffalo jumps of learning a very effective, efficient means of getting knowledge into a child. Rather than the few inches of refuse found in normal archaeological sites, the buffalo jump in Wyoming provided archaeologists with more than twenty feet of "stuff"! In the same way, learning that is motivated by a hunger to know—where the student rushes headlong into it—is far more productive; it leaves far more evidence of knowledge acquired than the normal method of "read the chapter and answer the questions in the back."

"Okay, okay. But will our children, on their own, EVER fall into one of these educational buffalo jumps?"

Good question! The buffalo, ambling along on their own, wouldn't have just fallen in. The Plains tribes skillfully used their knowledge. They knew where the buffalo were and the location of the jump. All they needed was to move the herd in that general direction, and at the appropriate moment, "motivate" them! The natural law of gravity took care of the rest.

So, in buffalo jumps of learning, the parent is the one who knows where their students are in skill level, in experience, and in ability. A parent, spying out the land, will also be aware of what sorts of things really interest their children, whether it has to do with inventions, or biographies, or sports, or crafts, or hands-on experiments, or drama, or whatever it might be. What the parent can do is to begin moving the students toward a possible area of interest, and, at the appropriate moment, motivate some excitement into that area (in other words, activate their natural curiosity.)

Here are some suggestions:

find a fantastic book in the library and read a few chapters out loud (like Carry On, Mr. Bowditch);
watch a YouTube video which shows how cathedrals were built in the Middle Ages (like "Cathedral" by David Macaulay);
take a field trip to see a sculptor sculpting;
visit a veteran who fought in a war;
go to a symphony performance of Peter and the Wolf;
and much, much more.

These motivating moments, that you help provide, will get those children stampeding right smack into real learning! Then all you have to do is stand by, ready to assist.

That, dear friends, is learning like a buffalo!

Remember, stay relational.

Diana

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Learning like a Buffalo

Buffalo as in Buffalo JumpMany years ago, while living in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Bill and I decided one afternoon that it was time to take time. Bidding our teens a fond adieu, we headed off to parts unknown for the evening. Remembering the injunction, "Go West, Young Man, Go West!", we turned toward Wyoming, which teems with wildlife and scenery in nearly every nook and cranny.

We took the scenic route from Spearfish, South Dakota to Beulah, Wyoming (just across the border), and continued along the deserted blacktop. The weather that summer evening was very unusual for the high plains. Rather than hot, sunny, and nary a cloud in the sky (think "Home on the Range"), it was cool, misty and laden with atmosphere. It had a wonderful ambience, a sort of mist-hung backdrop for our moment of solitude.

Bill was looking for a certain site he had noticed from previous journeys down the freeway. A sign had indicated there was a "buffalo jump"—something used for several centuries by Native American tribes—which seemed like a good place to visit. We found a small marker on the side of the road which indicated we had arrived, though there was certainly nothing yet to see.

I guess that's the deal with buffalo jumps. One minute you're running along over the plains, and the next, you fall—plop—into the hole. If it were obvious, the buffalo would have noticed.

Signs warned that we were to approach at our own risk, that rattlesnakes were a hazard, and to stay on the dirt path. We saw pictures of archaeological digs previously completed at the site where twenty feet of buffalo bones had accumulated over the six hundred years of use. Though we could still see nothing unusual, the signs were promising bigger and better things to come.

We walked a dozen yards up the path (with my rattlesnake antennae well extended), and then, suddenly, the ground stopped. There was a HUGE hole in the ground, about one hundred feet deep and two hundred feet in diameter. This was a serious buffalo jump!

At the bottom of the Vore Buffalo JumpThe utter immensity of this hole in the ground, and the unexpectedness of it on the continuous plains, provided an amazing opportunity for the Plains tribes. In preparation for their winter food supply, they would position men at the edges of the jump and bowmen around the inside of the hole. Then a group would turn a herd of buffalo toward the jump and, at the last minute, frighten them into stampeding. Once a buffalo was moving fast and in the right direction, gravity took over. Many of the buffalo died as a result of the fall. Others died from falling neighbors. And the few who didn't die naturally were helped along by arrows from the men on the sides of the hole.

The archaeological digs have shown that the people who used this jump were able to process a lot of meat in a very short time. It was both a successful and relatively easy procedure, since they used the  immense hole in the ground—along with gravity—to help them.

Now, you may be asking, "Just what do a buffalo jump and homeschooling have in common?"

There's a GREAT answer to that question.  And I'll share it with you next time.

To be continued. . .

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My own Sound of Music experience

Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Bill AndersonIn the spring of 2000, my family (Bill & I, plus our three teenagers) went to the FPEA convention in Orlando, Florida. FPEA has always been one of our favorites, but this time we were particularly excited as Bill Anderson, the author of Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, was going to be at the convention promoting his newest book. I had not yet had the privilege of meeting Bill, but we had been working together on the Musical Memories project for several months via phone and email.

As we discovered him amongst opened boxes in his booth, I was delighted to finally meet the author with whom it been such a joy to work. With great enthusiasm, my kids and I asked, "Bill, do you want to come over to our hotel room for dinner one evening? We would love to have a chance to chat!" He seemed pleased with the invitation, but hesitantly asked for one provision: "Would it be all right if I brought a guest with me?"

There is ALWAYS room around the Waring table for an extra guest, so we enthusiastically said, "YES!"

I was curious, however.

"Who is your guest?"

Bill motioned to a lovely older woman, standing off to the side, and invited her to come into the midst of our jollity.

"This is Rosemary Trapp, the first child born to Captain and Maria von Trapp."

REALLY???????????????

As it turned out, Bill's latest book was on the Von Trapp Family Singers, and, during his interviews, the adult children of this famous family took him to their hearts. When he had the opportunity to come to the FPEA convention, he invited Rosemary to come along. She actually did a workshop (I sat on the FRONT ROW!) and shared a bit of her life. She even invited us to join her in singing Edel Weiss!!

The Waring family with Rosemary TrappThus is was that, one evening during the convention, Rosemary Trapp came to our room. We spent hours with Rosemary and Bill, talking, laughing, eating, swapping stories and even SINGING! She thought it was delightful that we sang together as a family—and that we had just returned from 7 months in New Zealand. Her family had also loved traveling in the Pacific region!!

I have to say that it was a magical night. And it remains one of the most amazing memories in my life.

 

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