Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!
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Learning like a Buffalo

Learning like a Buffalo

Many 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 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 Rosemarie 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 Rosemarie 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, one of of the most poignant songs from The Sound of Music.

The Waring family with Rosemary TrappThus is was that, one evening during the convention, Rosemarie Trapp came to our room. We spent hours with Rosemarie and Bill, talking, laughing, eating, swapping stories and even SINGING! She thought it was delightful that we sang together as a family, because she knew personally the dynamics of performing family concerts. And, when she learned that we had just returned from a life-changing seven months in New Zealand, we discovered yet another wonderful connection—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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Break Down Each Step of Learning

In 2004, homeschoolers in Rotorua, New Zealand, joined us for an evening of dialogue about parents teaching children at home. It was a precious time, particularly poignant for me because it was being hosted by a Maori family.  The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, with a somewhat similar history to Native Americans in America or First Nations people in Canada, and to have many Maori families at this gathering was a significant indicator of how homeschooling was gaining acceptance—despite the cultural challenges —among the native people.

One of the questions posed to me during our Q & A was that of teaching writing—especially of the incredible frustration on the part of many younger students (which translated into incredible frustration for their parents!). As I was trying to gather my travel-weary wits, a Maori father began to share marvelous wisdom that I would like to share with you.

He spoke to us all about the many steps which must simultaneously be taken in order to write something:

      • handwriting, or penmanship;
      • spelling;
      • sentence construction, or grammar;
      • adequate and accurate use of vocabulary;
      • concepts and ideas to be expressed;
      • logical flow of ideas;
      • and more.
      • As adults, if there is something to write, we simply write it. We don't struggle over penmanship, spelling, sentence construction. or vocabulary. We spend most of our time on the concepts and logic. However, it's not the same at all for younger students who are just beginning the journey of communicating through the written word. For them, it's a massive, glacier-covered mountain with formidable ice-fields and no visible paths.

So, as parents with children who need to learn to write, what do we do?

helping hand This incredibly wise and thoughtful father suggested that we break down the steps for our children. Where is it that they are finding the insurmountable obstacle? Is it in penmanship? Spelling? Grammar? Vocabulary? Idea? Logic? At which point along the way are they being overwhelmed? If we can break down each of the steps, walking them through one by one, it will soon become evident where the difficulties lie, and we can gently provide help—coming alongside lovingly and kindly—until they have the needed skills for that point.

It's not a quick fix. It doesn't work if you are frustrated and angry. It will not happen if you are pressured by the goals set by someone else who does not know your child and their unique situation.

But, if you can patiently break down the task, helping them little by little to acquire the necessary dexterity for writing, they will eventually climb that mountain!

Thanks,

Diana

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The Idea That Started It All

Diana Waring

Have you ever wondered where speakers come from?  I mean, how do THEY get to stand up and speak THEIR minds? What motivates someone to do what most consider the scariest activity on the planet—speaking to an audience?

Well, I can't answer for most speakers, but I can share a bit of the back story of what propelled me, as a young homeschool mom, onto the platform. . . and how that led me to write my first book, America (one of the Experience History Through Music books).

In 1988, after I had been struggling for about three years with homeschooling (my kids and I were ALL bored!!!), a good friend suggested that it might help if I could attend the state homeschool convention near Seattle. . .\

In those days, the main way to learn more about homeschooling was to attend a convention—oh, how times have changed!!

The problem was I couldn't afford it. My husband was a public school band teacher, we were single income, and there simply wasn't anything extra in the budget. When I voiced that practical concern, my friend said, "Oh, you should teach a workshop! If they accept a proposed workshop, they will pay you $50 for speaking, mileage to get up to the convention, and, best of all, you get in FREE!!" Looking at her in amazement, I asked, "What on earth would I teach????"

Did I mention that I had been struggling with homeschooling ever since I started?  Wasn't it ludicrous to think of me teaching a workshop on homeschooling so I could afford a convention where I could be taught how to homeschool?  A proverbial chicken/ egg situation if ever there was one!

Not recognizing my mental struggle with this dilemma, Joan pulled out the previous year's convention schedule, with its varied workshops, and handed it to me. Quickly glancing down the list, I noted that the ONLY music workshop was using classical music in the home and that there were NO history workshops. At that moment, an idea was born:

Why not teach American history through American folk music?

girl playing guitarThis combined two of my passions: history and music. As one who loved the stories of history, I had seen how the subject had often been rendered as dry as dust and as forgettable as leftover oatmeal.  And, as an instructor of folk guitar, I had noticed that many of my elementary age students had no familiarity with the common songs of my childhood—like Yankee Doodle, Erie Canal, and She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain.  When I suggested playing one of these tunes, my students would often look at me with blank faces, because they did not know the songs that had previously been taught as a normal part of school. It had become something of a soapbox issue for me—I wanted to do something to restore folk songs to the curriculum of American children. After all, folk songs are part of our heritage, they give us a sense of who we are and where we came from. . . And, they happen to be a lot of FUN!!

Speaking on your own passion is a good rule of thumb for wannabe speakers.  If you love it, others may catch your enthusiasm for the subject.

To my surprise, when I sent a proposed workshop, "History Alive! Through Music," the convention organizers accepted it for the 1989 WHO convention.

That was the start of twenty-five years as a homeschool speaker and, as I'll share in a later post, the start of twenty-five years as a homeschool writer/ curriculum producer.

Never saw it coming, but, oh, what a ride this has been!!

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The Buttermilk Lesson, or, if you prefer, The Raw Oysters/Pickled Pigs Feet Lesson

pouring milkHow do we pass on to our children the things we love? How do we help them develop a taste for those distinctive traits that make up our family culture?

Here is a lesson in this from my own childhood.

Imagine this:

A six-year old girl is told she must drink buttermilk.

No one in her family likes it. But since they were all required to drink buttermilk by stern teachers with sour faces (impacted, no doubt, by the buttermilk), she must now experience the unpleasantness.

She tries a sip—and it is worse than she feared!!

It tastes SO awful, yet she has no choice but to drink the whole glass.

Tearfully, whimpering with each swallow, this little one chokes down the most disgusting drink of her entire life.

There is no joy here, only a dismal future of consuming soured milk.

Now, imagine this:

A six-year old girl is told she gets to drink BUTTERMILK with her beloved daddy!

It is initiation day into a very select group of buttermilk-lovers.

Her father shares stories with her of how much he, his brother and his dad LOVED buttermilk when he was growing up, and shesmiling girl can tell he means it because of the delight on his face.

He describes how carefully they would search out the best sources of really thick, wonderful buttermilk...And how they sprinkled just the tiniest bit of black pepper on top to make it perfect.

She takes her first sip of what she knows must be INCREDIBLY wonderful, because her father considers it so. YUM!! It is simply the best flavor she has ever had in her entire life.

There is utter delight, a sense of belonging, a new world of flavor opened up for her. The anticipation of her next glass of buttermilk prompts her to ask, "Daddy, when do we get to have some more????"

I have imagined the first scenario, but I lived the second at age 6, in Miami, Florida.

Do you know, until my husband turned slightly pale when I wanted to buy some shortly after we were married, I had no idea that others did not LOVE buttermilk.

I had the same experience, with that same sense of wonder and initiation into the world of oyster-eating, when I learned to eat raw oysters with my daddy when I was four years old. Hood's Canal, Washington.

And, again, when I was introduced into the wonders of eating pickled pigs feet with my daddy at age five. Apple Valley, California.

What are the common elements to these three unlikely-to-be-enjoyed-by-a-kid foods?

It's simple: my father's passion for them.

He not only loved these foods, he thoughtfully engaged me in the experience, introducing them to me with his own delight and with you-get-to-be-part-of-this-amazing-treat-too stories.

Previously, I shared "What's In Youboy with glassesr Cupboard?" to bring to light the remarkable wealth of wonderful heritage, experiences, passions, and knowledge each of us bring to our own table—and the powerful antidote this can be to the "comparison trap." But knowing what you have is only the first step.  The second step is learning how to share it in such a way that our kids think it is FUN!!

The Buttermilk Lesson is a window into how my father shared weird foods with me when I was young in such a way that I totally loved them.

Now, I invite you to consider how you can share what's in YOUR cupboard so that YOUR kids will love it! 

How can you bring fun, delight, adventure, and engagement to the process?

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