Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Transcontinental Railroad

From Sea to Shining Sea
A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs
Compiled by Amy Cohn

It's perfect when life lines up with what we are learning. For one, I love this book, From Sea to Shining Sea by Amy Cohn, of American folksongs and folklore because it is in chronological order and coincides with our studies. This chapter is on the transcontinental railroad, and features songs and lore about the topic.

When we come to songs, I always find great resources via Youtube. Here's Johnny Cash singing Rock Island Line.

When real life is timed perfectly with our studies, that makes me happy. This weekend, the Union Pacific Steam Engine #4014 "Big Boy" came through Victorville. Supposedly it is the only steam engine around, made to commemorate the 150th year of the Transcontinental Railroad. Here are some pics and a video my husband took.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fleeing California

A few years ago, I began feeling life unpalatable here in California. It could be the High Desert. It could be the political and social alienation. It could also be that trips to the Midwest caused me to fall in love with green grass and trees; and so began my coveted-ness for "somewhere else."

I blabbed frequently about leaving until my husband told me to stop; he even told me he liked California. It was difficult to accept, but I had to train myself to stop thinking about leaving because it wasn't going to happen.

Until last October. My husband was let go as GM, after being with his company for 17 years. It was then that he mentioned leaving California.

He submitted applications to companies in Texas but didn't get a bite. He suggested picking up and going to Texas, and looking for a job when we arrived. We could live off savings for awhile. But after a month of job hunting, he found a job here, and he returned to work.

Since then, his mind has changed completely, and we are both determined to leave. The main reason we wait is for my husband to finish school. Next summer, 2020. After that, we are free, God willing.


In 1982, my parents moved our family to California -- from Brooklyn, New York (because of crime and overall environment) to a little town called Apple Valley, part of the High Desert area of San Bernardino County.

I can still remember the stars in the sky the night we arrived. I had never seen so many stars! That was because there were no street lights, buildings, or houses. Nothing but desert.

Over the decades, the High Desert has changed for the worst. It is no longer a good place to raise a family. Too many people, cars, accidents, and houses on top of houses; too much crime and homelessness. The HD was never designed to accommodate this many people.

My husband and I agree that we no longer want to raise our children in this environment, nor do we want them to be stuck in this state.

Apparently, families have been leaving California for several years, especially since the state banned religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccines; but the exodus has increased rapidly since the state legislature and current governor complicated medical exemptions for vaccinations last week.


I personally never thought badly about vaccinations. In fact, I dutifully followed the CDC schedule up to five years old with my first son. But I started to investigate vaccines after my first daughter was born.

At 4 months, I had brought her to a new pediatrician and was asked to sign a waiver stating that I understood vaccines may cause injury and sometimes death.

I hated having to decide on the spot if I should initial my baby's possible and unnecessary injury or death for diseases that were practically eradicated. I didn't want to believe this, and the nurse confirmed the danger was possible, though very rare. Then she told me that one day all the vaccines would be in one injection and babies wouldn't have multiple injections, as if that would eliminate injury and death.

I gulped and signed the waivers. I was afraid not to.

Immediately, I began researching vaccines and found information that made me extremely uncomfortable. I started questioning other parents and found many who did not vaccinate their children at all.

I still wasn't totally against vaccines, and I never saw anything to suspect my children were hurt, but I started requesting that my children only receive one vaccine per visit. And I chose the vaccine each visit.

Sometimes I was told that I had a "mommy problem." Another time a doctor asked me what I would do if my daughter, while driving in Mexico, got into a car accident and needed a transfusion and ended up with Hepatitis. I didn't know how to answer that. I was still trying to understand what she was doing in Mexico. But I never strayed from my conscience and agreed to only one vaccine per visit.

By the time I had my third child, I felt confident about my decision because I had seen a difference with my children after receiving one injection as opposed to receiving multiple vaccines at once.

But this next incident was horrifying. My third child saw a different pediatrician for her 4-month check up. I expected the doctor would talk to me first about her immunizations for that visit, and then I would explain that I only wanted the one for Pertussis.

However, the nurse practitioner entered the room with a box of six vials, already filled. Immediately I asked to see the doctor. She questioned me, and I explained why. Confused, she went to speak to him and returned to tell me that I would have to pay for the ones I discarded. I asked how much, and she said some were $100!

I considered my husband would not be happy with me paying $500 for vaccines I discarded. It was a frustrating position, but I agreed to the vaccines -- all six vials, which equalled nine total immunizations.

The rest of the day and into the night my baby cried and screamed; she wouldn't sleep, eat, be consoled, and had diarrhea. She cried in my husband's arms until well after midnight.

To add insult to injury, the pediatrician told us he would no longer see us if I did not follow the CDC schedule. (By the way, that doctor was a Republican; but he wouldn't see us anymore, which was fine with me. I found another doctor who would.)

The point is, I believed it was totally unnecessary to make a child this miserable and sick...and for what? What was the urgency to go to this extent?

Ironically, I remembered reading material from the hospital that when I introduced solid foods to my infant, to do it one at a time and wait a few days to observe for allergic reactions. That's with food! Why not with mercury, gelatin, formaldehyde, and aluminum?

Needless to say, all five of my kids are "behind" in their immunizations, according to the suggested CDC schedule, which is ever changing. Who can keep up?


The reality today is that so many young families have already fled and are planning to flee California because they have been pushed to their limits. Many of these families have children who were injured or have died because of vaccines, and they don't want to vaccinate anymore of their children.

This is REAL! People don't pick up and move out of state, leaving family, friends, and familiarity,  because they don't like vaccinating their kids. They are leaving because they fear for the safety of their children, and they no longer believe they can protect them here.

When you take away the very last ounce of liberty and freedom parents have to protect their children, then survival kicks in and they will fight to the end and/or flee. There is almost nothing left to fight for in California; hence, people are fleeing.

Believe me...there are other reasons to flee this state, being unreasonably expensive (housing, utilities, food, gas, education, and other basic needs) and greedily regulated (for business and basic citizen requirements, like to own and maintain a vehicle).

California harbors criminal illegals without knowing who they are, if they have been vaccinated, or if they are already infected and contagious.

Voters supported the release of violent felons by reducing sentences, and our current governor, in turn, stayed the executions of rapists and child molesters and murders indefinitely. He also recently commuted sentences for lifers convicted of murder or attempted murder.

California is becoming a very dangerous place to raise your family. And I am not going to explain the shameless sex education boot camp currently offered in public schools. Look for yourself.

It's heart breaking to live here.

People are finally waking up.

Unfortunately, I think it is too late for California.

P.S. Maybe we should take a lesson from Hong Kong, where they fight to preserve freedom at the immediate onset of threat to individual and personal liberty.

This is Hong Kong! They love liberty more than life itself.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Save the Story Series...Introducing Ancient/Classic Lit to Kids

I'm really excited about this new series that I found in my library called Save the Story by Penguin Random House. I am all in favor of introducing young children to the classics and ancient literature. Great stories have already been written, and we are ignoring and sweeping them under the rug for more mediocre contemporary stories. By doing so, young readers and older readers alike are missing out on a great foundation of literature.

The first book my kids and I read was The Story of Crime and Punishment written by A. B. Yehoshua. Having read Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment twice, I can tell you that Yehoshua did a fabulous job rewriting the plot for a younger audience, while keeping the storyline true to the original. Murder is a difficult topic to talk about with kids, but it was handled directly and honestly. 

The next Sunday at church, Pastor spoke briefly on the topic of murder, and my 10-year old leaned over to me and whispered, "...Crime and Punishment."

Someone was paying attention to the story...and the sermon!

The next title we were able to get from our library was The Story of Antigone. I have never read this, but it was written so intelligently and interestingly, that it kept us wanting to know more. I took note to get my own original copy to read. I will remember the story because I read this child's version first. 

We also read this one about Gulliver's Travels. Again, very well done and straight to the point. 

Not five minutes after I finished reading it aloud, I hear my 12-year old teasing his 10-year old sister, calling her a Lilliputian! Ugh. Big brothers!

Other titles in the series include the following; unfortunately, our library system does not carry all of them at this time. We shall have to wait. But if you can get your hands on these others, I encourage you to give them a try with your kids, or even for yourself. 
  • The Story of King Lear by Melania Mazzucco
  • The Story of Don Juan by Alessandro Baricco
  • The Story of The Betrothed by Umberto Eco
  • The Story of Gilgamesh by Yiyun Li
  • The Story of Cyrano de Bergrac by Stefano Benni
  • The Story of The Nose by Andrea Camilleri
  • The Story of Captain Nemo by Dave Eggers


Saturday, August 10, 2019

I'm Not an Environmentalist Wacko, but . . . Homeschooling is Green, too.

Homeschooling is a green way of life. It certainly is waste-free and pro-future environment. 

My kids do not need to use fuel to get to school: no bus, no car ride...just enough energy to get from their bedrooms to another part of the house. Some would say homeschoolers do not need extra school clothing because they homeschool in their pjs. (I'm not in favor of that, but we do have "lay around clothes," which constitute as worn clothes we wouldn't exactly wear in public.) 

We do not need an extra building, although we make good use of the bonus room we added to our home several years ago, which may be converted into something else once we are done homeschooling. We waste less food because we each make only what we will eat; there is no mass food prep at home for hundreds of students. 

We do not need to have excessive amounts of paper or supplies to educate and learn at home because we do not need "one for every student." There is no wasting of funds or tax payer dollars here. We share  and take turns, even with the computer. And finally we do not contribute to the excessive congestion of vehicles on the road in the afternoon to pick up students and take them home. 

It just makes sense to homeschool your children if you are environmentally contentious. 

Being Environmentally Contentious

Six months ago I asked my dentist what he thought about using homemade toothpaste (made of coconut oil, salt, baking soda, and essential oil). He told me he would only be ok with it if it was someone who practiced good dental hygiene and had healthy teeth and gums. He said I was a good candidate, but he assumed I was worried about the ingredients in toothpaste. 


My concern developed because I was buying my own toothpaste every three weeks; it was a different toothpaste than the rest of my family because I have sensitive gums. Each tube was about $5. I started to think about all of the toothpaste tubes I was throwing away: technically it was 17/year, which is not a lot, but add that to the number of tubes my family of 6 others were contributing, and everyone else on my block, along with everyone in my city, etc. 

I told my dentist the real reason why I was thinking about making my own, and he said he never considered the amount of waste. He thought it was a good idea. That day I started to make my own toothpaste, and I admit, it took me a week to get used to the texture and the flavors, but I stuck with it, and I did it. I eliminated about 8 tubes of toothpaste since, and saved $40. Not much, but it was what I intended to do.

But now I am doing something different. Yes, it is slightly more expensive than my $5 tube of ProEnamel, but the idea is good. I am using Bite Toothpaste. The experience is better than homemade toothpaste, and the flavor and texture is also improved. You crush a little pill between your teeth and  begin brushing with a wet toothbrush. In seconds, a foam forms in your mouth while you brush, until you spit and rinse as usual. The End. I have only been using it for a week; therefore, I will need a few months before a dental visit confirms the real results. 

So far my children prefer it, and they give it a thumbs up, which is good for my extremely sensitive 12-year old who hates textures and flavors of every kind, especially with toothpastes. 

After my two-month supply runs out, I will purchase the four-month supply refill. The product is stored in a refillable glass jar, and it comes shipped in biodegradable packaging. This is such a plus because I believe it is the responsibility of businesses to do all they can to discover how they may ship and sell their products in the most biodegradable packing possible. Yes, consumers may have to pay a little more because it appears that all things better for us are more expensive to produce, but what else is new?

There is something else we did that is environmentally cool. We switched to these reusable produce bags for fruit, veggies and bulk. After use, I throw them in the washer and they are ready for the next shopping day. We no longer use the plastic bags provided by the store. 

Of course, we already have been forced to buy reusable grocery bags, here in Cali. My niece designed and sells these really cute bags that can easily be wiped down with a cloth or Clorox wipe, if you are not paranoid of Clorox; or you may throw them in the washer, though I have not tried that. Here they are: 

I also compost because it just makes sense. I have been doing it for years and years. My husband built and in-ground area for me to put my kitchen scraps, until one day I found a community of roaches living in it, and that was the end of my compost project. I had to start over, but this time I left the cover off, and I noticed the roaches never came back. Yay! 

However, my husband has since bought a tumbler from Costco, and this is lovely because it stands above the ground and totally covered, to help it break down faster. Now if I can just remember to turn it!

Another thing I have been doing is using white vinegar instead of Windex, though I have not figured out how to totally live with the vinegar scent when Windex is so much more pleasant. We already buy a huge container a white vinegar from Costco, which is much cheaper than Windex. I hope to totally eliminate Windex from our lives. Another save.

Also, I stopped buying liquid body soap, and instead I purchase unwrapped soap. I do not even know the name of the company because it does not come in packaging. It just sits on the store shelf for everyone to touch and fondle. Sounds yucky, but it's package free.

I have traded so many packaged food items for bulk: rice, pasta, flour, sugar, oatmeal, cream of wheat salt, herbs, spices, sweet-n-low, candy...etc. Did I say candy? I have yet to find a reason to buy a brand named packaged item when it is available in bulk. It just makes sense. 

One thing I have also always done is buy clothes at a thrift store. My husband thinks it is stupid, but I think it is stupid to pay $60 for a stupid pair of jeans or $30 for a stupid shirt. Admittedly, I have done it, but I hate it. And it is true, thrift stores are not a guarantee; however, I have also found brand new items with the tags still on them, quit frequently. 

Some other things I want to try are reusable dryer balls, once our dryer sheets are used up. I do not want to live without dryer sheets because I remember the days of static-y clothing!

And now that my husband is finally getting on board, he suggested we purchase reusable resealable bags instead of the plastic ones we constantly throw away. I have washed mine and dried them and reused them, but there is the fear of contamination that concerns me. You could also use wax paper to wrap your food, too. 

Another thing we can do, but I have not discussed, is the elimination of the paper towel issue; paper towels are biodegradable, but the plastic that the paper towels are wrapped in may not be. I could begin using our dishtowels more often to wipe and dry, and then toss into the washer. It could happen. 

There are always ideas that are swirling in my head...ways to reuse, recycle, and make do. It just makes sense and saves money. I am the obsessive one in the family, always shutting lights and opening windows for cool air and turning off the air conditioner (which by the way, we use our swamp cooler over the a/c). And I do it because I am totally motivated by eliminating waste and saving money. It just makes sense!

The Earth is Dying...but Not Like You Think

Now, I said earlier that I am not an environmental wacko, but what makes me different? I think of myself as environmentally conscious or environmentally contentious. That is: I realize that our consumer habits have consequences. I also know that consuming costs money. My goal is to be wise with our money and be responsible about our waste. 

The difference is that I do not think this way out of fear. I do not fear the future because I have all confidence that God is in total control. He is the Creator, and He would not permit His creation to destroy the planet when He already has plans for it. Also, we are just a microcosm in the grand scheme of Creation and have zero power to control our climate or weather. Man has tried to control the weather since his creation, but Scripture tells us that God controls the weather. What a relief!

We are not running out of space or melting the glaciers. And even if the glaciers are melting, it isn't without God's knowledge. He made them. Don't worry...we are not going to drown; God is going to use fire to destroy the earth. You can be sure of it. And there isn't anything we can do about it. 

God gave us fossil fuels to use for our way of life. If the earth is heating up, our usage is hardly making a dent in the environment. Maybe the earth is heating up because it is the way of a dying planet that is destined to be destroyed by fire. The earth is dying since sin entered the world and would do so anyway without use of fossil fuels or cows farting. My point is, we are not in control of it, and I do not worry myself sick over it. 

The earth is dying, but the only thing we should concern ourselves with is being right with God before we die. See gospel message.

Quick Story About Unfounded Fear

Back in 1990, my oceanography professor told his class that he did not want to be alive in the year 2000 because the hole in the ozone layer was getting so large, we were soon to burn up. I still wonder if he ever killed himself before the turn of the century or if he just transferred his terror to a different alarmist idea once his fears were unfounded. 

Well, that's my spiel about homeschooling and my desire to eliminate waste and save money. I shared some of the changes we have made. What are you doing to be environmentally contentious?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Preparing for new school year, 2019-2020

Summer is the time to prepare for our new school year: Reconstruction/Westward Ho!  I used TQH Age of Revolution II (1865-1900) to create my frame work. Michelle Miller must be my twin because if ever I wrote a chronological history of the world using a narrative, it would be this:

I am not employing the full hog Charlotte Mason approach, but I am borrowing a lot of what I liked. For example, I plan to begin four days with current events and discussion. Then we'll pray because after reading current events, you'll need prayer! I will continue to use Ambleside Online schedule for Scripture reading because it gets right to the meat of the Bible, excluding anything too graphic or deep for younger minds. My younger ones will still do oral narrations, while my 14-year old will do written narrations as she reads privately on her own schedule.

We will continue to do hymns, poet study, composer study, and artist study once a week. Poets include: Emma Lazarus (term one), Christina Rossetti (term two), and Lewis Carroll (term three). Composers include the Strauss Family (term one), Johannes Brahms (term two), and Tchaikovsky (term three). Artists include Mary Cassatt (term one), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (term two), and Vincent Van Gogh (term three).

Once a week we will read from Ourselves, by Mason, for character studies, and sing a folksong or read a folklore from Sea to Shinning Sea. I love this book, and so do my kids. The works are listed chronologically and correspond with our history topics. This year we will cover three chapters: "I've Been Working on the Railroad" (term one), "O Pioneers" (term two), and "Tricksters, on Two Fee, Four or More" (term three).

We will continue doing three days of grammar, four days of math, two days of foreign language, and two days of science. Everyone wants to do chemistry, and this is where I parted from Mason. We'll read The Mystery of the Periodic Table, by Wiker, and for the rest of the year I hope to do hands-on chemistry experiments.

Shakespeare is on the agenda again. Term one is A Midsummer Night's Dream, and terms two and three are Hamlet because it is sooooo long.  My kids chose both of these plays.

Literature, which I'll read three days a week, includes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Carroll (term one), Around the World in Eighty Days, by Verne (term two), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (term three).

Finally, my favorite: history. Following are history topics per term and the accompanying books. History covers three days a week and then one day of corresponding geography.

Term One: 
I. Reconstruction
     Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Robinet
     Princess of the Press by Medearis (may read)
II. Westward Expansion
     Children of the Wild West by Freedman
III. The Wild West
     When Cowboys Rode the Chisholm Trail
     Journal of Joshua Loper a Black Cowboy by Myers (may read)
IV. The Railroad
     John Henry and His Hammer by Felton (folklore)

Term Two:
I. Native Americans
     Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes by Walderman
     Indian Boyhood by Eastman (this is our 2nd read)
II. War in the West
     Custer's Last Battle by Goble
     HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Term Three:
I. Industrial/Technological Progress
(choose biography of inventor/scientist:
Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, Alexander G. Bell, 
Wright Brothers, Henry Ford, etc.)
     A Hunger for Learning by Swain (about Booker T. Washington)
II. Women Suffrage
     You Want Women to Vote Lizzie Stanton? by Fritz
III. Spanish-American War
     Theodore Roosevelt: An American Original by Benge

My 14-year old will be working more solo, although she'll do enrichment, Bible, Shakespeare, geography, and science with her siblings. She'll read the same literature on her own, and for history her topics are similar, but the books are more challenging.

Term One:
   Reconstruction: Before Freedom When I Can Just Remember, by Hurmence
   Westward Ho! The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by McDowell (I cannot wait to read this one myself!)
   The Railroad: Across America on an Immigrant Train, by Stevenson

Term Two:
   Native Americans: Indian Boywood, by Eastman
   War in the West: HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"
   Progress: Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

Term Three:
  Women's Suffrage: Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Loos
  Spanish-American War: Carry a Big Stick by Grant

She also will continue reading The Story of Painting and Whatever Happened to Justice? In addition, she will give K12 a try, enrolling in two online classes: French I and pre-Algebra.

On the political front: 

California continues to work against parents because people in power often think they know better than their constituents, especially ones with children. Besides the mandatory vaccinations for children who attend public school, even though we're always told that education is a parents who rather utilize charter schools will have a difficult time finding options in the future because California public schools hate the competition. Charter schools take funds from public schools, and it's all about the money anyway. Less charters will be granted in the future and current charters will be under tighter scrutiny, possibly forced to close their doors if they do not meet the new requirements.

We use a charter, though it is not necessary to homeschool. But it is a blessing because we use the funds for curriculum and supplies, as well as extra curricula activities. We wouldn't be able to try K12, if we weren't with a charter, because we could not afford it. But our charter makes it possible.

I will be done homeschooling my kids in about six years. Just trying to reach the finish line before the legislature completely destroys this beautiful state. In fact, I do not know what God's plans are for our family, but I wonder if it does include a location change. My husband and I are so disgusted by the political environment that we do not envision remaining here, nor do we want our kids to begin their adulthoods, stuck here. Thoughts of Texas inundate us, though I am open to other conservative states.

I continue to examine my heart, to make sure I am not falling for "the grass is greener on the other side," but there is some truth to that because I already live in a brown desert. It doesn't get any browner or barren than this.

There is more to this argument, and we won't be doing our research until after my husband receives his graduate degree, fall 2020. Then I will talk about it in depth. For now, this is where we are and what we are doing.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A New Nation to the Civil War Year Recap

This is the recap of topics, enrichment, and books we covered or used during our school year...The New Nation to the Civil War Year (1800-1865).

I did not include science because it was all over the place. My 14-year old focused on biology, and the younger ones did a little geology and astronomy. We did some nature study, but did not form a habit.

Michelle Miller: TruthQuest History: Age of Revolution II: America/Europe, 1800-1865
H.A. Guerber: The Story of the Great Republic 
Genevieve Foster: Abraham Lincoln's World

I LOVE this book!!!!!!

Term One
Louisiana Purchase
Lewis and Clark Expedition (Blumberg: The Incredible Journey of Lewis & Clark)
War of 1812 (Jean Fritz: The Great Little Madison)
The Star Spangled Banner

Term Two
The Trail of Tears (Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes)
The Alamo (Cousins: The Boy in the Alamo)
The Great Migration
The Mexican American War

Term Three
The Civil War (Freedman: Lincoln: A Photobiography; and Murphy: The Boys War)

Washington Irving: Rip Van Winkle and The Ledgend of Sleepy Hollow
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin, Young Folk's Edition
Stephen Crane: Red Badge of Courage 

Term One: Macbeth
Term Two: Twelfth Night
Term Three: Othello

Cohn: From Sea to Shining Sea: 
     Term One: "Bridging the Gap"
     Term Two: "Water, Water Everywhere"
     Term Three: "Let My People Go"

Kaufman: Our Young Folks' Plutarch (for my 14-year old)
Beesley: Stories From the History of Rome (for my 10- & 11-year olds)
Mason: Ourselves

Term One
Poet: Lord Alfred Tennyson
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Artist: Jacques-Louis David


Term Two
Poet: Walt Whitman
Composer: Frederic Chopin
Artist: John Constable


Term Three
Poet: Emily Dickinson
Composer: Franz Liszt
Artist: Eugene Delacroix


EXTRA STUDIES (for my 14-year old)
Art History: Janson: The History of Painting
Logic: Adler: How to Read a Book
Theology: Lewis: Mere Christianity
Citizenship: Maybury: Whatever Happened to Justice?


We pick up where we left off. Beginning with 1865 and ending by 1900, we will study Reconstruction, Westward Expansion, the Wild West, the railroad, Native Americans and war with the Natives, industrial and technological progress, women suffrage, and the Spanish-American War.

I have already chosen our literature and enrichment for each term. And for science, we are sticking with chemistry for the whole year. I sort of fell off the Charlotte Mason ban wagon. I could not do everything. As my year planning comes together, I will share the details.

Have a great summer!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Our Year with Shakespeare

This is not my first experience with Shakespeare, but I have only ever read children's versions. However, this is my first experience with Shakespeare in its original language and format. To complicate matters...I read it with my children, ages 14, 11, and 10. These are the plays we read for the school year. By the way, we assigned ourselves characters and read our lines accordingly, sometimes willingly, sometimes under duress. 

Published 1623

So Macbeth was absolutely too violent for young ears; said child did not even watch a film edition with us when we were done reading the play. She is exceptionally sensitive to these issues, and that is understandable. The other two enjoyed the story of Macbeth, once it started to make sense. For my own sanity, I often used a resource to help us comprehend what we read. 

Obviously violence is a theme of Macbeth, and so is fate. Sadly, the main character Macbeth started off as a good general, but he became zealous when he heard a prophecy about his future that he would be rewarded a title and power; thereafter, he schemed with his wife to take control of his own fate and force the result, getting so caught up in their selfish desire, creating such terror and permitting the prophecy to come true after all, though not as they had expected. 

I have to be frank: it really was frightening to see the evil scheme unravel and cause so many others dread and fear. But in the end Macbeth and his wife received their rightful payment for their plot and restitution was given to the one Macbeth owed. 

Twelfth Night
Published 1623

Twelfth Night was not murderous or violent, but extremely confusing and meant to be silly. And the silliest character of them all, the clown, is also the wisest. Pay attention to him whenever he joins the set. Characters in this play are not who you think they are, unless you follow easily; there is a lot of cross dressing and name changing. It was like doing brain hurt. 

Although Shakespeare broke a lot of protocol for playwrights in his day, he cleverly cleaned up the confusion in the end. But over all, he is no different than artists today who pressure the status quo, provoke thoughts, and influence the culture.

We watched a film edition of this play, and it was really weird. Not surprised at all.

Published 1622

Finally, we read Othello, and I knew this was one of the more controversial plays to read with young children. We skimmed over the disputable sections, though much of the context went over their heads. Whew. 

A major theme of this play is envy and jealousy. One man, Iago, ruins so many lives because of his greedy desire to be more important than everyone else. Though Othello is the object of his hate, Iago spreads lies and defames anyone involved with Othello. The frustrating thing is that we are not sure why he hates Othello, who is a righteous man. Is he motivated by racism, envy, jealousy, or even lust? We never find out. But like Macbeth, the evil scheme spreads like cancer and causes such horrible results. Unfortunately, there is no retribution here. It was literally a mess.

Aside from the mess, I found this play easy to read and understand. Reading aloud was smoother than the previous two plays. And no, we did not watch a film version of this play. Of course.

So...why read Shakespeare in the original format and language? Because it is like learning a new language, such as Latin. It is like physical exercise for your cranium. It is challenging, and young people should be challenged. It is too bad Shakespeare is not required reading in grade school. 

For fun, here is a skit from Kiss Me Kate, called "Brush up Your Shakespeare."

Monday, June 3, 2019

When Hard Work Pays Off

In May, my younger daughters participated in the production of Cinderella with their dance studio. Auditions were back in December. My older daughter performed as an extra townsperson and ballroom guest. The ballroom dance was rigorous, especially in hoop skirts. My youngest one was cast as Gus Gus. 

For several months the girls learned their routines, and as showtime approached, practices and rehearsals increased. It is a great parental sacrifice, having to drive, drop off, pick up, and volunteer. The entire show is run by staff and parent volunteers, and it is amazing to see it all come together so smoothly.

A five-hour rehearsal was set one Thursday night in May. The next Friday morning was children's theater, in which the show was performed for local school children for free. I volunteered for side stage work during rehearsal and children's theater. Saturday and Sunday the studio presented three shows of Cinderella, and I will explain how that went off in a moment. 

First, here is my youngest getting whiskers, as Gus.

This is Gus and Mary.

This is my oldest as a townsperson.

And in her ballroom gown.

And here is my youngest with her class of mice characters
during studio pictures. 

Gus, Jacques, and Mary

Fooling around on rehearsal night...

A parent took this picture during one show day...

Friday afternoon we learned that my mother's husband had passed away; therefore, in addition to juggling dance classes and my son's piano rehearsal that night, we were now planning a trip to Missouri to attend a funeral. 

Saturday morning I dropped my girls off at the college for their first public performance of Cinderella, at 2pm. The girl's hour break between shows was right in the middle of our son's piano recital, which was also the same day and at the same college, just two parking lot's away. A friend volunteered to take my girls between shows. Whew.

Following is a clip of my younger one's performance in "We Can Do It."
Gus is in the yellow t-shirt.

Meanwhile, my son's recital began at 4pm, and the first of his five pieces was Chopin's Waltz Op 64, No 2. He was fifth up to perform when he began...and about 1/3 way into his performance, the lights suddenly went off. My son...continued playing. He did not flinch. The room became unsettled, and everyone was looking about, questioning; his teacher was frantic, trying to find the problem, while others were trying to help...all while my son mesmerizingly played Chopin. When he was done, he received a rousing ovation. 

Later he said, if Dr. Minasian, his teacher, really needed him to stop, she would have said so; but she did not, and he continued on. Meanwhile, the rest of the recital went on in the dark, with some natural light shining into the room through two propped open doors. That was the best that could be done, and it worked.

About two hours into the recital, we took an intermission. My husband stepped outside for a moment and informed me that people were leaving the the theater, which was visible from the music room. He suggested I check my phone in case my friend caring for my girls contacted me about a problem at the theater. 

Sure enough, she did. She said there was a power outage that affected the entire campus; the 6pm show was postponed until 6pm Sunday instead. She brought my girls to me, and they were able to watch the end of their brother's recital with us.

Since we had planned to pack on Sunday night for our flight on Monday afternoon from Las Vegas, we now had to pack Saturday night, since Sunday would be taken up with the postponed performance. We were able to see the 2pm show and later finished our packing and plans for travel before the end of Sunday night. It was crazy, and I am leaving out the emotional details and specifics that also occurred in addition to the power outage disrupting the piano recital and Cinderella performances. But in the end, all worked out well.

After all was done, we were so exhausted and drained, but I had a moment to think about how proud I was of my kids'. They worked hard all year and they did really well. I never think about it while I am driving about, waiting here, going there, and rearranging our days to fit in the commitment to this work. But when it is over, I can see the whole picture: the sacrifice has more meaning and purpose because it matters to dedicate yourself, and it pays off to work hard and be your best.