Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Honey for a Child's Heart - Book Notes

The book Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt has been on my list of books to read ever since I started homeschooling Sophia and Olivia. 

It's an insightful book about the power of books and literature on a child's life. Much of what is shared is consistent with how I raised and educated the girls, so the book is an affirmation of how I chose to teach them. 

Some highlights from the book include: 

- Few things are more important for a child than to discover the joy of reading. Give him a love of reading, and you have given him not only the most satisfying and useful of all recreations but also the key to true learning. 

- It introduces us to people and places we wouldn't ordinarily know. A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, of beauty, of delight and adventure. Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature. 

- Children don't stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic. 

- Somehow a limited, poverty-stricken vocabulary works toward equally limited use of ideas and imagination. 

- "Snow is the most beautiful silence in the world." (Dobry, by Monica Shannon)

- I have never been able to resist the appeal of a child who asks, "Read to me, please?" The warm security of a little person cuddled close, loving the pictures which help tell the story, listening to the rhythm of the words, laughing in all the right places as the policeman stops Boston traffic for the mother duck and her family in Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings.

- But the pleasure doesn't end with small children who like to sit on your lap. Growing-up children are just as much fun. Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books of pioneer adventure on the prairie, our family could feel the warm cabin, smell the freshly baked bread, hear the blizzard raging outside, and experience with Laura the close family feeling of Pa's singing and fiddling by the fireside.

- Books do impart a sense of security. Children meet others whose backgrounds, religions and cultural ways are unlike their own. 

- Geography invades our living rooms as children visit families from other countries, and the world seems quite friendly.

- We are concerned about building whole people - people who are alive emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. 

- A young child, a fresh uncluttered mind, a world before him - to what treasures will you lead him? With what will you furnish his spirit? 

- Parents unconsciously teach their children what is valuable by the way they spend their own time. 

- Families do have to repeatedly make conscious decisions about what is valuable and then choose the best over the mediocre. 

- Erich Fromm in his book The Art of Loving speaks of a child's basic need for milk and honey from his parents. Milk is the symbol of the care a child receives for his physical needs, for his person. Honey symbolizes the sweetness of life, that special quality that gives the sparkle within a person...To give honey, one must love honey and have it to give. Good books are rich in honey. 

- A busy schedule is the enemy of reading.

- Exposing him to a variety in art helps him to choose what he likes. 

- Good books are written not so much for children as written by people who have not lost their childhood.

- C.S. Lewis says that no book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally worth reading at the age of fifty. 

- Real books have life. They release something creative in the minds of those who absorb them. 

- A good writer has something worthy to say and says it in the best possible way.

Some books that we haven't read that would be worth reading:

- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

- Adventures of Richard Hannay

- Mary Poppins (written by Pamela Travers)

- The Day We Saw the Sun Come Up (Alice Goudey). Also the author's books on nature for older children

- May I Bring a Friend? (Beatrice S. de Regniers)

- A Pocketful of Cricket (Rebecca Caudhill)

- Five Chinese Brothers (Claire H. Bishop)

- Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine (Evaline Ness)

- Moy Moy (Leo Politi)

- Melindy's Medal (G. Faulkner)

- The Moffats (Eleanor Estes)

- The Empty Schoolhouse (Natalie S. Carlson)

- My Borther Stevie (Eleanor Clymer)

- Silver Chief: Dog of the North (John O'Brien)

- Lassie Come Home (Eric Knight)

- My Side of the Mountain (Jean George)

- Freedom Train (Dorothy Sterling)

- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

- Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)

- Onion John (Joseph Krumgold)

- North to Freedom (Anne Holm)

- The Wishing Tree (William Faulkner) 

- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

- The Adventures of Huckkleberry Finn

- The Prince and the Pauper

- Shadow in the Pines (Stephen Meader)

- Winter Danger (William O. Steele)

- Moby Dick )Herman Melville)

- Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

- Hound of Baskervilles

- Suki and the Invisible Peacock

- Suki and the Old Umbrella (Joyce Blackburn)

- Little Pilgrim's Progress (Helen L. Taylor)

- The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

- Jungle Doctor Series (Paul White)

Monday, November 9, 2020

The Art of Noticing - Book Notes

 There's a book that I read recently that had some intriguing ideas about creativity. The Art of Noticing - 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday by Rob Walker had many ideas that I would like to try doing. 

Since the pandemic began back in March with a lockdown, I've struggled to get in a regular pattern of creative exploration and doing things that I enjoy - like pottery, sewing, writing, and quilting. 

Iris folding.

I'm hoping that by doing some of the activities in this book, that I will start doing these things again. (However, pottery will need to wait until the art center opens again.)

- My ambition is to provoke them [students] into thinking about what they notice, what they miss, why it matters, and how to become better, deeper, and more original observers of the world and of themselves. 
- A broad range of professions and pursuits relies on the creative process. The scientist, the entrepreneur, the photographer, the coach: Each relies on the ability to notice that which previously seemed invisible to everybody else. 
- The stimulation of modern life, philosopher Georg Simmel complained in 1903, wears down the senses, leaving us dull, indifferent and unable to focus on what really matters.
- In the early 1950s, writer William Whyte lamented in Life magazine that "billboards and neon signs," and obnoxious advertising were converting the American landscape into one long roadside distraction. 
- "A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention," economist Herb Simon warned in 1971. 
- Polyconsciousness is what one researcher termed the resulting state of mind that divides attention between the physical world and the one our devices connect us to, undermining here-and-now interactions with actual people and things around us.

The girls next to one another...but, unfortunately, in their own worlds.

- When you actively notice new things, that puts you in the present...As you're noticing new things, it's engaging, and it turns out...it's literally, not just figuratively, enlivening. (Ellen J. Langer)
- Windows are a powerful existential tool....The only thing you can do is look. You have no influence over what you will see. Your brain is forced to make drama out of whatever happens to appear. Boring things become strange. (Sam Anderson)

Thanksgiving window stars.

- The quieter you become, the more you can hear. (Ram Dass)
- Appreciate the random participation of others in our lives. (Speed Levitch)
- Our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default. (William James)

Ideas for noticing:

 - Conduct a scavenger hunt.

- Spot something new every day.

Lake Waconia - someplace new I visited in October.

- Take a color walk

- What are the colors that you become aware of first?

- What are the colors that reveal themselves more slowly?

- What colors do you observe that you did not expect?

- What color relationships do you notice?

- Do colors appear to change over time?

 - Start a collection (e.g., search images to hunt and document: arrows, public clocks, manhole covers, geometric shapes, specific architectural details, footprints, signs and objects prohibiting specific behaviors)

- Count with the numbers you find. The game is to find unexpected shapes, sizes, and contexts. Start at 1 and work your way up or start with 100 count down. 

- Document the (seemingly) identical - a developed named Jacob Harris regularly takes pictures of blue cloudless sky - near-identical squares of blue. He calls the series "Sky Gradients." Other ideas - sidewalks, parking lots, grass, tree trunks - both human-made features and natural ones offer endless possibilities.

Seed pods on a tree in the backyard.

- Look slowly. An example is Slow Art Day. Look at five works of art for ten minutes each, and then meet together with someone over lunch to talk about the experience. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York concluded that its patrons spend a median 17 seconds in front of any given painting. 

- Look up and then look farther up - this means slowing way down or stopping moving altogether.

- Repeat your point of view - occupy the same spot for 15 minutes every day and study passersby. 

- Look out a window - spend 10 minutes looking out the window you most persistently ignore. 

Two deer who frequently have visited our yard this Summer and Fall.

- Reframe the familiar - make a Polaroid-size frame, acrylic with a dry-erase surface - like portable windows. Hold the frame up to an object or scene and write a one- to two-word description on it (e.g., beautiful, vacant, cloudy). Then shift the frame to focus on a different subject, leaving the original description. How does the earlier description influence what you're looking at? 

- Cover 4'33" - John Cage composition in 1952 involved a 4'33" "song" of no music. Set the timer on your phone for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Set it to vibrate or chime, place it somewhere screen-down, and don't watch the clock tick. Close your eyes and just listen. 

- Make an auditory inventory - collect sounds and write down what they are. 

- Digital silence - observe a week of digital silence. 

- Stand - "Standing with Saguaros" project - stand for an hour in the proximity of one of the cacti there. You can also sit. Adapt to your area. Pick one thing and really attend to it for an hour. 

- Spend a day of traveling your hometown without spending a dime. See what happens when you take money out of the equation. How does it change where you move, what you look for, how you orient yourself. 

Staying by the hummingbird feeder for a long time yielded some photos 
I enjoy looking back upon now that the hummingbirds have migrated south.

- Play Big-Box Archaeologist - look for and document products you couldn't dream up if you tried as you go through a big-box store. What is the most absurb product you will see? The most poetic? The saddest? The one most revealing of 21st century America? The funniest?

- Read the plaque - read public plaques. They often tell fascinating stories hidden in plain sight. See readtheplaque.com for examples. 

- Apply the SLANT method: Sit up, Lean forward, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head, and Track the speaker.

- Ask five questions, give five compliments - this requires an alert attentiveness toward other people and what they're saying.

- Find something to complain about - without complaining, there can be no progress. The trick is to treat negativity as a means, not an end. 

- Meet a friend halfway - pick a friend and calculate the exact geographic midpoint between where the two of you live. See geomidpoint.com

- Be alone in public - it's not a penalty to spend time alone. It's an opportunity - to exist totally free of anyone else's expectations or your smartphone. 

A stand of pine trees on a trail that I 
explored by myself one morning.

- Care for something. Caring is at the very heart of it all. These exercises help you decide what you want to care about - and thus what and whom you want to care for and attend to.

A river in Wisconsin that I have enjoyed visiting several times.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Healing the Divide - Poems of Kindness and Connection

Recently I read Healing the Divide - Poems of Kindness and Connection which is edited by James Crews. 

There are quite a few poems in this book that I liked or that I wanted to read multiple times. Below are some of them. 


Carol Cone

What do you see when
your baby comes home at fifty?
Do you remember the child
who couldn't sleep a single night
for two endless years
who wouldn't eat most foods
who pushed your hugs away
who gave kisses to no one?

Slowly, the years passed without
a hug, a visit, a Christmas card, yet
whatever brought the epiphany - 
his father's death, a mid-life crisis
or realization that half a life
had passed him by, much too fast - 

he came home at fifty,
erasing years of separation.
Just a visit, an experiment,
still prickly but ready to talk,
to reach out an inch or two 
perhaps to build a fragile bridge
across those missing years.



Danusha Laméris 

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk 
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs 
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” 
when someone sneezes, a leftover 
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. 
And sometimes, when you spill lemons 
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you 
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. 
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, 
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile 
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress 
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, 
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. 
We have so little of each other, now. So far 
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. 
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these 
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, 
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”



Alison Luterman

I stalked her 
in the grocery store: her crown 
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip, 
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness, 
watching the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket, 
beaming peace like the North Star. 
I wanted to ask, "What aisle did you find 
your serenity in, do you know 
how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone, 
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess 
some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—" 
But we don’t request such things from strangers 
nowadays. So I said, "I love your hair."



Wesley McNair

Why, when we say goodbye 
at the end of an evening, do we deny 
we are saying it at all, as in We’ll 
be seeing you, or I’ll call, or Stop in, 
somebody’s always at home? Meanwhile, our friends, 
telling us the same things, go on disappearing 
beyond the porch light into the space 
which except for a moment here or there 
is always between us, no matter what we do. 
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens 
when the space gets too large 
for words—a gesture so innocent 
and lonely, it could make a person weep 
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown 
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel 
patting and stroking the growing distance 
between their nameless ship and the port 
they are leaving, as if to promise I’ll always 
remember, and just as urgently, Always 
remember me. Is it loneliness, too, 
that makes the neighbor down the road lift two 
fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes 
day after day on his way to work in the hello 
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised 
fingers do for him, locked in his masculine 
purposes and speeding away inside the glass? 
How can our waving wipe away the reflex 
so deep in the woman next door to smile 
and wave on her way into her house with the mail, 
we’ll never know if she is happy 
or sad or lost? It can’t. Yet in that moment 
before she and all the others and we ourselves 
turn back to our disparate lives, how 
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag 
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for 
in spite of what pulls us apart again 
and again: the porch light snapping off, 
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.



Stella Nesanovich

It can happen like that: 
meeting at the market, 
buying tires amid the smell 
of rubber, the grating sound 
of jack hammers and drills, 
anywhere we share stories, 
and grace flows between us. 

The tire center waiting room 
becomes a healing place 
as one speaks of her husband's 
heart valve replacement, bedsores 
from complications. A man 
speaks of multiple surgeries, 
notes his false appearance 
as strong and healthy. 

I share my sister's death 
from breast cancer, her 
youngest only seven. 
A woman rises, gives 
her name, Mrs. Henry, 
then takes my hand. 
Suddenly an ordinary day 
becomes holy ground.



Carmen Tafolla

The earth below us shifts
and the joints of houses ache
with hairline fractures that grow
into faultlines on the walls.

The motors burn out
first the fan and then the garbage disposal,
on my way out the door
to job or bank or nursing home.
The only two burners still lighting weakly
on the stovetop flicker at me.

Things fall apart
sometimes people too 
as crisis-after-crisis beats us down.
Deaths and Close-to-deaths
Loss and Deeper loss.

You can no longer swallow, 
or pronounce.
You reach a hand of bones
to lift my hand to your lips.
Your eyes catch my eyes with kindness,
carry the message as softly as you can 
against this harsh sky.

The song you heard playing before I did,
Por Ti Volare, I recognize.
You sang a million times, before this disease.
I didn't know the English title
was  Time to Say Goodbye.
You pull a shining smile out of this stiff
Parkinson's mask
and gently
release me

Composer Study - Amy Beach

We're a bit behind with composer studies this year. However, I'm excited about the composers we will be learning about and hearing their music. I am choosing more composers who are women this year since, in the past, they have been predominantly men. 

This month, we focused on Amy Beach.

According to Wikipedia, Amy Beach was born on September 5, 1867, and died on December 27, 1944. She was both an American composer and pianist, and the first successful female composer of large-scale art music. "Her 'Gaelic' Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman.

"She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave featuring her own music in the United States and in Germany."

One thing that is impressive is that Amy could sing forty songs accurately by age one, she could improvise counter-melody by age two, and taught herself to read at age three. At four years old, during one summer, she composed three waltzes for piano without having a piano. She was able to mentally compose the pieces and then played them when she returned home from her stay at her grandfather's farm.

Wikipedia stated, "A major compositional success came with her Mass in E-flat major, which was performed in 1892 by the Handel and Haydn Society orchestra, which since its foundation in 1815 had never performed a piece composed by a woman.

"Her father, Charles Cheney, had died in 1895. Beach felt unable to work for a while. She went to Europe in hopes of recovering there. In 1912, she gradually resumed giving concerts, Her European debut was in Dresden, October 1912, playing her violin and piano sonata with violinist "Dr. Bülau," to favorable reviews....Demand arose for sheet music of Beach's songs and solo piano pieces, beyond the supply that Beach's publisher Arthur P. Schmidt had available for German music stores."

Amy was the first American woman who could compose music of excellence reminiscent of European music. In 1914, she returned to America, not long after the beginning of World War I. 

Using her status as the top female American composer, she furthered the careers of young musicians. During the early 20th century, Amy worked as a music educator. She coached and gave feedback to young composers, musicians, and students. Wikipedia said, "Given her status and advocacy for music education, she was in high demand as a speaker and performer for various educational institutions and clubs, such as the University of New Hampshire, where she received an honorary master's degree in 1928. She also worked to create "Beach Clubs," which helped teach and educate children in music. She served as leader of some organizations focused on music education and women, including the Society of American Women Composers as its first president.

"Despite her fame and recognition during her lifetime, Beach was largely neglected after her death in 1944 until the late 20th century. Efforts to revive interest in Beach's works have been largely successful during the last few decades."

Below are six pieces that Amy Beach composed and Olivia's thoughts about them.

Four Sketches, Op. 15: Fire Flies

Olivia thought:
- It didn't really remind me of fireflies. It sounded more like bumblebees - like "Flight of the Bumblebees" when it went really fast - except like maybe not as as fast. This was more soft. It was still a bumblebee, but not nearly as fast.
- The part where it changes in the middle - it was like the bumblebee or firefly was settling down and taking a little break. 
- I think it would be easy in notes - especially during the really fast part - it repeats a lot. There's a chord that you are going up and down on. It would be hard in terms of rhythm and counting, and that both hands lined up. 
- I liked this one. It was nice. 

Olivia thought:
- I think I have heard this one before...or maybe it has the same name, but it is done by a different composer.
- It is like something you'd hear during a ballet. 
- At about 2:30, it sounds like people hopping down the stairs. 
- It is very different than the first one. It is much slower. It is a much more soothing melody. 
- It's pretty. It reminds me of something I may have played...but not the full thing.

Canticle of the Sun

Olivia thought:
- Very mystical. 
- Sounds like something you'd hear at the beginning of the orchestra or a play...like the background story of a character.
- One part sounds like it's sad...like a sad march or procession.
- Not really a fan of the opera. I don't really care for it. 
- The beginning part was fine...until they started singing.

The Fair Hills of Eire, O!

Olivia thought:
- I don't really care for this one because it seems like it is meant to be really sad.
- It is going a little slow in parts and it's in minor keys.
- In one part, it's just repeating a lot of the same notes.
- Towards the end, it is getting better. It seems like it is a little bit happier because it changed positions on the piano or maybe it's just because it's louder.

From Grandmother's Garden, Op. 97: Honeysuckle

Olivia thought:
- The beginning part sounds like "Fireflies."
- The middle part seemed a little bit more relaxing. I can picture someone sitting in a patio or gazebo with the trellises of flowers around them. 
- I could see myself playing this one - I think it sounds kind of the same as "Fireflies" - but it sounds like it is a bit easier.
- It sounds like it goes from one time signature to another and then back to the first one.

Piano Concerto in C-sharp Minor, Op.45, Mvt. 3, Largo

Olivia thought:
- The beginning sounds dismal. 
- It is interesting - not sure what the chords are doing. It sounds like it is descending in several parts. I'm not sure what they were supposed to do. 
- It sounds like something you'd hear when the prince finds the princess and is walking up to her to see if he can wake her up again. It doesn't sound like he's been able to wake her up yet.
- I'm liking it better - a little bit.