Forget Prepositions, Let’s Just Read…

For those of you who do not know, I am teaching the language arts portion to two home-school children this year. Today’s post is a result of my time spent with my third grader, Lorenzo, this morning. I had intended on spending about an hour on grammar this morning… but as I’ve said before, sometimes the best lessons come when you least expect them. We worked so hard yesterday on grammar that I wanted to begin today’s lesson with just a simple picture book. I had intended to simply read the book to Lorenzo and move on to the all important task of crossing out those prepositional phrases. However, as I began reading, Lorenzo began opening up. He began smiling. He began sharing his thoughts and feelings and opinions. I absolutely love this book and knew that it had the possibility to open up the lines of communication. But Lorenzo, took the bull by the horns and led us away from grammar today. He had so much to say about this book, that I just decided to let him say it. So without further ado, I give you Lorenzo’s guest appearance on my blog today…. Take it away, Lorenzo.

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The Book that Makes My Feelings Happy: by Lorenzo

The  picture book the fantastic flying books of mr. Morris lessmore shows us how books can be great. In the begining mr morris was writing his own story. But then a storm came and blew all of his pages away. Because of his unhappiness a book angel drops a book that leads him to a library. While he is there he becomes happy again and finishes his story. In the end mr moress goes to heaven and a girl reads his book that he left behind.my faverate part is when he takes care of the books the way they took care of him.This story makes me happy and sad at the same time because he dies but the books have been changed by him and he was changed by the books. this story shows how the way we live our lives is important because it can change other people around us and our lives can also be memories for them once we are gone.

 

Homeschool: Week 1

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Jacob and his mom, Olga, picking up a copy of the book we are reading together! Book Club for two.

“The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.” My students always become like family to me… I get caught calling them my kids and on more than one occasion I’ve overheard a couple of them call me mom. Where I am lacking in numbers for a group discussion, Jacob has shown in just two days that he will pull the extra weight. I have spent two days with this young man who is not shy about expressing his opinions and view points. I say to him, “Let’s talk about the personal narrative.” He replies, “Well, can I write a personal narrative in poetry form?” I told him I loved that idea. He recalled a past time in school where he wanted to do just that but was discouraged. That is the difference in having to meet state standards and having to teach a child according to their needs and passions. Let the journey begin.

 

 

Can’t Find the Words

indexI’m staring at the keyboard, not really knowing what to say… but having so much to say. Thirteen times. I’ve read The Giver thirteen times now. Knowing the story so well and having such a strong vision of what this story was, tainted my ability to be open minded while watching it come to life on screen. I had many students contact me through various social media outlets. Their words were strong and harsh…awful. horrible. what the heck was that? Those are the words they chose to describe what they saw. And I can’t say I blame them.

Honestly, I have such mixed feelings. I found myself wanting to feel something powerful much more than I actually felt something powerful.

Rushed. I kept leaning over and whispering to Dustin… This is rushed. Too rushed. In the book Lowry does an impeccable job of allowing the sensations to linger…writing with such conviction and awe inspiring passion that the reader doesn’t just read the words. The reader gets to actually experience what Jonas experiences. It was such a disappointment to have those experiences skimmed over with a one or two minute flash on the screen. Lowry spends entire chapters describing what it feels like to experience snow and downhill and rainbows and war and connections and love. Tragedy and Joy are written so eloquently that the reader is left with a heaviness of having gone through it with Jonas. I was left feeling a little jipped. I was left feeling sad for the people sitting around me who hadn’t read the book. I asked them all. Most had not read it. 

With so much to say and not even having the words… I’ll just list. A bit ironic to list when I needed so much more depth tonight. But that seems to be the best way to make sense of it all. I was jotting down words and phrases in the dark…on a notepad… with an itty bitty golf pencil… because Dustin was afraid I’d get us kicked out if I typed notes on my phone all night. So, I give you my scribbles:

1. Drone pilot? – Asher’s not a drone pilot! He is chosen to work as an instructor of recreation!

2. “Knowing what something is is not the same as knowing how it feels” – spoken in the film by Jeff Bridges (The Giver) but not present in the book. This made me laugh because it was exactly how I was feeling at the time he said it. It would appear to me that the screen play writers knew what this story was but not how it felt.

3. Why are they showing the house this soon? It doesn’t make sense to show the house this soon. – The Giver gives Jonas a memory in the book where Jonas first comes to the realization of what love is. He experiences it in a house in winter time. There are grandparents and gifts and hugs and laughter. But all we see is a house in the movie…and way too soon! The experience is left out.

4. Keep the music! – The Giver tells Jonas in the book that it came differently to him in the beginning. It wasn’t seeing beyond. It was hearing beyond. It was music, not colors. Jonas selflessly tells the Giver to keep it for himself and not give it away. This was a strong display of Jonas’s love for the Giver. But in the movie, music is given away so haphazardly without any regard. I didn’t like it.

5. I keep missing the experience.

6.Jonas’s mother and father seem to know. – In the book they are carefree because they do NOT know. The film’s tone and mood was one of secrecy, danger, rebellion. In the book, I am sad for the characters surrounding Jonas and the Giver because they do not know what they are missing. In the book, I am angry at the characters surrounding Jonas and the Giver because they seem to be working hard to withhold truth from Jonas.

7. They entered the Annex! – It felt like a huge invasion. Lowry magnificently sets that annex room, where the Giver lives, apart. It is almost holy. But they just tear the walls down with no respect and no understanding in the movie. It didn’t feel right.

Now…Here at the end is where my notes change. The number one reason my attitude changed at the end was because the ending was new and fresh.. it wasn’t the book. It was different and untainted. Clean from what I knew.

8. Jonas’s realization that he is responsible for the lack of emotions is crucial to the new ending.

9. Jonas now has a specific purpose for wanting to make it past the boundary. In the book, Jonas is escaping to bring back joy. But in the movie, Jonas is escaping to free Fiona from death. He is escaping to free the Giver from his punishment as well. There is a sense of purpose. No ambiguity whatsoever. He NEEDS to break that boundary.

10. Fiona’s plea to Jonas’s mother is beautiful. It is also not part of the book, which is why I could see the beauty in it. It hadn’t been tainted.

11. The Giver’s plea to the elders was just as breathtaking. He throws caution to the wind and allows it all to escape. His heart is right there for them all to see and hear…. and he does that knowing that it’s gone on far too long, keeping it all inside.

12. That baby! – Oh did that sweet little boy steal the show

That’s all I’ve got. I don’t know how to eloquently write my feelings on this one because they are so mixed and jumbled up. I will end by saying that I’m pretty sure I’ll be sticking with books. You just can’t cram all that emotion into an hour and a half long film.

My Heart’s Eyes

deltaWhen I look at the South with my heart’s eyes, it’s like standing in the pages of a great book. I stand here and imagine myself in the middle of a beautiful story… Maybe a story written by Faulkner, Welty, Williams, or the like. This place has a story to tell. Some people open the pages of this place and read a story of depravity. Some read a story of racial turmoil. Some read the story of poverty and ruin. Some see an uneducated people through these pages. But then there’s the few faithful who pick up this book and read the story of tragedy AND triumph, beauty IN THE MIDST of the stereotypes, nostalgia, and loyalty IN SPITE OF the naysayers, and wisdom BEYOND what any school can afford. Opportunity is here. It may not jump out at you. You might even need to be a dreamer to discover it. Maybe that’s what this place is to me. A place for dreamers. A place to discover and dream. When you can see the forest through the trees, you’ve made it. When you can distinguish history and culture from dusty and dilapidated, you’ve arrived. If that’s you, be proud. There are few of us who remain. Mississippi needs the dreamers and the visionaries. It is they who breathe life into her ruins. I know some of these dreamers. They aren’t just entrepreneurs who are looking for the most profitable site for their new business. They are the creators, the painters, the story tellers who end up bringing success to the chapters of this great southern book. It’s an amazing book. You should read it for yourself!

  The Mississippi Delta.

Listing My Trees

“Statistically, if you’re reading this sentence, you’re an oddball. The average American spends three minutes a day reading a book. At this moment, you and I are engaged in an essentially antiquated interaction. Welcome, fellow Neanderthal!”
Dick Meyer, Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium

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My last year as a classroom teacher was by far the best in terms of seeing children not just grow academically but mature in ways that you just can’t accomplish through tests and worksheets. No piece of paper or list of skills or set of standards could have prepared me for what my students needed that particular year in that particular setting. And I owe it all to two things: passion and literature.

I write today to remind myself, as I embark on a new journey of homeschooling (not my own children), to let the process take precedence… to allow the journey to mean more than the end result. For in that journey, the intended end result will be accomplished.

When we (as teachers, or just humans for that matter) allow ourselves to get bogged down in the details, we miss out on the big picture. I’ve always been one who sees the forest, rather than the trees. I’ve always been more of a “let’s look at what we want them to get out of this instead of how we’ll get there” type of gal. And for that reason, I have seen the rewards: a child who never read a book on their own suddenly wanted more books, a child who couldn’t understand why an author would choose such tragedy rather than comedy becomes keenly aware of our need to see tragedy in order to preserve the comedy.

Because I know the forest well… today I am making a list (against my usual beginnings) of all the trees. I’m making this list to remind myself of which trees produced that beautiful forest. Forgive me for speaking so metaphorically. I just see it no other way.

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1. I will begin the year teaching and cramming in as many skills as I can so that my students can use those skills through the remainder of the year. – When the crux of the information is given first, then those elements can be drawn upon and discussed as I enter my literature. For example, if I’ve already given a foundation of what irony is, we can then look to literature to find the irony. We can stop reading and discuss when we see it happening.

2. I will begin the year teaching how to properly write a summary. – I feel that summary writing is crucial and paramount… Before diving into essays, I need to help my student(s) develop confidence in understanding a story well enough to write a catching summary. I have never been fond of the summary written to just tell the main points. I favor the summaries that give away the moral, lesson learned, theme. I favor summaries that force the writer to really ponder and stew over what the author is trying to say to their reader. I have found a formula that works well in teaching great summary writing. And although I tend to stay very far away from formulaic writing, I have come to realize that this formula forms the foundation for deep analysis.

3. READ, WRITE, READ, WRITE. – Hand in hand these two go. You can’t have one without the other. I will remember to read ALOUD and write TOGETHER until it is mastered. Every skill I want to teach, every social issue I want to discuss, every historical time I want to explain, every life lesson I want to impart can be found through story. But I can’t end with just story. I must allow my student(s) the opportunity to voice their beliefs, opinions, agreements, and disagreements. I want my student(s) to argue with me. I want them to be filled with enough passion after reading a life changing story to stand up and tell me they see it differently. I want their minds to be bursting forth with so much thought, they have to let it explode onto paper.

4. I will let the process take over. – I must remember that when a lesson takes longer than I want, or a discussion happens more hesitantly than I’m expecting, or a topic sentence just can’t be created, that these times are for pause and reflection rather than haste. I must remember to allow my student(s) to set the pace. I’m not teaching myself… I’m teaching them.

5. Most importantly, I will be present. – I will rejoice and grieve with the characters in my stories and with my student(s) so that empathy can be seen. Students know the difference between a leader who is really there with them, and one who simply needs to get that skill or topic checked off for the day. The best lessons I’ve ever taught are the ones that weren’t planned…They were the ones that were a result of student led discussion. I will wait with anticipation for those conversations to happen.

One final reminder to myself comes from the words of Jim Trelease, a guru in the world of reading aloud:

“People do not learn by information. Story is the basic fabric for intelligence because it determines how we think and behave. Stories give life to past experiences. Stories make the events in memory memorable to others and to ourselves. It is story that focuses our attention, helps us make sense out of the world around us. The politician or preacher who stands before an audience and says, ‘That reminds me of a story,’ has its attention immediately. If all we are doing in school is teaching students how to answer the calls they’ll someday get on their beepers [dating my book, here] or emails, then the curriculum is wasted. The most important calls will not come on beepers; instead they will be the daily calls for love, justice, courage, compassion. IQ and HQ (heart quotient) are both important. When we begin to focus exclusively on paper scores, we need to be reminded that the most educated nation in two thousand years led the world in math and science in 1930. It also produced the Third Reich. The Holocaust could never have happened if the German heart had been as well educated as the German mind. Science and math are important but they only address the IQ, not the HQ. Have you ever heard of a child crying over the end of a math book? I rest my case.” – Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook

A Year Later

Contentedness came to me. I wasn’t looking for it. In fact, I was looking for the opposite. Bitterness could have come and stayed. Resentment could have made a place in my heart and remained. Grief might have won. But contentedness came.

imagesA year’s worth of roller coaster emotions have finally leveled out. Moving to Texas was hard. Leaving weighed heavily. At times, the sadness was so heavy I could hardly catch my breath. I left a job I adored, friends that made me feel important and valued and funny and needed, family who fed us on the weekends and babysat my children and went antiquing with me in the summers, a back porch that was filled with the “supper club” crew at least once a month. All those things are going on without me now. And for the first time in a year, I am okay with that. The job is still there and I see it moving on and forward without me. The friends are still there and I see many of them moving forward. The family is still there and I see them too having dinner out or birthday parties or day trips to visit other family members. Supper club still moves on and I see that too. My life there didn’t stop to grieve me. It didn’t stop and wait for me to return. It didn’t grow bitter or resentful. train carLOFT2WH

Gradually and slowly yet all at once, contentedness came to me. And somehow, that contentedness even became joy and happiness and gratitude. This place I call my home now actually feels like home. And although I am still very much Mississippi, I too am now Texas. Not sure if I’ll ever be enough Texas to enjoy the smoked barbeque (and when I say smoked, I mean it lingers… for days…relentlessly). But I am home. and I quite like it.

Find Your Passion. Discover Your Purpose.

Politics and Religion. I’ve heard you shouldn’t talk about those things if you want to keep friends. It’s a wonder I have any left.

There are always a million things going on in my mind at once. And 99% of my time is spent pondering thoughts I want to write about. Writing, for me, is such a release. A release of tensions…of stress…of joys… of sorrows. I write to release these things and in the midst of that release I often pray that my words will catch someone off guard and encourage sharing. The sharing of emotions is what I treasure most.

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We were made to be courageous is a concept that I think about a lot. There are so many times when I share my thoughts and then immediately think, “Maybe that wasn’t worth sharing…Maybe I’ll offend someone…Maybe someone wont like me after reading that.” But then I remind myself that we were made to be courageous. I am an idealist in every sense of the word. I believe that people can make a difference in this world and I want to be a difference maker. I want to be used by the Holy Spirit to help, comfort, uplift, encourage, inform, or motivate someone. It is why I became a teacher. It is why I am so unabashedly passionate in my pursuits. We are all missionaries. We all have a mission. Whether we are in Christ or not, we all have a mission. You can look on Facebook any day at any time and see what people are passionate about. Facebook has become a mission field. Whether we are in pursuit to convince people to take better care of their skin, or add more exercise to their lives, or follow a certain political candidate, or trust in the power of prayer, or go read a book, or believe that a certain profession is the best, or that some particular group should be banned or boycotted, etc. etc. etc. The list is long and the pursuits are heavy. I am one of those pursuers. I can’t help myself. I get why there are so many bloggers. I get why so many people are posting  photos of miraculous before and after transformations. I get why people are boycotting businesses. I get why people get on their soapboxes.  I get why there are a million articles on Facebook everyday being shared and liked thousands of times. All of those pursuers have one thing in common. They We believe that their our mission is worth fighting for..that someone can benefit from it…that there is something magical or special or emotional or awe inspiring that others would benefit from. I get it. We boldly post our passions! We were made to be courageous. But we were also made to be together, to love one another, to encourage one another, to share in each others’ burdens and joys. And again for those reasons, we post, we blog, we photograph… It’s modern day evangelizing :)

So all of you who are passionate in your pursuits, carry on my friends. I appreciate your passion. It is contagious. I also appreciate  when those passions are shared and discussed and pondered and stirred. Inspire me. Be inspired by others.

I look for inspiration and encouragement daily. Whether it comes from a book or interaction with a friend or even from Facebook. It stirs something in me when I see or hear or feel beauty through words on a page, or a smile from a friend, or a picture on Facebook. Seek out the beauty. Find your mission. Encourage others. Share in sorrows and in joys. Be someone’s inspiration.

This is my challenge today: Think about this…When people think about you, what is it that they can say you are passionate about? Where is your mission field? What are your pursuits?

And this is my prayer today: …that in those pursuits and on those mission fields, we are completely immersed in the ultimate reason for our passions. …that we would see and feel the love of Christ in us so that we can release that to others. …that we would remember that there is a purposeful life meant to be lived in a way that honors the Maker. This prayer is for me. It is for my friends who know a Savior. It is for my friends who do not. It is for my church leaders. It is for my children’s teachers. It is for my husband. It is for my children. It is for my nation’s leaders. It is for the world’s leaders. Nothing is too big for God. Dream big…Pray big…Do big!

Love you all!

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

Acts 28:31 Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Ephesians 3:12In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Acts 4:31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,

Acts 4:13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Ephesians 6:19And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

Philemon 1:8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,

Romans 12:1-2I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 10:19-25Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.