Archive for May 2010

Write Me A Story

May 31, 2010

Continuing with my series on my hobbies, I’ve now come to one of my favorite pastimes: writing.  As I think I’ve already mentioned, I did not like writing especially well during elementary, but I did learn some good habits which have paid off in college writing.  Those same habits also come in handy when I write fiction.

I’ve told you that my sister likes to write (sometimes she even likes to write with me).  She and I sometimes shake our heads and laugh because around the same time that she started writing stories and some short pieces (only a couple of years ago), I also got the urge and started writing short stories of my own.

I started with an adaptation of the story of Ruth (which, by the way, needs some revisions – something else on my long-range to-do list), and then my imagination started branching out and coming up with all kinds of interesting plots.  I laugh at some of my earlier stories because several of them have very similar plots or settings.  Still, I have written a couple of things that I never would have imagined myself writing.

For instance, after all the trouble I had in school with writing stories, who would have thought that I would write a story nearly 50,000 words long?  I was never into science fiction either, but I’ve also written a short story about a planet in another galaxy where I made up everything from the names in the specific planetary system to the modes of travel (some of which sound high-tech, and some of which sound almost mystical).  Not exactly sci-fi, but closer to it than I would ever have guessed that I would write!  What’s more, I may have left enough loose ends for a sequel.

In addition to my stories, I write a little poetry.  You’ve seen some of it on the blog already, such as it is.  I sometimes write a poem as a gift for someone, sometimes to express my feelings on a tough topic, and sometimes because my thoughts don’t come in complete sentences.  On a few occasions, I have tried putting my poems to music; other times I’ll just write lyrics that aren’t necessarily poetry, but that’s a story for another post.

I’d have to say that writing is definitely a hobby of mine.  I will sometimes even write out my thoughts on a topic in order to get my thoughts organized.  Someone will ask a question on which I don’t have a well thought out answer, and I’ll go digging for answers and end up writing an essay! 

I have several pages of unused story ideas that I would like to write about.  That’s in contrast to my sister, who wants to be published; she has pages on pages of ideas, cool phrases, intriguing names, and eye-catching titles.  I try to make my fiction interesting and well written, but unlike my sister, I don’t often spend a lot of time ironing out details and editing my stories.  Most of my stories are for self-expression, and I write for the fun of it.  Not that taking a story to it’s best isn’t fun, but it does take a bit more time than I always have to spend on a hobby. 

The exception might be my novel, for which I wrote up plot notes that ran to over a dozen single-spaced, typed pages when printed out.  That’s besides all the background notes I had on each character and some of the curious elements in that story.  I didn’t want to forget anything and leave it out!  Besides, someday I would also like to write the sequel to this one as well . . .

Someday!

Why Aren’t You in School??

May 26, 2010

I don’t think this question is as common now as it used to be.  When I was small, Mom would have 3G, Sister, and me with her while grocery shopping in the middle of the morning, and inevitably the cashier would ask, “Why aren’t you in school?”

Someone brought this up in conversation recently, and Mom noted that she doesn’t hear this question as often anymore.  Cashiers are more likely to ask “Are you homeschoolers?”  Homeschooling may yet be the way of the few, but it is more recognized now than it used to be just ten short years ago.  It’s not just the weird religious people who homeschool anymore, either.  Homeschoolers often look just like the rest of the world, and I think that somehow makes homeschooling a little more palatable to many people.

Wait.  Stop right there a moment.  Did I just say that some homeschoolers look just like the rest of the world?  Okay, I’m sorry, but I’ve got a big problem with that.  And it goes back to the original question, only with a slightly different emphasis.  If homeschooled kids look, act, and think no differently than anyone else, that what is the good of homeschooling them?

Is homeschooling really doing the good we wanted it to?  What do we want to come from homeschooling anyway?  I think homeschooling parents need to ask themselves, and their children, some questions and figure out what their real purpose is in homeschooling so that we know the real answers.  Come on now, WHY aren’t we in school?

While the cashiers were expecting something like a dentist’s appointment or a cold as the reason for our absence from school, we need to ask their question on a more serious level.  Is our decision to homeschool so superficial that we ape the school system at every turn?  Do we add Bible work as our way of making our homeschool spiritual and think that is enough?  Was the idea to take the competition out of the learning atmosphere so that the students could work at their own pace?  Why are we homeschooling and what difference does it make to our lives?

I know homeschoolers come from a variety of backgrounds and have a variety of reasons for homeschooling, but the choice to homeschool should not be a light one in any case.  Deciding to homeschool is good, but without a vision for your homeschool, the day-to-day working out of that decision can be too much to handle.

Rather than try to imagine all the various scenarios, why don’t I try to give you the sense of why I am committed to homeschooling.  Some of you might assume that I’m just brainwashed into homeschooling because that’s the way I was raised.  Actually, I don’t think that homeschooled kids in general are as definite as I am on this point.  They may be undecided, or they may treat homeschooling as just another option.

For my part, I’m so determined because I know that I can give my kids a better education than any public school teacher can give them.  Arrogance, you think?  Well, maybe, but look at what I’m saying.  I can give my kids – not everyone else’s just mine – a better education.  You see, public school, and yes, even private school, teachers have too many kids on their hands.  They have to keep the grade together, progressing according to one schedule.  I, in teaching my own future children, can go at their pace, slowing down over tough concepts and skipping over stuff that they already know cold.  The frustration and the boredom can be minimized this way.

Teachers don’t have this flexibility.  Neither do they have time to spend on each individual child.  At least, not the time that the child may need.  Some kids need a lot of interaction with their teacher.  Others would rather be left alone, but they do want their questions answered when they run into trouble.  A homeschooling mom can be so much more free to accommodate these personal differences in their children than a teacher can.  The school system is set up to be ideal for teachers, a few teachers can disseminate knowledge to a lot of kids in a relatively short time.  But this same system is not set up well for children to learn.  There just is not enough teacher to go around to every child.

In addition to this, the homeschooling mom gets to choose curriculum that is tailored to their child’s learning style.  A teacher in a classroom uses something that is easiest for them to teach.  A mother can pick something that helps her child learn.  Yes, homeschool moms do also try to pick material that also fits their teaching style, for instance, my mother never used unit studies because it didn’t fit her style.  We know other homeschoolers who truly enjoy them, and we’re glad that they work for some homeschoolers, but don’t try to tell us that “we should use such-and-such unit-study curriculum” because we know that it won’t work for us.

Furthermore, I’ve already posted on the socialization issue.  Children don’t learn to be adults when they are surrounded all day by their peers.  They learn to be childish.  They learn how to be noticed by their peers, how to be popular, how to trick their teachers, and how to disrespect their parents.  They don’t learn responsibility, good judgement, or integrity.  Those things are best learned from adults, preferably their parents.  What socialization they need with other children can be done with their siblings, and I think those are the best children to learn from and with.  Friends often come and go, but sibling ties last a lifetime.

Why does it make sense for a mother to teach her own children?  Because a mother can invest the time to know her children’s personalities, learning styles, feelings, opinions, and desires.  A mother can do this because she has only a few children and because she cares about each child.  Teachers may see dozens of kids each year.  They don’t have the time, no matter how good at teaching they are, to get to know each and every child.

To top it all off, when God asked that we train up children “in the way they should go,” to whom was he speaking?  Parents.  We have a God-given directive to train our own children.  If you are okay with turning your children’s education and well-being over to the public or private school teachers, then that’s your choice.  I cannot help but think it the easy way out.

Believe me, I know that homeschooling is hard.  I know that homeschooling is more than an educational choice; it’s a lifestyle.  I have watched my mother homeschool myself and four younger siblings.  I know that she has a full-time job in raising us.  But does she think it’s worth it?  Absolutely!

Now, not every school is going to have large classrooms; our schools have some pretty awesome teachers in them – I know several.  Some mothers may not be all that organized and may struggle with homeschooling.  On the average, however, you get at least as many teachers who are either hostile or at best, inattentive to your child’s needs.  Even the best teachers will have a whole classroom full of kids.  Even the best teachers cannot undo the harm done by giving children too many authority figures and too much peer influence.  A homeschooling mother who cares about her children can teach them more about life than any school system.

That’s why I think homeschooling should not be a decision to make lightly.  That’s why I think that decision should be God led.

That’s why I wasn’t in school; that’s why my children won’t be in school.

I Am A Homeschooler.

Not A Shutterbug . . . Yet!

May 21, 2010

When I was fifteen, I bought a couple of disposable cameras to take on a family trip to see family halfway across the continent. I took quite a few pictures, some of which turned out all right, many of which were quite ordinary, and the rest of which are hardly worth keeping, except as a reminder of where I started on my photographic journey.

After that experience, I decided I ought to study a little bit of photography so that I could at least take a decent photo when the need arose.

As part of my art requirement the following year, I did a semester on photography, learning about cameras, lenses, lighting, exposure, and shutter speeds.  I didn’t take it all in, too much information to get it all.  Too much information with too little experience to tie it to and make it real.  I did  improve my skills, but I knew I still had much to learn.

As I looked over the course listings at my college a few years later, I noticed a course called “The Photographic Vision.”  I wasted no time writing it down on my list of courses to take.  Besides fulfilling my art requirement, I hoped the course would teach me the rest of the things I wanted to know about taking a great picture.  You see, I had moved from wanting to take a good picture to wanting to take great photos.

I had to wait two years before I was able to fit the course into my schedule, so I finally took it in the fall of my junior year.  Mom and Dad had a digital camera by this time, which made the course much easier for me.  I only had to hook the camera up to my laptop, transfer the photos I’d taken, and submit them online.  I also had a chance to weed out the ones that came out funny and retake them at the time if necessary. 

I enjoyed the course immensely.  We not only learned how to take better photos, we learned about the history of photography and discussed some of the work of the great photographers.  I was thrilled when I finally was able to recognize the different types of lighting that one photographer used when setting up a particular shot.  Lighting was the biggest mystery to me when I first started studying photography in highschool.

My photography improved by leaps and bounds, and I have been able to use some of the things I learned from that course in other courses.  A lot of photography is basic to art: form, balance, contrast, and perspective.  I’ve also been able to use my photos in other courses, and here on this blog!  I am going to get myself my own camera, but for now, I borrow the family camera whenever I get bit by the shutterbug . . .

Here’s a smattering of photos, mostly from the class.

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From my Diary: Not Alone

May 19, 2010

I went to a graduation party last Sunday.  In the midst of the fun, food, and fellowship, I felt a nudge in my mind.  I didn’t pay attention then, but later I realized that I’d been hit with the realization of how big a change your college graduation can make. 

I am graduating next year, and the thought is a little daunting at times.  I’ve learned through my course work not to worry too much about the final assignments because by the time I get to them, they don’t seem so huge.  I’ve also learned that God directs in his time and not mine, but . . . I still get a little tiny bit apprehensive when I think about what comes after graduation.

I remember feeling almost the same way in my senior year of highschool.  Oh, I knew I wanted to go to college, and I also knew that I was going to do college online.  But I had so many other things undecided, like my major, what I was going to do that summer, whether I wanted to look for a job or find somewhere to volunteer, what I wanted to do when I finished college.

Obviously I’ve answered some of those questions, and some are still hanging around even now, so they couldn’t have been quite as big as they seemed at the time. 

In the midst of working through my highschool questions, I wrote a poem to get some of my feelings down on paper.  I found it again today and had to smile because it kind of fits again.  I may not have relatives giving me advice, but they and my friends and church family certainly want to know what my plans are — which can be almost as bad since I’m still so vague as I wait for God’s leading.

Maybe you’re graduating this year, or next, or the year after that.  Maybe it’s a long way off for you.  Maybe you’ve already come through graduation and have moved on, but you have a new kind of choice to make.  Here’s the poem I wrote; maybe it will strike a chord with you too.

Not Alone

Adulthood breathing down her neck
her relatives look on
a hundred choices must she make
they rest with her alone

The pressure is so very great
so many watching eyes
advice pours in and inundates
she takes a walk – alone 

The fields around her lend their peace
she doesn’t travel far
her spirit gently reminds her that
she need not go alone

In the world of adult scares
Jesus will care for her
He will be with her through all cares
she will not be alone

~homeschoolgraduate

From My Sketchbook

May 17, 2010

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t liked to draw.  I’ve come a long way since crayons and markers, of course, though I can still wield those with some pretty good results.  My early drawings tended to look a lot alike.  A tree or two with a bunch of flowers underneath, all very simplistic.  I remember watching other kids draw and picking up ideas for how to make my own artwork better.

When I was small, I would sit during the sermon on Sunday mornings and draw pictures on small pads of paper.  After the service was over, I would go give the best drawings to my best friends (since they were mostly among my mother’s generation or older, they had refrigerators to put the pictures on, and they did too).  That ended when I was about nine; Mom asked me to start paying more attention to the sermon itself, which I did, following along with the outline that Pastor W. put in the bulletin.  I remember some of the last drawings I did, and they were showing some promise.

In fifth grade Mom used Mark Kistler’s book Draw Squad for an art textbook.  3G and I did the book together, working hard to make our drawings better (yes, there was a tinge of sibling rivalry, but I forgot about it pretty quickly).  I was excited to be able to make boxes that looked like boxes and cakes that looked good enough for a wedding, and I finally figured out how to make things look 3-D, through foreshortening and shading.  My drawing improved dramatically, even when I was drawing from nature.

In highschool, I worked through a book on sketching and drawing which taught me an easier way to capture the essence of my subjects without the fuss and erasing which had characterized my earlier technique.  I went from being very particular about where each line went to a sketchy style which captured the spirit if not the exact reality that I saw before me.  For the most part, I prefer this style, though I still revert to the old techniques for some subjects.

My drawing skills come in handy now when I want to sketch out something which I am going to crochet, or to layout a painting project.  I’m not very good at drawing people, but I can do a credible landscape or sketch from a still life.  Sometimes I even try to draw a scene from one of my stories, but that’s another post.  I don’t pull out my sketchbook as often now as I once did, and my younger brothers are currently borrowing my set of drawing pencils, but I still like to draw when I get a picture in my fingers that begs to come out on paper.  Sometimes the result even looks like what I saw in my head!

Rocks and Boxes and Jugs (Oh My)!

May 11, 2010

Just to let you know, I’m not progressing through my hobbies in any particular order.  I’m just talking about the next one as it comes along, which is quite fitting, since I started many of these hobbies in the same way, as the opportunity came along.

Okay, so now I’d like to tell you a little about how I like to paint.  I have, on occasion, wielded a brush or a roller on the walls or siding of my house. I much prefer, however, to paint on smaller things.

We have pictures of me painting with water (you remember the old “water colors” that you paint water and it brings out the color on the paper) when I was four or so.  Besides looking cute back then, I was actually pretty good at staying in the lines, even with a paint brush.  Crayons are often hard enough, but a paint brush is that much longer . . . . Anyhow, we had some of the water color books, and Grandma kept a supply at her house, so I got plenty of practice!

Later, I remember finger painting.  Why is it that children like to get their hands messy?  I think I just liked the squishy feeling of the thick paint between my fingers.  I didn’t like just anything all over my hands, but I did like to get messy with paint.  I wasn’t all that skilled with making pictures with that paint, but then, who expects a Van Gogh from a six year old?

I dabbled a little in real watercolors in middle school, though I never went very far with it.  I liked acrylic paints better.  We got a couple of books by Donna Dewberry, showing her One Stroke Painting technique (video of One Stroke rose).  I liked that because it didn’t require me to think about which colors to do first, they were all on the brush at the same time.  The best part was that I got impressive results very quickly.  Once I figured out how much paint to load onto the brush (a lot), I could paint anything in the book.  I’ve painted some boxes with this technique.  My grandmother gave us a pair of stone jugs that were mustard yellow, but I painted them over with white and then put some pansies on them.  Now they’re a nice decoration on our back porch.

In addition to One Stroke, I also do some acrylic paint-by-numbers.  It seems odd that I like them because paint-by-numbers require so little artistic input from the “artist.”  For some reason, though, the rigidity of the lines and numbers does not bother me in this case, and I enjoy looking at the one on my wall.  I’m currently working on a lighthouse/seascape and a covered bridge/landscape.  Those two are for Sister’s hope chest and mine.

I also paint rocks, as you may have seen in my voicethread.  We got a book from the library that showed a variety of different things to paint on rocks, either as an accent to the rock or to make the rock look like something else.  I’ve done several door stops, paperweights, and other things this way.  Rocks are interesting because they come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes you have to look pretty hard before you see what critter is hidden inside.  The rocks around my house are quite diverse, but they all have a lot of potential . . . if only I had the time I could paint almost all of them.

When I have a paintbrush in hand, world beware!  I even take on rocks and boxes and jugs (oh, my)!

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Let Me Tell You a Yarn

May 5, 2010

Yes, I mean yarn.  It’s actually an old term for tale or story, and I chose to use it because I thought some of you might like to hear the stories behind the different hobbies I have.  My last post talked about the piano, and now I’ll talk about crochet, knitting, and tatting.

When my family first started homeschooling, my mother formed an informal support group with two other ladies, each of whom had a daughter close to my age.  We girls grew to be good friends.  I loved visiting the other girls’ houses, especially the Princess’s house.  The Princess was and still is an only child, and she could tend to be a little bossy at times, but since she made up better stories than I could, I let her.  She was a year older than me and a grade ahead of me, and she often showed me things she was learning.  For instance, she learned to read Braille, even though she was not blind (I think they either had a relative or a friend who was).  Then one day, she showed me something she was making.

I don’t know if it was for art, or even if it they were counting it as school, but the Princess was learning to knit.  At the time, I couldn’t follow what she was doing, so I wasn’t all that interested, but I stored the information away in my brain.

A few years later, I was visiting another friend, whom I’ll call the Mathematician.  She told me about a recent visit from her grandmother, and how her grandmother had wanted to teach her how to tat.  I didn’t have the foggiest idea what tatting was, but again, I stored the information away.  From my friend’s story, tatting was something pretty girly, and I sometimes didn’t like girly things.

Fast forward several years.  I had to do practical arts in 7th and 8th grade, and Mom wanted me to do some baking, cooking, and gardening, but she asked me if there was anything else I wanted to learn.  I remembered seeing the Princess’s knitting.  I asked if I could learn to knit.

My mother suggested that crochet might be easier and more fun, and that she had an aunt who crocheted, so I would be able to ask her questions should I need to.  I didn’t have any reasons why not, so I agreed.  Mom found a teach-yourself-crochet book (Susan Bates) and got me some variegated yarn to use.

During the first few weeks, Grandma came for a visit (this is prior to my grandparents moving into their apartment on my house), and we told her what I was learning.  Grandma told me that her mother was always disappointed that neither Grandma nor her sister ever learned to crochet, something Great Grandma did very well.  Grandma was very pleased that I was now learning the skill.  Later on, Grandma passed down two sweaters, crochet-work of her mother’s.

I quickly mastered the basics and moved on to making things.  One of my first projects was to make two stuffed animals; a turtle and a giraffe.  I used the patterns in my book, and the turtle was pretty simple.  The giraffe, on the other hand, was a learning experience because I wanted it to have spots.  I used two colors and quickly decided that switching between colors was not for the faint-hearted.  I have learned better ways to do it since, mostly in response to that first attempt.

Today, I love to crochet.  I have made a variety of things, from dish cloths and pot-holders to a baby afghan to book marks to refrigerator magnets.  Sometimes I use a pattern, sometimes I make things up as I go along.  Sometimes I use a drawing and lay my work on it to give me an idea of what to do next.  When I make doll clothes, I often use the doll itself to help me figure out a pattern.  Sometimes I use yarn; for my magnets I use embroidery thread or bedspread weight cotton.

After I had gotten pretty good at crochet, I decided to take a whirl with knitting.  I got Susan Bates’s knitting book and started working in knit and purl.  Knitting never came as naturally to me as crochet does, but I learned the basics and can pick it up when I need to.  Some projects are better done in knit than in crochet, but for the most part, knitting is more limited than crochet.

Later still, I was shopping in a craft store and found a book on tatting.  Remembering my conversation with my friend the Mathematician, I picked up the book and investigated.  Tatting looked interesting, so I bought the book and the materials.  At first, tatting gave me trouble.  I couldn’t keep track of what was going on because my thread was so thin and the stitches so small.  I set tatting aside for a while.  Last fall I came back to it, and this time I made sense of the stitches.  I used a slightly bigger thread and tatted some lace edging for a handkerchief (which my grandmother displays rather than hiding in her pocket!).

Maybe you’ve thought of learning one of these skills.  Maybe you think you don’t have the time or patience.  Maybe you do.  Crochet especially can be learned quickly, and you can make some pretty useful articles even with the easiest stitches.

At least you can store this yarn away and pull it out someday when you are given an opportunity to learn something new!

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