Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Postcards, Elvis and the Banana...

Okay, who loves getting postcards?  Everyone, right?  Who doesn't love going to the mailbox and seeing something colorful and exotic and (drumroll, please....) Hand-Written!  It's the next best thing to a love-letter in my opinion.  Postcards say, "I'm thinking of you, even though we aren't together."  Sometimes they say "I got to go to Hawaii and you didn't, so nah nah nah nah nah nah nah."  But mostly they say, "Wish You Were Here".

That's why I was excited to learn about Postcrossing!
Have you heard about Postcrossing?  Well, it's been around for awhile, but I just heard of it about a year ago from another Homeschooling Mama.  It's a completely free postcard program that allows you to send postcards all over the world to randomly selected members.  Once they receive your card and register it on the site (with a unique code that you write on the top of the card), you will be next in line to receive a card from a completely different randomly selected member. 

That's my son, Denver showing his Aunt Heather where our latest card has come from!
 We keep a giant world map and a giant US map on our classroom wall and stick a map pin on the city/country each time we send or receive a new card.  So far, we have received cards from 5 different continents, mainly because we have denoted that we speak only English--that has ruled out communication with alot of the African countries (or maybe they just don't have a high participation rate, or maybe access to post offices and postcards is difficult--who knows?).  Here is a picture of our first few months of participation:

Today, I counted the postcards in our Postcrossing box--136 for the school year!  Not bad.  Once you get going, you will be allowed to have 3 cards in rotation at a time, then 5 then 7 and so on.  They just don't want you signing up in the beginning and leaving dozens of people hanging on the other end.  So three is a good number.  I'll never forget, our first friends that we were assigned to were from Spain, Portugal and Belarus.  And judging by the fact that I didn't know how to locate Belarus on the map, I needed this project just as much as my kids did!

Our favorite cards are from the Asian countries.  They always have the most beautiful stamps, usually with some sort of glittery ink, and so many of them add little Anime drawings in the margins.  They really take the time to make the cards special.  As opposed to many American ones I've gotten that just say "Hi."  Lazy, geographically-illiterate Americans.  That's us.  LOL.

Our town is famous for swans.  What's your town known for?
He likes to use his spell check to make sure every word is "just so".

So, if you'd like to add a geography project in your classroom that generates a little writing, a little know-how in the "how to address a letter" department and also provides TONS of EXCITEMENT several times a week at the mailbox (I think we squealed with the first one--literally squealed), then give Postcrossing a try! 

Just think about it.....Where do you think you could go to pick up some inexpensive postcards in your area?  I found that they were everywhere--Hallmark stores, hospital gift shops, any kind of historical or tourist place, even our local hardware store had some.  We have some neat ones in our local art museum gift shop but they are pricey!  You may want to get just a few of these for your stash for a special, deserving person.  Get some with maps of your state, local recipes, local animals, area attractions, an artist, inventor or statesperson that is from your area, etc.  People really appreciate something different than their norm. 

I was surprised to find how many requests I got for Disney cards.  I take it for granted that the mouse is just a half-hour from me.  So, I went to the most God-awful tourist trap in the world on International Drive in Orlando.  The place where they sell shot glasses and cheap t-shirts.  They had THE ULTIMATE POSTCARD STATION.  Hundreds to pick from!  You might have a touristy place near you where you can score big in the postcard department.

How will you store your cards when they arrive?  We just use an old cigar box, but I know some homeschool teachers who post them on a bulletin board on the classroom wall.  Others punch a hole in the corner and put them on a giant key ring.  I like being able to see the front and read the back whenever I want, so I'll just stick with the box until I can spring for this baby.....The Postcard Carousel!

I know some people who keep their postcard stash organized by category, because when you are assigned that special person, they often will have specific requests as to cards they like to get.  Some people collect the "Did You Know?" cards that have lots of local facts.  Some people collect lighthouse cards.  I just had someone request an Elvis Presley card because I was from the US.  I had to break it to her that Memphis is pretty far from me!

By the way, did you know that you can mail anything as long as you can write on it and place proper postage on it?  Or at least I got lucky one year when I was in college.  I mailed my best friend a banana, placed the stamps on, wrote the address in black Sharpie---and she received it!  Why, you ask?  Why do we do anything that we do in college?  Because we're young and ridiculous...

Happy Postcrossing, Everyone!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sacred Harp

When something stirs up my emotions, I have to share it.  Maybe you have never heard of Sacred Harp music.  I know I hadn't until I saw one my favorite movies, Cold Mountain.  Those of you who know me, know I have a little celebrity-crush on Jude Law, but please believe me--the movie is fantastic on its own and is only enhanced by his prescence! LOL.  One of my favorite scenes is in the church when the townspeople are singing and doing this thing with their hands.  I was like, "What the?" The music was so unique, beautiful and haunting at the same time.  I wanted to learn more.  Here, have a quick listen.....

 Apparently, Sacred Harp (also known as Shape Note music), originated in the colonies and then migrated south, where it took root, especially in the Appalachian areas.  The "hand chopping" action is used to keep time.  Because there are no instruments accompanying the singers, the names of the notes are sung, i.e. "Fa" "La" "So", etc.  This was so untrained musicians could still sing, reading the "shapes" of the notes rather than musical notation.

When there are lyrics, the words are sung, and what words they are!  They are very old-school primitive hymns, which I normally don't find very meaningful, considering I've grown up in a pretty contemporary praise and worship-style church my whole life.  But there is something raw and real in this music.  The emotion echoes around in the old wooden churches.  No organ, no microphones, just voices.  I can't listen to it without tearing up.  You can learn more about Sacred Harp here.

There are a few tracks on the Cold Mountain soundtrack that are in this music style, but the rest of the Appalachian-inspired songs are amazing as well.  Jack White's "Wayfaring Stranger" will make you weep.  I was so obsessed with this book, the movie, the music, that I designed a Cold Mountain quilt back a few years ago.  I made a square for Inman, Ada, Ruby, Sara, and the Musicians, etc.

I was going to embroider the lyrics to "I'm Going Home" along the borders.  And then, in my dream, I would present the quilt to Jude Law and he would love me.  Ha ha ha ha....That poor quilt is still in my UFO (Un Finished Objects) box, but now I'm getting inspired to pick it up again!  Wow, I truly do have a "all-or-nothing" obsessive personality.  I need counseling....

So, you may want to incorporate a little mini-lesson on Sacred Harp when you teach about the Colonial Times or the Civil War-era.  There are many singing groups that perform throughout the United States.  I checked and sadly, there are none in Florida.  But to see it performed in North Carolina, near the real town of Cold Mountain, in the winter that would be worth the trip!  Better get that quilt finished.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nothing Makes Momma Happier....

I just love the sight of that Brown Truck!  Look what he delivered today:

I placed an order from Christian last week and have been anxious for it to arrive!  I thought I was done buying curriculum for next year, but I needed one more thing.  And then you hate to just order "one thing".  So, here you can see we got 4 more Ed Emberely drawing books.  We have gotten such a kick out of his method of drawing simple creatures, cars, animals, people, etc.  Truly, ANYBODY can draw the Ed Emberley way.  As you can tell, the kids tore right into one of them and started drawing.....

He breaks down each subject into simple shapes.  You add just one or two circles, dots, half-moons, etc.  at a time.  Like this:

I would highly recommend anything by him, especially this one, which uses colorful fingerprints as the basis for all the drawings
.....I think this book, coupled with five or six colored inkpads would make the primo kids' birthday present.  In fact, if you are friends with me, this is what your kid is getting at their next birthday!  LOL.

Also, uber-excited about the Story of the World, Volume Two audio CDs.  I love SOTW.  It meshes nicely with Tapestry of Grace and speaks to the child in a conversational manner, which I really appreciate.  However, last year with the Volume 1 edition, I found myself reading aloud for history, science and literature.  Although my children have daily assigned independent reading, I still enjoy reading aloud with them.  But I often get sick of listening to myself read aloud every single subject.  I needed an assistant narrator!  That's where Jim Weiss comes in.  He reads through the chapters for you and now there's a little diversity in the classroom.  Although I do pride myself at doing all the voices of the characters and trying to sound as dramatic as possible, I sometimes fall flat and end up pretty monotone.  And it's at these times, I know I've lost the students.  Just trying to keep things new and fresh around here....

The SMENCILS are a bribe for the treasure box.  They just want to smell the flavors when we opened the box.  I said "No, not until you've earned it, Mister!" Ha ha ha....I'm so mean.

You'll notice the brown paper bag-looking book there in the picture.  That's for me.  I'm determined to teach myself Spencerian Penmanship this year.   I want to learn to write beautifully like my grandmother

 (and every other person alive during her generation).  I just ordered the primer book to get started.  I need to get a few more editions to really master the craft.  Yes, I just need one more thing to do......I can't help myself.

And, last but not least, we are giving the Jungle Doctor chapter book series a whirl.  Timberdoodle and CBD both give it a seal of approval and I really love the idea of incorporating action/adventure with missions work.  I think that really appeals to boys.  Hope it's fast-paced and action-packed enough to keep up with my boys!

And on a completely seperate subject, I just have to include my
"Feel-Good- Chicken-Photo of the Day"...

My White Crested Black Polish, Pierogi.  Lovely Girl.