Monday, June 8, 2015

MATH- its beauty and its ugliness.

Trigger warning: I'm going to make a very controversial statement: I LOVE MATH! I love the patterns in numbers. I love that you can solve a problem multiple ways and get the same answer. I love that you can go in figurative circles and get back where you started. I love that you can go in actual circles and make pretty designs with precise tools (compass and protractor). I love that numbers are a language that is spoken around the world. I love to research all the different ways to teach and learn the same thing. Donald in Mathemagic Land is one of the best videos ever made.

On the other hand, I hate math curricula. I hate when they insist on only one method OR they insist that every child learn every method, even if they already know one that works. I hate when they force a child to try to understand that which is beyond their developmental level, and refuse to allow rote learning which is at least useful until one CAN understand. I hate when they push nothing but rote, and never go back and explain the why and how at a later time (but it's been fun learning the whys and hows as an adult). I hate when they torture a child with a long drawn-out process that teaches the why, only to turn around a teach a shortcut 3 weeks later. I hate that schools (and that also applies to expectations of homeschoolers) insist that every child learn certain things by a certain age, with little/no wiggle room for individual development. Even when us homeschool parents would like to be more flexible, the testing requirements for our kids, and the peer pressure among the parents, still pushes us to push the kids. I hate when they insist that it's the method used that matters, not the right answer. Or that there is no "right" answer as long as the kid can explain the wrong answer. I hate when publishers come up with "new" ways to teach something, with no better reason than that everyone will jump on the bandwagon and they get to sell more books. I hate when they insist that a kid who is strong in math skills and poor in verbal skills must be able to explain what they did.

There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum. I get that. Every teacher is different, every child is different. I've had enough trouble trying to teach math to 3 very different kids, at different times; I can't imagine the difficulties when you expand that to a whole classroom with one administration and 25 sets of parents, all breathing down your neck at the same time. (Hint to publishers- creating something so new that the parents can't comprehend it, is only going to increase the pressure on everybody, not help the kids)

Is there a solution? The only one I can see is to make sure the teachers have a well-stocked arsenal of methods, an order in which to teach the skills, and sufficient time in which to do it, and TRUST them to know which tricks will work best for which kids. Teach a simple method to the whole group, and then fall back on the arsenal for those kids that need more help, or are driven to understand why. Quit wasting time on teaching to the test (by which I mean GET RID OF the high-stakes tests.) Quit spending weeks trying to teach 5yos to use a ruler when it will take all of 5 minutes to teach them when they are 7yo. Quit insisting on pushing everyone through the same set of hoops. Simplify school, not continually seek to make it more complicated. Let kids PLAY. Let them learn to count from jumping through a hopscotch. Let their bodies work more, and the brains will follow.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sewing Heaven

I spent the last 3 days in brain overload. I can't remember the last time I pumped so much knowledge into my head in so short a time.

Each year, there is a Sewing Expo in the Twin Cities. This event is 3 days of classes on pretty much every aspect of sewing, other than beginners. Classes included topics such as quilting, pattern drafting, fitting, construction techniques, specialty fabrics, and many more. Multiple things to choose from in every time slot. Teachers included nationally known sewing experts. This is the first time I've been able to attend.

There was also a vendors area with a plethora of choices of fabric, notions, patterns, and machines. Many things you would never find in a regular fabric store, and most teachers also selling their favorite tools along with videos of classes that you may have missed or want to see again.

I can't believe the amount of info I absorbed, or attempted to absorb. Lots of note-taking. I came home on Friday feeling totally fried, but Saturday I was feeling energized and ready to dive into practicing all I had learned. The classes I took, 11 of them, included taking measurements, "slimming" pants, sewing with knits, dart and zipper hints, jackets, serger adjustments, sewing luxury fabrics, pants alterations, pattern changes, pants fitting, and pants construction. I think the most useful and interesting to me were the serger adjustments, because my very old serger is practically in need of surgery; sewing luxury fabrics because I rarely venture into these, partly out of lack of knowledge; the pattern changes method, more about that below; and the pants fitting and construction, because I really enjoyed the speaker.

Regarding the pattern changing method- there are several ways to adjust tissue patterns to custom measurements before cutting out the garment. This can be a challenge because changing one area can cause distortions in other areas and, in some cases, changing one pattern piece requires an equal change in another spot and one must keep track of those. In the past I have learned 2 methods to make changes: "slash and spread" and "pivot and slide". There is a new method that supposedly decreases the distortions - the "seam" method. (If you are really interested, google them. I won't bore you with the details here.) What really got me was that the seam method is something I came up with many, many years ago, and others told me that wouldn't work! Sometime this winter I'm going to try making the same adjustments with all 3 methods and see what comes out the best.

Besides all the sewing fun, this weekend included a couple friend reunions. First was lunch with a friend I haven't seen in at least 17yrs. We first met in Grand Forks when we were in the same square dance club. We kept in touch after we both moved away, with Christmas letters and occasional visits as we traveled through their city. The last time we saw each other, John was a toddler. Now she is living in the southern part of the Twin Cities and we met for lunch, along with her daughter, who used to play with mine.

The other friend is one who used to live near here, but moved to the southern part of the state years ago. We generally see each other once or twice a year. This trip, I needed to deliver something to her, so we made a slumber party out of it and got a hotel room together Thursday night. For supper we got adventurous (for me anyway) and ate at an Indian restaurant. It was a place I found online so we didn't know what we were in for until we arrived. It turned out to be a little hole-in-the-wall spot with a few table and a large take-out clientele. The staff were all from India. I'm pretty sure I was "racially profiled" and I'm not the least offended by it! Terry and I both ordered different types of curry. The waitress warned me several times that it was spicy - medium spicy she claimed - and I assured her I could handle a "medium". No such warning to Terry, who is Chinese. When our food came, Terry's was considerably hotter than mine! Apparently an Asian is expected to handle some spice without a problem and us white folks aren't. Of course, being in MN, they're probably usually right. We finished up with a walk around the Mall of America and favorite treats, followed by talking half the night.

I fully intend to attend this expo again in the future. I don't think I'll attempt 11 classes in 3 days again though! I'd like to take some classes on the home-business end of sewing, and continue to expand my skills.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Discover Aviation Days

Tim and I spent this last weekend at the Discover Aviation Days airshow in Blaine. Tim joined the Civil Air Patrol last year, and this air show is one of the biggest events his squadron participates in every year. Their job is to marshal the aircraft and keep people from walking into propellers.

Because the aircraft come and go throughout the day, as well as doing fly-bys and other demonstration flights, there is a near-constant flow of traffic on the same runway where the people are walking around to look at the parked planes. The Cadets act as traffic control and tell the planes where and when to go to do so safely, and direct them into and out of their parking places. They also make sure the people keep clear of any moving planes. They had one exciting moment this year when two young children bolted directly toward a moving plane. They were safely retrieved. Another bit of excitement was when some guy insisted on disregarding the Cadets in order to get closer pics of a moving plane. He was rather rude to them, did not think a higher-ranking (but still teen-aged) Cadet qualified as a "supervisor" when he demanded to talk to one, and eventually just stormed off.

Here's a couple pics of Tim while on duty.

The moms caused a bit of excitement of our own on Sunday. Our job for the weekend is to keep all the kids well fed, and provide a break area for them. On Saturday we used a large tent that was set up behind a hanger. We ended the day with a thunder storm, and when Sunday had a rainy beginning that delayed the opening of the air show we used our Squadron Building on the other side of the airport instead. Tim and I didn't arrive until late morning (he was on the afternoon shift) and when we got there, we found that the Cadets had been put to work at the squadron for the morning, and most of the food preparation stuff had been transferred back to the building. We moms decided to serve lunch there rather than move it all back again.

At the end of the day, we needed to go back to our tent to remove all that was still there. As we headed over with multiple cars, I was in the front of the line. I knew that they had been driving across the flight line earlier in the day, and didn't realize that I should have gone around the outside of the airport instead. As we passed the back gate (we didn't need to go through it, just went past on the inside), the Police Explorer that was watching the gate apparently didn't know who we were. He radioed to the flight line that a bunch of cars just "blew past him" headed for the runway. (His words, which every Cadet and policeman on the runway could hear.) When we reached the runway, where we DID stop to wait for permission to cross, we were immediately approached by the runway supervisor with his light flashing. He was a CAP adult, but not from our squadron, and I told him who we were and where we were headed. The local sheriff was right behind him and said he recognized us as soon as he saw us. They escorted us across the runway so we could continue our business. I think next time we better identify ourselves to the gate guy, even if we don't need to use his gate! I hope we (I) didn't bring any trouble down on the CAP unit that they will pay for next year!

Here's a few pictures of various displays at the show. Don't ask me what kind of planes they are; I don't have a clue. I didn't read the signs, and wouldn't have remembered them if I did.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A wedding!

This spring, on March 2nd, my daughter got married! We are very pleased with her choice of husband. Mark is a Godly man, and we know he will be a good leader for their household.

The wedding was beautiful. Ginny did her own planning and prep work and she did a great job. My mom was able to travel to Mn to attend, but Sid's dad was not able to come due to health reasons.

For those of us that were at the church all day, listening to Mark and his family sing was a highlight of the day. They are a musical family, and have been singing together for years. While they were killing time waiting for the bride to get ready, they treated us all to a concert from the front entry of the building and from the stage, depending on where it was safe to go and still prevent the groom from seeing the bride. At the reception, Mark and his brothers sang a song to all three of their wives, written by Mark, and not practiced together until the day before the wedding. Here's the video:

 A few pictures (click to enlarge):



More projects for sale

 I've been working on quite a few projects for selling at the store. I'm selling at "Bellacoux and Thistledew" in downtown Buffalo, Mn. My furniture projects are limited to the summer months as I can't work in the unheated garage in the winter, and I prefer to fill the garage with my car when the weather is its typical Mn self. During the winter I work on "smalls"- the little stuff to fill in the shelves and tabletops in the store.

I thought I had more pics on the computer, but apparently most are still in the camera. But, here's a few to give you a look at what I've been doing.

 This bench is the second one I've made from head/foot boards. The first is on my front porch. I LOVE the way this came out, and Lin, the store owner, does too. We are surprised it hasn't sold yet.

This was my first attempt at upholstering something more complicated than a basic dining chair cushion.  It came out beautifully, and it sold quickly.

Currently awaiting completion for delivery to the store this weekend are a desk and chair, and a table with 4 chairs.

Other items I've sold are a pair of green chairs, another dragonfly, and several things that escape my memory.

Bella and Dew is currently moving into new "digs" in the same building. Now we will have street frontage and big windows instead of being off the alley. Hopefully that will result in more sales!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

30th High School Reunion

I did not attend a normal high school. Mine was 100X better! I attended a Christian boarding school in Ashville, NC. Last weekend was my 30th reunion. Through the years I have received invites to each reunion, and have never been able to attend. This year, having reconnected with many classmates on Facebook, I desperately wanted to go.

Tight budget did not allow for a plane ticket, so Greyhound was the transport of necessity. It was, to say the least, an interesting trip. Three layovers each way (including Chicago in the middle of the night), and an ever-changing cast of characters as fellow travelers. The most interesting was seeing Amish travelers 4 times. Once I also got to see their buggy. I knew that each Amish community has their own standards for clothing, but was surprised at the wide variety of outfits they each wore.

The reunion was scheduled to start on Friday evening, and I arrived Thursday evening. To fill my day on Friday my mom drove up to Ashville to spend the day. It was a nice bonus to get to see her, and we spent the day wandering the mall, then getting lost on the way back to campus.

About 5 years after I graduated, the school packed up and relocated to South Carolina. The campus went through a variety of other tenants, and a few years ago was purchased by a developer. Our beloved mountain is now being built with houses. The upside to this is that one of those houses is owned by my classmate, Susan. She opened her home to those girls who needed lodging, so we had a slumber party for the weekend. LOTS of fun!

We kicked things off Friday evening with a bonfire and s'mores on the mountainside. It was a beautiful night, and such fun getting reacquainted with old friends. Melissa's daughters treated us to a performance of "The Bible in One Minute" that was very entertaining.

Saturday we all slept in, and then headed out to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock. I'd never been there before, and the drive was beautiful, but a bit stomach-churning on curvy mountain roads. Once there, we started off with a group photo at an old-fashioned photo studio. Then we split up with half going shopping in the little shops, and half of us going up the mountain to visit Chimney Rock. The views up there were beautiful. We met again for an early supper, then headed back to the school to share updates on all our lives.

The developer let us use our old classroom building to meet in. It has gone through a few changes, but still is much the same. It even still houses a school! A small private girls middle school uses the building now. We got to have our meeting in the old science lab. The highlight was a slide show put together by Anne and her husband. They did a WONDERFUL job! It was arranged in such a way that as other classmates submit pics later they can be added in sequence. We also shared what we've done since graduation, shared our funniest memories, and enjoyed some cake decorated with BL colors. Awards were given for funniest story, longest distance traveled (from CA) and I got the award for the trip that took the longest amount of time (total 58hrs on the bus so I could enjoy 66hrs on the mountain).

Sunday morning we met back at Susan's house for a devotional led by Ginny, and singing of some favorite praise songs and the BL camp song. I had a copy of the words that the spouses used, but we graduates all could still sing it with very little error! Sounded SO good! We went around the room sharing prayer requests, and ended up talking for hours. The spiritual maturity in that little group was very neat to hear. BL gave us all a good start, and we kept on growing.

I don't think I could even begin to describe the emotions of this weekend. I've always been an introvert, and my years at BL were no exception. My best friends were either in a different year or didn't attend the reunion. Many of those that came were closer to acquaintance than close friend. In spite of that I felt so close to those that were there. BL was a shared experience that bonded us in ways that I can't explain. Add to that the bond of being members of Christ's family, being mature enough to be beyond the self-conscious self-centeredness of teenagers, and it was like stepping back into a circle of best friends. We all shared many laughs and many tears, and it was without a doubt the highlight of my year.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Projects for sale

I've decided to take my building and decorating fun one step further.

Our town is locally known for it's "Occasional Sales" which take place the first full weekend of each month, Thursday thru Sunday. There are about a dozen small shops which are filled with a huge variety of homemade/remade/repurposed items, all made by local crafters. Apparently a lot of people make the drive from the Twin Cities to shop here.

I am jumping on the bandwagon and trying to earn a few extra $$. Don't worry, this is not going to become one of those crafting blogs with pictures of every step. The few posts I did like that were enough to convince me that I'd much rather craft than stop every 10 min to take another picture. But I am going to post pics of my projects.

Here's the first two. Currently under consideration by a local shop for consignment.