Thursday, February 1, 2018

From Doodles to Websites

From Doodles to Websites

First a Chat.

All January I was frazzle-busy. In between cooking and company I was writing and polishing my new book. Nigel is illustrating the cover. "Please give the mother a contented smile and make it a good-hair-day," I said. He is obliging me accordingly. I hope to tell you about the book soon. I am working to make it as ministering as I can.

I found this old photograph taken in Christmas 1990 (just before I started my Parents' Review). My red dress is a Laura Ashley, wool cotton. It is in my closet still today. That was the last year I kept my hair to my waist. I used to love holding a little one on my hip. In this picture it is Nigel hanging there. Yolanda is in green. Sophia is in red. She is now five years older than I was in this picture. Oh my. (I'm feeling nostalgic this winter. What fun those home-teaching years were.) I hope to have some happy news to tell you about Yolanda and Sophia in my next blog post. I have an old photo of Dean and Nigel to share, next time we meet.

Poor Dean has a bad cold and is in bed. It's a good thing we have homemade broth in the freezer (from the Thanksgiving turkey). My next blog post is in draft still so I decided to make this announcement in the meantime.
I am delighted to announce our new family business venture.

Starry Night Media, LLC.

My son built the website to showcase his abilities. Isn’t it handsome? He’s an award-winning web designer, graphic designer, and illustrator.

Starry Night Media provides quality websites, beautiful graphic designs, and artistic illustration services.  
With web design he can build you a brand-new website, spruce up your old one or aid your efforts to do it yourself. He built our website and makes sure his projects work on all popular devices. If you watch the hot-air balloon on our website you will see it is sailing on the breeze.

With a diverse range of art styles we can illustrate most anything you can imagine.

At present, Nigel has some book illustrations in-the-works and is happiest while painting and drawing.

He painted this spotlight of a grocery store shelf. It shows how useful a good illustration can be in making your product stand out. The exotic squirrel on "Gold Crisp" corn flakes is an example of an interesting cereal box. "Puffs" is bland in more ways than one. he, he. If you eat "Sugar Rush" you are at risk of glowing in the dark.

To fit the banner width of the website Nigel expanded Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting. He matched the art style impeccably with his own composition. For example, the sparkling river in the painting is entirely his artwork and add-on.

He is often asked what drawing course he took as a boy. Just picking up a pencil and leisurely drawing what he felt like drawing, while listening to the Your Story Hour audio or a Jim Weiss audio, developed his skill. That's basically it. Time spent drawing. He doodled on his Saxon Math page to my dismay. "Can't you resist doodling on at least a few pages. I need to put some dignified-looking neat-n'-tidy doodle-free pages in your the portfolio," I pleaded. Years of Picture Study must have carried some weighty influence, too. We can never know to what measure "inspiration" plays a part in education. But we can be sure it does.

The only exercises that were of real practical help, he says, were the ones by Jon Gnagy. We followed the exercises in the age-old brown book. I see on Amazon that the brown book is sold expensively, being that it is probably out-of-print. My link is to a kit that is shown to be in color. I wonder how close it is to the old brown book.

Karen Andreola

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmastime, 3 Lesser-known Films, 1 Book

Christmastime, 3 Lesser-known Films, 1 Book
Landis Valley

Dean and I watched an old movie recently that I quickly warmed up to.

"Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" is so sweet I plan to share it with my grandchildren.

Acting extravagantly, I bought the DVD.

I photographed it surrounded by my tiny fabric yo-yo garland that I added more yo-yos to recently.

While I was standing in the kitchen over Thanksgiving holiday telling Sophia about it, ending with "I got the DVD," I heard a funny little echo emanating from the next room. It came from the munchkin mouth of 2-year-old Eloise. Learning to talk, she regularly repeats the word she hears at the tail end of a sentence. I thought I heard, "No DVD." I asked her mother, "Did you hear that?"
Sophia said,"Yes, I guess she was born in the computer age, the generation of no DVDs."

Landis Valley's roomy Yellow Barn where wedding receptions are held. 
Landis Valley, work horse
This film is a slice of Americana. It takes place during the course of one year, 1945, in a small farm community of Norwegian immigrants in Wisconsin.

One farming couple (not too young) have one child, little Selma. We see the story through Selma's eyes.

Father-daughter heart-to-heart talks crop up. Selma has an inquiring mind. She isn't afraid to ask questions about her world. She trusts her father will never say, "I don't know. Go ask your mother, I'm busy."

He came up to Dean to have his photo taken. So Dean did.

He stops to answer Selma, recognizing her questions to be valuable teaching moments when he can sensitively impart truth to her.

Meanwhile our young men are going overseas to fight for freedom. At home, people are fighting for freedom and the American way-of-life in their own humble hard-working way.

Christmastime brings the community to church to worship Christ the newborn King.

Why am I smitten with this film? The loving kindness and generosity of the characters during a trying time, is very touching. 

One of the little books I in my Christmast stash is Let's Keep Christmas, illustrated by Barbara Cooney in 1952.This uplifting sermon by Peter Marshall takes five minutes to read and is a pleasant way to end an evening.
Landis Valley, Children making a snowman.Grandma watches while she sweeps the porch.
Dean's mother Esther, once told me about a new friend she made. This lady was in her nineties and quite frail. She told Esther that her pastor in years gone by, was Peter Marshall. But Esther hadn't heard of him. A week later this lady went to be with Jesus but had evidently (just prior) asked her daughter to send Esther the book, A Man Called Peter written by his wife Catherine Marshall, author of Christie. The daughter handed the book to Esther a day after her mother's decease. Both friends are with Jesus now. We never know who God will bring in our path, when, or where. One life, if it is a life of kindness, will always in some way touch another in an uplifting way.

My daughter Yolanda makes delicious treats at holiday time. She made us some ginger bread.

One of the fun fairy-tale-like Christmastime films I used to have on VHS is "The Snowman." The music is gorgeous. It is based on a picture book by Raymond Briggs. (The Snowman's nose is a tangerine.)

I told a young mother about this British film produced in the 1980s because she hadn't heard of it so I thought to recommend it here.

The snowman (like Frosty the Snowman) has magic powers that enable him to fly through the air and take the boy who built him to the North Pole. There the snowman introduces the boy to Father Christmas. What a delight! They join a merry party. Then they fly home. You can guess the end of the story because you know what happens to all snowmen.

It is a silent film with a dream-like quality (the boy wakes up from a dream) but the music in this pantomime blends-in well and enhances the plot. Your children will be riveted.   

Here's another film that is a slice of Americana. It claims to be true. The story was made public originally in a magazine article. "All Mine to Give" is filled with hope. A young immigrant couple from Scotland (with bonnie accents) carve out a life for themselves in the 19th century, among a community of God fearing people in the mid-west.

Dad makes sure Mom has a pump inside their log cabin - quite an innovation in those days. They love each other dearly but their relationship is humorously "real." Dad sees life through the wisdom of poet Robert Burns. Sickness eventually takes both hard-working parents and leaves their six children orphaned. What becomes of the children?

When Dean and I watched it before I knew what was happening my face became wet with tears. The children are so cute, especially on Christmas Day. You'll need a tissue box to take care of a whirlpool of different emotions in the final scene.

This is my take. Loving kindness is not possible without a degree of sympathy, courage, service, and generosity. You'll find all five virtues tucked inside this true story. Warner Brother's trailer of the film can be found on YouTube.

Landis Valley model of the yellow barn.
Although the world, through its easy acceptance of secular humanism, would like to believe we can be good without God, both films (to their credit) "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" and "All Mine to Give," drop clues for us to follow. In reality it is the life of Christ that trains the conscience and most deeply inspires the hearts of people, to do the work necessary for living unselfishly.

May we all aspire to be more like our Lord.

 End Notes
For easy access to read more about the resources above, I link them here.

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

Lets Keep Christmas

The Snowman

All Mine to Give

A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall. This is the award-winning film based on the book.

Ginger cookies at Landis Valley 
Every Christmas Blessing Be Yours,
Karen Andreola                                         

Monday, November 13, 2017

Classroom Not Required

Classroom Not Required
A Little News First
"I've been unable to keep up with my blog of late," I said to a friend. She suggested shorter pieces. We'll see if I'm capable. But first, since it's been years, I'll share a little news. . . . 

A photo - not "staged." Sophia often finds her Eloise here with dolls and picture book.
After a summer of freelance writing it felt good to click "Send." 12 articles and more than 55 hand-picked Charlotte Mason quotations went flying through the airways to Simply Charlotte Mason. Come spring their 2018-2019 school-year calendar will be for sale, written by yours truly. I've been doing guest writing and "other writing," too, during a pretty fall. I took a week to re-write the piece "What is Mother Culture" and clicked "Update" here on this blog. 

I was asked to speak out-of-state. I feel honored. But I had to decline. My chronic pain, due to an over-active immune system, is worse. I am, however, learning to manage. I'm not curled up on the sofa thinking one more month of rest will make my small-fiber-neuropathy go away. Slow-breathing helps with unannounced waves of anxiety that accompany these sorts of ailments. I let nothing get in the way of my morning exercises. I do them with worship music playing in the background and with sunshine filling the room. Colorful fruits and veggies are on my plate. Keeping country hours also helps me "hang in there."

Dean is retired. It was difficult accepting early retirement due to his own ailment. His working career was more than 45 years. As a boy he hauled potatoes and gave change at the produce shop next-door. He worked in the public library during high school and managed the reference-desk in the days before Google. He worked in a steel plant in his young manhood (in the days of U.S. manufacturing). After Bible college he worked in publishing and did freelance writing. I have the advantage of tapping his well-seasoned brain when I run into the complexities associated with book distribution in our modern age.

Our son, Nigel, who has gradually improved since his initial bout of RSD, keeps himself busy with his wacom tablet and pen. With it he creates art and music on computer. His graphics and musical compositions are for hire. He built a business website: Feel free to inquire.

I thought he'd be well enough to drive a car again by now. Not yet. But it's a goal. Moving forward, he does his own set of strength training.

Free Talk
Getting close to being out-of-stock of the Mother Culture CD, I've made the talk FREE on YouTube.

It begins and ends with a peek at the piano music Nigel composed. He illustrated it with rabbit-musicians for the cover of his up-coming album of soft music.

After being asked our opinion as to design, his sisters and I told him, "Make it cute."

The Friendly Album
Relaxing music for naptime and study.

You may sign up to be notified when the album comes available.

Classroom Not Required
Although I am fond of the birds that inhabit our woods, and miss them this time of year, it's still hard for me to fathom the depth of admiration the French immigrant Mr. Audubon had for America's birds. It's exhilarating to read his story, about his unwavering pursuit of knowledge – to observe birds in their habitats. What a lofty goal of drawing every one of them and as accurately as possible!

Not too long ago I read the children's biography, The Story of John J. Audubon by Joan Howard (published 1954). My children read it silently during our homeschool years. I doubt I'll ever catch up with the amount of books they read.  

Lucky for me, my old book has the dust cover intact. For, when I was finished reading the story I read about the author on the back flyleaf. Joan Howard was an American. Her childhood, however, was "spent in places as far apart as England, Alaska, and India." Her family "never stopped in any place long." How interesting to learn that she was home-taught. I am assuming she was, for it said, "most of her education was acquired more from reading than from formal schooling, though she did go to college."*1

A light came on when I read this. This is the identical combination that many home taught children are given today – and they do go to college. The freedom to read whole books, rather than the compendiums made for classroom-convenience is one advantage. The pleasure of varied experiences is another. Observing and getting to know the people, places, and wildlife within reach helps immensely in establishing relations.

Yes. Being in books and out of the restrictions of a crowded classroom, during the early years of one's education, has glorious advantages. Joan Howard probably saw and heard many strange and new things in the far-away places where she lived. Maybe even exciting strange things. These novelties were probably talked about around the family supper table, adding to her education. It is interesting, too, that being in books she gradually became a writer of them.

The school-ish ploys born of the typically large classroom, get in the way of student developing a friendship with knowledge, for establishing relations with books and things. When it comes to schoolwork, she tells her students in Ourselves how very important this friendship is. She personifies knowledge as “she" like the writer of Proverbs personifies "wisdom" as "she." 

"People employ themselves . . . about Mathematics, Poetry, History, in a feverish, eager way - not at all for the love of these things, but for the sake of [grade], prize, or place, or reward . . . But Knowledge has her own prizes, and these she reserves for her lovers. It is only so far as Knowledge is dear to us and delights us for herself, that she yields us lifelong joy and contentment. He who delights in her, not for the sake of showing off, and not for the sake of excelling others, but just because she is so worth to be loved cannot be unhappy. He says, 'my mind to me a kingdom is'*2 -and, however unsatisfactory things are in his outer life, he retires into that kingdom and is entertained and delighted by the curious, beautiful, and wonderful things he has stored within." *3

Post Script
You may have heard of Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. This New England fairy tale based on a doll with a hickory nut as a head and talking woodland creatures, is one I picked up and read again not long ago.

It's a favorite of our home-learning years. I find it delightful even as an adult. The story begins in the autumn, breaks for Christmas (with a traditional New England brief whimsical scene of animals peacefully gathering at a creche at midnight) and finishes in springtime with a comical, fanciful ending.

Some may not like to mix folk tale with a Biblical truth. I understand.

In a used a brick-a-brack shop, I spotted another story by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, bought it and read it. It takes place in rural small-town-America (early 1950s). This two-room schoolhouse is a different kind of classroom. It's one that extends into everyday living. The children, with initiative and team-work are enterprising. They scheme at fixing up the schoolhouse, keeping track of their nickle-and-dime earnings for "arithmetic."

Closing the book, the old-fashioned word "capitalism" came to mind, with its investment of creativity and elbow-grease (a microcosm of "nation building" - something we American's never used to apologize for). It left me with a good feeling. It is only charitable capitalism at the hands of a great many free-enterprising people turning-a-small-profit, that makes high taxes and big government unnecessary. Although such basic economics is intentional untaught in schools today, (as public school follows a form of socialist manifesto) this is the America I understand. If you find The Little Red Schoolhouse, buy it to preserve its American way-of-thinking for future generations. Grandmothers tend to be opinionated.

She likes "dress-up" and is Holly Hobby here.
Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey is linked here to Amazon. Most libraries have it.

Landmark Books, such as The Story of John J. Audubon, are mostly out-of-print but can be found by scavenging.

End Notes
*1 Joan Howard, The Story of John J. Audubon, back flyleaf (A Landmark Book). 
*2 "My Mynd to Me a Kingdome is" (original-spelling) - the title and first line of a poem by Sir Edward Dyer (1543-1607)
*3 Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, Book One, pg 78-79

Thanks for visiting,
Karen Andreola