Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mennonite Vikings from Texas? Singing and Traveling with the Oasis Chorale, Part X

       I like Vikings.  Obviously they are bodacious and awe-inspiring, but better yet,  our family has Viking ancestry.  "Swanson" is an Anglicized derivative of "Swenson", which is a Sweedish surname.  It literally means "son of Sven".  To-yo-ro-ho, we are Scandinavian!  
        History is fascinating.  Here we are in Waterford, Ireland, by the ancient city walls and towers, both of which were built by the Vikings.  

      The gardens of Powerscourt were splendid.  My favorite part here was this stone tower which provided a view of almost the entire estate.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Singing and Traveling with the Oasis Chorale, Part V

We took a ferry from Ireland over to England.  The best of the ride was coffee with friends.
    This wasn't an official concert; we just visited this church, sang, and saw an organ here where Handel had played and composed.
      And here is my wonderful alto section leader, Franklin Miller, actually touching the organ Handel played upon.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Singing and Traveling with the Oasis Chorale, Part IV

      Meeting new friends is always a highlight.  Our host in County Kerry, Ireland, introduced us to these lovely young ladies from Chernobyl, Ukraine.  Because of all the toxins still there, spending one summer month in the fresh sea air on the Irish coast will add about two to three years to their life expectancy.  Wonderful people from a church there sponsored these two girls.

      We sang in several massive stone Gothic cathedrals.  We never ceased to be amazed and appreciative of these incredible surroundings and acoustics.  It was surreal.  


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Singing and Traveling with the Oasis Chorale, Part III

      Bristol, England, was a beautiful port town where we enjoyed the sights and our friends.  

      I adore castles.  This one was Warwick Castle in the United Kingdom.


And here is a picture from one of our concerts.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Singing and Traveling with the Oasis Chorale, Part II

       Our first stop was in Ireland-- Glendalaugh, an ancient monastery with lakes nearby.   The buildings were ancient, the cemetery solemn, and the lakes peaceful. It was one of my favorite places in Ireland. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Singing and Traveling with the Oasis Chorale

      My husband and I just spent a fabulous three weeks with the Oasis Chorale.  It was a delightful experience.  These people are wonderful.  The discussions were relevant and thought-provoking, the laughs hysterical, the music superb, and my horizons were broadened.  Every teacher needs to do something like this every so often.  

     We memorized, practiced, and sang and sang.  It was all well worth the effort when we got to sing together at concerts.  After every concert in Ireland and England, people came up to us and asked us very pertinent questions about our faith and doctrine, and the practical applications of them.  It was unexpected, yet very refreshing to discuss spiritual issues with people of different faiths who were very eager to learn more about what we believe. 
There was so much to see and do.  The next several posts will continue the story. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A One Room Schoolhouse

     One day last spring my husband got sick.  This rarely happens, but when it does, we usually cover for each other.  So it was that I had the orange room (eleven third through sixth graders) in the red room with the seventh through eleventh graders.  And it was time for our Anabaptist history class.  

      We are reading and answering study questions on the book “Fire in the Zurich Hills”.  That is a fabulous book.  So several members of the younger class chose to join our Anabaptist history class while others finished up their work or their 3D popsicle sculptures we’ve been working on.  
      I began asking questions.  I try to look around and give everyone a chance to answer, so I call on anyone whose hand goes up.  And a third grader's hand went up, and he answered -- correctly I might add.  He remembered what was going to happen to Felix Manz even before we got to that part of the story.  You see, we had studied Anabaptist history several months ago in the younger grades, and he remembered.  
      That is what is so wonderful about a one-room schoolhouse type concept IF it is done correctly and well.  The students are constantly getting a review and a preview.   Yes, they have quiet study and do-your-work times, but when all their work is completed, they are still learning. In this type of environment we find that there is often something going on to interest the students, and they have opportunities to listen, watch, and sometimes participate in classes that are above and beyond their normal grade level.  They grow academically, and their relationships are strengthened with other students younger and older than they are.  The older ones encourage the younger ones, and everyone is accepted and valued.  That is a good place to be.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Informational and Inspirational Thanksgiving Party

     The day before Thanksgiving break we wanted to do something a little different and a little fun.  The teachers made apple cider and little snack mix cups, and then the students came in and sat down.

     Next we read stories to them.  Only these weren’t just any stories, these were stories and reports our high school students had written.  All the high school students sat at one table, and after I read each story or report, the other students had to guess which one of the high schoolers had written it.

     Two of the readings includied creative writing assignments-- one based on an Anabaptist man in Switzerland who was captured, persecuted, and died for his faith, and another about a rich prince who choose peace and poverty over riches because of jealous competition.

     The reports were just as good.  We heard
about jars of pickles left along the Oregon Trail, why Horatio Spafford wrote his famous hymn, and the degradation of society in the 1950s and what caused it. 

     Everyone enjoyed our little party and had fun guessing who wrote what.  It is good to do something different, especially when the younger students are being exposed to good writing and are inspired to higher aspirations for their futures.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yummy Speeches

      I really take pleasure in hearing and watching my students read poetry, give speeches, presentations, and book reports.  They usually do a fantastic job, and some of them can’t wait to get up front.  Maybe it is because a few of them want to be teachers themselves.  Rather than skip these assignments which some teachers feel are "optional", we look forward to and relish them, enjoying the break from the norm. 

         This year my fourth and fifth graders gave demonstration speeches.  We learned how to draw a three-dimensional object, how to make blueberry muffins, how to bake tostadas, and how to make a catapult from a mouse trap.    Although we couldn’t eat our drawings, it was fun to draw during English class, and the muffins and tostadas were delicious.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Helpful Students Rearrange Room

     Because I enjoy changing my student's seating arrangement every week, because I am extremely busy being a mom and a teacher, and because I have wonderful sixth graders whom I trust, I asked them to rearrange my crowded room.  I had tried every imaginable arrangement in the past two and half years, was out of ideas, and needed someone else’s creative input.   We also believe in giving responsible students some ownership in their school.  This was a great way to do all of the above.  

     They did a great job, and their arrangement was something I never would have conceived.  We all enjoyed the new seating situation, and I am ever so thankful that some of my students have gifts which I do not, and that they are willing to share these gifts with me.  
Thank you Audrey, Vangie, and Mary.