Sunday, May 8, 2016

Good-bye Ravi!

The Why Jesus? 2016 conference is now history.  In the photo above we are singing Psalm 67 written by Wendell Glick.  This piece was commissioned by Oasis for this conference.  

"God, be merciful unto us, and cause His face to shine upon us.  
That thy way may be known upon the earth."   

The parts are doubled in octaves; thus the soprano ones are singing with the tenor ones, soprano twos with tenor twos, alto ones with bass ones, and alto twos with bass twos.  That explains our unique standing organization -- I hope. 

And, to give a little perspective, that is Oasis up there under the "Cross" sign.  

As we walked around between sessions, people often stopped us and told us how much they enjoyed us being there.  Then, several of them asked about why we had different colors and styles of coverings.  I am always happy to explain that although we are all Anabaptists and believe in the women's prayer covering according to I Corinthians 11, that we do attend different churches, and that is why we have different coverings.  And no one has ever asked me if they could touch my covering before, but it happened this weekend.  (And yes, I let them.)  
We had our own little room backstage with every singer's dream: 
 our own refrigerator and cases of bottled water.   
And, Jeff got to shake Ravi's hand.  (This was the only picture I was able to get.)  At first, this was funny because ever since we were asked if we were interested in singing at this conference almost three years ago, Jeff's reply has always been, "I'm going to see Ravi!"  Well, he did.  But, after we heard Ravi speak, we were more amazed at how this gentle man pointed everything back to Jesus.   That was a blessing.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Altos, Blanket Man and Tracking Down Ravi

Alto sectional on the bus --
 and Franklin on the bus --

And Jeff located Ravi's seat while we were at the arena for a sound check.  
To see video clips of the sound check visit the Oasis Chorale Facebook page. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Goin' to See Ravi!

 After a lovely morning of singing, we loaded up the bus and headed for Maine.  Pictured above is our fabulous loading crew:  bass Gene Miller (seated in loading bay), bass Linden Wadel, and tenor Derrick Yoder, who is also quite adept at making duck quacking sounds during the Oasis version of "Old McDonald Had a Farm".  Alto Franklin Miller is "presenting" the loading crew, but I don't think he was actually helping them.  At the time this photo was taken he also had not realized that he had left his black concert shoes at our house. 
 To read more of our travels with the Oasis Chorale, read the daily blog posts at or updates on the Oasis Chorale Facebook page.  
And, we are truly going to see Ravi.  We are singing at the "Why Jesus?" apologetics conference in Bangor, Maine, where Dr. Ravi Zacharias is speaking.  

Saturday, April 30, 2016

"Z" is for Zoology -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

    Zoology (/zoʊˈɒlədʒi/, zoh-OL-luh-jee) or animal biology is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct, and how they interact with their ecosystems.
    All the creatures God made are amazing.  I love when my students "discover" an animal and want to research and learn more about it.  I collect as many non-fiction books about animals as I can, so that when my students decide to learn about one, I've got the books ready.  Zoology is a fascinating subject.  
    And, I've been learning a lot about zoology lately, mostly because I have a son who is considering switching his major to zoology.  He loves to study animals, especially bears.  That is why we are heading off to Alaska in less than a month-- to camp and hike and hopefully see at least one bear (he prefers it to be a grizzly), and possibly a wolf or two, and really anything else we can.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Y" is for Yak -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

The yak came to mind because of a delightful book we once read while studying Tibet.  It was called Daughter of the Mountains by Louise Rankin, and after reading it we had learned quite a bit about yaks.  Here are a few yak facts.  

Yaks are tough and can endure high mountain altitudes and cold temperatures.

Yaks can be milked.  

Yak milk can be made into balls of butter.

Yak butter milk balls can be strung together on necklaces for a portable lunch in Tibet (or they were at one time anyway.)

Yak butter balls are often enjoyed in cups of hot tea.  

This is all making me hungry, and making me want to take a trip to Tibet.  Maybe next summer.  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"X" is for X-Ray -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

I know, "X is for X-Ray" is a little trite, but I have this true story you see . . . . 

While learning about the vertebrae in the human spine in science class one year, I pulled out some lovely x-rays of my spine.  

Back when I was in the 6th grade, some ladies came during P.E. class and drew chalk lines on our spines while we leaned over.  I didn't like my ugly gym uniform anyway-- a little chalk wouldn't hurt it.  

Well, all the other girls were fine, but I was not.  My spine was crooked.  Whatever.  I felt fine.  I didn't think my spine was crooked.  (No freaking out allowed.)  They told my mother to take me to the doctor for an x-ray.  It turns out that I had a very mild case of scoliosis.  The doctor nonchalantly told us not to worry and to come back in six months.  We did.  I was fine.  Don't ask me why, but for some reason he asked us if we wanted to keep the x-rays.  "Sure!" I replied.  I had no idea I'd be showing them to the science class I would be teaching forty years later, but I did.  

I have two bins of history and social studies "stuff", three bins of science "stuff" (including my x-rayed spine) and four bins of dress up "stuff".  One of my favorite quotes is, 
"Good teachers have lots of stuff."  
(It's in the Bible too; King Saul was hidden among the "stuff" when they were trying to find him to anoint him king.) 

So, I admit it--  I collect stuff.  I find stuff at garage sales,  thrift shops, on the side of the road, and in my deceased great-aunt's drawers.  I have used everything I've collected at least once; most of the items I've used several times.  I've got a big attic and I like to use my "stuff" to make my lessons more interesting.   The students really pay attention when you pull an x-ray of your spine out to show them.  
To read about more about my "stuff", like my Great Aunt Arsenne's braid I found in a box, click HERE.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"W" is for Writing: 10 Ways to Get Your Students to Enjoy Writing -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

Writing should be an enjoyable, fun activity -- not a boring, dreadful task that we must do because the book says we must do it.
Here are ten ways I try to make writing fun for my students.
(This was actually a senior's journal page which he had written and then "published".)

 1.  The purpose of writing in journals is not to work on our spelling or grammar-- we do lots of that, but not here.  Our journals are just for writing, and sometimes when the ideas and thoughts are flowing we leave out an "i" or a comma.  That's okay; journal writing is precisely for focusing on getting those ideas to flow and getting them down on paper.  If they write; they get an "A".  (For the younger students I require at least three sentences for third graders, four for fourth graders, etc.)  

2.  By using these composition notebooks for our journals,  the students have their own little book that they've written at the end of the year.   I usually have my students write something in their journals every day.  

3.  We decoupage our journal covers to make them personalized and original.
4.  I often give them easy topics that are not too tedious, such as "describe your favorite meal" or "who is your closest friend and why?" This really helps get the process started and takes away the fear of writing that some students have, unfortunately. 

5.  After a good discussion in history or science, we will write about that.  ("If you were Nory and your family was hungry during the Potato Famine, what would you do to find food to eat?")

6.  Every Friday I give them a fun assignment (often something from Wreck This Journal) like "outline your foot on this page and decorate it" or "tear this page into something interesting".  

7.  I read them passages I've written, or letters I get from former students, or a well-written article I've found so that they can hear others' writing and be inspired (hopefully). 

8.  Every day I read good literature to my students -- usually books which correspond with whatever topic we are studying in history.   My hopes are that listening to good writing will become somewhat internalized and will then appear, in some form or other, on the pages of their journals.  

9.  Every Wednesday I allow them to get an encyclopedia and write and draw about anything interesting they may find in there.  They love this and will ask to do it more often.  

10.  At the end of every quarter we have a "Writer's Circle" instead of English class.  I make coffee cake and hot chocolate, then we all grab our journals (myself included) and sit and read to each other out loud from our journals.  The day or so before this we put sticky notes on our best entries.  (I also put a large "*" on any entries I think are especially good throughout the quarter as I am reading them.)  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Menno Teachers Storm Disc Golf Course

During mini-term classes at Shalom Mennonite School,  my husband taught a class on disc golf, a fun little game where a frisbee-shaped disc is thrown into a metal basket.  
The teachers thought that disc golf looked like it would be fun, so to celebrate the end of the third quarter (albeit a little late), the teachers had a picnic and disc golf outing this past Friday night.  Only one disc ended up in the pond.  The rest of us decided to skip the hole by the pond since most of us were beginners we didn't want to lose nine discs in the pond.  We finished several holes before dark descended over the hills.  
It was a lovely evening, and I was especially impressed by these neat little wooden arrows which hung at the bottom of the baskets pointing the direction to the next tee.  
And thanks to our former students at Lott Mennonite School for 
creating the disc-golf-on-head photo idea.  We miss you!  

"V" Is for Vulture -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

Once upon a time, after a lovely Thanksgiving meal, I was taking a stroll down the street with my father and children.  As we walked by one house we spotted a vulture up on the front porch.  I was perplexed and wanted to get a closer look.  As I walked up to do so, the vulture jumped of the porch and ran for the garage, dragging its broken wing behind it.  
My sons and I went home and got a large cat carrier, a sheet, and a broom.  We ran back and followed the vulture into another neighbor's garage.  We cornered him and gently swished him into the cat carrier.  He was rather heavy, so my older son went back home to get the car.  We chauffeured the vulture "home" in style. 
After contacting the wildlife rehabilitation officials I was told that they did not rehabilitate vultures and that I could keep it.  "Mr. Vulture" was the strangest pet I have had yet.  
We of course took him to school for morning "science time", then he enjoyed his new home: my back yard.  
Because he couldn't fly, I felt sorry for him and built him a vulture ladder.  Using his beak and talons he could climb up the ladder into the tree.  Then he could pretend to be a normal vulture.  I also made a side ladder that went up on top of our shed.  I would throw bones with meat on them to the top of the shed and he would venture over there and eat them.  He never got really tame, but he would let us get pretty close to him.  He smelled horrible.  
One day he edged out on the branches just far enough to hop over the fence.  The first time he did this we were able to retrieve him, the second time we were not so fortunate.   
We never saw Mr. Vulture again.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

"U" is for the Underground Railroad -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

Ever since I was flat on my back for 84 days in the hospital during a pregnancy, I have had a fascination for escape stories.    (My daughter was born 8 weeks premature with hypo plastic lungs and had to be rushed to another hospital with a higher level neonatal intensive care unit.  She could barely get any oxygen into her lungs and was on a jet ventilator for a few days.  God is good; she can sing like a lark now and her lungs are fine.)  

During my confinement, a friend from church brought me a collection of various escape stories and I devoured them.  I have read just about every one I can find since then.  So it is that I also thoroughly enjoy stories of escape on the Underground Railroad.  The aspects of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, adventure, peril and thrill are so intriguing-- and most of the stories are true which is even more exciting.  

When students can gain an understanding of the wrongs done in our past, and feel compassion towards others, we are one more step toward never having sad occurrences like these happen in the future.

Click HERE to read about the Underground Railroad quilt I made, and one of my favorite books to read to students on this topic.  

Click HERE to read about the Underground Railroad Honor Roll Party.  

"T" is for Taxonomy -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

Teaching should consist of more than just the imparting of facts and knowledge after about the 2nd grade, in our opinion anyway.  We believe that from 3rd grade on up students are capable of rising to a higher level on Bloom's Taxonomy.  And we want our students to think, reason, and be able to eventually make good decisions based on God's truth.   To do that, they need to be able to think.

On a more practical level, here is an example of using Bloom's Taxonomy for a lesson on westward expansion for various grades,  going up one level on the taxonomy each time.

Knowledge  -  Present the lesson; read the textbook.  The pioneers loaded up their wagons and headed west to get cheap or free land.  (I must add that I would also find time to read Little House in the Big Woods & Little House on the Prairie.)

Comprehension  -- Why did the pioneers want to move further west?  What dangers did they encounter?  What did they eat?  What kind of houses did they build?

Application  -- Why do people today want to move to different areas?  If you had to load up to move and only take one big suitcase, what would you take with you?  

Analysis --   Give examples of different kinds of people who moved west.  What were their jobs?  What was their main motivation for moving?  If you had lived back then, would you have wanted to move?  Why?

Synthesis -- Were the settlers usually fair to the Native Americans they encountered when they moved further west?  Can you give examples of some who were fair, and some who were not?  Discuss the reasons why the two groups behaved differently.  Who got their way in the end and why? (Now I would read White Feather to the elementary students and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee to the older students.)

Evaluation/Creating -- Form a "wagon train" with the following people in your class (list of 8 classmates).  Elect a leader and assign or vote on jobs for everyone in the group.  Decide where you would like to settle and give reasons for your decision.  Develop and sign a written agreement regarding how you will treat any Native Americans you may encounter on your move.  Make a shopping list of how much food you will need and which supplies you will need to bring.   Decide how to deal with the following situations once you are on the trail:
death of both oxen pulling a wagon
loss of an entire wagon and its contents
death of a child
river crossings
running out of food
two leaders disagreeing

Present your decisions as a power point presentation to the class.  This can be done in one of three timeframes:  before you start on your trip, halfway through your trip, or at the end of your trip.  You will receive extra points for any additional information you present or work that you do.   (Dress your part, make a model of a wagon train, tell about a certain situation and how you handled it in first-person, present a short speech, or anything else creative you would like to add to your presentation.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

"S" Is for Sea Turtle -- -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

This fossil of a giant sea turtle was unearthed in South Dakota in 1895.  It measures eleven feet from snout to tail, and fifteen feet from flipper to flipper.  
And, I found these extremely interesting.  The largest living sea turtle is the leatherback, which can grow up to seven feet long and weigh two thousand pounds.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"R" Is for Responsibility -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

This has got to be one of the toughest concepts to teach students.   Some students are just not motivated to do good work, to have it turned in on time (if at all), or to pick up after themselves, etc.  These dear souls can indeed succeed, if we decide to help them.  

 There are three main points to this topic, in my book at least.

1.  We should decide in our own minds that it is our responsibility as teachers to do everything in our power to cultivate an awareness in them to cause them to care about their grades, learning, and themselves.  
(To learn more about this read "The Difference Between Good and Mediocre Teachers HERE.)

2.  We should do everything we can to motivate them so that they will be encouraged to be responsible, and will reap rewards, or good consequences, because of their responsible behavior.  
(To learn more about this click HERE to read "To Motivate or Not To Motivate:  That is the Question."

3.  Never give up.  Never give up.  Never give up.  

I have found that if I repeatedly try a myriad of strategies, I will eventually find one that works for just about every student.  Here are a few of my favorite strategies for those especially forgetful or unmotivated students.

I . . . 
smile and put them in the front row to keep a hawk eye on them,
repeatedly check to see that they have turned their work in and praise them earnestly when they do, 
keep them in from lunch/recess to finish their work; I eat lunch with them while they finish their work and I grade papers, 
and keep encouraging them until I find SOMETHING that works.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Q" is for Quilt, Underground Railroad Quilt That Is -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

My mother taught me to appreciate items of antiquity, one of those items being quilts.  I own a quilt made for me by my great-grandmother, and several made for my children by their great-great-grandmother who lived to be 99 and quilted just about right up to the end. 

When I was single, then while I was newly married, and before I had all five of my children and was homeschooling or teaching them full-time, I also quilted.  One of my favorite creations was this Underground Railroad Quilt.  I always bring it out and explain how it was used by the slaves, and what each square meant whenever I am teaching this sad part of American history. 

It is believed that the quilt was sewn as a sampler (as shown above), so that they could learn and remember the steps to follow to obtain freedom.
Another interesting fact is that sometimes, the "stitching" on the backs of quilts was actually a map of the surrounding areas.  Slaves who had been off the property would share what they had learned, and this was a safe way to remember and record the information.
"Q" is also for Quakers, who assisted many slaves in their flight to freedom.  
And, my favorite book on this topic is Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker.  My students loved this book, and so did I.  
The above quilt square was hand pieced and quilted by my great-grandmother, Mrs. Oscar Yarborough.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"P" is for Plesiosaur -- The "A, B, C"s for Christian Schools; 26 Topics We Have the Opportunity to Teach Our Students

The Japanese fishermen didn't want "it" (whatever it is) stinking up the fish they had caught, so they threw it back.  It has stirred up a lot of controversy over the years.  Many believe it was a dead plesiosaur (see skeleton below), a believed-to-be extinct marine dinosaur.  The nay sayers declare it to be a basking shark.  

Whatever it was, it is an interesting topic to discuss in science class.