Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano - A TOS Crew Review

This summer I was delighted to learn that we would have the opportunity to review HomeSchoolPiano, an on-line video programed designed to help you learn piano in the comfort of your own home. We received a lifetime subscription to HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books: Core Piano (for complete beginners), Book 1 (beginner, maybe brushing the dust off and coming back to piano), Book 2 (beginner to intermediate) and Book 3 (intermediate). HomeSchoolPiano is a series of on-line piano tutorial videos to take you from absolute beginner to an intermediate player that can improvise and play some jazz. Each level comes with not only the series of videos, but also a complete book to accompany the materials presented in the videos.

Based on the descriptions of the levels on the website (in parentheses above), I planned to start our lessons on Book 1. My son and I have some previous experience. I myself can struggle through reading music in beginner-level piano books, etc. As I pre-watched the very first video in the Book 1 series, though, I very clearly knew we would be in over our heads if we tried to start there.  I jumped back to "Core Piano", knowing it would be better to establish, for us both, a firm foundation in piano--which I had never developed piano playing as a child. My grandmother, who died in 2003 at the age of 98,  tried to give me lessons when I was a kid, but I lived in a house with 5 kids, and a family that didn't want me to practice piano in the kitchen when they had to hear. It's hard to find a time when others won't hear when there are seven people living in an open-style house.

So as I said, I bumped us back to Core Piano, and I was glad I did. For both of us, much of every lesson seemed like (or was) review, but it seemed like every lesson had at least one nugget that we needed, or answered one question we needed answered to help us build that solid foundation.

The lessons in Core Piano run from three to ten minutes in length. The video screen is divided into three parts. The top half of the view shows Willie Myette's hands playing the actual keyboard, but above the keyboard view there is a virtual keyboard that highlights which keys he is actually playing and which notes he is playing. Bottom right of the view shows a normal view (what would normally fill the full screen of a video), and the bottom right of the screen has a view of virtual floor pedals.
As you work your way through the Core Piano "chapters" (there are 33 chapters in Core Piano) introduce you and your student to everything from the notes on the piano and the musical alphabet to reading music, steps and skips, and sharps, flats, and naturals. The course is designed for all age levels, and is designed to be completed at whatever pace is comfortable for the individual students. Initially the lessons go quickly, if what you are covering is review, and then the student has to slow down as it becomes necessary to practice the previous lesson's concepts before starting a new lesson.

HomeSchoolPiano follows a six-step cycle to teach piano http://homeschoolpiano.jazzedge.com/learn-the-piano-at-home/ at home that focuses on technique, rhythm, ear training, impovisation, song and reading music. (Click link above to learn more about each aspect.)

We did most of our lessons from my laptop, but I was also able to access lessons from my iPad. My plan initially was to cover lessons three times per week during the review time. There was a week when the program crashed and was down for a while, and there were two weeks of Boy Scout camp that interfered with the schedule. So the lessons ended up stacked more toward the end of the review period than at the beginning. It was okay that way. The program is very flexible to alter as your schedule varies.

I also found that the program can be accessed from any mobile device, not just laptop and iPad (although cell phone would make it hard to read the notations--they'd be so small).  
 A purchase of HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books will give all this:
  • Unlimited lifetime access to HomeSchoolPiano.com
  • Tracking and quizzes for up to 5 students
  • Unlimited lesson streaming to any device
  • Unlimited music downloads
  • Unlimited video lesson downloads
  • Downloadable Jam Track CD
If I have caused you to be slightly curious, but not yet quite willing to commit money to the idea -- you can get your first taste of working with HomeSchoolPiano by signing up for some free lessons.  After that, if you liked what you saw, you can purchase HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books in one of the following ways:

1. Success Package (One payment of $299)
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

2. Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months):
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

The good and the bad:

Mostly good. This program appears to be well developed, well thought out, and easy to follow. It does not absolutely require any specific type of keyboard or piano, which makes it very flexible. It can be followed fairly easily by a child, with a little assistance or instruction if required (but it is fairly intuitive).

So anything bad? Well... When the Review Crew first started with the program (all 90 reviewers, with who knows how many individual students trying to access the program), we overwhelmed and crashed the program. The owners apologized and switched servers. Nevertheless, since that switch we still regularly encountered various amounts of buffering. It doesn't take much buffering to cause my son to give up and walk away from the computer.  At times the buffering was so bad I quit for the day, too. On some occasions there was absolutely no responsiveness to pushing the "Play" button at all!

When that happened, it gave me the opportunity to notice the "Live Chat" function the program also offers. There is not someone available 24/7, but during reasonable hours I got a response back very quickly. At that time I learned that the Books 1, 2 and 3 lessons apparently have downloadable video available, so that if I had been using those I could have downloaded to watch instead of trying to watch via streaming. I also learned that the videos are also available for the Core Piano, but are just not accessible without assistance. The Chat person emailed to me the lesson I was on when I could not get the video to respond so that I could watch it that way.

For buffering (or for video without buffering), I found 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. EST to be the best time to be viewing videos. How many of us have kids that want to take their piano class at that time of day? My son is certainly not interested in doing piano lessons then, especially during the summer. Who has a family that want piano being played at that time of day, anyway?

Another option I found to avoid the buffering is to click on the video to play, and then hit "Pause" and leave it until the entire video loads. Do something else - oral reading, short story, chores, whatever, and then come back and hit play after the whole thing has loaded.

A better option? Maybe HomeSchoolPiano can find yet another server or platform or whatever that can better handle a higher volume of use. That would be my suggestion anyway.

So HomeSchoolPiano, with Willie Myette, gets two thumbs up in my household. I am grateful to have it and am looking forward to continuing my way through the rest of the lessons. I even hope to entice my son into doing more video instruction and learn a bit more formal piano. We are more than halfway through Core Piano and look forward to finishing it and getting to Book 1, which will actually have us start playing from some sheet music.

If you would like to learn more about HomeSchoolPiano, you can read more reviews of other Crew members by clicking the link below. I think this program is a great value for music for a family with many kids. I might not have purchased it myself, with only one child, unless he expressed an interest. The program is more economical the more people you have using it, but then again there is more money to spend on less students when you have only one student, so maybe I would have purchased it, even if was going to be the student! It is that good!

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's HERE! Build your Bundle Sale Days!

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Menu Monday for 7/21/14


Here's my carni/vegan blend menu plan for this week:

Saturday (7/19/14):
Chicken Caesar Salad, whole grain rolls (faux chicken patty, salad, wasa toast)

Sunday (7/20/14):
Pork roast, corn on the cob, salad (add leftover “lasagne” for vegan if desired)

Monday (7/21/14):
Steak subs (portabello mushroom/onion sub - skip the cheese), cole slaw (salad), potato chips

Tuesday (7/22/14):
Minestrone soup with beef (no beef for vegan), salad, rolls

Wednesday (7/23/14):
Chicken broccoli farfalle (whole wheat, broccoli farfalle with faux chicken or beans)
Thursday (7/24/14):
salmon, sweet potatoes, spinach

Friday/ (7/25/14)
spaghetti, italian bread with garlic spread, salad

Saturday (7/26/14)
baked stuffed potatoes

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our America... The King Philip's War Adventure - A Book Review

Many moons ago, I had the opportunity to review a book by Susan Kilbride called Our America... Pilgrim Adventure. At that time she had also sent me another book, titled Our America... The King Philip's War Adventure. My son and I read through the book long ago, but life got busy and I failed to post the review.

So I have reviewed my copy of the book to refresh my memory, and I am finally posting the review so that you can all know about the book.

Our America... The King Philip's War Adventure is the continuation of the story of Finn and Ginny, whose mother and father disappeared (before the beginning of Our America... Pilgrim Adventure) through the use of a time travel device that resembles a television remote.

In The King Philip's War Adventure, Finn and Ginny once more endeavor to travel through time, with the hope that the device will take them to the time and place that it took their parents to so many months before. Again they hold hands, and Finn prepares to push the button on the device, but a bounding dog, and a grip that slips... Finn's finger goes down on the button, but he feels Ginny's grip slipping, and it is too late. When Finn arrives at the new time and place, Ginny is not with him! Ginny, meanwhile, arrives at the same "time", but in a different place.

As the story develops, the narrative is told at initially from Finn's perspective, and at other times from Ginny's, and then the story hops back and forth from one to the other and back again. So the first thing they each discover, in addition to the fact that they are no longer together, is that they have landed in the time period of the  little-known King Philip's War. Finn would like to immediately begin searching for Ginny, but finds he has landed, cold and wet, outside, but close to some marching soldiers, with his Uncle Webster quickly spotting him and taking him to "safety". The number on the time machine tells him he has 148 days to find Ginny! Finn barely reaches the headquarters of General Winslow when shots ring out and a battle begins! Finn survives, and thus begins a tale of his efforts to find Ginny in the midst of a time of war.

Ginny, meanwhile, landed with distant relatives and immediately begins efforts to learn how to fit into the time-period she has landed in (1675). Not having the remote, she doesn't know how long she has before Finn will be whisked back to normal time. Having no idea where Finn is, she decides it will be best to stay put until Finn can find her. She experiences the cold of attending a church that is unheated, and the welcome of the warm heat of Aunt Hannah and Uncle Jonathan's home. She learns that the current war with King Philip was provoked by the greed of the Colonists for land pitted against the greed of the Indians for goods (Uncle Jonathan's perspective).

Spending the night at the Rowlandsons, Ginny gets taken prisoner, along with Mary Rowlandson and her son and daughter. Long, long cold march with little food, and the prisoners find themselves in conditions where they see no chance of escaping on their own. They are separated as slaves, mistreated and underfed, and must exert all their energy merely to scrounge food to survive.

Meanwhile, Finn continues to hear rumors of prisoners taken and efforts to redeem them. He take every opportunity he can to try to get closer to potential reuniting with his sister.

I found this book enjoyable and fast paced, with short, manageable chapters. The target audience for this book is ages 10 and up. My 13-year-old son listened willingly as I read aloud. The story is 134 pages, which is followed by helpful pages of actual time-line events.

I highly recommend the Our America series for engaging your younger students, enabling them to experience lesser-known aspects of our country's history from a 3rd person-perspective narrative. Try one and see how they like it. Susan Kilbride is doing an excellent job of researching obscure aspects of history and putting flesh onto them, creating a story children can learn from painlessly while they follow the exciting adventures of Finn and Ginny.

Our America... The King Philip's War Adventure is the second title of the "Our America" series and is available in paperback currently for $7.17 or in Kindle version for $4.95. But if you can put this down on your calendar -- . You can also get Activity Pages to go with The King Philip's War Adventure!

Follow the adventures of Finn and Ginny as they experience our country's past while trying to locate their parents who are lost somewhere in history. Begin the "Our America" series by reading The Pilgrim Adventure - the Kindle version will be on sale for $2.99 on August 4, 5, & 6. Then you can read The King Philip's War Adventure. I am going to read The Salem Adventure next, so be watching for that review in a month or two.

I received a free copy of Our America... The King Philip's War Adventure in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation, and was not required to write a positive review. Please feel free to leave me comments or questions below.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Coming: Build Your Bundle Sale! (Six days left...)

Menu Monday for 7/14/14


Here's my carni/vegan blend menu plan for this week:

Sunday (7/13/14):
chicken pot pie, salad, rolls (faux chicken patty)

Monday (7/14/14):
lasagne, salad, garlic bread (vegan lasagne mini-pan)

Tuesday (7/15/14):
chicken (faux chicken patty), rice (brown rice), broccoli
Wednesday (7/16/14):
enchiladas (bean burritos), refried beans, chips, salad, yellow squash
Thursday (7/17/14):
Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches (kale quinoa salad)

Friday/ (7/18/14)
Salmon with potatoes (yam--my main dish, with leftover brown rice) and Brussels sprouts

Saturday (7/19/14)
Hamburgers (veggie burger) on rolls (whole grain flat) with green beans and baked beans

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Esther Efraimson Holien - A Letter To My Family - Part 1

In last week's post I said that, when I found it, I would post the letter my grandmother wrote (that became more like a mini-book) to give more clarity on her life and the life of her husband, Theodore Holien, who died in 1944. I found the letter -- what I will share of it, anyway. I had typed it up and it was on my old computer. I have added to the text, in brackets, in places where it seemed it would be helpful to add more explanation. The portion listed below is not the entire letter, but it is all that is typed up. I don't know, right now, where the original is, so when I find it I will post the rest of it.

Anyway, here you have my grandmother, Esther Holien's letter to her family.
For a long time I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a brief history of my live. Now as I approach my 83rd birthday, methinks I’d better not procrastinate anymore—besides, it’s too hot to play golf today!

I thought this might be of interest to my family, especially my grand children and great children, of which there are already a goodly number.

My ethnic background is Finnish. My husband was Norwegian. That makes the grandchildren ¼ Finnish and the great grandchildren 1/8th. My Mother was born in Finland and came to the United States on her 20th birthday. She was born on January 19, 1881, and named Emma Severina Savilahti. My Dad was born September 10, 1880 in the town of Lake Norden, South Dakota, and was named Alfred. His family name was Palvalehto, but when his parents [John and Liisa Palvalehto] came to the United States Customs officials did not wish to deal with such a strange name. Since his Father’s first name was Efraim, they gave them the last name of Efraimson (Efraim’s son). [Other documents from other relatives relate that the name change occurred when the family filed for land claims. Also note Brita Palvaleehto also had their name changed. Since Efraim’s father was named John, Efraim and Brita became Johnson (John’s son), as did their youngest child, Efraim, who was still a child in the home at the time of the name changes.]

Mother and Dad [Alfred Efraimson and Emma Savilahti] met on the Mesabi Iron Range in Minesota, where Dad had gone to seek his fortune in the iron mines. Mom was employed in the boarding house where Dad had a room. They were married on November 13, 1904, and I was born on October 16, 1905 [Eina Esther, 10/16/1905 – 4/6/2004]. Jennie arrived a year and a half later, on March 20, 1907 [Jennie Marie, 3/20/1907 – 1/4/2003].

About the time that Jennie was born, the iron miners went on strike. Dad stuck it out for awhile, but when he realized that settlement might take some time, he set out for North Dakota to work in the harvest fields. He had lived on a farm for the early part of his life, so he was knowledgeable about farming.

He found full time employment, working for a bachelor with a two-bedroom house, so he sent for us in the Fall [of 1907].

That farm eventually became ours, and his house is still the family’s summer home, although it has had many revisions, additions, etc.

Ten more children were born about a year and a half apart – Eino [Eino H., 9/27/1908 – 8/10/1988 , Emma [Emma Elizabeth, 4/30/1910 – 10/16/2002], Josephine [Josephine Ruth “Jo”, 9/22/1911 – 2/4/2004], Hilda [Hilda H., 8/14/1913 – 9/8/1997] , Arne [abt. 1915 – abt 1921], Bill [William A., abt. 1917 – 1975] , Viola [Viola A.. “Vi”, abt. 1919-11/24/2003], Carl [Carl R., 8/25/1920 – 2/15/2008], Rudy [Rudolph E., abt. 1923 – abt 2005], and Rupert L. [1/23/25 – 6/28/2013]. Rupert is nineteen and a half years younger than I am!

I suppose those early years would make the most interesting reading, but if you just watch a few old reruns of “Little House on the Prairie” or “Waltons’ Mountain”, you’ll have a general idea of what life was like. I will just hit on a few of the highlights that stand out in my memory.

We didn’t have cars – they hadn’t been invented. There was no electricity, so we kept things cool in the cellar under the house. We did have a telephone by 1918, because I remember that we heard that the war [World War I] was over by telephone. Two long rings meant that everyone on the [party] line should listen in. Harvest was just over, so everyone set some of their straw piles on fire to celebrate! Incidentally, those straw piles were also great ski runs for us in the winters when they were covered with snow.

One year, just before school started, we had to go to Cando and get vaccinated for small pox. Just the three oldest of us were going to school at that time. Around Christmastime, Mother and Dad went to a church meeting at a neighbor’s house. They had been told that the lady of the house was sick, but not what she had.

Perhaps they had not consulted a doctor, so they didn’t even know what she had. It turned out to be small pox. Dad and the younger children all became ill with it – Dad had it the worst. He was covered from head to toe and had a raging fever.

We were all quarantined for a long time, and the day the quarantine was lifted, we had to fumigate the house by boiling formaldehyde. We couldn’t stay in the house, of course, so we stayed in the Sauna that day. It was Lincoln’s birthday and a beautiful sunny day, so we did play outdoors…it even thawed a little.

One winter when I was about twelve or so, Dad went to work in some lumber camps in Minnesota because the crops had been poor and we needed some extra money. While he was gone Eino and I were the ones responsible for taking the eggs and cream into town and buying groceries.

One day we went in the springwagon (as there was no snow on the ground) and, as we were turning the corner by the mailbox (it’s on a slant), one of the tugs got loose and slapped the horses on the legs. The horses panicked and took off across the field towards Jacobson’s Grove. We tried our best to stop them but could do nothing…finally they went on opposite sides of a tree and that stopped us! Needless to say, there were no eggs to take to market that day. The lid on the cream can held, though, and we were not injured, other than our pride.

One summer when Bill was the baby, we went on a trip to South Dakota. Dad had gotten his first car that year – an Oakland touring car. Since Bill was the baby, that meant that there were eight of us kids.

I must have been eleven, because I’m that much older than Bill. We stayed overnight in a hotel in Ellendale, near the border. For dessert that evening, Dad had bought a basket of purple grapes.

After supper, Mom and Dad took Jennie, Eino and Emma with them to go shopping, and I stayed home to take care of the younger ones.

I guess Jo ate too many grapes – anyway, she got sick, and the place was a purple mess by the time the folks got back. She recovered and all was well. They bought me a beautiful navy blue dress with a middy collar trimmed with white braid that I adored till it wore out…or else I outgrew it. Our departure in the morning was pretty upsetting to the management, even though we tried to do it as quietly as possible.

I loved school – maybe it was because it was so much easier than staying home and taking care of babies, washing clothes on a washboard, ironing, scrubbing floors, etc. I didn’t start school until I was seven (Jennie and I started together), but we had already learned to read some Finnish. We spoke Finnish at home, and Mother taught us from little books alled the “AAPINEN”. It had a picture of a rooster on the cover, and anytime we learned a new letter or word, the rooster would lay some raisins or prunes inside of our books.

Dad had taught us a few words of English, like the directions (North, South, etc.), salt and pepper, but very few. It didn’t take us long to catch on to English though. The letters of the alphabet are similar to Finnish, and although some of the sounds are different, it wasn’t too hard to learn to read English. In fact, I did both the first and second grade work in the first year. Jennie and I started speaking English all the time, even at home. Mother didn’t mind, but she still talked Finnish, even though we answered in English. Because of thise, most of the younger kids were almost bi-lingual by the time they started school.

I suppose the fact that we did not hear English spoken at home helped us to learn the correct pronunciation of words from our teachers, and we did not acquire the accents like many American born children of immigrants do. For instance, when they tried to pronounce “th”, it almost always came out “da”.

My Uncle John [Efraimson], Dad’s brother, lived with us for many years. Dad had 720 acres of land to farm. To give an idea of the size, a “section” contains a four mile square of 640 acres. This was too much for Dad to do alone without the modern mechanized machinery available today.

Uncle John had a little Ford roadster, and every Sunday afternoon we would try to talk him into taking us for a ride. He was a quiet man and we never knew whether he’d grant our wish or not – until we suddenly saw him put on his hat and start for the granary (a farm building used to store grain) where he kept his car. We hurried along after him and it was a lot of fun. Sometimes we would stop at some neighbor’s farm, but otherwise just drove around for an hour or so. We had just started school and loved to read any signs that we would see. One that was hard to read was “QUAKER OATS”.

It was unfortunate for a farm family to have two girls as the oldest children, because boys would have been able to start helping with the farm work sooner. However, Jennie and I – the big girls, as we were called – did get involved in a lot of farm work. I remember harnessing those big draft horses that were so tall I had to climb up on the manger in the barn to put the collar on, before doing the hames and the rest of the harness.

There was a strap that had to go under their tails, ad that was pretty scary, but they never did kick us like the cows did at ties.

Jennie and I did quite a bit of plowing, and helped make hay by spreading the hay on the stack and tamping it down. I also remember one harvest time as Dad was going to town, he asked us if we needed anything. I said, “Yes, bring us some men!” That was a big laugh for many years. Of course, what I meant was to have some help with the farmwork. One of the chores was “shocking”, which is stacking up the bundles of wheat that had been cut. I think that was the year that a hired man quit because he could not keep up with Jennie and me doing the shocking.

Farming was quite different back then. In those days, we used a threshing machine to harvest the wheat. It had a huge engine --- almost like on a train – with a long wide belt that made the separator work. The separator took up the bundles of wheat that were thrown on a feeder and separated the grain from the straw.

Harvest time was a really exciting time of the year. Dad and two neighbors, Jake and Pete, went together and bought a threshing rig. In addition to the farm machinery, there was a “cook car” and a “bunk car”. They would go up to the Turtle Mountains a few weeks before threshing time and hire some of the Indians living there to come and haul bundles. They assigned two men to each straw wagon to gather up the bundles and bring them to the separator. The farmer whose crop was being harvested would furnish the grain wagons and haulers.

When Jennie and I were about 13 and 14, we started working on the cook car as assistants to the main cook. After awhile, we realized the two of us could handle it together, so they let us try it.

I guess we did all right. I do remember, though, that one morning we overslept and the engineer came knocking on the door to wake us up! That was after my 16th birthday party the night before.

We had to get up very early to get the big pots of coffee made and whatever else we would have for breakfast. One of us would attend to that while the other mixed up and kneaded the huge bowl of bread dough that we made every day. The bowl was as big as a small tub! Sometimes, for the noon meal, we would make “heino leipa”, a round flat loaf just about an inch thick – a big loaf about the size of the oven – and cut it in slices.

We made three main meals and, in addition, sent coffee and some cookies or cake out to the men in the field at about 9:00 in the morning and again at about 4:00 in the afternoon.

Well, enough of farming – but can you see I’m still a farmer at heart?

I finished grade school at 13 and tried very hard to get a job working for room and board so I could go to high school. However, I didn’t look like I was more than ten years old and it took two more years before I grew enough so that anyone would believe I could do housework.

The idea was not that I liked housework. In fact, I hated it – that was the reason I was willing to do it – so I could learn, and be prepared for better jobs later on.

During the time I was home after grade school, a sad thing happened. My little brother, Arne, got sick with terrible stomach aches. By the time we got the doctor for him, his appendix had ruptured, and he was taken to the hospital in Devils Lake, about 70 miles from the farm. It was harvest time, and Mother and Dad could not stay with him. Someone had to, though, and I was elected. Of course, I was happy to do it.

The poison from the ruptured appendix had gone through his body, and penicillin and other wonder drugs had not been discovered yet. The Doctor could not contain the infection;; the incision would not heal, and evidently his bowels were blocked. We stayed there part of August and all of September – came home in early October.

Both of us were very homesick. I tried to keep Arne content by reading to him from magazines and books. Some of his favorites were Bible stories. He also liked to draw, so we did a lot of that. His favorite pictures were of foods because he was on such a bland, almost liquid diet.

Sometime after we returned home, in fact, it was Halloween, he had been too active and the incision opened wider. Dad got the Doctor and he operated on him at home, but they had to take him back to the hospital the next day. He did not survive the next operation.

Lest you think that it was all work and dull, that is certainly not the case, and when it came to games, we were quite innovative. One year Dad decided to go into diversified farming. He fenced off a quarter of the land and bought about eighty sheep. His thinking was that if he had sheep in that pasture for a year or two, they would keep the weeds down, and the next year he would be able to harvest a really good wheat crop from that field. He was right. It really worked.

In the meantime, the sheep pasture was a new place for us to play. Eino had gotten a bike the year before, and we all learned to ride it. The sheep made little paths all through the pasture and we pretended that it was the United States.

We named certain sections for all the big cities of the United States. On the West was San Francisco, Seattle, etc. East of there was Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and further east New York and Washington. We would take turns being the engineer on the train – the bike – and take passengers from one point to another. It was a lot of fun all that summer, and we were sorry to see it plowed up the next Spring.

I finally did grow up, and when I was almost 16, did get a job in exchange for my room and board in Cando, a little town about 30 miles from the farm.

I stayed with the same family for four years, doing the washing, ironing, cleaning, a lot of the cooking, etc. After the first year, I got a small salary so I could pay for my books and clothing. The lady I worked for was the daughter of a millionaire from Detroit. She was always grateful for the things I could do, but she also taught me a lot. One thing I’ll never forget was that I called the mashed potatoes “smashed” potatoes. That gave her a big laugh, and me too – afterwards.

I had learned to sew at home when Jennie and I complained about the style of dresses that our dressmaker made. Mother said if we didn’t like them we would have to make our own. She showed us how to cut a pattern from newspaper and fit it onto ourselves, and then cut the material. Of course we first practiced on the sewing machine by hemming diapers. Anyway, I could sew things for Mrs. Shanley – mending ripped sheets, etc., and I think I even made some aprons and things like that. She liked to give parties and had me draw pictures on her invitations. She also gave me a few piano lessons, for which I have always been thankful. I’m no great pianist, but can play enough to amuse myself. And since I learned to read music, I was able to get some of my brothers and sisters started.

Speaking of music, the whole family was talented in that area. Mother had a beautiful soprano voice and loved to sing, and so did Dad, who was a tenor. When Jennie and I were hardly in our teens, we joined the Church Choir along with Dad. In fact, we both sang in choirs until the last few years. I sang in the National Lutheran Chorus at Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.c. at a couple Christmas concerts. One of the concerts was the Christmas section of Handel’s Mesiah, and we were accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.

After high school, I went to Fargo to business college. I had taken one year of typing and shorthand in high school, but the business college experience was good. Jennie came down and spent part of that year in Fargo, too, working as a housemaid. We became good friends with Alice Veronen. Jennie still keeps in touch with her.

The next year I got a job as a secretary to Frank Shanley, who had quit his job at the bank and gone into business for himself – some real estate and also as a clerk at auction sales.

I found a room at Clifford Holien’s, and Emma and Jo came down and started high school in Cando. Jo always remembers that her teachers were apt to call her Esther. We do look quite a bit alike. They only stayed for one term and then continued at Rock Lake, driving back and forth from the farm.

Living at Cliff’s is where I met Ted, his brother. I had known Ted’s family much before I met him and was, in fact, a good friend of Nellie and Mildred, his sisters.

Nellie happened to be in the hospital at the same time that I was staying there with Arne, so when I started school in Cando, we continued the friendship. I guess the reason I never met Ted is that he was mostly at their farm.

Well, anyway, we started playing cards – Whist (something like Bridge) was the game in those days – with Vera and Cliff [husband and wife]. Another girl who had a room at Cliff’s had a banjo, and pretty soon all of us were taking turns playing it and singing together. Then it was movies, and one thing led to another. Love walked in and I forgot about being a career lady.

We were married on September 7, 1927, and moved out to the “little farm” near Leeds. Wayne was born June 10, 1928 and already by that time we were having our problems. The problem was alcohol and that story has been told so many times in all sorts of stories, it is of no use to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that we had to move off that farm, go to work on other farms, or live in town where he could work with Cliff as a painter.

Carole was born at the farm in Rock Lake on December 19, 1930; Ida was born March 31, 1934 at the Simpson farm near Rock Lake, and Larry arrived on May 22, 1937 in Cando. By that time we had already been separated a few times. We had lived in Rock Lake, the kids and I, while he went out West to “make a new start”, but he came back drunk as a skunk, as the saying goes.

The kids and I were living in Cando in the upstairs rooms of the Deardorff house when Pearl Harbor was attacked. We had been at the movies when the news came out. Shortly before that I had taken two tests – one was for the Civil Service, and the other for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Civil Service telegram came first, asking me to report at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on March 17, 1942. I answered that I would be there and Jennie, as usual, came to the rescue agreeing to take care of the kids till I could send for them.

I had been working at the Courthouse in the Welfare Office and was making the magnificent sum of $75 a month, and everyone thought I had lost my mind to go traipsing off to Washington with four children.

Jennie took the kids out to the farm and they finished the school year at the Armourdale school about a mile from there. By September I had saved enough money for their train fare to Washington and rented a house in the northeast section of Washington. They arrived before school started.

Jennie got a job almost immediately in the Navy Department. We took in three roomers who had also come to Washington from North Dakota to work for the Government, so that helped pay the rent. Wayne got a job as a Washington Post delivery boy.

The kids got settled in school and, since Larry was still too young to go to school, we had a maid who took care of him. She was black, and one of the things Larry said about her was that he didn’t think she knew it! None of us had hardly seen a black person before we came to Washington and had no idea of bigotry towards them.

After we had been at Newton Street for a year or so, we decided to go out and take a look at Greenbelt, which advertised cheaper rents for people whose income was below a certain amount. I can’t remember what it was, but we qualified for it, and so we decided to move there. So that’s how we happen to be Marylanders now.

At first it seemed like the end of the world, because it took over an hour to get there from downtown by street car, but once we got used to it, it wasn’t so bad.

And it did seem like an ideal place for kids, with “underpasses” – paths cut out under the roads, so children didn’t have to cross streets to walk to school. There were a lot of activities planned for children, and a swimming pool too.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I learned, in May, that the Review Crew would have the opportunity to review products by Moving Beyond the Page.

I was really pleased, because I have heard good things about them, and this year might be my last year to consider it, since their products only go K through 8th, and my son was just finishing 8th grade. So you can understand that I was certainly delighted when I was selected to review both the Language Arts Package - Einstein Adds a New Dimension (online program, for ages 12-14) and the Social Studies Package - The Age of Discovery  (in print, for ages 11-13).

The printed materials arrived in one big box. The unit Einstein included a digital teacher's guide and a printed copy of The Story of Science: Einstein Adds a New Dimension (which goes with the Einstein unit, of course),
and then a bunch of books to go with the Age of Discovery Teacher's Guide: DK Geography of the World:

Great Medieval Projects You Can Make Yourself:

The Story of Science: Newton at the Center;

and The World Made New:
The email arrived detailing how to access the online portion of the Language Arts unit, with links to a Getting Started page and a Community Forum and Ideas Page. When you first start out, you can listen to/watch all the videos, read all the introductory information, and still not "get it". That was my situation as I started out.

At first I was a bit panicked that all these materials were to be covered with my student in three weeks, in addition to everything else we were doing! And with the on-line Teacher's Guide and so many books, I got lost several times. I was on the phone with Customer Service more than once, as they held my hand and walked me through it.

"Just follow the Teacher's Guide; it will tell you what book to use when."

"No, you don't read every book completely during the course of the unit."

"You'll be okay. Just get started and take it a day at a time. Call us again if you need to!"

So we got started, and she was right. The materials really are easy to understand and to follow; it's just a little overwhelming at first when they all arrive in the mail. I kept juggling books. Do you know that game books play where the one that you are looking for just hides from you? These books kept taking turns hiding from me; right now it is the Age of Discovery Teacher's Guide that is hiding. Why do books do that? ::sigh:: So right now, even though my first impression was that I like having the Teacher's Guide in print, on-line teacher;s guides don't disappear in your school room. Oh, there it is! Under the Latin Curriculum. Anyway... the on-line materials do expire after 90 days, so that is a reason to prefer the printed Teacher's Guide. There are pros and cons to both print and digital.

Anyway, the digital Teacher's materials for Einstein Adds a New Dimension includes digital materials for "Getting Ready" which include "Reading and Materials" (which tells you that you need the Einstein book, and certain additional materials suggested for activities on different lessons; PDF "Student Activity Pages"; PDF "Reading and Question Pages"; "Handy Guide to Writing and Grammar"; "Summary of Skills"; "How to Use Moving Beyond the Page"; and '"Review Sheets". These materials alone are fantastic, but these are before you even get to the day-by-day lesson plans! The lessons are spread out over 15 days - three weeks!

We really enjoyed learning about Einstein and the science of his time. The lessons intertwined the reading assignments with answering questions, entering new information on our school time line, writing assignments, questions to answer, and additional links to web pages to read or movies to watch. I especially liked learning about Mme Marie Curie. I learned a lot; so did my student. I think his favorite topic was space. He is interested in black holes, nebulae, and that sort of thing. I keep forgetting this is a Language Arts unit -- there is so much Science in it.

As I began the Language Arts unit, I stumbled across a Moving Beyond the Page link with videos laying out the MBTP Language Arts program that are very informative.The unit works its way through expository writing, descriptive writing, process writing, comparison and contrast writing, problem and solution writing, and then teaches the student how to write a research paper. The instruction and graphics are eye-catching and interesting, and the instruction on the process is thorough. This (writing) is an area where I have been remiss with my student, and he was not up to the rigor they expect of a student his age. If you work with Moving Beyond the Page from the beginning, the student learns the writing skills little by little, each year building on the previous on. So if I had used this methodology from an early age I would have had better success with my potential writer. I intend to give my son a break from the material, and then reintroduce it at a slower pace, and help him apply and learn all the various types of essays and writing assignments. The unit also ends with a Unit Test which we were unable to get to -- two weeks of Boy Scout Camp interfered with our schedule significantly.
The Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery (Social Studies) unit booklet  was in some ways similar to the Language Arts unit, but in print.  I found this booklet to be more of a student workbook than the booklet in Language Arts. In the digital material the student pages are in PDF format, and you can print them off. In the printed booklet, the beginning pages are the student pages, and the back of the book is called Parent Overview (think "answer key").

Two disadvantages of print over digital:
1) when you choose digital, you click on a link and it opens in another page. When you choose the print option, tedious links need to be typed out without errors, or the page won't open.
2) when you choose the digital version, links are accompanied by a button to click if you have any problem with a link. When you choose the print option, an unworking link is just an unworking link, with no easy way (that I know of) to report it. In Lesson 2, one of the links in the printed unit goes to a PBS page, but the link is expired (link to "When Worlds Collide" [included here in case they want to fix their curriculum]).

So, the Age of Discovery Social Studies unit includes a printed version of "How to Use Moving Beyond the Page" (as the digital Language Arts program also contained), and suggestions for vocabulary, spelling and the keeping of a daily journal. The lessons cover explorers, why they traveled, where they came from, how religion influenced their efforts, and how kings and queens were involved in their ability to explore. And that was all in day 1!

Each Lesson begins with a "Getting Started" paragraph. The student is given a list of "Stuff You Need" for the Lesson, ideas to think about, "Things to Know", and then a reading assignment and questions. This is followed by activities that can include timeline and map work, and additional application activities that are presented as Options that the student chooses from. The lesson concludes with a "Wrap Up".

Lessons cover not only the history of the Age of Discovery, but also geography, speech writing, little-known cultures of early North America, skits, debate, and a research project. Subject matter includes Newton, Descartes, Fahrenheit and Hook, Copernicus, Francis Bacon and Galileo. I love this time period. I still have difficulty remembering the information, which information is about which person, etc., but I'm still working on it.

So, what did I think? I was very pleased with both units, both the materials (books) provided and the instruction included for all the various subjects it covers. I wish I had started with Moving Beyond the Page long ago when it comes to my son developing his writing skills.

What did my son think? Well, it is summer, and he has been distracted by many things. At times he was totally engaged, as he generally loves science materials; at other times I could not get him to engage at all or to comply with my wishes that he complete assignments. Is this the fault of the curriculum? No, not at all. It is a very good curriculum.

The digital Language Arts program (Einstein Adds a New Dimension - for ages 12-14) includes a digital guide and a hand's-on copy of the book Einstein Adds a New Dimension. This sells for $39.98.

The Social Studies unit (Age of Discovery unit - for ages 11-13) sells for $98.33.

If you would like to read more reviews about Moving Beyond the Page curriculum, click the  button below.

Menu Monday for 7/7/14


Here's my Menu Monday for this week. No vegan options this week - the vegan is away and the carnivores are taking over.

Sunday (7/6/14):
chicken Caesar salad, whole grain rolls

Monday (7/7/14):
Buffalo Mac n' cheese, green beans (Pull pork loin out of freezer and into fridge to defrost)

Tuesday (7/8/14):
ravioli, salad, garlic bread, fresh Italian bread (Pull ground beef out of freezer to fridge to defrost)

Wednesday (7/9/14):
grilled pork loin roast, mixed vegs (big freezer) (Pull salmon out of freezer to fridge to defrost)

Thursday (7/10/14):
spaghetti, salad, garlic bread (in freezer upstairs)(1 lb ground beef in big freezer)
(Pull diced chicken out of freezer to defrost)

Friday/ (7/11/14)
salmon, baby potatoes (boiled), steamed carrots

Saturday (7/12/14)
chicken pot pie, rolls (Becky should use cut up chicken from upstairs freezer)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Think Back Thursday - Theodore Holien

Carl "Konrad" Holien (9/1860 - 7/22/1924) and Kristiana (Bergen) (10/18/1870 - 8/10/1951)  were my great-grandparents. (Konrad was ten years older than Kristiana.) (They both died before I was born - I never got to meet them.) They were both born in Norway. Each emmigrated to the United States, where they met.

Together they had 8 children - my grandfather Theodore Norman (1905-1942), was their 6th child. I never got to meet my grandfather, and this blog entry is an effort to reconstruct a tale of his tragic life. I know that he struggled with alcoholism, and it is my belief that his alcoholism was provoked by depression as a result of his many losses. I will try to reconstruct what I know of his life here.

I will start with the history that I know of his parents' life together.  Konrad and Kristiana were married in 1894, and their first child, Agnis, was born in September of 1894. The 1900 census says they were married 5 years, when the census information was collected, and Agnis was 5 years old. So... there may have been... um... Let's just say that they were married in February, Agnis was a honeymoon baby, and the census information was collected in January of 1900 when they hadn't celebrated their 6th anniversary yet, okay? :)

So, the children and birth dates were as follows:
9/1894 - Agnis
2/22/1898 - Clifert T
3/1899 - Ida
4/11/1902 - Harold
1904 - Martha
1/6/1905 - Theodore
1907 - Mildred
1909 - Nellie

So here are the things I can piece together about the grandfather I never met, my mother's father Theodore (Ted), who died when my mom was nine.

Theodore was the 6th born child of eight children born to Carl "Konrad" Holien and Kristiana Bergen, whom I also never met.Ted was born in Cando, North Dakota, but his parents were both born in Norway. All the children were born in North Dakota -- Kristiana came to America when she was 12. Konrad emigrated five years after Kristiana (in 1893). They were married in 1894, so I suppose it is possible they had already known each other in Norway, but it is more likely that it was a quick meet and marry.

Agnis was born in 1894, so was the equivalent of a "honeymoon baby". I cannot find the documentation of the marriage, so all I have to go on for when they married is a census from 1900 that says, in a column labelled "Years Married", "5".

When Theodore was born, Agnis was 19 years old; Clifert was almost 7; Ida was 5; Harold was 2 and Martha was 1. Mildred was born when Ted was 1, and Nellie was born when Ted was 3.

When Ted was 9, his brother Harold (two years older than Ted) died at age 11. I can find no death certificate, no cause of death, only "Find a Grave" documentation that indicates he was buried in February 11, 1914 at age 11.

Then when Ted was 13 or 14 (a very difficult age, emotionally, I might add, as I currently have a son that age), his sister Ida died. Her death is recorded as July, when they found her remains, but she actually died the winter before. Walking home from work after dark with her sister, where she was living in Washington state, they got separated and she strayed from the path. I have no idea if she had a lantern or not, but she was trying to find her way, ended up on a lake or pond, broke through the thin ice, and died. She called for help, and people could hear her and were searching for her, but there was no electricity, they had very little light, and they could not find her. They never found her until July. How tragic! This was the winter from 1918-1919.

And there is the fact that Martha (Ted's baby sister), who was born in 1907, is no longer there when you get to the 1920 census, which can only mean that she, also, died in that time period between 1910 and 1920. So when Ted was 14, three of his siblings (a brother and two sisters) had died.

In 1924, When Ted was 18 or 19, his father died. He was 63, and I again only have "Find a Grave" and no death certificate, so I do not know cause of death. And then, on 3/27/1927, his baby sister, Nellie, died at age 18. Again, from "Find a Grave" -- no death certificate found, no known cause of death.

So when Ted married my grandmother, Esther, in 9/7/1927, at about aged 21-22, he was, shall we say, carrying a lot of baggage. The Efraimsons (Esther's family) had lived near the Holiens for many years, so Esther knew some of this. But Ted seemed wonderful at the time. Esther's writings indicate, This would have been a great place to insert her words about Ted, but her story to her family is not handy. I'll have to post it at a later time.

To Ted and Esther were born:
Wayne (6/10/28);
Carole (12/19/30);
Ida Mae (3/31/34) and
Larry (3/22/37).
But the time during the marriage and parenting was rocky. Drinking was clearly a problem for Ted, and the Depression didn't help matters. Ted had grand ideas, and would leave Esther and the kids to go off on a trip to speculate on one idea or another. By the time Esther was giving birth to Larry, they were legally separated, and Ted left town to try mining somewhere. Esther (my source of information) would hear from him or hear of him from time to time, but they didn't see him. Then the country got involved in World War II. Esther needed work, and there was work in Washington, DC. With the help of family (caring for the kids) she went to Washington and got  job. When she was able, she brought out the kids, and they all got settled in Maryland. And then, in 1942, they got word that Ted had died of pneumonia with complications. He was 37 years old when he died.

So when I look at his life this way, it is a little easier for me to empathize with his drinking problem. I do not condone it, but I can see what pressure he was under, and how much tragedy he lived through.

He is not the only family member I know of who died with drinking being a large contributing factor. Alcoholism was present on both my mom's and my dad's side of the family. As a matter of fact, Ted's oldest son, Wayne, struggled with alcoholism until, under ultimatum from his wife he chose to stay away from alcohol. And then Wayne's oldest son struggled with alcohol.

So, for me, this is a big issue. I do not want my children to be alcoholics. I warn them strongly about the family history of alcoholism, and I don't drink. Period.

So that is my story of Ted. When I find Grama's notes I will make another entry to give more insight into Ted, in Gram's words.