Wednesday, October 1, 2014

W is for Walt Disney’s Hometown

Missourians have had a major role to play in the history and culture of our country.  We’ve had writers like Mark Twain and Laura Ingalls Wilder (who wrote all her books in the state).  The President Truman, who dropped the A Bomb and ended World War II, was a Missourian (why do you think they signed the peace treaty on the U.S.S. Missouri?).  In this ABC series, we’ve also discussed Dred Scott, George Washington Carver, Daniel Boone, and others.  But perhaps the man who’s had more impact on the pop culture of the U.S. is the man who called Marceline, MO his hometown—Walter Elias Disney.  After all, visiting Disneyworld has practically become a rite of passage for American youth.  A previous generation all ran around with coon skin caps singing “Davy Crockett” and “The Mickey Mouse Club” songs. 

Disney didn’t live in Marceline long—only four or five years, but the memories lasted a lifetime.  When Walt made the movie So Dear To My Heart, the barn in the film was built to resemble the one on the Disney farm.  Marceline is supposedly the inspiration for Main Street in the Disney parks. It was here on the side of the family home that Walt created his first cartoon—using tar to paint a pig on the whitewashed “blank canvas.”  His father gave him a whippin’, but his aunt gave him paper and pencils. The rest, as they say, is history.

Walt didn’t forget Marceline and the town didn’t forget Walt judging by the municipal pool and elementary school that bear his name. He came for the dedication of both. When the pool was opened, Disney brought the premier of The Great Locomotive Chase for the town’s cinema.  He and brother Roy stood outside to shake hands with everyone.  When the school opened he bought the playground equipment and a flagpole that had been used in the 1960 winter olympics.  He even brought a Disneyland flag, making the school the only site authorized to fly it outside the park itself.

If you travel to Marceline, you’ll want to visit The DreamingDisney home in Marceline Tree—where a young Walt and his sister Ruth would spend afternoons imagining.  Only the trunk of the original tree  is left but in 2004 a Disney grandson planted a sapling from its seeds now called Son of Dreaming Tree.  Not far away is a replica of the family barn where Walt first delved into show business selling tickets to his barn circus for 10 cents each.  Visitors today are encourage to leave a family friendly message on the walls and beams inside.

The original Disney home still stands.  It’s a private residence so be respectful if you visit.  The lady of the house is the curator of the Disney Hometown Museum (Disney stayed in her family’s home when he came for the pool dedication because it was the only one in town with air conditioning).   Anyone who knows Walt Disney knows his love of trains, so it’s only fitting that the museum in his honor is located in the town’s former depot.  There is a guided tour of the first floor, where you’ll find family letters and personal memorabilia (most of it came from the Disney family, not the corporation).

Timeline at the Disney Hometown Museum

Upstairs is the heart’s work of one artist, a man named Dale Varner who spent nearly 40 years building his own model of Disneyland.  I’m sure he could have sold it anywhere, but he chose to donate it to the Hometown Museum.  He had originally planned to keep working and adding pieces to the display, but passed away the next year (so some of the pieces don’t look as finished as others).

Dale Varner's Small World model

I dare you to look at this for any length of time without humming that song!

Dale Varner's New Orleans Square

I’m telling you these models look as good or better than the one’s I saw Walt Disney himself share on TV.  This man should have been an imagineer.

The Disney Hometown Museum is open Tues-Sun from April through October. You may want to come in September when the whole town celebrates Toonfest.  Before I close, I want to thank Mr. John Browning of John and Sigrid’s Adventures for letting me share his photographs.  Visiting Marceline is still on my bucket list so I’ve only virtually visited via his blog (which you can visit to see even more images).

I’m linking up with …

Ben and Me


Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: Fix It! Grammar

Let me be perfectly transparent before we start this review:  This isn’t our first go-round with the Institute for Excellence in Writing (henceforth referred to as IEW).  My first year on the Review Crew we were introduced to their Teaching With Structure and Style and Student Writing Intensive programs.  After completing that I purchased their level A Continuation Course (and have Level B) waiting in the wings.  Last year we reviewed IEW’s Teaching the Classics and I’m using that as my base for teaching literature analysis at our local co-op.  I even used their Fix It! Grammar program last year, but wanted to check out how they revamped everything in their new edition.  I received two spiral bound books:

Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood [Book 2] (Teacher’s Manual)  $19.00
Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood [Book 2] (Student Book) $15.00

The six books in the Fix It! series can be used by 3rd-12th graders, each book building on the one before. Because we had already completed Book 1 I felt very comfortable working with Book 2, but if you’re not sure where to start with your students IEW has a thorough Placement Test on their website.  The concept for Fix It! Grammar is that students will learn while they edit a story one sentence at a time.  In addition, they will be building their vocabulary by looking up the definition for at least one bolded word each day. At the end of the 33 weeks, they’ll have written their own corrected copy of the story—in our case, Robin Hood (so you’ll need a blank spiral notebook or a ring binder and filler pages). 

What We Received:

The first page in the Teacher’s Manual (it’s blue) contains instructions to download a PDF version of the Student book and two free audio files: Mastery Learning and But…But…But…What About Grammar?  The back of the book has a 45 page grammar glossary with definitions and usage rules for parts of speech, punctuation, phrases & clauses, and the stylistic techniques used in IEW’s writing curriculum.  The bulk of the manual ( 200+ pages) has a brief introduction to explain the teaching process and then the lessons themselves broken down by week and by day. Each week begins with a page of concepts that you’ll be teaching, then follow four pages of sentences of the day, and finally an example of the completed paragraph/s the students should have rewritten for the week.


The daily pages show how the sentence should look once it’s  labeled for nouns, verbs, articles, etc. and editorial marks for indentation, capitalization, and punctuation added. The Fixes section will help explain why editing was needed and give definitions for the bolded words. The Grammar Notation deals with the labeling of the words and may include notes to the teacher about advanced topics or what’s to skip at this point.  For example, we came across the word “his” in a sentence and the teacher notes said it was okay if the student didn’t recognize it as a possessive pronoun at this time (even though my Schnickelfritz did, hooray!). The margins may also include notes for the real grammar lovers—really more for the teachers than to share with the students.

The Student Book has a whole week’s worth of sentences on one page so it’s only work section is only 70 pages long.  It has the same weekly concept page and 45 page Grammar Glossary as the Teacher’s Manual.  Also included are five cardstock pages designed to be torn out and cut apart into Memory Cards.  The card’s front may show an editing symbol or parts of speech label while the back gives more detail about the concept and states which week it will be covered.  You’ll need something to store these cards in and unfortunately they weren’t designed to fit in standard baseball card sheets.  We ended up just lumping them all together in a page protector in the same ring binder that held his rewritten story pages.

How We Used It

Each week has only four lessons.  At first we tried editing the sentences on days 1-4 and then having my son write the corrected passage on day five.  This lead to much whining and grumbling on the fifth day so we just rewrote each sentence on the day we edited it so we only had grammar 4 days a week.  This turned out to work well when our co-op started and we tried to keep Thursday’s course loads as light as possible.

I would begin each week by writing day one’s sentence on our chalkboard.  We’d discuss the new concepts for the week and mark up the sentence appropriately.  Some of the concepts may not be covered in the first sentence so I would repeat this procedure any day a new concept appeared in the work.

It was very helpful to have this proofreading marks poster mounted next to the chalkboard.

On other days my Schnickelfritz could work on his own in the book alone.  The top of the page lists all the labels and marks he should be adding.  He could pull out the memory cards if he needed reminding about the concept.  After I checked his work he could rewrite the sentence on a separate sheet of paper.  The curriculum suggests he keep a “dictionary” of the bolded vocabulary words and their definitions but I was happy for him to just look up the words.

What We Thought About It

Fritz has been very pleased with the “it’s just one sentence” style of learning—grammar never takes more than 10 minutes.  He’s also enjoying the story.  More than once I’ve caught him trying to read ahead, but I pull the book away.  It’s a little carrot to dangle in front of his nose to keep him interested in doing grammar again next week.

I have been pleased that concepts aren’t dropped the week after they’ve been taught.  In the past we used a grammar program that focused on prepositions for several weeks and then all focus switched to nouns or verbs and within a short time all things prepositional had been forgotten.  With Fix It! Grammar each week builds on rather than replaces the last.  In Week One I was banging my head on the wall because my son couldn’t  identify all the nouns, couldn’t even remember the definition of a noun.  Now in week 5, he’s tearing through nouns, articles, verbs, pronouns, conjunctions, and adjectives and we’re starting on prepositions. 

It’s also great that our grammar has coordinated with our writing program.  We’re still looking for strong verbs and who-which clauses.  The double exposure is making things stick that much better in Fritz’s head.  I’ll be honest, I really hadn’t intended to keep using Fix It! Grammar in its old format but now I think we’ll be buying the rest of the series.

In case you’re interested in the IEW products I’ve reviewed you can click on the links below

Student Writing Intensive

Teaching the Classics

Click to read Crew Reviews

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ville de Ste. Genevieve

Okay, I’ll admit up front that I’m stretching a bit to get my letter “V” post, but “ville” does mean town in French and Ste. Genevieve, MO was founded by French settlers.  It was in fact the first settlement in Missouri (we can’t just say west of the Mississippi River because of Spanish settlements in the southwest).  The city’s website lists its founding in 1735 but it may have been as early as 1722 or as late as 1750. The region had something for everyone among the early settlers:  Saline Creek and the springs provided as source of salt, there was an abundance of lead to be mined, and the river bottoms provided some of the richest soil for farming.  The original location for Ste. Genevieve was a few miles to the south, but destroyed by flooding in 1785.

If you’ll recall my T is for Thomas Hart Benton Murals post, I mentioned the artist correctly painted the colonial home as being built with vertical planking.  You can still see examples of that architecture in Ste. Genevieve.  Three of the five remaining “poteaux en terre” (Posts in the ground) style homes in the nation are here. 

A Front View of the Bolduc House in Ste Genevieve MO

You may want to start your tour at the Bolduc House and Museum.  He was one of the richest men in town (from growing tobacco).  The home was built in 1792 and survived the series of New Madrid earthquakes in 1811-12.  The director of the museum was a homeschooling parent and they have monthly activities for homeschoolers as well as a day camp in June.

Photograph from the street of the Amoureaux House in Ste Genevieve MO.jpg
"Photograph from the street of the Amoureaux House in Ste Genevieve MO" by Andrew Balet - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Our next stop, the Bauvais-Amoureux House was built in the same year (1792).  (Note: some sources spell the name as Beauvais). The focus on this stop will be a woman named Pelagie.  She was a “mulatto” and born a slave in the Vital Beauvais household, but fell in love with a white man named Benjamin Amoureux.  The two snuck across the river to Illinois and found a priest to marry them (illegal in 1830).  The widow of her former master freed Pelagie and her infant son in 1832, but that did not end her struggles.  Her children for example, all free, could not attend school because it was illegal to teach a mulatto to read or write.

Next stop is the Jacques Guibourd Historic House built in 1806.  The story here is about the owner’s harrowing journey to arrive in Ste. Genevieve in the first place.  He had been working and living in St. Dominique (now called Haiti) when the slave rebellion of 1791 broke out.  His own slave remained loyal, sealing him in a cargo barrel and loading him onto a ship bound for France.  France wasn’t any more peaceful—it was the height of the Revolution.  He ended up leaving his homeland and settling in this French-Speaking ville along the Mississippi River.  The tour of the house also features the architecture, from the posts in the ground to the beam supporting the roof in the ceiling.

The best way to visit all these homes (and others) is with a Passport to Ste. Genevieve—all the sites for only $15.  Of course you can visit the homes individually and pay an entrance fee at each if some interest you more than others.  In addition to the permanent tourist spots, there are several French inspired annual events:

  • La GuiannĂ©e—on New Year’s Eve the French settlers dressed in costumes and took to the streets singing a beggar’s song for favors.  There’s a great YouTube video that explains the custom and you can hear a recording of the song from 1957.
  • The King's Ball—was originally the French’s way of celebrating Twelfth-Night.  Today attendees dress in colonial attire and dance to traditional music.  Now the ball is held in February and there are some ties to Mardi Gras.
  • The French Festival is held each June with more dancing and music, French foods and wine tasting.  You can have tea with Marie Antoinette (who has everything to do with France and nothing at all to do with Ste. Genevieve as far as I can tell.
  • And finally Jour de FĂȘte in August has nothing historical about it, but it’s a great craft festival.

Because we’re an English-speaking country today, it’s easy to forget that a great portion of our land once belonged to France.  If you have French ancestry, Ste. Genevieve is a great place to come and get in touch with your roots.

I’m linking up with …

Ben and Me

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: My Student Logbook

Sometimes a good homeschool day isn’t about fun (but messy) science experiments or seeing my son’s face light up when he finally “gets it” in math.  Sometimes the good comes solely from things running smoothly, everything being in its place when we look for it, and no arguments over what has to be accomplished before school’s done.  Today’s review product from My Student Logbook seems to be able to accomplish two of those three things.  While we’re still on our own to make sure everything gets returned to their places, we’ve been very pleased with the Planet-themed planner we’ve been using for school (and other tasks).  Don’t like space?  You can see all the cover choices for the Daily Student Logbook on their website.

The spiral bound book we received has a clear protective cover on the front and a heavy duty black plastic cover on the back. We chose the dated school-year version (7/28/14-8/2/15), but you can also select a Jan-Dec dated version or one without dates at all.  Behind the log pages are additional forms for lists most homeschoolers keep: All About Me, Prayers, Books Read, Field Trips & Activities, and Test Records.  There’s a bright blue page separating the two sections, making it easier to find those forms.

The front of the book has Set-up Instructions, a How-To Create High School Transcripts Using the Logbook guide,  and several Master Checklist pages.  If you use up all the Master pages, you have permission to make more copies.  The trick is to fill out a Master Checklist once and then use it over and over each week in the dated logbook section.  It’s not complicated to do, but rather than try to come up with my own explanation, I’m going to defer to the video instructions they provide on their website.

I have shared in previous posts how frustrated I used to get trying to teach my son.  At some point in every lesson he would ask me “What comes next” or “How much more do we have to do?”  For a long time I took these questions as a sign that he was bored with the subject, or me.  The more it happened, the more I took it personally until I’d snap at him to just focus on the present.  Then I learned from a Celebrate Calm workshop at my local homeschool expo that my son was just expressing his anxiety of not knowing what the day was going to hold for him.  If he could just see a list of what I had planned, he’d calm down and focus on each lesson in turn.  This Student Logbook is perfect!  At the start of our school year we wrote in each subject we’d be using—Bible, math, reading, writing, grammar, science, history, piano, and art.  He doesn’t really care about the specific assignment in each class (which I keep in my own planner). 

The beginning of each week he can decide which day we’ll do art and highlight that block in the logbook. Every day he can decide which order to do each subject (although I insist Bible be first). He seldom varies, but at least the choice is there.  And there’s no concern that we’ll miss something in the shuffle, because if it doesn’t have a checkmark it hasn’t been done yet.

There are more lines than we could possibly use for school alone so I’ve included his chores.  By lifting the Master List flap I can add notes for specific items like Fritz’s once-a-week chores or the book he should use for reading time.  There were still more blank lines and my son is reaching puberty so I added some grooming and hygiene habits we’re trying to instill (like using deodorant).  I have to admit, that hasn’t worked as well as I’d hoped because we keep the logbook in our basement schoolroom and the deodorant is upstairs and should have been put on long before school starts. Maybe we need a mini version of the logbook for the bathroom.

My Student Logbook can be used by any child who can read (mom can do the writing if necessary) although the vendor recommends it for 2nd Grade and up.  The printed version retails for $15 and a downloadable PDF version (which comes predated) is $10 for single use/$20 for family use.

Now you remember at the beginning of this post I said the Student Logbook could help me with two out of the three things—It finally dawned on me to make the last line of our school day “Return all books and supplies to their proper place!”


Click to read Crew Reviews

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

U is for Ulysses S. Grant House

If you were taking a quiz and asked which president was from Missouri I hope would be able to answer Harry S Truman, but he wasn’t the only president who lived in the state.  After graduating from West Point, a young Ulysses S. Grant was stationed at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis.  As a promise to a schoolmate Grant rode out to visit the Dent family at their White Haven estate and pay his respects.  He enjoyed himself so much that he returned on a weekly basis.  The following spring, Julia Dent returned home from boarding school and the visits occurred on a daily basis.  Julia was not the prettiest of the Dent daughters, but she was the best horsewoman.  The couple began to court while riding along the creek that cut through the 850 acre plantation.  When Grant learned he was being transferred in preparation for the Mexican-American War, he proposed.  The couple were finally married in a Dent home in St. Louis in 1848.

Grant remained in the army after the war and was stationed in California for a time.  Julia remained with her family at White Haven and gave birth to their first child, Jesse (eventually 3 of their 4 children would be born in this house).  When Grant resigned his commission (1854), he built a cabin on the Dent property for his young family to live in.  They remained only a few months and returned to the main house when Julia’s mother passed away.  They remained in the home until 1860 when Grant went to work in his own father’s store in Ohio before he returned to the army in 1861.

The Grant’s had intentions of returning to White HavenUlysses Grant Barn as late as his second term as president.  The barn on the property was built to house Grant’s prized horses and based on a design he had sketched on White House stationery.  As it was being constructed, the house was painted a shade of green that Mrs. Grant had noticed and admired among the homes in Washington, D.C. The Grants never did return to Missouri though, instead settling in New York after he left office. 

This field trip was near and dear to my heart.  I grew up just up Grant’s Road and was very familiar with Grant’s Farm, his cabin, and the Clydesdales that were pastured there (Anheuser-Busch owns Grant’s Farm and used to breed horses for their Budweiser wagon team there).

I’d never visited White Haven though.  The property had been sold to a private family and I’d never even seen the house as it was hidden from the road and Grant’s Farm parking lot by the barn.  The property didn’t become available for public tours until the 1990’s.

We began our visit by watching a 16 minute movie about Grant’s life from his arrival at Jefferson Barracks until his death.  He had a tragic ending—he lost the family savings in a bad Wall Street deal and developed throat cancer.  He began work on his memoirs, hoping the proceeds would support his family after his passing.  He finished them just a few days before he died.

Tours of the home are scheduled on the hour and half hour.  The home itself is very sparsely furnished—most of the Grant’s furniture was lost in a fire while it was being stored on the Grant’s Farm property. In addition to the main house, you can tour the summer kitchen/laundry, icehouse, and chicken coop. 

Ulysses S. Grant White Haven Home

It was interesting to see the contrast between the doors of the family entrance to the home and the slave entrance.  The Dents were slaveholders and Col. Dent even gave a slave to Grant at some point.  Grant freed the man when he moved to Ohio (a free state).  The ranger giving us the tour pointed out that Grant chose to free the man rather than sell him. My mother and I had been taught the Grant was a failure at business and farming and that’s why he had to move to Ohio, but the ranger said if Grant had truly been in such financial straits he could have sold the slave for up to $1500. 

Of more interest to me were the exhibits in the barn.  It may look like a horse stable on the outside, but the inside includes a first class museum.

Ulysses Grant Museum

You find portraits, family artifacts, and interactive displays from various eras in Grant’s life (not so much about his Civil War years). The exhibit below dealt with the four Grant children.  You could listen to memories each child had about their presidential father.  The display case and items of importance to each (one had a microscope while another cherished a story book).


I was keenly interested in a display about another widely held belief about Grant that may or may not be true.  He is often portrayed (especially in Civil War movies) as a heavy drinker.  The display doesn’t deny that Grant imbibed while he was stationed in California and depressed about the separation from his family.  During the Civil War however, it appears that a Gen. Halleck (Grant’s superior officer) may have started the rumor about drunkenness when Grant was promoted for actions at Ft. Donelson and he wasn’t.  When the rumor was published, Grant’s staff officers wrote it was “the most infamous and malicious falsehood that was ever uttered.”   The Secretary of Way sent his own man to investigate the charges and he wrote “To the question they all ask: ‘Doesn’t he drink?’—I have been able, from my own knowledge to give a decided negative.”  It may have in fact been Grant’s frequent migraine headaches or the doctor’s prescribing quinine (which can cause slurred speech and confusion)  that may have led those aware of the rumor to assume he was drunk.

Schnickelfritz wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about reading all the information on the walls, but the museum was prepared for such a contingency.  They had cubbies filled with hats and costumes for kids to try on and a full length mirror in which to view themselves. 

Ulysses Grant Museum dressing up

The Ulysses S. Grant home is open daily (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).  Admission is free. 

I’m linking up with …

Ben and Me

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: The 7-Minute Life Planner

Recently I was given the opportunity to review a product from a vendor known as The 7 Minute Life.  A seven-minute life…we must be talking about an insect or something.  No, according to the founder seven minutes is about the length of an average adult’s attention span (and this product is meant for adults).  I thought I could focus for much longer than that until I started to watch the introductory video for The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner.  It was twelve minutes long and I had to restart it three times because the phone rang, my son ran in, and the dog knocked something over in the kitchen.  So I guess this woman knows of what she speaks.

Now before we begin the review, you have to know where I’m coming from so it’s time for embarrassing but true confessions…

  • I write reminder notes for myself often—on the backs of receipts, envelopes and occasionally Post-Its. They accumulate with mail, things I’ve printed from the internet, and papers from my son and husband and are often lost until the thing I wanted to be reminded of has passed.
  • I love “to do” lists and checking things off (sometimes I add things I’ve already finished just for that little jolt of good feeling of crossing it off), but I jot things down in the order they come into my mind with no regard to priority.
  • I’m terribly distracted from tasks.  I used to think that meant I was multi-tasking, but the truth is if I carried something for one room to another (to put it away) I would see three things in the new room that needed to be done and never get back to the first room I was straightening. 
  • I wear multiple hats in life—I homeschool my son, teach at our co-op, lead Discovery Kids at church, and try to keep our home. 

What I Received—a 272 page, wire-bound notebook (roughly 7 1/4 by 8 1/2 inches) with plastic covers. Inside were exercises to determine my priorities, discover my purpose, set goals (personal, work, financial, life), list unfinished tasks, keep a contact list, track exercising and more.  The bulk of the pages are made up with 2-page spread daily progress reports—enough for 90 days. They’re undated, so you can jump in at any time—no need to procrastinate for the start of a new week or month or whatever, nothing wasted if you miss a few days.

How I Used It ---you might think I was tempted to plow ahead to the daily progress pages and start writing in my to-do list as usual.  Well, I was tempted but since this was for a review I thought I should at least start the way the creator of the product intended.  There’s a whole series of Getting Started Videos on the web page (you can view these now, with no purchase required).  After viewing them, I found a few quiet moments for myself, sat down with my planner, and assessed my priorities. My top three ended up being Faith, Family/Friendships, and Health.   Working on Discovering My Purpose was much harder as I struggled to separate “purpose” from “tasks I have to do” but having the question “At the age of 85, I will know I have fulfilled my purpose when:” helped me to organize my thoughts.

With that in mind, I found filling out the 5 things I would do before 11 much different than my typical to-do list.  Since Health was one of my priorities (I am a cancer survivor and since my hysterectomy my blood pressure has been creeping up) I scheduled my Couch to 5K sessions during this time.  Regular exercise is a key in lowering blood pressure, but up till now I would save exercise until after schoolwork and daily chores was done (and then I might feel too tired and end up skipping it entirely).  Now I don’t feel guilty about scheduling time for myself because it fits into my priority—and let’s face it, if I’m in poor health I won’t be able to meet my other obligations.  Since making it a priority, I’ve seen my blood pressure average drop 20 points! The Planner also helps me track health priorities with boxes to track water intake, sleep, exercise, and reflection (which I count as prayer and meditation).

The Planner seems to be geared towards folks with wage-earning jobs: there are work goals, unfinished work tasks, a place to write names and numbers from voice mails, etc.  I decided for me, work would be anything associated with my teaching (at home, co-op, or church) and my blogging.  So my unfinished tasks included picking up science project supplies and completing blog posts.  My daily contacts aren’t customers and vendors, but websites with history information or books to find at the library (and in some cases other homeschoolers, bloggers, etc.).

What I Liked—I actually loved the 5 Before 11 section and the overall principles to Prioritize, Organize, and Simplify.  I’m getting closer to the 8 glasses of water per day and track my intake of cultured foods (another health priority) along with sleep and exercise.  I gained a lot of insight into myself by completing the Priorities, Purpose, Strengths & Weaknesses, and Goals worksheets. Most of these evaluation tools are available for free on the 7 Minute Life website.

What Didn’t Work For Me—The size doesn’t make the Planner convenient to carry in my purse. If something came up at 4-H meetings or church that I needed to remember  I would have to write notes and appointments on separate pieces of paper and then transfer them to the planner when I got home.  This may not be an issue for folks used to carrying briefcases or something similar.   Even with adapting things to my “line of work” I still found sections like Voice Mail useless for me. 

The Bottom Line--- I will continue to prioritize my daily tasks with the 5 Before 11 system, making sure those items are helping me meet my goals and fall within my priority categories.  I don’t know if I will buy another planner when this 90 days is up.

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner retails for $24.95.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

T is for Thomas Hart Benton Murals

Looking back at our homeschool field trips, most of them have been for history/social studies purposes.  A few have been science/geology related, and some are just for fun.  Other than a trip to the art museum, this may be the only art related field trip we’ve taken and I’ll be honest, it was a small portion of a larger, civics-related trip to the Missouri Capitol.  Notice, that was with an “o” not and “a” so I’m referring to the actual building.  The House Lounge used to be a place for legislators and the committees on which they served to meet.  In 1935, Thomas Hart Benton (a native Missourian and one of the best known artists of the Regionalism movements) was commissioned to decorate the lounge with a mural, the subject being “A Social History of the State of Missouri.”  Benton was given complete freedom in interpreting and executing the theme.

No one can accuse Benton of not being thorough…while he sketched ideas to cover the more than 1400 square feet of wall space, he consulted a six-volume history of Missouri. The outer wall was filled with windows and he opted to paint cornstalks and power lines in the spaces between them.  The other walls would be covered with scenes of Missouri’s history, legends, and folklore.  Visitors were allowed in the room while Benton worked and it someone with a particularly interesting face walked in, the artist might stop to sketch a portrait and that face would end up on the wall somewhere.

When the room was revealed in 1937, the legislators were in an uproar.  Some were offended by the content (Jesse James, the outlaw was given a prominent spot over the doors), others by the bright colors and oversized figures.  One man was even worried that the artist had gone way over budget buying eggs to use in the paint base (Benton had receipts to prove he’d only spent about $10).  There were cries to install curtains or just whitewash over the whole mess, but the furor died down and the House Lounge is one of the highlights of Capitol tours these days. Here are some of the highlights of the panels.




Huckleberry Finn and the slave Jim were fictionalized characters of the famous Missouri author Mark Twain.  The steamboat in the background has been christened Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s real name.







Benton’s tribute to the city of St. Louis.  It’s probably best known as the home of Anheuser-Busch (notice the man drinking, the beer being put into kegs and the bar glass.  The artist did his homework though, St. Louis and surrounding communities had a lot of shoe factories (in fact, my grandparents used to work in one).  The St. Louis City Museum is build in a former shoe factory and the giant 10 story slide is how they used to move product from floor to floor. In the background is coal.





Kansas City is portrayed with its meat processors (ever hear of a Kansas City steak?).  In the foreground, a Bunsen burner reminds viewers of the advancement in chemical chemical research from the western side of the state. This is one of the upsetting segments of the mural.  The man with his back turned is Tom Pendergast, a political boss from KC who was later convicted of tax evasion. The site of his meeting includes scantily clad show girls in the background. Mr. Pendergast still held a lot of political clout when the mural was unveiled. Probably some of the men he helped elect had their feet held to the fire to whitewash over this image.



Another disturbing, but historically accurate scene deals with the way Mormons were treated in the state.  Their home is being burned and a man is being tarred and feathered.  In 1838, Gov. Lilburn Boggs signed an order to drive the Mormons from the state or exterminate them.  It wasn’t rescinded until 1976.






The real pictures are so large, I’m not sure how well the details will appear in this post.  Although the focus of this scene is the white man trading whiskey for furs (another unpopular, but true scene), in the background is a frontier cabin.  Benton correctly painted it with vertical planking just like the first French settlers built their homes.






The murals have never been modified, only cleaned and restored over the years. Touring the Missouri Capitol is free and the House Lounge is usually open (there may be a rare meeting in there from time to time).  If you’re coming to Jefferson City to study Missouri history of government, please stop by and see this artistic treasure.

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Ben and Me

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