The Look

Hey!  It’s Nathan guest writing once again.  I wrote this piece as a contrast essay for my English class earlier this month.  Thanks for reading!

It’s an unconscious reaction.  Strangers just can’t help but do a double take when they first discover that my siblings and I were home educated.  They describe us as “surprisingly normal and social.”  Their reaction reveals an underlying notion that homeschoolers are supposed to be strange, that they are somehow supposed to be different from their public school peers.  These experiences have taught me that although public and home educated students are actually quite similar, there exist major differences in how their respective education systems approach social exposure, academic scheduling, and athletic opportunity.

The first difference is in the way students learn social skills.  In public schools, the students learn through inoculation, adapting social skills in a largely untampered environment.  Most social interaction occurs between the student and his peers, then the skills learned in these interactions are extrapolated to interactions between the student and his elders.  The student must also adapt to certain social norms to fit in with what’s popular, or else risk being ostracized from the general pool of his fellows and suffering the ultimate social humiliation: being labeled “weird.”  This fear leads the student to shun people and ideas that could be considered strange and stifles the development of a unique sense of self in favor of a character that better fits with what is the norm.

In contrast, many forms of home education seek to teach students to interact with their elders first.  Once the student understands how to address his elders, he is well equipped to interact with his peers by extrapolating the respect with which he addresses his elders to his relationships with his peers.  This respect causes the student to take every concept at face value and choose the ones which best reflect his own tastes, rather than selecting friends and activities based on social enforcement.  The student is thus able to find his niche while at the same time respecting other viewpoints.

Another difference between these education systems is their respective flexibility.  In public schooling, the students live by a consistent schedule, much like they will in life after school.  This is necessary in a system where there are many students enrolled, as it would be impossible to account for the individual needs of each student.  Although there is an inherent rigidity to this, it allows the school to organize events and classes which require large groups to work together regularly, such as dramatic productions or fundraisers for trips.

Conversely, in home education there is a great deal of flexibility, with the academic schedule often being adjusted to fit the needs of the family.  In addition to this, since the home educators are in charge of the curriculum, they can tailor the academic experience of the student to his specific needs or interests.  Since the curriculum can travel with the family, home educators and their families are able to take trips during the school year that they would not be able to otherwise, increasing opportunity for the student to be exposed to other cultures and foreign ideas.  While it offers many advantages, this flexibility requires the student to learn to keep his own schedule and stay on pace if he wishes to succeed after graduation.  It also makes coordination between home education families difficult, limiting their ability to create clubs and other organizations.

A final difference between  public schooling and home education is athletic opportunity.  In public schools there are many different sports teams with which the student can be involved and there is often a focus on athletic ability, with those students who are athletically gifted being treated differently by their peers and their teachers, though this treatment is not always favorable.  Since schools often offer several different sports, the student can choose the ones that best suit his talents, whether football, basketball, soccer, or another.  Even those students who are not involved in competitive sports can take advantage of PE classes and club sports.  These teams and clubs help foster fitness, sportsmanship, and teamwork in the students and can help students receive scholarships to colleges they would have otherwise been unable to attend.

Home educated students, on the other hand, do not have these same opportunities.  Unless one of their parents has an athletic background, homeschoolers often do not learn to play sports, and unless they are part of a cooperative home education group, many families replace physical education with practical arts.  These homeschoolers learn trade skills instead of sportsmanship, workmanship instead of teamwork, working fitness instead of athleticism.  Unfortunately, this effect makes it difficult for home educated students to receive athletic scholarships, making it that much more difficult for low-income students to achieve higher-level educations.

These are just a few of the differences that exist between public and home education.  While public schooling offers greater peer interaction, more school based activities, and more opportunity for athletic advancement, home education allows the student to learn from his elders, travel more due to academic flexibility, and study his environment, creating a young adult who is arguably better-equipped for life than his public school peer.  I would argue that while both systems have their advantages, the reality is that good students will succeed in either system, and poor students will fail in either system.  Perhaps, then, we can remove the stigma associated with being home educated, and realize that the only true difference between homeschoolers and their public school peers is the system in which they were educated.

It’s ALIVE!

Sometimes life can be really depressing, especially at the end of a long, cold winter and everyone is exhausted, but then just little things can really brighten your day!  Last summer, we razed our old house, but before doing so, we wanted to save the old rose bush that had been sheltered in a southeast facing corner for perhaps 60 years or maybe more!  A long time ago, a visitor suggested that it was called a ‘seven sisters rose‘ so-named because of the way the blossoms cluster in sevens.

So, we moved it.  I had called Mendenhall’s Florists & Nursery in Brookfield, MO for advice and found out that it would be nearly impossible to move it in the middle of the summer and have it survive, but we had no choice.

Christian Finck and Dallas Powell discussing strategy -although it all goes through me.
Christian Finck and Dallas Powell discussing strategy -although it all goes through me. The first steps were to remove the support structure then tie all the canes together. This heritage rose is exceptionally thorny.
We just sort of guessed at how much of the roots we needed balanced with how much we could realistically chop out.
We just sort of guessed at how much of the roots we needed balanced with how much we could realistically chop out. The log chain was looped well below the surface level.
Christian carefully backed the tractor while we kept a close on how the roots were going to fare with such force.
Christian carefully backed the tractor while we kept a close on how the roots were going to fare with such force.
After the bush was loaded, I wrapped the roots in a wet towel and Christian hauled it in the front end loader to our guest house (in which we had recently moved)
After the bush was loaded, I wrapped the roots in a wet towel and Christian hauled it in the front end loader to our guest house (in which we had recently moved)
Dallas packed the entire bush to the hole  we had already started.
Dallas packed the entire bush to the hole we had already started.
Alas, the hole that had been started was far from deep or wide enough, so the boys dug it out more and run into a tree root from the old Mulberry tree we had removed from the front yard.  So that had to be taken out before the hole could be enlarged any further.
Alas, the hole that had been started was far from deep or wide enough, so the boys dug it out more and run into a tree root from the old Mulberry tree we had removed from the front yard. So that had to be taken out before the hole could be enlarged any further.
Well, a bit droopy, but there it is!  I kept it well watered all during the dry heat of summer and fall.
Well, a bit droopy, but there it is! I kept it well watered all during the dry heat of summer and fall. Later, I cut the canes back very short to encourage root growth.
TODAY - 22 Mar 2015!  These signs of life indicate this hardy rose made it through a rough transplant in the wrong time of the year followed by an extremely long and bitterly cold winter.  Hooray!
TODAY – 22 Mar 2015! These signs of life indicate this hardy rose made it through a rough transplant in the wrong time of the year followed by an extremely long and bitterly cold winter. Hooray!

Working Day at Last

Tuesday started early with rising before dawn.  The vet was coming about 8:30am, so we needed to have the cows and calves mustered and sorted before then.  We were running a bit late, but thankfully, so was the vet, so that all worked out.  We got started with the first calf through the chute about 9:30 am and finished about 2:30pm, with less than half an hour for pizza from PB5 that Allen and his dad brought up for us all.

All the cows and calves moving into the corral.
All the cows and calves moving into the corral.

When i say that the calves were worked, this means they are receiving their vaccinations:  IBR-BVD-PI3, BRSV and 7-way blackleg, the heifers are calf-hooded (OCV vaccine).  All are dehorned if necessary, except for the roping calves and bull calves are castrated.  I also give them an ID ear tag.  It’s quite a deal for the calves, but we use Bud Williams’ low stress handling and this keeps any stress to a very minimum.  All the animals stay very quiet, which certainly cuts down on accidents.  I believe the only injury was Dallas getting kicked by a baby calf.  Still hurts, though. Their tiny hooves can be sharp enough to cut.

Chowing down!
Chowing down!

After the vet and his helper from Brookfield Veterinarian Clinic,left, we tagged a few cows which had lost ear tags.  All in all, it was a very low key, quiet event.  Very thankful.

Cows and calves quietly shifting to their overnight paddock.  They have plenty of hay on offer since the grass is just not growing yet!
Cows and calves quietly shifting to their overnight paddock. They have plenty of hay on offer since the grass is just not growing yet!

We arrived home by 5:30 after checking the stock and moving equipment home, after which I had those lambs to feed – boy were they hungry!.  Then it was off to put the testicles (Rocky Mountain oysters) in John’s frig, then up to Purdin to pick up milk.

One more lamb feeding just before dark and put them to bed.  Shower and bed!

All the Best!

tauna

Warming Up!

Wow, it is amazing how warm weather can energise a person into working and really enjoying it!

Monday morning started off a bit rough though since it had been quite cold the night before and my early morning check of the lambing situation found 5 dead (cold) but 7 thriving.  At this point, I’m beginning to think there is a vast difference in mothering ability of these ewes.   However, all get a pass until the weather stays warm.  With warmer weather this afternoon, the ground is thawing on top, so it’s very slick to have a pickup out in the pasture, so after nearly getting stuck in an area I had pulled into to load some gates, I decided to drop them off at their new location just inside the gate and later I would drag them down to the water tank with my Gator.  Additionally, in the afternoon, Dallas and I moved the cows and calves a half mile to fresh pasture.  A little bit of green showing, but mostly they are picking at old stockpile which will serve them fine as long as the weather is not stressful.

Apparently, through the excitement of moving the cows, the guard dogs flattened the electrified netting that held in the sheep and unfortunately, once we returned, all but 5 nursing ewes had escaped.  That’s the way it goes, of course, since I was planning to move them down the road the next day up to the corral.  However, too late for that, so we spent the next two hours  pushing the ewes more than quarter mile through two paddocks and across a ditch with deep running water.  I was so proud of them actually ploughing through that water!  Sheep can really be stubborn about getting their feet wet.  I was calling the sheep to follow and Dallas was pushing and so the little lambs that couldn’t cross, he grabbed and threw them across to their mums.

Once over the ditch and through the gate, the key was to give them access to the hay pile so they would be occupied while iIset up seven nettings quickly before they escaped the area. Meanwhile, Dallas went back around to shut the gates behind the cattle (two had come back because they forgot to take their calves with them!!!  aaargh!), so all were together, then he continued on through to Cord Road to drive all the way around the square mile by gravel road.  I then sent him down to gather the 5 ewes plus lambs into the corner by Morris Chapel cemetery and install a netting around behind them.  That way they would be safe until we could move them next morning to be with the rest of the flock.  It was pretty much dark by this time.

We had noticed hours earlier a ewe having difficulty with giving birth, so when Dallas came back, we walked through the flock with the torch and found her.  I walked her over to the hay bales, grabbed her hind leg while she was distracted by eating and flipped her over.  The first lamb was fairly easy to pull out, so it was a mystery why she was having trouble.  So, i reached inside her and way, deep inside was another lamb.  It came out easily, too, so not sure why she was having trouble.  Nevertheless, I laid them around to her head, but she would have nothing to do with them; not a good sign.  I let her up and she just walked away, lambs baaing and wet.  Stupid ewe.  Dallas and I tried to push her back towards the lambs, but she would have nothing of it, so we caught her and walked/dragged her to the corral.  I packed the two lambs up to her and we tried for half an hour to get those lambs to nurse, but the ewe didn’t want them and they didn’t want her.

Both Dallas and I were tired and hungry by now (about 9:30pm), so we headed home and 35 minutes later we were back and fixing a light supper.  While it was warming, I went out and fed my five bottle lambs, back in for supper, then, taking a big box, I drove back up to see if a miraculous love fest was happening.  Nope, not at all.  I left her shut in the corral, grabbed the lambs and brought them home for feeding.  At midnight I finally got a shower and headed to bed.

They were very unhappy lambs and cried nearly all night in the basement.  But by morning after multiple feedings, they were strong.

A Star Is Born?

Nathan here, guest writing once more!  This is the narrative essay I wrote for my dual credit Composition class at NCMC.  I had forgotten to release this story a couple weeks ago, but now I can claim that my blunder was simply a calculated step to save this tale for the one-year-anniversary of opening night for Les Miz.  So anyway, to the story!  Enjoy. My hands were shaking as the emcee finished his opening remarks, so I took a deep breath to slow my pulse as the orchestra began to play.  The line in front of me had begun shuffling forward onto the stage, mallets in hand, moving in time with the music.  Despite every instinct screaming for me to turn and run, I gripped my own mallet tightly and fell into step at the end of the line.  Two measures and four steps later, the hardwood floor of the wings gave way to large square sections of plywood and for the first time in my life, I stepped onto the stage as an actor.  Working for this moment had taught me perseverance far beyond any I had ever known, and now it was about to pay off. The entire saga had begun eight months earlier, when my music teacher, Olivia Coon, suggested I audition for a role in the upcoming production of Les Misérables being staged by Carousel Productions in Macon, Missouri.  The words “Les Misérables” had hardly left her mouth before I was asking when auditions would be held.  It had always been my dream to perform Les Miz, as it’s known to its fans, and besides, how hard could an audition possibly be? It turns out the audition was much harder than I could have imagined.  On a cold November evening, I walked into the Royal Theatre for the first time, at once supremely confident and extraordinarily nervous.  People continued to trickle in until the whole lobby was full; by the time I was called into the audition hall there were at least 50 people, and with every competent-looking individual who had entered, my confidence had taken a hit.  Suffice it to say, a bad case of nerves and a shattered confidence did not serve me well during my audition.  Little more needs to be said except to explain that I was assigned spoken lines in a musical. In spite of my setback, I was determined to carve a role for myself; so when rehearsals began in January, I decided that if I still failed, it would not be for a lack of effort.  I made sure to arrive on time, if not early, for every rehearsal.  I practiced every chorus and every minor solo.  I leapt at any opportunity to fill in lines if someone was absent and to accept whatever part was available.  By the time the cast was finalized at the end of the month, I was rehearsing as Courfeyrac, one of the students; Constable #1; and as a convict in the chain gang. February was a hard month; whereas January had been very fluid and relaxed, with most of our rehearsal time being spent solely on the music, in February we moved into the theatre and discovered the challenge of fitting 60 people into a space designed for a much smaller cast.  I think the cast’s first realization that this was real— that our community theatre truly was performing Les Miz— came in this first week of February, as we quieted our jokes, shortened our conversations, and extended our rehearsals.  We no longer had time to sit and chat, especially those of us with multiple roles.  It was not uncommon to see fellow actors run from one wing, down the stairs, and into the dressing room to change, all before racing back to the other staircase to be in position for the next scene.  Because of these challenges, it was in this month that the bonds amongst our cast were forged.  Whether it was reminding someone of their position or helping a friend tie his ascot, we realized that we must support one another for the show to succeed. With just three weeks until the show a sense of urgency developed in the cast.  We were now able to run through the entire show consecutively, but we still were not close to having a stage worthy performance.  Despite any worry this may have caused our directors, though, we never panicked.  Much of why we were able to stay calm and focused can be attributed to the efforts of the principals; those people who held lead roles and helped lighten the mood while never being distracting.  Our Jean Valjean, Joel Vincent, was especially supportive of our motley assortment of revolutionary students, and even when we completely botched a scene, he would always be there with a silent high-five and congratulations. Finally, with a week to go, we were ready.  All the patience on our director’s behalf, all the determination of the actors, and all the tolerance of our families had come to this point— now there was nothing to do but wait. The tension in the air was palpable on opening night.  The audience’s, the cast’s, my own, it all washed together as we, the chain gang, entered stage right.  An expectant hush fell over the crowd as the two lines of convicts opened the show, our footsteps in time with our rhythmic chant as we reached our positions on stage.  I took my spot in the front corner of the stage, dropped to my knees, mallet held ready, and waited for the cue to start work. Our mallets kept the rhythm throughout the scene, but the crowd didn’t notice; they were enthralled by the energy sparking between Javert and Valjean.  “Do not forget me,” you could almost hear the audience as they took a breath in anticipation of Javert’s final line, “2-4-6-0-1!”  The rest of the chain gang and I stood, turned, and exited the way we had entered, and as we left, we echoed the ominous words of the chain gang’s lullaby: “Look down, look down, you’ll always be a slave, look down, look down, you’re standing in your grave.”  The thundering applause that escorted us from the stage didn’t make me feel like a slave, however: as I raced down the stairs to change for the next scene, I felt as though I could fly.