Sweet William and some John Hartford.

There’s folks building homes as sweet as can be
They’re leveling their yards and planting their trees
But my little hut, I’ll just let it be
Lord Jesus is building a mansion for me

Mansions for Me, Bill Monroe

Joe has been planting trees and fruit brambles (does thornless also mean bramble-less?) and I finally have my garden planted. It was hot and dry and now it is cool and rainy. Maybe a false start to summer, but I am happy to be reminded I don’t get to be in charge of any of it. My little hut, I’ll just let it be…

My garden dirt is so happy though! I’ve never in my life had more crumbly, beautiful dirt. Between the topsoil last year on our no-till, cardboard beds, and the lovely compost from our wildflower nursery neighbors, it is excellent. I made a bunch of mounds to start melon seeds on and I’ll transplant the seedlings to the fence if they come out strong.

I tried to switch up the hugelkultur beds—if it had tomatoes last year, I moved in carrots and lettuce instead. Cabbage is with the onions; broccoli is minding its own business. I had done some lasagna method layering back in the fall with newspaper and straw and then I fluffed it all up last month. It didn’t break down completely but all the seeds I’ve tossed on top seem to quickly root and sprout up.

Over in the topsoil/compost area the beans look happy (they always do in the beginning) and I’ve got more hot peppers than I know what to do with—I think I was suckered in by the writing on the back of the package, pairs wonderfully with couscous! Dang you, Baker Creek heirloom seed marketing team.
I even planted corn for Joe in the best part of the garden—love is sacrifice, no? We will see how it grows.

May garden! Notice the cardboard along the edges.

I am stuffing bits of cardboard along the edge of my fencing to smother the weeds that want to join the fun. If I can just keep ahead of the weeds!

Last year I sprinkled a wild flower mix between the corn and sunflowers because we were going to set up our beehive by the garden. (This was idealistic, Colorado thinking at its best. Who in their right Midwest mind sprinkles glorified weeds in their vegetable garden?! In the mountains, it made sense.) Well, we ended up with the bees by the back barn but now the second year perennial flowers are popping up. I’ve got Sweet William and Siberian wallflowers and daisies—only one variety is worth keeping.

Sweet William. Before they bloomed I had no idea what they were because they have a really neat green tuft like a paintbrush!

I am so tickled to be out of school for summer. I was working my tail off and getting discouraged with the politics and educational misnomers. It is a breath of fresh air to make food and wash dishes and weed the garden. I stay up late and watch NBA finals with Jubal and read books out loud on the porch (Henry and Beezus).
Luke is channeling his inner John Hartford. Jubal is giving guitar lessons. FC turns on the Korg and will play all day if I don’t holler at him to turn it off. Gretty has been picking out Boil That Cabbage Down on her tiny fiddle. And if they do all the music and their chores I let them play Minecraft and Star Wars on the PS4. Maybe. (Ha.)

Ah, May!

Ranunculus notes!

Foy practices piano two hours everyday. This is a little idiosyncrasy that might slip through the cracks after having other musical little boys in my house. But Foy is different. He’s determined. He is persistent. He actually puts his mind to something and does it—not as an expression of natural talent, but grit. I love it about him! And he is sounding amazing.
(He was inspired by the last composition contest…He begins real lessons this summer. He’s already blown through one music book. We really cannot handle listening to Ode to Joy at 500mph anymore.)

The ranunculus I’ve been babying for five months now have bloomed as of this second week of May. The first to pop were the white ones in a container by my door. It’s been so hard not to cut every single one as they open because they are so gorgeous. I’ve taken a couple bunches in to school for teachers and two dozen makes a perfect bouquet.

Notes to self on ranunculus:

The bigger the corm, the bigger the flower. My tiny ranunculus are precious but for a nice stem with a good head you’ll have to start with a larger corm. If you just order a bag of mixed bulbs off Amazon you will probably get a handful of tiny little corms. And you’ll have to separate them all out and give them special treatment. (Joe did this and I haven’t had luck with a single corm from that batch.)

I sprouted all my corms in a damp tray of potting soil, allowing corms to touch. Even the tiniest sprout went in the ground in early Spring and has been successful. They love being in the cool ground.

I am glad I didn’t plant them last fall. In my area (6a), another gardener had her blooms overwinter in a covered flower bed and she did a lot of covering, uncovering, leaf-layering and eventually even installed some Christmas lights to keep them warm-ish. Hers came up a couple weeks before mine, but she sure went to a lot of work to keep the babies alive. I only put mine in the ground in January-February because I didn’t sprout them till after Christmas. And now it feels like the perfect time for them to bloom is beginning to middle of May. We’ve had some hot, dry days but they are doing beautifully. They are a nice bloom post-tulip season and pre-zinnia/aster/cosmo/summer flowers.

When I put them in the ground in Jan/Feb, I cozied them right up with mulch and covered them with black weed barrier until end of March. Then I tried to keep them uncovered as much as possible to keep them healthy and have sun exposure. I only had to recover once or twice overnight.

I planted ranunculus in the ground a good 8-12 inches apart, but I think I could get them much, much closer. I never once watered them and we had a super dry spring.
Last, they did great in a 5 gallon container! I was shocked because I don’t have great luck with containers.

Some are tecolote (cafe) and some are a mixed bag.

I’ve had so much fun with ranunculus! I wish I’d tried them in Colorado because I think they’d love the climate. Better late than never, I guess.

The chamomile in my veggie garden is popping back up and I’m debating whether to take it out. I love it so much but I hear it can kind of become a nuisance once it is established. But it’s good for insects, no? Kind of like a trap flower. Maybe I’ll just dry a ton of it for tea.

Very few April showers still resulted in May flowers! Turn that into a tune…

School is out! No one is happier than this teacher right here. I packed up the ukuleles and xylophones and loaded my car with all the junk I need to sort out. But for now we are watching Jeopardy and eating ice cream.

Fancy that—tulips and Maypole dances!

I’m following in my mother’s footsteps and picking up freebies of every sort from school as the year winds down and retiring teachers are clearing their rooms. I happened on some great versions of classics, one of the series being a graphic novel Sherlock Holmes.

So naturally GK—the six year old—has been reading mysteries on the sofa before bedtime. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Stone Soup at school in music class—I hand out percussion instruments and as ingredients are added to the soup in the story, I let students punctuate each vegetable with a beat on the drum, a scrape of the guiro, ding on the triangle, etc.—including sound effects. I had the kids purr, “oooh, fancy!” in a British accent each time I said the line, “Soup from a pot? Fancy that!”

Anyway, I laughed when at home one night while folding clothes, GK casually mentioned that “in Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock says, ‘Watson, I fancy we may employ ourselves better at home.’ What does ‘fancy’ mean?”
I feel like we have the most hilarious and entertaining crossover conversations in this house.

I’m seeing all my new tulip varieties pop up. The double late and ruffled parrot tulips are gorgeous and the slender yonina are elegant but I love the fringed orange tulips better. Even though the stems are almost too short for cutting, there is not a more stunning color. Look at me turning into a flower lady! I promised a friend I wouldn’t get old prematurely by falling for roses or irises (those being, in my mind, old lady flowers. It will happen, I am sure. Just not pre-40).

The kids at school can’t believe they’re even real, they keep coming up to the desk to touch and smell them.

I didn’t add columbine to the jars I gave to teachers because they are just too fragile. But I love having a prolific columbine plant just down the steps from the porch. It’s my little Colorado memento.

Monday I explained the tradition of May Day and the May pole and May Day baskets. I showed the students a clip of the dance from the opera La Fille Mal Gardee. I tied some tulle ribbon to the top of my old North Pole sign (worked perfect!), took a deep breath, and crossed my fingers it wouldn’t be a total disaster. For preschool and kindergarten, I just had kids skip in the same direction while I played music. For the middle grades we tried a bit of weaving but it was still almost too complicated for them to grasp. Only my sixth graders really got the hang of it (boys in and under to the left then over to the left while girls did the opposite moves to the right).

I was so proud! I daily feel like it is down to the wire planning sixth grade stuff and then I just have to go with my best idea and hope they don’t act like it’s completely dumb. Usually I preface sixth grade activities with, “I tried this with my younger kids and they didn’t really get it, so I was thinking we should try it…” At least it justifies me in case they hate it and think it super lame—hey, I can blame it on the little kids!

Six and a half days left in the whole school year! We’re going to play music Jeopardy! (This is Mrs. Stegner’s favorite ice cream flavor. What is cookies and cream?) and make a Venn diagram of theremin music versus synthesizer. (Beach boys will make an appearance!)

I cannot wait.

C.O.M.P. Music: Jaunty Biggelo!

We made it to the mushroom hunting party a little late—last week would have been perfect! The morels we found today were a bit aged and frost-burnt from our cooler weather. Joe says there’ll be another go-round and not to worry. They were still delicious. (I love how other-worldly they look, like little woodland aliens.)

Last week was my busiest—between some minor sickness, moderating after-school high school quiz bowl matches (turns out I’ve found my calling?!*) and concerts—we wrapped up on Saturday with a huge performance with Luke leading the way at a composition contest. You can watch here, beginning at around the nine minute mark. He won some money for himself and for his school—so fun!

We knew we’d have to accompany him for the performance because he’d added several elements. I didn’t know Saturday morning that I’d be the numero uno kazoo, ha! I think when he saw his reflection in the shiny Steinway he lost a little multi-tasking courage. Anyway, it went well and we all got to bow the bow of serious musicians.

Three of the kids entered the competition. We submitted their pieces back in the winter and crossed our fingers. GK had done a little acapella ditty and Jube did a four part guitar piece. Foy had toyed with entering a song but it kept getting hilariously more intense and literal (words like “burn it to the ground,” bahaha!) and he was half worried about the deadline, half totally cracked up at his attempts so I told him to table it for next year. Since then he’s been practicing piano non-stop. I’m sure he will give it a go again.

I wasn’t surprised Luke won because they’d really wanted a creative approach (“think about using non-traditional instrumentation, i.e. Orff, boomwhackers, etc.”) Luke just did what they asked. The hardest part was coming up with a title, which we did at the dinner table.

Saturday felt so lucky to just get to participate and see the other amazing composers. Some kids had submitted annotated pieces that were performed by college staff and students. Big band, jazz, horn ensembles, marimbas, cabaret-style with piano, some comedic pieces with props…it was wonderful. I recommend watching all three concerts on YouTube. (Except for the electronica weird stuff. 😉 Everything I really love—creative, brilliant, musical kiddos. The kids who were there were well-deserving. I’m just so grateful there things like this exist for young people.

Thanks to Foy’s mad guiro skills, Jubal on BWs and GK on second kazoo!

*The previous weekend I moderated our district quiz bowl meet and somehow did well enough to get invited back to moderate again at the next level of competition. All those years of reading aloud are paying off!

A thornless blackberry project and Spring concerts!

The double late tulips I planted in the front bed popped open the day after Easter. It looked like I had a Chiefs theme going on. I actually thought I’d get a mix of more pinks and reds than anything.

Other tulips are still grow, grow, growing. I’m so glad we pulled up that landscaping fabric to let it all breathe again. Remind me I said this when it’s finally summer and the weeds are everywhere. But hopefully the mulch will keep most of it down. For now, I have tons of ranunculus, columbine, and strawberries filling in the gaps.

We trekked over to a local nursery where they focus on native-to-our-area plants. The story goes that back in the day the old fella who runs it would dry plants for seeds in the barns on our property. His name is Mervin, and he not so fondly recalled climbing the vertical ladders to the barn loft with his bundles.
We chatted with him about supplying us some compost. He has his own metal barns now where he dries seed, but he was happy to help us after we told him where we lived.

Joe has decided he wants to grown thornless blackberries and raspberries. I am more on board with this project than other suggested projects like pigs, chickens, or cows, but I am no bramble expert.
The first step was to find the right spot and prep the soil. The compost Mervin gave us is an old mix of potting soil and other scraps from his native plan nursery. It isn’t exactly the cleanest compost, but it is healthy and robust (and cheap).

We decided the back side of the pond would be the ideal place to pick. Not too close to the house, no views blocked, a bit of an incline for drainage, room to spread. The blackberries will not produce fruit the first year, but the raspberries should.
(I’m a little scared of this endeavor…My friend, Brandy, has only four thornless blackberry bushes and said they go crazy and produce gallons and gallons of berries.)

Blackberries and tulips have been a welcome home distraction from the craziness of end-of-year music endeavors. I come home and grab a shovel if it is nice, move baby plants out into the sun, water, check on sprouts, mow. It doesn’t matter how hard the outside work, it is a welcome respite from a rough day at school.

We wrapped up the last Spring concert this week and I was having nightmares about it leading up to the day. Lots of behavior issues just make teaching so stinking difficult. I am waiting for summer to digest and write more. The most significant daily issues deal with kids that are consistently rude or argumentative. This coupled with an ever-shortening attention span and a device-fueled addiction to instant gratification—can you even imagine how hard it is to teach recorders and how to read music on a staff? How hard it is to walk down a long hallway to the auditorium, expect them to calmly enter and exit the stage, stand safely on risers, perform as expected, listen to directions, rehearse multiple times? Each day is a struggle.
To top it off, we have a handful of kids that sometimes show up on or off meds and exhibit violent and threatening behavior…Yikes. A book awaits. Let’s see if I can also make it sound funny and lighthearted like David Sedaris—that’s my summer challenge to myself.

I really am so proud of how much has been accomplished but this year was stress-filled on a 10 out of 10 scale. I have to remind myself that at the beginning of the year the older kids smirked when I told them we’d be singing.
And look at us on stage singing! And playing recorders! And Orff instruments! It’s enough to tempt a teacher to think she can do it again next fall (especially after a summer break).

Baker Seed and Laura Ingalls

It is tulip time and lovely weather and I’m in bed instead of my messy basement music room at school.

It is difficult to take a day off when sick, because I have the mom mentality of must-push-through. I am guilt-ridden even when sick because getting a substitute teacher is not exactly a promise. It’s more likely they split the classes and make the remaining teachers bear the load. So as I lay in bed I feel worse because my favorite art teacher will have 50% more of a class to teach, and might even have to toss her lesson plans out so she can manage the chaos.

It should not be like this at school. Chaos management should not be the goal.
Four weeks…I can do anything for four weeks!

What does one do with the lone asparagus stalk that pops up every spring? He is delicious raw. We do fight over him.

Isn’t incredible how there are such beautiful things still in this world even as people go from bad to worse (2 Tim. 3:13)? Isn’t it fantastic how flowers bloom even as creation is subjected to frustration and groans like it’s in childbirth (Romans 8)?

We just had tornadoes rip through the Midwest and all the ranunculus roots held fast? Brilliant.

I sprinkled poppy seeds in the garden by the peas, and dahlia and zinnia seeds around the tulips. We took a day trip to Mansfield to visit Baker Creek and the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. I think I’m getting old because I trust internet shopping less and less. I’d rather drive two hours to buy seeds than order things to be delivered to my house.

But Baker’s Creek was worth the trip (of course) and would make me jealous of the work that goes on there…except! I know their work is back-breaking. They test and try hundreds of seeds. They don’t just grow and go. I am very interested in the only-sow-what-I-can-handle method.
Still, it’s beautiful and a great experience and if I had to recommend a what-to-do-in-Missouri trip, this would be top of the list.

Will there someday be a cardboard cutout of me in my kitchen? I sure hope not.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder museum is another thumbs up, but it is not free entrance. She was in her sixties when she began writing her embellished childhood memoirs. I would’ve meandered more, but we had ice cream to get to and seeds to bring home and plant.

Easter Break, Windmill project.

A co-worker casually mentioned this week that I was “well-suited for life in the sixties”—meaning, I am sure, the 1960s and not actually me being sixty years old.
I don’t know what brought on the comment, but as much as I hate screen-time and teenaged zombies and phone addiction (ask someone who is sober how they feel about their past), I do agree. (But I’m pretty sure she was calling me a hippy because her words landed after I gifted the first flowers from Honey Creek for the P.E. teacher’s wedding shower.)

We have arrived, blessedly, at Easter break. Our Spring break was long overdue and we won’t get a full week like most everyone else. No matter, I have one more Spring concert behind me as of today and one more to go before summer break. The kids rightly butchered a couple partner songs and I led them astray on Here Comes the Sun. I do blame it on no rehearsals since last week, but that’s just how my schedule worked. I couldn’t have done anything to fix it. (Frankly, I am still shocked that I can speak into a microphone in front of hundreds of people without passing out. There are small and large miracles.)

After neglecting laundry folding and cooking for after school allergy shots and hand x-rays (the school nurse said, “have you looked at his hand?” I did—in passing in the hallway. It looked puffy was all. It was when she added, “lesser things have broken a hand in gym class,” that I took him to urgent care) I am ready to catch up on spring cleaning beginning tomorrow.

We did not blow away in our latest spring storms. The tornadoes went south and north of us even while the winds threatened to damage things. Our trampoline was already down last month so I was hoping we wouldn’t lose a tree or more than a barn door. The door that fell off a couple weeks ago will have to be rebuilt and we’re waiting on some Amish folks to cut us some thick wide planks with their saw mill.

I spray painted an old wind mill we found in the weeds. It will be the first colors in my back garden before the real stuff pops up. Joe picked sunflower colors (I probably would’ve picked pink or blue but I don’t argue with folks who run to Tractor Supply so I can stay home). For a couple days my spray finger muscles hurt.

I have in mind to write quite a bit this long weekend since I’ve been busier with school stuff than I’d like. If I could write I could think out the school issues better—I have a finish line in sight, something like 25 days left of instruction—but I don’t want to wait till the food gets cold, so to speak. So many thoughts on teaching, kids, attitudes, commonly held beliefs, culture. I gather all the opinions I can find and then I gnaw on the big chunks and piece together what I believe to be the best and worst of the experience.

Today was better than yesterday: yesterday I was looking up alternatives. All the things I’ve said unflinchingly like, “I’ll never do that” or “a person who cares should be willing to do this”—well, I waver, you know. And on top of this burden, I keep seeing all the schools in the state that also have position openings for elementary teachers…and it’s so critical. Kids are getting the short end and kids are our future. But then I know I can’t save all the kids and at this point I’m barely staying afloat for the ones I’ve got.

Wouldn’t it just be so simple to stay home and spray paint things and fiddle in the garden? And isn’t that what everyone wants and shoots for yet also murmurs flat “must be nice” sentiments if I were to be a stay-at-homer again?
In my current teaching world it’s fraught with strong feelings that no one keeps to themself even as some strive to make money (a pittance) and spend it on seasonal screen-printed t-shirts, manicures, spray tans and eating out. Yet this more boring existence (privileged, some call it, though I’ve never myself bought the t-shirts or had a spray tan or mani) is what turns out solid kids, I think—the moms and dads who are home, again and again, doing the mundane and meticulous parenting.

Veering into Average Pearl material here…I’ll save it for tomorrow.

Kodaly and how taunting helps kids sightread.

Over the long weekend I took a couple kids to the library’s used book sale. This is the first I’ve attempted, and I went for two reasons: I could get as many books as I wanted with my teaching ID and the middle boys are getting ready for a knowledge bowl tournament. It was a long, cold, dreary weather weekend and we had nothing better to do than study up. (Postscript: the kids each snagged medals, gold and silver. A success!)

Whenever I get weary of public school ways, I am consoled by the fact we read incessantly. I hope it covers a multitude. Our street smarts are definitely tuned up at public school but our k-bowl chops are home nursing books. Lu has been obsessed with Robinson Crusoe lately so I’ve had my eye out for other old goodies. He is strong where Jubal is not. They are really two halves to the same coin. Jubal memorizes the necessary trivia words (Pequod—Queequeg—Melville) but Lu internalizes the story. If you ask Lu for a brief synopsis of any book he will drone on about details till you politely distract him with a bag of potato chips. If anyone doubts, just mention the gae bolga or how he feels about Swiss Family Robinson novel versus the movie.
(Foy’s expertise is more in the mental math department and general war trivia. This doesn’t make for as good of a story.)

Anyway, I came across a Kodaly book and nabbed it because, though my music teaching days are short, I still am only sprinkle-immersed in this Hungarian-born approach to learning music.
I have tooled around on the Holy Names university folk song list but I didn’t completely understand where it came from or why it applies to anything elementary.

But the idea overall came, as I learned, from the pre-kinder work in Hungary in the early to mid 1900s. If educators could give children a brain inventory of hundreds of familiar folk tunes, they would be able to more easily transition to reading and sight reading music. Solfège—the idea of assigning a tone to a note (movable or non movable) would be accessible to kids who already chanted sing-song on the playground or jumped and clapped to rhythms.

The example that stuck out to me from this book was this:
Johnny is a sis-sy!

Also note: I am bigger than you are!

Ha! Right up my Kod-“alley” (can’t and won’t apologize). The method behind this music teaching madness is so basic, but the foundation relies on the simplest of refrains.
I’m not sure if the next music teacher will continue on with this sight reading training, but it’s been fun to watch the kiddos at school go from begrudgingly singing anything to playing solfège copycat games and singing in rounds. My first graders are especially great at it and are pretty good at hand signals, too.

March flowers: daffodils and grape hyacinth. There isn’t a happier pair.

I pulled out my big tub of dahlia tubers to see how they overwintered in the basement. Half had rotted; the other half were dry and peachy. I’d covered them with dry oak leaves and newspaper. I was pleasantly surprised they did ok overall. I’ve stuck the good tubers in some soil to see if I can get them to sprout early.

Some choppy thoughts—I look forward to the day when my brain isn’t overbooked and can wander more freely. We have a short Easter spring break and then one month left till school is out!

Leprechaun Habitats and Learning.

Last week as I led the kindergartners onto the stage for the first time, I expected them to be a little awestruck by the lights, the risers, the microphones. It was just a little rehearsal to get comfortable with the auditorium (and to learn the valuable lesson of not getting too close to the front of the stage).
I didn’t expect for a handful of them to gasp and offer, “it’s just like Papageno!”

They really loved that Mozart unit. We really went into the weeds when we studied it, lots of little rabbit trails over to Ben Franklin and his glass armonica and all the contemporary issues of the day; lice, hygiene, clean water, etc. We touched on Requiem and child prodigies, but we sank our teeth into the opera. It was Grieg, and now we have moved on to Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf) and Sant Saens (did I spell it right? Carnival of Animals). Dipping our toes here and there.

This is what makes me saddest about public school, if I’m being honest. Even the squirrelly kids are curious and have the desire, when little, to learn and love learning—that tangible, soak it up stuff. But we wean them right off of it by offering the tantalizing tablets and laptops and brain-chemistry-altering “tailored” education by way of standardized, computerized testing and diagnostics.

And then a whole new problem is created where a kid has an attention span of 0.4 seconds and must be “positively reinforced” by gaming tokens or cat stacking and insipid “brain breaks.” My six year old came home and told me they watch ASMR videos on YouTube to relax before they’re dismissed to the buses or car rider line. Are you kidding me?
No wonder classroom management is a joke and kids are ruder than ever. They’re used to calling the shots and are completely surprised when an adult erects boundaries, corrects them, or expects them to do anything that requires stamina or effort.

I do think the year I’ve spent teaching has been valuable to the students. Co-workers are asking why I am leaving and it makes me sad. I love the teaching part. In fact, to think I’ve gone to the work of meeting and making relationships with this many kids, let alone getting them to sing comfortably, simply by starting a song off (in the beginning they looked at me as if I had a third eyeball)—this is something I don’t want to shrivel up and die. But I cannot continue to teach at the level I’d like when the standards for behavior (parents included here) and the curricular approach are so opposed to what is natural.

Teachers who want to teach from their own fountain cannot follow the rules of school these days. We have to paint with a wider brush. We of the “painting” variety need time to plan and create and come up with our own flavor of passionate teaching.
Another way of saying this is: kids hate testing and aren’t learning better (I reckon it’s actually worse) by one-to-one devices.
Now that I’ve seen it from the inside and have the advantage of not being absolutely dependent on the job—I feel obligated to cross the bridge between teacher to administration and parent.

With the help (very little, come to think of it) of some sixth graders I made a leprechaun habitat/puppet stage for the little grades.

But first—St. Patrick’s Day! Ha. The kindergartners and first graders sang three songs (a One Bottle Pop/Fish and Chips/Don’t Chuck Your Muck round, Lucky Leprechaun, and All I Really Need—a Raffi classic) last Wednesday for a mini-concert during the day. I had no idea how difficult risers were to put up and take down. I’m already regretting I said I’d do another concert in April. But if we pull it off it will be epic. It’s a rain-themed bunch of songs and I’m hoping some high schoolers can accompany us for the CCR song.

High winds sent the trampoline into the woods. I think it’ll be our last tramp. We are lucky it got hurt before it hurt one of us. Many unsafe wrestling matches over the last seven years. RIP!

We are waiting out a freezing spell on Honey Creek. Flowers are covered; peas and beets and poppy seeds are at the mercy of the Creator. I’m not worried because it’s doubtful they germinated before the cold set in. We did get some seeds in the plastic trays. GK potted some flowers and tomatoes and put them in a recycled croissant container for a little bedroom greenhouse. I’m trying to force some ranunculus inside in a pot along with some allium and tulips just for kicks. The ranunculus love it; the other two are reluctant.

I love those packages that urge me to get a head start and sprout them inside 6-8 weeks before last frost. Even though I’m not the most faithful of indoor sowing and watering . It’s still nice to see something pop up.

At This Rate.

The girl had an inspiration. “Would Mrs. Kumlien like the very first fish I ever caught?”
“You should keep it for yourself,” Kumlien said, admiring the big, gleaming bass.
“But my mother would know I have been fishing.”
“Of course, how stupid of me,” the Professor said. “Yes, it would make Margretta very happy. We’ll eat the flesh of your fine fish. But I will skin it so carefully that I can mount it for you, Inga.”
“You mean it will look alive? All glistening like this forever?”
“Forever,” Professor Kumlien promised. “Absolutely forever.”
He had spent the morning mounting two passenger pigeons for Robbie. Now he would spend the rest of the day mounting Inga’s black bass. At this rate he would never lay up for himself treasures upon earth, but many were the treasures he would lay up for himself in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

The Wolfling,
Sterling North

We’ve made it to March. March! I do not care to bemoan Mondays or any season in particular, but it sure feels good to have only two full months of school left on the horizon.

I know the feeling of at this rate and never laying up treasure here upon the earth. It’s not that I even want the treasure, but I do like a clean(er) house and a tidy garden, and I’ve been trading it in for choir practices and running furiously. Maybe “running furiously” is overkill, but my work days are unrelenting and I’m not getting home with much oomph left to cook supper and do house stuff. I love teaching; let me say it again, but I also love being a mom and that second job is finite, with an approaching deadline.
(Here I feel the pull to defend myself, because it has been pointed out to me that to even have the option to not teach is out of reach for some folk, as if I just happened upon the good luck to not need an income. Which—I’d like to point out, for a long time we scraped by on one income and I’d do it again in a heartbeat because it taught us a million good lessons we would’ve never otherwise learned. One car, no cellphones, chopping and stacking wood for our winter heat, dinners of hot rolls and baked potatoes and stringy meat we could afford. Love, sacrifice, hope, dependency, generosity, long-suffering, kindness…yes, I recommend. God does bless those folk with all the blessings in the heavenlies)

On teaching: sometimes I feel the pinch of what I could do with my time to be more effective but it is too costly to fix myself in that direction. I have to really lean in and examine if I’m doing it to impress or please people or if I’m doing it just to be a decent, not lazy person. Heaven knows I’m not getting paid anymore for working harder. I can follow the state standards and draw up a perfect pacing guide AND have monthly performances AND afternoon/weekend choirs AND visit the nursing homes…and I can bust my tail doing it all.
We could busy ourselves to the point of not enjoying anything, and I know we are at the cusp.

Still, I really want the kids at school to have an excellent experience in music class and walk away with more than just a memory of some teacher forcing them to sing when they didn’t want to sing. (I’m a realist—this is exactly what the kids remember about the last qualified music teacher they had.) I enjoy being creative and working with the medium of children, even if they are doggone fickle and sometimes have terrible attitudes and self-control.

I’m slowly tricking the fifth graders (all of them) into singing an actual 2-part choral piece and I had no inkling this might happen. I just shrugged and tossed them each a piece of “Rattlin’ Bog” and said something evasive about how kids should have the experience of examining a real piece of music…maybe we should try to read it and see if we could follow it through to the end?
I can’t believe I have them tricked into doing exactly what I want! We’ve come a long way since Dona Nobis Pacem.
Next thing you know I’ve scheduled a concert for April.

Fourth grade recorders are back out because I signed up for MusicPlay Online and discovered the magic of experienced recorder teachers. Step one, teach B A G and have them “practice” by holding long notes for ten to twenty counts on each, thus wearing out the students before they annoy you with random tooting throughout the class.
I’ve also been explained the difference between Baroque and German recorders and successfully avoided F and explained why to the kids (different style recorders finger it differently).
I don’t have to print out music—all of the resources are already there. Highly recommend MusicPlay! We’re already playing DCBAGE in waltzes and 4/4 time. Watch out 5th grade band, we are coming in hot.

Sixth graders are still a random box of surprises. They are pretty poor music readers, so I’ve come up with a few games to examine rhythms and copy them (without making it feel like kindergarten clap alongs). My best idea lately has been to split them into small group and hand out cards with a rhythm which they have to translate into spoken words. Four sixteenth notes followed by a quarter note, rest, and paired eighth notes would be “peanutbutter-toast—sh—grape-juice” and so on. Once the small group can clap and say their measure, I assign a point and give them a new card to work on. Jolly Ranchers for the winners!

Their progress is behind even the fourth graders because they start out with such a poor learning attitude. I have to slowly win them over to my side. It is (eye-roll) ridiculous but sixth graders are consumed with the is-this-cool/this-can’t-be-cool riddle. This from large children with mullets. I know.
I do try and support their tender little misunderstanding souls by giving them the pick of the litter fun stuff when I can swing it.