Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Transcendentalism: An American Philosophy

Luke's American Adventures Trancenscendentalism: An American Philosophy

By the early 1800s, America was firmly established as a nation and began to form its own national culture. Transcendentalism emerged in New England as a criticism to the dominating intellectual and religious teachings of Puritan rooted schools and churches. Transcendentalism emphasizes intuition over doctrine and scientific study, values independence and self-reliance, and presents a new way of understanding truth and knowledge, focusing on the goodness inherent to all people and to the natural world. “Success through your own merit and work” was becoming an ideal part of the national American culture, and remains a defining characteristic of the “American Dream.”

Transcendentalism’s beginnings

Transcendentalists believe that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupt the purity of the individual. They have faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. Through intuition, logic, and imagination, men and women are equals who have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that "transcends", or goes beyond, what the five physical senses. Transcendentalism does not equal moral relativism, but rather is a way to understand one’s place in and connection to humanity and nature. A transcendentalist accepts these ideas not as religious beliefs - there is no preclusion to a belief in God - but as a way of understanding life relationships.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
If the Transcendental Movement had a founding father, then he was most certainly Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson only reluctantly adopted the role, mostly preferring to observe the action but not participate. He was a man of deep faith, despite experiencing numerous tragic events: his father died when he was eight years old, several siblings died during childhood, first wife died of tuberculosis after just two years of marriage, and the first child from his second marriage fell ill and died. These deep tragedies reformed Emerson’s world view. His faith in God remained unshaken, but eventually he found that he could no longer support the formal and regimented congregational religious structure, and resigned from Pastorship of Boston’s Second Church. Emerson spoke frequently in public about transcendentalism and abolitionism. At Harvard Divinity School’s 1836 Commencement, he delivered an oration that became the foundational document of New England Transcendentalism. In The American Scholar, Emerson beckoned for a new kind of spirit to take root in humanity, a spirit fueled by individualism, creativity, and a tireless work ethic, and that the idealized scholar was not “American” by accident but by action. He believed that God was not simple a nebulous person, but rather a part of everything in nature, and therefore all things were innately divine.

Henry David Thoreau
In sharp contrast to Emerson’s life at the front of lecture halls and churches is the reclusive lifestyle of Henry David Thoreau. Not content to simply write and lecture about the new way of thinking, Thoreau sought to live the transcendental life to its full potential. He spent two years living in a self-built cabin on Walden Pond (on land that belonged to Emerson). His goal was to simplify his existence, get back in tune with the natural world, and have more freedom to write and meditate. Thoreau would later recount his experience in Walden, also known as Life in the Woods. By far his most notable work, Walden is part autobiography and part theory essay. In it, Thoreau anticipates stream of consciousness narratives, while laying the foundation for later forms of social activism and naturalistic living. While living on Walden Pond, Thoreau was arrested and spent a night in jail for tax evasion. He argued that his political beliefs forbade him from supporting the government through taxes. The experience of his arrest served as the inspiration for an essay which would later be known as Civil Disobedience. In this essay, Thoreau outlines the justification and even the responsibility of citizens to peacefully resist the government’s power whenever that power reached too far.

Transcendentalism spreads across America 

John MuirThough Emerson and Thoreau are at the forefront of transcendental philosophy, their influence is seen on a number of their contemporaries. John Muir (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate for United States wilderness preservation. In nature, especially in the wilderness, Muir was able to study the plants and animals in an environment that he believed "came straight from the hand of God, uncorrupted by civilization and domestication.” After traveling to California, he petitioned Congress for the National Park Bill of 1890, establishing Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks and himself as "Father of the National Park Service". Amos Bronson Alcott (November 29, 1799 – March 4, 1888) was an American teacher, writer, philosopher, and reformer. As an educator, Alcott pioneered new ways of interacting with young students, focusing on a conversational style teaching and avoiding traditional punishment. Because his method was radically innovative, many parents could not comprehend the value of Alcott's methods and his schools often failed. Often criticized for his inability to earn a living and support his family, his family relied on loans from his brother-in-law and Emerson. Financial security came when his second second daughter, Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888), established herself as an author when she fictionalized her experience with the family in her novel Little Women in 1868.

Moving into the 20th century 

Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was influenced by Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known by his pseudonym, Dr. Seuss, highlights the relationship between self, others, and the universe in many of his works, including Oh The Places You’ll Go:
Oh The Places You'll Go
Transcendentalism even invades pop culture through the Star Wars franchise; the nebulous “Force” that is the connection with something greater within people highlights that “internal divine connection” that is a hallmark of transcendental theory.

“Success through your own merit and work” is the core ideal of Transcendentalism. Transcendentalists focus on the goodness inherent to all people and to the natural world, emphasizing intuition and valuing independence and self-reliance. They believe that everything is connected to both each other and God. Launched by the Declaration of Independence (“All men are created equal”) and propelled into James Trunslow Adams’ observation “with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement” of the American Dream, transcendentalism a truly American philosophy.

Image Credits:

Ralph Waldo Emerson - US Public Domain
Henry David Thoreau  - US Public Domain
John Muir - US Public Domain

©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Reinvented Submarine: The USS Albacore

R is for Reinvented: The USS Albacore Museum

During World War I and World War II, the submarine vessel came into its own.  Despite submarine units comprising less than two percent of the Navy, they were responsible for 55% of Japan's maritime losses during WWII.  At the time, submarines were considered "boats that were able to submerge."  After WWII and the development of nuclear power, the submarine boat became a true submersible that only occasionally surfaced.  In 1950, the Navy began to work on reinventing the submarine concept, building a boat that was built for speed and deftness in the water.  Over then next two years, shipbuilders worked on prototypes of different sizes and shape, often modeling the designs after aircraft and blimps.  Designed by engineers and shipbuilders at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the USS Albacore (AGSS 569) became the first submarine of its class.  One of its technological advances was its hydrodyamic shape.  Not only did it borrow the dynamic shape of aircraft, but also a similar tail for speed and stability. 

Over the next 22 years, the USS Albacore became the model for all nuclear submarines, and set a world record for submarine speed, topping 40 miles per hour in 1966.  In 1972, she needed more replacement parts than was economically wise, and was decomissioned, sent to dry dock at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.  Eventually the Navy decided the USS Albacore was not worth keeping, and in 1980, it was slated for destruction.  In response, a grassroots movement to bring the USS Albacore home to Portsmouth Harbor began.  The Portsmouth Submarine Memorial Association had explored establishing a museum honoring Portsmouth's shipbuilding tradition.  Advised they needed a real ship to be a centerpiece of the venture and finding the USS Albacore on the destruction list, they began to enquire about moving her back to her home of Portsmouth.  No public funds were available; the group had raise money to acquire a site, the purchase price of the submarine, and moving costs.  After a flurry of activity and approval signatures from both the Navy and President Ronald Reagan, the USS Albacore was released.

The USS Albacore that reinvented the US submarine fleet found itself the target of reinvention.  The Army agreed to take on the towing of the submarine as a training exercise.  After 70 hours and 575 miles of arduous transit through rough seas, the boat was now in Portsmouth Harbor.   After several setbacks, including having to dismantle a train trestle bridge, a four-lane highway, and building a canal, the submarine came to its final destination: Albacore Park.

USS Albacore

When we visited New England this summer, we had the opportunity to visit Albacore Park.  All of the kids were impressed when we pulled into the parking lot.  The ship is docked fully above ground, resting in a V-shaped concrete cradle.  For being a "small" submarine, she sure looked massive!

Our first stop was in the Visitor's Center to purchase tour tickets. Ticket prices are:
  • Adults $7
  • Children 7-17 - $3.00; Children under 7 - free
  • Active duty military - free
  • Retired military (20 years) - $4.00
  • Family - $14.00 (2 adults and 1 or 2 children under the age of 18; Each additional child - $1; Limit of 2 free children with the Family ticket.)
  • Group tour tickets (10 or more visitors) - Adults $6.00; Children 7-17 $2.75 
The gentleman running the register recommended the family package for us. Though we'd be paying for an extra adult admission, the $15 cost it would still be less than $18 for one adult and four children (Damien was free).  I wouldn't have thought to put the package together, but hey - three bucks is three bucks, and I definitely appreciated it.  Admission includes touring the boat, the Memorial Garden, and a small memorial museum behind the Visitor's Center. We were invited to test out the ship - lay on the bunks, work the controls, explore the galleys- and advised to mind our heads and steps.  Gathering everyone up, we headed for the submarine.

At several points outside and inside the submarine are audio tour stops.  They tell you about what you are viewing, along with a short commentary recorded by the men who helped build the USS Albacore.  At times it was difficult to hear (excited kids and nearby traffic sometimes drowned out the outdoor recordings), but they provided a nice mix of history and personal experiences.  We then walked along the boat to the fore entrance.

Mind our heads, indeed!  Getting through the door was an experience.  Luke went in first, and had to pull the little boys across the thresholds -- their legs were too short to easily climb through the doors.  As for me -- well, let's just say there isn't really a graceful way to get through them.

We found ourselves in the nose of the ship.  In the event of a catastrophe, the sailors would crowd into the area, seal off the rest of the boat, and await rescue.  When we entered the boat, there were only six of us (with only two adult-sized people) and it was incredibly tight quarters!  The USS Albacore could carry up to 18 or so between crew and observers - it's a good thing evacuation wasn't necessary.

Every possible millimeter of space was used!  Bunks were stacked three high - only Damien really fit in them!  I can't imagine being at sea for months on end and sleeping in them.  Luke tried to lay on one and asked "How on earth do you even roll over??"  The only places that really seemed "spacious" by comparison were the control and sonar rooms, with room for people to both work and get in and out of the area, and the mess hall.

submarine bunks
submarine control room

The control room was a dream playground for the little boys. Lots of wheels to turn, levers to flip  and buttons to push.

Damien had to be physically pulled away so that another family could take a turn!

We also got to look up through the periscope!  Pictures don't do the view justice - my camera only showed how bright the sky was that day, but looking in person, we could see out over the harbor.

There were two sections to the galley.  One was a small pantry area, and the other was a more open cooking space at the end of the mess hall.  The kids were intrigued by the backgammon and checker/chess boards built right into the table, and then realized it saved space - checkers fit in a small pouch, but a board takes up a lot more space!

 (Don't mind Damien - he's still not happy about being relieved of his command.)

Furthest aft was the engine room.  There were a lot of gears, knobs, and levers to play with there.  One side was partitioned off -- the part that housed live power for the museum.  (With curious little boys like mine -- definitely a good thing!)  To exit, one needed to climb over the engine (try not to clonk your head!) and then out onto the gangway.  As much as I enjoyed seeing the inside of the submarine, the claustrophobic in me was very happy to be outside.  Between the tight quarters and small crowd - there were a few families behind us still exploring, and several sailors headed down the sidewalk towards the gangways for a re-enlistment ceremony - it was getting crowded!

We headed inside to the museum in the back of the Visitor Center.  It housed some memorabilia, and a continuous loop video of the history of the museum. By then, the little boys were getting antsy, so we didn't really explore too much of it.  We went back outside to the Memorial Garden.  There were several small monuments to different groups.  First was a larger memorial topped by dolphin (the symbol of the submariner), dedicated to the the first Albacore submarine (USS Albacore SS218) , sunk in the WWII Japan theater.

uss albacore memorial

Three other memorials are dedicated to specific boats lost in combat or at sea, like this one for the USS Thresher.  The Thresher's demise directly led to the SUBSAFE certification program.  In the 48 years prior to implementation, 16 submarines were lost in non-combat missions.  In the 50 years since implementation, zero SUBSAFE certified craft has been lost. 

uss thresher memorial

A final memorial is dedicated to all of the submarines lost during World War II.

WWII submarines lost memorial

Visiting Albacore Park was a bit of a throw in on our trip -- our original destination was Kittery Point, Maine, just across the Piscataqua River.  We decided to take a literally half mile detour, and found a wonderful bit of history that is uniquely American - a submarine that was innovative when first created, and now reinvented for a new generation.

blogging through the alphabet sm.

©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Friday, August 29, 2014

Random 5 on Friday - August 29

It's Friday, it's Friday...are you doing the "Holiday Weekend Happy Dance" too?   Five Random thoughts on our week...

1.  I'm in the middle of organizing another giant "field trip."  My maid of honor and her husband are coming from Australia to visit in October - I'm so excited because we haven't seen each other in 14 years!! We've been doing schoolwork all summer so we can take the three weeks they are here off and cram in as much sightseeing as we can.  Jo and I were trying to figure out our routes, and Brendan kept adding new places to the itinerary.  When we figured out a Niagara Falls-Cleveland-Gettysburg loop, he yelled "What about the groundhog?  Can we go see Phil?"  I'm not sure we will see the Prognosticator of Prognosticators, but yes, we're going to detour and drive through Punxsutawney. 

2.  Jude went to the eye doctor, and needs a major prescription change. He was disappointed the eyeglass shop didn't have the same red, white, and blue "Captain America" frames.  (They're not really "official" ones - just how we sold them to him last winter when his favorite "just blue" were not available.)  He is very happy with the black-framed "Clark Kent" glasses we ordered.  Once he starts wearing them, nobody will know he's really Superman. 

3.  I am so looking forward to Celia going back to school.  She needs her friends, and we all need a routine.  I'm such a fly-by-my pants girl that it's crazy to me that I'm craving organization.  It's been chaos since June. 

4. Neal sometimes bring produce home from work - usually it's stuff that is perfect for eating but too ripe to sell to market. He texted me and said somebody gave them some pineapple.  I didn't realize New Jersey switched places with Hawaii, but I'm OK with that!  (It's not local, but it's still yummy!)

5.  A conversation in our house:

Damien: I'm out of underwear.
Me: I know it's been washed!  Check with Jude - maybe your stuff is in his drawer.
Damien: Jude! Give me your underwear!
Jude: Mom, do I have to? I'm not giving him my favorite Power Ranger underpants. 

Happy Friday!  Come join the fun at The Pebble Pond!

The Pebble Pond

©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Essential Skills Advantage (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

While it is new to the homeschooling scene, Essential Skills Advantage has been providing a language arts supplemental program to  school systems for over ten years. The eponymous Essential Skills Advantage online language arts program is for homechooled and co-schooled children in kindergarten through sixth grade.  While most language arts program on individual language components (phonics vs. sight words, grammar vs. reading vs. spelling), ESA combines all of these into a comprehensive web-based curriculum. 

Jude now wants to learn to read - in the past, having no real motivation to learn may have been a hurdle, but now, he begs me daily, "Mommy, I want to be a genius, teach me how to read!"  And yes, my heart breaks a little every day because it's just not clicking for him. I've lost track of how many language programs we've done with Jude, and have felt "Hey, this is working!" only to get a little further in and hit a wall.  When we applied for this program with the Crew, we were asked to rate our interest level on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being "Please pick me and I'll send you chocolate!" and 5 being "Please, no...my head will explode if I have to do one more thing right this moment!"  I averaged out my interest level to a 2, with the following note:
Part of me wants to say "YES!! Pick me, I'm desperate, and maybe this will be the moment and program and planetary alignment that clicks and works for Jude!"  Part of me wants to say "I'm so disgusted at how many wheels we are spinning,  and nothing is truly working, I quit and my interest level is 'when cheeseburgers fly.'"  On the flip side, that's not fair to him, and of course I'm not giving up on him.  What we'll do if we don't get chosen...I don't know, we'll figure it out.  If we do get picked, it will save me from having to make a choice and we'll give it everything he's got and see what we can make of it.
Obviously, the Crew leaders decided to give Jude the opportunity to try and added us to the review, so we gave it our best shot.  I'll admit that it's been slow going at times, because sometimes it's take us two or three (or six!) tries to complete an activity proficiently, but we're working our way through.  Jude's confidence is slowly growing, and towards the end of the six-week review period, he was starting to want to do more, because it's not so impossible now.

I like that while the program encompasses many levels and activities, they are all available simultaneously.  To start the program, the parent logs into their account, and then the parent or student chooses the program to be worked on, logging the student in after choosing.  I like this because if a student is working at multiple levels - perhaps a 4th grade reader needs some extra help spelling and drops back to 3rd grade for that - you can mix and match to get a better fit for the child, rather than being locked into a single level.

 Here's a little touch that impressed me.  Most programs will switch hide your password by changing characters to asterisks.  For security, I see the value.  However, it makes it very difficult for a child to be independent because remembering a sequence or even just hitting the correct keys can be tough.  With ESA, the main level of account security is in the parent login; the student's password remains visible until the child clicks to log in, making independent use a little bit easier.

Although Jude is officially a second grader, his language skills are still far behind (3rd-6th percentiles) so we started at the very beginning - Kindergarten. I wanted to see what his skills were compared to the expectations of the program. I have to say, I was impressed at how the program was arranged at that level.

It's very clearly laid out, with short areas to work on.  Because I was trying to assess Jude's skills (we haven't done a formal reading program since last August), we worked on one area at a time.  ESA is meant to be used more as a supplemental program rather than a full curriculum, so if you were working on reading skills in "real time" you could skip around to reinforce a particular skill you were working on.

Some of the skills that Jude worked on:

Here Jude was working on what appears to be the same skill - discriminating same or different - from different perspectives. In one, he has to determine if the two pictures are the same or not; in the second activity, he knows there is a difference and he needs to find it. The activities at the beginning of the task were easier and more overt, while as the activity progressed they became increasingly difficult. Having the easy ones first helped him build confidence - something that he really doesn't have with language skills.

One majorly challenging activity was listening to words to determine if they rhymed.  When we started this one, Jude really struggled with the concept of rhyming.  We needed to detour a little bit to find some other methods of learning what  rhyme was, and then we came back to the program to practice listening for rhymes.  Among the activities we did was watch this Sesame Street video, and he has since fallen in love with Grover and the Blue Guy.  I love it too...no reason, just rhyme!!

When we started working on ESA, sometimes it was tough to get him started, but with the promise of getting to watch one "Grover and Blue Guy movie" when he's done his work, he's willing to get down to business. (Sometimes, he even has fun doing the work and forgets about the video unless I remind him!)

After the student logs in, a "white noise" of chirping crickets and birds turns on, and remains on during the activities.  There have been a number of studies that show white noise is beneficial for focusing and memory.  I can't prove or deny their claims, but I will say that it was very frustrating  for Jude to have to isolate speech sounds from white noise.  There is no way to turn off the white noise without turning your computer speakers off - which then means the auditory program doesn't work. It would be really great if there was a way to turn it down and make it more "background" and less of a big muddle.

Matching a sample word from a selection.  This was hard for him to read across - we wound up taking a piece of paper and covering the choices below the one we were working on to help him better isolate the specific matches.

For the student who likes to check his progress, there are several tangible rewards.  First is an end-of-activity star (and in the program, the little puppy dances to a few bars of music).

Second, there is a "star chart" so the student can check his progress.  Jude liked having all of his stars lined up at the top, and would often retry an activity to better his score and move a star up into the "right" place.

Both of these are on-screen rewards. For the student who likes a certificate to hang on the refrigerator, there are downloadable/printable section proficiency certificates available through the parent account. 

Damien (PK4) also tried the program.  At first, he did well with non-written activities - identifying colors, shapes, animals, etc., but some of the more letter-based activities were too hard for him. In exchange for the review, I received a full year's subscription for each child, but normally subscriptions cost $9.95/child, payable monthly.  Having a year's subscription for him, I'm not concerned that he was only able to do a few activities here and there, and will probably be six months before he is ready for more, and I definitely plan to go back to it with him.  However, I would be very frustrated if I was paying on a monthly basis for him to use here and there.  Under normal circumstances, I would wait until he was in Kindergarten fully so that he could use the program more consistently (even if a bit of it was more "review" task than new learning.)

NOTE: The first 14 days of a membership are a free trial, and you may cancel at any point during that time at no charge. Essential Skills Advantage is currently offering a coupon code -TOS50 through OCTOBER 1, 2014, good for a 50% discount. This discount will apply as long as you are a member and will reduce the monthly fee to $4.99 per student. There is also a sponsored version of the site available at  ESA Learning.

9/1/2014 Clarification: The sponsored version of the program is the same as the paid program.  The difference is the sponsor's landing page contains ads (not the student program itself), as does the weekly newsletter.

Celia also worked on this one - she gave grades 4 and 5 a workout.  For a summer program, it was perfect - a little reading, a little spelling, and nothing overly strenuous for her.  I felt the reading passages were age appropriate, and with appropriate support with pronunciation where words were particularly tricky.  Though there are activities from comprehension to parts of speech with the passages, I think at this level, it is definitely only a supplemental program.  If I was using it as a homeschool program for her, I would probably use it as a "between books" filler. 

Overall, I'm really pleased with the program.  The sequence of activities in each level feels developmentally sound.  We've had more visits and test sessions with our developmental specialist than I care to count, and this program's sequence is very much like the testing that she does each time we visit, especially in the auditory skills areas (Jude's area of weakness and most frequently assessed area).  I'm not sure how much Celia will work on it now that school is starting back up, but we will definitely be continuing with it into the fall with Jude.  Looking ahead at the First Grade activities, I think he will be able to do a number of them at the beginning.  Some early ones appear to almost be reviews of Kindergarten activities and then progress in difficulty, repeating the same sequence of confidence first, challenge second. For my struggling reader, that alone makes the program worthwhile to me, because he needs that confidence boost to keep on trying. Is the the silver bullet for him? I don't know.  But he likes it, he wants to work on it, and he's starting to come around to the idea that maybe he can do "Reading" after all, and to me, that's priceless.

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©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Antebellum Words of Change

Luke's American Adventures: Antebellum Words of Change

People often say "It is what it is; I can’t change anything.” However, this is untrue. One person can make an extraordinary effort and effect change. Many historical figures that lived during America’s antebellum period impacted American society. Three of these people were poetess Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, author Noah Webster, and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death Emily Dickinson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts to Edward Dickenson and Emily Norcross. Emily and her two siblings, elder brother William Austin (1829–1895) and younger sister Lavinia Norcross (1833–1899), had deep roots in the New England states; two hundred years before, their patrilineal ancestors had landed in America during the Great Puritan Migration. Her paternal grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, was the founder of Amherst Academy (now Amherst College), and Emily’s father served as their treasurer for nearly forty years. Following in the “family business,” on September 7, 1840, Emily and her sister Lavinia started together at Amherst Academy. Emily spent seven years at the Academy, taking classes in English and classical literature, Latin, botany, geology, history, "mental philosophy," and arithmetic. These courses would be inspiration for her poetic themes.

In Emily's teen years, a wave of religious revivals moved through New England. One by one, her friends and family members made a public profession that a belief in Christ that was necessary to become a full member of the church. Although she agonized over her relationship to God, Emily ultimately did not join the Congregationalists -- not out of defiance, but in order to remain true to herself, saying "I feel that the world holds a predominant place in my affections. I do not feel that I could give up all for Christ, were I called to die."(1) By 1868, Emily stopped attending public worship services completely.

Emily began her writing career as a teenager, writing nearly 1800 poems as an adult. She had many influences: Amherst Academy’s principal Leonard Humphrey, family friend Benjamin Franklin Newton, and poet William Wordsworth. Many of her poems had underlying themes of sadness and death, likely due to a combination of agoraphobia, anxiety and depression, and spending much of her adult life as the primary caregiver for her ailing mother. By including these themes in many of her poems, rather than extolling “Godly” virtues, she became part of the Transcendentalist movement, rebelling against the Puritan ideals her family tried to instill in her. Though her writing was prolific, her published repertoire was minimal: only seven of her poems were published before her death from kidney disease on May 15, 1886. After her sister's death, Lavinia discovered the hundreds of her poems in notebooks that Emily had filled over the years. The first volume of these poems was published in 1890, and a full compilation of Emily’s poems, titled The Poems of Emily Dickinson, was finally published in 1955.

Noah Webster

Noah Webster was born on October 16, 1758 in the West Division of Hartford, Connecticut (now West Hartford). Noah grew up in an average colonial family - his father was a farmer and weaver. At the time, usually only wealthy sons were able to attend college, but Noah craved an education so much that his parents sent him to Yale, Connecticut's first college, in 1774. He wanted to continue on and study law, but his parents could not afford to give him more money for school. Noah decided if he could not attend school as a student, he would become a teacher.

Noah Webster !828 American Dictionairy
Webster soon realized the American education system needed to be updated. One-room schools housed students of all ages, but no desks; the few textbooks the schools possessed were from England. Noah believed that Americans should learn from American primers, so in 1783, he wrote one, titled A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. It earned its nickname, the "Blue-Backed Speller", because of its characteristic blue cover. For over 100 years, over 100 million copies of the the Blue-Backed Speller taught children to read, spell and pronounce words. In his dictionary, Webster used new American spellings like "color" instead of the English "colour," and "music" instead of "musick". He also added American words that were not in English dictionaries like "skunk" and "squash." His first edition, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, was published in 1806. This book offered brief definitions of about 37,000 words. It took him 22 more years to finish his American Dictionary of the English Language. When he finished in 1828, at the age of 70, Noah's dictionary defined over 65,000 words, all written by hand with quill and ink. Noah died on May 28, 1843, in New Haven, Connecticut.

Sojourner Truth 

Born Isabella Baumfree in ca.1797, Sojourner Truth was one of ten or twelve children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree. (Historians cannot verify the exact number.) James Baumfree was an African captured from the Gold Coast in modern-day Ghana. Elizabeth, known as Mau-Mau Bett or Betsy, was the daughter of enslaved Africans from the Coast of Guinea. Both were the property of Colonel Hardenbergh, and they lived at his estate north of New York City. Throughout her life, Isabella was owned by four different masters: Colonel Hardenbergh, his son Charles Hardenbergh, John Neely (who would beat her daily), and John Dumont. She became the “wife” of an older slave named Thomas (by law, it was illegal for slaves to be officially wed), and bore five children: James (date unknown), Diana (1815), Peter (1821), Elizabeth (1825), and Sophia (ca.1826).

Although the process of emancipating New York slaves was not complete until July 4, 1827, New York state began to legislate the abolition of slavery in 1799. Dumont had promised to grant Isabella her freedom a year before the state emancipation, "...if she would do well and be faithful."(2) When it was time to release her, he reneged on the agreement, claiming a hand injury had made her less productive. Furious, Isabella continued working, defiantly spinning 100 pounds of wool to prove his untruth. Late in 1826, she and her infant daughter, Sophia, escaped to freedom. She had to leave her other children behind because they were not legally free; under the emancipation order, they had to serve as bound servants into their twenties. She found her way to the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, who housed the pair. Isaac offered Dumont $20 to buy Isabella’s services for the remainder of the year (until the state's emancipation took effect). Isabella soon learned that Dumont had illegally sold her five-year-old son Peter to an abusive slavemaster in Alabama. With the help of the Van Wagenens, she became the first black woman to win a court case against a white man.

Sojourner Truth I am glad to see that men are getting their rights, but I want women to get theirs, and while the water is stirring I will step into the pool.

On June 1, 1843, Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth and told her friends: "The Spirit calls me, and I must go."(2) She became a Methodist, and made her way traveling and preaching about the abolition of slavery. She traveled about the nation, preaching about the equality of all people, regardless of race, sex, or ethnicity. In 1851, Truth joined George Thompson, an abolitionist and speaker, on a lecture tour through central and western New York State. In May, she attended the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio where she delivered her famous extemporaneous speech on women's rights, later known as Ain't I a Woman. She would continue to pursue equality of all people for the rest of her life. Truth died on November 26, 1883, at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, and more than 3,000 people crowded into the Battle Creek Tabernacle to pay their last respects to this early civil rights’ heroine.

These three prove that one person can make a profound change in the culture of a nation. Emily Dickinson’s poetry changed American literature and ushered in a new era of philosophical thought. Noah Webster reformed American education, allowing American children to learn about their country from American primers and dictionaries. Sojourner Truth convinced millions that everyone - white or black, male or female - was entitled to honest treatment and equal rights. These three Americans made a difference in the world around them. Follow in their footsteps, and change the course of America for the better.

Quote sources:

(1) https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/church
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth

Image Credits:

Emily Dickinson - photograph by William C. North c. 1847 US Public Domain
Noah Webster - Detail of portrait of Noah Webster by James Herring. US Public Domain
Sojourner Truth Olive Gilbert. c. 1828. Boston: Printed for the author, 1850. US Public Domain
Webster’s Dictionary By Noah Webster. US Public Domain

©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Make Way For Jude: Visiting Boston Public Garden

Make Way for Ducklings Boston Public Garden

I originally was going to New England to meet with a friend who had a too-large-to-mail gift, but then decided to make a whirlwhind three-day field trip of it.  The kids and I all piled in the car and headed north.  On the first day, we drove to Massachusetts to meet with my friend.  Day Two was a ride up to New Hampshire and Maine (that's another post!), and we decided to spend the third day in Boston, driving home in the evening rather than going directly home.  Of course, we planned to tour several historical sites on the Freedom Trail, but our first destination was the Boston Public Gardens to visit the statues of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings.

Make Way for Ducklings
Have you ever read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey?  It's a delightful children's story about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard raising their young brood of ducklings in Boston.  Before our trip to Boston last week, Jude and I read the book (purchased as a souvenir on a previous trip to Boston) and began working on a lapbook from Homeschool Share.  There are several lapbooks available online (Hands of a Child and Five in a Row have popular ones), but I chose this one because it contains activities about Boston itself, and well...the price was right (it's free!).

Jude really enjoyed the book.  The large pictures combined with short text worked for him -- which is fantastic, because usually he struggles with static pictures not showing "enough" for all that the text is relaying.  Having the text short and easily interpreted with the text kept his interested.  McCloskey once called himself "an artist writing children's books," and it's clear that the text is there to support the visual, not the other way around - a definite plus for Jude! 

When we were done reading, he started working on the lapbook.  We got the first two sections done before our trip (we'll finish the rest this week).  First was a section about Boston history, and second was alphabetizing the ducklings.  With a little effort, Jude was able to isolate the initial sounds and put the ducks in order - Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.  With a little help isolating the words from the book (a piece of scrap paper with a cut out window), Jude even was able to read the names!

taking the T to Make Way for Ducklings
When we entered Boston, we came from the north (our hotel was in Andover) and parked at North Station (under the TD (Boston) Gardens).  Our route brought us over the Charles River and when I announced we were crossing over it, Jude started looking downstream for the Mallards' island.  Going to the Public Gardens excited him, because it was no longer "someplace mentioned in a book," but a real, live place he could explore himself.  Our route took us first underground on the T (green line from North Station to Park Street Station), then across the Boston Commons and into the Boston Public Garden at Boyle and Charles Streets.   (We could have remained on the T one more stop, to Boyle Street, but opted to get off a stop early so we could also pass by the Frog and Turtle Pond in the Commons.)  The ducklings are only a few feet inside the garden - once you come through the gates, listen for the cacophony of excited children just ahead to your left.

Mrs. Mallard

 "Make Way for Ducklings" statues is as much a Boston attraction as the Old North Church.  Placed there in 1987, these bronze statues are like a magnet for young children.  They come to "pet" the ducks, and to sit and play on and around them.   It's child-sized - Mrs. Mallard is less than three feet tall, and the ducklings only about a foot high - and there are no "Don't Touch Me!" signs.  Having read the book just before we went, Jude remembered all the ducklings' names, and as he walked down the row, patted each on the head and named them.

R-L Jack Kack Lack Mack (and Jude)  Nack

Celia and Damien were excited to play on the ducks as well.

Jude couldn't read the entire plaque over near Pack and Quack, but he did proudly announce the year it was placed: 1987! 

We then walked around the park for a bit on our way to our next stop.  We passed by the duck pond, and saw many ducks and the center island where the Mallards made their home.   While we didn't get close enough to touch the ducks, they are very used to people and allowed us to come within a foot or so of them.  Many of them were still sleeping, oblivious to the noise around them.

Duck Pond Boston Public Garden

 We also saw a Swan Boat go by.  (Nobody was tossing the ducks peanuts, though.)

Swan Boat Boston Public Garden

 Now that we are home, we'll finish the rest of our lap book, as well as explore a bit more about ducks.  You can see some of the ideas we have lined up on my Pinterest board.


Jude was so excited to see Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings, and the Boston Public Garden. It really brought the book to life for him (I think he was disappointed we didn't see any policemen nearby holding up traffic for crossing ducklings).  If you're ever in Boston, make sure to take time to visit the gardens and Robert McCloskey's little ducks.


©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com
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