Monday, 28 February 2011

POEM ~ Martin Luther King ~ By: Myra Cohn Livingston

Image from
 Reorganizing the "library box" today, I took a moment to leaf through "The Random House Book of Poetry for Children:  A Treasury of 572 Poems for Today's Child."   A poem titled "Martin Luther King" caught my eye:

Martin Luther King

Got me a special place
For Martin Luther King,
His picture on the wall
Makes me sing.

I look at it for a long time
And think of some
Real good ways
We will overcome.

   ~ Myra Colin Livingston

For many thought provoking quotes by Dr. King, check out Tim Milburn's website and his post titled "Martin Luther King Jr. Said...."  It was originally posted for Martin Luther King Day in 2010.

Encouragement ~ An Apple For The Teacher....

Photo ~
Sorting through a stack of papers today, I came across a little rectangle of bright red paper with a four line poem printed on it.  When I saw it, I remembered the encouragement the words had been to me, back at the beginning of the school year.

Written on the paper, in extra large letters were these words:

An Apple for the teacher
Is really nothing new
Except when you remember
Parents are teachers too!

To complete the theme, the slip of paper was inside a plastic sandwich baggie, with (of course) a big red apple!  Ms. Weekes, Isobel's Kindergarten teacher (who has recently become Mrs. Winsor!), kindly gave one of these to each parent of her new students.

I was especially touched because, although I realized that the words were true for everyone (and each of our youngsters had developed and learned many things since birth), ~ they were even more appropriate for me.  I was taking on the role as Alisdair's full-time teacher and, at the time, I didn't fully comprehend the magnitude of that responsibility!

Although the paper can be put into the recycling box, the vital encouragement it gave will remain with me in the days and weeks to come.

Perhaps you know a homeschooling Mum that might need a boost.  Maybe this poem and a crunchy apple is just the encouragement the Doctor ordered! 

REFLECTIONS ~ A Rose By Any Other Name....

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;"
~ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1600

I received a lovely long-stemmed rose on Valentine's Day.  It was a surprise ~ and it did not come from a secret admirer or from my husband.

Photo from
The pretty flower was a special gift from my own son, Alisdair!  He'd gone to the grocery store, to buy a treat for himself, and saw the single roses on a table near the cash register.  Normally there aren't any flowers in the little store, but since it was Valentine's Day, they had brought a selection in for last minute purchase by the men of the community who may have forgotten to plan ahead!

So, Alisdair counted his change, and realizing he would be a little short, went to the bank and took out enough to cover the impulsive purchase. (The only problem was, he forgot to figure the sales tax into the equation!)  When he got back to the grocery store, cash in hand, he discovered his folly.  Luckily, (for both myself, and the excited purchaser), his Dad also just happened to be shopping and when he heard about his son's financial difficulty, he stumped up some change to cover the shortfall!

When Alisdair arrived home, I was stunned!  It was definitely a surprise .... the kind that warms the heart on a cold Winter's day!    

LETTERS - Valentine Fairy Visits Local Paper Boy!

A few days before Valentine's Day, Alisdair was all smiles when he got back into the car after delivering one of his papers.

"She asked me how to spell my name," he told me.  "And she hinted that I might get a visit from the Valentine fairy!"

We laughed and finished the route.  I, at least, had forgotten about the possible pending visit from the February fairy.

But on Valentine's Day, when we arrived at the residence, Alisdair found a business-sized white envelope taped to the mailbox.  On the outside it said, "For the Paper Guys."  He jumped into the vehicle and hastily ripped it open.  Inside were three smaller envelopes, each containing an old-fashioned cut-out Valentine card and a five dollar bill, addressed to Alisdair, Isobel and myself!  This was definitely a "Random Act of Kindness!"

While this would have been a delightful surprise, at any time, it was especially touching because the couple who left it, had suffered the shock of losing their brother/brother-in-law from a massive heart attack the night before.  He had been eating his Sunday evening meal, at the local Chinese restaurant, and slumped over and was gone ~ just that suddenly!

So, before he left for his stay at Grandma and Grandpa's house, Alisdair made a thank you card for the kindly couple and we left it in their mailbox with the paper, on our way out of town.

The hand made card Alisdair left...

LETTERS - Isobel's Card for Ruby Bridges ~ "It's good you prayed."

After Alisdair and I were finished with it, I read Isobel the touching picture book, "The Story of Ruby Bridges" (see previous blog post).

She was very moved by the true story of how Ruby prayed for those who protested outside her school and yelled angry things at her.  When she saw the address for The Ruby Bridges Foundation, at the end of the book, she immediately said she wanted to "write to Ruby."

So yesterday, when Alisdair was at Grandma and Grandpa's and John was at work, she asked to "make Ruby a card."

The first thing she wrote (after I folded the paper) was:  "I love you Ruby BRidGEs."

Card ~ Front
Then she began painstakingly printing the message inside - asking me how to spell each word:

"To Ruby  How is youR DAy?"

Since the salutation took up most of the first page, (and she had a lot she wanted to say), Isobel handed me the pencil and began to dictate:

"My Mum read your story to me.  I liked it in your story when you helped the white people.  It's good you prayed.  I love Jesus and you love Jesus.  We're just like friends but stuck apart.  But you are bigger and I am only small.  And I am only 5 as you can see on my writing.  That is Kindergarten writing and sometimes we do super bigger than you can see.  I am Isobel.  Here is a picture of me.  I love you, Sincerely," and then she signed her own name, and drew a picture of an orange cat at the bottom of the page.

Card ~ Inside

The card is so sweet that I would love to keep it. but I am sure Ruby would enjoy receiving it, so I will put it in the mail later today.

God bless Isobel ... and God bless Ruby Bridges!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

CURRENT EVENTS ~ Saskatchewan Premier Visits Buckingham Palace

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall meets with Queen Elizabeth on
 February 25, 2011, in Buckingham Palace during a visit to London.
Photograph Courtesy Government of Saskatchewan, handout
It was Alisdair's turn to go to Grandpa and Grandma's house yesterday, so I took him to Cut Knife where we met Mum and Dad.  Isobel had been staying there since Sunday, so we swapped kids and came back home.

We had only delivered a couple newspapers before we left, so Isobel was sitting in the front of the car as I drove from house to house.  I held up the Star-Phoenix and showed her the picture that was plastered across the front page.  (See top of post).

"Do you recognize anyone in this picture?"  I asked her.

She thought for a moment and then asked, "Is it Grandma?"

I laughed and said, "No, it's the Queen!!"

"Oh," she said.  "It's hard to tell because they both have grey hair and almost the same hairstyle!

... So take a brief moment, to pay homage to Her Royal Highness, Queen Trudy the First .... or Grandma for short!!


The article that accompanied the photograph was as follows:

"REGINA - From the Royal family to foreign investors - they're all getting invitations to Saskatchewan.  In a telephone news conference from London, where he's on a trade promotion visit, Premier Brad Wall said Friday he used a brief meeting with Queen Elizabeth II to invite members of the Royal family to Saskatchewan next year for the 100th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building - opened 99 years ago by the great-uncle of the Queen, the Duke of Connaught.

But the bulk of Wall's remarks dealt with meetings with senior executives and potential investors ranging from hedge funds to major Canadian and 'offshore' banks to an association of venture capitalists.

'This is a market we need to be engaged in because of the amount of capital that's here,' he said.

Wall said his meeting with Andrew Mackenzie, BHP Billiton's chief executive for nonferrous minerals - their first face-to-face-meeting since provincial resistance stopped the giant mining firm's offer to take over Saskatoon-based PotashCorp - was 'very, very good.'

'There's no hard feelings at all as a result of it,' said Wall, adding that BHP's continued work on a proposed potash mine at Jansen Lake in central Saskatchewan is proof of this.

'I'd characterize the relationship as very, very strong, notwithstanding what happened this fall.'  Wall said the takeover controversy paid an unexpected dividend by 'opening the door for us' to get Saskatchewan's story out to investors either unfamiliar with the province or puzzled at its decision to oppose the PotashCorp takeover.

Asked if Saskatchewan's image had been damaged by the controversy, Wall said, 'it really hasn't', adding some London investment exectives told him 'they weren't surprised' by the federal government's decision to turn down the BHP Billiton proposal.

The premier, for his part, said he was trying to get across the message that it is 'important for people to understand this is a very unique deal because of the size of the resource.'

'I think that message was received.'

Wall said no firm investment proposals came forward Friday, but added that, 'we didn't expect any'.  'Most of them were 'first contacts' that we made.  There was a lot of surprise when I mentioned all of the products that we make in a unique way.'

Wall said he was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Britain's Financial Times and Bloomberg financial news service, which reported Friday that Wall indicated a BHP Billiton offer for potash miner Mosaic would be unlikely to trigger a review like the PotashCorp one.

Wall said protocol forbids him from giving many details of his conversation with the Queen, but mentioned he presented a fused-glass work of art depicting the Saskatchewan Legislative Building from Sisters Stepping Stones and Glass Studio, a Regina studio run by sisters Janice Stefan and Debbie Wells, plus three children's books by Regina-raised singer-writer Connie Kaldor.

The premier, who is to return home Sunday, said he plans to accompany Saskatchewan business leaders on a trade promotion trip in March to India - 44 per cent of whose imports from Canada come from Saskatchewan.

'We need to be engaged in these places because it means jobs and investment back home in Saskatchewan.'

Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post"


Incidentally, Alisdair has toured the Legislative Building twice - once in the Summer of 2005 and again during the Summer of 2010, when his Scottish grandparents took him to Regina for a few days.  If you haven't been there yet, it is well worth the trip!  Don't forget to take along some bread to feed the Canada Geese in Wascana Park!

It is also an interesting coincidence that 'Andrew Mackenzie' was the name of Alisdair's Great-Grandfather on the Mackenzie side.  Of course Grandpa was 'promoted to glory' several years ago, and wasn't the gentlemen in the meeting with the Premier!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island ~ By: Ellen Levine

By:  Ellen Levine
It was cold outside last night.  Isobel was at Grandpa and Grandmas, and John was working, so Alisdair and I were home alone.  I'm glad we took the opportunity to "curl up with a good book!"

Alisdair had enjoyed Ellen Levine's book, "If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King..." and so he wanted to read another title from the series.  Of the many available through inter-library loans, Alisdair chose "If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island...."

Although Ellis Island, in the New York Harbor, was where American immigrants were processed (and doesn't really apply to Canadians), I explained to Alisdair that the experience was probably similar to what went on in Halifax at Pier 21.  I also told him about how his own Great-Grandfather, Colin Henry Ramsay, came through Pier 21 when he left England and made Canada his home in the early 1900's.  My parents were able to go to Pier 21 last fall, while on holiday in the Maritimes, and they were able to search the records for information regarding the ship my Grandfather arrived on, and were able to obtain other information regarding his immigration, and that of a Great Uncle.

When I asked Alisdair if he knew any immigrants, he had to think for a while.  Then he asked tentatively, "Is Daddy an immigrant??!"  I answered in the affirmative, as his Father came to Canada in May of 1994, from Scotland.  He, too, was looking for a better life - and not just for himself, but also for any children we might have.  Although Gordon has been here ever since, he is not yet an official Canadian citizen.

Discussion about his Father's decision to move to Canada, brought up the point that immigration is not a thing of the past but it is still happening today.  There are other immigrants in our village, too  ~ the most recent ones are several industrious Filipino families that came to work in the now-defunct hog barns.  When the barns closed down, they found other employment.  These families have learned English, their children attend the local school, and they are fully integrated into the community.

Reading Levine's book, with its question and answer format, also brought up the topic of the Statue of Liberty and the poem, "The New Colossus," composed by Emma Lazarus in 1883, and engraved on the base of the pedestal. 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A might woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I have always appreciated the line "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." These powerful words were "brought home to me" when Gordon and I decided to leave Scotland (where we had married) to come to live in my native Canada.  Others, who lived in the rugged housing scheme where we resided, at the time, did not have the option to emigrate available to them.  I was grateful we had "a way out" and didn't have to stay in that particular area, as there were serious problems with drugs and gangs in the immediate vicinity.

A reviewer for Publishers Weekly says Levine's book "offers a comprehensive, well organized discussion of the immigration procedures followed at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1914.   One-or-two page chapters offer concise answers to questions ("What did people bring with them?'; "What happened if you were detained?"; "How did people learn English?"), enabling youngsters to digest easily a significant amount of information. Facts about the many rigorous routines and tests (medical, legal, literacy) that new arrivals endured are peppered with the intriguing personal reminiscences of individuals who lived through them."

Ellis Island Processing
Photo - Housecallsin
"It's also evident that there's been long-standing prejudice against certain immigrants (ability to read was required for entrance, and first and second class arrivals didn't have to sweat it out at Ellis Island). Perhaps most interesting here are the individual stories: the name change in the author's own family [Levine's grandfather, Louis Nachimovsky, had his surname changed to Levine at Ellis Island]; the child who had never seen a banana and ate it whole [peel and all!]; and the "six-second'' medical exam [doctors watched immigrants as they climbed the stairs to the Great Hall.  They were looking for signs of any imperfection.]," notes an article from Kirkus Reviews.

Reading "If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island" gave me a newfound appreciation for the struggles faced, and the sacrifices made, by the immigrants of yesteryear.  While it is still difficult to leave everything you know, and all those you love, to begin a new life in another country, at least now there are increased opportunities to return to your homeland.  You can send faxes and letters - or even emails.  You can send "instant messages while on chat" or see one another over Skype.  You can talk on the telephone very reasonably (currently 3 cents per minute for the UK).  And, in the case of a family emergency, most people can use their credit card and be back with their loved ones with little delay.  How different it was in the early 1900's when immigrants came, knowing they would probably never see their loved ones, or their homeland, ever again.

Canada and the United States of America owe a debt to those immigrants who came to our shores.  Our countries would not be what they are today had these brave people stayed put.

Perhaps Levine explains this best when she answers the question:  "What contributions have immigrants made?":

From the time of America's founding, new immigrants have played an important role.  Eight of the fifty-five men who signed the Declaration of Independence were born in other countries.  And when Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration that 'all men are created equal,' he used the words of his Italian-born friend Philip Mazzei.

History books often list famous Americans who were immigrants.  These lists usually include Albert Einstein, the German-Jewish scientist; Alexander Graham Bell, from Scotland, who invented the telephone; Elizabeth Blackwell, English-born, the first woman doctor in America; Knute Rockne, the Norwegian football player and coach; Marcus Garvey, from Jamaica, the leader of the Back-to-Africa movement; Greta Garbo, the Swedish movie star; Spyros Skouras, the Greek movie producer; Irving Berlin, the Russian-Jewish composer and songwriter; Enrico Fermi, the Italian scientist, and many others.

But millions of immigrants, not just the 'famous' ones, created or started things that we think of as totally American.  We take these things for granted, but they are the contributions of immigrants:
- log cabins first build by Swedes;
- symphony orchestras and glee clubs organized by Germans;
- movies produced in America by Russian Jews and Greeks;
- Santa Claus, bowling, and ice-skating from the Dutch.

Many peoples contributed to American English.  'Yankee' is a Dutch word, and 'alligator' is Spanish.  'Phooey' is from German, and 'prairie' is French.  'Jukebox is African, and 'gung ho' is Chinese.  And there are hundreds more words that were originally foreign and are now part of the English language.

If you think of Native American Indians as the first immigrants, then the names of many states come from Indian 'immigrant' languages:  Arizona, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Connecticut, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, to name a few.  'Raccoon,' 'skunk,' and 'succotash' also are Indian words.

As Abraham Lincoln said, immigrants have been 'a source of national wealth and strength.'  (Pages 72-75).

Friday, 25 February 2011

COMPUTER FUN ~ Postcrossing ~ Cards From Around the World!

We happened upon an interesting website today called Postcrossing.  This is a site where you can register to send and receive postcards from all over the world!

At first, you can send up to five postcards at a time.  You put an identification code on the top left hand corner and mail them off to the addresses provided.  The site also lists the approximate distance between the sender and the recipient.  There is also an option to scan a picture of the card (or take a digital one) and then upload it to the site.  When the recipient receives the card, they log on and register the fact that the card has arrived in the mail.  Once this has been done, the site generates your address to someone else and the cycle continues.

We signed up as "Porter's Primary" and confirmed our email address.  The first address that was generated was in China.  The next one was from the Netherlands.  The third destination was Thailand.  The fourth was Hong Kong and the fifth and final card, for this time, was a lady in Mississippi!

Luckily we had some odd postcards lying around the house, so we quickly wrote them out and went to the post office and mailed them off on the start of their journey(s) around the world!  Unfortunately we were too late for the mail truck, so they will sit in the local post office till Monday afternoon.  It will be interesting to see how long they take to arrive at their various destinations.  I'm guessing that Mississippi will be the first to arrive at its destination but, of course, the postal service might surprise us!

In addition to the excitement of receiving mail, on a regular basis, Alisdair will be able to do some research on the places where the cards originate from.

Apparently there is also a sister website called "Bookcrossing" where people send books to one another.  That seems a little more expensive, and harder to do as people would have certain interests and many of the books might not "hit the mark," so I doubt if we will try that.

Anyway, we will post about the postcards that we eventually hope to receive!

Here are photos of the ones we sent and where they went:

Guangdong, CHINA

Santpoort-Zuid, Netherlands

Nonthaburi, Thailand

Kowloon, Hong Kong

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA

Winter Break!

We interrupt this homeschooling blog for WINTER BREAK!

Isobel has had the week off from Kindergarten at the school down the road (Monday was a provincial holiday for Family Day and the other four days were designated as the break).  Good thing too - as there was some kind of a flood at Neilburg Composite School.

A Vac truck was there one evening, sucking water through a big hose (out the door), and then for a couple of days a truck and trailer with the phrase "Flood and Fire Restoration," painted on the side, was parked outside!  Hopefully there wasn't too much damage.  I guess we'll find out Monday, the 28th, when Isobel returns to the classroom.

Meanwhile, Isobel has been enjoying some quality "one-on-one" time with Grandpa and Grandma since Sunday evening (the 20th).  The plan is to meet them tomorrow morning (Saturday), and Isobel will come home, while Alisdair goes visiting.  Since he doesn't have to be back for class on Monday, Alisdair will stay until the middle of next week - when his stepdad is off work and can take the trip with Isobel and I to pick him up.  (It's bitterly cold just now, here on the prairies.  Tonight there was an extreme windchill warning of -40 degrees C. - so you don't want to travel any further than you absolutely have to!)  With Isobel gone, we've done a lot of school work, so I guess Alisdair deserves a couple days of Winter Break, too!

See you soon!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ Henry's Freedom Box ~ Quiz and Vocabulary Worksheet

Ellen Levine's picture book
Imagine being a slave.  Your wife and children have been sold and you are left to work long hours in a tobacco factory.  In deep despair and in utter desperation to gain your freedom, you enlist the help of two friends and decide to "mail yourself" in a wooden crate.  That's what Henry Brown did, back in 1849.

Joyous moments as Henry is let out of the box
Henry spent 27 hours in transit from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - a distance of about 350 miles.  This illustration, by Kadir Nelson, is a marvellous depiction of the joy as the wooden box containing Henry is opened at the Anti-Slavery Office in Philiadelphia.  It was March 30, 1849 - Henry's first day of freedom.  Since he didn't know when his actual birthday was, Henry decided to adopt that date as his special day to celebrate.  He also received a middle name that day - as he soon became known as Henry "Box" Brown.

To accompany our reading of this book, on the Underground Railroad, I found some worksheets.

The first was a quiz, based on the contents of the book:

Page 1
Page 2
There was also a vocabulary page with the words:  vitriol, pry, warehouse, tobacco, beckoned, quilt, Masters and Slaves.

We also found another website with more information about what happened to Henry "Box" Brown after his escape to freedom.  Sadly, it appears he never was reunited with his wife and children.  However, he toured various places - even to England - lecturing on the evils of slavery.

ARTWORK ~ "What Makes Me Smile" ~ CBEEBIES

"A steaming bowl of clam chowder and a glass of orange juice makes me smile!"

Since Alisdair is half-Scottish, he likes to keep up on his British information by checking out the various BBC websites.

In his search, he recently found an assignment to draw a picture of "What Makes You Smile."  Children are asked to send these to CBeebies in London, England.

The information is as follows:

Who or what makes your child smile?

Is it one of their friends? Maybe it's their brother or sister? Is it their favourite pet? Or does one of our CBeebies friends make them smile?
We would love your child to make a drawing or a painting of whatever it is that makes them smile. Or it could be a picture - the funnier the better.
Send them to us at:

Make Me Smile
PO Box 1234
W12 6WX

We'll try to show as many as we can so remember to put your child's name and age on the back.

If you are in the United Kingdom, (or have a UK proxy server), clicking the link below will allow you to watch a short video clip.  Watch video here.

We'll never know if Alisdair's drawing is featured on British television ~ but it's kind of fun to think that it might be.  The envelope is stamped and ready to be popped into the post this afternoon.  Wish him luck!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

VIDEOS ~ Henry's Freedom Box ~ By: Ellen Levine

One of the books we received on Tuesday through inter-library loans was "Henry's Freedom Box."   This is a true story from the Underground Railroad.

Henry Brown was a slave in Virginia. He was separated from his Mother and was sent to work in a tobacco warehouse.  He later married Nancy, who was also a slave.  They had three children together before his wife, and his offspring, were sold at a slave market.  In desperation, Henry decides to take the drastic step of mailing himself to freedom in a wooden crate.  Henry's ingenious scheme works and he finds himself safely in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after a harrowing 27-hour journey over approximately 350 miles from Richmond, Virginia.

The author of this picture book, Ellen Levine, was interviewed by Scholastic Books.  After reading it, Alisdair and I enjoyed hearing more details about what happened to Henry and why Levine was inspired to tell his story.

More information on Ellen Levine can be found here.

Henry's Freedom Box has won many awards.  This is only a partial listing:
• Caldecott Honor
• ALA Notable
• Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People (CBC & NCSS)
• Notable Books for a Global Society, (IRA)
• Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) best-of-the-year
• Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award

LETTERS ~ CRTC Complaint ~ Commercials Are Often Too Loud!

The CRTC are currently accepting comments regarding the high volume levels for commercials.  Apparently there have been many complaints, over the years, about this problem, yet little has been done to ensure that broadcasters do not "blast" their listeners with advertising jingles.  The CRTC will accept comments until April 30, 2011.  For more information on the CRTC's website, click here.
Alisdair learned about this issue and wrote the following letter to the CRTC, which we have just mailed to the Secretary General of the Commission in Ottawa, regarding this topic.
"Dear Sir/Madam,
I’m an 11 year old boy and I think Canada needs a law that prevents commercials from getting LOUD. Why do we have to touch the remote each time a commercial break happens? Many Canadians have to do this, due to the LOUD commercials.  They shouldn’t have to do this!  In fact, even I have to use the remote when a commercial break comes on, because my Mum says, “Can you turn that down?”  This is bad for all Canadians.

I understand you may go to your fridge and get a Coke (or something of the sort) and a commercial comes on, and you are away from the TV, so they increase the volume.  Otherwise, how will Company ‘A’ tell you not to use Brand ‘B’ and then convince you why their product is so much better?  Although, that may make sense, it hurts ears, is annoying, and Canadians shouldn’t have to put up with it!

If I read correctly the first thing in the Introduction of the “Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2011-102,” it says, "Over the years, the loudness of commercial messages relative to adjacent programming has been the subject of many complaints."  This means this has been going on for years and isn’t new – yet you are only taking action now? If you really thought solving this problem was important to Canadians, (which it is), you would have done something sooner.

“No time like the present” is a saying we all know. I’m glad J  you’re trying to fix it now, but next time please act sooner.  We are proud that we are Canadian but we aren’t proud our commercials are louder than the shows we watch on TV.

We would be proud if the law made these commercials go off the air and made the advertisers record new ones at a sound recording limit).
Thanks for trying to stop LOUD commercials from irritating us, as Canadians, and taking away the hassle of touching the remote each time a commercial break takes place."

It will be interesting to see if Alisdair gets a response to this letter.

ONLINE LEARNING ~ The Underground Railroad ~ National Geographic

Take a trip on the Underground Railroad.  Pretend "you are a slave.  Your body, your time, your very breath belong to a farmer in 1850s Maryland. Six long days a week you tend his fields and make him rich. You have never tasted freedom. You never expect to.  And yet . . . your soul lights up when you hear whispers of attempted escape. Freedom means a hard, dangerous trek. Do you try it?"

Earlier today, with Harriet Tubman as our guide, Alisdair and I made the dangerous trek to safety in Canada, which was known to slaves as "The Promised Land."  The interactive website gives options - do you continue on your flight to freedom or give up on your quest?  Several traditional spirituals enhance the online experience.

"Here in Canada, you can finally breathe free. Not only won't the government return you to slavery in the United States, but you can vote and even own land.  No wonder thousands have already run away to settle here.  You still have to face challenges:  finding a home, making a living, adjusting to a new place.  But you face them in freedom."

Reading the above paragraph about Canada, on the National Geographic website, makes me proud of our  heritage.  I'm glad the Canadian government allowed many escaped slaves to settle in our land, and to find freedom from the bonds that ensnared them.

BOOK REVIEW ~ Exploring The Titanic ~ By: Robert D. Ballard

"How the greatest ship ever lost - was found!"
Alisdair and I just finished reading aloud from "Exploring the Titanic" by Robert D. Ballard.

Although the the book is a bit old (copyright 1988), it offers a wealth of information and many paintings and photographs.  The only inaccuracy we found was in the Epilogue (Page 61) where it talks about Ruth Becker (one of the Titanic passengers who survived).  It says: "Her family later moved to the United States, where Ruth eventually married, raised three children, and taught school.  Today she is retired and lives in Santa Barbara, California."  While that was true, at the time of publication, Becker passed away in 1990.

The online Encyclopedia Titanica tells us: "After the disaster Ruth attended high school and college in Ohio, after which she taught high school in Kansas. She married a former classmate, Daniel Blanchard, and after her divorce twenty years later, she resumed her teaching career. In the years after the disaster she refused to talk about the Titanic, and her own children, when young, did not know that she had been on board. However, after her retirement, when she was living in Santa Barbara, California she began speaking about it, granting interviews and attending conventions of the Titanic Historical Society. In March of 1990, she made her first sea voyage since 1912, a cruise to Mexico. She died later that year at the age of ninety. Her ashes were scattered over the spot where the Titanic lies."
Publisher's Weekly states: "the focus of this book is the recent recovery of the most famous shipwreck of this century. Taller than the Empire State or any building of her day, the Titanic carried three anchors (one weighing 15 tons), had three million rivets and was nicknamed "The Millionaire's Special." Details of her building and maiden voyage are accompanied by photographs and drawings of the ship's many staterooms, ballrooms, lounges, dining rooms, the swimming pool and the huge glass dome over its grand, curving, wrought-iron stairway. All the ship needed was more lifeboats."

Ann Welton, of Lake Dollof Elementary School, in Auburn, Washington wrote a review for the School Library Journal."  She notes that the book is written in "straightforward prose, complemented by excellent illustrations" [and tells] the story of the Titanic 's first and final voyage as well as that of her rediscovery and exploration....The text captures the drama of both the night of the sinking as well as that of the discovery of the great ship on the ocean floor. The technically accurate and lucid explanations are greatly enhanced by Marschall's stunning paintings, as well as by diagrams and current and period photographs .... Although the glossary is good, it does not cover all unfamiliar words. 'Funnel,'  for example, is not defined and may confuse readers who do not realize that this refers to the smokestack. This is a minor quibble, however, given the general excellence of the work."

Alisdair's thoughts about this book are as follows:

Memorial Plaque

"On the Ballard expedition of 1986, they put a plaque on the stern of the Titanic in memory of those who died in the disaster.  I wish that other people would have agreed with Robert Ballard and left the Titanic untouched and preserved as a grave site.  It seems a little rude that there have been people scavaging items from the wreckage.  However, I would still like to go to the Science Centre in Calgary to see the exhibition of Titanic memorabilia they currently have on display."  Information about the exhibition can be found here: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition .  It began February 4th and will be featured until June 27th, 2011. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

SKETCH TUESDAY ~ Sketch Something Related to "Disney"

"Mouse Ears"
Alisdair and I were in Home Depot on Friday evening and found these little "Mickey Mouse" shaped paint swatches for BEHR brand colours.  Since we knew the Sketch Tuesday topic for this week was anything Disney related, we decided to take a few home to see what we could create with them.  He eventually decided that he couldn't just do a collage as it was supposed to be "SKETCH" Tuesday - so we used some swatches to make a photo frame.

Click here to see the Sketch Tuesday slideshow.  Next week's assignment ~ draw a bird feeder (with or without birds!)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

CURRICULUM ~ Honourable Mention Authors (With Birthdays in January) ~ Remember Me Pockets


While we were constructing our "bookshelves" last weekend, we also made these "Honourable Mention Author Tags" to remember six more writers.  This is another method of getting students familiar with the vast array of literature available for their reading pleasure.

We printed the tags and grapics on card stock and cut them out.  Then we glued the proper graphics on each tag.  The finishing touch was to add a little bit of the gold ribbon that was left over from wrapping wedding cake (two years ago!)  They turned out pretty nicely, if I do say so myself!

The featured information on each author includes:  Name, Birth Date and Birthplace, Death Date (if appropriate), their Pseudonym(s) and a List of their Literary Works.


VALENTINE'S DAY ~ Isobel's Valentines for the Kindergarten Class

Precious Printing

Isobel celebrated Valentine's Day a day late as there was no Kindergarten on February 14th.   So the class exchanged Valentines on Tuesday.

I was so impressed, I had to take a photo of her printing on the cards she took to exchange with her classmates.   She did them all herself - inside AND on the envelopes (except for Tavianna - because her name was too long for Isobel to squeeze on the tiny card!)   There were 11 cards plus the teachers Valentine!

I told her what letters to print and she wrote them down on the paper.   Only a very few were backwards.

Part of me says it is so exciting to see her learning and the other half of me says she is growing up far, far too soon.  Definitely a Valentine's Day to remember!

HUMOR: Isobel Meets an Apatosaurus!

Isobel usually has an especially affectionate relationship with her stepfather, John.  She looks forward to his days off as, being a trucker in the oilfield, he often leaves for work before she gets up and gets home long after Isobel is in bed.  Sometimes, on days when he won't see her, John will leave a small treat on her dresser for a surprise when she wakes up.

Last Tuesday was NOT a good day for John.  It was the first day that he worked for a new company and it was not without its glitches.  The brand new 2011 Kenworth semi he was driving broke down and had to be taken to the shop for warranty repairs.  So John was sent out with another employee and then that truck broke down too!  Luckily the second vehicle could be repaired without delay.  At any rate, it all made for a 15 hour day on the job.

Since the Kenworth was in the shop, John had Wednesday off work.  It wasn't a Kindergarten day so Isobel was in her glory.  No school AND her Johnny was home to spoil her!

Unlike most families, we have two houses next door to each other.  It's a long story ... but suffice it to say, that's what happens when you marry the neighbour!  John often goes next door to relax and watch television in his "man cave."  That's where he was last Wednesday when Isobel invaded his space.

It was fine for a while.  She was playing with the cats and colouring her oversized doodle pad with "The Little Mermaid" characters on it.  But then the trouble started....

It was the middle of the afternoon and John dozed off for a nap.  Isobel wanted something and so she woke him up.  Not once, not twice, but three times!

Unfortunately, by the third time, Johnny was no longer patient with his human alarm clock.  Apparently he lost his cool and yelled at Isobel to "Go home for an hour" so he could sleep.

This reaction was devastating for Isobel and her tender heart.  She came running into the house wailing loudly.  At first I couldn't figure out what the problem was.  When I managed to dry her eyes and wipe her runny nose, and she repeated her sad tale, I finally understood.

In between her sobs, Isobel said, "Johnny YELLED at me.  And it was louder than an APATOSAURUS would roar!"

Frankly, at that point, I wasn't even sure what an Apatosaurus was.  I knew it was some kind of a dinosaur, but I couldn't figure out where on earth Isobel had even heard of  the creature.

I didn't waste much time trying to make sense of the matter ~ Isobel soon got involved in another activity, Johnny got some much needed sleep and, before too long, the pair were fast friends once more.

Then, this evening, I was reading "Eloise and the Dinosaurs" to Isobel as a bedtime story and it all made perfect sense.

Eloise has fun at the Museum....

In this "Ready-to-Read" book, Eloise (who is currently one of Isobel's favourite characters), goes to a Museum with her Nanny and her tutor, Philip.  On their field trip, the trio tour the dinosaur halls and see the skeletons of several different types of these now extinct creatures.  There is a Tyrannosaurus rex, a Triceratops and, yes ~ an Apatosaurus!  However, its bony frame isn't doing much roaring!

After this incident, I looked up some information on dinosaurs and found this website.  It tells us the name  Apatosaurus (a-pat-oh-saw-rus) means "Deceptive Reptile."  They lived in the Late Jurassic era and were about 5.5m long.  They have "also been called Brontosaurus (thunder reptile) but the name Apatosaurus was given first. At birth, a baby Apaotosaurus weighed approximately 3kg (about the same as a human baby), however when fully grown it weighed about 30 tonnes! It therefore spent a great deal of time in the water which helped support its immense weight. They could live to be about 200 years old."

Paleontologists say dinosaurs are extinct ... but maybe these so called experts are wrong and there IS just one lone Apatosaurus left in the world!  Only Isobel knows for sure!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Story of Ruby Bridges

A touching read...
Her name was Ruby Bridges.  She was just six-years old.  It was 1960 in New Orleans, Louisiana and desegregation of the schools was a controversial political issue.  Little Ruby was one of four black girls ordered to attend white elementary schools.  Three of the girls attended one school while Ruby was singled out to go to William Frantz Elementary School.

When the parents of the white students learned of Ruby's enrollment at their school, they got angry and decided to keep their children home. 

"On Ruby's first day, a large crowd of angry white people gathered outside Frantz Elementary School.  The people carried signs that said they didn't want black children in a white school.  People called Ruby names; some wanted to hurt her.  The city and state police did not help Ruby.  The President of the United States ordered federal marshals to walk with Ruby into the school building.  The marshals carried guns."

Despite these circumstances, we are told Ruby came to school ready and eager to learn.  Her teacher, Mrs. Henry observed, "She was polite and she worked well at her desk.  She enjoyed her time there.  She didn't seem nervous or anxious or irritable or scared.  She seemed as normal and relaxed as any child I've ever taught."

Ruby was accompanied by federal marshals
Later, Mrs. Henry would learn of the prayer that Ruby would pray, twice a day, on the way to and from school.  The little girl would say:

"Please, God, try to forgive those people.
Because even if they say those bad things,
They don't know what they are doing.
So you could forgive them,
Just like You did those folks a long time ago
When they said terrible things about You.
For most of the year, Ruby was the only pupil in her classroom and in the whole of William Frantz Elementary School. In the "Afterward" of Coles book, we are told that eventually "two white boys joined Ruby ... their parents were tired of seeing the boys get into mischief around the house when they could have been in school and learning.  The mob became very angry when the first white boys went back to school.  But those boys were soon joined by other children."

" 'We've been sitting back and letting our children get cheated out of an education because some people have tried to take the law into their own hands,' one parent said.  'It's time for us to fight for the side of the law and for our children's right to go to school and get their education.' "

"They all did get their education, Ruby and a growing number of boys and girls who went to school with her.  By the time Ruby was in the second grade, the mobs had given up their struggle to scare Ruby and defeat the federal judge's order that New Orleans schools be desegregated so that children of all races might be in the same classroom.  Year after year Ruby went to the Frantz School.  She graduated from it, then went on to graduate from high school."

Of course Ruby is now grown.  She is married with four sons of her own and "has created the Ruby Bridges Educational Foundation for the purpose of increasing parental involvement in schools."

Ruby's Mother recalls that turbulent time:

"Our Ruby taught us all a lot.
She became someone who helped change our country. 
She was part of history,
 just like generals and presidents are part of history. 
They're leaders, and so was Ruby.
She led us away from hate, and she led us nearer to
knowing each other,
the white folks and the black folks."

Reading about Ruby and her difficult educational journey brought me to tears.  Perhaps it is because Isobel is almost the same age as young Ruby ~ or perhaps it was the deep faith revealed in her simple prayer.  Regardless of the reason, Cole's book is truly "a moving portrayal that captures a young girl's amazing courage and faith." Put it on your "must read" list for your children and grandchildren!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

SKETCH TUESDAY - What is Growing "Down on the Farm"?

Here is Alisdair's entry for this week's "Sketch Tuesday" slide show on the theme "Down on the Farm."  For this contribution, he drew and coloured several smaller elements instead of making one larger picture.

Alisdair's Artwork
Alisdair's artwork is near the end of the presentation.  Click here to view the entire Down on the Farm Slide Show !  It's very colourful with a wide variety of entries.

Next week's task?  Draw something related to the "Wonderful World of Disney."  Why not send in your own "Sketch Tuesday" entry? We'd love to see your contribution!  Just email it to before 9 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, February 21st.  Be sure to put Disney in the subject line and write a short message in the text portion, so your efforts won't be lost in the spam filter. 

Monday, 14 February 2011

CURRICULUM - "Bookshelves" for Author's Pocket ~ Remember Me Pockets: JANUARY

Although it was Saturday evening, Alisdair and I decided to do a little bit of work on our Remember Me Pockets from January.  We hadn't download the free material until the month was almost over, so we are still finishing some of it up.  It was fun and didn't really feel like "work" ~ cutting out the book spines and then deciding which shelf they should be glued on.

We'd done the featured author's activities, (see three previous January posts), but we hadn't completed the three "bookshelves" yet.  The reasoning behind this project is to make students familiar with the various works by each writer.  If all twelve "Remember Me Pockets" are completed, the pupil will have a somewhat extensive knowledge of classical literature and can use the "bookshelves" for further reference.

There is an intital cover page for the featured authors of the month.  They are shown in numerical order by the the day of their birth.

Book of the Month Club

The first "bookshelf" is for J. R. R. Tolkien. 

A Selection of J. R. R. Tolkien's Works

Fairy tales we all, know and love, that are the work of Charles Perrault:

I've never heard of "Patient Griselda"
We will have to check that one out...

The final "shelf" for January contains our dear friend, "Winnie The Pooh" and other equally enchanting titles:

Books by A. A. Milne

Sunday, 13 February 2011

VIDEOS ~ Martin Luther King Gives "I Have A Dream" Speech

Alisdair and I read some more of Amy Pastan's biography, "Martin Luther King, Jr.:  A Photographic Story of a Life," this afternoon.  Part of the material in Chapter 7 - "Daring to Dream" was detailing the events of the "March on Washington" on August 28, 1963, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, with more than 250,000 people (both white and black) in attendance.

After we finished reading, I got out the folder with the little printouts that we need to put together for the lapbook we are making on the topic.  There was a little pocket, with a picture of MLK on the front at the podium.  The instructions suggested the student could print out some of the text of the speech itself as copywork.

I sent Alisdair to the computer to find some text so he could complete the assignment.  However, instead of finding a portion of the text, he found the entire document.  Why put a few sentences into our lapbook, when we can have the whole thing?  So, we shrunk the font down so it would fit on two pages, printed it off and I folded it up to fit in the envelope.

I was going to read the entire speech to Alisdair and then I got a better idea.  "Check You Tube for the speech," I told him.  Almost instantly Alisdair found the actual footage from the event.

It was like we had suddenly come upon a time machine and, thanks to our computer, were transported from our living room ~ back to 1963 and the crowded Mall in Washington.  Back to a time when men wore suits and hats.  And back to a time when film footage was still in black and white instead of technicolour!

Technology is, indeed, amazing!  What better way to learn than to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. HIMSELF uttering such powerful and emotional words?  Maybe, like myself, you were too young to remember the events of that hot August day (or, like Alisdair, maybe you weren't even born yet!)  Regardless, we can still witness this part of our collective history just by watching the vintage footage taken of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the podium that afternoon.

CHARITY ~ Manitou Ambulance Board ~ Power Stretcher

Receipt for Donation (above)
 and Newsletter (below) 
Many of the residents of Neilburg/Marsden and the surrounding areas have been guilty of taking our ambulance services for granted.

My neighbour, who used to work at the Neilburg Hospital, (which is now non-existent), has told me stories about "days gone-by," when there wasn't an ambulance to call.  She recounted to me how, after a severe farm accident, one man was transported to Edmonton in the back of a station wagon.  The doctor, himself, was driving and his wife, was tending to the patient in the back of the vehicle.  Luckily the man lived to tell the tale, although he lost his arm as a result of his injuries.  She felt that particular incident had been  instrumental in obtaining ambulance services for our Village and the entire surrounding district.

For many years a volunteer squad has staffed an ambulance that has been kept at the Manitou Health Centre.  However, this past summer, due to budgeting decisions taken by the Board of the Prairie North Regional Health Authority (PNRHA), there was a very real possibility that the service would no longer be locally based.  Plans had already been made to have ambulance coverage, from other areas, service this district ~ and then word leaked out of the PNRHA's intentions!

A few weeks later, a controversial public meeting was held.  The majority in attendance felt it was dangerous to rely on the ambulance service from Cut Knife, and other surrounding communities, to come to our aid, in the case of an emergency.  The distance was too great and it would take too long for help to arrive.

Eventually, negotiations were conducted with representatives from the Villages of Neilburg and Marsden and the Rural Municipalities of Hillsdale No. 440 and Manitou Lake No. 442, meeting with members of the PNRHA Board.

Due to this negotiation process, the Manitou Ambulance Board was created with representation from all of the above groups.  The Ambulance Board is working with the PNRHA to keep the service based out of Neilburg.  This has come at a cost to the local citizens, as stand by wages, licensing of EMT's and purchasing of any Capital Medical Equipment for inside the ambulance (such as a heart monitor) will have to be covered.    Some of these expenses will be covered by a 0.50 mill rate increase on the 2010 confirmed tax assessment.

However, the Manitou Ambulance Board is currently in need of a Power Stretcher.  They plan to purchase one at a cost of $13,500.00, plus taxes.  Donations towards this much needed piece of equipment can be made at the Neilburg Village Office, during business hours.  The Village will, in turn, transfer the monies to the Ambulance Board, and provide donors with a charitable receipt.

Alisdair attended the public meeting, at the Community Hall, last summer.  Even before the meeting, he was concerned enough to write a Letter to David Fan, the CEO of the PNRHA and to forward the same letter on to several newspapers for publication.  And so, it probably should have come as no surprise to me, when he suggested making this month's charitable donation (from his paper route earnings) to the Manitou Ambulance Board's stretcher fund.  In explaining his decision, Alisdair said, "Charity begins at home, Mum!"

We aren't sure what the new stretcher will look like, but apparently they are able to easily lift up to 700 pounds at the press of a button.  I am sure this will be much easier to use than the current, outdated stretcher that has served its purpose for many, many years. 

A "Power Stretcher" in use

Unfortunately, Alisdair was only able to make a small donation to this worthy cause.  However, we trust others will also contribute monies to purchase this valuable piece of ambulance equipment.  If you are considering helping the Manitou Ambulance Board with this major expediture,  remember ~ as a friend once told me (when trying to convince me to donate blood), "the life you save might be your own!"

Saturday, 12 February 2011

CURRENT EVENTS: Helping Pearl Lutzko Celebrate Her 112th Birthday!

Pearl  Lutzko (Taken at age 105)
As Alisdair and I were delivering The Saskatoon Star Phoenix, one recent January morning, the front page feature photo caught our attention. The story accompanying the photograph (see above) introduced us to an interesting Canadian. Pearl Lutzko will, God willing, celebrate her 112th birthday on Tuesday, February 15th. She is a typical Canadian ~ a hardworking immigrant who came to this country in search of a better life for herself and her children.

Allow me to introduce you to this special lady.  I have copied the story, that was published in the paper, below:

REGINA - Verna Adamiak isn't sure if there's any secret to her grandmother's long life.

But now that Ituna's Pearl Lutzko is touted to be the oldest living Canadian, there must be something that has led to her nearly 112 years.

"It had to be set in the works somewhere," said Adamiak, who also lives in Ituna, located 160 kilometres northeast of Regina. "She just lived a normal life. There was nothing special that she did that other people don't do. I can't tell you what her recipe is."

Lutzko was born on February 15, 1899 in Chortikiw, Ukraine and is believed to be the oldest person in Canada at 111 years and 11 1/2 months.

The title had belonged to Elizabeth Buhler of Winkler, Manitoba, who passed away on Sunday. Buhler was to have turned 112 on February 8.

While Lutzko has lived a mostly quiet life - coming to Canada in 1907, marrying John Lutzko in 1915, farming near Goodeve until 1959 and living on her own for 28 years after John died in 1975 - she was drawing plenty of attention on Tuesday.

"It hits you and you go, 'This is something pretty exciting,' " said Adamiak. "Not too many people ever get to this point in life."

Still, the day's excitement didn't keep her from her normal daily activities — even when a CBC camera crew was visiting her room at the Ituna Pioneer Health Care Centre lodge, where Lutzko has lived since 2003.

"One of the (lodge) workers came in and said, 'Grandma, it's bingo. Are you going to go to bingo?' " Adamiak said. "(She said,) 'I'm finished here, let's go to bingo.' So she went to bingo so that tells you she still has some interests in life."

"She makes it known to the staff what she would like to wear and what she's willing to eat and what she wants to eat," said Chris Klimczak, the health centre's recreation co-ordinator. "She's very strong-willed that way."

Lutzko, who is six years older than the province of Saskatchewan, attends the lodge's Roman Catholic church service every Wednesday and according to her 94-year-old son, Nick, "she will talk to you loads."

"Her legs are giving out, but other than that, she's OK," continued Nick, who also lives in Ituna.

"I don't know what the secret is but I suppose she could tell you a big story from her life."

Pearl Lutzko gave birth to seven children and has 29 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren and 26 great-great-grandchildren (although that last number could be off by one, said Adamiak).

The family is spread mostly through Alberta and Saskatchewan but some will likely be back for Lutzko's birthday party next month.

"Since she was 85 years old, we have always had a birthday party for her and the last 10 or so have been getting bigger and bigger and bigger," said Adamiak.

"We were just making it a regular birthday party until (Tuesday), but now I think we're going to have to open it up a little bit."                                                                      © Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

Pearl is 100 years (and a few months) older than Alisdair as he was born in the fall of 1999. "Hey, you should make her a birthday card," I said, half-jokingly, as we talked about what it would be like to have lived that long.

Yesterday Alisdair took me up on my suggestion!

Front of Card
He printed out a picture and a greeting from a childrens' website and then coloured it in and then we cut and pasted it together.

Inside of Card
So, Happy Birthday, Pearl ~ from Porter's Primary! We'll pop your special card in the post on Monday morning.  Who knows?  It might even make it to Ituna in time for the party of the Century!