Prairie View

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's a Happy Day!

Tonight at our Levi Miller reunion I got a phone call from halfway around the world from our oldest son.  He had wonderful news--the safe arrival of grandbaby number five.  Her name is Lucia Amaya.  She was born "tomorrow," June 28, at around 4:30 AM.  At 9 lbs., she is "a full grown baby" just as Hiromi announced upon the arrival of her older sister Arwen.

Lucia is pronounced Loo SEE uh.  I believe the name means "light."  Amaya is a Japanese name meaning night rain.  It's pronounced like the last three syllables of Jeremiah.

My sister Lois and her family are visiting right now in the city where Lucia was born.  They're leaving soon though, and I'm not sure what their chances are of seeing the baby.  I really hope it can happen.


Tonight I wrote the baby's name on a post-it note so I could easily show people how it was spelled.  When I was showing the paper to Shane and Dorcas and their family, Tristan abruptly pointed to the last name (the baby's surname) I had written, and pronounced it clearly and correctly.  (He does pretty well with this Japanese name, unlike the typical telemarketer.)  I could hardly believe he recognized it.  Neither could his parents, but Dorcas said he likes when you write his name.  Tristan won't be three years old for another four months, and no one has ever tried to teach him this.


Many members of my extended family are here for the reunion, and we had a wonderful beginning of our time together.  Caleb and Carol both have a grandchild to introduce to the rest of us for the first time.  Assorted "novios" are accompanying some of my nieces and nephews.  For several of them, it's a first introduction to the extended family.  I really love and like my family.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guest Post--Comment on Previous Posts

The guest post here was written as a comment on the previous post titled confusingly "Comments on Previous Post."  The original post that triggered these comments was "Local Option Budget."

Guest Post:

I was surprised to read in the handout that "PCHS representatives favor using the current learning center (former auditorium) for the High School Learning Center", and "That other possible locations considered for the learning center are space restrictive or inconveniently located.".  That wasn't my impression from interactions with PCHS staff.  And now I hear you mention the same.  I feel confused by that.

I am highlighting one of your paragraphs, with the intent of endorsing it fully:  The "auditorium function seems to me to have very limited usefulness for the school.  It could actually result in some inconvenience for the school, given the likelihood that school personnel would likely become de facto custodians of the space, and that some non-school events would be planned during the school year."  You said it well.  No one on staff has a vision to become the de facto custodians.

I also agree with the other commenter who said it is fair to consider the merits of a large facility to host other events.  I too would plead to look at these things as two separate issues (and buildings -- in separate locations if it comes to that)!  I am increasingly uncomfortable with combining the two.  It seems to me that the first question to be answered is, “Where will the high school learning center be?”  If the high school ends up using the current "gym" as their learning center, we almost have to do (build) something for indoor play space.   If, however, we could accommodate the learning center in the way/location I thought was discussed previously and found acceptable to PCHS, then the old “gym” is available to renovate for indoor play.  That would significantly increase the indoor play space and I for one would be highly pleased with what that would offer.  There is a nice sized slab on the outside for basketball and volleyball.  Also, from what I understand, raising the ceiling in the old “gym” would accommodate some volleyball/basketball inside too, howbeit not in grandeur fashion.  I'm not convinced yet that there needs to be a gym built for school . . .

While some play space is necessary, I think we would all agree it is not THE primary purpose/goal in choosing to have our own school.  We certainly don't see ourselves as going the route of public schools who spend huge bucks to make play area/sports a priority.  So I end up calling the “play area need” a peripheral need.  And I don't understand  how spending so much for an aspect not of primary importance fits the Pilgrim Christian School stated mission.  It seems to me it could even (especially depending what we end up with) be counter-productive to the goal of shaping hearts and lives for the Kingdom.  At the same time I ponder the fact that how we as a community work together with each adding his portion to the pot of ideas and then submitting to each other in love may have an equal or greater impact than the final decision on building – elaborate, sufficient, two or one or none -- would have.  

One thing I questioned was the slight implication that we could continue to do (grade school) programs at the church.  The way the grade school operates, doing their programs at a location other than the school facility would be highly inconvenient.  BUT, I hurry to add, I fail to see  why we couldn't very easily continue doing programs as we do now -- two presentations in an auditorium accommodating 400 people would surely be very sufficient.  That's clearly more space than we have now.  And inviting people to watch the dress rehearsal (as we have done for years, and doubling it as counting for a program presentation) from my perspective is no problem.  Truly.

Betty Yoder


At Betty's invitation, I am adding a comment on the last paragraph.  I acknowledge that the transportation of students is a far greater challenge for grade schoolers than high schoolers, because grade schoolers can't drive, and we don't have school buses.  So I can easily see why practicing for presentations in a different facility would be somewhat complicated for them.  Betty thought through more carefully than I did how having the old gym as the auditorium could work perfectly for grade school purposes.  I completely agree.  I'm guessing she would also agree that any auditorium location within easy walking distance for the students would not present any transporting-students complications.


On Betty's information about the outdoor slab--I didn't remember this detail.  But of course  . . . !  That's all the basketball/volleyball space that Pleasantview Academy has ever had since the old gym was made into a learning center.  Ponder that:  a public school made do (for how many years?) with only an outdoor slab.  I wonder how that was possible.

One statement in the handout that seems unwarranted is this statement following an "if" clause about using the old gym as a learning center:  "we will need to use smaller rooms for indoor exercise or build a new auditorium that can double as an indoor play area."  Those two options are far from the only two options, and I'm disappointed that it was presented that way.  Indoor play area does not automatically mean the same thing as auditorium.  A bare bones $65,000 covered play structure would more than adequately meet the need for play space, but it would not be an auditorium.

On raising the ceiling in the gym to make some playing of basketball and volleyball possible--I remember hearing that too from someone who had toured the building, but the handout did not reflect that.  Yet, this statement appeared (about the ceiling in the old gym):  ". . . we believe the ceiling can be raised a number of feet for greater clearance (although not to its original 16' height because of the installation of heating and air conditioning ducts.)  I'm not sure what "a number of feet" means, but surely more than 2'. (I had not taken note of these height details in the handout earlier.) If the ceiling height could be 14 ft. everywhere and 16 ft. in the main part of the room, I would see that as being workable for basketball at least.  If the duct work is around the edges and in the corners--or if it could be rerouted to run there, the ball should never be flying high in those places anyway.

A crucial understanding in this "ceiling height" discussion is that lowering the ceiling to 10 ft. for Pleasantview Academy's learning center likely had far more to do with creating an efficient heating and cooling space, and creating a cozier learning environment than it had to do with being necessary because of the presence of duct work--although that entered in, to some degree at least.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Comments on Previous Post

I'm repeating here a comment from the "Local Option Budget" post, and my response to the comment.  If you're interested in this local matter, you will want to read the post first.  My response was too long to fit in the comment box, so I'm putting it here.  The original comment is here because my comment refers to it.

  • Whatever happened to the gym at Elreka? Can't that be used (or restored) as a place for programs? It somehow worked for programs back when I was in school there and the school represented the entire community. Surely it should be an option for a school that represents only a segment of that community.

    It would probably be helpful if we'd be honest and admit that this isn't about the school. I don't really think we're talking about spending the ___ thousands of dollars for three or four school programs a year. This is about having a large facility to host other events. It's fair to consider the merits of that idea on its own, but it would probably be clearer if we would treat it separate unless a substantial majority of the school staff are asking for the large facility.
    By Anonymous FavoringCurry, at 6/24/2014  

Favoring Curry--In my opinion your vision from half a world away is much clearer than that of many who live here. You are so right about the need for honesty  . . . I can assure you that if any member of school staff is asking for a large facility, I have not heard it.  I have heard a lot to the contrary.  Ditto on both counts for some church leaders and many members.

The matter of the old gym is a more complicated matter because of alterations to the space while it was used as Pleasantview Academy.  Its gym function is altered because of duct work for a heating and air conditioning system that occupies space near the ceiling, and a dropped ceiling has been installed.  It could be raised several feet again, but not to its previous height--at least not everywhere.  Those who consider indoor basketball and volleyball a necessity find this unacceptable.  I've heard informally that, even if it can't all be raised to its previous height, it could possibly still work for basketball, and work as well for volleyball as it ever did. I'm picturing the corners or edges being lower, but am not sure how it actually is.  We who used the space in the past all know that the ball often hit the ceiling.

On its use as an auditorium--the stage has been removed, which creates a layer of complication for its use as an auditorium, but, as you say, restoration is possible.

On the adequacy of the size of the gym . . . I overheard complaints from someone who sat where they couldn't see anything during the 2014 graduation.  There was enough room, however, for family members in the auditorium, but some ushering aberrations may have interfered with the plan.  We had a huge high school graduating class this year, and a sizable grade school class, so crowd size was exacerbated.  Many homeschoolers also participated in the graduation ceremony. CCC was well-filled--all the way back in the learning center.  This "mother of all crowds" is being highlighted (unofficially at least) as justification for the assertion that the old gym is too small--because our supporting community is larger than the old Elreka's supporting community--a ratio of 650:400.  There is some truth to this, since we have students from five different churches attending.  If all members come to school events, we have a different scenario than was present when there were essentially three church groups whose students attended Elreka.

My position on this matter is that we simply need to change something about the events themselves to make them doable in a smaller venue, or expectations about the necessity of "everyone's" attendance needs to be altered.  I'm in favor of both.

Regarding the gym, another matter on the slate is the "fact" that the high school needs that space for a learning center.  That assertion doesn't match my understanding of the needs.  The plan that I thought was found to be workable is this:  Remove the wall between the old 5th & 6th grade room and the 7th & 8th grade room to create learning center space. (A sound room carved out of the old 7th & 8th grade room would also be dismantled.)  I heard from someone who knew the exact measurements that it would have made a slightly smaller learning center than we have now, but not much.  In addition, a doorway would have been created in the west wall of the learning center into the old library, which would then have served the function of the Pilgrim High typing room.  I see that space as having met our needs adequately.

I simply don't find the official or unofficial arguments compelling in favor of building an auditorium, especially in connection with the school.  (e. g. unofficial: "Other communities smaller than ours have community buildings.") I don't find the arguments for building a gym that compelling either, but a bare-bones play space like the one another school has found very adequate could accommodate a basketball court or two volleyball courts and cost us about $65,000 instead of $200,000, not counting a heating and cooling system, which is the bare-bones version of the only auditorium/gym option we've officially been informed of.

Making the $200,000 structure into a community building would necessitate adding a kitchen and restrooms, and a lot of parking space--at substantial additional cost, and, in  my mind definitely tipping the whole matter into the empire-building category.  Parking space is partly what drives the "need" for purchasing more land from MHN (which may already have been done, as I understand it--why?).

If a gym must be built, I favor building the $65,000 one on the current school acreage.  If a community building must be built, I favor doing it in the far distant future in the location across the road, where the parking space is already more than adequate for that. This auditorium location would be just as convenient for the school, and would greatly limit its inconveniences to the school.

Following all these threads to their logical conclusion leaves me feeling that the basic question of what is important in an educational endeavor is being lost under layers of talk about matters that are only peripherally related.  I feel sad about this.

Favoring Curry, thanks for the comment.  My thoughts go your direction many times.  I hope your pain and mobility issues can be resolved.  That would be good news, but not as good as the news I'm hoping to hear shortly from your part of the world!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Local Option Budget*

A recent handout about school facilities focused on the question of planning for construction of an auditorium for school events such as programs and graduations.  I find this terminology curious.  In this presentation, the gym function of the space was floated as a side-benefit of constructing an auditorium.  In a way, this seems more straightforward than some of the earlier communications that seemed to be hiding the auditorium idea inside the need-for-a-gym idea.  In another way, I like it even less, because its auditorium function seems to me to have very limited usefulness for the school.  It could actually result in some inconvenience for the school, given the likelihood that school personnel would likely become de facto custodians of the space, and that some non-school events would be planned during the school year.

Here's how I see it.  Those big school gatherings could happen for now at the churches, just as they have been done ever since the schools started.

Another option negating a pro-auditorium argument would be to down-size the events themselves.  Programs are already accommodating large crowds by offering several performances.  Graduations could do so in several ways.  The most obvious and easy way would be to immediately split the high school and grade school graduations and have them at separate times.  This could presumably be done without needing to "limit the guest list." That would probably not cut the crowd quite in half, but it would downsize it considerably.

Long-term, I believe eighth grade graduations should be eliminated entirely, or at least relegated to a last-day-of-school awards assembly.  (Some of you will be picking yourselves off the floor about now.)  I floated that idea to my ninth grade typing students this past year.  I'm afraid I don't remember too  much of their response, but I got the idea that they didn't think it was a bad idea.  These people were less than a year past their own eighth grade graduation, and with the degree of ambivalence they registered, I'm inclined to think that maybe it's past time to retire this tradition.  I would favor doing so gradually, say, after the coming year's seventh graders are through the eighth grade.

With almost no exceptions, eighth grade is not the end of school for anyone in the Pilgrim system.  Furthermore, while having reached the eighth grade milestone is an accomplishment, in most ways it is only "reasonable service," which may not really be worth an obligatory community celebration. Most reasonable service isn't.  Family-sized celebrations would seem to me to be more in keeping with the accomplishment of having completed eighth grade.  Some of the eighth graders in Pilgrim's supporting community are already voluntarily foregoing participation in a formal eighth grade graduation.  It's my impression that most public schools have long since dispensed with eighth grade graduations.  Why single out that class right in the middle of junior high school?  Some school systems that have middle schools may still have that tradition.

The trend of tailoring building size to ever-expanding populations is not indefinitely sustainable.  At some point, the limits of reasonable expenditures must be recognized and applied, and needs must be met in some more defensible way.  I don't presume to know exactly how to analyze where we are now with regard to these issues, but the "Mennonite Empire" terminology used recently by a blog reader resonates here.  I find the Mennonite Empire idea distasteful. It's directly antithetical to the Pilgrim idea which we profess to hold to.

I noted some other curious terminology in the handouts--that reference to consultations with school staff.  I have no recollection of being present during any such consultations or providing any input, unless saying something in this space counts.  I do remember listening as another staff member voiced thoughts that ran directly counter to much of what the handouts reflect, specifically on the matter of the high school needing the old gym for a learning center.  I was under the impression, till I saw the handout, that removing some partitions in the rooms opening on the right down the hall from the front entrance would create learning center space.

I don't think I'm the only school staff member who feels marginalized in this facilities discussion.  I'm just the only one ____________( you fill in the blank!) enough to say so publicly.

* Local Option Budget (LOB) is a public school finance term.  When adopted by a school board, it allows local school districts to increase the expenditure per pupil above the amount the state initially makes available.  Funding for the additional expenditure comes partly from the state, an amount that is capped at a certain percentage, and partly from an increase in local taxes (increasing the mill levy).  I am not using the LOB term here in its usual sense, but I see some parallels in the consideration of building an auditorium at Pilgrim.

Story Starter Picture

My first cousin, who lives in BD, posted this picture on his blog, and I can't stop looking at it.  I hope you check out the picture before you read any further.

A woman in traditional dress is in conversation with a man.  The woman faces the camera, and the man has his back to the camera.

The contrasts beg for the telling of the story behind the picture--which none of us will ever know, probably, so we'll have to fill in with our imagination.  Here are some of the launching points for my imagination:

1.  She looks alluring (peeking out from under the veil which she has pulled aside--why did she do that?, gesturing, with her slender fingers pointing toward the space between them, but helping also to compose the picture perfectly); he looks tough (hands on hips).

2.  The relationship between them appears to be intimate (they stand face to face, very close together), but they're apparently talking in the street (very public place)

3.  The fabric of her veil is filmy, decoratively stitched, and sky-blue (I actually checked, and it's the exact color of the sky outside my window right now); he wears a sturdy navy long-sleeved shirt.

4.  She appears thoughtful (She has an upturned face and down-turned eyes--I think); he appears determined (hands on hips, as noted before) and is looking down at her (I think)

5.  They're both on their way somewhere, but headed in opposite directions.

6.  This moment of ever-so-human interaction contrasts with the asphalt and concrete in the environment, and the machines (motorcycle and minivan?) carrying people in isolation right past each other, with no interaction whatsoever occurring.

7.  The lady's traditional dress is present in very modern surroundings.

8.  The man is carrying something; the woman apparently has her hands free.

Someone who knows more than I do about the culture should write this story to get the details right, but there's enough human drama present for all of us to feel emotional connection to these two strangers in an encounter on a street half a world away.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Behind the Song

Today in church we sang the song "I Will Abide in Thy Dwelling Place Forever," written by John Overholt.  I had read just recently about some of the hard things he faced in life, like being silenced by the church that had ordained him.  (I'll refrain from speculation about whether or not that was justified.)  Ever since I read about the circumstances under which he wrote the song,  I have followed the words with new appreciation. To have faced rejection of that magnitude and to have turned to God in it is a powerful testimony.

I might have mentioned one more tidbit when I referred to some of the above in share time today at church if I had thought of it in time.  John's wife, Vera, had a breathtaking soprano voice.  One anecdote says that when she wished to take voice lessons as a student at Eastern Mennonite College (now University), the instructor refused to take her on as a student, for fear that her perfect voice would somehow be diminished.

The song "I Will Abide in Thy Dwelling Place Forever" has a soaring descant on the final stanza.  One person who knew both John and Vera believes that John wrote the descant to showcase his wife's voice.  From now on, I will also remember the song as the work of a husband who cherished his wife's lovely voice.

This site has more information about John Overholt's work as a composer and compiler of hymns.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Spam Filter Comedy

Caught in my email spam filter this morning was this gem in the subject line of an email from  Calvary Greetings Beloved.

I'm sure it's not worth over-analyzing such drivel, but I am vastly amused at the pathetic and unsuccessful attempt to combine spiritual connection (Calvary), casual connection (Greetings), and intimate connection (Beloved)--for some nefarious purpose, no doubt.

Such mangling of language is easily forgivable in many, many other situations, when the speaker's intent is honorable.  In the above case, however, laughing is probably the kindest response I'll be able to muster.

Comments are open for anyone who wants to share what they've seen under similar circumstances.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Haunting Words

John Taylor Gatto's words when he left his profession as a public school teacher haunt me.  In spite of having taught for 30 years and having been named New York State Teacher of the year, and of having enjoyed tremendous success in the classroom, he concluded that he simply couldn't do it anymore--face unrelenting criticism and interference for doing what he felt compelled to do for the benefit of his students.  He wrote, "An accumulation of disgust and frustration which grew too heavy to be borne finally did me in." The full text of his "I Quit, I Think" announcement can be read here. These are the final sentences of that document:  " I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work."  For Gatto, challenging the status quo was costly.  Even being made of stern Italian Catholic stuff did not spare him.

I've read a lot more about Gatto's views and actions and circumstances than what is present at the above link.  In his landmark book The Underground History of American Education, his praise of the Amish system of preparing their children for life in the community opened my eyes to our need--not to be more like public schools, not more like ____________ (insert any Christian denomination) schools, but to be "more like us."  One of the things we did at Pilgrim to try to be "more like us" was to introduce Anabaptist History as a required course.   I think there is widespread consensus that this was a good move.  All that to say that we at Pilgrim all are indebted to Gatto, as I see it.  I'm not prepared to go to bat for all that he stands for, but he is right in observing that business-as-usual in our schools can hurt children, and when we do little more than copy traditional schools we may be hurting children as well.  

One of the extreme situations Gatto faced occurred  early in his career when he was assigned to teach typing.  He was also instructed, however,  that under no circumstances was he to allow the students to touch the typewriters (lest they be destroyed, I suppose).  As expected, the students couldn't wait to get started typing, and did so, despite his instructions and efforts to enforce the directive he had been given.  Gatto got pretty physical in his efforts--snatching typewriters out of the hands of "rebellious" students.  All at once he saw the ridiculousness of the situation, stopped and grinned and said, "This is a typing class.  Let's type."  

While I've never been in any situation approaching this kind of absurdity, I'm familiar with the mental smack-myself-on-the-forehead kind of insight that says this is ridiculous.  Let's get on with learning.  Usually this has happened when I've gotten bogged down in creating or using a tool with which to direct and examine and label a student's work, and I suddenly realize that what I'm doing has almost nothing to do with the primary goal at hand--student learning.  I re-orient the activity to get back to student learning as soon as possible.  When the situation is not of my making, it's harder to correct and redeem it.

In considering how we should do school, and especially in considering whether we are accomplishing what should be accomplished, I believe the adage from the medical profession is apropos.  "First, do no harm" is the plain-English version of  "abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous." 

In the category of avoiding what is harmful, I see one major imperative for adults involved in working with children:  Don't destroy anything good that is already present.  

Peter Gray identifies "powerful educative instincts" that are among the good things that are already present in children:  "curiosity, playfulness, sociability, attentiveness to the activities around them, desire to grow up and desire to do what older children and adults can do."

How do you think traditional educational systems rate by the "do no harm" measure where children's powerful educative instincts are concerned?  On the  A+ to F continuum, Peter Gray, John Taylor Gatto and I would probably peg the traditional educational systems rating somewhere on the F half of the line.


I have apparently written about John Taylor Gatto's work on several earlier posts.  If you're interested in learning more about him (and getting some additional educational theory viewpoints in the process) here is the link to those posts--all collected on one page.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Black-and-White or Gray?

In my last post I referred to the research of Peter Gray, who makes this unsettling observation: ". . . the more scientists have learned about how children naturally learn, the more we have come to realize that children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school."

Gray goes on to describe the current system--accurately, I believe--as a "top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, [and] is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else." This model grew out of history, as opposed to scientific research on how children learn.  Values from the Protestant Reformation, specifically,  formed the foundation for our educational system.  He writes:  "The blueprint still used for today’s schools was developed during the Protestant Reformation, when schools were created to teach children to read the Bible, to believe scripture without questioning it, and to obey authority figures without questioning them. The early founders of schools were quite clear about this in their writings. The idea that schools might be places for nurturing critical thought, creativity, self-initiative or ability to learn on one’s own — the kinds of skills most needed for success in today’s economy — was the furthest thing from their minds. To them, willfulness was sinfulness, to be drilled or beaten out of children, not encouraged."

Soooooo, how does one do school if you believe, as I do, that Peter Gray is right in what he observes about how children learn best--if you happen also to believe that some values of the Protestant Reformation-inspired system have merit?  I'm sure it's obvious that I am not perfectly trained according to Reformation-era thought, or I would never raise this question at all.

How did critical thought sneak into my psyche?  Did it get there by devious and diabolical means?  Is critical thought a vice to be rooted out in favor of obeying "authority figures without questioning them?" Avoiding critical thought would certainly simplify my life a great deal.  We all know instinctively, however, that holding to such a standard has its own hazards--perhaps chief among them failure to bear the image of God faithfully, in a way that reminds us of Who God is.  Some things in Peter Gray's ideal educational setting should resonate with those who believe man was created in the image of God.  Because of this, we can exercise initiative and creativity, and can learn and know.

Peter Gray sees homeschooling as offering far more potential for an ideal educational setting than the classroom model, although he cites a caveat that he feels is addressed helpfully in model schools such as Sudbury Valley School, currently in operation in Massachusetts, with a 45-year record of operation.  Copious amounts of social interaction across age groups is the factor that he identifies as being superior in this classroom model--although not in traditional classroom schools.  (Maybe Gray can't imagine how the same thing might be accomplished at home in large families.)

Most of us would hardly recognize Sudbury Valley as a school.  No classes are conducted, no lessons are assigned, students may engage in any activity they wish on the school grounds (a naturally diverse outdoor environment is present), and the only rules are ones the students and adults have decided on democratically.  No grades are assigned and nor report cards are handed out.  Discipline is meted out by a regularly rotating and democratically elected group of students and adults, but not much discipline is needed.  Students almost all love school.

Some parents have serious reservations about having a student spend all his or her time at school playing video games--even violent ones, fishing, etc., and perhaps never learning math.  Bad language is not a punishable offense, and that bothers other parents.  I'd be bothered too.

One thing that results, however, is that children do learn to take total responsibility for their own learning, and a very high percentage who leave school go directly to college and do very well there.  Those who don't go to college are usually well prepared for a career, and choose to go straight into that instead of college.  Predictably, when faced with college entrance tests, that student who never studied math suddenly finds himself in need of tutoring.  A tutor is hired, and in six weeks he's learned all he needs to know to do well on his SAT.  True story.

The other notable thing that children at Sudbury learn is how to participate in a "democratic community in which they acquire a sense of responsibility for others, not just for themselves."  

Implicit in these Sudbury Valley School values is a valid criticism of our more traditional educational systems, which seem to me to reliably include these:  1)  Students taking very little personal initiative in the learning process, perhaps because of being offered few choices and little control 2)  Individual advancement superseding concern about the welfare of the group  (Ponder this:  the word for some kinds of sharing is "cheating.")  3)  Initial excitement about school often diminishing as time spent there increases.

From an Anabaptist perspective, it's fair to note that our ties to the Protestant Reformation are stronger than they are for most Americans.  Besides the religious ties, we have ancestral links to the regions in Europe where the Reformation originated.  We are, by and large, of Swiss or German background.  These are not the only regions that figured large in the Reformation, and not all of us are Swiss and German, but I believe that our educational system looks much like that of Western Europe for very understandable reasons.  John Taylor Gatto traces some of these similarities convincingly.  We are like the German industrialists in our love of cut-and-dried systems that promote productivity.  We are like the Swiss in that we are rural people who take pride not only in productivity, but in craftsmanship also. 

While not very well fleshed out here, I believe that our Swiss-German heritage makes us especially susceptible to the idea that to do things right we need an educational system that is above-all efficient.   We employ cut-and-dried systems, with observable, quantifiable, testable, documentable, black-and-white outcomes in pursuit of this efficiency.  If the systems have been in use for a long time, so much the better.  No need to re-invent the wheel and all that.  To be sure, we tweak and make adjustments as our craftsmanship impulse prompts us to do, but we can hardly fathom how things might change if we stepped back far enough to examine the merits of the system itself.  The central question on merits of the system should be:  Does it accomplish what should be accomplished?  I'm not sure we get that.  

Further exploration of this matter will have to wait for another day and another post, not to mention further thought and prayer and insight--and courage.  Sadly, Gray does not provide all the answers, any more than black-and-white German industrialist systems do.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Phineas and the Closing

I have pondered the name Phineas today, ever since I figured out that the man from Yoder/Haven who died recently was in fact, Phineas Schrock and not Enos Schrock, as I dutifully reported in the written church announcements today.  I saw the error of my ways when I read the obituary page in the Hutch News this afternoon and saw Phineas'  death announced.  I think the confusion comes partly from the mispronunciation of the name Phineas--like Fee-nus.  Online, the pronunciation that is given is Finn-ee-us.

With my head down, and my hand busily taking notes, my dad's announcement sure sounded like an "Enos" announcement--not a "Phineas" one.   Really now, how many Phineases do you know, compared to the number of Enoses you know?  Is the ratio 1 to 5?  Or 7?  Or 9?  I'm maintaining that "Enos" was an ever-so-reasonable guess at the name for someone 85 years old who died in Yoder, Kansas.  I still hate having gotten it wrong, however.  For him to have endured that name for 85 years and then had it mangled at the end shouldn't have happened to anyone.

In the Bible, one of Eli's sons was named Phineas.  People with that name also romped through Greek mythology.  An American actress named her baby Phineas, and used Finn for short.  In my opinion the name ranks right up there with Roman and Cletus as having mystery appeal in traditional Amish settings.  The Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews all seem pretty distantly connected with the Amish.  Hebrew names, of course, do have the Biblical record to commend them--unless they are one of the wicked sons of Eli.  I don't get why that association has any appeal at all.


Closing on our churches' purchase of the old Elreka school property took place this past week--seven months after the Haven school board and our people agreed to the purchase terms.  Untangling the property from all its uses to secure loans, etc. took a very long time.  An open house is planned for the near future.

I had a chance to tour the building several months ago.  It looked better when I went to school there beginning in 1958--small wonder, since it was brand new then.  Some of the work was finished after the school year began.

No one knows whether it can be ready for school by fall or not.


An experienced classroom teacher told me recently that she believes that only minimal renovation will be necessary before the building is used, with the expected benefit that delaying would enable us to nail down exactly what needs to be done further with more clarity than would be possible otherwise.  I see some wisdom in that, especially when I remember that it was in daily use "as is" by a public school system until very recently. In this scenario, next summer would be the likely time for the major renovation work.


Lest I be misunderstood about the role of exercise in an educational program, I wish to go on record as being very much in favor of frequent breaks and adequate physical exercise as aids to learning, especially for younger children.

Anyone who knows the whole story would agree that I have used my limited influence and lent my full support to all efforts at the high school to see that everyone gets a chance to move frequently.  We had no mini-breaks when I first arrived, and academic privilege levels determined length of playtime privileges.  Now we have frequent mini-breaks, and we have uncoupled playtime privileges from academic privileges.  In effect, this means that even folks with zero academic privilege get full-length breaks.

What I objected to in a recent post was a narrowed focus that puts volleyball and basketball at the center of recreational activities for students, especially if it happens at the exclusion of other activities and involves expensive specialized facilities to keep them at the center.  Soccer and softball have almost fallen off the radar for high school students since some version of full-court basketball is possible in the shop, despite the fact that they have all the exercise and teamwork benefits of v-ball and b-ball.  Volleyball can be played outside, as long as the poor condition of the slab is respected and compensated for.  Softball and soccer could be played outside on any day when the weather is nice--which is most of the time in the fall, and a lot of the time in the spring.

For recess activities, I place a high value on the following:

1.  Participation activities (no spectator sports)
2.  Combination of group and individual activities
3.  Pleasure for the present in balance with possibilities for lifelong enjoyment and benefit
4.  A great deal of variety and opportunity for creativity in playtime activities
5.  Exercising in fresh air
6.  Exercise that is coupled with exposure to nature

In summary, I see that children need some way to get exercise during the school day.  I don't see that it must be through playing basketball or volleyball, or that it must occur indoors, especially in a Cadillac of a structure.


A recent Reader's Digest article suggests that children naturally possess most of what it takes to learn eagerly and well, and that conventional practice in American education does not typically do a very good job of preserving this.  The author does not deal at all with the "sin nature" problem, and I believe he is leaving out an important aspect of reality by omitting it.  Neither does he recognize the priority of being part of the Kingdom of God.

One thing he implies that I also believe is that if we give children a life outside of school, many opportunities arise for them to learn self-discipline, etc.  Justifying what happens in school as being necessary because of its character or skill-building potential sounds to me like trying to redeem a bad situation rather than making a credible defense for school-as-we-know-it.

Peter Gray, the psychologist and educational researcher who wrote the article,  cites the work of an Indian researcher named Mitra, and his conclusion that  "three core aspects of human nature — curiosity, playfulness and sociability — can combine beautifully to serve the purpose of education."

Mitra's own experience supports this conclusion:  "He set up outdoor computers in very poor neighborhoods in India, where most children did not go to school and many were illiterate. Wherever he placed such a computer, dozens of children would gather around and, with no help from adults, figure out how to use it. Those who could not read began to do so through interacting with the computer and with other children around it. The computers gave the children access to the whole world’s knowledge — in one remote village, children who previously knew nothing about microorganisms learned about bacteria and viruses through their interactions with the computer and began to use this new knowledge appropriately in conversations."

I refer to the above article, in keeping with my sense that we can improve many things in traditional education if we are willing to examine what we're familiar with, discard what is too flawed to keep, and initiate change where we can find a way to improve.  An entrenched status quo  approach will short-change us almost every time.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

In Praise of My Zo

Zo is short for Zojirushi, the Japanese brand name of my bread machine.  I purchased my first Zo in 1999, I believe, and yesterday it croaked--15 years later.  Today I ordered a replacement, a slight  upgrade from my old model.

The main distinctives of this brand and models similar to mine are these:

1.  A powerful motor (for mixing stiff dough with ease)
2.  A normal-shaped (horizontal-loaf) baking pan
3.  Two mixing, kneading paddles instead of one
4.  The ability to do custom settings for kneading, rising, etc.
5.  A preheat cycle to bring all ingredients to the proper temp before mixing
6.  A timer for delaying the start of the cycle
7.  A dough cycle (which only mixes the dough and allows it to rise several times)
8.  Many pre-programmed cycles
The new model has a heater in the lid for better browning of the top of the loaf.  It also has a gluten-free bread cycle, which allows for the longer rising that is usually necessary.

I got my first Zo with money I was paid for the first article of mine that was published in Keepers at Home.   The Zo came highly recommended by the baking experts at King Arthur Flour Company, from where I purchased it.

In recent years, I nearly always used the dough cycle only.  With Susanna's European bread recipe halved and adapted slightly, I could make enough in one batch to fill two 4" x 8" loaf pans to bake in my conventional oven.  The recipe uses butter, honey, rye flour, oatmeal, wheat bran, whole wheat flour, gluten, and dough enhancer.  It also uses a small amount of white flour and the expected yeast, salt, and water.  Reading about the bread machine before I ordered it makes me eager to try all sorts of other good bread, especially sourdough breads.

I've never owned a Bosch.  I decided maybe I didn't need one when I realized that I don't really like the idea of making big batches of bread to stow in the freezer.  I'd rather have fresh bread more often, especially if it takes as little tending as bread machine bread does.  Basically, all I do is measure all the ingredients into the pan, secure it in the machine and push one or two buttons.  When the "finished" signal sounds 1 hour and 50 minutes later, I take out the dough and put it into the pans to let it rise one more time.  I bake it after it's finished rising.  Unless I've forgotten something (like the salt), the bread is almost always pretty and tasty.

Sometimes I make mixes to speed up the process even more.  Into one zippered bag go the wheat bran, oatmeal, and rye flour.  I add these first to the water and honey that is already in the pan (to begin to soften the coarser grains).  Next comes the whole wheat flour.  In a separate bag I put the white flour.  I used to measure out and put the salt, gluten, dough enhancer, and yeast in another bag.  I think I will, from now on, leave out the yeast till I put everything together.  I read today that putting yeast in direct contact with salt or sugar is a bad idea because it kills the yeast.  After everything else is assembled, I dot it with butter.

After my new Zo arrives, I will do one thing differently than before:  unplug it when it's not in use.  I think lightening messed with the electronics on my old machine and disabled the delay timer function.  If this one lasts as long as my first one did, I may never need to buy another bread machine.

I suspect a lot of women hesitate to let others know they use a bread machine, for the same reason they feel apologetic about using a dishwasher, as if using them somehow shows a lack of diligence and virtue.    On this site, you're as safe as I can make you, so if you're a bread machine user, I'd love to hear from you.

A Young Man's Fancy

Tennyson knew all about the phenomenon we're witnessing in this community:  "In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."

These engagements have been announced recently (skip the parentheses if you have no patience for the Mennonite game):

Winston Miller and Bridget Yoder  (Winston is Steve and Evelyn's son, and Bridget is from Arkansas)

Brandon Nisly and Holli Nissley  (Brandon is the son of Brian and Doris and Holli is the daughter of Mark and Rose.  Brandon has a great-grandmother in the community, Mrs. Ora Nisly.  Brandon's father is Earl and Irene's son.  Holli's local grandparents are William and Elizabeth Hershberger.)

Aaron Mast and Alicia Byler (Aaron is the son of Willard and Sharon and Alicia is the daughter of Larry and Violet.  Elmer and Cora are Alicia's local grandparents.  The Masts moved here from Arkansas and El Salvador.  Sharon is Ollie Troyer's niece.)

Aaron, Alicia, and Holli are from Center Church.  Aaron and Alicia's wedding date is set for Oct. 18, and Brandon and Holli's is also to be a fall wedding.

This weekend is to be the wedding of Bryan Shenk and Cynthia Kauffman in Leon, Iowa.  After this summer, they plan to live in Kansas.

My nephew, Christopher Miller, is getting married on July 26 to Rachel Yoder in Labette County, Kansas.  They are both residents of that community.

Among my other nieces and nephews--oh my--lots of romance in the air.  Emily H., Joshua, Zachary and Karen S., and Megan M.  all have romantic relationships in progress. I feel happy for these people, but, at the same time, am just fine with having that stage of life in the past (and in the very distant future) for the Iwashige family.

Where I Want to Go and What I Want to Do

This morning, after having seen pictures taken by extended family members vacationing in Greece, Hiromi asked me if there's any place I'd really like to go.  He added, "I don't have any such place."  This is entirely in keeping with his decidedly homebody tendencies.  I've often thought he must have used up his lifetime of travel enthusiasm on that three-week ocean voyage when he immigrated to the United States.

My first response was to say that I've stopped my mind from going "there" so often (because I knew there wasn't a chance it would happen) that I hardly know where I'd want to go.  After a moment's thought I added, "I'd like to see the places in Europe where my forefathers lived, and some of the places important in Anabaptist history.  All over the world, I'd love to see the people's gardens and eat the different foods."   I can't believe I forgot to mention BD, where some of those dearest to me reside.  Come to think of it, beautiful natural places nourish my spirit too.  I also forgot to  mention the Chartres Cathedral, an impression I remember from seeing slides in a college humanities class.  I was smitten with the images taken from the inside of that stained-glass-festooned place with the soaring architecture.

 In another conversation recently Hiromi commented on the phenomenon of death following soon after people quit their job and do nothing further.  "Sit on the couch and die," was his way of putting it.  He had talked to someone that day who used that as the explanation for taking a job after he retired from his original job--so that wouldn't happen to him.  Neither of us could imagine having nothing to do except sitting on the couch.

We went on to talk about how people who have always found pleasure only in physical activity have nothing fascinating left when old age or disability robs them of their physical strength.  In a caveat, I added that if a person at least has an earlier spark of an interest in a non-physical activity, old age can provide an opportunity to develop it.  I used photography as an example for myself.  I've often wanted to  capture beautiful images I see, especially in nature, but seldom take pictures of any kind.  I don't have good equipment, and I would have to do a lot of learning to figure out how to use good equipment.  Maybe someday I'll do that.  For now, I describe beautiful things inside my head so I can remember.

I also love the design stage of patchwork, as in quilt tops.  Maybe I'll do more of that someday.

I can't remember if Hiromi asked me or if I volunteered what I knew I really wanted to do in a good  old age.  What I talked to Hiromi about was general.  "I'm more of a homebody than I used to know," I said.  "I really think, though, that I would need to somehow stay in touch with living things here at home, and making things beautiful around me.  I would want to stay involved with the community, investing in making life good for other people, and I want to learn from others and be a part of their lives."   Hiromi listened politely, but did not offer his own list.

At the ages of 62 and 69, it's probably not too early to contemplate such matters, but for now, there's a weedy patch in the circle drive that's calling me.  Hiromi is busy today swapping out the engine on his riding mower.  I guess both of these things fit in with part of my old-age plan--making things beautiful here at home.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yesterday's News

When I got the Hutchinson News out of the box yesterday, it was too soggy to unwrap safely and read, so I didn't get to it till today.  The editorial page was worth the wait.

Paul Geist had an excellent little article in the Western Front section.  It was entitled "Coal Plant Questions."  His two questions were:  1)  "What is the impact on the Ogallala aquifer; which is already in desperate decline due to all the irrigation wells?"  2)  [not a question, actually]  The Holcomb plant is supposed to provide 15 percent of the power to Kansas, but Kansas would inherit 100 percent of the pollution control cost [and the pollution that could not be controlled] and 78 percent of the production would go to Texas and Colorado."

"New jobs created would only be construction time jobs, not a lasting economic factor."  Good words from a former Pleasantview businessman.


The political cartoon also addressed the coal-fired power plant matter.  In the first panel someone says "We won't even be around when coal-fired emissions hurt the climate!"

The next panel shows a hospital ward with three patients.  The call-out says "That's for sure!"  The three beds each have a different label:  Lung Disease, Heart Disease, and Asthma.  The subtitle on each label says "from current emissions."  Death by emissions prevents inconvenience by climate change would summarize this message less graphically.

The state administration has pulled off a neat trick by ramming through approval of the construction of a new coal-fired power plant, in an apparent attempt to do an end run around national emissions standards just now coming on line.  I'm not impressed.


Kathleen Parker's column "A Farewell to Friends" talks about two friends who died recently.  I liked some of the descriptions she used to tell us what these people were like.

Of "John" she said "He was 'wacky' in the way we all should be wacky, wearing his tender heart on sleeves that were always rolled up."  That sounds to me like a take-your-breath-away awesome way to be--tender-hearted, and always willing to work hard, and even fight hard to advocate for others.  He was the pioneer who, by his meticulous research-based efforts to answer questions about the developmental significance of childhood self-esteem, introduced information that has now become common knowledge.

The other friend was "Richard."  The description of him included snippets like these:  "An old soul and a young pilgrim . . . "  (I'd love to have that said of me.)  ". . . the quiet, contemplative one, always watching and smiling as one who knows the secret. . . ."  ". . . one of . . . seven or eight perpetual students and a handful of unrequited lawyers--who wanted to be writers."  (I don't aspire to be either a perpetual student or an unrequited lawyer, but I recognize the writer impulse that often has to reside on the back burner while life happens otherwise.)  Richard served with the Peace Corps in Nepal and then returned to America to found a group that trained "young people to become leaders, using media and the power of communication to transform the world. 'Make media not war' is their motto."  I think I would have liked to know Richard.


In political news, an independent candidate, Greg Orman, is getting set to challenge Kansas' Pat Roberts' US Senate seat.   He has served in Congress for 34 years.

A "hard-right" candidate is challenging Roberts in his own party, and two Democratic candidates have already begun campaigning on that front.  While Independents often have trouble building enough momentum to be elected, the fact that 30 percent of Kansas voters are registered as "unaffiliated" should give pause to the candidates from the two major parties--if Orman proves to be an attractive candidate as his resume suggests might be possible.


In a 24-hour period from 7:00 AM yesterday until 7:00 AM today, I dumped 2.4 inches of rain out of the rain gauge.  The rain was a wonderful birthday present.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Local Matter

Not everybody appreciates seeing local matters discussed where others can look in.  I figure that if we don't have anything to hide, it probably doesn't matter if others look in.  My hope always is that we can learn from others' experience and they can learn from ours.

I hardly know why I'm thinking about this again, because I certainly haven't been hearing much about it from others or talking to others about it recently, but thinking about it kept me from being able to sleep today when I tried to take a nap.  I do think about the matter briefly every time I go down my daily prayer list.

I don't know that Melvin H. N. wants any pity, but I keep thinking that he should not have to give up any farm land so that a gym/community building can be constructed adjacent to the old Elreka grounds.  Trying to sort out the reasons for that feeling of mine is what occupied  my thinking today.  Here's some of what I came up with.

1.  Melvin's farming year-round just might be as important as children's playing in a luxurious building several times a day during part of the school year.  I'm using the word luxurious as the opposite of minimalist or utilitarian.

2.  Basketball and volleyball might not be the only satisfactory ways to occupy children during playtime.  Most other indoor activities would not require a high ceiling, and an existing indoor space could be used for those.  The other high schools I am familiar with do not include playtime in their day as our high school does.  How has this taken on the status of an "inalienable right?"

3.  Anyone who is older than I and who grew up here went to school without a gym during at least some of their school years.  I think those people generally turned out pretty well, even with this great deprivation in their childhood.

4.  Approximately half of the children in Pilgrim's sponsoring churches regularly and happily have school without a gym--and perhaps without any playtime scheduled during school hours.  They get some of their exercise from working at home.

5.  For 35 years, Pilgrim High School has operated without a gym (unless you call the shop a gym), and Pilgrim Grade is in their second decade of having done so.  Again, it's hard to see this as having caused anything worse than occasional inconvenience.

6.  Children would play just as happily in a utilitarian space as in a "Cadillac" of a structure.  Every single educational benefit for recreation could just as easily be met in a utilitarian space as in a more costly structure.

7.  Making a gym a dual purpose space complicates everything, if its other purpose is a community building.  The likely result is an over-equipped gym, or an under-equipped community building, and it will be expensive to build and maintain if both functions are planned for.  If we need a gym, we need a just-right gym--not an over-equipped, over-priced one.  If a gym is used as a community building, we'll be right back to where we are now--having to juggle the school space and schedule with other community events.

8.  I'm in favor of throttling back sports-madness, not encouraging it.  Exactly how having a gym would affect this equation is not easy to quantify, but I think it's safe to say that the greater the variety of playtime activities, the less likelihood there is of fixating on any one of them and becoming overly preoccupied with it.  I read through Pilgrim's purpose statement recently and saw no mention of sports anywhere that I recall.  Certainly, preparing students for playing sports professionally is not part of the goal statement.  We may just be making a much bigger deal of providing for playing basketball and volleyball than is warranted.

9.    The old Elreka property has enough parking space now for school use, but not enough for parking big crowds--unless people do as they used to do, park along both sides of the road for special events.  As it is now, the size of the property is just-right for a school--and not much more.

10.  I'm in favor of minimizing expenses.

Here are some of the alternatives I see that would let Melvin keep his land.

1.  Use the existing "old gym" for a play space and provide for volleyball and basketball outside.

2.  Find space within the existing school property footprint for a minimalist gym--which I believe would meet the "just-right" criterion.  I don't understand what keeps us from at least investigating such an option.  Look here for several pictures and posts in a row that give more details, including the words of a very satisfied Christian school principal who has a number of years of experience with such a minimalist structure.*

3.  If a community building must be built, put it across the road (where we also own land) and build it right for that purpose  at a later time, and let approval and funds for it be established on its own merits rather than having it piggyback on school needs and perhaps even co-opt them.

4.  In general, solidly orient our practices according to Pilgrim priorities. 

If any alternatives to a "Cadillac" and purchasing land from Melvin are being considered, I have not heard about them.  I would be reassured if I did.


*One factor that is different in their Oregon climate is that they have lots of cool, rainy weather during the school year, and we have more dry, sunny weather--some of it warm and some of it quite cold.  I'm not sure how much solar heat gain is possible in this structure because I don't know how translucent the covering is.  Paul S. did say they don't need lights during the day so I presume that there is light penetration and there would also be solar heating occurring--much more of that here than in Oregon because we have more sunshine.    With a concrete floor as a heat sink--absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night, the temperature could likely stay fairly moderate on most days during the school year.  If it were too warm to play in the gym, playing outside instead would likely work well on those days.  Putting heat in the floor would be another option, but would also add to the expense.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

In Search of Rain and Good Curriculum

If you've been in similar circumstances, you may recall the uneasy suspense of waiting for what is likely to be a severe storm.  We've been told that it will likely arrive here between 10:00 PM and 1:00 AM--not a convenient time for being weather aware.  I sincerely hope that no dash to the cave cellar will be necessary.  We can't get there without going outside, and, in the middle of wind, rain, and possible hail and/or tornadoes, that's not a trip to look forward to.

The rain should perhaps not have been included in the list of unpleasantries above.  That we are eagerly anticipating.  Our grass is turning brown, and the hay field that borders our property needs a drink.  I'm not sure how much a rain will benefit the wheat.  It's getting close to ripe, and that's when it's nice if the rain stops long enough to permit sunny harvest days.

We've missed out on a lot of the rain that has fallen elsewhere in the state, and even in our county and community.  We did have a total of an inch over a number of days about two weeks ago.  In Hutchinson, one morning's rain amounted to 2.25 inches, and some rain fell on other days also.  A few days ago, several inches of rain fell in the McPherson and Salina areas, but none here.  On Sunday night, Hutchinson got about a half inch and we got one-tenth.

The great thing about these storms having missed us is that hail and high winds also arrived with the rain elsewhere part of the time, and we were spared those violent events.


Today, while I was looking through the CLE curriculum catalog, I spied our very own Jordan N. pretending to do a math lightunit in one of the pictures.  Farther along in the catalog I saw Anthony M. and his brother Michael.  Nearer the back of the catalog, I found a Keupfer boy--DIL Dorcas' brother.  I don't know how those pictures ended up there, but they looked good.


I've never before spent as much time in school-related meetings in late May and early June as I have this year.  A week ago I attended the homeschool conference in Wichita and spent the day perusing offerings in the Exhibit Hall at Century II.  The size of the ACSI curriculum display pales by comparison.

Earlier that week and today again I spent most of the day in curriculum review committee meetings.  A high school staff meeting also took place earlier this week.  It's a good thing curriculum fascinates me.  Otherwise I would regret having to leave my home and garden for these events.

In many ways I'm retracing the paths I first took in the mid-to-late 80s, when foundations of education first sank deeply into the recesses of my soul and mind.  I had, of course, by then had nearly a decade of preparation either as a teacher or as a teacher-education student, but none of that impacted me as did the need for providing a good education for our own children.  I'm loving the chance to reflect, and participate in the process of going forward under a mandate to identify priorities and seek out the options that align most closely with those priorities.  Factoring in all that matters, however, before making a decision is a significant challenge.  Working with other capable and knowledgeable people is part of the pleasure of the process.


It's morning again, and we got an inch of rain with no wind or hail damage.  We're very grateful.  For some reason, however, our power was out during the night, and came back on this morning around 7:00.