Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

Lesson learned last class: It turns out that it doesn't matter if you are 5 or 50 - being tricked at "Simon Says" is funny!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekend Project: Holiday Preparations

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly.
~ Andy Rooney

No sewing over the weekend - instead we got started on creating our most glorious mess...

The Christmas tree.

The Christmas village.

And, most importantly to grown-up boys everywhere...

The Christmas train.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Confession

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! And I hope EVERYONE has many things to be thankful for! :)

I'll get my "Talk Back Thursday" post up sometime this weekend. Now, on to our regularly scheduled Friday post:

As you can see in this picture, my TNT (tried-and-true) Hawaiian shirt pattern for my husband is showing signs of age... It's now OOP (out of print) so I need to take care of it!

How do you protect your TNT patterns?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

My grandfather used to wear flannel shirts all the time. After he passed away, my grandmother started wearing his shirts to feel close to him. Eventually his shirts started wearing out, but by then she had grown used to always putting on a flannel shirt over her top. So, flannel shirts became the perfect gift for her.

Of course, I started sewing them for her. She grew up with people who sewed clothes without patterns, so she didn't think twice about telling me all the alterations she wanted to the fit. At the time, I hadn't ever ventured far from a pattern, and this is the first project that I ever attempted significant (to me at the time) modifications.

I merged a "small" at the shoulders with a "medium" at the waist and shortened the sleeves.

Okay, now those don't seem like such major modifications, but at the time I felt like I was teetering on the brink of an unknown abyss! ;)

Anyways, I'm still kind of proud of the fact that my hand made shirts fit her perfectly, and she has all store-bought ones sent out for alterations.

Over the years I've made her at least half a dozen of these shirts, and she told me recently that they are all wearing out and she needs a new one.

Her feelings on color are as highly specified as her feelings on fit - she wants red in her shirts and she wears them over navy blue pants. I've long ago run through all of the appropriate offerings at my local Joann's and have started perusing online fabric shops.

I recently found the "flannel" pictured above and promptly ordered some. The colors are perfect! Unfortunately, the fabric itself is thinner than I would have liked... Oh well, it can be a summer top for her...

I'm going to try to visit her in January (because there is no place on earth more inviting in January than central Missouri!) and want to have this ready to take with me. Of course, I'm not sure when I'll get to it, but, don't worry, I will! It's in the queue... :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

If all the students who slept through lectures were laid end-to-end,
they'd be a lot more comfortable.
~ Unknown

At the risk of being booed off my "stage" by all the real teachers out there, I may have the opposite problem - students who are too motivated. Is that even possible?

As you may remember, I put together a CD of 14 songs and made up worksheets with the lyrics for all of those songs. Every other week we learn a song and a significant portion of those classes is devoted to having the students work in small groups to translate the lyrics into Spanish (their native language).

I think (hope!) that this exercise helps improve an important skill (the ability to translate) and makes the English vocabulary more memorable (because of the effort necessary to complete the activity).

Some of my students have started working out the translations ahead of time and come to class with the activity basically complete. Isn't that great?

Well, yes, it is!

Except for the fact that then they sit there, with nothing to do, for the 20 minutes or so that the rest of the students work on their translations...

Last week we did "The Little Drummer Boy" and I asked the ones who came to class with the translation already done to help the others.

It turned out to be a bit more "telling" than "helping" - but we can work on that... ;)

These same students have also started pumping me for information about the topics of the non-song weeks. For example, next week our topic will be "parts of the body" and I can easily imagine that they'll come in with all of the vocabulary for the major external body parts already worked out.

BUT - this time, I'll be prepared! I'm putting together several different worksheets and will break the class into groups to compile English vocabulary. I'll let the other students work on the external body parts (arm, leg, hand, foot, head, etc.) and assign them the worksheet for major internal organs (lung, heart, liver, stomach, brain, etc.)!

I bet they won't have worked those out ahead of time! ;)

So, of course, all this motivation is just wonderful - it's one of the special benefits of working with adults who are there because they want to be, not because they have to be. And I want to do everything that I can to encourage it! And to make sure that they can still be challenged during class, without leaving the other students behind...

As "problems" go, I guess this is a pretty good one for a teacher to have! :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekend Project: P.S.

Now, the collar, I'll take credit for! ;)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Project: Luck

Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.
~William Shakespeare

Most of the weekend was devoted to Thanksgiving preparations, but I did squeeze in some time to start on the trailer shirt for Scott (aka DH). I used this TNT Hawaiian shirt pattern:

One of the fun steps (for me) in making these colorful, patterned shirts is setting up a good pocket image. This time I aligned the front shirt pattern piece on the fabric such that the bright yellow VW bus would be nicely centered on the pocket.

When setting the pocket, I only had to be careful to align the wheel of the brown trailer in the upper right corner...

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that the size of the shirt and the size of the images fell into place such that the trailers are going to be lined up down the front of the shirt:

I'd like to take credit for that one, but the truth is that I just got lucky! ;)

Well, I didn't get much further than the front facings, pocket and shoulder seams - but it's a quick pattern and I should easily be able to finish it up next weekend.

I hope you had a wonderful sewing weekend and, to those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you are looking forward to the holiday! :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Confession

I've decided that I'm not making any Christmas gifts this year.

For at least the last five years I've made (sewn, for the most part) Christmas gifts for my friends at work. The gifts that I can remember were:
  • aprons
  • bathrobes
  • purses
  • pencil holders
  • dish towels (hand woven)

As you may remember, the hand woven dish towels - while they came out really well!- were a bit of a disaster, in that I didn't finish them until around May (almost 6 months late for Christmas). Thus, this year I will be taking a break from hand made gifts and buying something for all my friends at work in a store...

Now, whether they will be disappointed or relieved is something known only to them... ;)

How about you? Do you make any of your Christmas gifts? What kinds of things do you make and for whom? Are there people in your life who really appreciate the love and time that goes into each one of your creations?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Mamafitz, Kristine, Angela, Summerset, Becky, Faye, Kelley, CarlaF, Sharon, Sarah & Tasia for talking back to my confession last week! I asked about grading seams and which layer you should trim shortest – or if it didn’t matter.

So, we did have a couple of folks who are a bit laissez-faire about grading seams – we got 2 votes for the “never or rarely do it” category and 1 vote on the “when I do it, I just wing it” category.

But most people converged upon 3 guidelines, with the most popular one being this:

1. The layer that will be closest to the public side of the garment should be left the longest.

Five people agreed that this is (at least usually) the right way to do it.

The two other rules-of-thumb that were presented (by 2 people each) were:

2. Trim the thickest layer (usually the interfaced layer) to be the shortest.

3. If you will be edgestitching or making a flat felled seam, make sure that the longest layer is able to trap all of the shorter layers inside (or underneath).

Summerset addressed the issue of “does it matter?” She doesn’t grade every seam, but advises that it does make a difference if you have multiple, thick layers of fabric coming together in a single seam.

Finally, as for the “how” to grade seams, Faye and Sharon gave this tip: Apparently you can just hold your scissors at an angle as you trim (or use appliqué scissors) and the seam comes out automatically graded. :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time and effort to respond! You guys rock! :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Another pattern that called to me from the November issue of BurdaStyle - this dress. I like how the tucks in the bodice open into pleats in the skirt. I can see making it up in a warmer fabric and wearing it during the time that passes for "winter" in Florida. ;)

No appropriate fabric in my stash - looks like I'll have to go fabric shopping... Darn it... ;)

If I'm going to make it in something warm then I should get to it soon. In any event, I'll get to it - it's in the queue. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others.

~ Tryon Edwards

This week we reviewed our lessons on adjectives (e.g., tall) and comparatives (e.g., taller) and added superlatives (e.g., tallest) to the mix. One thing about our class made me happy and one thing made me a little unhappy.

The unhappy thing was that we didn’t finish the written exercise in time to do the spoken activity. For the written exercise I had made a worksheet with about 40 adjectives that they were to rewrite as comparatives and superlatives. It took people much longer to finish this than I had anticipated and so we never got to the activity where they had to actually speak in class. I think it’s really important that each class include practice speaking, and so I am kind of unhappy with myself that we weren’t able to get to it this week… :(

On the other hand, one of my major goals for my students was for them to become comfortable with and “fluent” using a Spanish-English dictionary. Many of them had never used one before they started attending this class. While I have designed many of our activities to require the use of a dictionary, it wasn’t necessary (and really wouldn’t even help) with this particular adjective worksheet. What made me really happy was seeing, as I walked around helping with the worksheet, that almost everyone was looking up the adjectives that they didn’t recognize and writing the Spanish translation on the worksheet as well.

I didn’t tell them (or ask them) to use the dictionary and the dictionary couldn’t help with the actual assignment. But they have come to view the dictionary as a useful tool and they have gotten enough practice with it so that they can use it quickly and easily whenever they want. And they are internally motivated to learn – not just obligated to complete the exercises that I put in front of them. I think this is a pretty big deal and it makes me very happy! :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend Project: Size Estimations

An inebriated man in a bar was upset when his wife approached Truman Capote for an autograph. He staggered over to Capote's table, unzipped his pants, exposed himself and issued the challenge, "Since you are autographing things, why don't you autograph this?"

Capote replied,
"I don't know if I can autograph it,
but perhaps I can initial it."


Of course, we're always told that "size doesn't matter." I hope it's true, because I did a very poor job of estimating the right size pajamas to make for Juana's baby Alex.

But first, let's go back to where the story left off last weekend... All was done except for the footies and snaps.

The footies (or booties?) are made up of 2 pieces. A sole and a piece that reminds me of spats from shoes in the olden days.

After closing up the back seam on the spats-like piece, you stitch it to sole.

Flip it right-side out and - behold! - two little booties ready to be attached to the bottom of the pajama legs.

The bottom of each pants leg had to be gathered to fit the opening at the top of the booties.

That left the last step - snaps. You may recall that I complained a bit about the instructions calling for 14 snaps to be sewn on by hand. Summerset recommended snap tape, and I was all over that idea in a snap...

(Sorry, I couldn't help myself....) ;)

I struggled a bit with which sewing machine foot to use. I found I could use the regular foot on the side of the snap tape with the little indentations. But I had to use the zipper foot for the other side with the protuberances. I also found that adjusting my needle position (my machine has 3 options - centered, to the left and to the right) helped me sew along the edge of the tape.

And now I will unveil the completed outfit and you can see for yourself what I mean about misjudging the size:

It is waaaaaaaaay too big for the baby. In fact, it's going to be quite some time before he grows into it.

Oh well, I suppose that, in the meantime, his Dad can wear it... ;)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Confession

I get confused when I am directed to grade seams to different lengths. I'm never quite clear which of the seams should be cut shorter - or if it even matters... I usually try to make sure that the outer-most seam allowance layer is the longest, so that it can hold in all the shorter lengths, but I'm not sure if that is right.

And I wonder whether or not the thickness of each layer matters - for example, the interfaced layer versus the non-interfaced layer - should one be trimmed shorter than the other?

How about you? Do you have a system for always doing this the same way? If so, how do you do it? Do you think it matters?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

I couldn't find an appropriate picture for this post, so I'm substituting a cute picture of Oliver! I hope no one minds too much... ;)

Thank you so much to Summerset, Dawn, Debbie, Birdie, PhoebeGrant, LoisK and an anonymous commenter for talking back (even if it was ahead of time!) to my confession last Friday.

I admitted that I struggle with getting my cover stitch to line up nicely with the raw edge of my fabric on the inside of a garment – I usually have to trim away the excess fabric afterwards.

So, this topic brought about 100% consensus - everyone reported that this can, indeed, be tricky – mostly because, as Summerset pointed out, you can’t see the raw edge as you are stitching your hem.

While everyone agrees that it’s tricky, not everyone is equally OCD about it. For example, Dawn doesn’t stress out if it’s only off a smidge, and she and several others are okay with having to trim a little bit afterwards.

Other people go to more of an effort to get everything perfectly aligned from the beginning. Two main strategies were suggested.

Debbie, Birdie and PhoebeGrant all described in detail how they use careful measurements and make their own seam guides to help keep the fabric properly aligned. They did present some minor variations of the basic idea – but they all achieve the same good results!

Both Debbie and PhoebeGrant take measurements from the left needle to the bottom of the hem, and then attach something to serve as a guide for the folded edge of the fabric as they run the garment through the cover stitch machine (or serger). Debbie uses tape and PhoebeGrant uses something thicker – like cardboard or a stack of post-it notes. I got the feeling that Debbie may have her tape down such that the fabric mostly runs over it and PhoebeGrant puts her cardboard on the outside, so that her folded edge bumps up against it – but I may not have interpreted their comments correctly.

Instead of adding her own seam guide with tape or cardboard, Birdie uses the edge of her presser foot. She has found that the distance between the left needle and right edge of the presser foot is ¾ of an inch, so she irons her hems to 5/8ths of an inch and then uses the edge of the presser foot as her guide.

LoisK uses a second method – she folds over her hem and runs a quick hand-basted stitch 1/8th of an inch from the cut edge of the fabric (on the inside). Then she keeps this basting stitch centered between the two edges of the machine foot as she sews her cover stitch. In addition to keeping the cover stitch lined up nicely with the raw edge on the inside, it prevents rippling in the fabric (as the 2 layers are held together as they go through the machine) AND the basting stitch pulls out easily afterwards. Extra time – yes - but she loves how perfectly it works for her!

Finally, Summerset pointed out that it just takes practice. She used to do things like make seam guides and baste ahead of time, but now she’s done it so often that her fingertips just know how to guide the fabric through the machine in the right location.

I also asked if it would be likely to cause problems if my stitches fell off that raw edge and onto a single layer of fabric. Both Summerset and Dawn replied that you are likely to get a funny effect – tunneling or a ridge – due to the 2 needles going through different thicknesses of fabric. They both recommended erring on the side of needing to trim afterwards…

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to reply! I’m going to try your strategies and look forward to the time when it gets easier and I get better with practice! ;)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

The November issue of BurdaStyle just arrived and I found a couple of patterns that appealed. First up, these pants. It seems to me that their pants patterns usually narrow towards the ankles, accentuating the roundness of the hip area. My hips do not need any accentuation and so I look for wide legged trousers. I think that these might fit the bill nicely. :)

I did pick up some trouser material about a year ago on a shopping trip with Lori in central Missouri - maybe this is the pattern for that fabric...

The fabric has already been languishing in my stash for a year, so I'm not sure when I'll get to this project - but, don't worry, I will! It's in the queue... ;)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

Students learn what they care about.
~ Stanford Ericksen

Last week’s topic was modifying adjectives to make comparisons. It turns out that there are roughly 4 rules (with all the usual exceptions) in English.

Short adjectives (typically meaning one syllable), get an “er” added to the end.
Tall --> taller

Of course, if the adjective already ends in “e”, you just add an “r”. I’m not actually counting that as a separate rule… ;)

If the last 3 letters of the short adjective happen to follow the pattern consonant-vowel-consonant, then you double the last consonant before adding the “er”.
Big --> bigger.

If the adjective ends in “y” (now typically making it two syllables), you change the “y” to an “i” before adding “er”.
Pretty --> prettier.

Finally, long adjectives (two or more syllables & not covered above) are modified by adding the word “more” in front of them.
Intelligent --> more intelligent.

And there is a set of common exceptions where the word changes completely:
Good --> better
Bad --> worse

The system may not seem bad to native speakers, but keep in mind that there is basically only one rule in Spanish – add “more” (or “más” as the case may be) in front of the adjective. (Although they do have a small set of exceptions covering some of the same words as are in our set.)

So, I started by going over the rules, with examples. And then my 2 volunteers staged a kind of mock debate on Wile E. Coyote versus the Road Runner. Each took a side and they alternated making statements like “The Road Runner is faster than Wile E. Coyote” and “Wile E. Coyote is sneakier than the Road Runner.”

When they ran out of comparisons, one of my students shouted out that the Road Runner is tastier! The class got quite a kick out of that! :)

To be fair, “tastier” was one of the adjectives that we had used in the earlier drill, but it was good to see that it had stuck and he was able to put 2 and 2 together to express his sense of humor. :)

Then I wanted to have the class conduct their own debate. I thought a lot about the subject of the debate. I didn’t want to stir up strong emotions or controversy, which left out political and religious leaders. My friend Ana suggested that I use characters from a popular Hispanic show, El Chavo del Ocho (see picture above).

Ana assured me that everyone in my class was likely to be familiar with the show, even though I have students from a variety of countries (Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, and several countries in South America).

Sure enough, the picture brought smiles of recognition to everyone’s face. The class self-divided into the women (5) against the men (4), and I assigned the main character of El Chavo to the men and another small boy, Quico, to the women.

I gave them 10 minutes or so to prepare their adjectives and then we started the “debate.” We got lots of standard adjectives and I was happy to see that all 4 of the rules were represented. Some of the comparative statements included:

more envious
more arrogant
more creative
more aggressive

I was also amused to see that both teams picked some of the same adjectives. For example, the men claimed that El Chavo was thinner than Quico, but the women claimed that Quico was thinner than El Chavo. If both sides used the same adjective, then I crossed it off and didn’t count it for either side.

My favorite story comes from one of my quieter and weaker students. She wanted very much to say that Quico cries more than El Chavo. Unfortunately, that’s a verb, so I proposed that she say that Quico is whinier than El Chavo. We looked up whiny in the dictionary, so that she could see the Spanish word and make sure that it was acceptable.

While looking over that entry in the dictionary, she happened to notice a nearby entry and its Spanish translation: "whimsical.” She got very animated and declared that Quico was more whimsical than El Chavo.

She was so excited by this comparison that, when we were having our debate she couldn’t contain herself and, as I was writing terms on the board, she came up to the front of the room and practically took the marker from my hand and wrote it on the board herself. (This from a woman who sits in the back and usually won’t even speak in class.) Then she proudly translated it for the rest of the class. It was great to see her so excited and proud! :)

In the end, the 5 women generated 14 unique comparisons and the 4 men generated 9 unique comparisons, so I pronounced the women the winners of our "debate". The men promptly grumbled that it wasn't fair, as they were outnumbered... ;)

It was a fun class and I'll reinforce the material with the addition of superlatives (thin, thinner and thinnest) in an upcoming lesson.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend Project: Teddy Bear Pajamas

I ran up the door and closed the stairs,
said my pajamas and put on my prayers,
turned off the bed and hopped in the light,
all because you kissed me goodnight.

~ Unknown

I had a chance to start working on this outfit for baby Alex this weekend. There were 8 pattern pieces - 9 if you count the fact that you need to cut the bottom of the foot piece twice (for 4 pieces).

The first step was to attach the raglan sleeves.

Next you stitch up the side seams and underarm seams.

And then the "aaaaw!" cuteness factor comes into play with the tiny cuffs at the end of each sleeve.

The cuff instructions were standard - before inserting the cuff you are supposed to baste its raw edges together. However the cuff had to be stretched to fit the end of the sleeve, and I found it difficult to stretch it sufficiently with the basting in place. So I ended up removing that.

Next was the facing around the front of the romper.

The instructions called for interfacing to be applied to the facing. I didn't bother, as the fabric I'm using is a stretch knit, and I think it turned out to be a good thing. As with the cuff, I had to stretch the facing quite a bit to get it to fit around the neckline - I don't think I could have gotten it to fit if I had applied interfacing...

All throughout this time, I had been wondering about the "legs" (or apparent lack thereof) for this romper. It is supposed to have legs, yet the back was one solid piece. The next series of steps were to remedy this situation. First, I traced the markings along the bottom center of the back, and stitched inside the lines to reinforce what was soon to become a seam.

Next I cut up the middle and made a kind of star pattern by clipping into the stitches in two places.

Then the instructions had me open out the back along this cut, and attach a rectangular piece of fabric.

Once it was sewn on, I folded it around and stitched -in-the-ditch, like a binding.

Now, you can see how the front and back will attach to make legs. Although I'm still not sure how it will all combine right in the center of the crotch area...

I'll just mention that the instructions had me cut 2 of the rectangular piece of "binding" for the back, and it appears as if I'm only going to use one of them...

The main steps left are getting the booties made and attached, and then the snaps. Hopefully I can finish it during the evenings this week, so that I can give it to Juana next weekend.

On the other hand, I made a medium (at her request), and he weighs around 7 pounds, so it's not like he's going to outgrow it any day now... ;)

I hope you had a good sewing weekend and are ready for another week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Confession

When I sew a cover stitch hem, I never seem to be able to get the stitches to line up along the raw edge of the fabric. I get so aggravated with myself! :(

One thing that might contribute to my difficulties is that I am constantly fighting the feeling that it would somehow be really bad if the stitches went too far inward and fell off the second layer of fabric.

I've already received some good advice from phoebegrant, Lois K, Summerset and an annonymous commenter - thank you to all!

But I would love to hear from others too. So, how about you? Do you have trouble with this too? Any advice or suggestions of methods to do this more accurately? How bad is it if the stiitches periodically over-extend the raw edge?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Katherine, Ivalyn, Julia, CarlaF, Shannon, Sarah, Sarah E, Mamafitz, Faye, Mary, Alison, Becky, Cindy, Summerset and Lisa Laree for talking back to my confession last week. I confessed that I’ve never entered a sewing competition, and asked about others’ thoughts and experiences about these contests.

So, do these commenters enter sewing competitions? Most people (7) reported that they have entered a few contests in the past. On either side of that, we had 4 “never” votes and 3 “regularly” votes.

And here’s a great one – we actually had 1 vote for “accidentally” ! Yes, Becky thought she was just posting some pictures to the BurdaStyle website, and discovered later that not only had she entered a competition, she had actually been one of the winners!

As for which contests are the most popular, there was a tie between the contests on PatternReview and contests at local fairs (state and county), with each getting 4 mentions. Pattern company sponsored competitions (Simplicity & McCalls) and 4-H competitions tied for second place, each getting 2 mentions. Other contests mentioned by one person each were: the Strasburg Children’s Costume Contest, the Julie Timmel SWAP and a BurdaStyle competition.

I also asked about the pros and cons of sewing contests. On the pro side, people mentioned that competitions can inspire, motivate, focus and even provide a little kick-start to your sewing. A couple of folks like having a deadline, in that it keeps them moving forward. And Lisa Laree really enjoys the camaraderie among “competitiors” that she finds on the PR boards.

On the con side, not everyone likes deadlines. Several folks said that they find competitions stressful, and the two major components to that stress appear to be (a) lack of time and (b) being judged and critiqued by others. Several folks reported that entering contests is inconsistent with their general approach to sewing for themselves and that competitions can take the joy out of their sewing.

What I thought was really cool was that several folks suggested a kind-of compromise perspective to sewing contests. Lisa Laree recommends only choosing to enter a competition if it is about doing something that you want to do anyways, and you just need a little nudge to push you into working on it. And Mamafitz and Summerset both recommended sewing for yourself, and making each piece the very best that it can be, and then, IF an appropriate contest comes along, entering your piece.

Thank you again to everyone who took the time and trouble to leave a comment! I enjoyed your stories and – whether it be a technical tip or an attitude adjustment – I always learn something from you! :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

I had the opportunity to visit my friend Juana again last weekend. It seems that, other than a weekly grocery shopping trip, she's pretty much stuck in the house 24/7. So I took her and the baby out for lunch and a quick trip to - where else? - Joann's! ;)

She picked out this pattern for me to make for baby Alex:

Oh, by the way, she picked the union suit view with built-in feet. You know, the view that requires FOURTEEN snaps to be sewn on by HAND! Yikes! :(

And she picked this cute, stretch knit fabric:

I'm going to TRY to get it made before I see them again - probably within the next two weeks. In any event, I'll get to it - it's in the queue! :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

The object of education is to prepare the young
to educate themselves throughout their lives.
~ Robert M. Hutchins

One of my students is really struggling. And I mean REALLY struggling. I talked with her after class one night, and discovered that, as a young child growing up in Mexico, she attended school for exactly - brace yourself - one year.

Yes, that's right, ONE year. After first grade, at the tender age of 7 years old, her parents pulled her out of school and set her to work around the house and farm, to help take care of the family and, in particular, her younger siblings.

Forget English - reading and writing in her native tongue of Spanish is difficult for her! :(

Among other things, the weekly flash card homework was proving particularly impossible for her. So I decided to come up with an alternative. I purchased this big, bright children's book:

Each of the 14 pages has a theme and 7-8 illustrated words from within that theme. Here is the first page, for example:

With my husband's help, I recorded a CD with 14 tracks - one per page. For each page, I said the title (always in the center), and then each word (going clockwise from the upper left hand corner), three times. First in Spanish, and then in English two times. I left a pause in between each utterance that was long enough for her to repeat what she had just heard.

Her new weekly homework assignment is to learn the vocabulary on one page, by listening to the CD over and over again, until she can say the English words BEFORE I do.

Next week will be her first test (on page 1). I really hope this method works for her! (It certainly can't be any worse than the flashcards she was trying to learn up until now.)

Sometimes I look back on my early years of schooling and am disgruntled that I can't remember the dates of an important event in history or how to do a geometry proof. But my childhood education definitely accomplished one thing - I have been able to educate myself ever since... Working with this woman makes me realize just how lucky I am.