Monday, March 9, 2015

Japanese Internment, Dorothea Lange & the Silicon Valley

I need to balance my need for organization with the fact that just going with the flow works better for us.  These last weeks have all been about going with the flow and I feel like we are digging deeper and not just checking things off of my organized list and it feels GOOD!

Summer of My German Soldier/Japanese Internment

We abandoned our history/literature study that I had spent all of last summer planning.  I gave up on reading The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559 Mirror Lake Internment Camp, but I still wanted to read Summer of My German Soldier with the girls because I knew Allie would love it and there is a ton of stuff to discuss in the book.  I consciously strewed some books about Japanese Internment
Camps around the house and we watched a video on youtube.  But, as luck would have it, the girls were intrigued and when the first chapter of Summer of My German Soldier mentioned the Japanese, Allie decided to break from Summer of My German Soldier and read The Journal of Ben Uchida first.
That lead to watching two documentaries: Unfinished Business and Civil Rights and Wrongs: The Fred Korematsu Story.  This lead to many discussions of whether the US government was protecting the Japanese (they were being attacked on the street after Pearl Harbor) or treating them unjustly (there were NO INCIDENCE of Japanese-American terrorism at the time).  The girls were particularly upset about how the Japanese men and women had only days to prepare and lost everything they had worked for--could the government have done something different?  Stores and homes would have been looted; the US government could not afford to buy everything and allow the Japanese to put they money in the bank.  Why would something like this NOT happen in the US today?  How are our feelings as a society toward Muslims and people from the Middle East different or the same today.

Summer of My German Soldier is such a thought-provoking book.  A Jewish girl harbors a Nazi POW.  Her father is abusive; the Nazi is kind.  The Nazi didn't agree with Hitler, he didn't like Hitler or what Hitler was doing, but he had no choice, he had to be a Nazi or his family would have suffered; her father has a choice to be nice and chooses not to be.  Reading between the lines, we learn how different people view different situations in the book.  Was Patty right or wrong for harboring a Nazi?  Who was the better man here?  At what point do you speak up?  When does speaking out and going against the grain make you a hero and when does it make you a pariah?  Good stuff.

Photography has been a HUGE part of our history study this year.  We learned about how Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine affected change in New York City at the turn of the century.  Their photos were powerful and showed us visually things that words can not express.  I had not heard of those photographers before and can not stop reading about them and looking at their powerful photos.  After watching Grapes of Wrath a couple of weeks ago, I decided to get a Dorothea Lange photo book from the library.  The girls and I have been looking through it daily.  I think we feel like we want to keep looking at these people because then maybe their suffering will be less.  I know that makes no sense, but it just feels like we should remember these people.  The first page of the Dorothea Lange book Grab a Hung of Lightning tells how she took the Migrant Mother photo on a whim, she was driving home, exhausted and had countless rolls of film, but she knew that a drought had affected the pea pickers and she turned around on Highway 1 (a road the girls reacted to, as we have driven it and seen migrant workers--even today--still working those fields) and went to the camp and photographed that woman, who is only 32 in that photo and has 7 children. As a result, the San Francisco Chronicle rushed to publish the photos and a story about the plight of the pea pickers and the federal government rushed in food and supplies to help the starving families--none of which would have happened if Dorothea Lange had not turned around on the highway.
Migrant Mother photo by Dorothea Lange

Affecting change...

I was on the other day when this story caught my eye.  I scrolled through the case studies and the stories, the statistics and the facts and then the possible solutions.  I decided to share the story with the girls and discuss the possible solutions.  We discussed whether the government was responsible for trying to help these people?  We discussed the four solutions and which we liked best.  Allie felt compelled to get more involved and write letters to the government and do some more research.  It was only after we had gotten involved that I realized the Silicon Valley is within spitting distance of those Pea Picker's Camps and how similar the stories are.

Dead Poet's Society

I saw this movie in the theaters with my friend Sean when it first came out.  We were 17 and we had had a teacher, Mrs. Leahy, that year who was a lot like Robin Williams' character in this movie.  She was an English teacher and she empowered and emboldened us to think for ourselves.  In her class, I suddenly realized that education was about learning things so you could contribute to society--something I didn't realize when I was filling in ovals and regurgitating information.

So often in making the decision to homeschool I thought of this movie.  If school was about standardized testing, would my girls ever have a teacher who ignited a passion in them?  Who told them, “When you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think," (Robin Williams, as John Keating, Dead Poets Society).   Who would hold their hand over their eyes if they were afraid of public speaking and get them to come up with a beautiful poem about the human condition?  Would they have a teacher who encouraged them to look at things differently?  A teacher who encouraged them to seize the day?  I don't know that there is room for that in a standardized society and I felt strongly that I wanted my girls education to be more like Dead Poet's Society than a model of standardization.

I have been excited to watch this movie with the girls, I wanted to make sure we did it at the right time so it meant something to them.  I'm not sure if it was the right time or not, but we watched it.

There was a lot to discuss with this movie.  Robin Williams encourages the boys to be rebellious, but in so doing he ignites a fire in them, so was it wrong to encourage them to do something they were not supposed to do?  Did the risk outweigh the reward or the other way around?  Neil's parents are not wealthy and they want a better life for their son, they struggle to keep him in a private school and they want him to put all of his energies into his studies so he can have a better life.  Are his parents wrong for not understanding his passion and gift for acting (an unpredictable, often unstable career choice)?  When his parents pull him out of school and enroll him in a military school, Neil takes his own life because he doesn't feel he can talk to his parents.  As a young adult, I felt misunderstood by adults, that adults put a lot of pressure on kids...but as an adult, as a parent, I see things differently.  The girls can see both sides, but growing up in a different kind of home, could not fathom that Neil could not talk to his parents.  These were some of the conversations we had about Dead Poet's Society.

Other Stuff...

The girls did math and we finished Lesson 2 in Italian.  They finished Balance Math 1--which I like because it uses a different part of the brain, a different approach to math and is more of a creative challenge than a math problem, even though it really was supposed to be for younger kids.  They continued working on their Ancient History project, researching and writing about Nomads.  They finished reading Summer of My German Soldier and answered questions about setting, themes, morals, characters, plot, who they thought the heroes were and why, etc.  We watched the Summer of My German Soldier movie on youtube (Kristy McNichol plays Patty!--what the heck ever happened to Kristy McNichol?).  Allie and Jason skied on Mondays and Piper volunteered at the library; Allie had e-cubed and Piper had pottery on Wednesday; Jason went to Atlantic City for a conference; and we celebrated Piper's birthday with NO SCHOOL ALL FUN on Friday.  Oh and we cancelled Writing Club because of snow!

Allie made a Cinnamon Roasted chicken.  Since I don't eat meat and have gotten to a point where I can't handle raw meat (it grosses me out) my girls and Jason have had to learn to cook meat.  I was pretty proud of Allie for trying a recipe that is so different.  They all loved it.  I was told it was excellent.  I was also at least 26 before I attempted making a roasted chicken.

Jason heard about this yoga pose that has been proven to improve scoliosis.  Since I have scoliosis and do yoga, I have been trying it.  I've always done the side plank, but this is slightly different and held longer and ONLY on the weak side.  I have also been looking into Elise Browning Miller's videos on Yoga for Scoliosis.

I finished watching Downton Abbey for the season and I cried.  Yay!  It was sooooo good!  I think the girls and I are going to try Gilmore Girls --we need a show to watch together and now that Gilmore Girls is on Netflix it seems like everyone is talking about it!

I am reading this book.  It can snow forever as long as I always have books like this to read.  I am loving it.  One of my friends said it is a, "I hope the kids make their own dinner because I don't want to stop reading" kind of book and I definitely agree.  I forced myself to finish this blog post because...I don't really know need for organization and writing these posts makes my week feel complete.  Hopefully now I can just lay around and read until Jason gets home from Atlantic City!

Counting Our Blessings

The last few years we have done 40 Bags in 40 Days and our whole family has cleaned out closets, our attic, our drawers, our basement and donated 40 Bags worth of things for Lent (Jason also gave up Facebook and never went back and the girls have given up sweets and their favorite video games in the past).  Doing 40 Bags in 40 Days changed how we bought things: we don't buy as much, we realized we don't need as much and we also realized we like things pared down, it looks neater and is easier to keep neat.  We tried to do 40 Bags this year...but we just didn't have as much stuff. So, we decided to approach Lent differently.  We are volunteering at the soup kitchen (which we do monthly anyway).  We are writing letters and getting involved in an effort to end poverty, especially among children.  And, we are also Counting Our Blessings, which was something that everyone kept telling Patty in Summer of My German Soldier to do.  I have challenged the girls to each count their blessings and illustrate it in a creative way that will impress me.  I can't wait to see what they come up with!