Sunday, May 28, 2017

We Are Family; I Got All My Sisters and Me

Sisters and members of the Anabaptist Orchestra
Valerie, Kristen, and +Victoria Miller 

Registration is still open at

Saturday, May 27, 2017

7th and 8th Grade Recital Practice - Enjoy!

Three of our talented young students at Shalom Mennonite School were practicing one of our new favorite songs, "Cajun Fiddle", for the 7th and 8th grade recital held the second-to-the-last day of school.  Again, our school has a policy to not show pictures of the students' faces, and we and our students are happy to honor that.
Click on the link below to hear it.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gradu, Gradu, Gradu, Gradu, Gradu, Whoa, Gradu, Graduation!

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!        Isaiah 52:7 

My delightful eighth grade homeroom class graduated this evening.  They are an amazing group of young people and I have greatly enjoyed this past year with them.  Much of that is to be credited to their wonderful personalities and fabulous attitudes.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dear Self, I'll See You in Five Years.

 This is one writing project that I try to do every year, and that I highly recommend.  
Near the end of the year, I give all of my English class students an envelope and instruct them to write a letter to themselves, to put it inside the envelope, and to address it to themselves.  Then I tell them that I will mail it to them in five years, and I do.  
I always include a letter from myself telling them what is going on with our family, and I put that inside their letter as well.  It is so fun to see their handwriting once again after five years, and to read the funny things they wrote.  Sometimes they seal their letters. Then I just leave them sealed and put my letter in another envelope that I address to them.  
One of the benefits of this is that I always hear back from some of them. After I sent out the last group of letters, I heard from former students who were getting married, starting their own little business, or going off to the Middle East to learn Bible translation. That is exciting to hear about.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

8th Graders. End of School. The Sharks Game.

For some reason I began explaining to my students one of my favorite games to play when I was a child.  I called it "Sharks".  I would pretend that the grass all around my swing set was shark-infested waters, and that as long as I stayed off the grass, I was safe. I would pull picnic table benches over and use them as stepping stones so that I would not touch the grass.  
So, as I was telling my story, the idea occurred to me that we could do the same thing in the classroom.  The carpet could be the shark- infested waters, and we could walk around on the desks and stools using pillows for stepping stones.  I declared that Monday would be "Shark Day".  And so it was.  
The idea carried over into math and English as well.  I like to put something history-related on their math papers, so that Monday it was a picture of Laika, the first dog in space on the Russian spaceship Sputnik.  I had inadvertently copied their 8" x 11" math worksheets on 11" x 17" paper, so I told them they had to draw me a picture on the blank side.  One of my students drew "Sputnik Shark", with a shark riding inside a spaceship.  And, for their vocabulary word "permissible", one of the students wrote, "Playing sharks is permissible in Mrs. Swanson's room."  Absolutely it is.  

And, I might add, that even though we are being a little silly this last month of school, my students just got their highest grammar grades of the year on a quiz identifying and diagramming compound-complex sentences.  They also had to write compound-complex sentences on their amazing history essays, which they did.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Return of the French Horn Girl Along with Her Sister

The Anabaptist Orchestra has several groups of siblings which play in the orchestra.  Violist Chloe Byler discusses music with her sister Twila Heatwole, who plays both the viola and French horn. Chloe's husband Douglas is a percussionist for the orchestra as well.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Miss Jenna's Class

It is that time of year again.  The time when the weather gets warmer, the flowers bloom, the students get a little antsy, and their work gets sloppy.  This puppet policeman is encouraging the 2nd graders in Miss Jenna's classroom to be a little more diligent with their work, and that way they won't have to do fix-ups.

And this greeted me when I walked in the door one morning.  My husband informed me that Miss Jenna had her class practicing their math skills with sidewalk chalk outside.  It must be fun to be in Miss Jenna's class.   
(Jenna Martin is the 2nd grade teacher at Shalom Mennonite School.)  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Fabulous Field Trip to Colonial Williamsburg

I recently had the privilege and opportunity to spend an exceptionally wonderful day with my 8th grade homeroom students in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  We have spent this year studying American History, so it seemed the perfect place to visit.  

We sang Thomas Tallis's "If Ye Love Me" inside the Bruton Parish church and watered the vegetable gardens at a colonial homestead.  
We toured the Governor's Mansion and listened to colonial era (classical/baroque) music played on period instruments.  We also visited homes and shops, and heard speeches about many aspects of colonial life, slavery, the American Revolution, property ownership, church membership, and at least a dozen other history-related topics.  
We ended the day at Christiana Campbell's Tavern where we feasted on fried chicken, spoon bread, sweet potato muffins, veggies, and ice cream.
And, I am not allowed to put pictures of my students' radiant, smiling faces on here because of a school policy which I gladly support, but here is a picture of their beautiful feet.  

A special thanks goes to Miss Martin who graciously shared her photos with me.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hominy Anyone?

While learning about World War I and the United States Food Administration in our American history class, I pulled out my posters and discussed them with my students.  "What's hominy?" one of them asked.  That gave me an idea.

Growing up in the South, we did eat hominy, and even grits, thank you.  (We prefer the latter with cheese, by the way.)  So the next day, my students got to sample hominy, which is corn kernels that have been soaked to remove the hulls.  Most of them were not too impressed, but they did learn something new.  


noun  hom·i·ny \ˈhä-mə-nē\
Popularity: Bottom 20% of words

Definition of hominy

  1. :  kernels of corn that have been soaked in a caustic solution (as of lye) and then washed to remove the hulls

  2. Definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Not in a Box, Not with a Fox

This has got to be my favorite history project of all time.  One of my creative, energetic 7th graders researched Henry "Box" Brown, a slave who built a box, got inside it, and shipped himself to freedom in Philadelphia.  The student then built the box to specifications and even got inside it to demonstrate as part of his presentation to the class.  It currently resides in my classroom.   He was also inspired to do his research paper for English class on the same topic.  

His sister made this dress similar to what a slave would have worn.  She even made it out of thick, coarse material.  Another student made a journal with entries by Harriet Tubman.  

One of my eighth graders researched one of the most exciting exploration stories -- Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance.  He recreated a scene from their camp on Elephant Island near the coast of Chili with upturned life boats used as shelter while they anxiously awaited the return of their faithful captain.