Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Category: For Moms (page 1 of 3)

Viola Ruffner and NYC Police

I’ve been thinking more about Viola Ruffner, Booker T. Washington’s high-expectation-employer turned forever friend. I think there are some similarities between her and the NYC Police. Here’s what I mean.

First, some background on Viola. She had a reputation as being a very difficult, demanding employer. So much so, that she had a hard time keeping hired help. She was just too stern, picky, demanding… After Emancipation, Booker T. was hired as the Ruffner’s houseboy.

As expected, in the beginning Viola would inspect Booker’s work and would usually send him back to do it over again, and sometimes yet again. At some point, when weeding the garden, Booker paused before calling Viola to inspect his work…and instead he decided to first do his own inspection.

He decided he’d better keep working.

He did a couple of rounds of this, and when she finally did come to inspect, she found no complaint.

Booker credits Viola with teaching him some of life’s most valuable lessons: diligence, hard work, faithfulness, honesty. She and her husband became supporters of Washington’s work, and Viola and Booker were lifelong friends. (The Ruffner and Washington families are still friends and had a reunion as recently as 2002.)

Now, what does Viola Ruffner have in common with the New York City police?

Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point? He has a section on the rampant, violent crime that was prevalent in the Big Apple in the 80’s. Crime rates dropped dramatically when the police established a no tolerance plan against subway turn-stile violators. By taking a firm stance against small infractions, overall crime – especially violent crime – greatly diminished.

By sending a clear message about the little things, a message was also sent about the large things.

I wonder if Viola Ruffner’s principles are not the same. Expecting faithfulness in the small things brings faithfulness in the large things as well. “He who is faithful in a very little thing, is faithful also in much.”

Viola Ruffner Wanna-Be

My kids won’t appreciate it — at least not for a while. But my aim is to become a Viola Ruffner to them.

Booker T. Washington credits Viola Ruffner for instilling in him the work ethic for which he is famous. Upon being freed from slavery, Washington held a few different manual labor jobs, primarily working in mines. Determined to do something better, he was hired as the houseboy of Viola Ruffner who was known for being able to keep only temporary help because of her high demands and expectations.

Washington lived with the Ruffners and worked for Viola for a year and a half, and in that time was instilled with a deep appreciation for hard work, a job well done, and honesty. He claims that after being in her charge, whenever he saw a broken gate, he wanted to mend it. When he saw trash, he wanted to pick it up. When he saw weeds, he wanted to pull them. (Now, I’m not really after that result with my kids – just some thoroughness in tasks around the house.)

Mrs. Ruffner encouraged Washington to further his education, was one of his benefactors, and he held her in extreme respect, calling her “one of the best friends I ever had.”

I want to be a Viola Ruffner for my kids. (They’ll cringe when they read this post, but they know I love them.) I’m terrible with follow-through on chores I give them to do, and I fear I’m letting them get away with half-baked work. My becoming a Viola Ruffner would be good for all of us.

But how am I going to become a Viola Ruffner? I think I should start with one task and hone it, hone it. I’m thinking of going for the jugular: kitchen clean-up. I have this rule in the house — whoever makes a meal shouldn’t have to clean up. (There is a lot of gray here, because in truth, many meals are partially prepared days in advance – bread, lacto-fermented items, etc. But the person assembling the meal doesn’t have to clean the dishes or put left-overs away.)

While it’s true that the kids are in the mode of handling clean up in the kitchen, it is almost never up to my standards, but I say nothing. Nothing. Isn’t that they’re doing it enough? Well, for a while that was enough. But now that the work routine is in place, the mechanics are lacking. Sorely lacking.

So now I’m thinking about inspections, checklists, points, etc. What incentive to give for them to get it right the first time. Speak to me, Viola!

What about you? Do you have a system for follow-up of daily chores? Do you spot check? Have a check list? Is it working for you?

I’m off to make a checklist of frequently neglected jobs associated with kitchen clean-up.

Quick Big Picture of Classical Education

Before our first homeschool mom’s-night-out of the new school year, when I thought of “classical education,” I thought of stuffy classrooms plaguing young minds with Latin and Greek. Narrow-minded of me, I know, but that was really my impression.

My horizons were broadened at the meeting by a grandmother who had accompanied one the the moms. She had taught science in the public school system for 20 years, and had been turned on to the classical method of teaching after doing some research. Here is a sum-up of her quick overview of the philosophy of classical education…

Classes are comprised of children of all ages. Older kids help younger kids learn. The young children are exposed to ideas and concepts that they won’t understand, but those concepts will be revisited year after year, and their understanding will increase with time. The older kids get to review what they’ve already learned as they help with teaching the younger ones.

When children are young (under 6th grade), they have a great capacity for memorizing. Cram information into their heads, even though they don’t understand it. Have them memorize all kinds of things from poetry to multiplication tables to the classification of animals, to the periodic table. (This teacher taught primarily elementary and middle school science. She made up little songs about all kinds of science facts and lists that her students were not ready to understand. Most were able to sing along with her after hearing the song and reading the lyrics just a handful of times. Years later, 10th and 11th graders would stop by and tell her they were still using her songs.)

In the middle school years, when kids become argumentative and challenging, instead of cramming facts into them, the method of teaching becomes debate. They learn to defend their logic and argue a case. They get to develop the little lawyers inside themselves.

In the high school years, as kids are wanting to distinguish themselves, research and presentation become the means of education.

It seems there is a lot of room to apply and mesh these principles with other philosophies of education. While I still cringe at the thought of teaching/learning Latin and/or Greek (wouldn’t Spanish or even Mandarin be more practical?), I like this teacher’s overall interpretation: cram, debate, and research/teach.

Can I Just Tell You…

I love mowing the yard. Where else can you clean up and then say, “Okay kids, have at it!”?

Mowing is hot, sweaty work, and sometimes I get gnats in my eyes. But, unlike housework that can get undone so fast it makes my head spin, that cut grass is going to look great for at least 3 whole days before it starts slowly looking shaggy again. Only God or a person mean enough to do donuts in the yard can mess it up.

Oh happy thought!

Testing, Shopping, Hoping and Stopping

Strange title, I know. But it will make sense in the end. (And it rhymes!)

You know how sometimes you see something you want but can’t have, and it makes you want it more? That happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

Carman was taking a standarized test across town, the same side of town where there’s a huge thrift store. He was to test for 3 days for 2.5 hours each day. While he tested on the first day, I took the other 3 kids and perused the store for 2 solid hours. I found great deals for everyone, including an orange print cotton skirt for myself. It had a short ruffle on the end. Very cute. I put it in my buggy.

I had a big pile of items to check out, so I didn’t notice that the skirt was missing until I got home. What a bummer! It must have fallen out of my buggy when I was putting Doodle in and out of the back. I was so looking forward to trying it on. Oh well. Maybe it will still be there tomorrow.

So the next day, I went back again. Sure enough, the skirt was still there. But…it wasn’t nearly as cute as I remembered it being. It was kind of pale, not the vibrant deep orange I remembered. And the print wasn’t nearly as appealing as I had remembered. For a minute I wasn’t positive that it was the same skirt. I had to check the label. Sure enough. This was the skirt I had pined over at home.

I tried it on, but left the store without it.

I can vividly remember having a similar experience a few years ago. I was in the discount section of a decorator fabric store when a bolt of fabric caught my eye. It would be perfect for our bedroom! Money was tight, though, and I didn’t need it, so I didn’t buy it.

When I got home, I told Marathon about it. “The texture is sophisticated, but the print is a bit whimsical and youthful. The muted earth-tone colors are on a cream background. It was perfect. We could pull out one of the richer colors and make throw pillows when we’re ready.” “Buy it,” he told me.

When I giddily went back to the store and saw the fabric, I couldn’t believe THAT is what I thought I had loved. Funny how NOT having something warps our perception of reality. Again, I went home empty handed.

(The skirt in the photo is not my proverbial orange skirt. I borrowed this one from Flicker’s Squid!. Thanks, Squid! Cool shoes.)

7 Odd and Interesting Things About Me

I was tagged by Wardeh to do this. I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, but I love her blogs & since I plan to drop by for a visit if I ever get to Oregon, I’ll accommodate her on this one. 🙂 So here goes…

1. Though I’m generally considered a quiet, reserved, meek person, I can be embarrassingly blunt at times.

2. I am just itching to take dance lessons – especially ballet, but I’d enjoy other types of dance as well.

3. My entrepreneurial, cabinet-making husband keeps me out of my comfort zone. He’s developing a new branch of his business, and I…yes, I am the “webmaster” of his new website. Please don’t laugh. I know the site is very simple & still needs work, but I’m so proud of what I’ve done there.

4. I hate to dust — and it shows. 🙁

5. Though my mother may find this hard to believe, I’m a habitual bed-maker.

6. My husband & I didn’t “date” each other before we were engaged. We’ve been married 12 years now.

7. I birthed all 4 of my children at home.

I don’t follow many blogs, and the few I do follow I seldom comment on (sorry!). So, here are a few who (hopefully) won’t be terribly surprised by getting tagged by me. Amy Ellen, Leanne, Stephanie.

Yard Sale Finds

I always find good things at my neighbor’s yard sales. Saturday was no different.

4 unopened packs of loose leaf paper – $.10 each

3 pair of like new pants for Sudoku – $2 each

1 like new, short sleeve shirt for Doodle – $.50

1 colorful, like new organizer that hangs on the back of a car seat – $1

A :( Day

At some point today (I think it was after the mower trouble) I remember thinking, “Can anything else possibly go wrong?” I didn’t say it out loud, probably because I knew the answer was yes. After all, none of the children were hurt – yet. Things getting worse was possible. And they did get worse. Continue reading

A Day at Chickamauga Battlefield

A couple of weekends ago, we spent the day at Chickamauga Battlefield riding bikes, climbing the stone tower, throwing the aerobi, picnicing, and horsing around. We all enjoyed the biking, Rosebud and Doodle were unsure about climbing the stairs inside the dark tower, and Carman saw how easily an aerobi can get stuck in a tree when throwing from a high tower. Here are some pictures from our day. Continue reading

Is “Education” Over-rated?

From Booker T. Washington’s chapter “The Reconstruction Period”:

“The ambition [of the freed slaves] to secure an education was most praiseworthy and encouraging. The idea, however, was too prevalent that, as soon as one secured a little education, in some unexplainable way he would be free from most of the hardships of the world, and, at any rate, could live without manual labour.”

I know that I suffered from the same sentiment in my youth. I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but it was there. Now, as a college educated woman, who has never used my degree, and who has seen many friends fall into jobs and careers that didn’t require their expensively earned degrees, I ask myself about the real value of a formal college or university education. Continue reading

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