Chances are kids will never learn — or even hear — American folk songs unless parents teach them.
Folks songs often detail the origins of the American experience:
“I’ve been working on the railroad”
“Oh My Darling Clementine”
“Michael, Row the Boat Ashore”
“This Land Is Your Land”
Although these songs are widely available on recordings, schools, with declining musical offerings, don’t use many any more.
In 2003, University of Florida doctoral student Marilyn Ward discovered in her thesis work that American folk songs were already gone from school curriculum and precious few teachers wanted them back.
When Ward surveyed music teachers about the songs, she encountered frequent objections.
Among the objections:
* Multicultural curriculums don’t include American culture.
* Low socio-economic schools need to teach pop songs.
* Folk songs might have racist backgrounds.
* Some songs have a Christian basis.
Although the songs like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” notably did have verses tied to racist minstrel shows, these verses were typically not taught in public schools.
Other songs, like “Wade in the Water,” were Christian gospel songs with a secret message: How slaves could escape dog tracking.
Christmas carols typically are not taught in school curriculum because of modern constitutional issues. Churches might keep these alive and, in fact, churches have produced many musicians and singers popular in today’s music scene. Still, church attendance is declining, according to recent research from Pew.
Musical instruction itself is often lagging in public education as support for all arts decreases. In 2015, the US Department of Education found that 40 percent of high schools don’t require any coursework in the arts for graduation. In 2010, more than 8,000 public schools were without any music programs. About 1.3 million elementary school students didn’t have access to learning music.
How to create a Christmas village
A miniature Christmas village is the perfect decorative piece to add to your home for the holidays. Here are a few tips to help you create an enchanting display your whole family will love.
Take some time to reflect on the elements that will make up your village before you go out and buy anything. For example, you’ll want to opt for figurines and buildings from the same brand to ensure everything in your village is proportional. Be sure to include:
• Moving parts. Animated features such as a skating rink, cable car, train, windmill, or merry-go-round will bring your village to life and draw the eye to various sections.
• Infrastructure. Streets, bridges, and walls will provide structure to your village and help you organize the buildings logically.
• Accessories. Benches, fire hydrants, street lamps, trees, flag poles, birds, and other details are essential to creating a realistic display.
First, you need to choose a spot for your village such as under the Christmas tree or on a fireplace mantel. The location should give you enough room to create depth and varying heights in your display. If certain features need to be plugged in, make sure there’s an electrical outlet nearby.
To maximize your village’s wow factor, test out several configurations (with the lighting turned on) and choose the option that best showcases each element. Use risers, boxes, or books to elevate sections of the village as needed. Once you’ve settled on the layout, add the streets, artificial snow, and accessories. If there are wires, make sure they’re hidden.
Finally, place the figurines near street lamps or illuminated buildings, so they’re visible in the evening too. If some areas of the village are in shadow, add a miniature spotlight or a tiny strand of string lights.
If you keep these tips in mind, your Christmas village is sure to become a holiday essential.
3 weeks before Christmas: Preparations continue
Time flies, and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Before you curl up in front of the fireplace or put on a holiday movie, there are a few important tasks you should see to.
• Choose holiday party outfits for the whole family, and make a quick run to the store if needed
• Confirm how many guests are coming, and create a seating arrangement to accommodate everyone
• Buy non-perishable food for the party such as chips, nuts, and canned goods, and stock up on alcohol for the adults and drinks for the kids
• Pick up any gifts that still need to be purchased
• Wrap your presents or, to save yourself some time and support a good cause, have an organization take care of your gift wrapping as part of a fundraiser
5 essential precautions if you have a wood-burning fireplace
A wood-burning fireplace can add warmth and charm to your home. However, if certain precautions aren’t taken, these devices pose a serious hazard. To ensure your home and family members remain safe, here are five practices you should adopt.
1. Use the right wood
Wood smoke contains a number of pollutants. To minimize emissions, opt for hardwood like elm, maple, and oak, and avoid softwood such as spruce and fir. Additionally, make sure the logs are clean and dry.
2. Install quality alarms
3. Keep an extinguisher nearby
A single misdirected spark or fallen ember can lead to a devastating fire. Make sure you always have easy access to a fire extinguisher and that you know how to use it.
4. Store ashes safely
Keep your fireplace clean by putting hot ashes in a sealed metal container outdoors and away from buildings and flammable materials. Wait a few days before transferring the ashes to the garbage.
5. Clean the chimney
Get a professional to clean and inspect your chimney every year. This will ensure proper ventilation and reduce the risk of chimney fires.
If you carefully follow these tips, you and your family will be able to safely enjoy the benefits of having a wood-burning fireplace in your home.
Choosing the right boarding facility for your dog
Do you need to board your dog for the holidays? If so, you’ll want to ensure the facility you choose offers quality care. Here are the criteria you should look at.
• The condition of the place. A good boarding facility should be clean, odor-free, and relatively calm. Dogs should look content and stress-free. They should also have proper bedding and water.
• The amount of space provided. Find out whether the animals are kept in cages or large enclosed areas. You want your dog to be able to move around with ease.
• The activities offered. Ask about the daily routine, including the number of walks and opportunities for your dog to socialize and play.
• The food served. Some facilities ask you to bring food while others supply it. If it’s the latter, make sure the food doesn’t differ too much from what your dog usually eats.
• The emergency protocols in place. Find out how employees are trained to deal with injuries, illnesses, and other urgent situations.
• The staff’s training. Observe how employees interact with various dogs when you visit the facility. They should also know how to recognize problematic situations before they deteriorate.
• The behavioral techniques used. Ask the staff about the methods they use to manage stress, discourage aggression, and keep dogs in line at the facility.
• The permits. Depending on the number of dogs they board, the facility might require special certification from the government.
The best way to learn about a particular boarding facility is to arrange a tour. However, make sure you reserve a place sooner rather than later. Availability can be limited, especially around the holidays, and your dog may need to be vaccinated beforehand.
To help you decide which boarding facilities to visit, ask for references from people you know, and read client reviews online. In addition, your pet’s veterinarian is a great person to ask for recommendations.
A green Christmas: eco-friendly decorating
Holiday decorations can help make Christmas feel like a magical time of the year. Here are a few ways you can make them more eco-friendly.
Invest in eco-friendly lighting
Brighten up the exterior of your home with LED lights and use a timer, so they don’t stay on all night. Alternatively, you can opt for solar-powered lighting. If you want to set the mood with candles, choose natural soy-based products.
Buy locally made items
Make your own decorations
Use natural materials like fallen branches, pine cones, and dried leaves to make your own seasonal decor. If you want to get the kids involved in holiday crafts, sort through your recycling bin for useful supplies like toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes, and egg cartons.
Finally, be sure to buy your Christmas tree from a local farm that doesn’t use herbicides or pesticides. For an unconventional alternative, build your own by stacking books or using other common household items.
9 ways to connect as a family over the holidays
The holidays are an ideal time to connect with your kids and spouse. Here are nine great ways to spend quality time together.
1. Cook or bake
Whether it’s preparing a big meal or making treats for Santa, cooking is a great way to bond with kids of all ages.
2. Rent a cottage
3. Have a game night
An evening spent playing games is sure to be filled with laughter and excitement. Make a point to choose games that appeal to everyone.
4. Spend a day outdoors
The winter holiday is an ideal time to go snowshoeing, skating, skiing, tobogganing, hiking, snowmobiling or to simply build a snowman. There’s nothing like a day spent outdoors to help you create lasting family memories and smiling rosy faces.
5. Support a good cause
Working together to make a positive difference in the world is a fantastic way to forge stronger family ties. Spend some time picking a cause that speaks to you and your kids, and research the best way to support it.
6. Watch a movie
Choose a film or series that everyone in the family will enjoy, pop some corn and gather in the living room to share a couple of hours at home.
7. Make a family bucket list
Make a list of the fun activities that you, your spouse, and your kids want to do. Put your list in a spot where it’s visible to all (like on the fridge) and start crossing things off.
8. Plan a cultural or educational trip
There’s no shortage of things to do that are both fun and educational, from going to zoos and planetariums to visiting science and history museums.
9. Create a family survey
Put together a fun questionnaire tailored to the ages of your children to find out more about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, ambitions, and more. Ask about their dream job, which countries they’d like to visit, what they most wish for, and what their most cherished memories are.
However, you decide to spend time with your family over the holidays, the important thing is that you’ll be together.