Professor Sharon

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15 miles on the Erie Canal

June 18th, 2018 · Musings, travel

This is the third day of our week on the Erie Canal… of those days was our 45th wedding anniversary.

To that end, I offer a version of a song about the canal by one of our favorite beloved folk singers.

It has been an exciting and fun experience to this point….other boaters and bikers offer friendly greetings and advice, town docks offer good services or maybe not many, and the relative distance from the hectic pace of the rest of the world seems well removed (although truth be told, it’s not removed at all).

We are renting a barge from Mid-lakes navigation.    Boats built with the non boater in mind….and that they are.   I’ll provide a more in depth review of the boat and company in a later post.

For tonight, just let me say that at 7 miles an hour (all the boat can do), and a canal speed limit of 10 mph……it is quite easy to understand how 15 miles a day was all that was possible!

Postscript:    A better connection was never really had so that I could post more often.

Please find an article I wrote here, at GoNomad, for more about our trip and more pictures!




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Cuba in 2013

May 23rd, 2018 · Cuba, Education

And, why am I writing about that now?

Today, Rich and I had the pleasure of presenting our trip to Cuba in 2013 to the local Senior Community Center. It was a real pleasure to share our experiences with a group of about 18 folks. None had been to Cuba, except for a woman and her daughter who had an amazing story to tell of how the mother went to Spain to be married days before the Revolution and did not go back. It was moving to meet her, and to share our pictures of her homeland with her and the others in the audience.

We went before President Obama had opened up some of the rules for visiting, and, of course, before, Trump put them back. Many things have apparently changed – just go Goggle restaurants and hotels in Havana and look at the long list.

We went with Road Scholar (previously known as Elder Hostel), and at the time, they had about four or five choices. A quick search showed that cruise ships now dock there, hotels are being built, and many dining places have opened up.   My heart hopes that Cuba does not turn into a Caribbean Disneyland.

If you’d like to see the slideshow, click on the TALKS button at the top if the page and it will take you there. Enjoy!

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Country School Houses

June 14th, 2017 · Children, Country Schools, Education, Museums, Shaker, Site Seeing, Teaching & Learning, Volunteer

What a day!

On this last day of the Country School Association of America         conference, we spent from 8 to 6:30 on a bus driving about the local area of New Hampshire visiting no less than nine – yes – NINE – one room country schools!

Just amazing.  This is my first time at this conference, where I presented my paper on 19th century children, and honestly I was a little worried that I’d be spending the three days listening to workshops on how to renovate the things.  I was completely wrong!

What a great group of folks – academic folks who’ve published books, folks who curate, volunteer at, run, organize, own, and otherwise take care of country one room schools, a park ranger, folks who know all there is to know about desks, slates, and African American schools – and so much more!  It’s a great mix of scholars!

Here’s just a few pictures of the schools we visited today.  I’ll post more in the near future (now I need some rest)!

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Watercolors, New Hampshire, Delaware, and the Beechers

June 13th, 2017 · Children, Country Schools, eating, Education, Food, Important People, Museums, Play, Teaching & Learning

What do these items have in common?

Another great day at the Country School Association of America‘s annual conference!

My pictures aren’t so great today as I choose to sit a little further to the side today.  I discovered a place in the room with a bit better light overhead and a little less air conditioner breeze and noise!

The keynote speaker today was Sue Anne Bottomley, an artist who has visited all 234 cities and towns in New Hampshire and painted something lovely from each place.  As many of her drawings included country schools, and her talk was a lovely history of sorts of the state, it was quite suited to the conference.  Check out her website and the sweet book she has published with those paintings.

The next session I attended was given by Dr. Janell Drone – a really amazing woman.  She experienced segregation and desegregation as a growing child and young woman and brings the power of that experience in her life to her professional life and scholarship.  She spoke on the Invisible Assets behind the rise of Delaware African- American One-Room Schools and in particular the laws and Pierre S DuPont.  If you don’t know, as I didn’t, he had over 80 schools built in Delaware in the early 1900s specifically to provide education to African American children – really fascinating.

Food at this conference has been phenomenal – a bit like a cruise!  And, of course, I’ve eaten overly well!  Besides amazing meals with great fresh veggies and fruit, we have been offered snacks!



After a great lunch, I sat to listen to Dr. Allison Speicher talk on New England Teachers, Western Schools: Catharine Beecher’s Moral Crusade.   In the mid 1800s, Beecher managed to get a program started, that lasted for about ten years, of shipping trained teachers to the expanding West.  The National Board of Popular Education sent upwards of 600 women to schools out West.  Quite an amazing story.  Check out one of her courses – I’d love to take a class with her!  I’m definitely going to look for a copy of her book.

I really had to take a break for a while and have a walk, so I did.  The oppressive heat wave is subsiding and so I went outdoors and walked about campus for a bit getting some air.

I timed my returning to the indoors in order to play recess games of the 1800s:  “Nooning in the 1800s”!  Great fun presented by five women who are Schoolmarms from a local Heritage Commission and Historic Country School.  We got to play with the games including Quoits, Finger Tops, Spindle Tops, Limber Jacks, Ball and Cup games, Graces, Hoop and Stick, and Jump Rope.  It was great to move around, play with toys and other adults, and really consider what skills were being learned through play – making me really wonder what these games brought to the children’s development that may not be happening today!

Oh, yes, another meal!

After dinner, the CSAA held their annual meeting – quite interesting.  If you know a country school, check this organization out – I was amazed at the awards and scholarships they give out through memberships and a silent auction at this conference.

For our evening entertainment, the same women who brought up the toys, told us ghost stories.  Quite fun, except the ones they told about Colby-Sawyer and, in particular, the dorm where most of us are staying!





Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post – the last of the conference — we’ll be on a bus all day visiting about eight local country/one-room school houses!

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Country Schools — Day One

June 12th, 2017 · Books, Children, Country Schools, Education, Important People, Museums, Shaker, Teaching & Learning

Well, maybe day two depending upon how you count!   But, the first whole day of presentations – and wow were they amazing!

Twelve presentations were offered throughout the day – one being mine.  You choose one of two in each time slot.

First was the keynote speaker, Steve Taylor, a farmer, journalist and longtime public official in New Hampshire.  He gave a very interesting talk on the hundreds of one-room schoolhouses in New Hampshire of a century ago. He attended a one room school house in Cornish, NH as a young child, and told the story of the teacher there who taught for 58 years!   He spoke of the importance of the Granges in the country school house time, and the history of these schools in his state,  up until modern day.  So interesting.  He gives other talks that I’d love to hear one day.

Dale and Jean Prouty were up next for me, as I learned more than I ever knew there was to learn about slates!  They spoke about the commecial venture that happened in the 19th century when school become mandated and schools abounded.  These schools needed slates (paper was too expensive).  They had bought along their personal collection of slates – really, really fascinating!   I think about all that slate that’s on my roof that didn’t go to schoolrooms!   (sorry that I can’t seem to find an online link to refer the reader to the presenters in more detail).

Learning the Recitation Way was led by Susan Webb who had us standing and reciting poems, learning our lessons in geography by “bounding” a state.   Can you say without looking it up what “bounds your state” on the east, west, north and south?  She made us “toe the line.”   She also gives talks on “Rosenwald Schools” (this sounds really fascinating.)

I attended a talk on Horace Mann next by Ralph Buglass.  A truly important fellow who left a long paper trail to help us understand the evolution of the education for all and its importance to the new democratic experiment, as well as teacher training.

And, then right before my session, I watched a film about how the Old Stone House Museum in northern Vermont that had 20 teams  of oxen move a two story Grammar School building from one location to another!  Just amazing.

My own session on “19th Century Childhood:  The Lives of Children Among the Shakers and the World’s People”(Works cited Enfield paper) went well.  Feedback was that it was good and folks learned information – I always like to know that.  I felt incredibly rushed, but I guess it didn’t show.    Sadly, the person scheduled opposite me was unable to attend at the last minute and so I had a fair majority of everyone at mine – made me even a bit more nervous, but actually as I got going, I enjoyed speaking to a large audience (even if I saw a person sleeping; but who can blame them after a day as busy as this!)

For about an hour we went via carpools to New London Historical Society down the road.  It’s clearly a wonderful small museum with several buildings.  But, the weather was 92 degrees at 4:30 in the afternoon, so I had a quick look around and drove myself back to campus to get out of the heat.

baby minder

Dinner, and then a New England premiere of “Country School” One Room, One Nation” sponsored by the Gillespie County Schools of Fredericksburg, TX.  This movie was sad and delightful all at the same time, about the height and the fall of country schools.  And, in its own way, a statement about how education cannot be standardized.

Are you tired yet from reading?   Honestly, I had not expected to completely enjoy a solid day of hearing about one room/country schools, but I have.  There seems to be about 50 or so conferees, many independent scholars who really know their stuff.  Just incredible!

One room school at the New London Historical Society

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