Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Every Day Counts...

Every day counts. Every choice matters.
Every one of us knows that’s true.
Every life has purpose. Every purpose a plan
and we've no choice but seeing it through.
Every week spent apart seems longer
than the weeks spent apart before.
Every morning brings a new fondness
for the hinge--not the lock--on the door.
But if we must live our days (cloistered away)
‘til the key in that lock is turned,
we will live knowing this: “EVERY DAY COUNTS” 
and that matters…
more than all other lessons learned.
© April 1, 2020, Tom Kapanka

On March 12, the governor of our state mandated that all schools, public and private, must shut their doors until April 6, and that all students must "Stay Home; Stay Safe." That same weekend all theaters and restaurants were closed. By the next Friday, the MDE declared that no matter how much instruction was given (from teachers to homes), the days would not "count." There was an explanation about how the mechanism were not in place to evaluate the merit of such "instruction," and therefore the days would not count toward credit or graduation requirements. Our school had the freedom not to comply, as I explained to our school family via video the following morning, we would be adopting the lesson from the parable in Matthew 19. We would "occupy" ourselves academically and invest each day in hopes of a return (both on our investment and to school). 

All this to say, this morning I woke up with the premise of this little poem in my head. Then thought a short video may be the best way to thank teachers, students and parents for working so are working so hard to make EVERY DAY COUNTS. Never has the truth of those three words meant more.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Timely Tuesday Update Regarding Pending Announcement from Governor Whitmer...

The CCS school family has been getting a lot of updates and information these days. I hope they are a refreshing change of pace. They all have a purpose. This one is timely because of a pending annoucement from the Governor that has started considerable speculation. Please watch this video and remember who we are as a school, why we are staying our course, and why the weeks ahead are so important in that process. After watching the video, it may be encouraging to go to the CCS Blog and watch the music video that follows these same thoughts posted there. Our theme for this entire school-year since September has been "Never Alone." That was so providential! And these thoughts and the short video that follows it at the blog underscore that God is in control of these days and weeks, even as we must choose how we respond to them.

Watch the video from 3-16-20 which has been relocated to follow this post.

Be Still and Know That He Is God...

This was originally posted on March 15, then reposted to follow the March 31 updat.

I posted this video on the first day of "Quarantine" away from our building. It was sent only to our school family but it has been viewed by 3X as many people. Either that or people have chosen to watch it more than once. Either way, I trust the truth of the lyrics brings comfort even as the stillness of the halls and classrooms makes us sad. God be with you till we meet again.

Though the title on the video mentions Covid-19 Closure, beginning this week, I am using the term "Spring Session" when I communicate with parents and students. It is seasonally accurate, and my hope is that suggests a breath of fresh air from the daily news. 

Mrs. K's "Cozy Little Cabin" Session 7

This Class introduces the letter "U."  Original post date was April 1, 2020, but Mrs. K did not have time to talk about April Fools Day. (These video classes must be under 15-minutes to post on YouTube.) Speaking of April Fools Day, that day marked a day of anticipation in our state as we awaited the Governor's announcement of how public schools would handle the remainder of the school year in Michigan. Many are hoping the rumors of what she might say were a joke (in light of the date). Mrs. K and all the teachers at CCS chose from day one of"Stay-Home-Stay-Safe" school closure of March-April, 2020, they that would find creative ways to continue to educate their students, making every day count. In the broader sense, "making every day count" is an important principle in life.

The letter "U"'s special guest prop is Mr. K's college umbrella (Phi Beta Chi, Bulldogs. See coming spin-off video called "The Shadow Box").

The story is "The Ugly Duckling," by Hans Christian Anderson, and a fun story-song is "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." The umbrella-ball-toss game is original. Mrs. K made it up and played it for quite a while in the kitchen, a true sign of "Cabin Fever" during the school closure of March-April, 2020. (This class was actually conducted on April 1, 2020, but pre-dated to appear below the March 31 post while awaiting an announcement from Governor Whitmer of Michigan.)  In class 7. Mrs. K wears the same MICHIGAN shirt that she wore in the very first "Cozy Little Cabin" class three weeks ago, but it is of of her favorite shirt's so you might just see it again in another couple weeks.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Mrs. K's "Cozy Little Cabin" Session 6

In this class, Mrs. K introduces the letter "T" an a temporary new addition to the "set," a teepee and a large asortment of other "friends" that start with "T." Songs include "I Brush My Teeth" and "I'm a Little Tea Pot." An interesting outdoor activity comes from Mr. Kapanka's childhood. He and his brothers spent many summer hours under the Chinese Elm tree in their front year. The twigs of which were ideal for making little "twig" cabins and teepees all around the base of that tree. It will be interesting to see if pastime now more than a half-century old will hold any attraction in this world of screens and personal devices. The story is "Franklin in the Dark" by Paulette Bourgeois 1986 (illustrated by Brenda Clark). A tale about a box turtle who is afraid of the dark and reluctanat to sleep in a shell.

March 30th marks the third Monday of the national "closure" of schools due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. We will continue to meet social and educational needs of our students and the many other guests who join us each MWF this spring.

"Soft Rain Saturday Morning"

On Saturday morning, March 28, 2020, I went out to get the mail (for the first time in several days) and saw large puddles everywhere. I had not heard the hard rain in the night, and now it was a very soft rain. I also noticed that mourning doves and song birds and cardinals and blue jays and crows were out in full chorus. It was as if spring had awakened, but I had not noticed until then. The calling birds and the soft rain immediately brought to mind Sara Teasdale's poem from 1918, "There Will Come Soft Rains." This video was also used to "kick start" Poetry Month (April) and a poetry unit in some of our literature classes. On the day it was posted, the on-line lesson plan in British Lit included Robert Burn's "To a Mouse," alluded to in the second half.
Teasdale's poem later inspired Ray Bradbury's classic sci-fi short story by the same name (1950), Both works serve as warnings that man's own actions will lead to his end, while non-human life will go one. (It's a premise for other fiction such as the Planet of the Apes franchise.) I contend, however, that whether by war or by virus, if the world as we know it is no longer inhabited by man, it will not be left to animals. God's plan for a new earth will not be altered from the metanarrative outlined in the Bible (creation, fall, redemption, restoration).
In Act III of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, Emily comes out of her "flashback" and asks the Stage Manager this question: “EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?" STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.” Teasdale was a gifted poet, but her beautifully written lines reflect underscore a juxtaposition between "saints and poets" (maybe). That is to say, Teasdale's warning to her fellow man during the First World War makes the Darwinian assumption of "Nature's" protection of "fittest animals" while scripture tells "saints" quite the opposite about their Creator's attention and affection for man "made in His image. In Luke 12:6 and Matthew 6: 28, Jesus tells us clearly that while our Heavenly Father indeed takes care of birds who neither sow nor reap nor build barns, etc. that care is nothing compared to how He will take care of his children. These are the passages that inspired the old gospel song: "His Eye Is On the Sparrow." In the video, I also allude to Robert Burn's poem "To a Mouse" (1785) which reflects an understanding of of the Genisis mandate establishing man's dominion (Genisis 1:26 and 28) over the very creatures and trees that Teasdale imagines surviving after man is gone. It is the responsibility of that "dominion" that distinguishes the difference between the kind of cares that man has compared to the animal kingdom. Instinctive nesting, breeding, feeding, migration, etc. in the "Circle of Life" as the song says, is a marvel indeed, but it is quite different from the burdens of civilizations and the complexity of human coexistance. Man is prone to cares from our past and dread of future unknowns--especially when "the best laid plans of mice and men" do not pan out. (Or when viruses spread or travel plans halt or stock markets tumble or lay-offs loom large.)

It is for this reason that Christians take comfort in being able to "cast all our cares on Him" and songs like "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," which comes from Luke 12:6 and Matthew 6: 28. Keep that in mind as you watch the following:

Don't you love the freeze-frames that YouTube selects. So flattering...

The song "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" comes from Luke 12:6 and Matthew 6: 28. That well-known gospel song was written by Civillia D. Martin in 1905, thirteen years BEFORE Teasdale wrote her poem, and provides an encouraging contrast to "There Will Come Soft Rains."

Friday, March 27, 2020

Cabin Backstory: "God Uses Broken Things."

This video is for the CCS parents and older students who may be curious about the connection between the school and the cabin in our basement, but it is also a reminder that God uses broken things for His purposes. That would include broken school-years.

When we do our best to see things from God's perspective, we tend to think more creatively, we tend to see more than one purpose in a plan. The opening of the video list several examples from scripture of how God uses broken things. This cabin comes from "broken things."

I literally took this "cabin" from a trash bin nearly two decades ago, and for 18 years it was simply a "family room" of sorts, but on March 13, 2020, when schools acros the nation were temporarily closed to give "social distancing" a chance to slow or even stop the spread of Covid-19. That was when "The Cozy Little Cabin" became the place where Mrs. Kapanka (and guests?) began spending time with her class.
At the time of this post, the effectiveness of "social distancing" seemed to be having positive results, but just how effective our 15 days of isolation would be remained to be seen. The time involved to spend just few minutes (via video) with those we care about is a small reflection of the bond between teachers, students, and parents. One positive outcome of this isolation is that, ironically, we are seeing the non-school side each other. I've enjoyed that.

Mrs. K's "Cozy Little Cabin" Session 5

This Class covers the letter "S" and and the number 8. It includes many "friends" that start with "S" as well as planting "S"eeds. The story is by Eric Carle called " The Very Busy Spider." Due to Youtube's 15-minute limit on uploaded videos during the Covid-19 pandemic (which necessitated this series), Mrs. Kapanka has to move from topic to topic much faster than would happen in a normal morning at school. It is recommended to watch the video through, make note of what you might need to watch it again pushing pause whenever you want to suplement with your own thoughts or activities. For instance, after Mrs. K show the pillow about friendship, it would be good to look up Provers 27:17. "Iron sharpens iron, and so one [friend] sharpens another."

Parental thoughts related to this session include two poems by Mr. Kapanka:
"Hope without the S," points out the difference in meaning between the word "HOPE" when we add an "S" (HOPES) and the word when it is singular.

The second is "Please Send Our Roots Your Rain," a word picture that compares our need for strenghth from God during difficult times.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Mrs. K's "Cozy Little Cabin" Session: 4

The Letter "R" is discussed with "Mr. Rabbit." Other activities include: Story "What Makes a Rainbow" by Betty Ann Schwartz (illustrated by Dona Turner), searching for rocks, coloring a rainbow, matching shapes and the "Months of the Year" song.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Mrs. K's "Cozy Little Cabin" Session 3

The letter “Q” tactfully introduces “QUARANTINE” in the context of quiet comforting “q” words, songs, and scripture. Classes 1 and 2 were about the letter “P”, and considered it providential to touch on this subject.

Parents may choose to discuss this topic further in the context of your home "where quiet questions are allowed and praise of answers is aloud."*

This class introduces the letter "Q" and includes activites like: the "7 Days Are In A Week" song, a strategic discussion of five words that start with "Q." The first four words were designed specifically to set a stage for a parental discussion of our current national challenge with Covid-19: Questions, Quiet, Quilt, and Quarantine. The last word, "Quack" is intended to shift from a "serious" tone back to the preferred tone of a preschool class. Pattern: Q-U are best friends, Song: "Six Little Ducks." The story is "Dilly Duckling," by Claire Freedman (illustrated by Jane Chapman) about a little duck who overcomes anxiety.

* The line:  "...where quiet questions are allowed and praise of answers is aloud." comes from a poem of mine called "Wonder Is."

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Video Update: March 21, 2020

This is the fourth update to our families since the national closure of schools, but it is the first "video" attempt. On Friday, March 20, 2020, the Michigan Department of Education caused confusion by saying that none of the efforts that had been implemented by teachers would count toward the school year. The full impact of that decision is non yet known, but CCS had been preparing this possibility two weeks before the official announcement. All teachers are equipped to "send" and all students have been equipped to "recieve" (about 20 laptops were made available to homes that needed them, and internet was provided to any family without it). We have confidence in the plans and the merit of these efforts.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Mrs. K's "Cozy Little Cabin" Session 2

Two days ago, Mrs. K posted her first session on YouTube. There are 21 students in her preschool, but that first video was viewed more than 250 times in the first few days. We welcome all of you.

This session continues with the letter "P," and includes activites: two poems, Story: "If You Give A Pig A Party" by Laura Numeroff (illustrated by Felicia Bond), counting to seven, making popcorn, more patterns, etc.

Note: Many years ago, I had a small video business that kept me busy in the summers. During the school year, I also taught journalism which included TV production. My students used to do "news" reports, etc. All of that changed when I moved from the classrooom to administration. It also changed because all of my cameras and editing equipment were "analogue," and digital technology has completely changed videography since the 1990's.

Making these simple, short programs with nothing but an IPhone smaller than an index card is something I would never have imagined 30 years ago. Mrs. K spends a few hours preparing each lesson; then it takes a couple hours to "shoot" the program; then it takes a couple more hours to "edit" in IMovie on my phone; then it take about an hour to upload to YouTube (this takes longer than usual because of the high volume of of educators relying on Google-owned services like YouTube at this time.) But, hey, what's time when your pretty much confined to a cozy little cabin?