The Aging Homeschool Parent

The Aging Homeschool Parent
by Amelia Harper

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at http://www.TOSMagazine.comor read it on the go and download the free apps at http://www.TOSApps.comto read the magazine on your mobile devices.

The modern wave of homeschooling essentially began in the 1980s and has now embraced a new generation. Homeschooling has matured—it has aged. And, it seems, we are aging with it. Since homeschooling families tend to be larger than average, there are more families than ever who are still homeschooling long after their counterparts have faced an empty nest.

I am a prime example of this growing trend. I began homeschooling in the eighties and am still homeschooling today. I am 50 years old. My husband is 55. We have three children with college diplomas and one of them is married. Yet, we still have an 11-year-old and 14-year-old at home. If all goes as planned, we can expect to be homeschooling for another seven years.

Sometimes it scares me to think about how old we will be. I envision myself hobbling through homeschool book fairs, pushing a walker rather than a stroller. I wonder what it will be like to buy curriculum with a Social Security check. I only hope I can still hear well enough to appreciate the graduation ceremony as my final homescholar accepts her high school diploma.

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Charles B. Lawlor and “The Sidewalks of New York”


Charles B. Lawlor (June 2, 1852 – May 31, 1925) was an American vaudeville performer and composer of popular songs, who is primarily remembered today as the composer of the 1894 song, The Sidewalks of New York, a popular song about life in New York City during the 1890s,  for which he wrote the melody.  He was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 2, 1852, and emigrated to the United States in 1869. Lawlor was part of a vaudeville team with songwriter and performer James Thornton. He had been singing at Charlie Murphy’s Anawanda (Republican) Club, for a Ladies’ Night with a good party. On his walk home, he thought to himself that he sang everyone else’s tunes, and he should write one of his own. He couldn’t think of anything on his long walk home, but during the night the tune and theme came to him – from the walk itself.

The tune, a slow and deliberate waltz, was devised by Lawlor. The next day, he went downtown to John Golden’s hat store to see an employee, James W. Blake (September 23, 1862 –May 24, 1935) ,and hummed the melody for him.  Blake took a liking to the 3/4 tune,and had Lawlor repeat it several times. “You get the music on paper,” he told Lawlor, “and I’ll write the words for it.” Lawlor returned to the store in about twenty minutes with the musical notes written, and Blake was halfway through the lyrics, having been interrupted by a customer. He finished the words in another half-hour. ). It was an immediate and long-lasting hit and is often considered a theme for New York City. The song is also known as “East Side, West Side” from the first words of the chorus.  The tune and words became extremely familiar and well-known throughout New York City. It was first made famous by Lottie Gilson, and it had staying power because the melody was catchy and easy to sing.

The words were a shared vision of Lawlor and Blake, and recall their childhood neighborhoods and those who grew up with them. It was a universal longing for youth, yesteryear, and place, although it was also idealized because both Lawlor and Blake had grown up quite poor. Lawlor said that he envisioned a “big husky policeman leaning against a lamppost and twirling his club, an organ grinder playing nearby, and the east side kids with dirty faces, shoes unlaced, stockings down, torn clothes, dancing to the music, while from a tenement window an old Irish woman with a checkered cap and one of those old time checkered shawls around her shoulders, looking down and smiling at the children.”  The words of the song tell the story of Blake’s childhood, including the friends with whom he played as a child, namely Johnny Casey, Jimmy Crowe, Nellie Shannon, and Mamie O’Rourke who taught Blake how to “trip the light fantastic”). . The song is sung in nostalgic retrospect, as Blake and his childhood friends went their separate ways, some leading to success while others did not (“some are up in ‘G’ / others they are on the hog”).

Although the song was popular immediately after it was written and published, Lawlor, as well as the lyricist, Blake, rose to renewed prominence when the song became the theme song for the failed presidential campaigns of Democratic presidential candidate Governor Alfred E. Smith in 1920, 1924, and 1928.   Lawlor’s other compositions include: You’re the Best Little Girl of Them All, Irish Liberty, Pretty Peggy, and The Mick Who Threw the Brick. Although the song achieved cultural success shortly after its release, its two authors had sold its copyright to Howley, Haviland, and Company, and earned only $5,000 for their efforts. Lawlor died penniless on May 31, 1925, in New York City, NY, with the song reportedly still selling 5,000 copies annually at the time.

Max Fleischer and his brother Dave Fleischer made a cartoon The Sidewalks of New York with the song in 1925, using the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The Fleischers re-released the song on February 5, 1929, with a new soundtrack in the RCA Photophone system. Both cartoons used the “follow the bouncing ball” gimmick. During Smith’s 1928 campaign, the urban-centric tune proved symbolic of a campaign that failed to find its footing in America’s more rural areas, where Herbert Hoover was more popular.  After the deaths of Blake and Lawlor, Sidewalks of New York continued as a standard among jazz artists, namely Mel Tormé and Duke Ellington (in 1941), and recorded by musicians of various backgrounds. The song appeared in a 1954 medley (along with two other 1890s songs, “Daisy Bell” and “The Bowery”) in a version by Don Cornell, Alan Dale, and Buddy Greco. Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album On the Sentimental Side (1962).

Many other artists, including Larry Groce, Richard Barone, and The Grateful Dead, have performed it, and it is also a standard among barbershop quartets. Until 1996, it  was used as the post parade song for the Belmont Stakes, the third race in of horse racing’s Triple Crown.  The durability of the song was demonstrated once again in 2011, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when recording artist Richard Barone and collaborator Matthew Billy wrote additional lyrics to reflect the fallen towers and honor the victims of the attack. While celebrating the perseverance of the city itself, the revised song was released as a single (The Sidewalks of New York 2011), receiving strong airplay and favorable reviews.

My collection includes the following work by Charles B. Lawlor:

Sidewalks of New York or “East Side, West Side” (1894).

Union School at Fort Christmas Historical Park, Christmas, FL


Union School at Fort Christmas Historical Park

1300 N. Fort Christmas Rd.

Christmas, FL 32709

Fort Christmas is located in Christmas, Florida, just off State Road 50, twenty miles east of Orlando enroute to Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville. On December 25, 1837, a force of 2,000 U.S. Army Soldiers and Alabama Volunteers arrived near this spot at present-day Christmas, Florida, to construct a fort which was aptly named, Fort Christmas. This fort was only one of over 200 forts built during the Second Seminole Indian War, 1835 – 1842. A full-scale replica of Fort Christmas was built by Orange County Parks and Recreation, in cooperation with the Fort Christmas Historical Society, in the late 1970s; it was dedicated in 1977. Located just south of Christmas Creek, the site is probably less than 1 mile from the location of the original fort.  The fort houses exhibits and a video presentation on the Seminole Indian Wars.  A small museum within the walls of the re-created fort displays US military, Seminole Indian and pioneer artifacts dating from the Seminole War period, including weapons, clothing, tools, household appliances and other items.  In addition to the life-size replica of the fort, seven restored historical homes preserve the “Florida Cracker” architecture of East Orange County. The houses and farm buildings furnished with original and reproduction period pieces are interpreted to show rural Florida pioneer life from the 1870s through the 1930s. Key themes are homesteading, cattle, citrus, hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Other restored structures in the park include a 1906 school and its lunch room.  The Union School was established in Fort Christmas in 1906. Originally a large, one room school, it was named ‘Union’ School because it united several small, family operated schools into a central location.  In the 1920s the school was enlarged with the small room addition in the rear. The teacher’s house and garage were built during that decade. The Lunch Room was constructed in 1932 and the stage was added to the big room in the late 1930s.  For an isolated community, school provided important social as well as educational activities. Programs and graduations were well attended. Usually referred to as the Christmas School, it was closed in 1969. Due to population growth the small school was no longer able to provide for all of the children in the community. Since then local children have attended Columbia Elementary in Bithlo.  Fort Christmas Park has picnic areas as well as facilities for baseball, basketball, tennis and a children’s playground. The park hosts a number of events each year, including the annual “Cracker Christmas” in December and a bluegrass music festival in late March. The Fort Christmas Historical Park is operated by the Fort Christmas Historical Society and Orange County Parks and Recreation.

Louis Bourgeois and Old Hundred


Loys “Louis” Bourgeois ( c. 1510 – 1559) was a French composer and music theorist of the Renaissance., who is most famous as one of the main compilers of Calvinist hymn tunes in the middle of the 16th century and is commonly credited of the best known melodies in all of Christendom, the Protestant doxology known as the Old 100th.  Bourgeois was born in Paris around 1510.  Next to nothing is known about his early life. His first publication, some secular chansons, dates from 1539 in Lyon. By 1545 he had followed John Calvin to Geneva (according to civic records), where he was song director at the Church of St. Peters, and become a music teacher there.  In 1547 he was granted citizenship in Geneva, and in that same year he also published his first four-voice psalms.

In 1549 and 1550 Bourgeois worked on a collections of psalm-tunes, most of which were translated by Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze. The extent to which he was composer, arranger or compiler was not certain, until a long-lost copy of the Genevan Psalter of 1551 came to the library of the Rutgers University. In an Avertissement (note) to the reader Bourgeois specifies exactly what his predecessors had done, what he had changed and which were his own contributions. He is one of the three main composers of the hymn tunes to the Genevan Psalter.

The tune Old Hundredth first appeared in the Genevan Psalter of 1551, which Bourgeois edited, with Ps. 134.  It is often attributed to Guillaume Franc (1520-1570) and sometimes dated 1543 but was apparently adapted by Bourgeois.  The melody was then used with Ps. 100 in  William Kethe’s Four-Score and Seven Psalms of David published in 1561 at Geneva, and has been associated with it ever since. There is no definite information available about the date and place of Kethe’s birth, but it is generally believed that he was a native of Scotland. His early life is unknown, but he was a Puritan who, because of the Marian persecution by Catholics of Protestants in 1555, went into exile at Frankfort, Germany, and then in 1558 moved to Geneva, Switzerland. There, he seems to have been engaged in helping to translate the Geneva Bible which came out in 1560.

Also Kethe assisted with the publication of John Day’s Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561 where his renderings of 25 psalms appeared. “All People that on Earth Do Dwell” was included in that first edition. Later editions came out in 1562 and 1564. The Psalter editors often tinkered with the metrical psalm arrangements from one edition to the next, which may explain why there are some variations in the wording of this one in different songbooks.  After Elizabeth I came to the throne, Kethe returned to England in 1561 where he became minister of the church of Childe Okeford in Dorsetshire, and in 1563 and again in 1569 served as chaplain to Elizabeth’s forces under the Earl of Warwick at Havre. His death is usually given as having occurred on June 6, 1594, at Dorsetshire, England, but various sources place it as early as 1593 or as late as 1608.

Bourgeois is the one most responsible for the tunes in the Genevan Psalter, the source for the hymns of both the Reformed Church in England and the Pilgrims in America. In the original versions by Bourgeois, the music is monophonic, in accordance with the dictates of John Calvin, who disapproved not only of counterpoint but of any multiple parts; Bourgeois though did also provide four-part harmonizations, but they were reserved for singing and playing at home. Many of the four-part settings are syllabic and chordal, a style which has survived in many Protestant church services to the present day.

Unfortunately, Bourgeois fell afoul of local musical authorities and was sent to prison on December 3, 1551, for changing the tunes for some well-known psalms “without a license.” He was released on the personal intervention of John Calvin, but the controversy continued as those who had already learned the tunes had no desire to learn new versions, and the town council ordered the burning of Bourgeois’s instructions to the singers, claiming they were confusing. Shortly after this incident, Bourgeois left Geneva never to return.  He settled in Lyon, his Geneva employment was terminated, and his wife tardily followed him to Lyon.

While in Lyon, Bourgeois wrote a fierce piece of invective against the publishers of Geneva. Sometime before 1560 he had moved to Paris. Curiously, his daughter was baptized as a Catholic, and also in 1560 a Parisian publisher produced a volume of secular chansons by the composer—a form he had condemned as “dissolute” during his Geneva years. This was his last publication during his lifetime.  He died in Paris around 1559 or 1560.  Of the tunes in the Genevan Psalter, some are reminiscent of secular chansons, others are directly borrowed from the Strasbourg Psalter. The remainder were composed by successively Guillaume Franc, Louis Bourgeois and Pierre Davantès. By far the most famous of Bourgeois’ compositions is the tune known as the Old 100th.  Originally, it had a rather sprightly rhythm, which Queen Elizabeth scornfully called one of those “Geneva jigs.” The more sedate form and modern harmonization that is familiar today is sometimes credited to Joseph Barnby (1838-1896)

The following work by Louis Bourgeois is contained in my collection:

Old Hundred or “All People That on Earth Do Dwell.”

Harry McCarthy and “The Bonnie Blue Flag”


Harry McCarthy or Macarthy (1834–1888) was a songwriter from Ireland, where he became a variety entertainer and comedian in the mid 19th century.  McCarthy was born in 1834 in Ireland but at some time emigrated to the United States prior to the American Civil War.  In 1861 he wrote the words for the song “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” also known as “We Are a Band of Brothers,” adapting the melody from the tune “The Irish Jaunting Car.”  The song’s title refers to the unofficial first flag of the Confederacy, the Bonnie Blue Flag. The “band of brothers” mentioned in the first line of the song recalls the well known St. Crispin’s Day Speech in William Shakespeare’s play Henry V (Act IV, scene ii). The song was premiered by McCarthy during a concert in Jackson, Mississippi, in the spring of 1861 and performed again in September of that same year at the New Orleans Academy of Music for the First Texas Volunteer Infantry regiment mustering in celebration. The New Orleans music publishing house of A.E. Blackmar issued six editions of “The Bonnie Blue Flag” between 1861 and 1864 along with three additional arrangements.  The marching song was extremely popular, rivaling “Dixie” as a Confederate anthem but lost some of its popularity when, late in the war, McCarthy left the South for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He died in 1888, probably at Philadelphia.

My collection includes the following work by Harry McCarthy:

“The Bonnie Blue Flag” or “We Are a Band of Brothers” (1861).

How Did You Wind Up Here?

How Did You Wind Up Here?
by Carol Barnier in the January 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

“Carol,” my friend quizzically began, “what are you and your kids painting on the wall of your garage?”

My children and I were throwing large orange brush strokes over the white drywall. “This is our re-creation of the Aurora Borealis in Alaska!” I gushed.

“Wow. That’s . . . big. Are you guys doing a unit study on Alaska?”

“No. Actually we’re in a study about musicians from the Baroque period.”

“Then, why the wall?”

“Because the sea monkeys aren’t done breeding yet.”

“Come again?”

“Over in the corner. Our sea monkey population has to peak and wane before we can throw them out. That’s why we’ve started building a trebuchet in the backyard.”

“Um . . . and what does all this have to do with Baroque musicians?”

“Well,” I began with enthusiasm, “we started off with Vivaldi, who taught music in an orphanage, which someone said was right next to a bakery, which took us to a quick study on yeast, which we decided look remarkably like sea monkeys, which . . .”

“Stop right there.” My friend’s face seemed concerned. “I’m already exhausted. You’re not helping. I’m gonna go take a nap.”

“Alrighty then! We’ll see ya tonight at our octopus dissection!”

This is how learning sometimes seems to go in our house. I may be exaggerating just a bit in the above dialogue, but not by much. We do sometimes head down some rather interesting and unintended trails. I’ve grown so fond of it that I’ve not only learned to embrace it, but I’m even developing it into a whole new curriculum method. It’s called Rabbit Trail Education.

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W. C. Handy and “St. Louis Blues”


William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was an African American composer and educated musician, known as the Father of the Blues, who used elements of folk music in his compositions and was scrupulous in documenting the sources of his works, which frequently combined stylistic influences from various performers.  Handy was born on November 16, 1873, in the log cabin built by his grandfather William Wise Handy, who became an African Methodist Episcopal minister after emancipation, at Florence, Alabama, the son of Charles Barnard and Elizabeth Brewer Handy. His father was the minister of a small church in Guntersville, a small town in northeast central Alabama.

Growing up, Handy apprenticed in carpentry, shoemaking and plastering. He was deeply religious, and his musical style was influenced by the church music he sang and played as a youth. It was also influenced by the sounds of the natural world.  Without his parents’ permission, Handy bought his first guitar, which he had seen in a local shop window and secretly saved for by picking berries and nuts and making lye soap.  His father arranged for his son to take organ lessons.   Handy moved on to learn to play the cornet. He joined a local band as a teenager. He purchased a cornet from a fellow band member and spent every free minute practicing it.

Handy worked on a “shovel brigade” at the McNabb furnace and described the music made by the workers as they beat shovels, altering the tone while thrusting and withdrawing the metal part against the iron buggies to pass the time while waiting for the overfilled furnace to digest its ore. In September 1892, Handy travelled to Birmingham, Alabama, to take a teaching exam. He passed it easily, and gained a teaching job in the city. Learning that it paid poorly, he quit the position and found employment at a pipe works plant in nearby Bessemer.  In his time off from his job, he organized a small string orchestra and taught musicians how to read music. He later organized the Lauzetta Quartet. When the group read about the upcoming World’s Fair in Chicago, they decided to attend. To pay their way, they performed odd jobs along the way.  Next they headed to St. Louis, Missouri, but found working conditions were bad.

After the quartet disbanded, Handy went to Evansville, Indiana, where joined a successful band that performed throughout the neighboring cities and states. He played the cornet in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  His musical endeavors were varied: he sang first tenor in a minstrel show and worked as a band director, choral director, cornetist, and trumpeter. In 1896, while performing at a barbecue in Henderson, Kentucky, Handy met Elizabeth Price. They married on July 19, 1896.   At the age of 23, Handy became the bandmaster of Mahara’s Colored Minstrels. In a three-year tour they traveled to Chicago, throughout Texas and Oklahoma, to Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, and on to Cuba. Handy was paid a salary of $6 per week. Returning from Cuba the band traveled north through Alabama, where they stopped to perform in Huntsville. Weary of life on the road, he and his wife, Elizabeth, decided to stay with relatives in his nearby hometown of Florence. She gave birth to Lucille, the first of their six children, on June 29, 1900, after they had settled in Florence.

Around that time, William Hooper Councill, the president of the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (AAMC, now Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University), in Normal, Alabama, recruited Handy to teach music at the college. Handy became a faculty member in September 1900 and taught through much of 1902.  Handy felt he was underpaid and could make more money touring with a minstrel group.  In 1902 Handy traveled throughout Mississippi listening to various styles of black popular music. The state was mostly rural, and music was part of the culture—especially in cotton plantations in the Mississippi Delta. Musicians usually played the guitar or banjo or, to a much lesser extent, piano. Handy’s remarkable memory enabled him to recall and transcribe the music heard in his travels.

After Handy resigned his teaching position, he rejoined the Mahara Minstrels and toured the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. In 1903 he became the director of a black band organized by the Knights of Pythias in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Handy and his family lived there for six years.   About 1905, while playing a dance in Cleveland, Mississippi, Handy was given a note asking for “our native music” and played an old-time Southern melody.  In 1909 Handy and his band moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where they played in clubs on Beale Street. The genesis of his “Memphis Blues” was a campaign song written for Edward Crump, a successful Memphis mayoral candidate in 1909.  The 1912 publication of the sheet music of his “Memphis Blues” introduced his style of 12-bar blues.  By 1914, when he was 40, he had established his musical style, his popularity had greatly increased, and he was a prolific composer.

One of the most popular American songs composed in the blues style is Handy’s “Saint Louis Blues,” published in September, 1914. It was one of the first blues songs to succeed as a pop song and remains a fundamental part of jazz musicians’ repertoire. Handy said that he had been inspired by a chance meeting with a woman on the streets of St. Louis distraught over her husband’s absence, who lamented, “Ma man’s got a heart like a rock cast in de sea,” a key line of the song. Handy met Harry H. Pace at the Solvent Savings Bank in Memphis. Handy liked him, and Pace later became the manager of Pace and Handy Sheet Music. In 1917, he and his publishing business moved to New York City, where he had offices in the Gaiety Theatre office building in Times Square.   By the end of that year, his most successful songs “Memphis Blues,” “Beale Street Blues,” and “Saint Louis Blues,” had been published:

In 1920 Pace amicably dissolved his long-standing partnership with Handy, with whom he also collaborated as lyricist. Although Handy’s partnership with Pace was dissolved, he continued to operate the publishing company as a family-owned business. He published works of other black composers as well as his own, which included more than 150 sacred compositions and folk song arrangements, and about 60 blues compositions. In the 1920s, he founded the Handy Record Company in New York City. Bessie Smith’s January 14, 1925, Columbia Records recording of “Saint Louis Blues” with Louis Armstrong on cornet is considered by many to be one of the finest recordings of the 1920s.

In 1926 Handy wrote and edited a work entitled Blues: An Anthology—Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs.  On April 27, 1928, he performed a program of jazz, blues, plantation songs, work songs, piano solos, spirituals and a Negro rhapsody at Carnegie Hall.  So successful was Handy’s “Saint Louis Blues” that in 1929, he and director Dudley Murphy collaborated on a RCA motion picture of the same name, which was to be shown before the main attraction. Handy suggested the blues singer Bessie Smith for the starring role, since she had gained widespread popularity with her recording of the song. The picture was filmed in June and was shown in movie houses throughout the United States from 1929 to 1932. The genre of the blues was a hallmark of American society and culture in the 1920s and 1930s. So great was its influence, and so much was it recognized as Handy’s hallmark.

Following the publication of his autobiography, Handy published a book on African-American musicians, Unsung Americans Sung (1944). He wrote three other books: Blues: An Anthology: Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs, Book of Negro Spirituals and Negro Authors and Composers of the United States,  During this time, he lived on Strivers’ Row in Harlem. He became blind following an accidental fall from a subway platform in 1943. After the death of his first wife, he remarried in 1954, when he was 80. His new bride was his secretary, the former Irma Louise Logan, who he frequently said had become his eyes.  In 1955, Handy suffered a stroke, after which he began to use a wheelchair. More than eight hundred attended his 84th birthday party at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

On March 28, 1958, Handy died of bronchial pneumonia at Sydenham Hospital in New York City. Over 25,000 people attended his funeral in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. Over 150,000 people gathered in the streets near the church to pay their respects. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx.  “St. Louis Blues” was a massive and enduring success. At the time of his death in 1958, Handy was earning royalties of upwards of $25,000 annually for the song. The original published sheet music is available online from the United States Library of Congress in a searchable database of African-American music from Brown University.  W. C.Handy was one of the most influential songwriters in the United States. One of many musicians who played the distinctively American blues music, Handy did not create the blues genre and was not the first to publish music in the blues form, but he took the blues from a regional music style (Delta blues) with a limited audience to a new level of popularity.

The following work by W. C. Handy is contained in my collection:

St. Louis Blues (1914).