Reading Loudly Aloud

Rebekah is the youngest of six children, and the only one in our homeschool. Two of our children are married, two work full time and one is a full time student. So, when the grandkids and their friends come over, we take full advantage of the situation.

I think it is important for kids to read out loud.  As I was writing this blog, I pondered over the question, ”Should I say aloud or out loud?”

I’ll let you look up the answer yourself.

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This is one of those moments of homeschooling where I actually felt like patting myself on the back, instead of slapping myself.

Rebekah had a moment to shine.

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There are two baskets in the living room for books. One  for library books and
one for books according to the current theme. 
At the beginning of the year, we looked for pioneer topics.

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These are some of the books I assigned for Rebekah to read out loud.

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Since we see the grandkids often and have neighbor kids, it usually isn’t too hard to fulfill.

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Since I love history, I discovered I easily can find books on the topics we are studying historically.

When it comes to Science, we outsource to the library.

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These Little House books are shorter versions for younger kids and are delightful.  They’ve already created a love for all things prairie in the younger kids Rebekah read them to.

Be creative when reading out loud if your classroom is lacking listeners.

  • Skype the grandparents or any friends or relatives willing to engage with your early reader.
  • Video record your child reading. (I use a FLIP, but you young moms probably
    have one of those cool cell phones. Oh yea, after a year of owning my camera, I realized it had a video function, too.)
  • Listen while doing a mundane task, like peeling potatoes, making dinner. For me, that would be anything in the kitchen. For you it might be folding laundry.
  • Have them act out the story with toys or dolls.


I Can Clean an Oven and a Muzzleloader


  Laura does a great job of describing prairie life, but sometimes it can be a little confusing
because we aren’t familiar with the terms and the tools.

I can clean an oven, but I’ve never had to clean a gun.


   “After the bullets were made, pa would take his gun down from the wall and clean it.  Out in the snowy woods all day, it might have gathered a little dampness, and inside of the barrel was sure to be dirty from powder smoke.

     So Pa would take the ramrod from its place under the gun barrel, and fastened a piece of clean cloth on its end.  He stood the butt of the gun in a pan on the hearth and poured boiling water from the tea kettle into the gun barrel.  Then quickly he dropped the ramrod in and rubbed it up and down, up and down, while the hot water blackened with powder smoke spurted out through the little hole on which the cap was placed when the gun was loaded.

      Pa kept pouring in more water and washing the gun barrel with the cloth on the ramrod until the water ran out clear.  Then the gun was clean.  The water must always be boiling, so that the heated steel would dry instantly.”

  (Little House in the Big Woods, p. 46-47)


I could tell Rebekah was a little confused about the process. 
I started by copying off the beautiful Garth  Williams illustration on p. 50.

Making Bullets

  She labeled each item on the picture while I read the text aloud. 


Of course, we turned to the internet and found an amazing site,
Today’s Muzzleloader Hunter in Alaska.
You will find everything you need to know about hunter’s safety,
muzzleloader history, shooting skills and field dressing.
There’s even a test,
’cuz I know all you homeschooling mommies LOVE to give tests!


Since Pa always had to shoot all his game with one shot,
you’ll like the
diagram that shows the vital organs and explains
how to keep your hunting ethical with a clean kill.
It could save a life, too, like yours.




It made it so much easier to understand by having the parts labeled.




I was given gracious permission by Mary Winkler
Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc. to use their graphics.
Please do not redistribute without asking her permission.



Even if we don’t have to clean guns in our homes,
the emphasis on caring for tools is a great example.
Pa was disciplined and diligent in his care for his
belongings and his family.


And now, thanks to Laura and my resources,
I can clean a muzzleloader,
as well as an oven.

Hark! Who Goes There?

You wouldn’t have to ask that question if you could identify tracks.

But, lemme’ take you the long way around to that lesson.

Over Labor Day, hubby and I took Rebekah on a hike in the mountains.

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OK, in reality, we spent a lot of time in the car oohing and aahing over the mountains


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and eating snacks from a roadside gas station
that cost way too much.


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But, we did get out and hike for a little while.

Nice groomed trails.
Does this really count as hiking?

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Yea, it does.

We also had an unexpected Science lesson.
I love unintentional learning!

Pops and Rebekah wanted to hike around the lake.
I wanted to sit. I was tired.  Seriously.
I also wanted to take pics while sitting.

They enjoyed some Father-Daughter time.

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When they came back, Rebekah was able to identify the split hoof tracks from an elk.


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I could easily identify the track from the Great American North-Faced Hiker.


Pa and Laura had a similar experience as they drove their sled through the Big Woods to Grandpa’s.

“Pa showed Laura the tracks of the wild creatures in the snow
at the sides of the road.
The small, leaping tracks of cottontail rabbits, the tiny tracks of field mice,
and the feather-stitching tracks of snowbirds.
There were larger tracks, like dogs’ tracks, where foxes had run, and there were the tracks of a deer that had bounded away into the woods.”

(Little House in the Big Woods, p. 132-133) 

Pioneer families needed to identify animal tracks for their survival.
Remember Aunt Eliza’s tale of her dog Prince not letting her out of the cabin?
Uncle Peter found huge panther tracks around their homestead.


Creation Science

I pulled out my favorite Science Curriculum, Considering God’s Creation,
and used several animal tracks activities.

It is more fun for me to cut and paste than to just read and answer questions,
so I am a huge fan of this curriculum.  I’ve used it for all my kids.

It easily can be used as your primary Science book
or to supplement others.
Most kids think it is so fun, they don’t know it’s school.

SSHHHH! Don’t tell them!

Some activities, like on Creation, would be wonderful for
Sunday school, VBS or Kids Bible Clubs.



Here is a tracking guide you can print out and take with you
if you want to investigate your neighborhood,
that is, in case you have any wildlife other than
the Great American North-Faced Hiker.


This is a more detailed chart of animal tracks chart you can buy.


This blog has a fun activity to play with a peanut butter mixture
to leave your own tracks, then eat them.


Now, go test your skills
and see if you can identify more species than Momma Mindy.


Maple Syrup Taste Test

I grew up in a family that loved ice cream.

We ate a LOT of ice cream.
My mom wondered why the ice cream went so quickly,
until she caught my Dad in action.

Apparently, he left a spoon in the ice-cream bucket.
When he went down to stoke the fire,
we survived North Dakota winters heating with
a wood-burning stove,
he would have a few bites.
(I think he deserved them, don’t you?)

Anyway, we grew up on those huge buckets
of ice cream that were about $2.
We usually bought vanilla, so we could add toppings,
but on rare occasion had Neapolitan.

As an adult, I was offered Breyer’s vanilla ice cream
for the first time, and I didn’t like it.

It didn’t taste like ice cream to me.

We had the same experience with Rebekah and  maple syrup.

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The Ingalls family had the thrill of making real maple syrup,
tapping the trees and everything.

Not a possibility in my neighborhood,
so I drove to Trader Joe’s and bought real Maple Syrup and waffles.
Traffic was bad, it took me over 10 minutes to go 2.3 miles.

Life as a city pioneer can be grueling.

We didn’t see a bear, but almost saw an accident.

Back to the syrup.
She cut the waffle in half,
and tried each kind of syrup.

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She ate the Mrs. Butterworth’s first.

I grew up with the Maple flavored kind we made from scratch.
Store bought, like Mrs. Butterworth’s,  was a luxury.

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Rebekah has grown up with store-bought imitation syrup,
so real maple syrup should be a luxury.

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Does she like it?????

Pondering, while letting the natural goodness swirl around her tongue.

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The verdict is in.

If I ever find a Maple tree flowing with syrup,
I officially know I won’t have to stop and make syrup for my family.

However, if I find a sale on imitation syrup,
I better stock up.

A Corn Cob Doll Is Not One of Our Favorite Things

My girls have always loved dolls, probably because I love dolls.

I love dishes and tea sets and fake food of all sizes and kinds. Sometimes I buy toys just for me.


I was slightly disappointed when my kids grew up and didn’t want toys for Christmas. They wanted boring stuff like clothes and technology.

Sometimes, we bought our teenagers toys, anyway. We want them to always have a spirit of youthfulness and to be able to laugh and have fun.

Just because you’re 18 doesn’t mean you’re too old for a crazy, laughing Elmo doll. Yes, my husband did buy that for Bethany when she turned 18, and yes she did love it. She loved her other presents better, probably, but will always have that amazing memory of getting the coveted and popular Elmo doll, for her 18th birthday.

We began our Corn Cob Doll lesson by discussing Our Favorite Things.

The girls narrowed it down to one doll for a picture.

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The good thing about kids growing up and not wanting toys anymore
is they have kids who want toys.

This is a pic of the lovely Brookelyn with her favorite dolly. (Her mommy is my oldest daughter.) She is such a good mommy to her dolly.

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This is the baby of the family, Rebekah, but don’t call her that, with her favorite baby.

It was a gift from a dear friend, Romance,  because she loves toys, too, and thought all the little girls in her life needed a dolly that ate real food, pooped and peed.

Yes, Baby Alive poops and pees. Brilliant marketing strategy.

The little packets of food and little packages of diapers are outrageously expensive, but outrageously fun.

Beka has to use cloth diapers some of the time. We eventually will learn to make our own baby food. After all, she grew up on homemade baby food, it’s good enough for her dolly, too. 

I can’t fathom Laura playing with a Corn Cob Doll.

I can’t fathom Ma not making her a rag doll sooner.

Sometimes I have a hard time walking a mile in their lace-up shoes.

We weren’t sure if we were supposed to dry the cob with the corn on or off.

We opted for eating the corn off.


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The first time I bought corn, I forgot it in the fridge. When we remembered to cook it, we forgot to save the cobs. I bought more. I was determined to finish the project.

We shucked the corn.

I boiled it.

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We ate it.

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Grandbaby Maddelyn loved the corn and gnawed and gnawed and gnawed.

She reminded me of my Aunt Hedi, the family record holder for eating 12 cobs of corn at a family reunion.

Aunty might have some serious competition soon.

Since the corn cobs weren’t dry, we decided to make a different kinda’ doll.

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We used large beads, dowels and chenille stems, although I have called them pipe cleaners my entire life.

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We added the corn husks and just tied it on.

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We thought corn silk would make adorable hair.

They were pretty cute, until they shriveled up and looked ridiculous. It might work better to dry the husks flat in books, then try gluing them on the dowels.


(If you want to make authentic corn husk dolls, check out Native American Life Living Art.)

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I scraped the rest of the corn off the cob, hoping it would dry sooner.

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I left these on the counter, clearly marked, of course.

They didn’t dry well, so I tried something else.

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I twisted wire around them and hung them outside to dry.

I forgot about squirrels.

I brought the only cob in the house, put it on the counter, and forgot about the children.

Thinking they were “helping me” they threw it out. (Now you know why I labeled the cobs the first time.)

After digging through the garbage bags, yes, we did that, I’m a mighty determined woman, we found the lone Survivor.

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There ya’ go. 

The cob that survived the Squirrel Attack
and the Kitchen Cleaning Frenzy.

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Beka is clearly excited about the long-awaited day.


I’m going to play with a corncob.

I can hardly wait.


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Trying to make it a little more enticing, she picked out a favorite vintage handkerchief.

We WERE going to finish this project.

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It wasn’t fun.
We couldn’t even pretend it was fun.

The instructions were to play with this doll only for one day.

After school we were running an errand and Beka wanted to bring a doll. I reminded her of her assignment, and asked if she would bring the Corn Cob Doll.

The look on her face let me know it would be a humiliation beyond comprehension, ya’ know the kinda’ family tale of woe the kids repeat behind your back for generations to come.

“You think that’s bad, how about the time Mom made me bring a Corn Cob Doll everywhere I went?  I am scarred for life.”

We left the Corn Cob Doll and grabbed Baby Alive. The cob ended up back in the garbage can. I should have given it back to the squirrel, he would have appreciated it.

Weeks of planning, preparation and it was
for Corn Cob Dolls.

Even though the dolls were failure, the lesson wasn’t.

How can you NOT be thankful for the bountiful blessings we have when staring into the face of one pathetic corn cob that is compost/garbage to us,  but a toy to a previous generation?

How can you not admire little Laura who tried really hard to play with her pathetic doll and be thankful and not jealous of Mary?

If the essence of thankfulness
burns into Rebekah’s heart and mind,
the project won’t have a

Bladder Up!

It never fails.

We’ll be sitting at a baseball game, like an All American family, and my hubby will embarrass me.

He never yells, ”Batter up!”

He has to yell, ”Bladder up!”

After 26 years of marriage, I am still madly in love with this guy, but still don’t think this is funny. Nor is the fact that he only has about three jokes, and none of them make me laugh.

Good thing he’s so stinkin’ cute.

The Ingalls girls were so hard up for toys, they were thrilled to play with a blown up pig’s bladder after helping their Ma and Pa butcher.

That’s what this generation would say.

Was anybody else totally disgusted by this? My daughter, Beka, and I tried to talk through this. We discussed how they had almost NO toys. They had almost no friends. Work was a daily part of their life. Surely, if we were in their shoes, we’d be thrilled with a bladder balloon, too?


I dunno.

Maybe Laura didn’t understand anatomy at her age, and that her toy used to have urine in it.

No matter how much I love Little House, I wasn’t going to buy a pig’s bladder.

Instead of visiting the butcher, we went to a party store.

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I pondered for awhile, then asked Beka what color looked the most like a pig’s bladder,
silk white, silk ivory or milky white.

With slight pre-teen annoyance she answered,  “I don’t know, Mom, I’ve never seen a pig’s bladder before.”

Yea, DUH, I knew that.

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We opted for Silk Ivory.

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My adorable granddaughter, Brookelyn, joined us for this educational activity.

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So did her our neighbor, Norah,  the daughter of Kelly-Across-the-Street featured occasionally in my Momma Mindy’s Moments blog.

It makes it extra fun to come to Gwamma’s house AND have a best friend across the street.

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Plus, it adds life to our Gifted and Talented Class with only one student.

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We popped a few and lost a few over the fence.

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Volleyball didn’t quite work out and neither did catch.

It  wasn’t a long-lasting thrill.

Maybe our kids have too many toys to be thrilled by a balloon.

Maybe a balloon isn’t that fun.

Maybe Laura made it seem so fun so butchers for the next 100 years would be selling bladders.

Maybe if you’d never owned a ball in your life, it would have been a blast.

It’s really, really hard to walk a mile in Laura’s shoes, and be thankful for the bladder entertainment, so it makes her writings even more special.

But maybe our activity wasn’t that special because we didn’t have Dad yelling,

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“Bladder up!”

Counting to Ten for Success


Math can be challenging for all students.

It can be challenging for the teachers.

When Math gets frustrating,
put aside the worksheet for a minute and take out
something you can see, hear or handle.

A simple change in presentation can birth understanding.

*marker board
*chalk (even outside on sidewalk)
*math game
*chant or rap
*dice (shake, then +,-, or x)


We were adding groups of three and four digit numbers.



To a child, a problem like this goes
and on
and on
and on
and on….

If you make a mistake in one column of numbers, the answer is wrong.

It’s hard for a kid to understand that
one small mistake makes the whole problem wrong.

We help kids eliminate mistakes
by giving them problem solving strategy.

I have a cool trick for adding lotsa’ big numbers.


I look for groups of 10’s.

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I even mark on the page with little swoops.

Next, I add the biggest number to the 10,
then I count the other little numbers on my fingers.

True confession, sometimes I count on my fingers.

My dear daughter, Beka, struggled in learning her addition facts.
Of course, with our curriculum, they were learning
addition and multiplication facts in the second grade.


She did fine with multiplication, but still struggled with addition.
I was worried, until I was correcting her math without the key.

I caught myself occasionally counting on my fingers.


Sometimes teaching is as beneficial for the teachers as it is for the students, right?


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Manipulatives make all things better,



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so we pulled out our numbers, a magnet board and hit the deck.

Literally, hit the deck. 
The sun was shining,
the grass was brown,


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and we needed a little vitamin D to go along with our numbers.


Once they’ve mastered the tens, the next strategy is easy.

*Find Groups of Twenties
(simply take groups of tens,
but add a 1 in the tens place for one number)

7 + 3 = 10
17 + 3 = 20
7 + 13 = 20




Other tricks for adding numbers quickly:


Doubles-Plus-One Math Game



**Mental Math Video


*Super Cool Mental Math Tricks


You never outgrow those brightly colored magnets
or writing on a marker board.
When I tutored Algebra for a few years,
the high-schoolers LOVED my IKEA marker/chalkboard.


Success in math can be as easy as
counting to ten.


Just don’t count on your fingers.





I tried to learn to knit once,
but I felt as awkward as a football player
in charm school.
I held one knitting needle in my hand
and wedged the other one against my belly,
while clacking them together with knotted yarn.

With the two weapons and yarn twisting in my hands,
it wasn’t pretty.

Knitting is knot my gift,
and neither is cross stitch.
Or crocheting or tatting, come to think of it…

In Chapter 8 of Little House in the Big Woods,
Ma Ingalls was knitting socks.
Good for her.
We can buy socks now,
and buy them cheaper than the
wool yarn to knit them.

The assignment was
”Teach your child to knit and have them
knit a simple project such as a muffler.”

I know more about car mufflers
than knitted mufflers,
and would rather dig an Easter egg out of a tailpipe,
yea, I had to do that once,
than knot itchy yarn together.

Fortunately for me,
I have a sister-in-law, Nita, who loves to knit.

She can even knit with her eyes closed.

Other than accidentally knitting a baby sweater with one arm
for a baby with two arms,
yea, she did that once,
she makes beautiful things.
She has a blog, Pilgrim Purse and Poetry,
and an etsy shop, Pilgrim Purse, where she sells her
knitted and felted creations.

Knitting needles are her friend, they are my enemy.
Sometimes I tease her and misspell her name Knita,
she’s so good at knitting.

If you don’t want to teach knitting for this chapter,
you could just buy something from her and call it a day.


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It’s a good thing she taught my daughter how to knit a few years ago.

Yea, so I’m not ashamed of counting this towards school this year.
I’m not that much of an over-achieving homeschool momma.
I’m a git ‘er dun kinda’ momma.


Sometimes a momma’s gotta’ do what a momma’s gotta’ do.
Sometimes mommas do too much,
especially homeschool moms.

Sometimes ya’ gotta’ let
good enough
good enough.


Always shooting for perfection drives the whole family crazy,
ruins spontaneity and makes people crabby.

This spoken from a woman who repented from keeping a linen closet
good enough for Martha Stewart.


I had to learn to loosen my rubber bands,
ya’ know ‘cuz they were always wound too tight?

(Like forgetting to post this blog yesterday,
and having to finish today
and not stressing about it?)



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 Ma Ingalls knit socks for their family,
Beka was content to knit a few small scarves for our Build-A-Bear Monkeys.


And since I can’t offer any great advice about knitting,
I found an expert.

Knitting Daily will send you a free e-book,
give you access to a free pattern library,
and teach you how to Knit like Knita,
not like me.




Buffalo Gals Come Out at Night

Of course,  you mention the song “Buffalo Gal” to my family and they’re giggling about the scene with  George and Mary in  “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Yea, this one.  The “interesting predicament” and “why don’t ya’ just kiss her” one.

Sometimes, we don’t realize how long a song has been an American tradition.

This song was published in 1844 by John Hodges.  It was an oldie to Pa when he played it on his fiddle in 1870’s, to us it’s ancient history at 168 years old.


If ya’ wanna’ watch buffalo while ya’ listen to the song again, here ya’ go.



If ya’ wanna’ sing it yourself, visit Sheet Music Point, a digital archive of public domain sheet music.

Pa’s fiddle was their entertainment.

Radio wouldn’t be available for a few more decades, so obviously television, computers, and Internet aren’t even in their wildest dreams.

The girls had almost no toys, almost no free time, no friends, and had never seen a town.

I’m not sure if Pa really was a great musician, but it brought encouragement at the end of  a hard-worked day.

Our problem today is opposite.  We have too many options, too many stimuli, too many possessions. Our survival isn’t dependent on our ability to kill one bear with one shot,  or can enough food for the winter.

We must stay alive during rush hour, with thousands of distracted and texting commuters on the road.
We must remain driven, focused and ambitious to keep our jobs.
We must discern if the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe are safe for our health.
We run a bajillion errands to a bajillion different places.

Just like Ma and Pa Ingalls, we work hard to survive our lives.

Joshua Bell wasn’t playing “Buffalo Gals”, but he was entertaining the city masses.
Only problem, the commuters didn’t have time to stop and listen to the world famous violinist on his 1713 Huberman  Stradivarius violin  – worth $3.5 million.

The commuters were criticized for not stopping to listen to the man for free, because the cheapest tickets to his performance were $100.

From the article posted with the above Youtube video…

“This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

I understand the commuters’ dilemna.

No matter how good Joshua Bell is and the opportunity he provided, it was an unfair experiment.

“Hey, boss, I know I was supposed to meet with our investors, but there was this guy in the subway station…he was really good….I think he was playing Bach…I gave him $2, he looked like he needed it…”

“I know it’s the third time I’ve been an hour late to work, but this musician, he was  fantastic.  I just had to stop and savor the moment.”

“Ya’ know how that motivational speaker came in last month to tell us to appreciate talent in an unexpected context?  I was just taking his advice.  That’s why I missed the important presentation I was supposed to give to the corporate Vice President.”

It wasn’t the people didn’t want to listen, they couldn’t listen. They’re not shooting a bear in protection or a deer for food, they’re surviving a city wilderness.

Pa Ingalls didn’t play his fiddle instead of hunting, or plowing or bartering. At the end of a long day, he pulled out his tool of personal relaxation and family entertainment, and played away. He kept his priorities straight, just like we do.

That’s why this video has received over a million views, because people can relax at the end of the day, appreciate music in its correct context, and not jeopardize their survival.

There’s a reason Buffalo Gals came  out at night to dance in the light of the moon.