Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up

Some weeks are just like this:

Some weeks are heads buried under the blanket as you dictate the spelling list, and you vacillate between wanting to yell "Get your HEAD OUT FROM UNDER THE BLANKET!" and thinking, "Does it really matter if his head is under the blanket?"

Some weeks you just want to watch the red-bellied woodpecker and the goldfinches and the pretty red house finches frolic at the feeder behind his head.

Some days, it's too sunny and beautiful to think about grammar. It's better just to put up your hammock under some trees in the back yard or just to pet the cat in some sunny spot.

Some days, it's too dismal and dreary to do anything at all.

Some weeks you completely, 100% understand when he groans when you say, "Let's start school" or when you peak in at her and she's snuggled under her blankets watching a movie instead of writing her paper.

Some weeks, you're counting down the days until summer.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-up

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In Just Spring

Everything is flowering, about to flower, or just finishing up flowering here in East Tennessee. My backyard is like a fairy land, bursting with purples and pinks with a few dashes of yellow and white, all smothered in green. It's hard to resist the urge to join the dog rolling around in the grass. I only resist because of the itchiness.

And so today, some flowers, a few faces and a poem. 


If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze  

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb, 

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight 

that you felt like taking 
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table, 

 releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage  

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting 
into this larger dome of blue and white, 


well, today is just that kind of day.

See poem in one place here

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

First Spring Hike

Our spring break went from five days in Florida to one afternoon hiking in the Smokies, but I'm OK with that. I was looking forward to sand and water and hot sunshine, but who can complain about this?

A few billion grains of sand or a bright spot of yellow hiding behind a moss-covered boulder?

The roar of ocean waves or the song of the river?

An amazing seafood fest at an out-of-the-way crab shack, or Laughing Cow cheese and Goldfish on a rock in the middle of the river?

Feet soaking in the warm ocean, or feet dipped in ice water?

Give me sunshine, something beautiful, a spacious place, and my family, and I'm good either way.

But if I had to choose forever, I'd choose mountains over beach, always.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Last weekend kicked off our 25th anniversary celebration. For my birthday in February, Randy completely surprised me with tickets to see Billy Joel in concert in Nashville. He conveniently combined that with our traditional anniversary cabin get-away weekend. We usually go nearby to the Smokies, but we needed to be close to Nashville for our concert so he settled on Cedars of Lebanon State Park, about 30 minutes east of Nashville.

{First of all, the Billy Joel concert was amazing. I mean, what can you really say about having your whole life come together, childhood to adulthood, in a two-hour show? Hearing him sing "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" and "Always a Woman" and "Anthony's Song" and so many more. It was incredible.}

Our cabin at the state park was very nice—clean with lots of windows and everything we needed except hand soap.

But this post is really about a walk in the woods. It's a meandering trail, flat as Iowa. We're used to hiking in the Smokies, so this easy pace was a welcome change.

Cedars of Lebanon is known for its cedar glades, a unique type of ecosystem that has adapted to the soil layers that are perfect for red cedars but too thin to support most large trees.

We spent lots of time just checking out the amazing limestone bedrock and sinkholes that characterize the park. We were really wishing we had our kids with us, especially Duncan, when we saw all these amazing cave-like sinkholes. He would have had to explore every single one of them!

It was a little too early for most wildflowers, but Randy-the-botanist always finds some plant life that delights him.

Cut-leaved toothwort

Checking out the ebony spleenwort

Shagbark Hickory

Setting free the milkweed      

Lots of skeletons of Queen Anne's Lace

It was a perfect day. We are diehard Smokies hikers, but we love exploring different terrains too. Middle Tennessee has some fantastic places to go, including Cummins Falls State Park and Stones River National Battlefield. We are definitely adding Cummins Falls to our list of yearly hikes!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

Mid-March: we're heading into the final stretch of the school year now. As usual, I haven't accomplished all thing things I imagined, especially doing art every Friday. We've done it three times. Three.

And it's Friday again, and art is not on my agenda.

But I do feel that one big goal is being met. Duncan has adapted well to working more independently this year—his eighth grade year. I've noticed a big change even since December. My goal for my kids is that they are doing all their work with minimal input from us by their sophomore years. It's worked well for our older two, but Duncan has seemed to need me more to sit beside him while he does his work. I feel encouraged now that he'll meet that goal, as well.

I've also noticed an improvement in his French this past month. He really struggled with pronunciation up until now, but suddenly he is really getting it. His teacher at our co-op is French, and I always imagine him shuddering at the butchering of his language. I'm hoping he'll suffer a little less now as the kids figure it out.

I'm teaching German to a small group of high schoolers, and it has been fun to revisit both French and German. It's a bit confusing sometimes to work with Duncan on his French and then prepare my lessons in German. Surprisingly, I have found that I remember French (3 years in high school) better than German (junior year in Germany plus 2 years in college). I think I slept through my 8 a.m. German class in college, and while I learned to speak fairly well while in Germany, I didn't learn proper grammar, conjugating, etc. Kind of like Rosetta Stone German—enough to get by, but not necessarily all there.

In other news…

Duncan got Star rank in Boy Scouts. He only has one rank left to go before he can start working on his Eagle Scout project!

In my World Lit/geography class, one group did a presentation on Africa. We had fun doing tribal face painting as part of it.

My co-teacher in tribal paint.

My brother came to visit, which means that my precious nephew Kollman came to visit. Everything pretty much stops around here when Kollman comes to visit. Is there really anything more important?

While my hometown in upstate New York is under feet of snow, my yard is absolutely full of daffodils. I love Tennessee. Everyone is complaining about the little snap of cold we had this week, but heck. I just see these:

And tonight? Well, if I had a bucket list, I'd check a big one off tonight. Here's where Randy and I will be.

Next week: spring break! We were hoping to go to Florida, but that didn't work out. So instead I'm hoping for nice weather for some hiking and a chance to do serious spring cleaning.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-up

Friday, February 28, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

Happenings in our own small world these past few weeks:

Something new: our teen group had a volunteer training session at our county's animal shelter. My kids now desperately want to volunteer there. Laurel, who is 16, can volunteer there on her own, but Duncan (13) must have an adult with him. Honestly? I don't really want to volunteer at the animal shelter. I am hoping his Dad, who would love to do this, will work this out with him somehow!

Something in progress: Laurel is still working on writing up her final project description for her Stars and Stripes project for American Heritage Girls. She finished the project itself in January, but other things keep coming up and preempting the final report writing. She's sooo close!

Something new I've taught: I've had my English Prep (middle school English) class do an approach paper this year, which I've never done before. I've gotten lots of positive feedback from the parents saying that they love this exercise. For me as a teacher of these future high schoolers, I have found it to be a fantastic preparation tool for writing literary analysis papers. I broke it up into three parts and am looking forward to seeing what the kids turn in next week as their final drafts.

Something useful: My awesome roundtable buddy and I just facilitated a roundtable for our support group called "The Middle School Years." It was quite well attended and we got some good feedback from it. We had a few other moms there who have homeschooled middle and high school with their kids and had some great suggestions and insight. I love roundtable discussions, love the feeling that maybe we are providing some encouragement and help.

Something awesome: I just wrapped up a unit on The Book Thief  with my World Lit class, and my class made the most awesome projects. Check out my post Teaching the Book Thief: Repurposed Pages.  Here's just one example:

Something sweet: my daughter and her date for the annual black-and-white dance. She's so pretty. She almost makes me want to be 16 again. Almost.

Something happy: Our oldest is home from college on spring break. Yes, I know it is still February. go figure. I'm just happy to have him home.

And besides all that, life goes on as usual in our homeschool for the most part: reading, writing, lots of algebra (1 and 2), chemistry, languages (French and German), and all the bits and pieces that make up our lovely life at home.

How're things in your neck of the woods? Link up at the Weekly Wrap-Up!