Saturday, June 23, 2018

First Day of Summer, 2018

This morning I read lots of Mary Oliver poems, and I was struck again by just how utterly united with nature she is, how her poems reveal her absolute devotion to the natural world. “I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t admire,” she writes in “Hum.” “If there is, I don’t know what it is. I haven’t met it yet. Or expect to. “

 I carried lots of Mary Oliver with me today, making a promise to myself to spend more time watching the raindrops gather on the bee balm and less time liking posts on Facebook.



This afternoon, during my usual visit to my parents, my mother told me this week’s stories, ones I have heard several times lately. About picking the green beans, about how her shoe fell apart, about how she did a load of laundry, and back to the green beans. At 91, her stories loop, and I nod and smile each time I hear them.

And then my mother started talking about the rain. “I didn’t get a good nap today,” she said. “I heard the rain and had to get up and listen to it.”

 Something in my heart wrenched and sang with joy at the same time. My mother heard the call of rain, after two weeks without, and rose to greet it. Oh, my mother, my poet, my kindred soul, who taught me the names of flowers and put jelly jars of the sweetest smelling Lily of the Valley by my bed at night.

 “I loved the solitude,” she continued. “I sat on the bench and listened to the rain. I watched the little cardinal flicking raindrops off his wings.” She flapped her elbows a little and gave herself a little shake. “Then the little finch came to the feeder and took a little nibble, flipped his wings and flew up to the big tree.”

 Here is my mother, the embodiment of a stanza from one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, “Sometimes”:

            Instructions for living a life.
            Pay attention.
            Be astonished.
            Tell about it.”

To listen to the rain fall, to watch the cardinal flicker, to follow the finch’s flight, to breathe in wet earth, to abandon sleep to soak it all in: that is how to live a life.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Junior Year (or Senior Year 1) Wrap-Up


I think I can officially say that school is over now. We usually stop before Memorial Day, but Duncan was taking an online Brave Writer class (Photography and Writing) through May and studying for the ACT, which he took last weekend. So... we are now done!

Because we are doing a 5-year high school plan with Duncan, I guess this technically was his first senior year. I'm not exactly sure how this all works, but I'm just going with it. Basically, we skipped 7th grade but then decided last year that Duncan really would benefit from graduating at 18 rather than 17. Five-year high school is becoming quite  a trend around here. It gives kids a chance to explore more classes, have a little more free time, take dual enrollment classes, mature a bit more. I am so glad we listened to that still, small voice that said: "He's not ready."

Our year has been so relaxed but so productive. We've had time to incorporate "extras" while sharpening some specific skills. Had he been pushed to graduate, some of these things just would not have happened because he would have been so pressed for time. Instead, here are just a few of the awesome things that happened:


Ten day trip to Northern Tier Adventure Camp in Minnesota: a week of dog-sledding, skiing, and more.





Received his Eagle Scout Award




 


Plenty of adventures:
Mountain biking
Spent a week in New York working on my brother's farm



Spent an entire night in the Philadelphia airport on the return flight!
Whitewater rafting
20-mile hike in the Smokies
Rock climbing at Torrent Falls, Kentucky




Awarded Scout of the Year for the local and district VFW




Student Ambassador for HonorAir Knoxville Flight #26. Duncan got to serve as an escort to four Vietnam veterans during this one-day trip to Washington DC to see the Korean, Vietnam, WWII memorials, and watch the changing of the guard at Arlington. What an amazing opportunity!







Lots of hanging out with friends








 

 

Classes


Besides all the extras, Duncan's classes were fabulous this year. He took Art Appreciation/Art history and Classic Literature at co-op. (Both were classes I taught.) We had loads of fun, and he worked really hard. Books read and discussed included: The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, The Count of Monte Cristo, Hamlet, Lord of the Flies, and lots of short stories, which the students were responsible for teaching. It was a fabulous year.

He also did Plant Science with my Dad, ACT Prep at home, the Photography and Writing class through Brave Writer, and current events at home. I'm probably missing something, but those were the highlights!
Art Appreciation/History class trip
Literature Class

Plant Science with his grandfather

So what's up next year? I'll save that for another post.

And a report on my two homeschooled graduates:

Jesse is still working for American Airlines and just took the LSAT earlier this week. He plans to go to law school in Fall 2019.
Jesse and two of my other first students at my literature class party.


Laurel just finished her junior year at Lipscomb University! I can  hardly believe it. She again made the Provost's List with a 4.0. She is living and working in Nashville this summer. She works at the same elementary school where she works throughout the school year, and is just having the kind of fabulous summer that every 20-year-old should have.

Hunter graduated; she's next!







And that ends our school year! 18 down.... one to go.

More on next year later!

Linked up with Homeschool Highlights and  the Weekly Wrap-up


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Tennessee State Parks Adventure Challenge 2018





My blog has been quiet for longer than ever before. It's been a busy semester. So very, very busy. But Randy and I have been having some fun with the Tennessee State Parks Adventure Challenge. We like challenges with specific goals, like this one. We visit TN state parks and have a checklist of various activities to do, earning points toward our challenge total.

This past weekend we hit four parks in less than 24 hours: two state natural areas and two state parks (above and below). Randy specifically wanted to see the cedar wildflowers (below), and they were spectacular!







We had a goal of hitting 12 out of the 56 parks/natural areas this year, but with 8 visited already, I suspect we will far surpass our goal!







We are having so much fun as we head into this next season of our life, preparing mentally for all the changes to come. More on that later. Just this for now, a glimpse of what it looks like to be almost empty nesters.

Linked up with Wordless Wednesday


Friday, February 23, 2018

Plant Science 101


{Alternate post title: Just One of the Reasons We Homeschool} 


On Fridays, Duncan has the privilege of a private class with a retired Cornell University professor. To Duncan, he’s Opa—his grandfather, my Dad. Opa pokes at the soil with his cane, shows Duncan how to use a grafting knife, poses questions and possible scenarios, scribbles homework questions in his nearly illegible script.






Duncan is learning more from my father than definitions and cycles and tools of the trade. He isn't required to regurgitate for a single test and then dump what he's memorized to make room for the next chapter. He’s learning the magic of plants, the ancient art of growing things, the gift of his heritage.



 
 



In his book Apples, author Frank Browning writes that my father “spent his life recasting the shape, character, and genetic health of apple trees.” He has done that, true. But better than that? My father has spent his life recasting the shape, character, and health of his children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. And that is a life spent well and spent generously.

I am grateful, so overwhelmed with surging gratitude, that we have taken this path that allows this relationship between the generations to be fostered and nurtured. If he forgets all he learned about photosynthesis and erosion, so be it. What he will remember, what he will rest upon as he walks into his adult life, is his grandfather's gentle voice under a blue, blue sky. And that's reason enough to homeschool.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018 Winter Hikes: Grotto Falls, Spruce Flat Falls, Seven Islands State Park, Indian Flats Falls

January 6: 5.6 miles to see frozen Grotto Falls. It was C-O-L-D but totally worth it!











January 7, 2018: We knew our time to see frozen falls was limited, so we hiked the next day to Spruce Flat Falls. This is one of our favorite short hikes; we've been doing this one for years, since the kids were little bitty. But W-O-W! This was like seeing a totally different waterfall! Absolutely stunning.














January 18: We started our 2018 Tennessee State Parks Adventure Challenge with a lovely 5.3 mile stroll at Seven Islands State Birding Park. It's a pretty park. We look forward to going back in the summer when the sunflowers are out and the birds and butterflies abundant. I love the starkness of a park in winter, though.












February 9: Indian Flats Falls. My friend Caroline and I seized a beautiful day for the 8.1 mile hike to Indian Flats Falls in the Smokies. No more frozen falls! In fact, we've had so much rain that the river was super full and flowing fast, as were the falls. It was a perfect hike with a wonderful friend.







I'm at 21 miles already this year, which is great for me! I'm hoping I can get a couple more hikes in this month—and lots this spring!

Linked up with Wordless Wednesday