Thursday, January 29, 2015

Celebrating Ninety {90}

Ninety is old. Ninety-year-olds scuffle when they walk, if they walk.

My Dad turned 90 this month. I can't actually absorb that. I have to keep saying it over and over again to try to figure out what it really means. My Dad is 90? Ninety?

On his birthday morning we took Mom and Dad out for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. {This is the essence of homeschooling—I've said it once, and I'll said it a dozen times more before we are done with it all. We take a day or more off for momentous occasions like this. Because 90.} Dad speculates on why so many people flock to Cracker Barrel where, he says, the food is mediocre and overpriced. He's right, of course. "It's nostalgia. People of my generation remember a simpler time. People of your generation wish they could remember that simpler time and live vicariously through our generation." He then walks around the restaurant (yes, while people are eating) and examines the pictures and tools on the walls. Cracker Barrel's decor has probably never been so carefully inspected.

He is careful not to eat all his grits and stays away from the gravy. When I tell him to eat up—it's his 90th birthday, after all—he says, "Yes, and I'd like to live to 91."

I baked my father an apple cake for his birthday. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, he couldn't decide. When I asked him what cake he wanted, he said he wanted "an apple cake like my Dad used to make." He says this every year, and every year the cake hasn't been quite right. But this year: this year I got the ultimate two-thumbs up with this recipe.

Birthday dinner was a smallish affair, considering the number of offspring that could have been there, with  two sons, his daughter, his son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, three grandsons, and a granddaughter. Two more granddaughters (mothers to his 5 great-grandsons), called in during dinner. He couldn't really hear them over the phone, but he heard their "Happy birthday" shouts and their "I love you, Opa."

After dinner he headed off to pick up a third son and the youngest grandson, who is nearly three, from the airport.

The youngest two grandsons (as of now... another one is due in May!)

The celebration continued all weekend. We gave him an itinerary on the first evening.

The second evening we headed over to my third brother's home for a slide show and soup. There were a whole bunch of us there: four out of five of us kids plus an assortment of grandkids. Dad narrated the slides, many of which he'd never seen before. What is it like to look back at your life, to look back over 90 years, and wonder how it all went so fast and yet so very slow?

The third day didn't go as planned, and that's OK. My brother and I had a grand plan to do some much-needed cleaning and painting at my parents' house while they went to brunch at my second brother's house, but Mom wasn't feeling well. Dad went and had a great time, but we had to cancel the cleaning surprise and the subsequent game night we had planned with everyone. Dad was totally content and ready for a break.

The final day took some work, but my fourth brother pulled it off: he managed to get our oldest brother, the one who is broken, to Skype with Dad. Dad and James had a good conversation, or as good a conversation that can be had between someone who can hardly hear and someone who lost himself years ago. But still: he is the oldest of us siblings, and in that slide show from the second night? He's the one in all the pictures. The one that came first. I'm glad that Dad got to end his birthday weekend with James.

We're all rested up now after the flurry of celebration. I look at my Dad in absolute wonder. I cannot believe that he can be 90. When I look at my Dad, he's just my Dad. He's a little slower than he used to be. Every now and then he forgets something. But he doesn't look a whole lot different than he did 10 or 20 or even 30 years ago. But then I think: my father is 90. And I can hardly breathe.

More years, please. So many more.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Own Favorite Posts of 2014

Earlier this month I posted my most popular posts of 2014, but those aren't necessarily my own favorite ones. My own favorite posts are invariably the ones that tug at my heart, the ones that capture our family doing life. These are the ones I write so that I can remember—and so my kids can, too.

 Like the time we had Southern Snow Magic in February: "And finally, my children know the pure beauty of a perfect snow night, when everything is quiet and the glow of the streetlights makes the world seem unblemished."

First spring hike: "Give me sunshine, something beautiful, a spacious place, and my family, and I'm good either way."

And I absolutely adore the pictures in the post In Just Spring. (I'm beginning to see a theme here.) "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."

 And this is just a Weekly Wrap-up, but it's the one in which our oldest graduates from college. From college. "I don't know how my child, my child— the one who used to insist on wearing gloves all the time for his "protection suit," the one who used to say, "You and Daddy are my best friends"—I don't know how he is on this list of graduates."

What Made Me Cry Today: This post is all about cleaning out my dresser drawer, and what I found in one that made me all weepy. (And it wasn't the baby teeth!)

 Summer: This is just a midsummer wrap-up of events, but I like to go back and remember all the things that were going on. We really filled last summer to the brim.

Moving Out: In which our oldest son, recently graduated from college, moves into his own apartment across town. "This is what we do. We raise them up and we send them off into the world, or at least across town, with our cast-off silverware and the old plates we got when we were first married and a stack of mismatched towels—the ones that are kinda stained and frayed."

Firsts and Lasts:  First day of high school, last year of high school… and more firsts and lasts in our own SmallWorld.

17: Thoughts on my daughter turning 17. "At 17, you're on the brink of the end of childhood—there is no denying that. At 17 you are thinking about the big things, about college and love and who you are and who you are going to be. You know by now there are some things you are just going to have to take a deep breath and do. But at 17 you're also just a kid, and you're thinking about shopping and having fun and ice cream flavors and about how confusing life is."

How To Do Life: Reflections on a perfect day in the mountains with my parents. "How will I navigate a world without being able to reach out and hold my mother's sweet, crooked hand and smooth down her beautifully soft hair? And how will I ever, ever, ever go the rest of my life without my father's gentle smile and his freckled knees?"

Stars and Stripes: This was a really, really big event—Laurel's American Heritage Girls Stars and Stripes award. Phew. 

In nine years of blogging, 2014 was by far my least productive with only 38 posts (compared to my usual 150-200). But I am glad, so very glad, for the moments I did record in our life—and determined to do better in 2015.

Check out what other iHomeschool Network bloggers loved the most on their own blogs!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up: Back to School

It is just so hard to start back again—that's universal, right?

We had a fantastic Christmas break. We had lots of lazy days, enjoyed family and games and friends and good food. And we celebrated Duncan's birthday on the 25th and Randy's on the 26th, and then did Christmas all over again and New Year's too with Randy's family in North Carolina.

Mom gets the real thing during our family's white elephant exchange

Dad and one of his great-grandsons, Judah

5:06 on Christmas Day—time to celebrate Duncan's birthday!
And the day after Christmas is Randy's birthday, AKA, hiking day.

Laurel and Daniel at our destination: Baskins Creek Falls.

New Year's Eve in Charlotte!

Randy's brother, Greg, introducing Duncan to the culinary arts.
And this is where I spent the last few days of vacation: doing lesson plans in Charlotte in this perfect spot.

(I just realized that I don't have any pictures of our oldest, Jesse. He really was around during Christmas vacation, but he had to work a lot!)

We have a tradition in our house of not having school on birthdays. Since Duncan's birthday is on Christmas Day, we always take a different day off. This year, I honestly forgot about that until it was time to plan for the first Monday back—and then I realized WE CAN TAKE THE DAY OFF!! Lame, I know. But a birthday-day-off meant unlimited video game time for him. And, yeah, I might have spent four blissful hours at a coffee shop with a friend.

So we didn't really start back until Tuesday. And since our co-op classes didn't start back until Wednesday, Duncan actually didn't have any homework to do. Instead, we did a whole day's worth of history. We are slowly making our way through world history, and I do mean slowly. We keep getting "sidetracked," a term I had to put in quote because really, getting sidetracked is one of the greatest joys of homeschooling.

So reading about da Vinci and Michelangelo in his history book led us, of course, to reading about them more in-depth (one of these books is from my own childhood) and then watching videos on about the Sistine Chapel. And can I just say how amazing it is to read about the Mona Lisa and for Duncan to say "I've been there!"

Co-op classes started back on Wednesday, which means my British Lit class and also geometry for Duncan. His science class starts back next week, but he has homework to do for that. So, the rest of this week is dedicated to writing an essay, reading poetry, doing geometry, and reading environmental science. He is going on a winter camp-out with his Boy Scout troop this weekend, so he's also been busy getting ready for that. Yep, it's supposed to get down to 12 tonight, and they apparently think that's fun.

Laurel is in her last semester of her senior year. There. I said it, but I try not to think about it too much. The exciting news is that she has decided to go to Lipscomb University in Nashville! I'm really happy about it. There was a part of me that hoped she would go to my alma mater, and I think that would have been a great fit, too; but I think she's made the right decision.

But that's all I'm going to say about college right now, because she still has a whole semester of high school left. She was busy finishing a paper for my Classic Literature class for the first couple of days this week. I'll do a separate blog post on the independent reading project I had my upperclassmen do, because it turned out so incredibly well.

Her co-op classes also started back on Wednesday. She's continuing with my Classic Literature class as well as psychology. She'll be taking German again at the college as part of dual enrollment, but that doesn't start until the last week of January. We also ordered Teaching Textbooks pre-calculus for her, which she started this week.

It was hard to get back into the swing of things this week, but now that the first day of co-op is over, we are remembering the rhythm of our days. After all, we've been doing this together a long, long time. I've got nearly 15 years behind me, and not quite four left to go.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up

Monday, January 5, 2015

My Most Popular Posts of 2014

College and writing: without a doubt, the most popular posts on my blog in 2014 focused on those two subjects. And yeah, they're kinda passions of mine.

 1. The Ultimate Guide to Creative Writing Resources for Students: A huge collection of links and ideas for creative writing for all different levels.

 The next three posts come from my series called "What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew," which was based on a panel discussion last year with several college professors for our homeschooling community: 

2. What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew: This is the one that kicks off the series, setting the scene.

3. What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew: Study Skills

4. What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew: Write Well

5. What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew: How To Interact with Professors

 And the next three come from my WordSmithery creative writing program, which is always free here on my blog:

6. Introducing SmallWorld's Wordsmithery : This is the one that begins the series.

7. SmallWorld's Wordsmithery: Good Words

8. Wordsmithery: Alliteration and Spring Poems

9. 100 Not-Boring Writing Prompts for Middle and High Schoolers: This is one of my most recent ones and has already been shared like crazy on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. Now I just need to get these going in my own English classes!

10. Teaching the Book Thief: Repurposed Pages: This was an incredibly fun and satisfying project from my World Literature class last spring. I am still amazed at the kids' beautiful creations. I love teaching high school literature!

Need more ideas and reading material? See other Best of the 2014 posts from the bloggers at iHomeschool Network.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Carnival of Homeschooling: Christmas Week Edition

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling! It's a quiet week around here. Our Carnival is small but really, really packed with great articles and plenty of good reading material. Marie-Claire's post alone, the first one below, has links to 31 other articles!

I hope you have plenty of down time in the next week to read a few articles in between baking batches of sugar cookies and wrapping gifts.

Marie-Claire of Quick Start Homeschool shares a month's worth of articles in her 31 Days of Homeschooling Series, addressing all kinds of common homeschooling questions and providing tips and techniques from the trenches. This would be a fantastic resource for the new and potential homeschoolers in your life!

Sometimes in the midst of questioning if we are doing the right thing, it's great to remember why we are doing it! Sara Dennis of Classically Homeschooling lists 51 Reasons to Love Homeschooling.What a great reminder!

And kids have reasons, too! Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers polled her Facebook audience, asking parents to ask their kids why they love being homeschooled and to report back with the answers. She compiled their replies into a blog post, resulting in the 50 Reasons Homeschooled Kids Love Being Homeschooled.

Do you have wigglers, kids who would rather bounce than curl up on the couch? A. Hermitt at Notes from a Homeschooling Mom shares her daughter's story and offers suggestions with Teaching Kids Who Can't Sit Still.

I hope we'd all agree with Michelle that every homeschool should encourage artistic creation. Here is a list of Art Supplies that Every Homeschool Should Have on The Heart of Michelle.

Judy of Contented at Home provides an awesome list of 100+ Free Preschool Printables

Sara Dennis discusses The Basics of Classical Education, with a great explanation of the three stages, at Classically Homeschooling.

I love this idea for a unit study, suggested by Judy of Contented at Home: Hymn Study for Homeschoolers. This series is designed to make hymn study easy and enjoyable for homeschooling families. Each unit includes all the tools you need to study the hymn: hymn history, lyrics, sheet music, recording of the hymn, copywork and notebooking pages, related Scripture to memorize, and vocabulary words taken from the hymn.

Heidi of Starts at Eight reviews CASHFLOW board game, a game that she says "makes for a fun and educational way to help teach your teens (and tweens) about the world of personal finance. It is like a cross between Life and Monopoly on steroids! Read more about it at Money Management for Teens with the CASHFLOW Board Game.

Alasandra of Alasandra's Homeschool Blog provides a review of the preschool book Have I Told You Today How Much I Love You? by Cheryl Sturm.

ChristineMM at The Thinking Mother shares notes from a book being released next month, The Teenage Brain, about the effects on the brain with so much digital living and video gaming that teens do today.

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out my 100 Not-Boring Writing Prompts for Middle- and High Schoolers. If you have teens, you'll have all the writing topics you need for a long time!

That's it for this week's Carnival! Thanks to the Cates for organizing this fantastic resource each week and for all the bloggers for participating. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of homeschooling using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page

Monday, December 8, 2014

100 Not-Boring Writing Prompts for Middle- and High Schoolers

1. Attach an image (photo, magazine, etc.) to a notebook page and write about it.

2. What things will people in the future say about how we live now? (Examples: They ate that? They believed that?)

3. Pick one from each list to make a creature and animal combination. Now write a short story or scene in which this creature appears.
List 1                                                           List 2
Vampire                                                    porcupine
Ninja                                                            armadillo
Zombie                                                                         pig
Pirate                                                          goat
Mummy                                                     lobster
Clown                                                         possum
Banshee                                                     shark
Wraith                                                        moray eel

4. Imagine a future in which we each have a personalized robot servant. What would yours be like? What would it do? What features would it have?

5. What does your name mean? Free write about names: names you like, names you don’t, how a name can affect a person’s life, how you feel about your own name, why your parents chose your name, etc.

6. Create a brand new holiday with its own traditions, rituals, foods, and activities.

7. What road-trip would you take if you suddenly could? Write about it.

8. List six true sentences that begin with the words “I'll never forget…”

9. Imagine that we lost all electricity, water, and gas for a month without any time to prepare. Write about how your life would change and how you would survive.

10. Make your bucket list for the next 5 years, the next 10 years, and for life.

11. Tell this story: “Well, I thought it was going to be a regular summer doing all our regular things…”

12. List 10 places in the world that you would most like to visit, 10 places you’ve been, and 10 places you would never want to go.

13. Think about hospitality in your family. What’s it like to have guests in your house? Do you prefer to have friends to your house or to go to a friend’s house?

14. Pick a family member of two and write about his or her reputation in your family, or tell a family legend.

15. A guitar pick, a red balloon, and a wicker basket. Write a scene or a poem that includes these three objects.

16. What animal would judge us the most? Write a scene (based on truth or fiction) where two or more people are doing something silly, and they're being observed and criticized by animals.

17. Write about your own worst family vacation memory.

18. Write about your best family vacation memory.

19. Imagine that someone says to you, “Because that's how we've always done it!” Write this out as a scene. (Think: Who said it, what were the circumstances, how did you respond, etc.)

20. What do you think about when you can't sleep? Turn it into a piece of writing.

21. What traditions does your family have? List all of them or just pick one and write about it.

22. Think about your strongest emotion right now (irritation, boredom, happiness, contentment, etc.) and find five quotes about this emotion.

23. What do you struggle with the most? Write about it.

24. Write a self-portrait.

25. What can we learn from contrast?  Write a description of something very dark (like a crow) in a very light place (like a field of snow).  Make the dark thing seem innocent and the light thing seem ominous.

26. Write about someone who has no enemies. Is it even possible? 

27. Think of a person from your past who really deserved a good scolding but never got one.  Write a fictional piece where you tell that person off intelligently.

28. Can honesty honestly be bad?  Write about someone, fact or fiction, who gets in trouble for being too truthful.

29. The word “fat” carries a negative connotation.  Write a story or observation where something fat is celebrated.

30. What animal lives beneath your human skin?  A mouse? A cougar? Or what? Explain with writing.

31. Write about the best piece of advice you ever received.

32. Remember a favorite book from your childhood.  Write a scene that includes you and an old copy of that book you find somewhere.

33.  “I was so mortified, I wanted to crawl in a hole!” Write a short narrative (fiction or nonfiction) where this is your first sentence. Illustrate it if you want.

34. Should books ever be banned? Discuss. If no, explain why. You might want to look at a least of commonly banned books. If yes, explain under what circumstances.
35. Ernest Hemingway said to “write hard and clear about what hurts.” Write about something that hurts, whether it’s an emotional, physical, or phantom pain.

36. What if everyone had to wear a shirt with his or her Myers-Briggs personality type on it? What would this change? How would this affect the way people interact with each other? Would you like this or hate it? (If you don’t know your “type,” try this site.

37. William Shakespeare wrote that: “Conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood.” Write your thoughts about conversation, or make up dialogue between two characters who are meeting each other for the first time in an unexpected place.

38. Tell this story: “There it was, finally. Our island. Our very own island. It looked beautiful above the waves of fog, but there was still one question to be answered: why had they sold it to us for only five dollars?”

39. Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way s/he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” Tell a story in which a character has to deal with one, two, or all three of these scenarios. How does your character respond?

40. You have a chance to go back and completely re-do an event in your life. What is it, and how to you change it? What is the outcome? This can be a real or fictional event.

41. Pick two characters from different books you’ve read this year and have them get in an argument about something (e.g., who has suffered more, who has had a happier life, etc.).

42. The one shoe in the road: why is it there? Write a story about the circumstances that led to one shoe in the middle of the road.

43. You get to guest star on a TV show. What show is it? What happens in this particular episode?

44. What would you pack in your suitcase if you could not go home again?

45. You can only use 20 words for the rest of your life. You can repeat them as often as you wish, but you can only use these words. What are they?

46. What current fashion in clothing do you particularly like or dislike? Why?

47. Choose five symbols or objects that represent you. Why did you choose these things?

48. "When I stepped outside, the whole world smelled like…" Write a scene that starts with that line.

49. Write a poem entitled "Hitchhiking on a Saturday Afternoon."

50. Use these two lines of dialogue in a story: "What's in your hand?" "It's mine. I found it."

51. Write a scene that happens in a parking lot between a teenager and a man in a convertible.

52. If you only had one window to look out of for the next six months, what would you want to see on the other side? Describe the view. How would it change?

53. Write a story for children. Start with “Once upon a time” or “Long ago in a land far away.” Include a dragon, a deadly flower, and a mask.

54.  "Did she actually just say that?" Write a scene that includes this line.

55. “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.  Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard. Write what comes to mind when you read this quote.

56. List five things you want in a relationship.

57. List ten favorite lines from movies.

58. Write about the biggest mistake you made this week. Now write about the best thing you did this week.

59. What is the very first memory that you have? Write about it.

60. What if your pet could only talk to you at midnight for an hour?

61. Write an acrostic poem using your full name and three words that describe you—good and bad— for each letter. For example, 
S: sensitive, stubborn, smiling.
A: artistic, argumentative, agoraphobic
M: melodramatic, moody, magical

62. What if you could create your own TV show with all your friends and loved ones as the cast? What kind of show would it be and who would play which parts?

63. Take a photo or draw a picture of every place you go in a day. Put the pictures or drawings in your journal.

64. A to Z: Make an alphabetical list of advice for someone who is about to become a teenager. For example: A: ask forgiveness, not permission. B.: bake cookies. C.:  cook something delicious once a month. D: don't compare yourself to others. 

65. Find 10 quotes about happiness.

66.  Write about 5 things you'd rather be doing right now.

67. Write out the lyrics to your favorite song. Find some pictures to illustrate the song.

68. Who do you spend the most time talking to? Siblings, parents, friends? Make a list of who you actually talk to during the day and estimate the amount of time invested in each individual. Does the list reveal your priorities? Is it proportional to what is important to you? Make notes of what you talk about in your daily conversations.

69. Find a quote for each month of the year.

70. Animals can sometimes seem remarkably human. Describe an
experience with an animal that acted in a very human way.

71. Imagine you opted to have yourself frozen for 50 years. Describe your first days unfrozen, 50 years in the future.

72. Imagine that you are an astronaut who has been doing research on the moon for three years. You are do to go back to earth in a week when nuclear war breaks out on earth. You watch the earth explode. Then what?

73. Create a menu from a fictitious restaurant. Make sure the restaurant has a theme, such as Classic Books, and the food should all be given appropriate names (e.g.,  “Mockingbird Pie”).

74. Preconceived notions are often false. Describe a time when you discovered that a preconceived notion of yours (about a person, place, or thing) turned out to be wrong.

75. Create a story using words of one-syllable only, beginning with a phrase such as:
“The last time I saw her, she...”
“From the back of the truck...”
“On the night of the full moon...”
“The one thing I know for sure…”

76. Describe a significant person (teacher, neighbor, mentor, coach, parent, sibling, sweetheart) with as many physical details as possible and as many similes as possible. (E.g., “Her hair was as golden as straw.”)

77. Write about your first name—why you were given it, what associations or stories are attached to it, what you think or know it means. Do the same for your last name. What name would you give yourself other than the one you actually have?

78. Parents are our first and most important teachers. Describe  a valuable lesson you learned from one of your parents.

79. Imagine a moral dilemma (for example, you see someone shoplift or a friend tells a blatant lie to her parents about where she was last night) and explain what you would do and why you would do it.

80. Review an obituary, birth, or a section from the police record or classified ads section of a local newspaper. Choose one and tell the story behind it.

81. List the most attractive things about your current hometown. Now list the most unattractive things.

82. Come up with a list of nouns and a second list of verbs, all of one syllable each. Describe a scene or situation, using a minimum of ten words from each list.

83. Where is your happy place? Write about it and include a picture or drawing.

84. Create a how-to manual for something you can do well (make a craft, bake cookies, restring a guitar, apply make up, etc.). Describe the process so that someone else could complete the task based on your directions. Use present tense verbs.

85. Free write on this quote by Samuel Johnson: “Ignorance, when voluntary, is criminal.”

86. Find  a favorite quote and work it into an illustration. (Inspiration here.)

87. Make a soundtrack for your life so far. List songs that describe you or different times of your life. (Make the actual soundtrack on Spotify, etc. too!)

88. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that force us to face our deepest fears. Tell about a time when you had to face one of your greatest fears—or make up the story.

89. You’re a talk show host. Pick two guests. Why did you choose them? Are they people who get along, or people with vastly different viewpoints? Write about the episode.

90. What three books do you think should be required reading for everyone? Why?

91. “What you don’t know what hurt you.” Write a story that begins with this statement.

92. Free write on this quote by Woodrow Wilson: “Friendship is the only cement that will hold the world together.”

93. According to a Czechoslovakian proverb, “Better a lie that soothes than a truth that hurts.” Agree or disagree? Explain.

94. Rewrite “The Tale of the Three Little Pigs” by using people that you know as the pigs and the wolf.

95. There is a saying that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. Describe a time when you wished for something and got it—and then wished you hadn’t—or make up a story in which this happens to the character.

96. As the saying goes, “rules are meant to be broken.” Tell about a time when you broke the rules and what happened as a result.

97. "That's not what I meant!" Write a story that has this line in it somewhere.

98. A blue trash can, a red picture frame, a teddy bear with the stuffing falling out, and a padlock. Put these four items somewhere in a story, scene, or poem.

99. Write your name in outline letters on a whole sheet of paper. Now fill in each letter with words you like that begin with that letter. For example:

100. Make a word collage of who YOU are. Use pictures too, if desired.

For more creative writing ideas, check out my free WordSmithery creative writing lessons and my popular Ultimate Guide to Creative Writing Resources!

Check out 100 other 100 Things posts from the bloggers at iHomeschool Network!

Do you have it yet?  The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas—a collaboration of over 50 authors with 103 chapters— is now available! Don't miss this amazing resource!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

American Heritage Girls: Stars and Stripes

 At long last, our American Heritage Girls journey is really over. Well, over for now. Who knows what the future holds? I retired from being co-coordinator of our troop over a year ago (see Saying Goodbye to a Decade of Little Girls), but Laurel still had a final year—her Stars and Stripes year.

Laurel actually received her Stars and Stripes Award back in August. The Stars and Stripes in American Heritage Girls is modeled after the Boy Scouts Eagle Scout Award. It's a long process, starting really several years beforehand with planning when to get which badges, earning those badges, and fulfilling all the other requirements before even beginning the Stars and Stripes project itself. There is a lot of work that goes into the project.

For her Stars and Stripes project, Laurel directed Troop 131 in making blankets, sleepers, cards, and soap packets for Newborns in Need of East TN, an organization that provides newborn necessities for families in difficult circumstances. She and her troop put in a total of 177 hours on this project, which included not only making blankets and sleepers and assembling hygiene packets, but also packaging 2700 diapers and sorting 300 sleepers. In addition, she held collections at three different locations for donations. In total Laurel’s project brought in 200 diapers, 70 bibs, 50 sleepers, 50 packs of wipes, 30 onesies, 25 pairs of socks, and dozens more items to make a difference in the lives of local newborns in need.

She started her project in August 2013 after approval from the AHG national office. Her major work day was on AHG's National Day of Service in September. On this particular day, she had close to 60 volunteers (girls and moms) working on her project for up to six hours. That was a huge day!

The other two days of her project were much smaller and shorter but necessary to complete the requirements laid out in the Stars and Stripes procedure. These days included sorting items, taking inventory, and packaging diapers.

After the project itself is done, she had to write it all up according to very specific guidelines and assemble it all into a binder—a big, thick binder. That was a long process and perhaps the most frustrating part, but ultimately, organizing her project in writing, collecting references, making out her resume, and writing her spiritual walk essay were excellent learning tools. In July she and her best friend both had their Boards of Review (another excellent experience), and both passed with flying colors.

After submitting her final project binder to the Stars and Stripes Board, she could take a few deep breaths and wait for approval, which arrived a few weeks later.

And then came finding time to do her ceremony. We chose the same location where we did our older son's Eagle Scout Ceremony, sent out invitations, and planned the ceremony. Laurel is a  no-frills kind of girl, and she wanted it simple. I modified one of the ceremony scripts that is available on the AHG website.We had around 80 guests there to help celebrate. It was a perfectly beautiful day and a fabulous ceremony.

Two of her best friends were the emcees. The three girls and we three moms started the troop together. Bess and Laurel finished their Stars and Stripes projects at the same time, and Katriel is just completing her project write up.

One part that we did add to the ceremony is to give Caroline, my co-founder and co-coordinator for a decade, a mentor's pin. AHG doesn't offer a specific pin for mentors, so we purchased an extra parents' pin.

This is the part of the ceremony where we present Laurel with her S&S badge, and then she gives us our parents' pins

Laurel presenting Caroline with a mentor's pin. Because none of this EVER would have happened without her.

Because I have an awesome village, I didn't have to make any food. I asked several friends to bring finger foods, and a fellow AHG mom who owns a cake business made the fabulous cake.

Her display table was simple: we made a project display board, had her Tenderheart and Explorer vests, a scrapbook, a few pictures.

 For a guest book, I had made a photo album, with pictures from her very first year to her S&S award and everything in between, on Shutterfly that we asked people to sign.

Here are a few close-ups of her photo album.     

And finally, the end. Here she is with a few of the girls who did her flag ceremony.

And here she is, done and ready to go home.

I'm so proud of her, the 141st recipient of the American Heritage Girls Stars and Stripes Award, and the 5th member of  TN 131 to receive the award. 

Well done, sweet girl. I have been so incredibly blessed by all these years with my daughter in this organization. 

Thanks, American Heritage Girls, for helping us lead little girls into women of integrity.