Monday, July 14, 2014


Oh, so much has been happening here in our small world in the past six weeks since summer began. It's been a whirlwind. I'm looking forward to no traveling and lots of hiking and river play in the next month.

Randy and Duncan went to Sea Base Boy Scout Camp in Key West for a week of scuba diving.

And I painted the bedroom while they were gone. It used to be red. Aah.

We took a little overnight trip to Fall Creek Falls in middle Tennessee. More on that trip later.

My nephew Kollman came to visit, giving my parents that much-needed fix of their #10 grandchild

Duncan and Laurel went to church camp, and while they were there, Randy's mom called to say that they had sold their house in Indiana! She and her husband came down here for the rest of the week to look for a condo. They found one and will be moving here in just two weeks! We are really excited that Grandma will finally get to see the kids more than just once or twice a year!

Duncan went to Boy Scout camp for a week.

While he was there, Laurel, three of her friends, and I went to my home territory in upstate New York for adventure—and my high school class reunion. More on that later.

Jesse, our recent college graduate, did four weeks of training in Charlotte and Philadelphia and then started his job at the airport last week. This week my kids are working at our church's VBS, and I'm planning on diligently working on lesson plans for my upcoming co-op classes while they are there. We'll see how that goes.

This afternoon Laurel has her Board of Review for her Stars and Stripes Award for American Heritage Girls, and then for her, I think, the summer will truly begin. Sadly, our city's school starts back in a little over a week.  Happily, my kids will still be enjoying the summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's the Carnival of Homeschooling!

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling!

I'm glad you're visiting here at SmallWorld at Home. Let me introduce myself for those who are new here. We have just finished our 14th year of homeschooling and will have two high schoolers—our last freshman {gulp} and a senior {triple gulp} in the upcoming year. Our oldest son—who was homeschooled all the way through— just graduated magna cum laude from college. {And the question always is: what's he doing now? I'm happy to say that he is now working for an airline for two years so that he can have FREE flights. Like, everywhere in the world. His goal? See the world and then settle back down into graduate school. He is living the dream!}

But enough about me; you're here for the Carnival! We have a little something for everyone on this homeschooling journey with this carnival, from preschool to college. Grab a cup of something cold (it's really hot down here in the South, folks) and start reading!

• Summer vacation from homeschooling is wonderful! For about two weeks. Then comes the chaos, the restlessness, and the mess. Creating a schedule or a routine actually makes you more free because all of the necessary stuff gets done and then you can go play without any lingering guilt. Michele of Preschoolers and Peace shares how to Create a Summer Schedule for Peace, Productivity, and Purpose.

• And while you have a little more free time this summer,  Marie-Claire shares Quick Start Homeschool's  31 Days of Homeschooling Series that you can read through at your leisure or bookmark for later on. Lots of great stuff here for new homeschoolers!

• In Teaching Handwriting in Your Homeschool Preschool, Heather of Golden Reflections provides a detailed description of how basic handwriting skills develop in young children and then gives some fun, easy, and hands-on ideas on how to teach handwriting to preschoolers!

• Amy from A Journey of Purpose shares her little guy's perspective through the camera and with his commentary with Homeschool: View from a First Grader.

• With Homeschool Preschool PreK Curriculum Ideas, Lara of Lara's Place and a Cup of Grace shares a list of the books and curriculum she used for her PreK homeschool year. There are lots of ideas and suggestions to make learning fun for everyone! 

• Nicole has lots of great Money Saving and FREE Resources For Homeschoolers at her blog, Mama of Many Blessings.

• Franklin the Turtle was a favorite character in Heidi's house at Starts at Eight. She created free Franklin the Turtle Notebooking pages to go along with some of their favorite stories. These stories would make great summer reading along with some writing practice using the notebook pages.

• Have you ever wondered if you were partly to blame for your child struggling with math? Sam of Sam's Noggin says, "I had to raise my hand to that one, and I was right." She shares her failings in hopes that others can avoid them on How To Get Your Kids To Hate Math.

• And Michelle shares a tongue-in-cheek post full of suggestions for How to Get Your Kids To Hate Learning at The Holistic Homeschooler.

• Mary of Homegrown Learners suggests that when you narrow down your resources and don't fall victim to "shiny new curriculum syndrome," you are able to go deeper in your homeschool! She shares ways to Deepen Your Homeschool Through Simplification.

• Denise of Let's Play Math reviews the book  Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers, a great resource for homeschooling parents, group leaders, and anyone interested in encouraging children's joy in learning.

• Since vampires have taken over bookshelves, television, and movies, why not explore the book that started it all? Susan shares Exploring the Classics with Dracula by Bram Stoker at Shelf Discoveries.

• And more classic literature: Carol of journey & destination shares a schedule and resources for covering Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare over nine weeks.

• At last I finished my series on What College Professors Wish Freshmen Knew? These posts stem from a fabulous panel of four local faculty members talking about their experiences with freshmen—and what makes them successful.

• And finally, our Carnival director, Henry Cate, shares a look into homeschooling with My sister's impressions of homeschooling.

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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In the Smokies: Andrews Bald 2014

It's been a couple of years since we hiked to Andrews Bald in June to see the flame azaleas. I looked back at a blog post from two years ago and can't believe how much older the kids look.

The day was beautiful. You can read all about the logistics of the hike—how to get there, how long it takes, etc— on this post. There isn't much else to say about a day in the mountains with the loves of your life, surrounded by rhododendrons, flame azaleas, mountain laurels, and the kind of grass that you just want to curl up and sleep on.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In the Smokies: Abrams Falls

Astoundingly, I've lived just outside the Smokies for 15 years, and this was my first trip to Abrams Falls. Randy has been lots of times, and the kids have been there, but somehow I never made it until this past weekend.

It is lovely to wake up on a Saturday and realize that you have absolutely nothing that must be done and nowhere to go. Naturally, we had to go hiking. We wanted some water to play in on this hike, so we chose Abrams Falls.

We usually try to avoid popular tourist spots on Saturdays in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but you have to go through Cades Cove to get to Abrams Falls. To get there, you drive about halfway around the cove, and there will be a dirt road on the right that leads right to the Abrams Falls parking lot. (There is a rustic bathroom there if you need one.)

Strangely, the Cove wasn't bumper-to-bumper traffic, and we only hit one short traffic jam. The parking lot at Abrams Falls was packed, though, and the trail was busy. It's a nice 5-mile hike roundtrip, not too strenuous but with lots of ups and downs. Much of the trail is rocky, so pay attention or you may twist an ankle or trip. Along the way there is plenty of water to play in, in case you only want to hike a short way and then do river play.

Within the first few years that we lived here, there were a couple of drownings at Abrams Falls. In particular I remember a middle-school boy on a field trip drowning there. So very tragic. There are strict warnings posted by the falls that it is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO SWIM at the base of the falls due to strong currents and an undertow. Nonetheless, upon arriving at the falls we had to witness at least a dozen people jumping off the falls, including a man who took his kids (10 and under) up to jump. All you can really do is shake your head and say "What is wrong with people???"

We spent a good hour or even two just wading, skipping rocks, and snacking. And, well, also watching people. The water was lovely and not too cold, and the falls, while not one of the more majestic falls in the Smokies, is just so pretty.

The hike took us an hour each way at a moderate pace. Actually, I'm pretty sure Randy would say it was a leisurely hike, but for me, it was a moderate pace. We will definitely be going back; this is a great hike for families with slightly older kids who can hike 5 miles.

Just please: don't jump off the waterfall.

Monday, May 26, 2014

What Made Me Cry Today

I'm doing what I always do when my Boy Scouts go on a week-long trip: I'm painting a room. This week they are at Sea Base in Florida, and I'm getting ready to paint the bedroom.

And like the mouse with the cookie, before I paint the bedroom, I have to paint the dresser. Before I paint the dresser, I have to unload each drawer, tossing some items into the give-away bag, some into a keep pile, and some things into the trash.

My top dresser drawer —the sock and underwear drawer— is the one where I keep little odds and ends of things that need to be kept, like the one little box with my original wedding and engagement rings. (You know, the ones that couldn't possibly fit on my finger after 25 years.) Another has all Jesse's Cub Scout and Boy Scout pins, another is marked "your bootee" in my mother's handwriting and holds a yellowed knit bootie. Mine, I guess.

There's a red satin pouch the holds my mother's rollerskate key and at least 5 ziploc baggies with baby teeth and one filled with blond hair. I don't know to whom this blond hair belongs, having had three blond babies, but I'm keeping that.

I found $100 in cash, about 300 random pennies, and the tag from the dozen roses that Randy gave me for our 10th anniversary.

I tossed out single socks, stretched out underwear, and more gift receipts that I could count. And I  threw away most of the teeth. I mean, they're gross, and really—why am I keeping baby teeth? I found a sweet little card in my daughter's 5-year-old handwriting, a note from my mom, and my beloved uncle's obituary card.

And I was all business. I never even felt the tiniest twinge of melancholy—I swear I didn't—until that one little sock. It's just a plain white, stretchy baby sock, nothing special. We had dozens and dozens of little white socks for our three babies. We put them on their little sweet feet nearly every day.

You know those little, sweet baby feet? The ones with the ten perfect toes?

They get me every time, the memory of those tiny toes and fat feet. The way you take those feet to your mouth and kiss them when you change their diapers. The way they giggle and laugh when you do "This little piggy went to market."The way the toes curl and just how soft, how incredibly soft those feet are.

And that tiny white sock is probably the only one left out of all those dozens, and all three pairs of those baby feet are bigger than mine now. One pair is walking across the hardwood floor while he talks on his cell phone; one pair just drove to the coffee house to meet her boyfriend; and one pair is probably encased in fins, scuba diving in the Keys.

All those little feet.

That's what made me cry today, and someday I'll be sticking that little sock in a box, like my mother did with mine, and I'll just write "your bootee" on it. And my grown-up kids will laugh when they find it, because it says "your bootee." And I will probably get teary-eyed, remembering them as they are right this minute—at 21 and 16 and 13—, and how they were when they had little feet that wore white socks.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew: Get Involved

As the school year winds down and hundreds of high school graduates begin to realize that they are really going to start college in just a couple of months, I am adding the last installment to my What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew series. You can click on the link to the first in the series and then read the first five items on our faculty members' wish list: 

The final item on the wish list? Get involved.

All the faculty members at our panel discussion emphasized the importance of being involved in college life. Mrs. B. said it’s as simple as this: “You can live in your own little world or you can interact with your campus.”

This can look dramatically different from campus to campus. In our panel discussion, we ranged from a private college of a little over 1,000 students to a community college to a major university. Obviously, each institution has varying levels of opportunity for participation in campus events: but there is something in which students can be involved on every single college campus!

Research shows that students who are academically and socially connected are more likely to actually graduate from college. 

Interacting on campus has many perks: leadership opportunities, resumé-building experiences, and friendships. There are lots of opportunities that you will have in college that you can never experience again.

Ms. B. emphasized that becoming involved the first year of college can be crucial to establishing a foundation upon which further affiliations are built. Look for ways to become involved:

·      Participate in campus-wide activities. All colleges have freshmen activities that are designed to help you make connections. Don’t sit in your dorm room and wonder if you made a mistake in coming to college. Make yourself branch out and meet people.

·      Join a club, sports team, or other student organization. Maybe this is something you have been doing already, or maybe it is something completely new. College is a time to pursue new interests and opportunities.

·      Go to performances, lectures, sports events, and other activities that your college offers. You may never have the opportunity again to attend events for free or for a student discount, so take advantage of all that your college offers!

·      Look for opportunities for community service. Volunteering will help you meet not only students but also learn more about the outside community.

 Join clubs, start clubs; expand your horizons. Branch out and make new friends. Students will get more out of their college experiences if they find a balance between academics and extracurricular activities.

Parents, if you have a high school student, now is the time to start gently preparing him for college. Help her cultivate these qualities that college professors look for, and you will be providing her with a fantastic foundation for college success!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up

This was a big week. I'm still recovering, or, rather, absorbing. Pondering.

Because this happened:

It is still hard for me to believe that our oldest child is a college graduate. It seems as if I was a college graduate not too long ago.

But, in fact, it was a long, long time ago for me:

I don't know sometimes if I feel much older than I did then; it's the whole "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" thing. I don't even know what it means, but I know exactly what it means.

I don't know how I became the middle-aged mom and not the teenaged sister.

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.

Magna cum laude, yep

A lot of people have congratulated me, telling me what a good job I did. You know, how as a homeschooling family, we have really shown what we can do.

But honestly, and I do not say this with any sort of false humility, I feel almost completely removed from his college experience. He did this. He worked really, really hard.

I mean, here's the truth: I read some of his papers and had no idea what he was talking about. He out-thinks me. Oh sure: I thought that hard and wrote that well when I was 21, but now my brain has mushified with years of parenting, and I think: W-O-W. He's really amazing.

I'm just really proud of him. Really, really amazed. I know we gave him a great academic foundation, but he built upon that foundation all by himself.

And so, our graduate is home now. And our daughter has finished her junior year and is now an official senior. And this one? This youngest one?

Thank goodness I have a few more years with him.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

I love this time of year. I love the flowers and the resuming of hiking and I love finishing things up for the year.

And I love prom season. I really do. I'm glad our support group does a prom and does it well.

Photo credit: Donna Williams Photography

Prom consumed a lot of the past couple of weeks. Or months. After prom and the after-prom outing (Sonic), the girls' dates dropped them off at our house to spend the night so that they could get up early in the morning to do the Color Me Rad 5K. They were all questioning their decision to sign up for a 5K on the morning after prom, but they had a blast.

And they had all Saturday afternoon to nap. So did I, since I was their early morning chauffeur.

I love that co-op classes for K-8th grade are finished. So does Duncan, although he is taking one high school class. And I love that high school classes will be over on Monday!

But I don't love that, between my middle- and high school classes, I have  34 research papers, 34 creative writing journals, and 19 final exams to grade.

What was I thinking?

I love these last few weeks of our own homeschooling. Laurel will actually be done on Tuesday after German class, but Duncan and I still have a couple of weeks left. It is absolutely amazing how much we get done every day once all of his outside activities are finished for the year! We are finishing up the first part of his Sonlight World History program. We'll finish the rest next year plus add in a high school textbook. Because, well, unbelievably, he'll be in high school.

And my daughter will be a senior.

And speaking of seniors, tomorrow is a really, really big day.

But first, here is another ending.

Last night was the very last End-of-the-Year Awards Ceremony for these four girls. The three blondes in the picture above (Laurel is the middle one) have been in it since we started our troop 11 years ago.

That's them at our very first awards ceremony. I know. It makes me cry, too. All four of the girls (the brunette joined 9 years ago) are completing their Stars and Stripes Award, which is the highest level a girl can achieve in AHG (comparable to the Boy Scouts Eagle Scout). Laurel is now gathering her signatures, compiling her binder, and waiting on her Board of Review. We're nearly there.

It's not just her, though. Eleven years of my life have been committed to American Heritage Girls. This past year since  "Saying Goodbye to a Decade of Little Girls"  (i.e., the end of our 10 years as founders and coordinators of our troop) has been surprisingly lovely. I thought I'd be sad every time a Thursday came around and it was meeting time, but I really wasn't. We left our troop in incredibly capable hands with women who love these girls just as much as we do. It has been an amazing transition in so many ways.

And speaking of transitions, back to tomorrow.

This little boy? My firstborn?

He graduates from college tomorrow. Magna cum laude from Belmont University.

I wrote "Burying the Big Yellow Bus" for Simple Homeschool in the middle of his freshman year at Belmont. He was 17 years old. Since then he's grown up a lot. He has spent 2 summers working on my brother's farm in New York. He's driven across the United States, and he's spent a semester in Italy. He's written dozens of papers and received top writing awards at his college.

And now he's done, and he's coming home. I have no idea what that looks like.

His plan is to work at the airport for a few years so that he can have free flights anywhere. He just wants to travel.

I remember graduating from college and having only vague plans for the future. Like, maybe I would go to graduate school. Or maybe I would get a teaching job. Really, all I wanted to do was hang out with my friends.

I would not have predicted that, less than a year after I graduated, I would be married to the one I had given up on. {For the record, I don't wish that particular scenario for my son.}

The point is, the end of college is just another beginning.

Stay tuned. That's what we're doing.

And now, my daughter is heading off to her last Friday morning of her childcare job, my 13-year-old is awake and Otto of the Silver Hand is calling.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up