Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Red-Tailed Hawk on the Fence

Yesterday we were about to pull out of our driveway when Duncan said, "LOOK!!" And wow! This huge red-tailed hawk was just sitting there calmly, as if he were posing for pictures. We sat there in the driveway for a long time just watching him in all his majesty. It brought to mind one of my favorite poems, "Hurt Hawks," by Robinson Jeffers.

Hurt Hawks
The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him   
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him for six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

{Robinson Jeffers, "Hurt Hawks" from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt.  Copyright © 1938 by Robinson Jeffers, renewed 1966 and ©  Jeffers Literary Properties.  With the permission of Stanford University Press,}

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Top 10 Must-Have Items for Homeschooling

1. The Internet. I mean, really. From the early days 13 years ago when I began investigating homeschooling to now, this instant, the internet has been my greatest tool. Networking, researching, watching, communicating—whatever. (See My 10 Ten Favorite Websites from last week's list.)

2. Real life homeschooling buddies/my support group. OK, this might not qualify as an "item," but I  cannot imagine being on this journey without friends to walk, run, and crawl it with me or without an incredible support group offering a wide range of activities, classes, and encouragement.

3. Printer/copier, paper, and ink cartridges. It's a bad day when the printer cries "low ink" or "out of paper."

4. Maps. We have a big world map and a slightly smaller U.S. map, and a poster with flags from around the world. We use these extensively. We're on our second world map, as the first one eventually fell apart. When we study specific countries, I print out maps downloaded from #1 by using #3 and put them on #6 and the kids can label them with #5 and 7 and then put them in a #8. See? It all works together.

5. Sharpened pencils and pens that actually work. I never, ever have enough of them.

6. Clipboards. We use them all the time. I like for each subject to have its own clipboard, so my kids can grab yesterday's clipboard that already has a spelling list on it, for example. They also use clipboards for drawing paper, to take on trips, etc.

7. Art supplies, drawing paper, markers, crayons, etc.. My kids are constantly doodling and drawing, especially as we do read-alouds. I would hate for anyone to ever ask "do we have any markers?" We always have lots of everything, and I restock with the back-to-school sales every September July.

8. Spiral notebooks and 3-ring binders. I just love them. We use them for everything, from doodling to solving equations. I truly can't resist buying my limit when they are 10 cents at Staples in July! (And I must admit that I go back at least a couple of times!)

9. Tape and glue sticks. Nary a day goes by that we don't have the need for something sticky. We never seem to have enough of these two around.

10. The public library. Need I say more? Yes, we have shelves and shelves of books in our home, but we could never come close to matching the wealth of delicious books and movies at the library.

This post is part of iHomeschool Network’s 10 in 10 series and is linked to Top Ten Tuesday.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: Done!

Friday, May 25: our last day of school. 

Duncan has finished, um, what? 5th grade for sure and mid-way through 6th grade. I don't know how to say that other than that, next year he'll be straddling 6th and 7th grades. Hopefully sometime in that year we'll decide whether we will officially bump him up a grade or not. Laurel's easier. She's officially finished her freshman year. Well, except algebra. She still has another month or more until she is done with that, but what's a little daily math in the summer? And I do still have several Sonlight books to finish with Duncan, but we'll enjoy a few chapters a day throughout the hot afternoons.

Much has happened since my last Weekly Wrap-up.

• I finished up my British Lit class. I am still grading research papers and final exams, but I am at least halfway done with that. I love teaching high schoolers, and although British Lit is not my personal favorite, it was a great year. Next year's I'm teaching my favorite, American Lit.

• Randy's mom came to visit to see all the amazing end-of-year productions. First, there was the play Comic Book Hero that the drama class put on. It was absolutely fantastic! I am soooo impressed with our drama class. I know their teacher works incredibly hard and wow! She really knows how to bring out the best in the kids.

• Next, Duncan and Laurel were in a production at our performing arts co-op. Duncan did both flags and was in the drama; Laurel was just dancing this year. She and both her friends above have been moved up to the advanced class for next year and have been invited to be on the traveling dance team. That is very exciting and means that she may be going on a trip to Israel next February to perform!

• Laurel had her last day of co-op classes the following day, and our co-op had its annual used curriculum sale. I made a whopping $75, which delighted me! But more importantly, Laurel won the Top Science Scholar Award in her physical science class. That was a pretty awesome accomplishment for a girl who went into the year saying "I don't like science."

• Tuesday was Duncan's crossover from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. It was also Randy's crossover from 8 years as Cubmaster to Assistant Scoutmaster. He's actually been an Assistant Scoutmaster for many years, but this ended us Cubmaster career. I posted a bazillion pictures on that link, and you should go read it just to see my awesome cake. Since then Duncan has had his first two Boy Scout meetings, and we even have a Court of Honor this evening, at which he'll receive his first rank.

• Wednesday of that week was our annual field day. I am just not a field day person and never was (I'm not even sure we had field day at my school, or quite possibly I blocked it out!), and neither are my kids, but we went to have fun with friends anyway! It was so well organized, and the kids had a great time. I am constantly thankful for our support group!

• That Thursday evening we had our American Heritage Girls end-of-year ceremony and crossover. Our high school girls always lead the ceremony. They do such a fantastic job, and it's so nice for Caroline and I to be able to sit back and watch. We do the actual crossing-over ceremony, but the Patriot girls do the rest, including presenting badges and service stars. This next year in AHG will be an emotional one for Caroline and me. We started this troop 9 years ago, and our tenth year will be our last as coordinators. Our own girls were just first graders when we started! We will stay on for one year as their leaders after we hand over the coordinator position, and then, if all goes according to plan, our girls will earn their Stars and Stripes (Eagle Scout equivalent) and be done!

Pre-ceremony: Laurel and Bess buying hanging baskets for leaders' gifts

The shirts we present to our graduating girls

Opening ceremonies. The Patriots are leading the Pathfinders (blue shirts) in singing "Amazing Grace" while the colorguard awaits

Patriots receiving badges

* In the midst of all these ceremonies and productions, my brother (I have four older brothers, and he is the one next in line above me) and his wife came to visit with their new baby! I have at least 6,000 pictures of Koll Henry, but here is when I got to hold him for the first time:

It's so fun and somewhat surreal watching one's older brother experience first-time parenthood, especially when my firstborn is already midway through college!

• Since the flurry of activity during the first two weeks of May, we have been enjoying relative peace and quiet. We've been to Dollywood a couple of times. Randy and I ran a 5K—my favorite course yet and my best time.  In addition to our regular running days, I started the Couch to 5K program with the kids. They are fairly reluctant about it, but they both need a regular exercise program for their various scouting badges and for PE. We are also trying to be more diligent about going to the health center for cardio and weight machines and swimming, now that we have more free time. Next week we are all joining a pilates class on Mondays and a yoga class on Tuesdays. Combined with our regular hiking and biking, we should have an exercise-packed summer! Oh—and also Duncan joined the fencing club, so he'll be adding fencing to his exercise regimen.

• Last week was our support group's graduation ceremony. For the past couple of years, our AHG troop has volunteered to prepare and serve at the reception. Since I missed the ceremony helping to set up, I don't have any photos of our 19 graduates. But here are some of the girls!

• And yes, I realize this has been all about the activities and nothing about academics. Obviously, our academic schedule has slacked off this month. We've been doing lots of reading aloud, a little grammar, handwriting, and math. Laurel finished all of her classes except algebra and personal finance at the beginning of May, so she has just been focusing on those two subjects. Oh, well, and finishing British Lit. Yes, the teacher's kid gets a little extra time to turn everything in.

• For more homeschooling-related posts:
My contribution to the 2012 Curriculum Fair at Simple Homeschool
My thoughts on To Test or Not to Test at The Homeschool Classroom
My Top 10 Favorite Websites to Use for Homeschooling for iHomeschool Network

• And now…summertime!

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Miscellany

* Sometimes I love to lie on my bed with the door open and listen to the sounds of my family. This evening Randy and Laurel are fixing dinner. I hear them figuring out what time to put on the asparagus so it's done the same time as the chicken, discuss whether or not to broil or grill. They start listening to music, and Jesse, finished drumming, wanders in. Jesse starts singing loudly. His phone rings, and he's off. Duncan, meanwhile, watches TV, zoned out in his own little land of obnoxious cartoons. The door opens and slams shut. I hear a knife tapping on the cutting board. Smells start to drift in. Someone rings the new bicycle bell, over and over again. I am purely content, in spite of a nagging headache.

* Today is our last official day of school! We meant to go out for ice cream to celebrate, but we forgot. Instead, I made key lime pie.

* Today we also bought a new stove and microwave, as well as a refrigerator for our apartment. I wanted to buy a big, beautiful stove with all kinds of fun gadgets. I wanted people to admire my amazing-looking stove when they came over. "You should see Sarah and Randy's new stove!" But, well, I just couldn't do it. I don't need anything fancy; I just need four burners and an oven. Maybe someday we'll splurge, but right now we have college, curriculum, and Converse. And I'm thankful for the funds to buy new appliances when we need them, even if they aren't stunning.

* I made the key lime pie in the oven at our guest apartment. It is mustard yellow (the oven, not the pie), but it works in a pinch, like when our house oven stops cooking. In case you were wondering.

This is our cute kitten, who has absolutely nothing to do with anything in this post.

* I love my new church. Someday I'm going to blog about it.

* Do you say PA-prika or pa-PREE-ka? That is the current debate in the kitchen. I'm of the latter pronunciation.

* I find dialects and regionalisms fascinating. If I were to go back and get another degree, it would be in linguistics. What I find particularly interesting, too, is how tied we are to our own pronunciations and to our own vocabulary. We get so defensive, so certain that we are right. I used to be terribly vigilant about commenting on pronunciations and accents, but I think I have cleaned up my act a lot. Yes, the word "pop" still makes me cringe slightly, and I don't understand "pellow" for "pillow," but I've come a long way from being certain that upstate New Yorkers know the right way to say everything. Seriously, what possessed me to ever be so smug? I am offering a blanket apology to everyone at whom I ever raised my eyebrow.

* So back to point 2. This was our last day of school! As usual, we fizzled out at the end. Duncan and I were doing practically nothing but reading these last two weeks. Laurel still has to finish her algebra, but that will probably last through June. We'll call today our last day anyway.

* I got my hair cut yesterday. I love it sooooo much. I took in pictures of two of my real-life curly girl friends and said, "Please cut my hair like this."  She took off 3 or 4 inches, and I feel fantastic. I don't often love my hair, but I do right now. Straight-haired people, be thankful. Curly hair is very, very tricky.

* Jesse is back from picking up his friend and is singing again. I imagine he is dancing too. I think I shall stay hidden away in my bedroom until dinner is served.

Hope you have a fabulous holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top 10 Favorite Websites To Use for Homeschooling

Welcome to Week 1 of the Ten Weeks of Top Ten Lists sponsored by  iHomeschoolNetwork. Lots of bloggers will be sharing their Top Ten lists on various topics over the next ten weeks.  Today's topic: Top Ten Websites to Use for Homeschooling. Here are mine, in no particular order:

Keep in mind that I am not only a homeschooling mama but also teach upper elementary, middle, and high school literature/English classes at our co-op. You'll find my list heavy on literature and writing sites!

1. Netflix: Documentaries, biographies, histories, travel shows, and movies of all sorts—Netflix has become a vital part of our homeschooling. This post from Squidoo gives directions for how to easily find educational material on Netflix.

2. The Purdue Online Writing Lab: This is an amazing resource for all things writing and grammar.

3, 4, 5: Shmoop, Glencoe, Cummings Study Guides: Seriously, absolutely oodles of study guides, teaching ideas, inspiration, and actitivies for novels, short stories, plays and more.

6.  YouTube: We use You Tube videos extensively, whether we are watching short clips to see what a particular animal looks like, learning origami, listening to music, or viewing a whole movie.

7. Math Drills: Loads of worksheets at every level to supplement whatever math curriculum you are using.

8. Pinterest: Like everyone else, I pin about three times more ideas than I will ever use, but still, Pinterest is a tremendous resource for me for organizing ideas and bookmarking sites visually. I refer to my homeschooling board almost as much as my recipe board!

9.  Books Should Be Free: Hundreds of free audio books to download in mp3, iPod, or iTunes format. My kids love to listen to audiobooks, and this site has so many classics that my daughter needs for literature class. She listened to at least a couple of her novels this year rather than actually reading them herself. Why not?

10.  Daily Grammar Archives: Fantastic and totally free comprehensive grammar lessons.

and a bonus, #11: (AKA, I miscounted and should now consult #7) Khan Academy: I have only just begun to tap into the incredible wealth of information at Khan Academy. Have you seen this yet? From Khan's website: "With over 3,200 videos on everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and hundreds of skills to practice, we're on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace." Amazing stuff here. 

Link up your own Top 10 favorites at Angie's Top Ten Tuesdays and check out all the iNetwork Homeschool lists

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Caught-My-Eye Posts

Fantastic piece on on the Tennessee "Monkey Bill" at Rachel Held Evans.

We introverts are slightly obsessive about reading about ourselves. Interesting thoughts on introverts and how we fit at Introverted Church.

You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations: beautiful, insightful post on what it means to be a dad. I am so incredibly thankful that Randy is such an amazing father to our kids.

50 Things To Do Before You're 12: A bucket list of things every kids should experience. There are no museums and trips to Europe here: just lots of critters and such. This is one of those articles that makes me feel like a good parent. :)

10 Grammar Rules and Best Writing Practices That Every Writer Should Know: fantastic post from Melissa at Writing Forward. I'm going to hand this out to my students every year.

5 Things You Should Never Tell a New Homeschooler

This is an older post but I just read it: The Public School Parents' Guide to Homeschool Parents


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Oldest and Youngest

I have about a hundred photos from the past week, when my fourth older brother, Stephen, and his wife and new baby came to visit. But I love this one of my parents (Oma and Opa) and their oldest and youngest grandchildren especially. We are all amazed by Koll Henry, and here is one of the reasons why: he was born over 31 years after the first grandchild, Esther, who is holding him in this picture. As Esther says, "I could practically be Koll's grandma!" (Frightening, but true.)

I can't help but get a little weepy looking at this photo. My parents were in their mid-50s when the grandkids started coming. This little guy will never roast hot dogs on the beach with Oma and Opa, or go sailing with them out on Seneca Lake or hike along the railroad tracks with them and pick up treasures. But hopefully he'll still get Opa's stories and Oma's sweet songs, and the certainty that he is well loved.

To Test Or Not To Test?

Taking a Test.

To test or not to test? It is one of the most common questions I hear in homeschooling discussions. Every state has different requirements for testing, and have family has different reasons to test or not to test.

Come on over to The Homeschool Classroom today to read pros and cons for testing. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, here or there!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Motherhood Slice of Life

It is true that there is absolutely nothing in the world I wanted to be, ever, more than being a mom. I marvel sometimes at how I can be a mom now to two teenagers and one wanna-be teen. You know that feeling that somewhere out there, you still exist as a 14-year-old, 18-year-old, 25-year-old? I have that a lot.

This is motherhood right now. My oldest, 19,  has been home from college for almost two weeks. He is stretched out on the loveseat, with his legs dangling over the sides. He is 6' 1", dressed in hiking boots, army green pants, and a white t-shirt. His hair is in ringlets as always, and a cup of Starbucks is next to him. He is reading Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, which he is forcing himself to get through, as he almost did with Moby Dick and Ulysses

My daughter is in her bedroom with her best friend. They are 14. They laugh a lot and they are very, very beautiful. Every now and then they emerge from her room, bursting out and running, laughing. Just now my daughter's friend has smeared shaving cream on my Laurel's face, and they have chased each other outside. It is good be to be a giggling 14-year-old girl. I know. I once was one.

My youngest is at a birthday party. I noticewhen he is gone, always. There is an empty place here without him. He is the one who is frequently at loose ends, being 11. He is growing out of the season of toys and so is often at a loss as to what to do. He would love to watch TV or play the Wii all day long, but we have these tedious restrictions for such things. Instead, he wanders about outside, climbing trees or exploring the yard. He is the one who always finds the new flower or a bird's nest. He'll report on the amount of sawdust the carpenter bees have left or a pile of mushrooms in the front yard.

Outside the birds are singing and a cool breeze comes through the open windows. I am surrounded by the sweetest dog ever and two cats, one old and one new. My time of quiet is over. My oldest gets up and announces he is 500 pages into the book, then he heads off to Starbucks again to meet a friend. I have to slip on my flip-flops, take my daughter's friend home and pick up Duncan from the party. Being a mom is so very, very good.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

2012 Curriculum Fair: What We're Doing Next Year

I am so excited about this upcoming year! I have always maintained that educational flexibility is the highlight of home education, and 2012-13 will be one of those years that embraces flexibility.
Shouldn’t education be crafted by creativity, rather than squished into a box labeled “scope and sequence”?

For me, part of the joy in homeschooling my kids comes with the designing, the knowing that my kids get an individualized education plan that suits them perfectly.

So here is what I have planned for my two at-home kids:…

{Come on over to Simple Homeschool to read what we have planned for next year!}

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cub Scout/Boy Scout Crossover

Our youngest son crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts last night. My husband also crossed over from 8 years as a Cubmaster to full-time assistant Scoutmaster.

I started off the day by making a cake, which was an excellent distraction. Moms of little boys who are about to cross over get very weepy. Especially when they once looked like this:

Duncan as a Tiger Cub
 So, yep. I made a cake for the 9 boys who are crossing over. I was extremely proud of my craftiness 'cause this is really not my thing. I put the Webelos symbol on one side and the Scout symbol and their names on the other, and of course divided the cake into half blue and half green. 

I gave all the little signs to the moms after we cut the cake, so they have something for their son's scrapbook. (Or for the Big Box of Memorabilia, in our case.)

We prayed fervently for the rain to hold off for our evening, outside ceremony. We felt a few drops while Randy cooked hot dogs and a few more while the boys played their traditional games (including tug o'war Cub Scouts vs. Boy Scouts—notice which group is doing the victory cheer).

The rain held off while the younger boys got their awards, and Randy was presented with a plaque in appreciation of his many years as Cubmaster and den leader.

And then when it was time to go down to the bridge for the actual crossover ceremony, the skies were totally clear. 

Our Pack 442 boys almost always go straight into Troop 442, so many of the boys from the troop, as well as the Scoutmaster, come to the ceremony to greet the boys and put on their new epaulets and neckerchief. Our older son, Jesse, is an Eagle Scout. Although he has just finished his sophomore year in college, he was sweet enough to agree to come and help Duncan cross over.

Randy always asks the local Order of the Arrow group to come and do the actual crossover ceremony. The boys call for Akela, who then asks each of them a question before allowing them to receive their Arrow of Light awards.


After all the boys have spoken with Akela, they light their candles and receive their Arrows of Light.

Then they blow out their candles and their den leaders remove their Cub Scout insignia. When their name is called, they make the journey over the bridge from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, where the Boy Scouts put on their new neckerchief and epaulets and welcome them into the troop.

After all the boys crossed over, Randy crossed over. I just about started bawling then, when he said how incredibly awesome it was to be the Cubmaster and how much he loved all the boys. He really has been such an incredible leader to these boys. The families have all been so supportive and encouraging to him throughout these year. We could not ask for a better Cub Scout pack! But without anymore Cubs in our family, it is time for him to hand over the reins to someone else. He has been an Assistant Scoutmaster for many years, so he'll continue in that capacity.

And then the ceremony was over. Duncan was so very excited. When he arrived home, the first thing he did was hug the dog and say, "Well, Autumn, your boy is a Boy Scout now." So sweet.

But of course we had to get a few more pictures before we cleaned up and came home. 

These are sweet, sweet days.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Three Beautiful Things

1. My British Lit class is over! Well, except for grading exams and papers. Loved the class, loved the kids, but I am ready to be DONE.

2. Company! My mother-in-law and her husband are here for several days. I am so glad that she could come because the kids have some awesome things going on this week. Last night Laurel had her drama class production of Comic Book Hero. It was fantastic, and Laurel was perfect. I'm so proud of my shy girl for being up there on stage, being totally not shy. Tomorrow night both of the kids are in a production put on by their performing arts school. Laurel dances and Duncan is in the drama and does flags. And Tuesday evening....Duncan crosses over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. I'm already starting to get a little choked up about it. I'm going to be in big trouble...

3. Home from college! Our oldest finished his sophomore year at Belmont University and is home for the summer. I love having him here! He is so funny and sweet. And he got his grades yesterday: a 3.9 for the semester! He's always had at least a 3.5, but wow!! He's pretty awesome.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!