Friday, September 26, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

Better known as "monthly wrap-up," that is.

I used to be such a good blogger. I'm a much better writer when I follow the writing adage "write every day" and yet…

I'm teaching two high school English classes at our co-op this year, and, honestly, I spend many of my morning hours—the hours when I used to blog—doing lesson plans for the classes. I have taught the 9th/10th grade British Lit before, although I am making a lot of changes this time around; but the class I call Classic Lit (for 11th and 12th graders) is all new. I have 42 students all together—21 in each class. Weeks like this past one, when both classes had an essay due, are killers.

But I love it.

In my British Lit class, we just finished with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. So I made a note last time I taught this to "call Sam." Sam's the chair of the English department at our local private college and a homeschooling father, and  his passion just happens to be medieval literature (which is not mine). I asked him if he would come and do a lecture on Sir Gawain, and he happily obliged with THREE. Yep, for three Wednesdays (our co-op day) in a row, he regaled my 9th and 10th graders with all things medieval and fantastic discussions of the poem. It was fantastic!

We've moved on to Shakespeare's Macbeth now. To begin the Shakespeare unit, I assign each student a topic relating to either the Elizabethan era or Shakespeare himself. They prepare about a 2-minute speech, and this way we manage to cover the basics in class without me lecturing for 45 minutes. And then we got into the really fun stuff: Macbeth.

In late October I'm taking both of my classes to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta to see Macbeth, so both classes will be reading it first. My 9th/10th grade class had fun doing 60-second Macbeth this week. I told them the story briefly and then assigned them 9 parts with about 2 lines each that give a super quick version of the play. And, no surprise, everyone except the three witches and Macduff gets to die. On the floor, with much drama.

It was awesome. They had fun, and, at home, Duncan began reading Macbeth enthusiastically. That was my goal.

My Classic Lit class just finished reading The Odyssey, we've watched O Brother Where Art Thou?, and now we are also going to move on to Macbeth.  But between larger works this year, I'm having my students take a turn at teaching. I divided the class into 5 groups before we began the semester. Those are the groups that students go into when we do group work in class, and these are also their teaching groups. Each group was assigned a short story, and they are to take the entire 80 minute class to teach this story. They have specific requirements that must be met, but they have a lot of freedom within those requirements.

The first short story group was up this week. You know that particular satisfaction that comes when you have a great idea and then it actually turns out like you imagined it? Yeah, so that happened. These students were absolutely fantastic. They were well-prepared, organized, kept the class on track, moved along smoothly, really discussed the story, and had fun, too.

The teachers, feeling proud and relieved after their class

Their short story was Flannery O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge." If you know the story, the hats make sense as the perfect craft to do. (Doing a craft wasn't a requirement, but I loved that they did this.)

Yes, of course we made hats, too


I just love these kids. I love teaching, and I'm so grateful that we have an incredible support group with a large, thriving co-op program. It's interesting for me to look at this picture and see such a wide array of students. About half of them have been homeschooled since the beginning, and most of the others have been pulled out from either private or public school just in the last two years to homeschool. And they just all are so hilarious and really, really smart. I laugh a lot in this class.

So that's what is going on at our weekly co-op classes.

At home, we're falling into a nice weekly pattern. Laurel has dual-enrollment classes at Maryville College, our local  private college, every day except Tuesday, and she also has a full afternoon of co-op classes on Wednesdays. She seems to be adjusting well to college classes and balancing academics with her social life, too. She's just so self-sufficient. She knows what needs to be done, gets appropriately stressed out, does it, and moves on.  It's a busy fall for her with the ACT coming up in a few weeks and then college applications due soon after that. I'm not allowing myself to think too much about next year, though....

Duncan has made huge leaps in these first 6 weeks of school. At first he really struggled, especially in science, getting the main ideas of the text and answering the questions. Because, you know, he's never used a textbook until this year. But it only took a week or so to teach him about highlighting and noting key phrases, etc.  We've gotten into a good routine. I write out his weekly assignments in a simple spiral notebook, and he does most of his work with little input from me. The only class he's actually taking at home this year is history; everything else is done through co-op or in a small group setting.

And that's what has been happening in our home/school in these past few weeks. I'm looking forward to a beautiful October!

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Once, she was this 9 lb. 9 oz. baby in a pink and yellow striped onesie who looked me straight in the eyes on the first night she was born. We were alone, the two of us, in my hospital room. She was in her bassinet right next to my bed, and she turned her head and held my gaze. I know she was looking deep into my heart, and sharing her heart with me. And she has held my eyes ever since then.

When she was a baby, I would come in to see if she was sleeping, just to peek at my beautiful baby girl, and she'd be lying there perfectly still, looking up intently at me. When she was older and she was a little anxious in a new situation, she'd catch my eyes across a room and just hold her gaze on me, steadily, willing reassurance.


I hope I have given it to her through the years. It is hard to be a confident, self-assured person, much less a confident, self-assured woman—and much, much less a confident, self-assured teenaged girl.

Reading my diary from 17 is like reading an actual stereotypical novel about teens: "I'm so confused.... I'm kinda bummed but I don't really know why … I'm on a diet …Love sure hurts when it's over … Things aren't going like I expected …I really think it's over between us … I hope things get back to normal … My friends are acting weird … We need to have a serious talk with ___; we've got to straighten her out!… I'm depressed … I'm excited … I'm not depressed anymore … It seems like all I ever think about is {insert boy}."


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.

I like how Kathryn Stockett says it in The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” We all need to know that—we need to know that we are valuable and that we are doing things the right way and that we'll make it OK, whatever the "it" happens to be.

We need to know that we can catch someone's eyes across the room, and we know that the return gaze means "You're OK. We're in this together."

I'm so glad my daughter has people to be in this together with. Good people. People who love her and make her laugh and share her cake and blow out candles with her. I'm so thankful that she has adults who are invested in her life, friends that adore her, and a level of self-confidence that seems to be growing exponentially.


Seventeen is a good age to be, and it is a terrible age to be. Seventeen is angsty and perplexing, tearful and downright frustrating. But it is also a glorious time: a time of memory, a time when all your senses are incredibly acute. At 17 the smell of autumn and the feel of dry summer grass on bare feet lingers forever in your memory, and scenes begin to shape your life because they are scenes you will carry into adulthood—ones that carry a weight.


That is what I would give to my 17-year-old self that speaks still from the pages of a 30-year-old diary. You are doing OK, I would tell myself. You will make it through really hard stuff—much harder than waiting for that boy to call on a Friday night. You will be really, really happy—much happier than you ever could have imagined. And you will be so incredibly, outrageously blessed to someday have your own 17-year-old daughter, who is more than you ever could have dreamed about in your wildest imaginings.

Now, go forth and laugh a lot, and crinkle leaves in your hands, and wear a pretty dress just because. Go drive in the mountains when the poplars turn yellow, sit out by the lake and watch the sunset, and walk in the moonlight. Snuggle in your blanket and drink hot tea with a kitty purring next to you. Take deep breaths and pray for strength and courage every single day. And go to sleep every night knowing that a life of good things awaits you.