Saturday, February 24, 2007

Using Prepositions Correctly

February 24, 2007

While finishing my lesson plans for Monday's co-op classes, I came across this gem of an explanation for using tricky prepositions correctly. These are some of the most prevalent errors in our everyday speech. Have you ever had that experience when you look at a written phrase and know something is wrong but can't quite figure it out? I--yes even I, the Queen of Grammar--have done that before with "of vs. have" especially. (OK, maybe only once--but still... ) Another tricky word is, well, "another." Start listening for this: "I had a whole nother piece left on my plate!" It looks silly when you see it in print, but just pay attention in this next week to how many times you catch others--or yourself--splitting the word "another" into "a whole nother" or some such variation.

But without further adieu, I present for you and your students:

(beside, besides) Beside means “by the side of”; besides means “in addition to.”
He leads me beside the river.
Do you have any money besides that in your checking account?

(between, among) Use between when referring to two people or things; use among when referring to more than two, as a group.
We hung a hammock between two trees.
He feels at ease even among strangers.

(except, accept) Except, as a preposition, means “excluding.” Accept is a verb and means “to receive” or “to agree to.”
No one knew the answer except Juan.
Can you accept criticism graciously?

(in, into)
Use in for location within; use into for motion from outside to inside.
Make sure you are in bed by ten o’clock.
Come into the house and have some coffee.

(of, have) Of is a preposition and should not be used for the helping verb have.
INCORRECT: You should of come when I called you.
CORRECT: You should have come when I called you.

(to, and)
Do not use the conjunction and after the words try and sure. Use the word to instead.
WRONG: Be sure and lock your house.
CORRECT: Be sure to lock your house.
WRONG: Try and make it work.
CORRECT: Try to make it work.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Circus Day

So, weirdly, this has been a circus-themed week for me. Earlier this week I finished reading Water for Elephants, and today we actually went to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus! Early in the show, the Ringmaster asked, "How many of you have ever dreamed of being in the circus?" It's one of those questions when I think everybody is supposed to raise their hands, but I have absolutely never dreamed of being in the circus. I'm intrigued by behind-the-scenes circus life. I'm interested in the history of circuses. I'm curious about the people themselves--what makes one join a circus? But I"ve never had the slightest desire to be a circus performer or worker. Give me a nice quiet library, and I'll shelve some books.

I did a little more reading on circuses when I came home. This is a good website. It occurred to me after reading this that circus kids must be homeschooled. But I digress. The circus itself was awesome. We had incredible seats, and I loved watching my kids, especially Duncan. He was positively exuberant. Now he is the one I can see joining a circus--and come to think of it, he did raise his hand when the Ringmaster asked that question....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Letter to the Editor

February 21, 2007

I keep forgetting to blog about my Letter to the Editor in this past Sunday's paper. For three or four years now, about this time of the year, our local newspaper includes inserts detailing "Progress" in Blount County over the past year. One of these inserts focuses entirely on education, and, as usual, home education was completely left out. So this year, instead of growling about it, I actually took action and wrote a letter--AND SENT IT! I have to admit that, if I think about it, I am slightly anxious that there will be some rebuttal letters in the paper, but so far, so good. So here it is (and the editor actually left everything intact!):

February 12, 2007
Dear Editor:

The “Progress 2007: Education” supplement to The Daily Times (Sat., Feb. 10) failed to include a major segment of Blount County’s students: those who are home educated. Blount Home Education Association (BHEA), the county’s largest homeschooling support group, has a membership of close to 200 families, representing at least 400 students in grades K-12. When combined with families who belong to smaller area support groups or who do not belong to support groups, the accurate number of homeschooled students in Blount County is likely in excess of 500.

It is interesting to note that, while Blount County, Maryville City Schools and Alcoa City Schools are reported as spending $7,140, $8,681 and $9,258 respectively per student annually, most local homeschoolers report spending an average of less than $1000 per student each year. It is truly mind-boggling to imagine what my homeschooling family of three students could do with an annual educational budget of $27,774!

The home education movement continues to grow both locally and nationally as more and more families choose this educational alternative. BHEA is dedicated to supporting and encouraging families who educate their children at home. We offer a variety of activities including weekly enrichment classes, field trips, clubs, and support for parents. Our annual Homeschooling 101 seminar will be held on Saturday, April 14 from 12-2 p.m. at the Blount County Public Library’s Dorothy Herron meeting rooms. We encourage any parents who would like to know more about homeschooling to attend this free informational session. You can find out more about homeschooling locally at or

Sarah Small

So, boy, I feel better after expressing myself in a public forum! Maybe next year they'll actually add home education to the list of worthwhile stories...


Thursday, February 22, 2007 - You GO Girl!!!

Posted by sharonkay (IP Not Logged)

Way to put that growling into action! I applaud your efforts and expertise in the writing arena to stand up for "our way of educating".
Thanks for being a voice for us!

Thursday, February 22, 2007 - sarah ...

Posted by onfire (IP Not Logged)

small you are not!
thanks for speaking up ... that was cool.

Friday, February 23, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by kateyz (IP Not Logged)

Well said!

Friday, February 23, 2007 - Hooray for You!

Posted by MrsPivec (IP Not Logged)

Very well written and informative letter! I often stew for a bit myself before typing out a quick letter to our little, local paper! I loved how you mentioned the budget. Wow. Just imagine the art supplies, the science supplies, the field trips, the manipulatives, the incredible childrens publications (magazines, etc.) that we could have with that budget........ *sigh* Ugh. I really shouldn't even go there! :)

Monday, February 26, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by hsmomof2 (IP Not Logged)

Yes, great letter. Very well-reasoned and stated. No snide or superior attitude which I am sad to say I see far too often when homeschoolers write to the paper.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday Memory: Last Ski

This time of year I always miss winter sports, and heading up to Ober Gatlinburg last week to watch Jesse ski really made me miss my years of skiing. I would never have imagined that the day above, as my friend Dave and I headed out to Hawk's Nest in North Carolina, would be my last downhill ski trip for 19 years (and counting).

Of course this picture made me remember our good friend Dave King, as well. Dave was truly sweet and funny. He was an awesome musician--sang and played guitar just like James Taylor. Boy, I'd love to hear him now. Dave was also a big airhead. Here's a typical Dave scenario: we're all hanging out at our apartment, a couple of years after Randy and I were married. We decide to order pizza. Dave says, "I'm going to run down the street to visit so-and-so. I'll be back in 30 minutes when the pizza comes." He didn't show up again for another 3 weeks (and the pizza was long gone by then). So anyway, we haven't heard from Dave in 6 years. Wonder what he's up to now...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday and my head feels like it's going to explode. So I think it's entirely appropriate the this picture is slightly out of focus and weirdly colored, because that's exactly how I feel.

All I can say is, I have an awesome family. They are so good and sweet to me, from cinnamon rolls for breakfast to fettucine alfredo for supper and, most important of all, chocolate cake. And my daughter made me the most beautiful bouquet of tissue paper flowers, and having my parents here to reminisce about the day that I was's just all so lovely, in spite of being sick.

And happy birthday to my friend at The Monkey Parade too! And how cool is this? Dorothy Canfield Fisher, author of Understood Betsy, was born on this day in 1879. Connections like that just make me happy!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Platitudes and Misconceptions #1: “I’m a Better Mom Because I…

February 16, 2007

Wikipedia defines “platitude” as “a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement that is presented as if it were significant and original” and defines “misconception” as what happens “when a person believes in a concept that is objectively false.” I like this further explanation on Wikipedia: “Many people have difficulty letting go of misconceptions because the false concepts may be deeply ingrained in the mental map of an individual. Some people also don't like to be proven wrong and will continue clinging to a misconception in the face of evidence to the contrary. This is a known psychological phenomenon and is due to the lack of will or inability to re-evaluate information.”

We homeschoolers today often have to wade through a swamp of platitudes and misconceptions about home education. Just imagine how thick that swamp was 20 years ago! I’m thankful for the “pioneers” in the home education movement who donned their rubber waders and worked diligently to clear out some of the weeds and other muck. But still, we are left with a slew of dismantling to do.

I think the word “platitude” must be accompanied by a smug look. I do not want that smug look to ever cross my face, although I must admit I sometimes feel smug. I feel smug when I hear someone smugly say, “I’m a better Mom because I send my kids to public school.” That falls into the same category as, “I’m a better Mom because I work outside the home.” I like Gwyneth Paltrow. She seems smart, or at least she did until she said this as she spoke of her decision to start making films again: “If I do one thing that makes me fulfilled, then I'm a more interesting woman for my children." Interesting? My kids think I’m interesting if I belch! My kids think it’s interesting to hear stories of my childhood traumas: dog bites, chicken pox, and wetting my pants. I don’t need to have a “job” in order to pique my children’s interest. All I need to do is tell them we have a new book to read, or, perhaps a new box of cereal. Because, guess what? I am fulfilled largely because of my children!

And so my friend Donna got hit recently with the “I’m a better mom because I send my child to public school” platitude. Now, I am sure this mom wasn’t saying that she is a better mom than Donna; what she meant was that she believes she herself is a better mom than if she kept her son at home. What she means is that, because her child is gone all day, she is more refreshed—more there for him—when he comes home. She has been able to run errands, clean, and perhaps check her email so that she can devote herself entirely to her son when he comes home from school. Thus, she is a better mom because she has seven whole hours away from her son each day.

The misconception goes hand-in-hand with the platitude. The misconception is that children, by nature and definition, drive their parents crazy; thus, parents and children need to be away from each other in order to behave civilly toward one another.

Now here’s a problem. Most of us freeze when we get hit with statements like the above. I mean, how do you respond? Do you say, “Huh?” Or offer back a similar platitude (which you don’t necessarily believe) because you don’t know what else to say: “Yes, well, if that works best for you, than that’s what you need to do.” Or do you just smile and nod your head and feel horribly compromised later? (That would be me.)

On the other hand, do you bristle and react with a sharp: “Are you saying I’m not a good mom because I’m home all day?” Or with “That’s baloney! You’ve been brainwashed by a post-modern culture which forces you to believe that your children are better off without you—and that you are better off without them!” Geez, I wish I could respond like that sometimes!

My goal isn’t necessarily to convince others that they should be homeschooling, but I do think that, as homeschoolers, we take a lot more criticism than we should. Why is it even acceptable for someone to say to Donna, knowing that she’s a homeschooling mom, “I am a better mom because I send my child to school”? Let me tell you there is no way that Donna would ever say to this same mom, “I am a better mom because I homeschool.” But why? Why is it OK for someone to say to us, “I could never homeschool my kids. They would drive me nuts.” Why don’t we say back, “I could never put my kids in public school. Even if they do drive me nuts sometimes.” I think we have convinced ourselves that it is belligerent to express ourselves back in such a way. We don’t want to be known as that grumpy, defensive homeschooling mom. But, but, but—what’s the answer?

I love that Jesus answered questions with questions. What if we just asked questions and shared a little, instead of answering abruptly or not answering at all? What if we said, “Really? Why do you think that you are a better mom? Have you ever really considered the alternative?” What if we just waited for a response and then carried on a meaningful dialogue, instead of allowing that “dig” (however unintended) to fester and become an obstacle in our relationships?

I was once in a Small Group that emphasized that we should always “be equipped” with ready answers. So what would you say to the “I’m a better mom because…” platitude, if you were fully equipped? And what are other parenting/homeschooling platitudes and misconceptions that make your hair stand on end?

Post A Comment!.....


Friday, February 16, 2007 - Uh-oh

Posted by TheMonkeyParade (IP Not Logged)

I say, “I could never put my kids in public school. Even if they do drive me nuts sometimes”, fairly regularly.

That sure explains a lot about my social life. ;)

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Saturday, February 17, 2007 - I agree with you...

Posted by sharonkay (IP Not Logged)

We should be ready with an apt reply, and your reference to Christ's example is so accurate. He always had such wonderful, timely stories to illustrate the truth.

Most of the time, my responses are "polite". Although, I must say that I have never been the recipient of such a comment as the one Donna received. In that case, I may have not been so polite! My responses have followed the path of "Everyone makes their own choice".

I hope that I can embrace the publicly-expressed philosophy that we are choosing a worthwhile and blessed path. We and our children have lots to offer to our communities and world. I believe that to my very core! I am very internally passionate about it. But if my internal beliefs do not transform my outworld world, then what testimony do I have?

You bring up a wonderful point about not hiding behind trite responses, and it also applies to me in so many other areas. I have been thinking alot lately about my witness to a lost world. I want to live my love for Christ out loud!

Our challenge as always is to share our school experience and our faith with grace and truth. May God give us all the gift of the apt word!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007 - I have two that stand out in my mind immediately ...

Posted by arajbrown (IP Not Logged)

but could probably come up with 10 more in as many minutes.

1) I had a professor in college ask me the following question ... "So, when are you going to go back to the classroom and start using that $40,000 degree?"
First, I just gave a short laugh and told her I was using my degree ... 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But, I felt guilty for not being more direct and telling her what a stupid and hurtful question she'd asked. It was early on in my first year of homeschooling and I was wondering if I was doing anyone any good at home anyway ...

2) Don't you think that you are being overprotective, keeping him from experiencing the real world?" Question usually asked by someone I would consider to be a believer.

Now, I confess that there are passages in the Bible that I've not memorized ... more than I have actually .... and so I might have missed the verses that tell you to send your kids out to the wolves/world so that they can experience it fully ... BUT I DON'T THINK SO! My answer to this is that we're called to be the salt of the earth ... and my 9, then 10 and now 11 year old ... just isn't salty enough to share yet. And, if the current trend at our house is any indication of how easily influenced he is ... I'm correct in this statement.
I don't want to be a "better" mom ... I want to be the mom to my son that God called me to be ... and some days, that means being frustrated and apologizing ... impatient and asking for a second chance ... flexible and knowing that he's in the right place ... accommodating and knowing that a stranger wouldn't know how to do this! The first two show God's grace ... and on really, really good days, the last two show His character. What higher calling could there be?

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Saturday, February 17, 2007 - AMEN!!!

Posted by Debbie Corley/Reluctant Blogger (IP Not Logged)

I totally agree with everything you said! I get so sick of women saying things like, "Oh, I could never homeschool!" As if it's like performing brain sugery to educate our childern! I can't imagine getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to rush around getting my sleepy children ready and out the door to spend 7 hours under the instruction a bunch of folks that probably do not share any of my values! Sometimes I want to say, "I cant believe you DON'T homeschool?"

Thanks for your eloquent post on the subject! AMEN!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by hsmomof2 (IP Not Logged)

I don't get those comments much because it seems as though I am surrounded by homeschoolers! But when I do get them, I just say something like "It's a choice we made." That is usually enough. Very rarely does someone care to pursue it.

But people will always say things to make themselves look and feel better to others. I would not expect a famous acrtress to want to be a stay-at-home mom. But I guess even famous actresses need to make themselves feel better sometimes.

I would never dream of saying "I'm a better mom because..." but maybe that's because I'm not insecure about what I'm doing.

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Monday, February 19, 2007 - Homeschool Comments

Posted by sforrester (IP Not Logged)

The one that gets me is when people say "I don't know how you do it"....."I don't have the patience to teach my children or to be around my children all day"....."I need that break from them".

I'm usually astonished when people say this to me. I have to watch my tongue because I want to respond very harshly. Wisdom has taught me that it's not always best to do that! LOL! I usually just respond by saying I enjoy my children and I love having them around all day. Then I go on to say how much time children waste in public school....standing in lunch lines, nap time (for younger kids), recess time, and all the other "time" they are doing various things that aren't very profitable. I tell them that my children have more opportunities to explore their own interests and pursue other projects. You know, I give people the nice answers :-o)

Another thing that bothers me is when people question what I'll do when my children get older. You know, they'll say "how are you going to teach them things like geometry and algebra"? HELLO! Umm, well, I did pretty well with those subjects myself and if I don't remember something, I have the internet to look it up! You know, they also make books that we can pick up to help us! It is almost as if people don't realize you can actually look things up and figure out how to do them! There's always that question about "socialization" also. People ask if my children are able to interact with other kids. I usually tell them that homeschoolers have co-op options and sports alternatives and as far as interaction goes, they get plenty of that at church, in the grocery store, in restaurants, etc.

I'm glad you asked this question! It's a good thing to reflect on why we are homeschooling our children and what God requires of us in that area.

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Monday, February 19, 2007 - One of my favorites...

Posted by partyoffive (IP Not Logged)

Comes from our favorite teacher...and not that I have anything against teachers...just when they criticize our decision to homeschool and then sit and tell me what is wrong in her classroom, with the kids and the parents who send them!
And I will say I don't quite understand "being a better mom by sending my kids to school" because I think this last year and a half of homeschooling has made me a better mom. (and I liked what arajbrown said about being the mom God wants me to be,,) I enjoy having my kids with me, isn't that why I had them in the first place?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007 - This is really great

Posted by bestsister (IP Not Logged)

and so I think I'll need to link it on my sight. Humility with confidence is an option in our responses. Being meek doesn't mean saying "you're right: I stink at being a mom" and being confident doesn't mean saying "You think I'm a bad mom, well take a look in the mirror chicky." (as if you've never thought that!) I think you are presenting that middle ground. Thanks for this. Barbara

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by ladysown (IP Not Logged)

A new one that I"ve just heard.

But won't you be driven crazy driving him around all over the place so he can get all his socialization? (my thought was huh?) Not sure how that would be any different than parents driving their children to all these after school functions....

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Thursday, February 22, 2007 - Don't have a really good response for that one

Posted by cstett (IP Not Logged)

That's one that's driven me crazy since my children were preschoolers. I'll have to work on it.

I found this entry through a Carnival of Homeschooling and definitely had a "kindred spirit" moment. I hear ya, sister! If you'll permit me the vanity, here's a link to an entry of mine that's a little bit along the same lines:

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Friday, February 23, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Anonymous (IP Not Logged)

When I hear these sorts of comments, it always seems to me a bit of an apology, as if they think that I am somehow judging their choice not to homeschool. So I generally just smile and say something about how there is definitely an adjustment. Or relate some story about how crazy things were in the beginning when I thought I needed to do everything. I don't go around as an evangelist of homeschooling to anyone who isn't already looking for information or curious about the topic, but I don't want people to think that I think any less of them because they don't homeschool.

Luckily, I haven't really met too many people in person who really were against homeschooling. Or if they were, they were polite enough not to bring it up.


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Saturday, July 7, 2007 - "I'm a better Mom"

Posted by (

I'm a homeschooling single Mom who is in a situation where next year my children will probably have to go to public school against my preferences. I can't imagine even thinking that I'd be a better Mom for my kids if they were in public school. It feels like I need to become an even better Mom because they are in public school. I am very sad that there will no longer be as much just living life together mingled all in with doing school.
Homeschooling has been incredibly hard for me the last few years, even though I am fairly laid back about it in a lot of ways. I fought to be able to continue it last year and am glad I did. This year I don't think I am to fight for it (maybe it's peace from God to let it go. Maybe it's just too tired to fight. I don't know.)
In any case, I feel like even more will be demanded of me in parenting my children through life in public school than was parenting and teaching my children at home.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Michelle32 (

Some folks say I'm the better mom b/c I can stand to be with my kids all day, homeschooling them. Like I get some award for "tolerating" them. My kids don't drive me nuts and it's no sacrifice to spend time with them all day. People just don't seem to understand. Our culture has people believing children are more of a burden than a gift.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ski Day

At long last, we made it up to Ober Gatlinburg. Jesse's been skiing there for the past two winters, but I've always been blessed to have Leigh take him with her and her kids. Caroline and I decided that we would make it up one day this session to watch our boys ski and do a little ice skating with our younger ones.

We've actually had some snow these past two weeks, so the slopes are a combo of real snow and man-made. The local schools around the slopes actually had a snow day today.

It does my heart good to see my son in ski gear. I was in cross-country skis before kindergarten, although I didn't start downhill until 6th grade. I skied regularly throughout college, both with my family and in high school and then college ski clubs. That all stopped abruptly upon marriage. Moving to Iowa certainly didn't help my ski career! Plenty of snow in a very flat land.

That's Jesse with Leigh's oldest son Bryant. They have been having a blast the past couple of years!

Ice skating was fun, but these four (Duncan, Patrick, Laurel, and Bess) unanimously proclaimed: "We want to ski next year!" We'll see....

One last shot of my skier. He took off after his obligatory photo session and spent the rest of the day on the slopes. We have grand ideas that next year the rest of us will join the winter ski program...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Oh yeah, it's Valentine's Day...

February 14, 2007

It's one of those occasions I'm sure I've never celebrated correctly. I always forget to have the kids make cards for people, and so they received cards from friends on Monday without giving any in return. (They are learning to be good receivers.) Randy and I did have a fabulous date, almost our first one, 20 years ago tonight. We had spaghetti. And now we always have spaghetti on Valentine's Day, except--guess what? I totally forgot our tradition until mid-afternoon, when my friend Leigh said, "So you're having spaghetti tonight?" She remembered our family tradition, but I would have completely forgotten! Phew. Thank goodness for friends who know you.

Of course the kids didn't forget. Laurel has been helping Duncan make cards all week, and he got the idea to tape quarters into all the cards. Some of us made out pretty well. (Hmmm, where'd those quarters come from, anyway?) Laurel made some gorgeous cards herself, and she and Bitty Baby were all decked out for the occasion. My mother-in-law always sends the kids a Valentine's Day box, and my parents took the little ones to the Dollar Store to pick out their own unnecessary plastic objects. Duncan picked out some sort of glowing ball for Jesse. Jesse immediately broke it open and put the glowing part in his mouth and then in a glass of water. Amazing what joy one can get out of a Dollar Store toy.

We also had our annual Valentine's Day treasure hunt, in which I hide candy around the house and provide clues for hunting. Fortunately I had the presence of mind yesterday to actually buy bags of chocolate.

But mainly I've been finishing an article today, in between schooling, and I think I'm about done. I'll probably be less psychotic now. Randy was home sick again today, which is weird, too. I could get spoiled having him here, so it's a really good thing he has an office to go to. I'm spoiled enough as it is. So no diamonds and flowers here in Small World, but spaghetti and Kisses and sweetly decorated cards will always be enough celebration.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Understood Betsy Understands Homeschoolers

February 13, 2007

I'm reading Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher) to Laurel right now. It's been a few years since I read this to Jesse, maybe six years, so it's all new and fresh to me. I just love this scene in which Betsy, who until now has been in a huge public school in a large city, spends her first day in her tiny one-room schoolhouse with a dozen other students. Her teacher moves her--gasp!--where she needs to be! She reads very well, so she gets the seventh-grade reader. Her math is slightly lacking, so she is told to do second grade work:

Elizabeth Ann fell back on the bench with her mouth open. She felt really dizzy. What crazy things the teacher said! She felt as though she was being pulled limb from limb.
"What's the matter?" asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered face.
"Why....why," said Elizabeth Ann. "I don't know what I am at all. If I'm second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade
am I?"
The teacher laughed. "
You aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in? And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication tables?...What's the matter?" the teacher asked again.
This time Elizabeth Ann didn't answer, because she herself didn't know what the matter was. But I do, and I'll tell you. The matter was that never before had she known what she was doing in school. She had always thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was ever so startled to get a glimpse of the fact that she was there to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind, so she could take care of herself when she came to be a grown up.

I love that moment of enlightenment. I love Betsy's teacher. Just imagine what our public education system would be like if students were actually allowed to learn and excel according to their potential and if teachers actually had the freedom to encourage them to do so--if teachers actually had the time to really know each student and her capabilities.

And I chuckle at that universal homeschoolers' experience of not having a clue what grade they are in! I've pointed out to my kids before that it's easiest just to give a pat answer ("I'm in 4th grade") rather than saying, "Well, I'm doing middle-school history, and I read at a 6th grade level, but I'm doing 3rd grade math, but this is actually equivalent to 4th grade programs in American schools...." As Betsy's teacher says, "You're just yourself, aren't you?" Great book. Another of those pleasures of homeschooling: getting to re-read fabulous children's books.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday Memory: My Brother Stephen

February 12, 2007
I woke up this morning thinking, as I have all my life, that today is my brother Stephen's birthday. I was going to search for a picture of him as a child, because he was extremely adorable, but then he sent this to me in my morning e-mail. It is a truly hideous picture of him, but you shouldn't send a hideous picture to your sister unless you expect her to publish it. Today I am not feeling terribly creative after teaching co-op classes all morning, but fortunately I've blogged about Stephen before. He is in nearly every one of my childhood memories but very few of my significant adult memories. How does that happen? Where do we lose that? February 12 used to be one of the most significant days of the year, behind only my own birthday and Christmas. Funny how my brother's birthday becomes just a footnote on the day, just a casual mention at breakfast, a "by the way, it's Uncle Stephen's birthday."

Monday, February 5, 2007

Monday Memory: The Greenhouse

February 5, 2007

The greenhouse is a good place to be on a bone-chilling day in February. Because my father worked as a research scientist at Cornell University's Agricultural Experiment Station, we spent many, many cold winter days in the greenhouse. This my brother Stephen and me. You can tell by my outfit that this is in the 1970s. I am about 7 and Stephen is 9 (I am standing on the cart; he is not a midget). Sometimes my father gave us jobs to do, like counting apple seeds, but usually we just played around while he did...well, stuff that research scientists do. Give shots of fireblight to apple trees and such. I really have no idea what he was doing. But there were these big sheets of gray substance that smelled like rotten eggs, and bins full of the most luscious brown dirt. Automatic sprinklers would go on and off, and the cement floors were perfect for racing Matchbox cars. We usually only accompanied my father on weekends, so the greenhouses were quiet except for the buzz of lights and the drip-drip-dripping of leaky faucets. Often my mother would come, too, and she would record data for my dad while Stephen and I wandered from greenhouse to greenhouse, breathing in the good warm smells of water and earth.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Tennessee Snow

February 1, 2007

At long last, a smidgen of snow--but a smidgen goes a long way to satisfy these poor Southern children who have no concept of an actual "big snow." As I retrieved the newspaper this morning and brushed pellets of tiny snow off my coat, I had an intense pang of longing for big, fat flakes falling thick and fast. Don't get me wrong: I am thoroughly delighted to live in Tennessee. But having been raised in true snow country, I can't help but long for a few good fat snows.

All the schools are closed and all the slopes but one are open at Ober Gatlinburg, where Jesse is headed today. (Yes, my Canadian friends--schools close around here with even a mention of the word "snow." It's a mountain thing.) Most likely tomorrow it will all be gone; the daffodils will have shaken of their winter coat and endured. But for now, we are delighting in the simple pleasure of snow.