Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Memory: Engaged

Just look at us! Aren't we the most dewy-eyed little crunchy granola-heads? This photo was taken just a week or so after our engagement, 20 years ago last Thursday. It's not an occasion we've ever officially celebrated, other than, "Hey! We missed the anniversary of our engagement!" But this year we actually did remember, in the middle of ER sometime between 10 and 11 p.m., and Randy said, "That was still one of the hardest things I've ever done."

He's talking about asking my father for permission to marry me. My father is not a scary guy, but Randy wasn't exactly, on the outside, the most stellar candidate for marriage: he'd dropped out of college and was temporarily employed as an apple picker. There was also the long hair and earrings. And, to top it all off, I am the youngest of five, and the other four are boys. What kind of father would willingly agree to let his baby girl marry a long-haired college drop-out with no real plan for the future?

My father. Because he always saw Randy's potential.

And so that September afternoon, 20 years ago, Randy and my Dad played a game of tennis. Randy doesn't remember a bit of the game because he knew that, on the way home, he would ask my father for his daughter's hand in marriage.

And he somehow managed to get the words out, and my father granted him permission.

And we lived happily ever after.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Look what I did today:

See that bench? See that book? That's the book I read while sitting on the bench (all by myself) by the quiet pond. I love those little surprise packages that God tosses our way just when we really need them.

Today I had over an hour of unexpected alone-time. I took my kids to a half-day outdoor workshop at a local camp. Duncan's group was doing stream ecology, and Laurel's group was doing a 2.5 mile hike to learn wilderness survival. My initial plan was to go on the hike with Laurel's group. But it quickly became apparent that I didn't really need to go on the hike. There were a couple other adults along with the guide, the girls were happily chattering away— and there was this bench by the pond looking so inviting. And at the last minute before we'd left home, I had stuck in a book, just in case.

I went with the bench. And so for an hour and a half, I listened to birds singing, crickets chirping, and the faraway voices of 100 kids coming through the woods.

I even looked up from my book every now and then.

I was really running ragged before I left for the camp this morning. It was one of those "what was I thinking when I signed us up for this?" days. I had a group of American Heritage Girls meeting at my house as soon as I got home; I should have been home preparing. I had company coming in this evening; I should have been at home cleaning. I packed the kids a pitiful lunch of brownies, water, and pretzels (really), and I was 8 minutes late.

This afternoon I'm relaxed and breathing deeply. The kids had a fantastic time exploring and hiking, and we are all feeling content.

A few hours in a beautiful place is amazingly rejuvenating.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Favorite Grammar Resources

National Punctuation Day is September 24, but I think this should be a week-long celebration, truly! Yesterday I posted a review of my favorite grammar guide—Eats, Shoots and Leaves—on my SmallWorldReads blog. I love this book so much. I was delighted to see loads of used copies at McKay Used Books in Knoxville in the textbook section, indicating that one of the local universities or colleges is using this fantastic guide to grammar. (Of course, this also indicates that all of these students are selling their copies, but at least they were exposed to the book!) There is, by the way, a kids' version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I haven't done more than skim it, but I've heard it's "cute." I'll have to look more carefully before recommending it as a must-have!

Being a grammar fanatic, I would like to share a few of my favorite resources. For parents and high school students, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for better writing is concise and fun. Yes, I do subscribe to this, and you can, too. But if you don't want to subscribe and need to know the difference between effect and affect or whether you should write woman or female, be sure to consult Grammar Girl.

This post of mine lists some of my favorite grammar websites and 11 Essential Rules of Grammar. This post reviews my favorite first grammar book, First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind.

After First Language Lessons in our SmallWorld, we move into Easy Grammar. The approach is straightforward and doesn't require any teacher prep. The explanations are short but thorough, and there are plenty of exercises for each new topic to reinforce new material. We have used Easy Grammar and Daily Grams for years, and I'm not even tempted to try a different program. (Although, I should say here that Duncan will be doing Level 3 of First Language Lessons next year. This wasn't available yet when Laurel and Jesse were that age, but I love FLL so much that we'll definitely continue.)

But if you don't want to buy a program (Daily Grams is $26 at Rainbow Resource), you might try these free workbooks from Scott Foresman for grades 1-6. Just click and download!

Jesse used Winston Grammar for a while in about 8th grade after he finished all the Daily Grams books. I wasn't terribly impressed, and neither was he. I have read that Winston Grammar is great for kinesthetic learners, though, so if you have a kinesthetic learner, s/he may do better with a Winston approach (colored cards to match parts of speech) rather than a straightforward Easy Grammar approach.

Right now Jesse is going through a book called Preparing for College Writing. I got this at our used library sale for $1, and it's been fantastic. His proficiency on the grammar sections indicates that his years of Daily Grams (and voracious reading) seem to have paid off. He's flying through the exercises for the most part, although he is only halfway through the grammar unit. I'd absolutely recommend buying a book like this for your high-school student. The explanations are thorough and tests are provided throughout each unit. For $4, you're not out a bundle if you don't like it!

A great way to have fun with grammar is through games. My kids adore MadLibs. You can play online (here's another site and still another one) or buy hard copies and do them the old-fashioned way. For early learners (preK-2), we love Silly Sentences. The game doesn't actually discuss parts of speech, but it helps to understand the concept of sentence structure. Educational Learning Games has tons of grammar box games. I have not tried any of them, but I am absolutely itching to get my hands on a few of these. I think my daughter would especially love Cooking Up Sentences. I'd love to hear reviews of any of these or other grammar games!

And always remember: if it's raining outside, the cat should wear its raincoat.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs #6: Summer Photo Essay

Today's theme at Homeschool Memoirs is an official good-bye to summer: Post a summer photo essay. Here is a small selection of photos that highlight some of our summer's activities:

Flying Dolphins swim team. (Photo by Lynn Freeny)

Hiking in the Smokies.

Wading in the river.

Father/Daughter overnight at the Lost Sea.

Cave exploring at Cherokee Caverns.

American Heritage Girls Geology Day.

Guitar playing.

Swimming at Indian Boundary lake.


Canoeing on Seneca Lake, New York.

Two weeks at my parents' home in New York.

Hiking at Watkins Glen, NY.

Celebrating Mom and Dad's 60th anniversary on 8/8/08.

Tree climbing.

Shakespeare on the Square.

Wonderworks, Pigeon Forge.

Birthday Girl, 11.

Scouting Family Camp: American Heritage Girls, Boy Scouts, and Cub Scouts

And the last day of August, swimming at the Big South Fork.

Want to play? Visit Homeschool Memoirs!

See Memoir #5 here: My Favorite Things
See Memoir #4 here: Something New
See Memoir #3 here: Routines
See Memoir #2 here: Agendas
See Memoir #1 here: All About Me

Word-Filled Wednesday

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Colossians 2: 16&17)

A couple of days ago when I was taking pictures of my yard, I saw the shadow of this forsythia against the house. I immediately thought about this passage. Our minister has been going through Colossians at church and covered this passage on Sunday. I was really struck by this visual image of the shadow—because I focused in on the shadow, and not at the plant itself.

It is so very easy for me to get distracted by the shadows of life: the pettiness, the fleeting aggravations. We love to smirk at the Pharisees and Sadduccees, but we carry our own gavels, gloating while we stand on shifting shadows.

(See more Word-filled Wednesday posts at the 160-Acre Wood.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Yard in September

"The breezes taste of apple peel.
The air is full of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs
Burning brush, new books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive, well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean with suds, the day
Are polished with a morning haze.
- John Updike, Septem

It happens every year. In April, May and early June I garden with some diligence, planting flowers, spreading mulch, pulling weeds. My goal is to always add some new perennial each year and work on one new space in our rather extensive flowerbeds. If I had more money, I'd get it all done in a year or two, but I have to stop when I run out. (Dave says.)

The flowerbeds look lovely in the spring and early summer, but by mid-July and August, things are dry and droopy. We had more rain here than usual this summer, but not nearly enough to keep flowers happy and lush. It's too hot during the summer to work in the flowerbeds, so at the most I'll halfheartedly pull some weeds and deadhead some Black-eyed Susans every now and then in August.

But in September I have a renewed interested in the flowerbeds and landscaping in general. Those dry and droopy flowers begin perking up, and some of my favorites are suddenly in full color.

I love lantana. It comes in several different shades and loves the heat. Here in Tennessee it is a perennial, although last year's plant often doesn't appear until early July and then doesn't flower until late August. You have to remember where you planted them. You can also winter these easily by bringing a few plants inside in pots. (Be aware, though, as they tend to smell like cat pee and you'll keep trying to figure out where that bad cat peed.) Lantanas are extremely heat resistant and don't need huge amounts of water. They are really stunning in autumn.

I've heard some people say they hate chrysanthemums, but I think they are fabulous for fall color. Each year I buy several plants that claim to be winter hardy, but I rarely have any survive. I'm sure it's a combination of our bad soil and my lack of watering skills. The one above has done well for a few years thus far. Back in Iowa, our 'mums were outrageously prolific, and I'm still aiming for that profusion one of these years.

This is a barrow full of pyracantha branches. I had to do some trimming yesterday. The tree was so loaded with berries and branches that it covered half of the picnic table and blocked a pathway into the backyard. It seems decoratively criminal to toss out all of these beautiful berries, but I have already loaded vases full inside the house and out. And there are plenty more where those came from.

By this weekend it looks like our rosebushes will flower again, and the dogwoods are just starting to turn and put out their pretty red berries. In just another month we'll be in the midst of the oranges, reds, and yellows of late October in Tennessee.

"The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, September 22, 2008

Three Beautiful Things: Acts of Service

Duncan setting the table for supper.

Randy fixing his famous fried rice for supper.

Laurel and her friend Samantha cleaning a toy room at the Ronald McDonald House in Knoxville as part of an American Heritage Girl service project.

Monday Memory: Everything Orange

When we first moved to Knoxville nine years ago, we were absolutely astonished come football season. Flabbergasted. Knoxville, Tennessee, lives, breathes, and bleeds UT football, and the whole city is decked out in orange every Friday and Saturday from August through November. I'd never seen anything like it. We had to go right out and buy Jesse a UT shirt because the kids were supposed to wear orange to school every Friday.

I found it all extremely bizarre and quite hilarious.

Where I grew up in New York, football was fun but basketball and lacrosse were the really exciting sports. My small college didn't have a football team. We may have gone to a football game or two during our graduate school years, first at Miami University in Ohio and then at Iowa State University.

But, wow. Not even Dr. H's lunatic rants during Monday Night Football prepared me for football mania in Knoxville. (By the way: I did not know that Dr. H. was a raving football fanatic when we got married. Like I said, we didn't have a football team at our college, and somehow that never came up. But I'd have married him anyway.)

Laurel got her first UT cheerleader's outfit when she was two years old, right after we moved here. Dr. H. picked it up at the university bookstore, while he stocked up on t-shirts for the rest of the family. For her fourth birthday, she got UT Barbie and the outfit in the picture above. I love that sweet face and her cute little outfit and her Barbie doing a split.

After living her for nine years, I'm used to the sea of football orange in the fall. I hardly even notice it anymore. But on Saturday, Laurel and I went to target. We were both wearing UT t-shirts, and Laurel decided to count how many people in Target she saw wearing UT shirts.

She lost count at about 42.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Ramblings

* I think that autumn official begins tomorrow, and so I've put up the fall banners here on SmallWorld and on SmallWorld Reads. All those photos were taken last year in the Smokies. I guess that means I can start getting out the pumpkins and leaves in our real house, too. As much as I love spring in East Tennessee, I love fall even more. It is really inexpressibly gorgeous.

* I'm finally getting around to organizing my sidebar, too, since moving over here from a couple of months ago. I now have a section called "The Best of Homeschooling in SmallWorld" with links to all kinds of homeschooling stuff on my blog, from musings to reviews to practical "how-to's." I am about cross-eyed after going through three years' worth of posts just under the "homeschooling" label! This exercise has, however, sparked several post ideas.

* Melissa at A Familiar Path alerted me to the new "Follow" feature on blogger on the dashboard. I don't really know what the purpose of it is, but I'd love to have enough followers to make a nice collage on my sidebar. Melissa's is very cute. So if you're on blogger, how about following my blog? It'll raise my self-esteem.

* Besides important things like blogging (me) and watching football (Dr. H.), the focus of today is to get Duncan riding his bike. He's got 4 more days until the next Cub Scout meeting, at which they are to learn bike safety. The problem is, Duncan has this mental block about riding a bike. Nothing traumatic has ever happened to him; he's just kind of… afraid. He's always been satisfied just to run after his sister or his friends as they ride bikes. He got some good practice sessions in last week and conquered a bit of that fear, but hopefully today will be the day he actually takes off… Got a bike-riding tip? Let me know!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spiders and Rodents

Last week I had a terribly frightening dream in which I was attacked by an oversized, rabid raccoon baring its pointed teeth. I jolted awake with a muffled scream and had the heebie-jeebies all day. I've always liked raccoons for the most part, with their cute little paws and faces. I had somewhat of an aversion to them for awhile when we lived in Iowa, and they'd crawl up out of the streets at night like giant rats. But that was many years ago, and I had been comfortable with the idea of cute raccoons again until my recent dream.

Today Dr. H. and Laurel cleaned out the hamster's cage (or is it a gerbil? I never can remember), and once again I thought, "Why do we keep a rodent as a pet?" I really try, but I can see nothing endearing about something that twitches and has a practically hairless tail.

I laid down the law when Jesse was little that we would never have a snake as a pet. Yes, I know snakes are beautiful and not slimy and all that stuff Dr. H. tells me. I don't want a snake in my house. I really don't even want a big black snake in my flowerbed, but at least I don't have to feed that one. My friend Becky back in Iowa was a good mom who enjoyed her sons' pet snakes. I can remember standing in her shiny clean kitchen while she explained to me that she bought mice from the pet store, froze them, and then microwaved them to feed their snakes. She smiled the whole time as if it were just another happy part of her life.

Rodents are twitchy and snakes are snakey. Why is it, then, that this pet doesn't really bother me? This is Shelob, Jesse's tarantula. Right now it is somewhere in the house in a 2-litre bottle, doing spider things while Jesse cleans out its cage after its recent molting. It doesn't really do anything except sometimes move around, and every year or so, it molts, leaving behind a gauzy replica of itself.

Which, come to think about it, is rather creepy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On Facebook and Reconnecting

This week on Facebook has brought a flurry of activity among the 1980s crowd at my college. I went to a very small private college in upper East Tennessee. I guess there were probably 800 students at Milligan then; now enrollment is close to 1,000. At a college that size, you pretty much know everyone. Add to the size factor that nearly everyone lived on campus (commuters were extremely rare) and that our campus was a town itself (Milligan College has its own post office), and, well, it's not surprising that we connect instantly on Facebook some 20 years (more or less) later.

So I've been dreaming about college for the past three nights. You know those college nightmares in which you panic because you have a final exam to take and realize that you haven't been to class all semester? Those are exhausting dreams. I wake feeling unsettled and stressed. And sometimes I wake feeling a little lost.

The big thing this week has been reminiscing about life at Pardee Hall, one of the men's dorms. Dr. H. and all our guy friends lived there. Two out of my three brothers who attended Milligan lived there. It was a dorm with a life and mythology of its own: a glorious, seedy, smelly, grimy place in which to live (or if you were dating someone in Pardee, to hang out in the lobby or dangle from a first floor window. This was Christian college = no girls allowed in boys' dorms, people.)

Tragically, Pardee was knocked down in the 1990s because it was supposedly structurally unsound. (No one really believes that silliness. The general consensus is that the administration just couldn't deal with generation after generation of Pardee Rowdies.)

This October will be my 20th reunion, and it will also be the Pardee Hall reunion. Dr. H. and I are absolutely going; we're fortunate to live just two hours away. I've been pondering this week how strong our collective memories are of that four or five year time period. I am amazed at how easily we fall back into friendships, as if these past 20 years were just a summer break. We message back and forth privately, trying to clarify who exactly that person dated, or what happened to so-and-so. The thing about a small college is that, like I said, you know everyone--or you know their older sister or their younger brother. It's a very, very small world, indeed.

And all this makes me ponder even more what my children's experiences will be in college. I blogged about that last month, about how I wish for my children to have lives filled to the brim with amazing friendships. I know not all friendships come from the college years. I have a few good friends from high school, a few from our stint in Iowa, and a whole village of amazing friends here.

But reconnecting with college classmates brings it all back so clearly: the hundreds of meals shared, the constant buzz of conversation, the anticipation of the day and night ahead, the adventure, the joy and the despair, the smell of lilacs, the perfect sunset, and the dark hump of Buffalo Mountain protecting our little campus, sheltering us in its cool black shadow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs #5: My Favorite Things

(Yes, I changed the spelling in my post title. I can't help it; I'm not British or Canadian.) Anyway, this week's Homeschool Memoirs asks for a few of our favorite homeschooling-related things—anything from magazines to memes. And so here are a few of my favorites:

1. Definitely in the #1 spot: my friends. I have an amazing group of homeschooling friends. I shouldn't just say "I"; I should emphasize that each person in my family has incredible homeschooling friends. These people are essential to both our homeschooling journey and our journey in general. They are, indeed, our village.

2. My support group. We have around 220 families in our support group, and it is an awesome thing. Although there is vast diversity in our approaches to homeschooling, socio-economic status, education, political views, spiritual views, etc., we all have one very big commonality: we have chosen to homeschool our children. And that in itself is huge. If you are a homeschooler, you know this: you can walk into a room and find 10 people who are dressed just like you, talk just like you, and have kids the same age as your kids. But if there is one person there who homeschools, she'll be the one you strike up a conversation with, even if you appear to have nothing in common on the outside. And to have 220 families who understand....that's just bliss.

3. Sonlight. I love Sonlight curriculum. I love excellent literature. I love reading aloud to my kids. I am so thankful to Laurie B., the woman who first said the magical word "Sonlight" to me nine years ago.

4. Our library. How difficult homeschooling would be without a good public library! (Or even a bad public library.)

5. I'm not part of that community anymore, but I am thankful for it as it introduced me to the homeschool blogging community.

6. The Carnival of Homeschooling. This is a great place to find a wide variety of posts about homeschooling, from snippets of daily life to philosophy to methods.

7. The Homeschool Lounge and Heart of the Matter. I don't visit these as much as I did when they first began, but I think they are fantastic resources. The Lounge is a great community, and folks there are just waiting to answer questions!

8. CurrClick. I download the freebie every week. OK, I haven't actually used any of them, but I know I will one of these days!

9. Lapbooking at Squidoo. Simply the most amazing lapbooking resource I've found.

10. Enchanted Learning. I haven't used it yet this fall, but normally this is a site I use heavily.

11. Bookshelves. And, my newly designated schoolroom that has enough open space for a solid wall of shelves.

12. The Great Smoky Mountains. It is amazingly peaceful to live in such a beautiful place. Even on the most hectic days when we have to run out a zillion times to go here and there, I can always see them. Just knowing there is a place 20 minutes away where we can shut out the bustle of the world has an instant calming effect on me.

Of course, homeschooling wouldn't be homeschooling with my three favorite things and their daddy.

(Do you have a list of favorites? You can join in at Homeschool Memoirs anytime!)

See Memoir #4 here: Something New
See Memoir #3 here: Routines
See Memoir #2 here: Agendas
See Memoir #1 here: All About Me

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Three Beautiful Things: Pies, Good Husband, Good Book

1. The first apple pie of fall, made with Yellow Transparents from my brother Stephen's orchard, Liberty from my brother John's orchard, and a Gala or two from the supermarket. I also made a pear tart with Potomac pears from John's trees. It was all so perfect on this almost-chilly September evening.

2. Dr. H. did all the dinner clean-up and played board games with the kids tonight while I was a total lazy bum and ...

3. I finished a book in less than 24 hours. That never happens to me in real life, only when I'm traveling. I'm a fast and prolific reader, but I rarely finish a book in less than a week. But I had one of those books that was so easy and fun to read, and I read late into the night, during Laurel's flute lesson, and after supper this evening. That was a treat for me.

Upcoming Seminar with Linda Hobar (The Mystery of History) --and JenIg, too!

My friend Amy has been working long and hard on organizing this fantastic seminar here in Blount County: a day with Linda Lacour Hobar, author of the award-winning world history series The Mystery of History! We also welcome one of the homeschooling blog world's favorites, Jen Igarashi, as our lunchtime roundtable hostess! So for anyone within a 2 hour radius of Knoxville, you will NOT want to miss this incredible opportunity to spend a day with Linda, whose history series receives rave reviews in the homeschooling community!

WHEN: Saturday, September 27, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Sign-in begins at 9 a.m., keynote address begins at 9:30)

WHERE: The Blount County Public Library, Maryville. Sharon Lawson Meeting Room.

COST: $5/members of BHEA or $10 for general homeschooling public

RSVP: You MUST RSVP for this event, as seating is limited. Please email Amy Brown at ARAJBrown1993 (at) to get on the list and she'll tell you where to send your check. Your registration will not be considered complete until your check is received. Please make checks payable to BHEA.

LUNCH: Will be brown bag if you plan to stay for the roundtable. If not, there are lots of restaurants in the vicinity. The library also has a cafe that serves desserts, coffee and other drinks.

9:30 a.m.
Keynote Address “The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Homeschooling” by Linda Lacour Hobar

Who are homeschoolers today? What are we doing and how are we doing it? You might not ask yourself these questions every day, but on hectic mornings or sleepless nights it’s good to have perspective on the ever-growing movement of home education. Linda Lacour Hobar (wife, mother, homeschool teacher, and author) will help paint the “big” picture of homeschooling to inspire you with the “little” pieces that make up your school days.

The Mystery of History Vol I: Crash Course from Creation to Christ”
Interested in teaching world history? Meet Linda Lacour Hobar, author of The Mystery of History, as she shares five heartfelt distinctives of her award-winning world history series, which is Classical, Chronological, Christian, and Complete. As a peek into the first volume, the author will give you a crash course from Creation to the birth of Christ in about 30 minutes – integrating Biblical and secular history into one amazing timeline.

“The Mystery of History: Making Sense of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance”
From Pentecost to the printing press to the paintbrush of Michelangelo, listen to author Linda Lacour Hobar make sense of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance based on Volumes II and III of her popular series, The Mystery of History. Through kings and queens, samurai and explorers, a great epic is revealed through the history of mankind, which lures our curiosity and beckons our understanding. Prepare to be inspired, informed, and better prepared to teach this rich and riveting time period.

Lunch- Brown Bag Roundtable hosted by Jennifer Igarashi: Approaches to Homeschooling Panel

1:30 - “Managing Your Child’s Meltdowns”
We all lose it once in a while. We call it a meltdown. But some children melt down far more easily than others! Listen to Linda Lacour Hobar, a veteran homeschooler and author, share real life accounts of meltdowns in her household and ways she learned to manage them. According to Linda, meltdowns have a lot to do with the intimate environment unique to the homeschool family. You will laugh a little, be encouraged, and leave with a few ideas to help your “melters.”

QUESTIONS: Please contact Amy Brown at ARAJBrown1993 (at)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On the Trail with Lewis and Clark

"We were encamped under a high hill when the morning fog cleared off. Ocean in view! Oh! The joy. The Pacific Ocean which we have been so long to see, and the roaring noise made by waves breaking on rocky shores may be heard distinctly."
~From the journals of Lewis and Clark, Nov. 7, 1805

We started out our new school year doing the second "half" of American History (see our first year here) on the trail with Lewis and Clark. The first surprising bit of information my kids (ages 7 and 11) learned: It's not "Lewis N. Clark."

I had visions of making field journals, collecting plant samples, and going through this Lewis and Clark for Kids book. My mother-in-law got this for the kids a couple of years ago during the 200-year-celebration of the expedition, and I've been looking forward to using it.

Except, well, I couldn't find it. Anywhere in this whole house. I am quite sure that I did not imagine that she gave us this book. I didn't actually discover that we were missing this book until we were halfway through our main nonfiction account: Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words (by George Sullivan). This is a good nonfiction account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It's not fancy, but it was a good spine to provide context for the rest of our reading.

I did find a Scholastic Lewis and Clark activity book at the library which looked promising, but we didn't use much out of it. This book relied heavily on the kind of tedious busywork that is often necessary in a large classroom: writing a front-page story about the return of Lewis and Clark, filling in charts, etc. We did make a salt-dough relief map as suggested in the book, and that was fun.
We also spent some time practicing nature journals, pretending that we were describing a plant or animal species to someone who had never seen them.

A couple of videos added a nice dimension to the study, although neither were outstanding. The kids definitely preferred the American Heroes and Legends series The Song of Sacagewea. Their comment about this: "Not the best but still good." The other video we watched was from the Explorers of the World series called Lewis and Clark. This is a pretty cheesy video series but they picked up a new tidbit or two. Their favorite line was when Lewis explained, "I was shot in the buttocks," and the student (who is talking to him--like I said, it's a cheesy video), says, "You got shot in the BUTT?" My assessment: someone needs to make a better movie for young students about Lewis and Clark. I am sure that the Ken Burns' PBS documentary Lewis and Clark is excellent, but it's more than we need at this level.

What my kids enjoyed most were the picture books. Our favorite was The Great Expedition of Lewis and Clark by Private Reubin Field, Member of the Corps of Discovery (by Judith Edwards, Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport). This is the account of the expedition told in the voice of Reubin Field, one of the Kentucky boys who went on the journey. This brings to life many of the events told about in the nonfiction Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words, providing colorful details in a folksy narrative.

Another favorite was How We Crossed The West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer. We loved this picture book which pairs selected quotes from the actual journals of Lewis and Clark with fun illustrations. Steven Kroll's Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West is a simple picture book but good to enhance the Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words spine. The illustrations by Richard Williams are especially excellent in this book.

There are several other books for young readers that look fantastic but that our library doesn't carry:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Carol Johnmann
Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark and Animals on the Trail by Dorothy H. Patent
The Lewis and Clark Cookbook by Leslie Mansfield
Seaman's Journal by Patti Eubank (I wish we had this one at our library!)
Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale by Laurie Meyers

The internet is loaded with Lewis and Clark websites, but I think these are among the best:
This one's especially fun: Go West Across American with Lewis and Clark. Very interactive.
Lewis and Clark at PBS
Lewis and Clark: Create Your Own Adventure
Journals of Lewis and Clark
Mapping the West with Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark Cyberhunt

Here are some free unit studies on Lewis and Clark that go into much more detail that we did:
Happy Homeschool
Easy Fun School
The Teacher's Guide
Mama Bear's Den
National Bicentennial Exhibition

Three weeks of Lewis and Clark was enough for my kids, but we could easily have stretched this into another month or so of deeper study! And this is one study that we can't easily enhance with a field trip along the trail…but hopefully someday!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturdays Ramblings

* We did something this morning that we haven't done in a long, long time: we picked up breakfast at Panera and headed for a park. When Jesse (and Laurel) were little we used to do this regularly, but Duncan has missed out on the Saturday morning breakfast outing for the most part. This is the first time in four or five years that we don't have anyone playing soccer on Saturday mornings, and I am thrilled to have our day back. (Jesse was still sleeping when we returned home at noon. Teenagers.)

* I'm feeling grumpy about wedding and baby showers at church. Really, truly, I have a hard time justifying spending money on gifts for people I hardly know. How do people do this happily? This is one of those issues that perplexes me. Is the right thing to buy a gift and attend every shower if possible? Or are showers really meant only for close friends? I wonder how large churches handle this: do they have all-church showers, as well? I find the whole thing confusing, but I suspect that really I am just a curmudgeon.

* I have been a cleaning maniac today. Our pretty little sunporch just needs vacuumed, and it'll be the cleanest it's been in nearly a year. I wish I had money to buy a few pieces of porch furniture, but I'll have to make do for now (maybe I could take all that baby shower money and buy some nice wicker).

* We bought Duncan his first bike today. Up until now he's had hand-me-down hand-me-downs that were mostly rust. In a couple of weeks he'll be doing his bike safety requirement for Cub Scouts, so we thought he really needs to learn how to ride. I'm thinking that next summer, we'll be one of those families out riding their bikes all together...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Heart of the Matter Meme: Extra Activities

This week's Heart of the Matter topic: Extra Activities, Helping or Hindering?

What is your weekly extra-curricular routine? Do your kids take music lessons? Sports? Are they involved in church activities? How much time does this leave for family time? Are you over-scheduled or relaxed in your outside programs? Share with us your thoughts on this!

This is actually one of our "down" years for outside activities. There have been years when we have had extra activities out the wazoo. But this year we have no organized sports, so that's a huge one gone. For the past many years Duncan and Laurel have done soccer, which of course takes up and evening or two and a Saturday, and swimming (Laurel only). Eliminate those and we free up evenings and the whole weekend! Also, Randy and I aren't teaching a Wednesday night class at church this year, so that is a huge difference.

We still have places to go every day.
* On Mondays we have our enrichment class program.
* On Tuesdays, Laurel has flute lessons and Jesse has his class at the community college.
* On Wednesdays, Duncan has "boot camp" at a gymnastics center (my friend takes him!), Jesse has guitar lessons and then a chemistry class all the way across town.
* On Thursdays, Laurel has a theater arts class in the morning, Jesse has his college class, and then twice each month, we have Cub Scouts and American Heritage Girls in the afternoon.
* On Fridays, Jesse has his geometry class (but he can walk to that) and we have a group of AHG girls who meet here to work on their God and Family award in the afternoon.

(A couple of things that make all of this easy: all our activities are close by. Music lessons and the community college are 2-5 minutes away. Everything else, except chemistry, is about 10 minutes away. Even chemistry is only 20 minutes away.)

In general, we've always been fiercely protective of our evenings. We love evenings at home. This year Randy and the boys are going to church on Wednesday evenings. Laurel and I stay home, which is lovely. On the 2nd and 4th Friday evenings, Randy and Jesse have Boy Scouts, but that's only for an hour or two. Weekends are blissfully free, although something usually pops up.

One big thing I've learned in the course of homeschooling is that one's choice of outside activities is a hot topic. We like to pass judgment on people who do "too much" or "too little."
This is one of those places where we all need to hike our own hike.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Three Beautiful Things: Girls, Boys, Crockpot

1. Seventy-five beautiful girls in their red, white, and blue uniforms for the first day of our sixth year of American Heritage Girls.

2. Half that many little boys running around the same church in blue and yellow for the first day of Cub Scouts. Boys in yellow and blue; girls in red, white, and blue. Chaos, laughter, smiles, new faces, familiar faces, sweet little hands on my arm.

3. Passing my husband, the Cubmaster, and my little Cub Scout in their car on the way home while my daughter and I were in the van. How my heart soared to see those two beautiful guys in their uniforms in the car next to me and know they belonged to me. And at home, a crockpot full of Thai chicken and basil. And one more sweet son happy to see us all return from an afternoon of scouting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs #4: Something New

This week's topic at Homeschool Memoirs is "Something New": "This week I hope you’ll share something new you’re using, why you’ve decided to use it, and if you have used it how you like it. Make sure to include the publishing information and where you got it from so others can look into if they like."

Here's the thing: I'm not really doing anything new this year. I'm doing Sonlight Core 4 with my younger two, with major additions/subtractions, but I've done it before with my oldest. Pretty much everything we're doing is listed here— and pretty much none of it is new to me, anyway. Now that doesn't mean that teaching and learning isn't fun, but this year I find myself at the "if it ain't broke" place. Everything we used worked well last year, so we're continuing on with the same things.

But here's a new factor in our program, so I'll talk about this a bit. My 15-year-old is taking his first class at our local community college. If you aren't familiar with this practice, it's called "dual enrollment." Basically, he's taking classes that will earn him high school credit and college credit simultaneously. Requirements for being a dual-enrollment student vary from college to college. At our local community college, high school students have to take the ACT and score at least a 19 in each subject area. Other colleges require just a transcript. Our local community college has somewhere between 400-600 dual enrollment students, so he's by no means the only high schooler taking classes.

This semester he's taking Music Appreciation for his fine arts credit. We thought this would be a gentle introduction to college courses. So far he's enjoying it tremendously. Tomorrow he'll have his first exam, so I guess we'll see how he's doing after that.

Supposedly the biggest advantage in dual enrollment is that it allows students to get a jumpstart on their college careers. I don't really think about it like that. I see this as an opportunity for Jesse to get a more thorough study of subjects that I would not necessarily teach at such depth. That he gets college credit is a bonus but not a driving force.

Because our state has a lottery (in which those making the least amount of money spend their small earnings in the feeble hope of winning $23 million), our community college has a fantastic grant that pays for most of one class ($330) per student. So basically, the average high school student can take a college course for about $30 plus the textbook (which could be over $100). Not a bad deal!

See Memoir #3 here: Routines
See Memoir #2 here: Agendas
See Memoir #1 here: All About Me

Got something to say about your own family? You can join Homeschool Memoirs at any time!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Three Beautiful Things: Leader, Job, Rain

1. We were getting down to the wire looking for a co-leader for one of our American Heritage Girls' groups, but today I got an email from a mom saying "yes! I'd like to be the co-leader for my daughter's group!" Phew! Lots of prayers were being sent up about that position, and I'm thrilled about the mom who has volunteered.

2. A friend who has been on a very long job search got offered a great job today. Phew. Years of prayers going up on that one!

3. Rain. A rainy night, complete with a power outage. We needed that.

Beautiful things.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Memory: Girls' Weekend

Used to be, years ago, the boys would go on a weekend rafting trip each September. Before Dr. H. was a professor, he was a raft guide. OK, long, long before he was a professor, when we were first married, he used to guide down the Nolichucky River in upper East Tennessee. It wasn't a particularly lucrative career, but who thinks about such things when you are in your early 20s?

But I digress. Our friend Steve used to orchestrate a guys' rafting weekend each September. And obviously if the boys are going rafting, the girls are going shopping, and eating, and in the case this year, baby showering. I am actually 6 months pregnant with Duncan in this photo, which was taken on my front porch. My friends surprised me with presents, which is always nice.

These are most of my best college girlfriends (except Giedra, who married in but seems as if she's always been around). We've all been together since then at weddings, showers and birthdays, but this was the last fall that we had an official girls'/guys' weekend extravaganza.

I miss those weekends. There are now nine children among the six of us in the photo, and children do have a tendency to make weekend visits more difficult. As far as I know (unless Dr. H. has dropped off the invitation list), the guys have ceased their September rafting trip. We're spread out through several states now—Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois— and free weekends are hard to come by. We still get together with various college friends, and our friends get together with each other, but I'd love another full-fledged girls' weekend.

(And this time, Julie, you're coming, too!)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Botany with a Botanist

So Laurel is taking a botany class at our support group's enrichment class program. Her teacher, my friend and fellow homeschooling mom Jennifer, has been Laurel's art teacher (and American Heritage Girls leader) for years. She is a wonderful teacher, gentle, compassionate, empathetic, and smart.

I was thrilled that Laurel wanted to take this class, partly because she is getting a very thorough science course this year. And the other part: well, her father is a botanist. She should take a botany class. Actually, my father also has a master's degree in botany, so she is doubly dubbed the Botanist's Daughter. Plants run thick in her lineage.

But I have to crack up at the whole process. Jennifer assigns reading and lapbook work each week. She is amazingly organized and has about 4 wonderful mini-books for the students to complete each week, lapbook-style. They are using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany. So the thing is, like I said, Dr. H. is a botanist.

So here's how the process goes:
Laurel (as she works on her mini-book titled "Nonvascular plants"): So Daddy, what are some nonvascular plants?

Dr. H.: Well, technically, there is no such thing as a nonvascular plant.

Laurel: Huh?

Dr. H.: See, all plants, even those called "nonvascular plants," have conducting tissues. So nonvascular is just a common way to discriminate between plants.

Laurel: Huh?

Me: OK, so can we just stick with what the book says: moss and lichen are the two examples of nonvascular plants listed in the book.

Dr. H.: Lichen are not "nonvascular plants." They're not even plants. They're symbiosis between fungi and algae.

Laurel: So don't write lichen?

Dr. H.: So write mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. Those are nonvascular, although, as I said...

This evening we went for a walk so that Laurel could collect her specimens for tomorrow's class. Dr. H says, "I wish we could find a gingko tree. I bet nobody else will have a gingko for their gymnosperm sample. They'll all have pinecones."

I just find it all hilarious and terribly lovely.

And as a matter of fact, this seems like the perfect time to repost a poem I had published in the anthology Migrants and Stoways a few years ago: "The Botanist and His Wife."

The Botanist and His Wife

can't take a walk around the block
without a game of identification. He points:
She: Maple.
He: Yes, but which kind?
She (shrugging): Sugar? Red?
He (sighing): Acer saccharinum. Silver maple.
See how the bark peels and how the lobes
of the leaves are jagged and deep?
She (sidestepping): Watch out for the dog--.

First day of spring he kills plants,
sending the philodendron and the African violet out
to sun on the porch, imagining
their chloroplastic ecstasy.
their leaves are scorched, crisp
as potato chips around the edges.
She: Stay away from my plants. Don't dip
your fingers in my flower beds.
He (head hanging): Well, I just thought--
She (arms akimbo): And don't go near the
garden, either.

(where he pulls the stems off of onions, picks
cucumbers before the prickers have softened,
lets zucchini grow monstrous
like some forbidden radioactive experiment)

(By Sarah Cummins Small. Published in Migrants and Stoways, 2004.)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Three Beautiful Things: Clean, Home, Meet

1. Clean
I worked hard today. See, I'm in the middle of this long process. You all know how it goes. In order for one room to be clean, another room must first be cleaned. In order for such and such room to be rearranged, another must first be cleaned and rearranged. And on and on it goes. Duncan's room was part of the chain of cleaning/rearranging. Because we moved bunk beds into his room and took out anothe pieces of furniture, his room has been trashed for over a week. Today I spent a few hours in his room without breaking out in hives, organizing, cleaning, and tossing out trash. Now the Legos are in the Lego box, the guys are in the guy box, and the cars are in the car box. Same with Rescue Heroes, critters, crayons, musical instruments, blocks, train set, race car set, weapons and tools, dress-up clothes, etc. Duncan even put together puzzles to see which ones had pieces missing. And the result: a clean, well-organized room. Next weekend, my goal is to actually paint his room. Now that will be a beautiful accomplishment!

2. Home
We got in the car today at 5 p.m. to run out for a quick errand, and I realized that we didn't go anywhere all day yesterday! So for close to 48 hours, the kids and I didn't leave the house. I needed that. But we had a good week and seem to have settled into our new year with remarkable ease. I keep waiting for things to get hectic. Next week we add back in our Monday enrichment classes and our bi-weekly American Heritage Girls/Cub Scout afternoons, so we'll see if I'm still relaxed next weekend...

3. Meet-and-Greet
We had our support group's annual Meet-and-Greet two nights ago. I love this event. It is so lovely to meet new homeschoolers, all eager and anxious. I enjoyed hearing their stories and catching a bit of their enthusiasm. It is weird to be among the relative old-timers now, as we begin our 9th year. I remember being at my first Moms' Night Out and being amazed at the women who'd been homeschooling for nine or 10 years!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thursday Ramblings

Yes, I'm taking a break in the middle of the day to blog because, well, because I can if I want to. It is lunch break, after all.

Our first few weeks of school have been fantastic. We've settled into a comfortable routine for the most part, although our routines do involve a great deal of flexibility. Is "flexible routine" an oxymoron?

I was thinking again today how thankful I am to live where I do. Our home is within 12 minutes of pretty much everywhere I need to go, which comes in very handy when I have two kids due at different places at practically the same time. My Thursdays will now involve dropping Jesse off at the community college 20 minutes early so that I can pick Laurel up from her performing arts class on time, but it all works out fine. Jesse's a good sport and everything is bearable with an iPod.

Tonight we have our support group's annual Moms' Meet-and-Greet. I always look forward to this time of fellowship, meeting new moms and reconnecting with familiar faces. This year we are launching a mentoring program within our support group, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes.

I found an old photo album from college. I had to crack up at these invitations that my best friend Tracy and I handed out:

Tracy and I practiced the Latin Hustle for several hours in preparation for this party. I believe we danced it to Barry Manilow's classic "Copacabana." And just in case the song isn't instantly stuck in your head, I'll leave you with the lyrics. I think I'd better go give my kids some dance lessons, now.

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl
with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there
she would merengue and do the cha-cha
and while she tried to be a star
Tony always tended bar
across the crowded floor, they worked from 8 til 4
they were young and they had each other
who could ask for more?


At the copa (CO!) Copacabana (Copacabana)
the hottest spot north of Havana (here)
at the copa (CO!) Copacabana
music and passion were always in fashion
At the copa.... they fell in love

His name was Rico
he wore a diamond
he was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancing there
and when she finished, he called her over
but Rico went a bit too far
Tony sailed across the bar
and then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two
there was blood and a single gun shot
but just who shot who?


At the copa... she lost her love

Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl,
but that was 30 years ago, when they used to have a show
now it's a disco, but not for Lola,
still in dress she used to wear,
faded feathers in her hair
she sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
she lost her youth and she lost her Tony
now she's lost her mind


At the copa... don't fall in love
don't fall in love

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs #3: Routines

This week's Homeschool Memoirs asks for our routines. I'm not sure we're far enough into the new year to say, "This is our schedule and we're stickin' to it," but so far it's like this:

Mondays: Monday deserves its own category, since we are gone for much of the day. We'll have our enrichment classes at our co-op, leaving home at 9 a.m. and returning at 1:30 p.m. Duncan will be taking Human Body, Weather Disasters, and Nifty-Fifty States. Laurel will be taking cooking, botany, and basic essay writing, which I'm teaching. Jesse will stay at home and do his regular assignments.

* Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: mornings at home. We start school about 10 a.m. Jesse does his own thing. I alternate between reading aloud from either history or Bible with Duncan and Laurel and helping Duncan with his work. Laurel works independently when I'm helping Duncan.
* Thursdays: Jesse does his own thing. Laurel has a performing arts class from 10 a.m.-12p.m. During that time Duncan and I will go to the library and do school there.

* Tuesday: Jesse has a class at the community college at 12:25; Laurel has flute at 1 p.m. We pick Jesse up at 1:45 and return home for another couple hours of school.
* Wednesday: Duncan has Boot Camp (at a local gymnastics center) from 12:30-2 p.m. My wonderful friend Donna will be his chauffeur. I'll have some one-on-one time with Laurel and then take Jesse to guitar lessons at 2 p.m. Jesse has chemistry from 4-5:30.
* Thursday: Jesse has a class at the community college at 12:25; American Heritage Girls and Cub Scouts 2nd and 4th Thursdays from about 2-6 p.m. (including set-up and clean-up).
* Fridays: We'll have a group of girls here to work on their God and Family award for AHG from 1:30-2:30; Jesse has geometry from 1:30-2:30 (he can walk to class); Boy Scouts on the 2nd and 4th Fridays at 7 p.m.

This is the most remarkable thing. Except for church on Wednesday nights and Boy Scouts twice each month, we have no regular evening activities! I'm excited about that break in our schedule!

See Memoir #2 here: Agendas
See Memoir #1 here: All About Me

Want to join in the fun? You can join Homeschool Memoirs at any time!

Monday, September 1, 2008

August at SmallWorld Reads

Although I do consider this blog my blog headquarters, I also post regularly at SmallWorld Reads, my reading and writing blog. I love the world of book blogging. I have found stacks of interesting books by reading book reviews, and at this moment, Dr. H. is putting up yet another new bookshelf. That would make about the 232nd shelf in our house.

Here's what's been happening over at SmallWorld Reads, in case you haven't been visiting there, too. Not only was August a month filled with lazy summer days at our home, but it was also a fabulous month for reading—due largely to a long vacation.

Books read and reviewed in August were:
Atonement (Ian McEwan)
A Death in the Family (James Agee)
Liars' Club, The (Mary Karr)
On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)
The River King (Alice Hoffman)
Secret Between Us, The (Barbara Delinsky)
Serpent Handlers, The (Brown and McDonald)
The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall-Smith
Jimmy's Stars by Mary Ann Rodman* (juvenile lit)

Books Read but Not Yet Reviewed
The First Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Favorite of the Month:
A Death in the Family
(First Runner Up: Atonement)

Least Favorite:
The Secret Between Us

Where I Played
Weekly Geeks: Bookish Photos and Author Photos
The Sunday Salon: Lakes and Snakes and Reading Bliss
Sunday Scribbling: How I Met..., Observations, Ask, and Do I Have To?
And most Saturdays at Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books