Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Three Beautiful Things

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart
~ Kahlil Gibran~

1. Legos and homeschooling:
I love that my 8-year-old can curl up in a blanket on a chilly morning, happily playing Legos while I read history to him.

2. Cancellation: One of Jesse's classes was canceled today, giving me, the chauffeur, an extra 2 hours today.

3. An evening walk with my Dad. I have been taking walks with my Dad as long as I can remember. It is always a pleasure, especially on a cool autumn evening in East Tennessee.

What beautiful things are in your life today?

Wordless Wednesday: On the Occasion of her 70th Birthday

(Happy Birthday today to my mother-in-law. I know. She doesn't look anywhere close to 70. For more Wordless Wednesdays, visit Wordless Wednesday and 5 Minutes for Mom.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Beautiful Things: Blue, Crunch, Nip

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to do "Three Beautiful Things" somewhat regularly. Somehow I've fallen out of the habit in the past year, and I miss this reminder of the small things that make this world so beautiful. And so today, I return.

1. Blue: the sky was so very blue today, and it has been so long since we've seen a perfect blue sky around here.

2. Crunch: the driveway is covered in early leaves, a portent of all the lovely autumn leaves yet to fall over the next month.

3. Nip: There is a nip in the air for the first time this evening, and the week ahead looks deliciously cool—for Tennessee, that is. Day time highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. Ah, autumn approaches.

What beautiful things are in your life today? Leave a comment or post Three Beautiful Things on your own blog and point the way. Even the worst of days carry some tiny bit of beauty.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekly Wrap Up

This week was utterly insane. Some weeks are like that. I'm not sure what I did, but I know for sure that every single second was filled up and I never even blogged and I have a dozen blogs to catch up on and a dozen games of Word Twist on Facebook to play to keep my husband happy. ;-)

Monday was enrichment class day and then something else that I can't remember. Tuesday was chauffering day and then our Moms' Meet and Greet party for our homeschooling support group. Wednesday was spent in a frenzy of getting ready for American Heritage Girls on Thursday. Thursday was spent in a frenzy of getting ready for AHG and AHG itself. We had one of those meetings that involved lots of running here and there and working really hard. About half of our troop were slated to make t-shirts, but the project took much longer than we anticipated, and a whole group didn't get to make theirs. But most of them turned out gorgeous! Also, my niece and her baby (from Ohio) came to visit Thursday, and my 2nd (from NY) and 4th (local) brothers came to visit Thursday evening. Friday I had to drive Jesse down to Townsend to work at a fundraiser during the Heritage Festival for several hours in the morning and early afternoon, and then back into town to teach my World Lit class. Finally, home to pack up for the weekend. We didn't get a whole lot of sit-down "school" done this week, needless to say. But a few math lessons were done, some history read, and some grammar, writing, and Latin. Some weeks are like that. I am confident my kids enjoyed the flexibility that comes with homeschooling--the time spent with a sweet baby cousin and their grandparents and uncles, and more family this weekend.

And today we are relaxing. At the end of a long, obscenely busy week, we are relaxing at my brother-and-sister-in-law's house in North Carolina. We're celebrating my mother-in-law's 70th birthday here this weekend, and this is truly the place to come to relax. Their house is luxurious and my brother-in-law is a phenomenal chef. We're having a 7-course meal this evening in honor of my mother-in-law's 7 decades. The last course is dark chocolate fondue, and there's a whole lot of good stuff going on before that. I remember words like "scallops" and "smoked salmon" and "bacon-wrapped roasted endives."

And did I mention that they have The Beatles Rock-Band here for the Wii? Outrageously much fun.

But now I'm off to help blow up 70 black balloons.

You can wrap up your own week at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up

It's been a fast but relatively calm week here in SmallWorld. On Monday, our support group's enrichment classes started back up again. We were ready!

Tuesday was our regular flurry of Montessori, dance and drama, and biology classes. And while I do a lot of chauffering on Tuesdays, I also have a 2-hour lesson-planning session. It's well worth the driving time!

Wednesday was a bit of a flop. I broke one of my own cardinal rules of creative writing. The kids have been begging to get back to WordSmithery lessons, so I started them on a new one (which I've not posted yet). The problem was that I didn't remind them about not criticizing one another's ideas. They started bickering about "I don't like that" while we were working on a group poem, and I just had to stop. "We absolutely will not," I declared, "do creative writing when you are bickering." So, no new Wordsmithery lesson up. Blame my kids. We'll try again next week—and this time I'll remind them that we only use encouraging words.

We got a lot done on Thursday. We're breezing through a biography of George Washington Carver. The kids are making a lot of connections lately. Laurel seems to be really into predicting right now: "Wait, let me guess what's going to happen!" That makes me happy because she used to be so easily distracted that she would lose track of the story. She is a serious visual learner, like her Mama, so Sonlight's read-aloud emphasis has been a bit of a stretch for her at times.

Thursday also brought one of my colossal Bad Mom moments. So it was the long-awaited day for Jesse to take his driver's license test. We decided to take my parents' car because our horn is unpredictable, and that is one of the things they check. Dad couldn't find his registration papers, but the tag is clearly on the license plate, so we weren't worried about that. So Jesse gets out with the examiner and comes back inside a few minutes later. The registration was expired and he couldn't take his test. My father somehow thought that tag indicated the year in which it was renewed, not the year that it expired. I never even checked the tag! My poor son. He was very disappointed, but he recovered quickly. The next available appointment is in 10 days, so hopefully it'll all work out then. Oh, and the examiner said he would have lost only one point without a working horn.

Friday we continued working on our basics: history, math, and language arts. The kids both memorized another Bible verse. We're making mini-books of all the verses they learn this year so we can have a complete lapbook of verses at the end of the year.

Friday afternoon I taught my high-school World Lit/Geography class. We discussed some more of Funny in Farsi, watched part of an interview with author Firoozeh Dumas, and had a Middle Eastern feast. All the kids brought in a dish to share: chicken ka-bobs, rice, almond cake, almond cookies, hummous, lamb burgers, Syrian bread, salad. We made baklava, and it was amazingly delicious. I found a really easy recipe here.

And that's about it for our week! I also finished painting the fireplace mantel and am furiously scraping a door in the living room. I want to get that painted and clean the carpets before our new furniture comes on Wednesday! But before I get to that, I have to finish lesson plans for Monday's co-op classes.

How was your week? More Weekly Wrap-ups can be found at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodbye, Mary Travers

I was sad to read today that Mary Travers passed away. If there was a soundtrack to my life, Peter, Paul and Mary would certainly take up lots of space. As a child in the early 70s, I remember mimeographed (yes, I meant to use that word) sheets of song lyrics that we got during the music portion of school. I think I began falling in love with poetry because of many of those lyrics; I can just see Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" in purple Courier font (but sung then by Judy Collins), along with Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" and Peter Yarrow's "Puff the Magic Dragon," both sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. (In the late 70s, when I was in 7th grade, we moved into more contemporary music: songs from Grease and lots of Billy Joel. "Movin' Out" and "Summer Lovin'" would absolutely make the soundtrack.)

But where Peter, Paul, and Mary really make an impact on my life is when I was just starting third grade. My parents went to Europe for a few weeks on business, leaving my 5th grade brother and me to stay with our oldest brother, James (then in his mid-20s), and his wife Anna. James and Anna were, without a doubt, quintessential hippies. Back then they had about 150 acres of new orchard, and they lived in the half of a barn they'd converted into a very rustic home. Anna was very good to me. I think she loved me; after all, she came into my brother's life when I was only two years old. But I was still very homesick. I missed my Mom and Dad and the comforts of my own home. Like running water and a toilet. (Did I mention very rustic?)

But I have a sweet memory from that time. (I also have some not-so-sweet ones, like when James made Stephen and me ride pigs in the rain. But that's another story.) But in this memory, I am falling asleep in a loft bed that hangs over the living room of the barn. Anna is playing Peter, Paul and Mary on the record player: "Marvelous Toy," "Puff," "Boa Constrictor," "500 Miles," "Lemon Tree," and so many more. It was the kind of music that eased the ache in my little girl's heart.

James and Anna divorced years later. The only thing I remember from high school American History class is a video of Life in the 1960s and Peter, Paul, and Mary singing their hearts out with "If I Had a Hammer." Something stirred in my soul. Later that year or the next, I saw Peter, Paul and Mary at the nearby Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center. I was in awe of these icons, these people whose voices sweetened my childhood and made me ache with the potential of poetry. I couldn't take my eyes off of them.

I saw them a couple of more times after that, but I'll never forget that first realization that these people are real. And while they certainly were part of American history, they weren't boring politicians or men in suits making policies of some sort. They sang of America and sought to bring about change and increase awareness by touching hearts with music.

I've seen a lot of Facebook tributes to Mary Travers today, most in old black and white video. But this is how I saw Mary Travers for the first time: no longer a skinny girl with long blonde hair, but a rounded woman, swaying and floating between her men.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And Monday Madness Begins!

We are totally blessed to have an amazing homeschooling support group in our area, and our group organizes a spectacular enrichment class program. I've been part of this for 10 years now, and we've been in lots of different locations. We have been blessed to have several churches open their doors to us through the years. When I first joined, there were a handful of classes each hour, and probably 30-40 families participated. Now we have well over 100 families participating, and about a dozen classes for all ages are offered each hour, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running throughout most of the day.

Yesterday was our first day back, and it was great to be back to that crazy chaos known as Monday Fun. I am teaching or co-teaching three classes this session, which runs up until the last week of November. This is the first time I've ever done co-teaching, and I am loving having a partner for preparation and class discussion. Sheila and I are teaching a literature circle, focusing on World War 2 literature. We had a rousing discussion about the war this past week. Next week we'll start discussing Number the Stars.

I'm teaching Basic Essay Writing as usual. I try to teach this class at least once each year, and hopefully I'll teach the second part in the spring. I love churning out dozens of new writers each year.

And the final class is a bit of a stretch for me but my co-teacher, Michelle, is a pro. We're teaching debate, and we have a class full of kids who love to argue. Our challenge is to turn their arguing into organized and thoughtful debate. Michelle's debating skills are much stronger and fresher than mine. I only had about six weeks of debate in high school, and that was long, long time ago. I'm enjoying relearning, though, and these kids are going to be fantastic at debate!

I have one free hour that I'm not teaching, and I'll enjoy just chatting with other moms during that time. It's fantastic to be in the midst of so many people on this same journey. Of course, my kids absolutely love Monday Fundays. And at the end of the day, we all come home and collapse. It's a good kind of tired.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up

The most popular question lately is: "Are you back in the swing of things yet?" I'm not really sure how to answer that question. I really liked the swing of the first two weeks, when none of our other activities had kicked in. But this week all but one of our activities kicked in, and next week the final one—our weekly enrichment class day—begins, so we'll really be in full swing. I really like all our activities, but I miss those two weeks of quiet, totally at home.

This week was weird from the beginning since we started with Labor Day. We were hoping to go hiking, but Dr. H. and I were both feeling somewhat sick, so we celebrated the holiday by not laboring at all.

On Tuesday, Duncan went to homeschoolers' day at Montessori all day. Jesse had a class at the community college, and Laurel had afternoon dance and drama classes. I drive a lot on Tuesdays. We had my mom and dad over for supper Tuesday night, which was wonderful. I even had two side dishes.

On Wednesday we watched the Caddie Woodlawn movie, after having finished reading the book last week. We also spent some more time studying Leonardo da Vinci as part of our Wednesday art focus. My kids have been taking art from a wonderful teacher for many years so I haven't done much with art at home, but this year Laurel isn't taking so we wanted to add a regular art focus back into our week. I'll have to do a separate post later of some of the great books we've found so far.
I spend a lot of time driving around on Wednesdays, too. Jesse has piano lessons at one branch of the community college and then biology lab at a different branch. I am so happy that he is taking his driver's test next week! Hopefully he'll be driving himself to all these classes very soon.

Thursday the kids went to hang out with my Mom while I helped me Dad with some errands. I also had to get Laurel to flute and Jesse to a class at the college, and then one of our really big activities kicked in: Scouting Thursdays!

Duncan began his third year in Cub Scouts. This year he is a Bear Cub. I wish I had a picture of him with his Daddy, the Cubmaster, but he goes directly from work to the meetings.

Laurel and I began our seventh year of American Heritage Girls. I can hardly believe our troop is seven years old! My little girl was just a first grader when we started–

and now she is a seventh grader, which makes her a Pioneer. She was excited to get to shed her vest for a sash this year.

We typically leave our house by 2 p.m. on scouting Thursdays so that we can set up and get organized before everyone arrives at 3:30. We have about 75 girls in our troop, and there are about 35 boys in the Cub Scout pack, which meets at the same time as AHG. A little peace before the meetings begin is essential! Meetings last until 5 p.m., and we are usually home by 6 p.m. We have a quick supper before Dr. H. ( who sheds his Cub Scout blue epaulets for the red Boy Scouts ones and becomes an Assistant Scoutmaster!) and Jesse head back out for Boy Scouts at 7 p.m. This particular week I had to go, too, as there was a committee meeting (and somehow I am on the Boy Scout committee). The second and fourth Thursdays are exhausting, needless to say. But gratifying.

Friday we got a lot of history, Bible, math, and language arts done in the morning. In the afternoon I teach a World Literature and Geography class for a group of ten high-schoolers. I love teaching this class, and I love the kids. We have started with the Middle East and Funny in Farsi, Firoozeh Dumas' memoir of growing up as an Iranian in America. The kids love it, and we've had some great discussions so far.

This evening we had our support group's annual kick-off picnic. We had a great crowd and the kids were having a great time playing with friends, when tragedy struck: Duncan's shorts ripped down the front. He was inconsolable, so we ended up leaving after only an hour or so.

Tomorrow morning Jesse takes the ACT bright and early, so I'm heading to bed much earlier than usual in order to get him there on time. Is it pathetic that I have to go to bed early in order to get my son somewhere at 7:45 a.m.? I'm sure I'm not really a proper mother/woman in some social circles.

Coming up next week: our enrichment classes start back on Monday! I'm thinking my head will be spinning by 2 p.m. when we head home. But I'm looking forward to it anyway!

How was your week? Check out other Weekly Wrap-Ups at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday Rambling

* It seems that rambling is all I can manage lately. I have all kinds of philosophical or educational posts in my head, but by the time I actually have the time to sit at the computer, all coherent thoughts have flown the coop. So I ramble.

* I was sick this past weekend. I am so rarely sick that I am taken by surprise when I am sick. I become morbid, thinking, "What if I were always like this?" I dislike being unproductive. On the other hand, being sick allowed me the luxury of getting back into my reading groove. I've read four books in the past week. Now if only I could get motivated to review them.

* Last week we finally finished Caddie Woodlawn, which I dearly love. Today we watched the WonderWorks version of the movie, which was so terribly different from the book. The kids thought that they would have liked the movie had they not read the book, but we all agreed that the girl who played Caddie was so far from our imagination that she almost ruined the movie. But I always enjoy the discussions that come from book vs. movie episodes, and this time Laurel took 4 pages of notes in preparation for writing a compare/contrast essay.

* I am so very tired of grown-ups behaving badly. I am heart weary. I remember once when Laurel was little, she said, "I want to be bad!" I feel that way today. I want to be bad and tell the truth about one man's actions, tell anyone and everyone exactly what he did. And so I breathe deeply and pray for the wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep silent. A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook today: "To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against" (Christina Baldwin, American spiritual writer). I really like that, and it was a good reminder to me not to react at all to the opposition, but rather to stand firm and remain confident and filled with integrity. (But still sometimes I just want to be bad.)

* I have a confession to make: we bought new living room furniture this weekend. We've been married 20 years, and this is the first actual living room suite we've purchased. We've always had hand-me-downs and mismatched pieces. I'm pretty excited. Our furniture was not only falling apart, but really smelly. Our kids are past the really really messy stages, so I'm feeling good about this. Now I just need to get that fireplace mantel painted before the furniture arrives in 2 weeks. And because you were wondering, the couch and loveseat are brown, and the chair is red.

* I love having my parents here. I'm really not used to having them here yet, just a minute down the street. Last night they came for supper and a game of cards. The rest of the week is a little crazy for us, but I hope to have supper with them at least twice each week. What a joy to get to spend so much time with them.

* Tomorrow we begin our seventh year of American Heritage Girls! It seems like ages ago that we started our troop here with 35 girls, and now we average about 75 girls each year. I feel strangely prepared for tomorrow. I even cleaned out my AHG bag and printed out everything I think I need to print out. I'm looking forward to seeing all those sweet girls' faces.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What We're Doing This Year, Part 2

I blogged here about what my senior is doing this year. My other two learners are in 7th and 3rd grades. We begin school at 9:30 and end about 2:30 or so, except for all the days that the ideal schedule never happens, which is most days.

We spend Mondays at our support group's enrichment class program. I'll be teaching a literature circle class focusing on World War II experiences (teaching with a friend), Basic Essay Writing, and Basic Debate (with a friend). Laurel is taking: literature circle, note-taking skills, Latin, and worship dance. Duncan is taking: art, hands-on science, legos, and hands-on history.

On Tuesdays Duncan goes to the local Montessori school all day for a theme-based class. For the next couple of months they are studying geography with an emphasis on maps. Laurel and I do math and other catch-up items, and we'll also set aside this time for enrichment class homework. In the afternoon we head out for her drama and international dance classes.

The rest of the week we spend on our at-home work. Duncan and Laurel do Bible, creative writing (more lessons are forthcoming!), art, and history/literature together. This year we're doing a second year of Sonlight Core 4 with my modifications. They work separately on everything else, including lots of personal reading:

• Saxon math
• Wordly Wise
• Spelling Power
• Latin Roots
• Easy Grammar

• Saxon math
• various grammar workbooks
• Spelling Power

I'm probably missing a few things, but that's our basic schedule.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shaking It Off

I have to say that August was one of the oddest months I can remember. Everything felt disjointed. I've been out of all my normal patterns. I've been angrier than I've been in years, since the last injustice that affected me deeply. I had knots in my stomach for most of the month, both from anger and from the sadness and anxiety related to my parents selling their house.

I don't like feeling this way. I'm a happy, relaxed person in real life. I have low blood pressure, and I'm healthy. But I feel like I've aged in the past month. Seeing the ugly side of people takes a toll, and I feel like I have to make a very conscious effort to shed these weeks of turmoil.

But it's time now. These past few weeks I've said over and over again that the truth will be revealed and that we have to rest on God's promise that he will " bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts" (from 1 Cor. 4:5). Yet I've allowed myself to dwell on the offenses, playing events over again in my head. Last night as Dr. H. and I came home from yet another meeting, we decided to shake off the last vestiges of anger. We took deep breaths and squared our shoulders, shaking it all off. "Look," he said. "We are about to drive into the driveway of our home, where our three happy, beautiful, healthy children are waiting for us."

That's really what it's all about.

And then my brother called and said that my parents had signed papers on their house in New York and were on their way down. For a few minutes I entertained the thought of that beautiful house on the lake standing empty, but I shook that off quickly. After all this time, my sweet parents will be just a minute down the road from us, and I can see them every single day. And that's really what it's all about.

Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
(Psalm 103:4-6)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What We're Doing This Year, Part 1

We've been back-t0-homeschool for a couple of weeks now. The first couple of weeks are always so relaxing. None of our activities started until this week, and now our schedule is getting a bit more hectic. Next week kicks in for real. If I didn't love everything we do so much, I'd drop it all and stay home all the time. I like being at home. The problem is that I also like being with other people!

This is a big year: Jesse is a senior. I'm not quite sure how high school happened so quickly, although he is doing it in three years instead of four. Still, we're just suddenly…here. There are about 16 kids in our support group graduating this year, and about 12 of them are planning to go on an actual senior trip to NYC. They've been doing all kinds of fundraisers and planning, and I get to go as a chaperone. I haven't been to NYC in over 20 years, so I'm excited about that!

But that's several months away. In the meantime, he has classes to do. So Jesse's senior year brings:
• Biology 2: He's taking this at the local community college for dual enrollment, so he'll get 4 hours of college credit and 1 hour of high school.
• Piano and guitar: Also dual enrollment at the community college. One hour each for college credit, and a half credit each for high school.
• Russian: He'll finish Rosetta Stone by the end of this year for his 2 years of high school language.
• World Literature and World Geography: I'm teaching this high school credit class to about 10 high schoolers on Friday afternoons. This is his English 4 credit as well as 1 social studies credit.
• Media Tech internship: He's working at a local church with a fellow homeschooling Dad on Sunday mornings and evenings, learning how to run everything from the sound system to video equipment. This falls right into his plan for majoring in the entertainment industry in college.
• Next semester he'll be taking psychology at the community college.
• He is also finishing up a few odds and ends on Boy Scout merit badges and should be able to get his Eagle Scout award this fall. The project is already done; it's just a matter of tying up loose ends.

This is the first year in his decade of homeschooling that he isn't doing a Sonlight Core. I had so many requests from parents that I teach a class, and teaching World Lit and World Geography together was really what Jesse needed. (Turns out they all need the geography part, according to the pre-tests I gave them on the first day of class! Me included!!) Fortunately I still get to do Sonlight with Duncan and Laurel for years to come.

Jesse will be taking the ACT for a second time in a couple of weeks. He took it a year or so ago and did great, but we'd like to see him raise his score a few points to where the really good scholarships kick in. And that reminds me: I'm also supposed to be signing him up to take the SAT. Down here in the South, the ACT seems to be the thing; whereas we were strictly on SAT scores in New York where I grew up. Dr. H. thought it would be good for him to try his hand at the SAT as well, just to see.

Right now he is hoping to go to Belmont University in Nashville and planning to major in entertainment industry studies, perhaps in film but certainly in music business. Yep. So next year at this time, my firstborn will most likely be away at college. And I'll be missing him.

But I'll still have my two younger ones at home, and tomorrow I'll share what we're doing this year!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday Miscellany

* Today felt like the first day of our real fall schedule, although not every activity kick in this week. But today Duncan began his Tuesday all-day class at the local Montessori school (homeschoolers can join their regular day on Tuesdays); Jesse started his biology class at the local community college; and Laurel began her drama and dance classes at Bezalel School of International Dance. Duncan and Laurel loved their classes, and Jesse likes his professor a lot and thinks he'll enjoy the class. And not only did I get grocery shopping done, but I also had 2 hours to work on various lesson and American Heritage Girls plans while Laurel was in her classes. I think I am going to like Tuesdays! I have to admit, though, that I missed my littlest guy while he was gone all day. Made me think about how much I missed Jesse when he went to public school. Seems like a long, long time ago.

* Cub Scouts begins again tonight with the annual boat race. It's really hilarious. The boys make boats out of anything from bottles to fancy wooden rafts and race them in a creek at a local park. Last year a little sister tossed in a bottle and her "boat" was the grand winner! Have I ever mentioned how amazing my husband, the Cubmaster, is for all the time he puts into Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts (as an assistant Scoutmaster)? I know it stresses him out terribly when he's trying to teach classes during the day and then get Cub Scout stuff done, but the boys love him and he never seems stressed out when he is there. This is his second round as Cubmaster; he also did it when Jesse was a Cub. I don't know what he'll do with his extra time when Duncan moves up to Boy Scouts in a few years…

* So, yesterday my parents were supposed to close on their house in New York. They didn't. We're not really sure what that means. All of their possessions except 2 twin beds are down here in Tennessee at their new house. Hopefully we'll have better news today…

* So back to that boat. I just realized that Duncan hasn't made his yet and the race is just an hour away. I think we'd better go dig through the recycling bin.