Sunday, July 31, 2011

Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop: Curriculum

In just a few weeks I'll be Starting Year 12, this year with a 5th grader (age 10 1/2) and a freshman (nearly 14) in high school. Our older son (18) will be returning to Nashville for his sophomore year in college. Click on the link to my article on The Homeschool Classroom to see how we begin a new year.

My daughter will be starting high school, so for the first time, my younger two will be doing completely separate studies. You can read all about what she'll be doing at High School, Take Two on Simple Homeschool. I have two changes since I wrote the post back in May. The question everyone asks is: So what will she be doing for science if we aren't big fans of Apologia? Sheepishly, I must admit that she'll be doing Apologia's Physical Science through our co-op. It just didn't work out for my husband to teach a science class this year, so, yeah... The second change is that she'll be taking a class on Excel and Powerpoint through our co-op. I think this is the class she's most excited about taking! For everything else and more about starting high school, please visit the link to my Simple Homeschool article!

And so for the first time ever, I'll be doing a Sonlight Core with just one child. I'm excited to get to do Sonlight Core 5 (now called Core F) with Duncan. This study of the Eastern Hemisphere was my absolute favorite Sonlight Core. I can hardly wait to read our way through the continents again with Ghengis Khan, Commodore Perry, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and so many more memorable characters, real and fictional!

Sonlight will be the foundation—literature and history— for Duncan, and we'll round out our days with a variety of other resources.
* Math: Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra
* Grammar: Easy Grammar 6
* Spelling: Spelling Power
* Critical Thinking: Mind Benders
* Reading: Besides doing Sonlight readers, he'll be taking my literature circle at co-op. The theme is "Extraordinary Adventures," and we'll be reading Battle for the Castle, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Indian in the Cupboard.
* Handwriting: He'll continue in whatever book we didn't finish last year.
* Writing: First semester, we'll just do writing as it comes along. Second semester, he'll be taking my creative writing class at our co-op.
* Science: He'll be taking two science courses at our co-op. One is called Mission to Mars, and it will culminate in a trip to the Challenger Mission Center in Chattanooga. The other is a chemistry-based one. I may also do botany at home with him.
* Performing Arts: Shakespeare class at one co-op and flags (creative worship) and drama at a performing arts co-op.

Besides the academics above, the kids are both extremely active in scouting programs: American Heritage Girls for Laurel and Cub Scouts for Duncan. We do tons of badge work that adds another whole dimension to learning, and the kids both learn great leadership and teamwork skills.

We still have a few weeks before we start, but I'm getting excited!

Linked up with the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop at Heart of the Matter. Blog hoppers, leave a comment so I check out what coming up for your year!
Not Back to School Blog Hop

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Miscellany

*Imagine my shock and dismay when I saw that it's been over a week since my last blog entry. What in the world have I been doing that's prohibited me from blogging?

*Last weekend our dear friends from college, who live two hours away, stayed with us. Their daughter was flying home after a month in Colorado, and since we live literally right by the airport, this was a perfect opportunity for a visit. It was also Elizabeth's 18th birthday, so we celebrated with Cincinnati fire kites, cake, and sheer laziness mixed with a healthy dose of good conversation.

Here are the boys lighting a fire kite at midnight.

The bloody hand is always a hit with guests. I've never claimed to live in a normal house.

* I hosted our annual summer American Heritage Girls planning session at my home on Tuesday night. Fortunately, my house was still rather clean after our weekend. We have an awesome group of leaders this year and already about 90 girls signed up for our troop. Just a little over a month until the wild rumpus starts again.

* Wednesday was spent preparing for and then helping out with our church's Backpack Bash and clothing event. We spent literally all day organizing school supplies that had been donated, hanging and sorting clothing, and preparing to host this community outreach event. We opened our doors at 5:30 to the the community and were able to supply about 100 kids with backpacks and supplies. We also had gently used clothing and then a casual meal for the families. For a church of only 150, I think we did well. But we have a bigger goal for next year.

* Thursday our oldest AHG girls spent the entire day getting their CPR certification. Fortunately, all I had to do was open the doors to the church and lock them back up, so I spent most of the day recuperating at home.

* Friday we went to the city pool for one last weekday swim. Yes, our city pools closed yesterday, except for a few more weekends only. I know. It's absurd. The excuse is that the schools start back up and the lifeguards are no longer available. The most obvious question is: why do the schools start back up in late July or Aug. 1? Oh, I know some of the standard reasons that are given, but really, now. A little common sense, oh-Great-Administrators.

* Yes, I go off on this rant every single year. Why do I even care? We homeschool!

* My Dad and I are flying out on Tuesday to visit my aunt in Washington. She lives on an island off the coast, and I wish I could be delighted to be going to this beautiful place. But my aunt was recently diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, and so our visit is really to say goodbye. I am so thankful that my father, who is 86, can make this trip, and that my husband is here to take care of the kids and my mom. Bittersweet.

* I was floored to see that the high temperature in Friday Harbor, Washington will be 71 degrees during our few days there. Here in our town, we'll have a straight week of 95. Ouch. After living in shorts and tank tops for months, I can't even remember what kind of clothes to wear in 71 degrees!

* And that is all I have to say. I may be blogging next from a 1-square mile town on an island in the Pacific.

Friday, July 22, 2011

If-I-Had-a-Bucket-List Accomplishments

July has been a phenomenal month for items that would be on my bucket list if I had one.

First, I ran a 5K. It was my second one but my first big one, with over 1,000 people:

Next, we spent the weekend camping at Cades Cove and riding our bikes around the 11-mile loop on a Saturday morning, when it is closed off to car traffic.

And yesterday, we went whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River. It wasn't my first time rafting (Dr. H. used to be a raft guide), but it has been 20 years since I've my last adventure.

And I don't have any pictures of this, but my Dad and I have been playing tennis regularly for the past two weeks. Playing tennis with my 86-year-old Dad: the joy of that is a post in itself. But aside from that, I've been wanting to play tennis on a regular basis for decades. I haven't played this much since junior high!

I still have loads of lesson plans looming over me, but I feel tremendously energized and strangely productive. It's a great feeling to be coming toward the end of July and have the satisfaction of knowing I haven't let summer slip by. And we still have another month until school starts!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Is It About Feet?

I always enjoy looking through my iPhoto to see what pictures my kids have taken lately. I was amused today by all the pictures of feet that my teenage daughter and her friends have taken. There are feet for every season and occasion:

Fall feet…

Winter feet…

Spring Feet

Summer Feet…

One can't help but quote Dr. Seuss:
"In the house and on the street, how many different feet you meet!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Welcome

Aww! I feel really happy to look over at my sidebar and see lots of new followers in the past several weeks. I feel like I should make some kind of promise, some kind of declaration: "I will blog more! I will add to the WordSmithery! I will find another post with a riveting title like 'Fashion of the 80s' that gets more hits than any other!" (Twice as many, in fact. There must be a LOT of 80s-themed parties going on. What is up with that?)

But the truth is, I can't promise that. I have hundreds of things I'd like to blog about (OK, maybe dozens). I think in blog posts and Facebook statuses. If you a new follower, one important thing you should know about me is that I love to write. It is part of who I am. A friend once lashed out at me about my writing, marginalizing what writing is to me. Or, is me. Words may get caught in my throat when I am speaking. But when I am writing, I have time to process and express what I really, really want to say. And how I want to say it.

I can't promise that I'll write and update and clean up my blog to make it prettier because life is just so dang busy. Blogging feels like a luxury to me—a reward for folding a load of laundry or spending an hour on lesson plans. Sometimes I find a moment of quiet in which to blog and then my son comes in with his sweet smile and says, "Will you make me some steak?" or the cat starts throwing up and I have to sprint to shove him outside. That's just the season of life I am in. Someday, these three gifts of mine will be on their own journeys, and I like to think I will have hours and hours to write then.

So, welcome, newcomers, to SmallWorld at Home. If you want to know all kinds of things about me, please read the About Me page. If you look up at the tabs, you'll see pages for Homeschooling, WordSmithery, On the Menu, Reading Picks, and My Favorite Posts. They aren't necessarily updated, but it's on my to-do list. Well, the one in my head, anyway.

Oh, and one more thing. I can't necessarily find your blogs via the followers box on my sidebar. (I think maybe this only links to blogspot blogs, or perhaps there is a trick I don't know?) Anyway, I would love to read your blogs, so leave me a comment with your blog address so I can come visit!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Starting Year 12

I’m coming up on my 12th year of homeschooling. Astonishing! If I had been a public school teacher as I trained to be in college, I would have earned somewhere around $350,000 in the past 12 years, give or take a few thousand. I would have spent somewhere around 2,000 hours teaching literature, grammar, and composition to hundreds of students. Some I would have loved; some I would never have wanted to see again.

But I am thankful, so thankful, that 17 years ago, we decided that I would stay home with our kids, and 12 years ago, we knew that homeschooling was the best choice for our family. I haven’t made much money in the past decade, but I have learned more than I ever imagined about a wide spectrum of subjects, from art history to coral reefs to the Oregon Trail. …

{Please join me over at The Homeschool Classroom to find out how we transition into the new school year!}

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On the Menu

I haven't posted a menu in months and months, but we really have been eating at home. I've even been cooking fabulous meals. Jesse inspires me. After eating college cafeteria food for a year, he thinks everything I make is amazing. And he especially likes to try new recipes. I've been using Pinterest to capture recipes I see online, and this has been tremendously successful!

So here's what is coming up this week:

Hamburgers and pasta salad
Meatloaf and mashed potatoes
Homemade pizza
Simple Sesame Chicken from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Shrimp Scampi from Pioneer Woman
Pesto and Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches from The Cookin' Chemist

I'm also going to send my family into paroxysms of delight with Chocolate Eclair Squares and Raspberry Lemon Bars from Six Sisters' Stuff.

Linked up with Menu Plan Monday

Friday, July 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes

For the first time in our 22 years of marriage, Dr. H. is actually taking some days off during the summer. Regularly. He teaches on Monday and Wednesdays, but he has actually stayed at home to work and/or play at least one day each week since May. I could really, really get used to this. I like having him around.

My Dad and I finally made it to the tennis courts! We've only been talking about it for 10 years (literally). Today we took the plunge, found our rackets, and headed down the street to the nearest courts. Duncan came with us. I think we might have found his sport! He did really, really well for the first time.

I had tennis lessons regularly throughout my childhood, but I have probably played only a dozen times in 20 years. Why is that? And why didn't I play on the tennis team in high school? Some things are mysteries.

One of our best friends from college visited this week. It was lovely to see him, to look through old photo albums and laugh at ourselves. We made this Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken with Grilled Vegetable Succotash, and it was so fabulous.

I am having one of those weeks in which I can't get anything done. Some weeks are like that. I need to have an extraordinarily productive upcoming week.

My Dad and I are flying out to Washington sometime in the next few weeks. My aunt, my Dad's only sibling, is very ill. It is all very surreal and desperately sad, for so many reasons. Mostly, for me, because I always thought I would have time to get to know my aunt better—to spend some long week with her, to bask in her. To sit and talk like aunts and nieces should do. Distance, circumstances: I have seen her only a few times in my adult life. And I have always missed her.

My parents came for dinner tonight. My father told wonderful stories of when he was a biology teacher. My mother was having a good day. Lately she has seemed muddled and repetitive, but I think the slightly cooler weather gave her some clarity. Oh, how do we do this? How do we watch our parents age and not weep, not feel something slipping? The days have to go forward, and there is still time for tennis with my father and a cup of coffee with my mother. There are still many, many good days ahead.

Linked up with 7 Quick Takes Friday at Conversion Diary

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken with Vegetable Succotash Recipes

We have a new favorite amazing meal around here. If you are a dinner guest, we will probably serve it to you because it is so pretty and so delicious. We served this to guests last night, and I had leftovers for second breakfast and lunch today. I wish I had more!

Please try this combination. It is so easy, especially if your husband will do the grilling and your daughter will cut up all the vegetables! (The recipes, by the way, are adaptations from Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.)

Grilled Vegetable Succotash

4 ears corn, husked
1 red bell pepper
2-3 zucchini
1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed
2 TB butter, melted

1. Brush corn with olive oil. Grill the corn for about 10 minutes, then add the red pepper and zucchini (cut in half lengthwise). Continue grilling both until lightly charred on all sides, about 10 more minutes. Season all with salt and pepper.
2. When done, put chicken on the grill. Cut corn off of cob. Remove skin and seeds from red pepper and slice, cutting each slice then into 2-3 squares. Slice zucchini into half-moons. Put all into a clear glass bowl if you have one. (We used a trifle bowl.) Add edamame and butter. Season with salt and butter and serve warm.

Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 slices of fresh mozzarella
12 basil leaves
4-6 TBS pesto
salt and pepper

1. (Prepare while veggies are grilling.) Salt and pepper chicken. Cut a pocket in each chicken breast and squish one slice of cheese and 2 basil leaves in each one. If you happen to have toothpicks, you can secure them shut. If not, just stuff it in the best you can. By this time, the veggies will be about done and you can grill the chicken while cutting the veggies.
2. Brush chicken with pesto and grill until done, turning over but not putting pesto on the second side. (Well, unless you really, really like a strong pesto flavor. I think two sides is overwhelming because you have basil inside the chicken as well.) This takes about 20 minutes or so.

Serve with a side of couscous, rice, or pasta.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cades Cove Weekend

I wish the Barry Manilow song "Weekend in New England" didn't flutter through my head every time I think things like, "We had a great weekend in…______" In this case, we had a great weekend in Cades Cove. (And, as an aside, I played "Weekend in New England" for a piano recital when I was about 13.) In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, here it is:

I know. It's amazing.

Anyway, this Cades Cove weekend was superb. We don't usually like to camp in Cades Cove because it is the most popular camping spot in the Smokies. However, we have been wanting to ride our bikes around the loop forever. We finally have everyone in our family riding confidently with good bikes, so we made campground reservations with friends a few weeks ago, filled up our tires, and pitched our tents.

On Wednesday and Saturday, the 11-mile loop around Cades Cove is closed to auto traffic until 10 a.m. We have driven around the loop dozens of times in our 11 years here, and it is beautiful. But to be on bicycle (and sometimes foot when walking up endless hills) was a totally different experience. I was elated. Ecstatic. To see the early morning sun break through the mist and the familiar mountains appear beneath the fog: what a gift.

The kids did great. Randy was a little concerned that Duncan would have trouble making it, but it was a piece of cake for him.

Really, he was pretty tuckered out at the end, but within 20 minutes after finishing he was back on his bike, riding around camp.

We saw all kinds of wildlife, including this bear. The ranger stopped traffic, held out his hand, and said, "Bear needs to cross. Stay back." The bear crossed the road, lumbered into the woods, and was gone. Later we saw a mama and three cubs.

The loop is "only" 11 miles, which sounds fast and easy. But this is in the mountains, after all, so flat is rarely an option. We took it slow and easy with lots of breaks and even a little shopping at the gift center and finished in around 2 hours.

In case you can't tell from the picture, we are all feeling immensely proud of ourselves after completing the loop.

We rewarded ourselves with a relaxing hour or two in the river, cooling off and basking in our achievement.

Ever the educator, Randy gave the boys (Duncan and his friend Emery) a lesson on water life. He saw a golden opportunity for them to earn their Naturalist pin for Webelos.

After spending the afternoon lazing around the campsite, staring up at the trees, eating Hobo meals, and wondering how the boys could still be riding their bikes around, we got the brilliant idea to get in the pick-up truck and drive around Cades Cove to watch the sunset.

Yes, Diane and I are actually sitting on camping chair is the back of a pick up. All we need is a rebel flag. I mean, I'm not stereotyping or anything, but.

It was exactly the right thing to do. The horses, freed from their day jobs of providing humans with entertainment, were free. The deer were positively gamboling, and the mama bear and her three cubs were playing a game of tag.

The mist settled over the meadow, bringing a quiet end to the busy day for this well-traveled bit of creation.

The sun set, and we headed back to roast marshmallows, eager to crawl into our tents but reluctant to give up on a perfect day.

Linked up with Amy's Finer Things Friday

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Caught-My-Eye Posts

* The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Nerd Family Blog. We are in the midst of speech therapy with our youngest, so I was particularly interested in the Homeschool Speech Therapy post. As always on the Carnival, there are loads of valuable posts.

* HotChalks Free Lesson Plans. Looks full of possibilities.

* The Homeschool Classroom is giving away a free e-book during the month of July. As a contributor to The Homeschool Classroom, I have previewed the book and encourage you to become a fan and download it! Tons of good information is included in it. As Angie writes,
"We’re so excited to be able to share a free ebook with our readers here at The Homeschool Classroom. Throughout the month of July, this 64 page ebook, Homeschooling by the Numbers, will be available exclusively to those that are fans of The Homeschool Classroom on Facebook. After July, it will still be available to Facebook fans, but it will also be available to those that are subscribers to The Homeschool Classroom through an RSS or email feed. (So, don’t worry if you’re not on Facebook, you’ll get a chance at the download too!)"

* Rachel Held Evans is my new favorite blogger. She is brilliant, truly. My favorite recent posts on her blog are 25 Things That Should Scare Christians and Are You in the "Real" Christian Camp?
* A few years ago I wrote a post called The Fourth of July in Church. I am so happy that this picture no longer shows up at our church on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans' Day.

Yes, it even showed up after Barack Obama became president. Tacky. Anyway, I was happy to see two excellent articles in The Christian Standard, the flagstaff magazine of the Independent Christian Churches,this week: "And God Bless America" by Doug Priest and "God Bless America" by editor Mark Taylor.

* Frozen Lemon Dessert. Seriously yum.
* Pesto and Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Fresh Mozzerella. Haven't tried this one yet, but it is absolutely mandatory that I do.
* Red Velvet Trifle. My little girl made up one for the Fourth of July that was so festive: red velvet cake, cool whip, blueberries, and strawberries. Turns out (not surprisingly) that her creation is already on The Food Network. Everyone loved it.

* New place to play: Pinterest. Check it out. It seems frivolous at first glance, but I have actually used this quite a bit already to track books to read and recipes to try.
* More organizational attempts: Evernote. I've barely tapped into this resource, but I'm exploring its potential. Anyone have ways they use this I need to know about?
* Looking forward to: Caleb's Crossing, the newest by Geraldine Brooks.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Memory: Fourth of July

1. Mt. Vernon, Illinois
We return to our roots each summer, to my parents' hometowns—my mother's city and my father's tiny village outside that city. My grandparents live across from the city park. On the Fourth, we cross the street and lie on the grass by the pond, where the fireworks zoom and explode over our heads. The grass is dry and the road so hot my mother says you could fry an egg on it.

2. Seneca Lake
We pile into our big sailboat, the K-boat, and head out to the middle of the lake. Lights from dozens of motorboats flicker around us, and soon we hear the first muffled BOOM of the fireworks at the American Legion. We comment on each one, sometimes applauding, sometimes yelling "Dud!" My mother and father begin singing, first patriotic songs and then our favorites: "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad," "Clementine," "Waltzing Matilda." The black water laps against the hull, a windless night.

3. The Legion
Geneva, New York. In high school I leave my parents to the quiet of the boat and join my friends and the rest of our city at the American Legion. It's a carnival, with games, rides, and food. Italian sausage with peppers and onions, chicken wings, cotton candy, popcorn. School's just been out two weeks, but it seems like forever since we've seen our friends. We know everyone. We spread our blankets on the grass and hold hands with our boyfriends, thinking that nothing in our lives could ever be sweeter than this moment.

4. The River
Camping at the Nolichucky River near Davy Crockett's birthplace in Limestone, Tennessee, we are dirty, young college students with absolutely no responsibilities, for the most part. A few of us have jobs waiting tables. We sleep in tents or beat-up vans in a cornfield by the river, swimming during the day and sitting by a fire at night. We shoot off fireworks at night, just the few we could afford. We have never known such freedom. In the morning, the hot sun soaks into our tents and we wake, thirsty and sweating already. The river flows lazily, brown and thick. We have no idea how our lives our about to change.

Tanks vs. chickens

5. Freedom Fest
Johnson City, Tennessee. Barefoot, we dance in the dusty grass to Brian and the Nightmares. At night we stand under the fireworks, listening to the local radio station play "Proud to Be an American," the fireworks timed in perfect synchronicity. Ashes fall. I have grown 10 years in one. Graduation from college brings a freedom I'm not sure I want yet.

6. Ames
We watch the fireworks from the lawn at university with our Iowa friends. Our kids tumble on the ground at our feet, chasing fireflies and eating the picnic we've brought with us. Little ones in red, white and blue on a hot night in the midwest. How did we get to this place, where life really, truly is as sweet as it gets?

7. Home
Back in Tennessee after eight years of sojourning, we are complete. We have our little traditions, adjusting year by year as the kids grow. It's a family holiday always, with brothers and cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. There's no Seneca Lake, no fabulous fireworks display. We buy bottle rockets and tanks and eat burgers and pasta salad, home-made ice cream and watermelon. Are we are all thinking about being somewhere else, wondering if this is enough? Will our children have enough memories to carry them?

I like to think so.

Happy Independence Day. May it be filled with good food, fellowship, and fireworks.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Stepping Outside the Grade-Level Box (Simple Homeschool)


Ask a homeschooled kid the innocuous “What grade are you in?” and you’ll often get a furrowed brow and an answer with a question mark at the end.


This response can be alarming to grandparents, non-homeschooling friends, and the cashier at Walmart. Their raised eyebrows ask, “He doesn’t know what grade he’s in?”

Well, no. Not exactly. That hallmark of traditional schooling—the passing from grade to grade—isn’t of utmost importance in homeschooling. The age/grade correlation just isn’t necessarily present.

If your nine-year-old is reading at a post-college level, does that make him 23? Who decided, after all, that picture books are for preK-3rd grade, that pre-algebra is done in middle school, and that high school takes four years?

Who came up with all this stuff? I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that …

{Don't stop now! Find out what I know by reading the rest of this article at Simple Homeschool.}