Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

The weeks are flying by much too quickly, loaded with outside activities, commitments, and appointments. I am having that "Aaah! We aren't getting anything done!" panic.

And then I have those wonderful moments, like when my college sophomore says, "You taught me to speak and write well, but you never taught me parts of speech." Can I please pound him in the head? Seriously?

So it turns out that he had a grammar component on an exam in his Analyzing Literary Language course. He seriously could not pick out prepositions, and he had no idea what subjective or objective pronouns were. The prepositions he'd been taught year after year, but truthfully, I am quite sure I never taught him about subjective or objective pronouns. Who knew?

And then my ten-year-old, in the midst of a game of Pictionary in which the answer was "Oregon," shouts: "How should I know where it is? I don't know any of my states!" Oh heavens. Of course the child has been taught his states. Not only have we been through 3 years of U.S. history with a geography component, but he's taken a 50 States class twice at our co-op.

Why do I feel the tremendous need to defend myself? Or better yet, lock myself in my room with a bag of caramels, tortilla chips, a glass of wine, and TV reruns on my laptop? And lots of fluffy blankets and pillows.

Anyway, I know everyone goes through these times of self-doubt and teaching angst. Here are a few things we have been doing around here lately. You'd better believe I'll be teaching subjective pronouns next week.

Duncan and I are still studying Japan, now reading Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun. We have also:
* Made chicken yakitori, Japanese crescent cookies
* had a Japanese tea ceremony
* added to our Japan lapbook (the finished product will be coming up soon)
* watched videos on samurai, tea ceremonies, and various martial arts
* listened to stories from my Dad about apples in Japan and about his R&R in Japan during the Korean War

Everything else continues with Duncan as usual: math, handwriting, spelling, grammar. His science classes are at our co-op, as well as drama, Shakespeare, and literature circle. We are nearly done with The Phantom Tollbooth in our literature circle class, and we have had a blast with that.

Laurel, 9th grade, keeps working diligently in all her classes. She is thrilled to be done with the Excel portion of her computer class; this week they began the Powerpoint section. In my British Lit co-op class, we began all things Shakespeare. I divided up all kinds of topics on the Renaissance, Shakespeare, and the Elizabethan era and had the kids give oral reports on the topics. I loved hearing all the tidbits they came up with! We'll be studying Romeo and Juliet for the next few weeks.

Apparently I haven't taken any photos of what we've been doing in school the past few weeks, so here are a couple of pictures from the hike that our teen group went on recently.

In other homeschooling news, I've had a few other things going on:
* My first WordSmithery (creative writing) addition in a long time
* I hosted the 303rd Carnival of Homeschooling
* Wrote an article about Making Books in Your Homeschool for The Homeschool Classroom
* Discussed My Biggest Homeschooling Mistake at Simple Homeschool

Now, I'm off to clean my house in preparation for our annual Soup and Pumpkin party tomorrow!

Linked up at the Weekly Wrap Up

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: Not Traveling More


One of the things that really aggravated me when our son was in public school in first grade was being told that we shouldn’t go on trips that would make him miss school.

Really? So being in a classroom is more culturally valuable than going to a Greek festival? So he’ll learn music better if he’s jingling bells than if he is at a symphony? History is more likely to come alive for him within the four walls of school than at Gettysburg?

When we decided to homeschool, I knew that much of my children’s education would consist of hands-on learning that included going lots of places. I imagined us taking the Civil War trail along the East Coast, following Lewis and Clark’s adventures out west, digging up dinosaur bones in Utah, ogling masterpieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I even had it calculated that my husband would be eligible for sabbatical when our oldest was in high school, so we would spend six months somewhere far away (and per my husband’s career, botanically interesting), like Australia or South Africa.

The best laid plans, eh?

As so often happens, the reality of our life clashed with my vision. …

Please visit Simple Homeschool today to read the rest of my post, and while you are there, check out the rest of the Biggest Mistakes series:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making Books in Your Homeschool

Possibly, I am slightly obsessed with books. Not only do we have a dozen bookcases or more that house hardbacks and paperbacks of all shapes and sizes, but I have boxes of books that the kids have made during our dozen years of homeschooling.

These books are not only treasures for us but fantastic learning tools for the kids. We make books primarily as a means to enhance a certain topic we are studying, although sometimes we make books just for fun. Book making provides a multisensory approach to learning: hands are busy, minds are exploding with ideas, connections are being made between topic and task.

A book can begin with just a folded piece of paper, or with cardboard, wrapping paper, or a brown grocery sack. The possibilities are endless.

{Come and visit me on The Homeschool Classroom today to see some of those possibilities for making books with your kids!}

Monday, October 24, 2011

Leaving a Church

One day we were there, and then we weren't.

It's a particular kind of pain, this unexpected separation. One Sunday you have a big family (complete with everyone from your beloved grandparents to the cousins you don't really get along with), and the next you have a basket of fragments, shards fallen here and there. You have anger, disappointment, disillusionment, frustration, and an utter loss of trust. Loss.

Grief and relief: they are a peculiar pair.

On one hand, we left familiarity. A kitchen where we knew where every pot and pan belonged. Pews we've lovingly cleaned. Flowerpots we've filled with petunias, spring after spring after spring. My children's outgrown toys and dress-up clothes in the nursery. The blue Christmas decorations. Angel wings and shepherd's gowns. Even the big, nasty stains on the carpet in the fellowship hall.

Grievingly, we left people we've known over a decade. Little old ladies in their hose and pleated skirts. Sweet-cheeked preschoolers in pretty dresses. Families caught in the crossfire. Special-needs friends who sang loudly and badly and with utmost joy. My children's Sunday school teachers, who have loved them and nurtured them. My youngest son was born into this church, grown up with these children. Sat in pews drawing pictures on the back of offering envelopes, participated in Christmas programs, recited memory verses.

Relieved, we left others—people we tried to love but couldn't trust. We left people who rolled their eyes, who made snide comments, who didn't love us enough, who didn't trust us. Nor we them.

Here is what I want to say: leaders in a church should live with complete honesty and integrity and pursue holiness. They should seek to do like Christ and to honor God with every word and action.

So should I. So. Should. I.

And I don't, always. I have said mean things. I have made snide comments and rolled my eyes, too. I have nurtured a healthy dose of self-righteousness. I have sneered and had angry conversations in my head.

Leaving a church is a hard, hard thing. But here's the thing: we haven't left the Church. We left a local congregation in order to survive and thrive. We had to break away in order to grow, and I know without a doubt that God called us to leave. Pushed us out the door, in fact, and said, "It's time."

Honestly, I don't want to go back. The ashes are cooling, and I believe in God's promise of beauty from ashes, of a brand-new thing. Someday, there will be a restoration of sorts. The anger will dissipate, the questions will seem unimportant, the need to be right will dissolve.

When it happens, I pray my pride will long be swallowed and my fists so long unclenched that we can all shake hands and share high fives.

Have you been there?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Three

Last week my oldest was home from college for fall break, and my three agreed that we should go on our traditional October drive around Cades Cove. They are so sweet. They posed for a bazillion photos, including the cheesy Converse one, and admired the views whenever I said, "Look!"

Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm Hosting the Next Carnival!

I'm hosting the next Carnival of Homeschooling here at SmallWorld at Home, and I want your posts! Don't talk yourself out of it, thinking that your blog post wouldn't interest others. Homeschoolers love to read about what is happening in the lives of other homeschoolers!

If you've never submitted, it is so easy. Just go to the blog carnival page and look for "submit an article" on the left sidebar. Just fill in the blanks from there! You don't have to write a new post just for the carnival. Look through your archives and pick something out. You can do it!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

SmallWorld's WordSmithery Lesson 11: Advertising

The WordSmithery is back! Yes, I know it's been a year since my last lesson, and I apologize to those of you who have been waiting patiently. But let's get started!

If you are brand new here, I recommend that you go back and start at the beginning. My goal with the WordSmithery is to make creative writing exciting for writers of all ages. Here's what we've covered so far:
As always, this lesson is loosely scripted. You might eliminate some things or add others as you go. I try to put the "speaking" parts in regular type and the answers in italics. And remember: parents/teacher: you should be doing the assignments, too! Go back and read the first couple of lessons to find out why. Here we go! (This lesson is rather long. I'd recommend doing it in a couple of days rather than all at once.) I think you can download and print the whole WordSmithery Lesson 11 here on googledocs. If that doesn't work for you, you can copy and paste the lesson below into a Word doc for ease in teaching.

Before you begin this lesson, you will need to find examples of advertising in magazines, coupon flyers, etc. You can do a google image search for "magazine advertisements" and find all kinds of examples if you don't have any magazines at home.

You might also wish to preview TV ads on youtube and pick out a few appropriate ones for your kids to watch. This page lists the most popular TV commercials, but please preview before you show your kids!

Lesson 11: Advertising

Up to this point we have been concentrating on various tools that writers: metaphor, simile, strong verbs, exciting adjectives. Language and words are the building blocks for all writing. Any good writer of fiction or nonfiction knows how to use words—to make words do the work for them.

We are going to move now into writing nonfiction. We talked in the last lesson about different types of nonfiction like biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, newspaper articles, etc. Today we are going to talk about a special kind of creative writing that should be nonfiction but often borders on fiction!

Where can advertising can be found? (Allow for discussion: TV, radio, newspaper, magazines, internet, etc.) What about more subtle forms of advertising? (discuss things like t-shirts, backpacks, shopping bags, buses, cars, billboards)

• Do you enjoy TV commercials? What are you favorite TV commercials? Why? (allow for discussion) What about your least favorite TV commercial? Why? (allow for discussion)

• Do you like reading ads in magazines and newspapers? (discuss)

What about the ads that pop up on the computer when you are playing games (or Facebook for older students)? Are you ever tempted to click on them?

What is the purpose of advertising? (to sell something). Is everyone going to be attracted to the same kind of ad? (No. Briefly discuss how ads are targeted differently according to age groups, gender, etc.)

• What does poetry—words— have to do with advertising? (You have to get people to FEEL in order to want to buy.)

Advertisements that trigger an emotional response can grab an audience by the heart, hold their attention, and leave them with a warm and cozy feeling about the company, product or service. Warm feelings can translate into money.

This handout describes the different kinds of techniques used in the advertising world. (The link should take you to the handout in google docs. But here is another hand-out in case that one doesn't work for you.) Let’s go over these and see if you can find examples or think of examples. (Provide copies of magazine, newspaper, etc ads. Talk about what you see in them and how the techniques are used in them.) • Look particularly for words that might trigger an emotional response in the reader. (Together, make a list of those words in a journal or on your white board.)

The next lesson will include more about advertising. Until then, encourage your students to pay attention to the persuasive words and techniques used in advertising, especially to print ads.

Journal Writing

Day 1: Describe a food that you had today as if you were advertising it in a magazine geared toward parents.

(Example: Cheerios. What parent doesn’t want simply the best? )

Day 2: Describe the same food in Day 1 or choose a different one and describe it as if you were advertising it in a magazine geared toward kids.

(Example: Cheerios. Eat a bowl for breakfast and your mom will let you eat a treat later! And they taste great, too!)

Day 3: Describe a current TV or radio commercial that you really like or dislike. Be specific!

Day 4: Describe your dream vacation in a few short sentences.

(Example: My dream vacation would be a summertime tour through the UK and Germany. I’d like to visit castles, cathedrals, and every famous building. I would want a lot of money and my whole family with me.)


I'd love to see what you're writing! Leave us a sample in the comments, or share your writing here. (Be sure to include which lesson you are sharing!)

Hope you enjoyed this week's WordSmithery! One more thing: if you are enjoying SmallWorld's WordSmithery, help me spread the word by copying the button below and putting it on your own blog post or your sidebar, and/or pin me on Pinterest! Thanks!

SmallWorld's WordSmithery

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

This was a lovely, relatively calm week following a fabulous fall break weekend with family.

Our co-op classes are going well. One of the classes I am co-teaching is called Mission to Mars. The classes are focused on preparing our 24 students (5th-8th graders) to do a simulated space mission at the Challenger Center in Chattanooga. Admittedly, teaching about space is out of my realm of expertise, but my co-teacher and I are finding no lack of fantastic material available, like this teachers' guide from Arizona State University's Mars education program.

Another class I am co-teaching is a literature circle with a theme of "extraordinary adventures." This past week we wrapped up The Indian in the Cupboard. As a project for the kids, we gave them a ziploc baggie containing a blank book (6 pages stapled between construction paper) and a single key, with directions to write an adventure of whatever toy they want to come to life. About half of the class read their stories on Monday, and we were so delighted. Each student had a totally different take on the project. As might be expected, the boys all had battles going on, and the girls had tales of friendship. I look forward to hearing the rest of them in the upcoming week. We will be reading through The Phantom Tollbooth over the next three weeks.

Duncan is in both of those classes and is also taking hands-on chemistry, Shakespeare, and boys game club. Laurel is taking all high-school classes (physical science, Excel and Powerpoint, health, art history, and drama) and is enjoying those for the most part. I think her favorite class is probably drama. They are doing what sounds like a very innovative production of Alice in Wonderland, and I can't wait to see their performance in January!

At home throughout the rest of the week, Laurel does all her homework for those classes as well as our Friday literature and history co-op classes and also does the dreaded math. I decided to purchase Math Mammoth's algebra 1 program to supplement Teaching Textbooks. I really like Teaching Textbooks; I just think it isn't quite thorough enough. Math Mammoth has lots of word problems, which I find lacking in TT. We haven't started Math Mammoth yet, so I'll give a progress report in a few weeks.

Duncan and I are one chapter away from finishing The Master Puppeteer. We've been working on what is sure to be a fantastic lapbook on Japan this week. I'll post the whole thing when we are done, but our favorite project this week was this bunraku theatre pop-up:

I found the template and directions for this at Ellen McHenry's Basement Workshop. This, combined with a bunraku video on youtube, really helped in understanding exactly what is going on in The Master Puppeteer. If you are doing Sonlight Core 5 (F), I highly recommend these project when you start the book!

Totally didn't do any grammar this week, but I did remember spelling. I know we are something like 6 weeks into our "new" school year, but I finally gave Duncan his spelling evaluation to see where to restart in Spelling Power. I know — I am totally lame. I plead that my kids are natural spellers, so a rigorous spelling program isn't high on my list. Still, we will be more dedicated to doing spelling each week.

The only evening activity that we had this week, amazingly, was the monthly Cub Scout pack meeting. This was the annual bike rodeo, which the boys always love.

This was Duncan's last bike rodeo, as he'll be moving up to Boy Scouts next year. He is so ready! But the bike rodeo really renewed his love of bike riding, and he asked if he could start riding around our neighborhood by himself. We live on a very busy road, but there is a quiet, fairly isolated subdivision right behind us. If we had sidewalks, we'd be fine with letting him ride; but somehow we've always been apprehensive about letting the kids ride in neighborhoods without sidewalks. I know, I know. If you live in a sleepy little town, you think we are being nuts. But we live in a busy area next to a major city, so we have lots of traffic and lots of people. And no sidewalks.

We decided to go with our free-range inclinations and let him ride, and he's been having a blast. He goes out on 4-5 bike rides each day, and he definitely concentrates better on schoolwork after a ride around a few blocks.

We ended the week with my British lit co-op class. We just finished reading and discussing Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was a challenge for all of us. Epic poetry is not my passion nor my forté, but I loved reading this along with the kids and discovering the story together. I devote half of each class period to reading and discussing literature and the other half to writing. We are still in the process of covering basic essay writing, which is a review for the majority of the students. Yesterday we discussed the compare and contrast essay, so of course we had to have three types of candy in order to discuss similarities and differences. Candy makes everyone so happy.

And that brings us to the end of this week. Next week we are taking Friday off, as my oldest will be home from college on fall break. So exciting! It's been 7 weeks since he headed back to Belmont University for his sophomore year, and that is the longest we have gone without seeing him!

Guess that means I'd better go clean out his room, which has become the storage place for all miscellaneous junk.

Linked up on the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Spring Day in 1967

My father recently bought a digital scanner, to convert slides to digital images. He has boxes and boxes of slides, holding decades of memories.

I was the girl who pored over photo albums. I knew every single photograph in every single album in our house. All those pictures were written into the story of my life, even if I, as the youngest of five siblings, wasn't part of them. And now my father is introducing me to snippets of life I have never seen.

Like my brother dressed in the same cowboy outfit that my own boys have worn. Like my mother reaching for an apple.

Like my father, holding me, kissing my hand like any father would do with his baby girl. Such a sweet, timeless moment, but it is my moment.

A few days ago I was sitting with my father in front of his computer, scrolling through newly loaded images, when this one popped up. I was struck with the projection of past on future: there we were, my father younger than I am now, and here we are today, 44 years later.

I can't stop looking at this picture now, missing that sunny, blue-sky day that I never knew, missing my father at 42. And so very, very grateful to have him still, to see him every day, to know that I have had a lifetime of my father's love.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Regrouping, Rejuvenating, Recovering

The mountains never fail to comfort my soul, to remind me to breathe deeply.

It's quiet in the hills, and easy to shake off the burden of stress.

It's good to carve out time for family, to make deliberate plans for spending time together.

To inhale October…

To celebrate a life

To catch up on all the news

It's good to be in a cabin in the woods with people you love.

May you all find a bit of peace this week.