Friday, February 28, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

Happenings in our own small world these past few weeks:

Something new: our teen group had a volunteer training session at our county's animal shelter. My kids now desperately want to volunteer there. Laurel, who is 16, can volunteer there on her own, but Duncan (13) must have an adult with him. Honestly? I don't really want to volunteer at the animal shelter. I am hoping his Dad, who would love to do this, will work this out with him somehow!

Something in progress: Laurel is still working on writing up her final project description for her Stars and Stripes project for American Heritage Girls. She finished the project itself in January, but other things keep coming up and preempting the final report writing. She's sooo close!

Something new I've taught: I've had my English Prep (middle school English) class do an approach paper this year, which I've never done before. I've gotten lots of positive feedback from the parents saying that they love this exercise. For me as a teacher of these future high schoolers, I have found it to be a fantastic preparation tool for writing literary analysis papers. I broke it up into three parts and am looking forward to seeing what the kids turn in next week as their final drafts.

Something useful: My awesome roundtable buddy and I just facilitated a roundtable for our support group called "The Middle School Years." It was quite well attended and we got some good feedback from it. We had a few other moms there who have homeschooled middle and high school with their kids and had some great suggestions and insight. I love roundtable discussions, love the feeling that maybe we are providing some encouragement and help.

Something awesome: I just wrapped up a unit on The Book Thief  with my World Lit class, and my class made the most awesome projects. Check out my post Teaching the Book Thief: Repurposed Pages.  Here's just one example:

Something sweet: my daughter and her date for the annual black-and-white dance. She's so pretty. She almost makes me want to be 16 again. Almost.

Something happy: Our oldest is home from college on spring break. Yes, I know it is still February. go figure. I'm just happy to have him home.

And besides all that, life goes on as usual in our homeschool for the most part: reading, writing, lots of algebra (1 and 2), chemistry, languages (French and German), and all the bits and pieces that make up our lovely life at home.

How're things in your neck of the woods? Link up at the Weekly Wrap-Up!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Teaching The Book Thief: Repurposed Pages

Because The Book Thief movie was recently released, I decided to include the book as part of my World Literature class this year. I am so glad I did! Most of the kids absolutely loved this book, and we had fantastic discussions, ranging from Hitler Youth to banned books to the incredible power of words.

The Book Thief is all about words and books, hatred and beauty, death and the capacity for survival. I found lots of activities on the internet for this unit, but my favorite came from The Picky Girl, who ripped pages out of a book, handed each student a page, and had him or her repurpose the page in some way. I tweaked her plan to better fit my classroom, and I was absolutely thrilled with the results.

At home, I ripped pages out of a book. This was a little hard for me to do, particularly after a riveting discussion we had in class about book burning. Some kids maintained that it was OK to burn books that were of no value to them, some said that it was never OK to destroy a book, and a few said they didn't care either way. Oh, and several insisted that if there was a zombie apocalypse, they would not hesitate to burn a book for fuel or use it for toilet paper.

I will confess that it was a Chicken Soup for the Soul book out of which I ripped pages, and it really wasn't that hard to do. (The greater problem for me was pondering why we even had one on our bookshelf.) I ripped the pages out ahead of time rather than doing it for shock value in front of the class. I didn't think they would be particularly shocked, and also I needed to make sure that the pages were G-rated. (Censorship while teaching a book about words. I know.)

In class I handed each student a page with these instructions:

Your assignment this week, besides finishing the novel, is to repurpose your book page.
The Book Thief is largely a book about the power of words: how words can harm, heal, destroy, or build up. How words can be manipulated, ignored, reclaimed for a different purpose, grasped, and cherished. Max, for example, makes something beautiful out of Mein Kampf.
Writers use a variety of techniques to bring their written words alive for the reader. Zusak particularly uses a lot of similes, metaphors, and personification to hit his readers with vivid images.

Your job is to take a quote from the novel and interpret it creatively from your mind’s eye onto paper. You don’t have to be artistic at all. You can do this in a variety of ways. For example:
• paint over the page like Max did, write the quote, and use some kind of visual illustration. This can be your own drawing or something you cut out from a different source and attach to the page.
• black out words on the page except ones that have to do with your quote. Put the quote on the page in some way.
• Use your page as a frame for the quote, or cut your page out into an image.

#1 Rule: don’t be silly. I really want to see what kind of connections you can make with a quote, a page of words, and your knowledge of the book. Below are several quotes, but you absolutely can use other quotes or phrases from the book.

I included about 20 quotes from the book as ideas, but, as I said in the directions, they could choose their own quotes from the book. I had to include the "don't be silly" part because, well, I knew that one or two would consider this to be a blow-off assignment. 

Here are just a few of their pages:

Instead of using the page, this one took an old dictionary and repurposed it.

This little book actually opens and has a story for the book in it. How cute is that?


How awesome is this? He used his guitar as a canvas for the page. And this is a kid who says he really doesn't like reading.

I was positively thrilled with the results. Most of the kids put a lot of thought and creativity into the project. I wanted them to have a hands-on experience with how words can be manipulated, highlighted, and played with, and they totally pulled through.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Winter Pinteresting Finds

Pinterest is an amazing tool! For the most part, I am really good about not getting sucked into it. I try to use it practically, especially for food. Here are some favorites and a not-so-favorite this winter:

Thumbs-up Finds:

Crusty Bread: This really was so easy and so delicious. My problem would be remembering to make it in the morning so that it's ready by supper. Also, you have to make sure that you bake it long enough or the insides will be a little undone. But it was fabulous!

Bite-sized Greek appetizers: Little bites of deliciousness. I made these for my friend Donna's 40th birthday bash and people gobbled them up. I made half with olives and half without. I am a big fan of olives, but next time I'll leave them off since the non-olive ones were devoured much faster. Very easy to make.

Gumbo: This is a fantastic gumbo recipe that I discovered when I had sausage and shrimp and not much else in the refrigerator. I didn't have chicken or okra, and I used a few tablespoons of tomato paste instead of stewed tomatoes. It was perfect.

Candle in a tea cup: My daughter and her friends always exchange Christmas gifts, and lately they've been challenging each other to make rather than buy gifts. I thought her tea-cup candles were adorable! She bought most of the tea cups at thrift stores.

Writing prompts. I am a collector of writing prompts, but this is a particularly original site filled with hundreds of ideas. I used this extensively for this semester's journal assignments.

Boston Cream Poke Cake: I made this for myself for my birthday. I know! It really isn't as bad as it sounds. Both my husband and daughter offered to make my cake but our timing was just weird that day. It was good, but not amazing. I probably won't make it again.


Spicy Whole Roasted Cauliflower. Ew. This has been all over Pinterest and Facebook, and I have no idea what everyone is raving about. We love cauliflower at our house—but not this way! Give me roasted cauliflower with olive oil and sea salt any day. The spices were overpowering, and the cauliflower was undercooked, even though I roasted it for an extra 15 or 20 minutes.

My top three most often pinned posts:
What College Profs Wish Freshmen Knew
Ultimate Guide to Creative Writing Resources for Students
 SmallWorld's WordSmithery: Free Creative Writing Lessons

Come and see how other bloggers at iHomeschool Network are using Pinterest this summer! You can link up your own flips and flops there, too. And if you don't already, be sure and follow me on Pinterest for food, homeschooling, great books, travel, and decorating stuff, too!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's the Carnival of Homeschooling!

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling! I'm glad you're visiting here at SmallWorld at Home. Let me introduce myself for those who are new here. I'm halfway through my 14th year of homeschooling, currently with an 8th grade son and an 11th grade daughter. Our oldest son—who was homeschooled all the way through— is finishing his senior year in college.

But enough about me; you're here for the Carnival! We have a little something for everyone on this homeschooling journey with this carnival, from kindergarten to college. And here in the South we actually some real snow this year, so I'm including lots of snowman photos from fellow local homeschoolers. For some of these kids, this was their first snowman-building experience. Just a few days after our big snow, we have daffodils starting to pop up. Such is life in the South.

I think we all love reading "Day in the Life" posts. Cynthia from Our Journey Westward shares A Typical Day in Our Charlotte Mason Homeschool.

In a similar vein, Blossom of North Laurel Home and School shares 5 Reasons I Love CM Education. She explains that it's "By no means an exhaustive list of reasons, but it's a good start for me."

Speaking of "Day in the Life" posts, be sure to check out the contributors over at Simple Homeschool! You can peek into the lives of nearly a dozen homeschooling families of varying ages and styles. And if that isn't enough for you, you can add your own post and read nearly 100 more on the yearly Day-in-the-Life link-up!

Sometimes homeschooling moms need a little comfort in the midst of our daily lives, right? Jamie of MomSCHOOL shares her recipe for Sugar Free Healthy Salted Caramel Mocha Creamer. What a treat!

Beef stew and beer bread! Just in time for March, Ticia has a unit study on Ireland and Saint Patrick with Around the World in 12 Dishes: Ireland Adventures in Mommydom posted at Adventures in Mommydom.

Exploring the family genealogy with kids is a great way for young people to learn about their history and understand the world. Kids love to hear about their own family history. Eva Varga shares her thoughts on Genealogy with Kids at Academia Celestia.

How do non- or emergent readers remember talking points for speeches? Pam Barnhill presents Presentation Notes for Non-Readers posted at everyday snapshots.

Celeste presents her second post in a series about homeschooling with little ones alongside in Schooling with Littles: Our Morning Basket posted at Joyous Lessons.

Laurie Bluedorn of Trivium Pursuit lists her Top 10 Favorite Read-Alouds — and warns that you'll have trouble finding them.  Sounds like a challenge!

Becki Hogan at Running With Team Hogan reviews one of her new favorite family games, Word on the Street. She says that with its little price tag, it's better than going to see a movie. And her six-year-old animal lover compiled his Resources for animal-lovers also!

Do relaxed homeschoolers have a bad reputation? Jen of Forever, For Always…No Matter What emphasizes in Relaxed Homeschool, Not Lazy Homeschool that while some may equate "relaxed" with "lazy" homeschooling, she looks as it as "Happy Mom Homeschooling."

If your homeschool feels strained, it could be that too much emphasis is being put on "next, next, next" and you haven’t sufficiently enjoyed "having achieved." Julie of my favorite writing resource, A Brave Writer's Life in Brief , muses on this process in It's not learning, it's having learned.

Becky Hogan says she loves to teach the kids things like grammar and art through fun books. She presents Parts of Speech: learning through fun books and Art Fraud Detective posted at Running With Team Hogan.

Winter is traditionally science fair season! Science fairs are great ways for kids to learn more about a topic and gain confidence in speaking. Find out how to set up a simple science fair for co-ops at Aspired Living!

It's never too early to get them ready for that science fair! Jamie of Online Education for Kids gives ideas for Teaching Kindergarten Science.

One of my favorite ways to teach science has always been through nature journaling. As Eva Varga says, "with intentional teaching of how to use a nature journal, children can walk away with life-skills that encourage scientific and aesthetic observations, creative and technical writing, perception and analysis, questioning, synthesis, focus, self-expression, and reflection." She gives tips for Keeping a Nature Journal: Getting Started in 5 Exercises at Academia Celestia.

And perfect in keeping with our snowman theme, Colleen Leonard presents The Physics of a Snow Day!! posted at Sola Gratia Mom. On the next snow day, think of all the learning that your kids can do! There is plenty to discuss about physics while playing.

Becki Hogan at Running With Team Hogan  has all kinds of ideas for science experiments!
Making plasma in the microwave
Testing acids and bases with red cabbage juice
Making your own electromagnet
Properties of light series

Janine of Why Homeschool writes about some of her recent experiences with the local public school in Homeschooling and my relationship with my neighborhood school.

Are you entering the high school years? We've got lots of good discussion in this week's carnival. First, Leah Courtney presents How In the World Do I Teach High School Math?!! posted at As We Walk Along the Road.

Shelly of There's No Place Like Home shares how she plans to approach an accredited diploma while still using an interest-led curriculum in her post Navigating the Red Tape Part 3: Our Path to an Accredited Diploma.

In Time Management for Teens, Heidi of Starts at Eight shares her method for helping her teen learn to manage her time. As she writes, "Entering high school has brought many changes about for my teenager. One of the big changes is the need for teaching time management for teens to her. It is an important life skill she will need not only in high school and college, but in the workplace and at home in her adult life."

So many homeschooling families send their teens to school because they are afraid that homeschooling will spoil their chances at college or university.  Annie Kate of Tea Time with Annie Kate reviews Setting the Records Straight by Lee Binz, a book that helps empower parents to homeschool their teens.

Here's more great help for high schoolers: Jamie of Let's Homeschool High School provides a Homeschooler's Guide to Teaching HighSchool Foreign Language. Fantastic information!

Speaking of college and teens, have you seen my series on What College Professors Wish Freshmen Knew? These posts stem from a fabulous panel of four local faculty members talking about their experiences with freshmen—and what makes them successful.

But what if your teen doesn't choose to go to college? Judy at Contented at Home discusses this in Preparing for a Career Without College.

That's it for this week's Carnival! Thanks for BHEA members for permission to use their awesome snowman pictures, in order of appearance: Karen M., Jen M., Karen D., Kate C., Amy R., my guys, Rebekah S., and Tae'lor J. Thanks to the Cates for organizing this fantastic resource each week and for all the bloggers for participating. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of homeschooling using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Southern Snow Magic

Every winter a loss lurks in my heart, lodged in memory: I miss for my children a perfect snow, the snow that seems impossible in the south but is part of my fiber as a Northerner. 

I miss for them, on a much shallower level, the way you sweat when you pull on long underwear, snowpants, wool socks, and snowboots. I miss for them the humiliating Wonder Bread wrappers secured with rubberbands under those snowboots.

But every single winter what I really lament is that they won't remember what it is like to be surrounded in the stillness of a perfect snowy night. And finally, last night, after 15 years in the South, we got it.

It was beautiful. For hours and hours and hours the snow came down and finally covered the grass and then piled up, inch by inch. In my hometown, that was winter and it lasted forever and ever and ever. Here, it is magic. 

And finally, my children know the pure beauty of a perfect snow night, when everything is quiet and the glow of the streetlights makes the world seem unblemished. You forget the brown underneath. You forget the debris and the miscellaneous plastic objects scattered about. The junk.

Although I grew up in snow country, I remember only a few perfect snows. 
* Age 10 on Castle Street, when my father and I walked in the middle of the street at night, way past my bedtime, and the snow came down thick and lovely. 
* A drive out to our lake property on Christmas Day so that my Dad and brothers could sail: red boat, gray lake, fat white flakes falling all around them.
* Many years later, a moonlight ski on the country club's golf course, when the snow was thick and fluffy and my mother and father skied silently ahead of me, full of joy.
* My senior year in high school when we had a rare snow day, and my boyfriend Michael picked me up for a drive, and all the evergreens were heavy with March snow. We couldn't believe our good fortune.

You just want memories like that for your children, the kind that stick with them forever, the kind they take out for comfort when they are sad or lonely, when they miss something and don't quite know what it is they miss.

The kind they carry with them into their own lives and cling to, remembering the way the snow looked in the glow of the streetlight and how they were utterly immersed in joy.