Saturday, August 31, 2013

Aug 31, 2013::the little things

Not only am I finished grocery shopping for three weeks, I scored a gallon of the most delicious raw honey at the farmer's market today!

Not only did I score a whole gallon of honey, I am now proud the owner of a gallon ball jar...a luxury I have wanted for a few years.

Not only do I now have a lovely gallon ball jar, it is a delightful 75 degrees tonight after a sweltering week.

It's the little things...

9/1/13 Correction:: I scored a half gallon of honey, not a gallon. Wishful thinking, I guess.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Aug 30, 2013::Captain America

Allowance money spent on a shield.

We have been directed to throw things at him all night.

Drawing plans for a full costume.

Dare I hope that attention may be averted to something besides waterlines, bulk heads, and icebergs?

Be careful what I wish for, I know...


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Aug 29, 2013::a memory in a meadow

Last week I was catching up on some blogs I follow. Ginny, from Small Things, posted about one of her favorite children's books, We Were Tired of Living in a House, by Doris Burn. In the end, she lamented the fact that the book is no longer in print, but that another book by the same author is available and worth a read...Andrew Henry's Meadow.

As soon as I read the name of this book, memories came flooding back...memories of the book, and especially the illustrations.

I have no memory of the circumstances surrounding me reading this book. Did I own it or borrow it from the library. Did I read it over and over or did I just love it so much that one time that it stuck with me all these years? I have no idea.

But I do remember the illustrations. Every detail. Oh, how I wanted to jump right into the pages!

You see, Andrew Henry was a "Maker" before "Makers" were cool. Left alone with his creativity, he built contraptions all over the house. His parents and siblings found his hobby silly and annoying. With nowhere else to work, he packed his tools and some supplies and headed off to a meadow he knew; one where he could build a house of his own.

Oh how I wanted to live in that house!

Then, other kids start showing up...with the trappings of their own inconvenient, messy hobbies. Birds, drums, boats, and frogs. Andrew Henry built each new kid a place of his or her own. A place to be themselves.

The end is very satisfying for someone like myself, who still dreams of running away and having a little place to just make something.

And now, I am blessed with a son whose projects cover every flat surface in the house.

We put a dining room table in his new room. It is covered with just-begun Lego models, and paint brushes caked in watercolors, and boats modeled from play dough.

Just today (maybe inspired by Andrew Henry), I set up a studio in the garage where his projects can stay when in progress and his plans can be drawn and left up for quick reference.

Right now there is a cardboard Titanic in progress in the living room, a pile of paper icebergs in the den, a
model begun on the design software on my computer, and he is quietly sketching lifeboats in the sun room as I write.

I bought the book as a little gift for myself. I still daydream about the eagle's cage in the living room and the merry-go-round made from a sewing machine. I shared the story with my little maker. He claimed the book as his own.

My fantasy life Andrew Henry is real...and I love it. Maybe I will build my own place in his meadow.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Aug 28, 2013::namaste

The light in me is the same as the light in you and we are as one.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Aug 27, 2013::in our backyard

We now live in a wooded neighborhood, and our backyard is just chock full of fun things to explore. Brice calls them "Nature Surprises."

Lots of giant garden spiders, huge squirrels, bats at dusk, a pair of hawks...

Oak trees with lovely, large acorns. A buckeye tree full of good luck charms.

Cicada shells. Katydids. New insects to meet, such as our resident Praying Mantis. 

Roses of all shades. Turk's Cap Lilies. Wisteria vines and new flowers coming into bloom each week.

There seems to be so much more happening out there than in our old backyard. We have so enjoyed it already. We've started a nature table to house our little treasures. 

One day's booty...should be quite a collection as time goes on...


Monday, August 26, 2013

Aug 25 & 26, 2013:: to the beach

Though it is still in the high 80s around here most days, most summer activities officially end after Labor Day next weekend. This includes most outdoor swimming opportunities. We had talked about checking out the Lake Michigan beaches all summer, but had never taken the time to do so. Last day to swim at most locations coincides with the upcoming holiday as well.

On a whim, yesterday, we decided to head north.

We spent the day picnicking and swimming at the Indiana Dunes State Park. It was so crowded, but fun. So many others had the same idea. 

We enjoyed the beautiful horizon and sand castle building.

Embree and Reeves missed the crashing waves of the Atlantic, but keeping an eye on our littlest fish was certainly easier.

All in all, it was a fun day. I think the experience was akin to eating a veggie burger. Approaching a veggie burger as if it will be the same as a Big Mac is just foolish and will bring disappointment in every bite. Accepting that veggie version on its on terms offers something new and potentially satisfying in its own right. (Yeah, I must be hungry)

If you go...With just a cursory look for directions, I missed the fact that there is actually a state park and a national park. The night before, I had read about a tour through a quaking bog and a cool educational center. These were at the Indiana Dunes National Seashore. In the morning, I accidentally pulled up directions to the state park. We didn't realize my mistake until we had paid to get in for the day. We just went with it, though, and took a few minutes as we left to drive through the other park a bit. Looks like we have an addition to our field trip list...just a great excuse to head back up there soon.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Aug 24, 2013::visitor

Embree captured a photo of a very elusive resident on Bagley Drive...


Friday, August 23, 2013

Aug 23, 2013::back to basics

When I went to the library with the kids this week, I checked out my usual stash of nonfiction books for myself. Libraries are like candy stores for me and it is often difficult to stop myself from checking out as many books as my limit will allow.

As I walked up to the circulation desk, I spied a copy of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers, a book that I have seen mentioned several times on blogs I follow. On a whim, I added it to my pile.

When I opened it to begin reading last night, I realized that I have not read a hard copy, an actual paper and ink piece of fiction, in over a year.

I have read a few novels on the Kindle, but no sounds of pages turning, bindings creaking, or the reluctant thump of a closing cover at the end of a satisfying read.

Maybe I tend forward nonfiction because I am perpetually in need of "making progress." Maybe it's because it takes no emotional commitment when I am busy. Maybe it's because spending money and time on a reference book seems more economical than on a one-time fiction read.

Maybe I tend toward purchases on the Kindle because I can keep them longer than a library book and possessing a book is more valuable to me than any other treasure, even if it is in virtual form. Maybe it is easier to read late into the night by the light of a screen than the bedside lamp ( not to mention, I can make the text large enough so that I don't need my glasses). Maybe it's because I already have more books than I have space for and hate to give them up once they enter my library. 

Whatever the reasons, I had somehow forgotten the pleasure of getting lost in story and character and paper and ink.

I have no idea if this story will be one I will remember forever. I do know, though, that reading a real book is the first step in that journey back to caring for myself. It's  an important part of who I am.

Of course, there is a new stack of nonfiction...a beginners guide to beekeeping, a cookbook by Gordon Ramsey, a book about nutrition for picky eaters...that's part of me too. 
Looking forward to getting back to the story.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Aug 21 & 22, 2013::scheduling a homeschool and a life

Yeah, right! I have worked six years to schedule around homeschooling my kids. Meaning, I have tried to have some semblance of a professional life while homeschooling. I continued to act as artistic director for the children's theatre. I continued to serve on the board of directors of the community theatre. I continued to teach in the theatre department at the local college. 

It was rewarding and creative and exhausting. It was nice to have that little bit of extra income to help pay for holiday gifts and curriculum, too. Homeschooling never seemed to be enough of a task for a variety of reasons that are too complicated to include in this short post. Suffice it to say, I have allowed myself to fall victim to guilt for working outside the home and shame for not working outside the home. Ah, the energy I have wasted allowing these feelings to color my self worth. But, again, that's not why I am writing today.

By the time we moved I was looking forward to a bit of time when my sole focus was on homeschool. No pressure to finish before class or rehearsal. No trying to plan a lesson for the college class when Brice wanted help to paint. No sewing costumes during Math. No grading research papers instead of taking the kids to Park Day.

So, now the house is pretty much unpacked. The kids are settled into their routines. Our days are seldom too busy to handle it all. We are not rushed. I can give undivided attention to anyone who needs or wants it. It is a gift. And has the potential to allow the kids so many more learning opportunities...time for rabbit trails...time for field trips...time for changes in plans if something isn't working.

There is the potential, too, to care for myself. I finally have time, if I choose to use it.
Experimenting in the kitchen. 
Time with Todd. 
Time with grown-ups when I am not in charge. 
Art...yes please. 

Now that I have time, I have to resist outside obligations that suck up that little bit of self care opportunity I have missed for so long. So, my schedule is evolving. 

Time will tell what I actually allow myself to get away with.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Aug 20, 2013::high school scheduling

Embree started her high school studies this year. That and the fact that she is a night owl, make it really necessary for her to be in control of her own schedule.

Up until this year, she has insisted that I plan her days and give her a checklist. 

This year, with some guidance from me when she needs it, I have insisted that she start to think about creating her own plans for completing her work. I have agreed to give her weekly assignments on Monday mornings if she will create her own plan for completing everything by Friday. This week and last, I have helped her in her planning until she has an idea of just what each subject entails. Last weekend she had homework for the first time in our six years of homeschooling. It was a good lesson for her in budgeting her time.

So, I can't share a detailed schedule for Embree's ninth grade year. 

My best guess it that she will have weekly sessions of...
Math, English, French, Speech, Marine Science, Health/PE mingled with walks with her dog, FaceTime with friends, mid morning coffee, and late night cereal, a little shopping, and, soon, dates with friends.

We haven't been in Kokomo long enough for her to have many activities planned outside of home. That will come, and because of her natural rhythm in opening up to friends, she will have some time to adjust to it all gradually.

She is doing well so far, and her dad and I can both see that she will surely be ready to head out into the world after high school, wherever her dreams take her.

Proud Mama and Papa.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Aug 18 & 19, 2013::scheduling a gamer

Reeves is our gamer. 

He would, and has, spent days on end on a computer. He plays Minecraft, ToonTown, Wizard 101. He would love to play others, but we've yet to OK the more violent games. He is just ten, after all. 

If he isn't on a computer, he swipes my iPad and plays Clash of Clans or some other game that always seems to need attention in some kingdom far, far away...or there's always the archaic, but old standby, Nintendo DS. And if it isn't handheld or laptop, it's some amusement on the Wii or Xbox. It is constant, for sure.

We have tried many means of curbing his screen time. Schedules and time allotments have to be monitored and complete bans are accompanied by incessant begging. I hate playing prison guard, so we have struggled with this for a few years. 

So, how does one help a gamer schedule his lessons around his play? 

Additionally, how does a parent encourage a gamer to get out and see the world instead of focusing only on Skype buddies and imaginary worlds?

For starters, we try to remember...
1) there are learning opportunities involved in gaming
And 2) there are lucrative jobs available in gaming and computer technology

But we also, in my opinion, have an obligation to teach a gamer to 
write well (even if the ultimate goal is technical writing), 
speak well (pitches for new ideas), 
problem solve (duh!), 
and do a little math ( 0s and 1s are very important). 

Ideally, I would like to expose him to the outside world if for no other reason than to gather ideas for his imaginary ones.

This year, he and I have negotiated a suitable schedule for both our desires. If we can keep it going, I think we will both feel satisfied with how Reeves spends his time.

Reeves - Gr 6

AM - Reeves gets up, unloads the dishwasher, eats breakfast, and helps me walk the dogs. Then he has a little playing time until I wake up his brother and sister for breakfast.

Mid AM - we begin lessons by 10am and he only gets on a screen for specifically related reasons until all of the day's work is complete. 

Lunch- lately, he has been taking his basketball to the neighbor's court to shoot during lunch. I am THRILLED that he is out moving around happily. I usually let him stay as long as he wants.

PM- he usually finishes up by 2 or 2:30. This year, he really seems willing to think about what he is studying, instead of just trying to rush through to check off a box. Perhaps my relaxation has sparked a little in him, too.

Late PM - screen time until dinner 

After Dinner- screen time, unless there is a family activity planned (skating, walking, other). Actually, as I write this at 8pm, he is again shooting baskets. :)

10pm off screen and he and Todd read aloud before he calls it a night. He is always the first member of the family to sleep. No fights there.

This week, on Wednesday, he will have completed a project that will allow him to buy a new video game. Today, he decided that he would complete three days of lessons on Monday and Tuesday, so that he could spend Wednesday on the new game. 

Why not? Right? Obligations complete. Isn't that a great life lesson for later? 

As with all parenting decisions...time will tell.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aug 16 and 17, 2013::scheduling our learning

I used to be a stickler for scheduling in our homeschool. When we began six years ago, we started at a certain time every morning, took scheduled breaks, finished certain subject before and after lunch, and all school work had to be completed before personal activities.

Wow! I loathe the idea of that plan as I reread that description. 

I thought the kids needed to "deschool" gradually by having a heavily structured school at home. What did I know? After all, I had been trained as a public school teacher. Over half the classes I had taken in both graduate and undo radiate school were in management of time and learning, rather than in methods of teaching. To manage 25 kids in a classroom, there has to be structure, but did We really need that in our wee little class of three?

As we have grown into this chosen path, we have relaxed a little every year. So, while we do set a curriculum for ourselves, with goals for each week, quarter, and year, we are far more relaxed, these days, about how each person approaches those goals.

Brice - Grade 1

Brice is very self directed and ALWAYS has an agenda of his own for the day. Last year, that did not include reading instruction. He was learning in so many other ways, I let that wait instead of forcing him to sit through it and hate it. This year, he is open to it in small doses. He is busy, busy, and really loves to learn new things, including asking about words that are related to his interests. He's getting there, AND he enjoys it. Win!

His day looks something like...
AM: Self directed projects: building with Legos or other "making," documentaries, brain pop movies of choice, drawing, cooking with me.
Mid AM: Short reading session, language arts discussions, listening to a chapter of our read aloud - Whew, all that out of the way.
Lunchtime: an hour or so of more self direction
Mid PM: Math, Writing, Science, History...subjects he really enjoys
Late PM: More self direction, including outside play
Bedtime: More reading instruction in the form of books on CD, or books read together in bed

I will be sharing the schedules for the rest of us this week. Reeves is pretty well settled in this year. Embree's schedule is coming into focus for us. They are all three so different and work in such vastly different ways. It's a challenge to accommodate, but I have high hopes this year. More to come...


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Aug 15, 2012::Midwest moment

Todd and I laugh sometimes about the new ways of life we encounter here. Things are very similar to what we are used to, but every now and then there is something that reminds us we really are in a whole new region of our country. 

We call this a "Midwest Moment."

For example, there is a magazine called Midwest Living here. I think it is a great way to get to know cultural specialties in this and surrounding states. Todd found it so odd because we are used to the magazine called Southern Living. It has been a staple in both our households since we were kids. Nothing Earth shattering, but just a reminder.

This picture is another of our Midwest Moments...of course we've seen corn before...but there is A LOT of corn here...and it is FLAT...flat enough to allow for these awesome wind turbines. They are truly a sight to behold up close. Very cool.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Aug 14, 2013::Prana

I can't explain my contentment with this new home of ours. 

Maybe it is prana, energy, life. 

I don't know and don't really need an explanation.

I haven't felt it as strongly in a home before. 

It's like a sanctuary for our little family and I am grateful.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Aug 13, 2013::lend me a hand

Wishin' they had one of these for me...but wouldn't it be called a walker then??
Feelin' old.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Aug 12, 2013::old dog

Moving is hard on everyone, but especially an old dog. Vegas has always gotten a little antsy when the suitcases came out. Every time I start making a pile by the door, she stands right there, making sure we don't forget her. 

Imagine her horror when we packed up the entire house and piled it by the door...and that pile grew and grew bigger and bigger for weeks!! By moving week she was refusing to go out to the bathroom, unless I went along, afraid I would leave while she was out.

Worst of all, the weekend before the movers came, we brought her and Patty to the empty new house and I went back to Kentucky. Todd was here at night, but her worst nightmare had come true. She had been left behind. Poor Vegas.

Now, after being here almost three weeks, she is just to the point that she will sit across the room from me. Until a few days ago, she was under my feet all day. She still follows me room to room, but she will sleep soundly now and then while I work. 

I think she is beginning to see that we are all here to stay. She's a sweet old thing.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Aug 11, 2013::reading lists

We start school tomorrow.
Our seventh year of homeschooling.
Usually, I would write - We Start School Tomorrow!!! :)

No one is really ready this year, even me.

I attribute my own malaise with the lack of rest this summer, the fact that I have only been working on plans for a week, and the great restraint I have shown in the purchase of school supplies this year!

That trip to the school supply aisle always gets my back to school excitement flowing. In the move, I discovered enough basic supplies stored away that we really don't need anything new. Oh well. Brice did ask for some glue sticks. I brought him a modest stash of glue, paint, and drawing paper today. The fact that he disappeared into his room for a couple of hours of painting did give me hope that our lessons will be fun this year.

I have hope that a calm attitude on my part will get us off to a good start tomorrow. I will try to remember that we've all had a very unusual summer and may need a slow start. OK.

Now, moving straight away from relaxed and our reading goals for the year. They are ambitious, especially for Embree. We'll get as far as we get. A few novels completed well, with meaningful writing assignments,
will be the ultimate goal. Quality over quantity.


Backroad School
Literature/Reading Lists

Grade 1- Brice
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread), DiCamillo
26 Fairmount Avenue, DiPaola
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl
Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht (Diary Histories),Platt
Poppy, Avi  
Capyboppy, Peet
Tales from the Odyssey, Part 1 and 2, Osborne
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, Andrews Edwards
The House at Pooh Corner, Milne  
Charlotte's Web, White
Nim's Island, Orr
The Thieves of Ostia, Lawrence
Baby, Maclachlan

Grade 6- Reeves
Greek Mythology, Various Sources
The Iliad & The Odyssey, Homer
Julius Caesar, Shakespeare
The Hobbit, Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Tolkien
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain
Poetry of Shakespeare, Byron, Wordsworth, Kipling, Hughes, Johnson, Dickinson, Longfellow, Poe, Austin, Frost, Dunbar, Carryl, Angelou

Grade 9- Embree
Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee
Shorts Stories by Edgar Allen Poe
Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare
Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck
The Color Purple, Walker
Black Boy, Wright
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass
Wuthering Heights, Bronte
Don Quixote, Cervantes
Diana: Her True Story, Morton
All the President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein

The Odyssey, Homer

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Aug 10, 2013::morning view

Just dropping by to say, "hello" and share a photo of my morning view from our sunroom. 
Tonight I sat out there and played Bunco with the boys until after dark. 
It's a nice little quiet space in our new home, and the blessing isn't lost on us.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Aug 9, 2013::new ideas

Innovation and creativity are not equal to neat and tidy. 

So be it.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Aug 8, 2013::2013-2014 Course of Study

We are starting school next week around these parts. I have been working to get our lessons ready this week and missing the usual month of leisure I have to work on it each summer. I am trying to give the kids more freedom in choosing classes and scheduling their time. Embree has had quite a bit of input in her course of study this year. I hope that will pay off with an enjoyable year for her.

Though I am trying to ease up on the "school at home" notion, I am still finding it more comforting to plan each course for the entire year, completing a scope and sequence and schedule for completion. We may deviate as we go, and I am perfectly willing to chase rabbits when someone has an interest, but it gives me a guide for keeping us on track. I am a sprinter (metaphorically), not a marathoner. Spending this intense concentration of time at the beginning of each year, saves me having to keep at it all year and allows me to spend time involved with the kids instead of planning all year.

So, in the interest of supporting myself and, in turn, the kids, we have the following 2013-2014 course of study.

Grade 1

Grade 6
  • Language Arts, Science, Arts, History/Geography ::Homeschool Learning Network, Language Arts 6
  • Writing::Writing With Skill 1, Peace Hill Press (again with the Susan Wise Baur repertoire)
  •, Grade 6
  • Health and PE:: Various sources and living books
  • Nature Study::Opening the World through Nature Journaling, California Native Plant Society
  • Reading::Various Living Books corresponding with other studies and interest-led topics
  • Special Topics::Various Reeves-led topics throughout the year. First topic - Cooking lessons! Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything App for the iPad.

Grade 9
  • English 9::Homeschool Learning Network, Grade 9 Language Arts 
  • Pre-Algebra, Marine Science:: Parallel Alternative Strategies for Students (PASS), Florida Department of Education 
  • Elementary French I, American English Speech (Quarter 1), and Argument Diagramming (Quarter 2) ::Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative 
  • Arts (Drama, Acting Lessons and/or participation in theatre production) (Quarter 3)::Various sources 
  • Health and PE (Quarter 4)::Various sources
  • Nature Study/Journaling::Opening the World Through Nature Journaling, California Native Plant Society
Now off for a slow three day weekend before we crack the books...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Aug 7, 2013::deeper

Brice spied a red canoe today when we were shopping for a new pair of sneakers for him. He was fascinated, running his hands over the bow and stern, checking out the waterline and the underbelly. 

Since then, about noon, he has talked nonstop about buying a canoe to put on the New River, near our Farm in North Carolina. He has plans to take the boys at the end of our street, and I have instructions on how to make and when to launch a makeshift iceberg for them to hit.

He has written (or at least dictated) a script, with dialogue for each passenger during the voyage and ultimate sinking of the vessel. He has acted each person's part for me multiple times, refining it each time.

He has made diagrams of the outing and even counted all the money in his piggy bank to figure out how much more he needs to purchase the canoe. 

He informed me he needed a pair of "noculars" so the look out could watch for icebergs. I pulled out an old pair I had salvaged from our recent purge. He was thrilled. They are now on a safe shelf awaiting their role in the day.

We have moved from learning and building to performance art...just when I thought he couldn't take the Titanic any deeper...pun intended.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Aug 5&6, 2013::covered up

I am just covered up in school prep right now. I usually take the entire month of July to plan our year, but the move has caused my planning time to dwindle to one week. 

Between prepping, daily chores, trying to get a little exercise, and trying to finish settling into the house, I got nothing to share on the least nothing that involves much besides curriculum. I will share our plan for the year, but it is still a jumbled mess in my brain today. 

I did go to get my Indiana driver's license today...and had to take a written test!!! I passed!

And we went skating with the kids tonight. I haven't been on roller skates in thirty years. It is NOT like getting back on a bike. One does forget! I will likely be sore tomorrow.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Aug 4, 2013::life's a roller coaster

Life = roller coaster
Do you ride in the first, second, or third row?


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Aug 2, 2013::a pie for Embree

Though we have eaten enough pie this week to last us for many months, one of us has been left out of the glutinous frenzy. Because Embree is allergic to nuts, she can't eat pie from the local shops because of the danger of cross contamination. Even though the bakers are super careful, she can't take a chance. Embree is generally a good sport about it all, but I think this week has been a bit much. So Emma decided we should make Embree a pie she could enjoy safely. Very sweet.

Tonight, it became a group effort. Tomorrow, I am sure Embree will have pie for breakfast. 


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Aug 1, 2013::eating well

Maybe eating well isn't the correct choice of words. We are enjoying our meals this week with Nana and Poppy. 

Indiana pie tour- strawberry rhubarb, blackberry, coconut cream, sweet cream, and lemon meringue.

Tonight, was antipasto night.

Next week we eat salads!