Friday, July 31, 2009

American History: Year 2

You know what? A lot happened in the United States between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. That's why we only covered a little over 100 years of American History in the past year.

This long blog post details our first year of American History. And you can find almost all of the books I've listed below here at my own store. As I explain there, I decided last year to make some adjustments to my beloved Sonlight material to better match my younger two children, who just finished 2nd and 6th grades. As I explained in that post, I dropped the spine Sonlight offers for American History: The Landmark History of the American People. We also dropped a few others and added in more hands-on activities. We used Peter Marshall’s The Light and the Glory and began his From Sea to Shining Sea in place of the Landmark History. This year we added Landmark back in very lightly and will use it more seriously in the upcoming year.

Yes, we have one year left of American History because I really can't see squeezing another 100 years into just a few months. (I am SO going to be ready for Sonlight 5, my very favorite core, after three years of being so US-centric!)

We left off last year after the Revolutionary War, moving westward. And so Lewis and Clark was a good place to start. You'll notice that I did the Civil War before we did the Oregon Trail and westward expansion. I felt as if the transition straight from slavery to the Civil War was more meaningful than breaking and heading off into the West, so we backtracked a bit after the war. It made more sense to me, and I don't think it matters in the scheme of things.

Year 2, Unit 1: Lewis and Clark
(Here is a post that details our whole Lewis and Clark unit, but I'll list the resources here as well.)
The Story of the USA: Chapters 4 & 5
Salt dough map of their trail and other activities from various resources below
Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words (by George Sullivan)
Scholastic Lewis and Clark activity book
Lewis and Clark for Kids
The Great Expedition of Lewis and Clark by Private Reubin Field, Member of the Corps of Discovery (by Judith Edwards, Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport).
How We Crossed The West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer.
Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll

Videos: American Heroes and Legends series The Song of Sacagewea.
Go West Across American with Lewis and Clark. Very interactive.
Lewis and Clark at PBS
Lewis and Clark: Create Your Own Adventure
Journals of Lewis and Clark
Mapping the West with Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark Cyberhunt

Free unit studies on Lewis and Clark that go into much more detail that we did:
Happy Homeschool
Easy Fun School
The Teacher's Guide
Mama Bear's Den
National Bicentennial Exhibition

There are several other books for young readers that look fantastic but that our library didn't carry:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Carol Johnmann
Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark and Animals on the Trail by Dorothy H. Patent
The Lewis and Clark Cookbook
Seaman's Journal by Patti Eubank (I wish we had this one at our library!)
Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale by Laurie Meyers

Year 2, Unit 2: A Changing Nation

American Adventures: Earthquake in Cincinnati (Book 14)
Story of the USA: Chapter 6
From Sea to Shining Sea : Chapters 6-9

Year 2, Unit 3: Slavery
From Sea to Shining Sea: Chapters 10, 11, 16 (This is our primary text.)
Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling (This is an excellent book; please don't leave this one out!)
Harriet Tubman (Animated Hero Classics by Nest Productions): I was not crazy about this video. I didn't have a chance to find these but would next time around— Race to Freedom, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and/or A Woman Called Moses as the biographical, animated video fell way short of telling much of Harriet's story.
Frederick Douglass Fights for Freedom by Margaret Davidson
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Young Folks Edition): This is essential, in my opinion, because so many other books refer to Harriet Beecher Stowe's book as pivotal in the recognition of the evils of slavery in America. Although I had a copy of the book, this children's edition is available online, too.
If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine (I think this whole "If You..." series is fantastic)
Under the Quilt of Night by Deborah Hopkinson, ill. by James Ransome (nice picture book about one family's journey on the Underground Railroad)
Show Way by Jacqeline Woodson, ill. by Hudson Talbott (Traces the author's heritage from mother to daughter back eight generations, with a wonderful thread of quilting, piecing together, writing, and freedom. Love this one.)
Alec's Primer by Mildred Pitts Walker (Picture book retelling the true story of Alec Turner, born a slave in 1845, who was taught to read by his master's daughter. Ultimately Alec runs away from the plantation to join the army during the Civil War. We loved this story because it is based on a real person.)
The Wagon by Tony Johnston, ill. by James Ransome (Wonderfully poetic story of a child born into slavery and his subsequent freedom after the Civil War.)
"The Tale of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'" from The Children's Book of America by William J. Bennett
Addy: An American Girl series
My America: Corey's Underground Railroad Diary (3 books in series)
I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas (about the land rush in the late 1800s, post-Civil War)

In the Hands of a Child has a slavery lapbook. I downloaded this once when it was free from CurrClick, but I thought the information was too ponderous for my 2nd grader. I'd recommend it, though, for grades 6 and up. The Homeschool Learning Network also has a Harriet Tubman unit study for only $3.50. While I felt like reading the literature above was an excellent study of slavery in America leading up to a study of the Civil War, I think the lapbook and unit study would be an excellent addition for older kids.

Year 2, Unit 4: The Civil War
(There are hundreds upon hundreds of wonderful resources for the Civil War. We could have spent an entire year just learning about this time in American History. You may find that you'll need a lot more picture books or videos to supplement this list, but we had to stop eventually! When I did American History with my older child, we watched Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, but my younger ones weren't ready for those movies yet. Gone with the Wind, however, was a huge hit. We also watched a local re-enactment and we still have plans to visit some Civil War sites. Here in Tennessee, there are plenty!)
Abe Lincoln: The Young Years by Keith Brandt
Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg
A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln by David Adler
If You Grew Up with Abraham Lincoln by Ann McGovern
Landmark History, Vol. 1, Part 5, Chapter 23: "Slavery Conquers the South" and Chapter 24 "The Splitting of the Nation"
Story of the USA, Book 2: Chapters 13 and 14
If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War by Kay Moore
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
The Perilous Road by William Steele
Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder
The Death of Lincoln: A Picture History of the Assassination by LeRoy Hayman
Movie: Gone with the Wind (my kids absolutely LOVED this movie and they could understand so much of it after all of our reading)
(The My America series has all kinds of Civil War books, but my daughter was frankly tired of the repetitive pattern in these books.)

Year 2, Unit 5: The Nation Moves West
Pioneer Sampler: We absolutely loved this wonderful story/activity/history book. It is packed full of information, crafts, cooking, and other hands-on activities as it follows the life of a pioneer family. A must have.
Little House on the Prairie Books: Really, can you study this time period without them?
If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon
Sea to Shining Sea: Chapter 14
Bound for Oregon: Do not miss this one! It is actually used with Sonlight's 100 American History program, but I think it is much better suited for younger children (3rd-6th grade).
Pioneer Days by David King: We did lots of activites from this one.
Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody
We also made Oregon Trail lapbooks, which I found at Lapbook Lessons. We used the resources above to help us complete our lapbooks.
And of course, no study of the Oregon Trail is complete with the Adventures Along the Oregon Trail game!

And that's about where we left off. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of material that is out there for this particular period of American History. We barely scratched the surface with all of the wonderful resources available. You'll notice a serious lack of internet sites. My kids have a short attention span for History Channel and sites—they'd rather be read to— but they are worth checking out for all of the units above if your kids enjoy those.

Moving onward into the 20th century!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Carnival of Homeschooling: Loving Summer Edition

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling! Down here in the South, all the stores are in a Back-to-School frenzy. Our city's schools start back next week, and the rest are soon to follow. Having grown up in New York, where school starts back the day after Labor Day, I find this late July/early August return-to-school policy bordering on criminal. What about the hot days of August, when the grass is crispy and the pool water finally warm?

For our family, that's just another huge reason to homeschool: we can make our own schedules. Whether you school year round, follow a traditional schedule, or take your "summer break" in October, you get to choose what works best for your family. And that's what it's all about.

We have some great posts this month, and scattered amongst the posts are photos of some of our family's favorite things about summer. Because I am not ready to let go yet!

Rest is not idleness,
and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.

~John Lubbock

Why do you homeschool? Christine at The Thinking Mother says It Boils Down to One of Three Reasons to Start to Homeschool. Take a look and you'll probably find yourself there!

Alasandra responds to Sylvia Biu's post Homeschooling is a bad idea with "Homeschooling Advantages Far Outweigh Any Preconceived Notions" As Alasandra says, "Don't you just love it when homeschool critics like Sylvia Biu start making stuff up?"

Christine at Our Curious Home shares "Memories of Learning" with her parents and how this has helped her in her own homeschooling journey.

In summer, the song sings itself.
~William Carlos Williams

There was some sweet butterfly magic going on this week at Reese's View of the World. Check out what happens when magnifying glass meets Paper Wings!

Kerry of The Ten O'Clock Scholar shares Ideas for Memory Work with Classical Conversations in mind but applicable to any memory work.

Judy at Consent of the Governed has graduated her youngest child, and she posts some Homeschool Reflections after her 12-year journey. I love this post, which includes something we're all no doubt familiar with: "I can't even begin to tell you the ludicrous things I have heard, but no doubt if you are a homeschool parent, you have heard those ridiculous things as well. " Don't miss this one! No matter where you are in your journey, you'll appreciate Judy's reflections.

Then followed that beautiful season...
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Making friends requires effort on the part of the parents and the child, and Kim at Kim's Play Place suggests ways to make this happen in Finding Friends While Homeschooling.

I love lapbooks, and Maureen at Spell Out Loud has patterns for toddler-sized books at Little Lapbooks Jungle Puzzle. Adorable!

In the post Night Rider, Ms. Julie shares a criteria-based art lesson that incorporates American history and literature. I loved seeing the kids' drawings!

To see the Summer
Is Poetry,
though never in a Book it lie -

True Poems flee.

~Emily Dickinson

Lara at Texas Homesteader doesn't want her kids going off to college unprepared for taking care of themselves! She shares her ideas for starting them young in Raising Self-Sufficient Children.

Rana at Free to Learn and Loving It muses about her upcoming year in Making Plans: "I guess if someone were to ask they would be considered first graders. To me they are just my boy and girl who want to learn about everything. I'm going to try my hardest to help them find the answers to what they are asking about." Isn't that what it's all about?

Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.
- Sara Coleridge

Barbara Frank posts on what can become a detriment to homeschooling parents: "With so much personal revelation out there, it’s way too easy to compare your family and your homeschooling experience to others." She offers ways to have the right attitude when reading about other homeschooling families in Finding Ideas, Not Discouragement.

Ruby at Freehold2 looks at a very simple way to help kids avoid summer learning loss with Getting the Ball Rolling: Learning Through Movement.

Do you remember watching the moon landing on television in 1969? Jill at Praiseworthy Things shares some wonderful resources in To the Moon to help study the anniversary of the first man on the moon. My kids loved this!

Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.
– Henry David Thoreau

With social/emotional curriculum in the schools, Susan at Corn and Oil wonders how it affects the perceptions about real socializing in Homeschooling as Family Therapy.

In One Thing I Love About Homeschooling, my friend Tina at The Life of Riley responds to my post about Doing a Good Job. Her last line should resonate with anyone who is a homeschooling parent!

Tami of Tami Fox's Thoughts and Views presents A Review of Astronomy Notebooking Journal by Jeannie Fulbright, based on Fulbright's popular Exploring Creation with Astronomy. If you're considering this curriculum, be sure to check out her insights!

Blessed be the Lord for the beauty of summer and spring, for the air, the water, the verdure, and the song of birds.
- Carl von Linnaeus

Seems like we really do need to think about the upcoming year, and Tammy at Adventures on Beck's Bounty shares her lessons plans for her six cherubs at Our Plans. Looks like a great year!

Amy at Hope is the Word provides a post that is packed full of great resources at Our Pre-K Reading Experience. I love how she says, "What I lack in knowledge I make up for in enthusiasm and in desire for my daughters to succeed…"

Henry Cate of Why Homeschool, grand chief of the Carnival of Homeschooling, points homeschoolers to Facebook as another great resource in Homeschooling on Facebook. As an avid Facebooker myself, I second his post!

And that's it for this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. I hope you'll take some time to visit these participants and to consider submitting to next week's Carnival at About Homeschool.
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 our blog carnival index page. The deadline is Monday August 3 at 6 pm PST.

And may you keep enjoying summer!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Miscellany

* I'm enjoying a remarkably quiet morning. Jesse and Laurel both spent the night at friends' houses, and Duncan had a friend spend the night after a very late swim party, so they are still sleeping. I don't know when the last time was that the house was still quiet at 9:20 a.m.!

* Except that when I first woke up, there was a wild ruckus outside. I'm usually quite accepting of the circle of life but this morning, phew! I opened the door and there was the young cat, proudly displaying his fresh morning catch. Somehow the cat at the door with a bird in its mouth still tweeting just really got to me. I had to eat breakfast with the cat and its still tweeting bird right outside the door. Made me think about how we live our lives with people crying for help right outside our doors, and then I felt even worse. I was relieved when the bird was finally silent. And struck again by how relieved we are when something is done. Someone gives money, someone collects food. We can forget about the suffering for awhile in the ensuing silence.

* Those are sobering thoughts for the morning, but nonetheless I feel a sense of progress this summer toward reaching out to our community. In American Heritage Girls we are very community-service oriented, but not so much in our church. On a small scale, though, we started a small group back in the winter focused on reaching outward. We're reading the book The Externally Focused Church, which is awesome. Our group isn't meeting during the summer, but we did decide on one big project to do. We wanted to fill backpacks with school supplies for local school kids so they'd have the required supplies on their first day of school. We contacted an elementary school that we knew was filled with struggling families. We found out that 70% of the 400+ kids in that school are in families where neither parent is employed, and 100% of the kids qualify for the free lunch program. We began collecting backpacks at church and then were thrilled when our youth minister jumped on board and made the VBS mission emphasis to be the "Backpack Bash." The kids were fantastic about bringing in school supplies and money, and today the principal of the school is picking up the filled backpacks. We are a small church and we didn't raise nearly enough to fill 400 packs, but it's a start.

* On a much, much larger scale, Donna's husband and Dad2Three just finished a most amazing outreach. They are partners in Feed Your Faith, a ministry Mike started four years ago to bring the best and brightest Christian speakers, authors, and musicians to East Tennessee while raising money for those in need locally. Last weekend's event was phenomenal. I remember the day last summer when Mike said, "Kirk Cameron's agreed to come!" and for nine months or so, Mike and Rick worked furiously to make this happen. The Fireproof Your Marriage Seminar was sold out back in March for last weekend's conference! Kirk Cameron was amazing, and musician Warren Barfield was absolutely fantastic. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and I am so proud of Mike and Rick for undertaking this enormous project. Because what is so awesome about this, besides the thousands of marriages that Kirk Cameron hopefully touched, is that this event raised thousands and thousands of dollars for a local ministry, Family Promise of Blount County. Family Promise serves local homeless families through a network of local churches, where families can live together on a week-to-week basis rather than being separated at homeless shelters. Really awesome stuff.

* Wow! I said a lot for what started out to be a rambling post.

* On another note, I am hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling here next week. Got something to say? Submit your post here by Monday at 6 p.m.!

* The boys are up and asking for pancakes, and the dog needs to go out. The day begins in earnest now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Heart Faces: Feet

I actually have a few really great feet pictures. (I mean, "great" for a complete amateur amateur liek I am.) I'm not sure why I take pictures of feet, but I really like this one of my girlfriends' feet on our girls' weekend in Asheville, North Carolina. A quirky picture seems right for a quirky town like Asheville.

For other feet entries in this week's I Faces (feet!) challenge, visit the blog here.

Monday Memory: Moving Day

I almost let this anniversary slip by, but this morning I realized that 10 years ago last week, we packed up our little family in a very big moving van and headed into our new life. I think in many ways we thought of it as "our real life."

For 10 years we'd been working toward this life. I'd already graduated from college when Dr. H. and I got married. He had dropped out but then returned to finish his last two years the fall after we were married. And then the next 8 years consisted of three years in Ohio for his master's degree (and a baby boy) and five years in Iowa for his PhD and my master's degree (and a baby girl).

It's not that we didn't relish those years of our life; we did. But we always knew that we were pushing on toward something else. We had a goal. Until he received the call from the University of Tennessee 10 years ago, we were caught between the world of kid and adult. Those last couple of years in Iowa, we were trying to step over the line into full adulthood, but it took a job to really get us there.

That moving van somehow solidified our new status. That thing was huge! And movers—compliments of our new employer—came to our house, labeled our boxes, and drove the van down to Tennessee. We made that 17-hour stretch one last time, with Randy in his little Toyota and me, the kids, and my teenaged niece in our brand new mini-van.

We arrived in Knoxville on a hot July day, and I'm pretty sure we bent down and kissed the ground. We were home. We were overwhelmed with gratefulness that God opened up these doors for us.

Neither of us grew up in Tennessee, but we met in college in upper East TN and fell in love with this beautiful place and its people, well, and with each other. For us, there were no greener pastures than East Tennessee.

Our little family has grown a bit since then. Jesse's as tall as Dr. H. now, and my girl and her little brother are rapidly catching up to me. A lot happens in 10 years, but our sense of wonder and delight in being here has never changed. I am still thankful every single day that God directed our path here, where I can look out my front window and see a long stretch of mountains, and breathe freely.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I was reading fellow homeschooler Sarah's blog today about picking peaches, and she was lamenting that she couldn't find a good peach poem to go along with her entry. I absolutely have to share on of my very, very favorite poems from one of my favorite poets, Li-Young Lee. In fact, he is my favorite living poet. This is the poem, from Lee's collection Rose, I was going to read for my brother's wedding, except that I guess he forgot that he asked me to read a poem. But he would understand why I picked this poem. We spent many, many summers of our life immersed in peaches, and he still does.

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

- Li-Young Lee

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kick-off Week

I can hardly believe it's already time for our support group's annual Kick-off. I had the luxury of being out of the planning loop for the past two summers, but I've been back on the council this year after a two-year hiatus. Watching from the sidelines was nice.

I am blessed to live in an area with a large and vibrant homeschooling community. In our group alone we have about 230 families, representing over 600 school-aged kids. We offer loads of activities and probably the most popular feature is our enrichment class program. It's really fantastic, and we have an amazing enrichment team who work really hard to put it all together. Having been on the team years ago, I know what an incredibly hard job it is to schedule the classes, stick by your schedule, and experience the wrath of parents who "just can't find a class for my child at that hour" or who "just don't think the classes look as good this year as they did last year." Wah. Really, the vast majority of people are tremendously grateful and thrilled with the yearly line-up.

But I digress. Our kick-off is coming up on Tuesday night. I've been taking early sign-ups for my classes and signing my kids up early (teachers and council members do get special privileges!), so I've had school on my mind a lot this week. The kids and I even spent an hour or so straightening up our school rooms.

But first I really have to end last year. I have yet to document our year of American History, write reviews of some books, or even write out what all the kids did this year. I am woefully behind.

Then again, it's only July. It's all Walmart's fault with their back-to-school sales. We have over a month left before we ease back into our bookwork, and two months until most of our activities kick back into high gear.

After this week's kick-off, I'm heading back into summer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Our Girl

"The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage. A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, 'Daddy, I need to ask you something,' he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan."
~Garrison Keillor

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Miscellany

* We're down to a family of 4 again for the next week. Our oldest has gone on vacation, and he really deserves it. He spent 12 arduous days hiking at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico, 4 days driving to and from Philmont, and then a week at Group Workcamp in Athens, GA, painting homes for disadvantaged families. For a kid who thinks that it's torture for me to awaken him at 10 a.m. during the school year, 23 days of waking up between 5 and 6:30 a.m. is deserving of a week of utter relaxation. His best friend graduated from high school in May, and a family friend invited them to spend a week with him in Florida, just being beach bums and eating at nice restaurants. I'm happy for the boys and their week of luxury, but I really need rich friends with Florida condos.

* My kids and I are meeting two college friends and their kids at a waterpark tomorrow. It's kinda weird to be driving 2 hours to go to a waterpark when we have the amazing Splash Country so nearby, but it's all about the people, right? And I love having immense amount of free time so that we could just do this at the spur-of-the-moment.

* We had our American Heritage Girls leaders' meeting today. One of our leaders opened her home and pool and provided her oldest son as a lifeguard, so 20 or so kids happily splashed about while we moms planned. It was a very productive afternoon, and I'm so thankful for our fantastic leaders.

* For some weird reason, we're all obsessing about kickball around here in my group of friends. I keep hearing friends say they've been playing kickball in the evenings. I really need to do a Monday Memory about kickball, because it's a powerful one. As soon as Dr. H and I digest our hamburgers, we're headed out to the backyard to play a rousing game of kickball with the kids and their friends. The girls are going to kick some butt, if we don't get malaria first from all the mosquitoes.

* And here is the biggest news of late: my parents have a buyer for their house in New York. I don't know why I haven't blogged about that yet. It's a really, really big deal. Last summer I blogged a lot about it. Like here, when I was helping my mom go through boxes. The house didn't sell last summer, but just last week they signed preliminary papers. In just a few weeks, we're headed up to my hometown, and this time it really will be the last time I stay in that house. But I can't really think about that right now.

* Also that week will be my 25 year high-school reunion. There's been lots of reconnecting on Facebook after the past year, and I'm looking forward to re-meeting lots of people face to face. One thing I've learned in the 25 years since I graduated: growing up in western, upstate New York is a unique experience. It'll be nice to be with people who understand good chicken wings, the importance of graduation parties, the smell of Seneca Lake on a hot summer night, and a slice of Cam's pizza.

* Our time is up. Two little boys and two pretty girls are ready for kick-ball.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up

Last week was full of appointments and places to be; this week was much more relaxed. In fact, sometimes the hours seemed to stretch e-n-d-lessly. Jesse has been gone all week, having left early Sunday morning for a mission trip. This is his second year working with Group Workcamps to do home repair to disadvantaged families. This year our youth group went to Athens, Georgia.

On Monday Laurel and I got out the sewing machine and began making a baby quilt for a friend's new baby. Laurel got enthused and pulled out a doll quilt she'd started on back in the winter, and all week she's been adding onto her quilt. Her doll quilt has now become a lap quilt for herself. I knew all that scrap fabric would come in handy one of these days!

Tuesday was spent making my house sparkly in preparation for a baby shower that I hosted here that evening. The shower was lovely, and my house is still clean, four days later!

Wednesday my friend Tammy brought her girls over while she taught a math class in Knoxville, so both the kids had playmates. We went to the pool for a couple of hours when they all started getting a bit restless. I also worked more on the baby quilt and made a book bag for Laurel.

Thursday morning we had our first visit from our new veterinarian. He's a homeschooling Dad in our support group, and he's working on building a house-call visit. This works perfectly for us. Not only is it difficult getting 2 cats and a dog to the vet's office, but our dog has serious vet's office issues anyway. Dr. Jinks was fantastic, and now our animals are all up-to-date with shots and whatever else they needed.

Thursdays are also flute lesson and grocery shopping days, so we don't go to the pool generally on Thursdays.

Today we played a good game of kickball in the morning and spent over 3 hours at the pool this afternoon. Laurel is heading over to a friend's house to spend the night, so Duncan will get to enjoy having us all to himself.

That's about all for this week. Laurel's been busy this week with her quilt, but Duncan does tend to get a bit bored. This is one of his favorite boredom busters:

I always save the leftover science supplies from the Sonlight kits, and every now and then I'll get out the box, add some kitchen items like vinegar, baking soda, and oil, and let Duncan just experiment. He'll do this for a couple of hours with great enthusiasm. After a few years of this, the kits are dwindling down. I really need to just order a bunch of random science supplies.

We've also been playing lots of morning and evening kickball and frisbee. I keep thinking that I need to have a big party and have a rousing game of kickball. Somehow playing with three people isn't quite the same as the neighborhood games of my childhood…

Jesse is due back home tomorrow and then takes off for a week in Florida on Tuesday. I am quite sure that with him being gone 16 days at Philmont, 6.5 days at work camp, and 8 days in Florida, God is preparing me for what our life will be like in just one year, when he goes away to college. I will miss that sweet boy, but I'm happy for his adventurous life.

(Got a weekly wrap-up? Visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers here.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Doing a Good Job: No One Asked Me

I read "A Little Word of Encouragement" in the latest issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine that, rather than encouraging me, really disturbed me. There are six or so half-page "letters" written by popular homeschooling authors in this article, and this particular blurb is by Todd Wilson of Familyman Ministries. Here's how it starts out:
"For the last several years, I've conducted an informal poll asking homeschooling moms a single question: Do you feel as though you're doing a good job homeschooling your children? Would you care to wager a guess as to what percentage of moms feel as though they are succeeding? Let me just tell you—0%. So far, not a single homeschooling mom has told me that she thinks she's doing a great job."

I don't find that at all encouraging; in fact, I find that downright discouraging. And sad. But he didn't ask me, and he didn't ask a bunch of people I know.

Because, actually, I do think I'm doing a good job of homeschooling, and I do think we're succeeding. We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think we could do it successfully. I say "we" because homeschooling is a family endeavor. It's not just me doing it all. The kids are partners in this, and of course Dr. H. is too. And God blessed me with gifts and abilities perfectly suited for being a mom and a teacher. I know that many women have reluctant kids and husbands who don't support homeschooling wholeheartedly, but please tell me I'm not the only mom who thinks I'm doing a good job homeschooling.

I understand the motivation of the article; it's supposed to convey a "you're not alone" message as well as to encourage husbands to encourage their wives who are heavily burdened with the task of homeschooling and who feel like failures. I do know a lot of moms who feel inadequate. I know a lot of moms who question their decision on a daily basis.

But I also know moms who approach this journey with determination and confidence and who are homeschooling because they believe they can do a better job than the school system. One of the primary reasons we chose to homeschool was because we refused to settle for the mediocrity that was evident in our state's public education system. I'm certainly not going to settle for mediocrity in my home education.

Why are people even homeschooling if they don't have a modicum of confidence in their capabilities? Please don't get me wrong. I know we all have our ups and downs; we have days when we wonder why we're doing this. But at the end of 12 years, is it really acceptable to say, "Well, we made it but I don't think I did a good job!"?

Of course not.

I think the "I suck at homeschooling" mentality needs to be tossed into the trashcan. God gave us big brains and a desire for learning. Teaching one's children should be a time of continual learning and growth for the parent. However our yardsticks measure success—academic, character, spiritual, athletic, or some combination—we need to have the confidence that we are doing a good job.

Anyone else?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday Miscellany

* I love waking up to a clean house. I had a baby shower at my house last night, and my house is so nice and clean today. If only…

* I have nothing to say about Michael Jackson, and I apologize to my friends about that. They were watching his funeral and crying yesterday while I was cleaning. They were horrified that I wasn't crying and even accused me of having a heart of stone (in the most loving way, of course). I can't conjure up any real feelings about him, but I was really sad 20 years ago when Andy Gibb died.

* My daughter and I are making a baby quilt, and I can hardly wait to get my machine set up today and get started. We have the cutting out all done, so now the fun part begins. I am by no means a quilter, but I do enjoy the quiet and precision of quilt-making. It's a kind of poetry, matching colors and patterns, and the joy of creation is similar. Working with my little girl makes the experience all the sweeter.

* I'm teaching a lot of classes at our support group's enrichment class program this fall: World Lit/Geography for high school; and Basic Essay Writing, Literature Circle and Debate for middle schoolers (I'm co-teaching those last two). I really need to buckle down and do some serious lesson planning.

* But the pool beckons. I love where we live. The pools are so lovely and the weather divine. And, of course, those mountains.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Rest of the Holiday Weekend

Fireworks at my brother John's house is a family tradition. A scary family tradition. My brothers take a giant leap back into teenager-hood when they get around fireworks, and the only thing you can really do is duck.

Here's the fireworks tent where we make our purchases. Fortunately, my brother lives in a county where fireworks are legal. Not that it really seems to matter around here.

The girls are ready for the fireworks to begin, but eating always comes first.

Laurel loves to make this flag cake every year.

After dinner we begin the groundworks: tanks, snakes, smoke bombs, and all that fun stuff. My nephew Xavier, chief fireworks lighter, is following in his Grandpa John's footsteps.

Duncan isn't quite as comfortable around fire as his cousin, but he did enjoy smoke-bomb leaping.

We all did a lot of this. When people all over the neighborhood are setting off fireworks, things get rather noisy!

It was a fabulous evening of celebration and tradition.

We were tired on Sunday after all that excitement and a late night, and the day turned out perfectly. It began raining early in the morning and continued all day.

Perfect for Sunday afternoon naps and sheer sluggishness.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Holiday Weekend, Day 1

For the first 15 years or so of our marriage—which was comprised of 10 years of undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate school and then 6 years of working toward tenure, Dr. H. rarely took off university holidays except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Even then he only took off a couple of days rather than the allotted vacation time. (The reasoning here: he could get a huge amount of work done in his lab when no one else was around.) But about four years ago he became a tenured professor, and in the past few years he has actually started taking vacation days. I'm still not used to it, so it always comes as a surprise when he says, "So what are we going to do on my day off?"

I love it.

So our first stop on the holiday 3-day weekend was the pool. We were expecting a huge crowd, but it was strangely sparse. We spent a couple of hours there and then came home to get ready for the real holiday getaway: the mountains.

Have I ever mentioned before how much I relish living 20 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park? Hmmm, maybe once or twice. We have our favorite spots for quick afternoon hikes or river play, but we also like to find new trails—and there are hundreds of miles of those. Dr. H. got out his stack of guide books and found one that met all the requirements: water, a short drive, and a short hike. We settled on Spruce Flat Falls, and it was fantastic. (Locals, to get there: pull into Tremont's parking area. Park and take the paved road marked "employee housing" or something like that to a path that is marked "falls." The trail will turn left and climb a ridge past the water tank for Tremont. There are several signs along the way. It's a 2-mile round trip hike.)

Jesse and his two best friends went, too, and they took off as soon as we got to the falls and, of course, had to climb above the falls and do all sorts of dangerous things that we'd rather not know about. One bloody knee and an hour or so later, they returned, sweaty and tired.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Basil and Mozzerella Pasta Salad

If you are faced with bringing a side dish or salad to an event, please bring this. Trust me. The only problem is that you'll keep craving it long after it's gone…

Basil and Mozzerella Pasta Salad

1-8 oz. block mozzerella, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
About a cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup julienne-sliced fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 box farfalle, penne, or whatever you like
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Combine first 7 ingredients and toss well. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
2. Cook pasta. Drain and toss with sauce. Top with Parmesan. Serve room temperature. Makes 6-8 one cup servings.

So simple. Outrageously delicious.

Wordless Wednesday: Lily

My 11-year-old took this. Isn't she good? More Wordless Wednesdays here and here.