Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Begins

It's really just now hitting me: we're really on summer break. I'm still feeling the pressure of what I need to be doing, where I need to go, who I need to call or email. But really, we're on summer break.

What does that mean, exactly? I still have to cook meals, do dishes, clean house, do laundry, and generally keep the family running smoothly. I still have American Heritage Girls camp to plan, paperwork to complete, planning to do for next year, emails to send out. I still have papers to read and lesson plans to finish for August. I have articles to write, shelves to organize, walls to paint, carpets to deep clean, weeds to pull.

But still. With summer comes this amazing sense of freedom—a lessening of responsibility. Evenings with no place we have to be. After dinner chats on our bench. Hours at the pool with friends. Camping trips and river play in the Smokies.

There was an article in the newspaper last week about adding four weeks onto the school schedule in Tennessee. No, thank you. I'll take summer.

What do summers look like for you?

Friday, May 27, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1. So yesterday morning I took the dog out and just as we stepped out of the carport, I looked at her and she had a dead baby possum in her mouth. I said "DROP IT!" She did, right by Jesse's friend's car door. That made me laugh, thinking about Everett waking up, going out to his car, and seeing a dead possum there. Then it occurred to me that, perhaps, the possum was "playing possum." I looked out several times during the day to make sure it was still there.

2. The possum stayed there all day, even through the rain storms. By the time I got home in the evening from AHG camp planning, the possum was very soggy. And still there. At least five different sets of people had pulled in and out of the driveway and grimaced at the soggy possum.

3. I am pleased to report that Dr. H. scraped the possum off the driveway last night, and it is headed for the landfill already today.

4. Here's another strange thing that happened yesterday morning. Dr. H. pointed to something on the dining room table and said, "You have got to be kidding me!" It was a pair of Jockey men's underwear with a scribbled note attached, "Please wash my underwear."
"Haha!" I laughed. "The boys [meaning Jesse and his friends] must have found this pair of underwear on a walk and thought it would be funny to do this."
A couple of hours later, when Jesse awoke, I said, "Haha! Where did you find these underwear?"
He looked at me and said, "Those are B____'s. He wanted you to wash them." I looked at him in disbelief. I totally thought he was joking. His friend actually put dirty underwear on my dining room table with a scribbled note to WASH THEM? I kept going between incredulity and laughter.

5. Would you wash your teenage son's friend's underwear if he left them on the dining room table? (Note: he wanted them washed because they are his workout underwear and he needed them for the next day. Seriously.)

6. I do have non-gross things in my life. Like this morning's delicious smoothie (banana, blackberry, yogurt) and two cups of coffee. And that my son got two summer jobs (cashier at K-Mart, busboy at a local restaurant) in one day!

7. Today is our last day of school. We always go out with a fizzle. I was hoping for ice cream at Marble Slab, but the day is rainy and non-ice-creamish. Anyway, it's been a great year. I can hardly believe my daughter will be a high schooler in the fall. I'm up at Simple Homeschool today with our plan for high school. But this afternoon, summer break begins!

High School, Take Two


In August our daughter will begin high school at home. This is our second time homeschooling a high schooler; our older son just finished his freshman year of college. As we enter high school again, we naturally consider what we’ll do the same and what we’ll do differently.

Our son’s input was tremendously helpful. At the end of the year, I asked him what boiled down to: how did we do? I’ve been relieved at his answers. He didn’t have a list of “Things I Missed Because I Was Homeschooled.” He basically had two items on his “wish list.” …

{Come on over to the 2011 Curriculum Fair at Simple Homeschool to read the rest of my article about High School, Take Two! While you're there, be sure to hunt around for other great curriculum fair posts during the month of May.}

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

There really was more to our vacation this past week than the pool and the beach.

Like lizards. Duncan was absolutely fascinated with all the lizards in Florida, and we all learned about dewlaps, how to pick up a lizard, and where to best spot them.

And Hernando de Soto. We visited the De Soto National Memorial and learned all about the explorer. Duncan earned his Junior Park Ranger badge there. Those little workbooks are fabulous resources!

And native birds and other wildlife at Robinson Nature Preserve.

And how tides and currents work.

And how to build a sandcastle.

And how to

Linked up at the Weekly Wrap-Up

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Math Program


Our homeschooling support group hosts a “curriculum show-and-tell” session annually. This is an opportunity for members to examine all kinds of materials that other homeschoolers use without the pressure of sales. (Here is an example of a curriculum show and tell.)

It never fails. The number one question that is asked from table to table: “What math program should I use?” Parents prowl around the room, picking up one book and quizzing its owner, and then head over to the next table in search of perfect math curriculum, as if it waits just beyond the horizon with a gold sticker proclaiming “The Best Math Book EVER!”

I am not a “math person,” but after 11 years of homeschooling, I think I am qualified to give opinions on math programs. I’ve been in the math trenches. I have three kids, and over our 11 years of homeschooling we’ve used …

{Come on over to The Homeschool Classroom to read the rest of my article about how math works for us!}

Saturday, May 14, 2011


At the end of a long year comes this:

We work hard from August through early May with our regular jobs and all the volunteer positions we hold: Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, American Heritage Girls, church, our homeschool support group.

Our kids work hard, too. Our oldest son got home a few days ago from his first year in college. His grades were posted last night, and he finished his freshman year with a 3.67. We're really, really proud of him.

The younger kids have spent their lives going with us when we volunteer in various ways. For 8 years, they have gone with me to Scout meetings 2 hours early so that we can set up, have meetings, etc. This is the life they know. They've never, ever said, "Do I have to go?"

It's so nice, after all the classes, activities, ceremonies and other closing events are over, to be able to take a few days just to relax, all by ourselves, just our little family and the ocean.

Sun, sand, salt, seafood. Catching lizards and lounging. Hot tub and a promise of key lime pie. Taking some long, deep breaths, grateful for another year and the gift of vacation.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Field Trip: Museum of Appalachia

Unbelievably, I've lived in the Knoxville area for 11 years, and I just visited the Museum of Appalachia for the first time. I never paid much attention to field trip announcements about it. I pictured a small museum with some antiques. Actually, even their website makes it sound kind of hokey and unexciting.

So totally wrong. Someone needs to revamp that website for them, because the "museum" is awesome. This isn't just one building with a bunch of stuff; it's 60-acres of living history.

We specifically went because we heard that the annual sheep shearing demonstration was happening. There were about 600 school kids when we got there at noon, but they left soon afterwards, leaving the grounds practically empty except for a few dozen homeschoolers. (Field trip note: schools generally take field trips first thing in the morning, so it's best to get to your destination after 12 p.m. whenever possible.)

(Click on the pic to enlarge.)

The kids got to turn the handle to shear the sheep. I don't know how this guy did this all day in the hot sun, but he looked like he never broke a sweat. He had to have been about 70 years old or more, and he lugged the sheep around as if they were toys.

Like I said, we went for the sheep shearing, but the most fascinating part to me was everything else. I've been to a lot of living history museums, including Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, and this was one of the best.

The kids loved the peacocks, which seemed to be everywhere, proudly displaying their goods.

(And seriously, why do kids feel the need to run up and scare them? And why do adults not tell the dang kids to STOP?)

There are over 30 cabins, barns, and various buildings to see. We only had time to see about half of them, and several of them had a person inside explaining what we were seeing. Each building has information displayed, however, detailing the cabin's history and function.

At least three huge buildings held displays of all kinds of tools, antiques, toys, crafts, and much, much more. We ran out of time and didn't even get to one of the folk art buildings.

My friend and I were both amazed at the creations of these quiet mountain people. Most of them never accepted a cent for their art, often living on practically nothing. Many of the treasures housed in the museums were found forgotten in barns or attics. I was reminded of the time that my parents and I were visiting the Pompidou Museum in Paris. We went through one exhibit shaking our heads at display of what seemed to be random pieces of wood and bricks. This was art, earning an spot at the famed modern culture museum? Years later, here I stood at the Museum of Appalachia, marveling that these unschooled mountain people created intricate, unique art, just to pass the time, with no intention of ever doing more than giving a carved doll to a child for Christmas.

This was a great trip for adults and kids. Our kids, ages 9-13, absolutely loved this trip. There were plenty of hands-on activities for the kids, from running around on the grounds to marveling over the strange looking carvings. We didn't have time to stop and read every single placard, but I will for sure return.

The Museum of Appalachia is located just off of I-75 slightly north of Knoxville, only a couple of miles down the road. I highly recommend this as a stopping point on a car trip, or taking a day to visit if you live nearby!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

I have to admit, we are having a seriously relaxed last month of school. We finished our year-long study of the Chronicles of Narnia. All of our co-op classes are done, and most of our other outside activities have finished for the summer.

We're still doing math everyday, and we are now reading George Macdonald's The Princess and the Goblin. I thought this was a great tie-in with the Narnia books. Besides that, we enjoyed the last day of the Festival of Nations at Dollywood on Monday…

Field Day on Wednesday …
(That's not me, but I ran my first 5K on Wednesday during field day!)

Duncan had his first speech therapy session this week. His therapist was awesome, and I think he's going to quickly conquer that beastly "R" sound.

Since Laurel has finished most of her work except for math, she's been working on American Heritage Girls badges and also doing planning for our AHG summer camp. We have our 7th-12th grade girls be camp planners and leaders, so this involves several hours each week.

Today, several of the teens in our support group are volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Knoxville, so Laurel is spending her afternoon sorting and labeling cans.

Tomorrow we head to Nashville to fill our van with Jesse's stuff, and then he comes home from his first year of college on Tuesday! We're so excited to get him back for the summer but really, really proud of him. He's done fantastic his first year and so far feels good about his final exams.

That's what's happening around here this week. Next week: two end-of-the-year ceremonies and then the beach!

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Did It!

I never thought I would say this, but I ran my first 5K today! I have truly despised running all of my life. It's not that I've led a non-athletic life—I was a swimmer in high school and college, and I love hiking, biking, and even playing tennis. But running has always been at the bottom of my list.

Last June one of the moms (the one with the stroller) in our homeschooling group started a Couch to 5K club. Several of my friends were doing it, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I was okay running 90 seconds, but I seriously thought I would die the first time a 5-minute run came up on the schedule. Much to my amazement, by the end of the summer I was running 30 minutes!

Of course winter came, and I totally stopped running. I've only been out about five times in since November. But Sandra, our wonderful leader, decided that we should have a Moms 5K at our support group's field day today, so I signed up. And I did it!

Tomorrow Couch to 5K starts back up again for the summer, and this year I'll be working toward speech and endurance.

Monday, May 2, 2011

2011 Curriculum Fair on Simple Homeschool

May is going to be an incredibly informative month at Simple Homeschool. Over the course of the month, contributors will be writing about what we like, what we don't like, and what we'll be using next year. As editor Jamie Martin says, "From preschoolers to high schoolers and all ages in between, stay tuned to discover unbiased opinions from moms in the trenches just like you. Moms working with real budgets, real successes, and real challenges."

Be sure to subscribe to Simple Homeschool so you don't miss a single post!