Thursday, July 26, 2012

Get Ready for the {Not} Back-to-School Blog Hop!

It's coming soon!

Join us at iHomeschool Network for the Original Back to School Blog Hop. This is the 4th annual “Not” Back-to-School Blog Hop. Originally hosted by Darcy at Life with My 3 Boybarians, the blog hop has now moved to iHomeschool Network.

 Get your posts ready and remember to link up at iHomeschool Network on the circled dates!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Three Beautiful Things

1. Our evening spot.  This outdoor space is a work in progress, but we have been loving it this summer. There is nothing like good conversation and soft lights on a warm evening.

2. Our son is home. That's his car; he is sleeping yet this morning (and probably will be for several hours). He's been at my brother Stephen's orchard in upstate New York for the past month. We get him for 10 days before he heads up to Minnesota for two weeks of canoeing. Oh, and he got his first speeding ticket on the way home. He gets that from his father.

3. Tabula rasa. The tree that blocked our house from the busy road came down in a storm a couple fo weeks ago. We are left with a scraggly looking front yard. It's time for some serious curbside appeal. I'm looking at this as a great opportunity to create something beautiful on this very blank (and very visible) slate.

"We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end; which stands related to all things; which is the mean of many extremes." 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

What beautiful things are in your world today? 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Morning Quiet

The sun is just rising. Last night's rain remnants are dripping on the roof of the carport. We've been blessed with an abundance of rain these past two weeks. In another half hour it will feel like a jungle out here, but for now the air has just a hint of cool in it. Just a smidgen.

All the rain has soaked our outdoor seating. I am too lazy to go inside and get a towel to wipe off my favorite red bench. Here is my view from my little table under the carport:

The birds are yakking back and forth. Can different species of birds understand each other? The cat pounces determinedly on a leaf. At 11, he suddenly realizes he's too old for that nonsense. He is embarrassed and rolls on the ground. 

In a couple of hours our house will be bustling, although we are quiet bustlers. We will be heading out to church with excitement and anticipation. A year ago we went to a church that was like an old shoe: familiar and fairly comfortable but with an underlying unpleasant odor that you couldn't quite get rid of. (If I were to carry the analogy further, I'd go with a story about how the shoes got wet, stored in a hot car trunk, which, when opened, emanated a cloud of noxious gas that left one gasping for breath and seeking gobs of fresh air. But you get the picture.)

After church, we have no plans. We might take an afternoon to relax at home in our air-conditioned house, or we might feel motivated and go to the health club. I might work on lesson plans, or I might take a nap. In the evening we'll go back to church: the kids will go to youth group, and we'll go to small group. Although we already have lots of "old" friends in our new church, we are meeting new people too. Maybe someday some of them will be old friends that we feel like we've known forever.

As the sun gets higher, the traffic increases, and my stomach rumbles, my thoughts are already drifting away from the quiet of the morning. But here is the most important thing, the word that is engraved on my heart, the one that cries from my soul: gratitude. I'd have it tattooed across my forehead and up and down my arms if I weren't terrified of needles.

I don't know why I get this life, but I am infinitely thankful to the One who provides.

My heart is confident in you, O God;
    my heart is confident.
    No wonder I can sing your praises!
Wake up, my heart!
    Wake up, O lyre and harp!
    I will wake the dawn with my song.
I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
    I will sing your praises among the nations.
10 For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
    May your glory shine over all the earth. (Psalm 57:7-11)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Physical Education for homeschooled teens {on Simple Homeschool}

Post image for Physical education for homeschooled teens

P E, phys ed, gym: whatever you called it, all of us public schoolers did it. Some of us dreaded it; some of us considered it the best part of the day. If you had to wear one-piece gym suits that zipped up the front, well, I’m laughing (and blushing) right along with you.

So how do homeschoolers handle PE? I am surprised at the number of people who ask me “Does [swimming, hiking, gymnastics, dancing] count as PE?” Of course! If your child is getting exercise, he is engaged in PE.

{Come on over to Simple Homeschool today to get ideas and tips for PE in your homeschool!}

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Caught-My-Eye Posts

Beautiful writing
Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky with Learning to Live a Good Story. She is an exquisite writer. "Being good at something doesn’t automatically mean you should do it."

Made Me Cry:
40 of the Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken. Just mesmerizing.

More Emily Freeman on living wildly and freely:"The difference between the reader and the writer? The reader is hidden. The writer is laid bare."

Parents, why are you pushing your kids? by Jeff Pearlman: "Everyone is in such a rush to guarantee a child's future, yet nobody has been able to rightly (and righteously) explain the ultimate reward. I've heard people say, "I just want to give my child the best opportunity to succeed" at least 100 times, but always without elaboration."

I have to admit that I don't know what Magic Mike is, but I love this post about what makes a man manly.

Chipotle Pork Loin with Black Bean Salad: Served with roasted sweet potatoes/red onions and cantaloupe. Amazing.

What's caught your eye lately?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alum Cave Bluffs in the Great Smoky Mountains

Where to take friends who are visiting? We have dozens of choices, living in the Knoxville area, but we always hope our visitors will want to hike. Our friends from Iowa visited a couple of weeks ago, and we knew these folks could handle a good hike. After much deliberation, Randy chose Alum Cave Bluffs. We wanted water, as the temps were in the 90s, but we decided to head down to Metcalf Bottoms after the hike rather than do a waterfall hike.

The Alum Cave trail is about 9 miles past Sugarlands Nature Center on Newfound Gap Road. (There are restrooms in the parking lot, by the way, in case you don't want to stop at Sugarlands.) It is the most common hiking trail to get up to the summit of Mt. LeConte, but we didn't go all that way.

The trail is fantastic—it was a little challenging at times, but beautiful and varied. Lots of fun rocks and such. Arch Rock, a natural arch, comes at the 1.4 mile mark. The kids loved climbing the rock steps; the adults were glad for the guide wire along the side.

A little bit after Arch Rock, you'll come to Inspiration Point, where the views are truly inspiring.

And in just another half mile, you'll come to the bluffs. Wow! This is so unlike the usual scenery in the Smokies. These bluffs are more Rockies-like; in fact, they reminded me somewhat of Mesa Verde in Colorado.

We had some snacks and lots of water and then headed back down. The view of Eye of the Needle on Little Duck Hawk Ridge was phenomenal. See that little hole in the ridge? You used to be able to hike there, but the park service has closed the trail so that we hikers won't disturb the Peregrine Falcons that are nesting there. Very cool.

The hike back down was easy, but we were hot so we drove down to Metcalf Bottoms for a picnic and dip in the river.

I've been on lots of trails in the Smokies, and I'd have to say this is close to my favorite. The hike itself was interesting and just a bit challenging (we're in pretty good shape and the youngest kids were 11), the views were fantastic, and the bluffs were awe-inspiring. Total miles: 4.6, moderately challenging.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10 Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2012-13

1. I get to thoroughly study World War 2 with my 6th grader! 

I am totally excited about this. My friend and I are going through an in-depth study with our boys, and I'm also looking forward to my Dad's input on this. How many kids get to learn about WW2 from someone who was actually there? What an amazing opportunity and gift.

2. My sophomore will be taking math through our co-op!

I am so happy that she'll be taking geometry with someone else. I'm just t-i-r-e-d of math!

3. I will be teaching American Lit at our co-op to 20 high schoolers!

I love American Lit and I love teaching to homeschoolers. It's like an English teacher's dream: I get to pick my own books, design my own curriculum, and teach the way I want to. And as a bonus, the kids are totally fun.

4. My husband will be teaching (ecology) at our co-op for the first time!

I am happy for our daughter and for the other kids who get him as their teacher. Imagine having a PhD who recently received a prestigious teaching award at a big university for your high school science teacher! Oh, and he's really fun and really nice. And smart.

5. Laurel, my sophomore, gets to take government during an election year!

This is going to be a fantastic class, taught by a homeschooling Dad who is also a government teacher at a local high school. I can't even imagine how much government is going to come alive for these kids this year!

6. We're tentatively planning a trip to Washington, D.C! 

Since Laurel is doing all things U.S. (literature, history, and government) and Duncan is studying WW2, a trip to Washington seems imperative this year. I'm hoping it will all work out!

7. It's my tenth and last year as coordinator of our American Heritage Girls troop!

This is going to be a bittersweet year for my co-coordinator, Caroline, and me. We started this troop 10 years ago, and it is time for us to pass the torch to our new coordinators. We'll be doing a lot of crying in the midst of rejoicing!

8. Randy won't be the Cubmaster this year!

After 8 years as Cubmaster, Randy has moved on with Duncan to Boy Scouts only. He has been a phenomenal Cubmaster but the job took lots of time and energy. And lots and lots of storage space.

9. I love my new church, and I'm excited to be there!

What a difference a year makes. I am so incredibly thankful to have been released from our old church (the world "escaped" also came to mind) and to have found an incredible faith community. I never imagined looking forward to church each Sunday!

10. I'm getting new hiking boots!

And new hiking boots mean more and more hiking in the Smokies, our beautiful big backyard.

 What are you looking forward to in this upcoming school year? Join in at Angie's Top Ten Tuesday!

This post is part of iHomeschool Network's Top 10 in 10 series and also linked up with Top Ten Tuesday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Miscellany

*I know! I haven't posted in a week! I've been busy. Here's just a little preview of why:

That's Chicago, folks! While Randy and Duncan were at Boy Scout camp last week, I had an adventure with my daughter and her two best friends. But that for sure deserves its own blog post.

* I sure do love coming home after vacation. I came home from Chicago to this:

We had a really big storm while we were gone! What you don't see in the photo is that my Dad and a friend were already clearing away the mess before I even got home, hauling off debris and sawing off pieces of the tree in temps close to 100 degrees. I'm telling you, we are so blessed with the people in our life! The next evening more friends came over to help finish the job.

Just look at Randy up there being manly! He learned a handy new skill or two with all of this, and now, of course, he wants his own chainsaw. Too bad Father's Day is over.

* We had a love/hate relationship with that Bradford pear tree. It blocked our house, which was irritating, but it was really pretty in the spring. It also provided lots of shade and it was Duncan's favorite climbing tree. So what we didn't realize is how naked we would feel without it.

I have some serious pondering to do about curbside appeal now that passersby can actually see our house. I'll be spending way too much time on Pinterest, gleaning ideas! Unfortunately, most planting will have to wait until next spring, as the ground will remain much too hard and dry for new plants. Hmmmm.....

* School supplies are out and on sale in my neck of the woods. Good grief.

* My 14-year-old is fixing dinner tonight, which makes me very happy. Although I will say that we ate out so much last week in Chicago that I am ready to cook again. The problem is that I would have to go grocery shopping in order to cook.

* And that's all I have to say right now. I'll be catching up on all kinds of blog posts over the next few days, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

10 Pieces of Advice for All Homeschoolers, New or Old

Much more important to me than choosing curriculum or having well-organized shelves or even deciding whether to keep homeschooling is the tremendous task of being a good parent. My pieces of advice really apply to any parents, not just homeschooling ones. 

1. Read aloud every single day. 

Start when they are babies, and do it as long as you possibly can. [Here's my list of Top 25 Read-Alouds (for ages 5-12).]

2. Don't get distracted by what someone else is doing. 

3. Don't compare yourself to others. Don't compare your kids to others.

These two go hand-in-hand. Hike your own hike. Stay true to your own family. Trust your gut, and know your kids. (More on this in my Guide to Navigating the Homeschooling Community.)

4. Get outside. 

Take a walk or a bike ride. Play badminton, hop scotch, and jump rope. Look at insects, plant flowers, pull weeds. It doesn't matter what you are doing: just get fresh air every day.

5. Be nice. 

Most children reflect their parents' moods. If you are distracted, grumpy, and/or irritable, they will be, too.

 6. Take trips.

Don't wait until all the kids are just the right age or you have money for nice hotels and plane fare. Go now and do what you can. Be creative and adventurous! (See My Biggest Homeschool Mistake: Not Traveling More.)

7. Don't try to control your environment by controlling your kids. 

Stand back. Provide a safe place, but don't hover. Let them make mistakes. Let them wear clothes that don't match and dip their asparagus in applesauce if they really want to.

8. Let your kids get dirty. 

Let them drag their feet in the dirt, roll in the mud, dig big holes, smear paint on their stomachs, run through the sprinkler, climb trees, and get mosquito bites.

9. Remember that children are, indeed, wonderfully and fearfully made.

 They come with their own unique personalities and needs, which will determine how they learn best. Be constantly aware that what works for one child will not necessarily work for another.

10. It’s much more important to show love to my child than to finish the math book. 

We have choices to make every day. We can scream at our kids to finish their work, or we can calmly and lovingly guide them and encourage them.

What advice would you give to new (or longtime) homeschoolers? You can link up at Angie's Top Ten Tuesday!

This post is part of iHomeschool Network's Top 10 in 10 series and also linked up with Top Ten Tuesday.