Saturday, April 25, 2015

Field Trip: Carl Sandburg Home and Thomas Wolfe House

View of the Carl Sandburg House

 My 11th/12th grade Classic Literature class loved our trip to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta so much that they begged for another field trip. I wanted to oblige but I also did not want another overnight trip just because of all the arrangements that would need to be made. We're only a couple of hours away from Asheville, North Carolina, so I thought a trip to see the homes of two classic American authors would be perfect.

Before going to Asheville, we did a short unit on lives of authors. I had each student pick a "classic" author and do a short presentation on him or her. The driving question: how does an author's life shape his or her writing? We had everyone from Seuss to Solzhenitsyn, and the presentations included posters and even a wax museum presentation by James Joyce.

James Joyce in the wax museum

I didn't intend to do this biography unit as part of our year, but that's one of the awesome benefits to teaching at a homeschooling co-op: we can be incredibly flexible.

The majority of my students were able to take a whole Thursday to go on our North Carolina trip, so we took three vans full of kids. We were prepared for a day of rain, but fortunately we just had occasional drizzling. Our first stop was the Carl Sandburg House in Flat Rock, NC.


I had made arrangements for a guided tour of the house, grounds, and barn. Fortunately for us, there was a writer-in-residence, Lisa Lopez Snyder, there during our visit. When the tour guide announced that Ms. Snyder would be doing a writing exercise with them, the students gave an audible collective groan (even though I know most of them love creative writing). She had a couple of fantastic exercises for them, and they loved it. I was so appreciate of Ms. Snyder's session— the kids talked about that all the way home.

After the writing session, we had a great tour of Sandburg's home. What really amazed me was not just the staggering number of books that he owned, but that there were pieces of paper bookmarking pages in hundreds of the books. His bookmarks. His flags that "here is something important." Astounding and inspirational to me.

After a chilly picnic lunch, we headed a little north to Asheville. We arrived 30 minutes early for our tour at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial; but since we were the only guests, they were happy to oblige us and start our tour early. After a 22 minute video of Thomas Wolfe's life, we had a fantastic tour guide take us through the house. He had all kinds of great stories about Wolfe and read passages from Look Homeward Angel in various rooms. The kids were a little slap happy at this point, but I think they enjoyed it for the most part. I wish we would have had time to read the whole novel before class, but I just couldn't schedule it.

On the front porch of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Home

We had a couple of free hours when our tour of the Thomas Wolfe house ended, so we let the students explore downtown Asheville for a couple of hours. They split into two groups and went on their way. We three chaperones did the same. Asheville's such a fun little town, with lots of great shops to wander through. We all found fabulous restaurants and then met back at the designated time and place and headed home to Knoxville.

Over half of my students are graduating this year, including my sweet daughter. I've been teaching many of these students since elementary school (creative writing, reader's theatre, literature circles, and essay writing) and several of them for all four years of high school. I am going to miss them so much next year—and I'm so glad we had this one last trip together.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

It's April {and that means we're nearly done}

Aaaah. It's so beautiful here in the South. Everything is blooming now or just about to: the dogwoods, redbuds, phlox, lilacs, bleeding hearts, tulips. There's something new nearly every day.

I finished teaching the last novel in both of my literature classes at co-op. For my juniors and seniors, it was the last novel I'll teach them. Ever. And I'm so glad I got to end with The Great Gatsby, which has always been one of my favorite books ever. We're not done with classes yet this year, but the next three weeks will be devoted to various projects.

On the home front, we've been getting things in order for Laurel's graduation. We have her invitations now and are finishing preparing pictures to send in for the senior slide show. This afternoon we have one last photo shoot; this one will be with her and her four best girlfriends who are graduating too. Prom is coming up in a couple of weeks, and then we'll have just one last class at co-op, and she'll have two weeks left of German class at Maryville College. As soon as finals are done, Laurel and I are going to NYC for a week with her boyfriend, who is also graduating, and his mom! We'll get home just a couple of days before graduation, so we have to get everything ready before that.

Duncan is finishing up the last weeks of his classes, too. All of his classes will wrap up the last week of April, and we'll spend our remaining days in May focusing entirely on history. I think he's had a good freshman year in high school. He'd still much rather play video games and run around outside than do schoolwork, but he's developed a rhythm to his days that works well. A little work, a little play.

And I'm adjusting slowly to what will be the next stage of my life: one child left behind. I can't think too much about how they went from this

to this

I just can't.

Soak it up, mamas of little ones. Enjoy those days of sweet kisses and sticky hands. Put down your laptops and read them a story. Kiss the tops of their sweaty heads and fix them pancakes for breakfast. Smell them. Touch them. Squeeze them tight.

And take lots and lots of pictures.

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