Thursday, September 25, 2008


Thirteen years ago we began getting together with a handful of people for a weekly bible study.  I count those years by the memory that our 'Thirteen' was an infant who was just beginning to sit up.  The bible study migrated to our house when Thirteen began cruising as the other locations had perilous things such as coffee tables with bowls of pennies and pins, and computer monitors with fun buttons to push.  People have come and gone from the study over the years, but the same little core of people remains.  Currently, we are studying the book of Matthew at our tortoise-like pace.  Life, meetings, children, marriages, graduations, and the like have mellowed our pace.  Sometimes we decide just to potluck.  This week El Professor organized a potluck to celebrate the visit of a dear friend (who basically founded the bible study and has since moved away) and the evening turned into an unexpectedly delightful time.  My physical therapist friend, AKA 'Oldest and  Dearest', and her husband brought their house guests to join us.  They have been extending hospitality to a family from Singapore who are graduates from our beloved University  and are back in town bringing their own daughter to the selfsame University for her freshman year.  It was a lovely evening of connecting with our old  friend, 'Uncle Mark', and learning about life in Singapore.  The evening wrapped up a renewed sense of connection and the joys of hospitality.  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Wagons are Rolling.....

Several home school years ago, we read all of the LITTLE HOUSE books up to LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE.  Ten even had a LITTLE HOUSE birthday with a log cabin cake.  I loved the snapshots (although fictionalized) of hard work, diligence and purposefulness, especially in FARMER BOY and BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE.  This spring we started, but never finished, THE STOUT-HEARTED SEVEN, a true account of seven children orphaned on the Oregon Trail in 1844.  I've thought quite a bit about these books these past few weeks as we've jumped headlong into the new school year with Classical Conversations.  After a rather distracting summer (see Crossing My Arms The Other Way post), the school year hit the ground with its feet running.  The books have come to mind as I've pondered how the 'immigrants' prepared for the journey ahead of them.  They collected/packed the items they thought they would need and off loaded the belongings/property that were to be left behind. I purchased the books we would be needing over the summer for our journey with Classical Conversations as our 'core'.  I purchased books and materials both for the kids and for myself as a 5th/6th grade 'Masters' tutor.   The problem is that I didn't thoroughly comb through the material prior to the school year.  I attended parent meetings, purchased binders and dividers and organized, somewhat, the seeming loads of appendices, resource guides, weekly guides, and assignment guides.  I worked on my tutor subjects and how to teach the components of 'Foundations'.  But then there's the fact that this is a home school program.  My proficiency in scheduling the kids' lessons for the week, knowing their material, developing a 'face time' schedule and 'independent work' schedule has been the learning curve.  Juggling that with my own tutor lesson plans, materials gathering, chart making, making sure I have the lessons buttoned up in my own mind has been a bit hectic.  Frankly, I have felt like I gathered the materials for my wagon, tossed them in the wagon, and then the wagon train started rolling without my having a handle on what is in the wagon, where to find it, and how to use it.  The learning curve has been huge.  It's 'Wagons Ho!' and I am wanting to pull over and take another week or so to go through the wagon and reorganize.  As a part of a community, however, I am having to organize as we bump down the trail.   

Here is some of the 'gear' for our journey....

Thirteen is in a program called Challenge A which is the middle school program.  El Professor and I were most excited about the opportunities this program would offer Thirteen to prepare him for high school.  I am enjoying a reprieve from generating his core subjects as I come alongside as his home teacher facilitator.  Thirteen's tutor is great with youth, enthusiastic and super organized.  (She seems to have a good handle on the contents of her wagon.)  I have been combing through the materials while bumping along, working out his weekly schedule and assignments.  Parents can sit in on the 'seminars', but I am teaching during all of his morning seminars.  Thankfully, El Professor will be working with him on his Latin lessons and assignments.  Phew.  (I'm currently mono-lingual.) 

I am teaching Foundations, which is the morning portion of Ten's Classical Conversations  meeting day.  Her class consists of 5th/6th graders and, while being a lot of work, this has been great fun.  My favorite portion of the program is 'presentations'.  The kids have to do a 3-5 minute presentation EACH week.  I am having my class present on something that was covered in the previous week related to history, science or geography.  Several kids have done state reports for the states and capitals study.  Did you know that many (or maybe all) states have a 'state muffin'????  We have giggled and pondered the different state 'things' (like the New Jersey state dinosaur), and last week one student brought New York State mini muffins (apple).   
After lunch I get to sit back and give the reins to our Essentials teacher.  This part of the day is an intensive grammar program and then writing with the Institute for Excellence in Writing.  The afternoon wraps up with fast moving and fun math games.  

Classical Convesations is a home school program.   We meet weekly, and then the parents determine at home how to teach/reinforce the lessons.  It is up to the parents to determine how much/how far to go with each subject.   While I appreciate the purpose of Classical Conversations and the classical model, I am not a purist classical education lover. For instance, I have loved the ideas put forth in books like FOR THE CHILDREN'S SAKE, and anything Ruth Beechick.  In Ten's Foundations program we are learning the states and capitals.  A neighbor who is also in the program turned me on to a fun project and we are running with it....

I joined a (mostly) home school site where kids/families from different states swap postcards with each other.  Ten and I are attempting to collect postcards from all fifty states.  So, last week we did a little of the rigorous grammar assignments and then spent time sorting email requests and addressing postcards.  We have mailed 18 cards so far, and have received the cards in the photo. Frankly, I'd rather let the participles hang a bit, if needed, to make time for fun and meaningful projects. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Jiminy's time for school!

I wish I would have seen this.....

Instead of this......

on my bedroom wall, right above the headboard.  

Actually, I'm glad it wasn't a spider.  It all started with a hilarious report from Thirteen the other morning as I was getting ready for a tutor meeting to plan our first day of 'school' as a part of the new Classical Conversations group in our area.  I was getting out of the shower when there was a knock on the bathroom door.  (Even at ten and thirteen the kids' magic of suddenly needing mom when the bathroom door is shut or there is a phone call continues to baffle me. )
A report ensued.  It went something like this....
"Mom, I need to inform you that there are 29 crickets loose in the house."
I replied, through the bathroom door, something like, 
"Umm.  OK."
The report continued, through the bathrooom door.
"I bought 30 crickets at the pet store and I put them  in the bug house. There's a hole in the bug house."
I answered, logically, through the bathroom door,
"Well, put tape over the hole." 
What was I thinking?  
Something along the lines of, "Thank goodness it wasn't spiders."
Why the crickets?  This week Thirteen used his earnings from watering a neighbor's yard to buy one of these...

He has been piecing together the habitat all week.  A little cart before the horse, might I add.  "Autumn" is living in a Steralite tub with a board over the top.  She has the mandatory light, and a few necessary crickets.  

As for the crickets in the house?  I think there are about 21 now.  We've found several in our room and today I found one on the wall by Thirteen's room.  

The tutor meeting was immensely helpful and the first day of Classical Conversations (on Thursday) went great!  

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Starting Up....

Oh my goodness!!  My head is swimming with books, schedules, details, lessons, and a lot of, HUH????"  This year we have enrolled in the new Classical Conversations group in our area and I am tutoring.  So the "HUH???" needs to get cleared up soon.  Really soon.  Like by Thursday.  :-)