Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Today I’m thankful for…


A fun play date at the park.

A visit with my Dad and Step-mom.

Windows open, driving down a country road.

A Norah Jones CD making driving the van a bit less boring (I miss my cute little car when the weather is nice).

A little time to spend with my handsome husband while the kids visit Mamaw and Papaw.


What made your day wonderful? 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

To Whom It May Concern,

This is my official resignation from the self-inflicted position of super woman.  It’s been real fun and all, but I find myself falling short in the job requirements regularly.  May be that my lack of super powers is holding me back. 

So, to the weeds that taunt me every time I walk by the flower bed.  Go fly a kite.  You’re almost tall enough anyway.

To the unpicked tomatoes guilting me in the garden, you can just rot.  Oh wait, you already did.  Well, serves you right.

To the dirty master bath.  You aren’t the boss of me!  Quit trying to intimidate me into cleaning your nasty toilet and scrubbing the shower.  I’ll get to it when I get to it.

To my dirty, nasty van.  Eeww.  You stink. 

To the pile of unfolded socks.  It’s not winter yet.  We don’t need socks.

To my unmade bed.  I need a maid.

Yeah.  That’s about it for today.  I’ll be out in the yard playing with my kids and fixing a pot of chicken and noodles. 

Thanks for understanding. 


A happy mom.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Walk in the Woods


Setting the camera for auto-timer in the middle of the forest is not the way to get great family photos, but it sure does capture a memory.

We got adventurous and set out on our great family camping adventure of 2010, our first since way back before Sam was born! 



Here are my little stair-steps, all lined up and waiting on Mom and Dad to get their act together.

And yes, the pictures on my wall are very crooked.  This is what happens when you have little boys who enjoy running into the wall every chance they get!





The state park was a great place to visit since we are just now finishing our study of trees.  The kids loved the nature center.










They could hardly wait to get started on our big hike.  We picked a simple, one mile trail.  We taught the kids to look out for the trail markers.  They really enjoyed the freedom of going on with Mom and Dad lagging behind and waiting for us to catch up at the next marker.





As usual, the trail held lots of neat things to see and explore.  You’ll have to look very close at this picture to spot the cool walking stick (a bug) we found.





Climbing over a downed tree just adds to the adventure.






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With a bit of patient help from his dad, even Sam was able to make it over the log.  He was so proud!




Hard work like that earns you a ride.  Sam had walked nearly half of the trail before he was too worn out to go any further.








Dad may not be tired, but Sam sure is!







This is the “Na, na, na, na, boo-boo” face.  It means the "big kids” made it to the trail marker before the grown-ups. 







We made it to the end of the trail with a tired bunch of kiddos.  We loaded ‘em up in the van and headed home. 





The kiddos were so excited to wake up from naps to find their dad setting up the camper in the yard.  We ate hotdogs and enjoyed lots of junk food.  The kids spent some time looking through the telescope at a very full moon.  And yes… We really did spend the night camping in our own back yard.  Maybe we’ll get really wild and spend a night at an actual campground next time! ;) 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Today, I’m thankful for…


Picking up persimmons with my momma.

Twelve bags of persimmon pulp tucked away in my freezer.

Conversations with my handsome husband.

My sweet MIL teaching my kiddos this morning.

The cooler weather that is in the forecast.  (Today, the first full day of fall, our expected high is 100 degrees.  Gotta be a record!)


Jump right in and share your many blessings by leaving a comment.  :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Throwing out the School Books

~at least for this week~




Goodbye Handwriting, Goodbye Math!  This week, our home school is going outside the classroom.

Today’s exciting adventure is brought to you by our local park.  It was so nice of them to post signs identifying trees!  What a great place to go study during our final week of learning about trees.

This lovely tree is the Pin Oak.  As Mary noticed, it’s leaves have little prickly “pins” on them.  Guess we know why they call it a Pin Oak!







How could you not be amazed at the Pin Oak’s cool, striped acorns?!







Danny, my kindergartener, enjoyed journaling by copying the tree name, tracing the leaves and adding lots of other neat details.







She just couldn’t believe all the “Sarah S’s” in this word.  She counted them and she traced them with her fingers.






The kids were a bit nervous about checking out the hollow place in this Maple tree after all the books we have read about animals making their home in trees.  Curiosity prevailed.







“Wow, Mom!  Look at these trees!”







The Pine trees had so many fun things to pick up and study.



In all, we studied about one dozen trees today.  We added several pages to our learning journals and I took lots of pictures.  Later in the week, I hope to print out the photos and let the kids put together their own tree identification book. 

This is my favorite kind of teaching and learning.  We had so much fun leaving the classroom this morning.  Whether you home school, public school, private school or un-school… Get out in your local parks and explore the details all around you.  Even us “grown-ups” will see things we have never noticed before!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Old Days

My kids had a great time at my hometown’s celebration of days gone by.




Danny did a bit of apprentice work in the carpentry shop.








Mary looked very adorable in an old-fashioned dress, checking out the jail.






The big kids took turns making rope.




Sam waited patiently and played with an old fashioned pop-gun.








Sarah helped cut wood using an old treadle type band-saw, thingy…








Danny had fun shelling corn with an old machine from 1889.








Sarah is riding way up high in a caboose look-out seat.  Danny is in the seat on the other side.  I think they were watching for train robbers.







What a great way to play and learn.

The End.  :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Dirty Little Secret…

So last week, I wrote about one of the secret benefits of homeschooling.  Tonight I’m going to flip things around a bit and write about the worst thing about homeschooling.

Most people I talk to about homeschooling worry about “socialization.”  Most people think that the “lack of socialization” must be the biggest drawback to homeschooling.  Let’s just get that topic out of the way, once and for all.  It’s not a topic.  It’s simple.  Kids who end up “weird, unsocialized homeschoolers” are the same kids who would end up as outcasts in the public school setting, bless their hearts.  I know that sounds rather unfeeling and rude.  I’ve been a teacher in the traditional school setting and I have seen what these kids go through.  My heart breaks for them.  Trust me when I say, those kiddos are no better off for having been subjected to “school.”  Sending kids to school won’t “fix” them.  Frankly, those kiddos are, quite often, not broken.  They simply don’t fit the mold, no matter how hard they try to stuff themselves into the mold.  Fitting into the mold is highly overrated.  Schooled, unschooled or homeschooled won’t make much difference in “socialization.”  I bet I’ll get a few comments over this paragraph, but that’s fine with me.  Now that we have that dirty little piece of business out of the way…

The real, honest to goodness “bad thing” about homeschooling is that it is hard.  Homeschooling is really, really hard.  On the teacher, that is!  If you are considering homeschooling or have a family member or friend who already does, you need to read this so you can understand the real “bad thing” about homeschooling.

We are four weeks into the school year.  I’m ready to have some kind of nervous breakdown.  I love teaching my kiddos.  I love spending time with my kids.  I’m glad Eric and I have the opportunities to give the kids such neat experience.  What gets me down, is balancing the work load. 

I have four kids, age 7 and under.  That means that I am teaching the oldest two while I balance the needs of the youngest two.  Practically speaking, that means that school time is not always going to be the relaxed and enlightening experience I would wish for my children.  Some days are terrific.  Some days are horrific.  Just being honest with you.  On the bad days, I spend my time chasing the baby out of the markers just in time to find him using a glue stick as lip gloss.  I wish I were kidding.

Then when school is over, it’s back to reality.  Someone has to make lunch around here.  Seeing how we don’t have a cafeteria and those cool serving-separating trays, I guess that’s me.  After lunch is finished, the kids are very good about helping to clean up the mess.  I still have a baby to rock and get ready for nap.  There are diapers in the pail that really need washed.  They stink.  There is a mess on the bathroom counter and the kitchen floor needs mopped if my feet sticking to it is any indication.  If I am lucky, there are a few loads of laundry in the basement that are waiting to be folded.  Wow!  I can’t believe how quickly spiders can build cobwebs and I wonder how long that sippy-cup has been hiding, just out of reach.  Someone just fell and bumped their elbow so it’s the boo-boo bunny and hugs and kisses all around.  Suddenly, it’s snack time and I think to myself, “I should really take the kids to the park… but maybe today isn’t a good day for that.”  So, I make supper instead while the two little ones play underfoot or dash off to get into something that they shouldn’t . 

Reality.  It bites, or something like that.  The fact remains.  Homeschooling is hard.  It isn’t the curriculum.  It isn’t my worries about providing for socialization.  Plain and simple, it’s the balancing. 

But then, on a night when I just don’t think I can do it anymore…  In rides my knight in shining armor, white horse and all (well, actually a red mini-van).  He takes the two littles to town to get pizza, leaving me here with the two really exceptional big-kid helpers.  We manage to get things looking almost respectable and my panic attack subsides. 

Tomorrow, we get to start again.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  Just so you know…

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Year’s Top Crop


This is broom corn.  As in, the stuff they use to make corn brooms.  I bet you always wondered about that, didn’t you?


I’m not sure what possessed me to order the seeds from Seed Savers.  It must have been some really good marketing on their part.  Or, maybe I’m just a bit strange.  Yeah, I’m thinking I’m a bit strange.  Anyway, you can discuss that amongst yourselves…


So, I tilled up a five or six foot long row in the garden and threw the seeds in.  I didn’t give them much care beyond weeding them one time.  The plants popped up and grew so fast that weeding wasn’t really an issue.


And, this is what I ended up with.  A row full of plants that were at least 10 feet tall.  This one was easily 12 feet tall.  Danny looks so small next to it.




Seems rather silly to say, but I almost hated to harvest this pretty little row.

I’ve really enjoyed watching it grow.  It towers over the tomatoes and seems to guard the peppers…

But the day had come to harvest my pretty little crop.






Broom corn is a type of sorghum.  I think it’s pretty.




My chickens think it’s tasty.





This praying mantis thought the bugs that were living on the plants were tasty.  I think I surprised him when I pulled this stalk down to cut it…  He sure surprised me!  I made sure he got to the ground safely, though.  These little guys are valuable in the garden. 



Curious and Slick were very interested in the harvest.






My short little row provided me with an overflowing basket of broom corn.





It looks kind of neat, mixed in with some fall flowers. 

It would be fun to make a broom, but I think I’ll settle for using it to decorate for fall and then feeding it to the chickens.  Any good decorating ideas? 



I’m linking up today at Blue Cricket Design.

Building Houses in the Woods


My front yard is bordered by cedar trees…


And between those cedars, there is a well worn path…


That leads through the trees…


To my kids’ favorite place to play and explore,


Pretend and build.  This is Mary’s lean-to house.


I’m not sure they had permission to take the dishes from their little kitchen out in the woods, but how else could they make a dirt and evergreen needle soup?


I’m so glad they are exploring and making their own fun!  It’s a little unnerving having them playing outside of the front yard in a place I can’t see from the front porch, but it’s been lots of fun and really good for them.  This “free-range” experience has helped them to develop so much creativity, learn to work out their own differences, and work hard to carry out their schemes plans.  Lucky for me, it’s just a short walk to the edge of the woods so I can peek in and check on my “babies.”  I’m not sure I’m ready for them to grow up so fast, but ready or not… 


I’m linked up to Childhood 101, today. 

Pop over there to see some other great blog links!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Mayberry, a little message about community.

We lived in the city when we first got married.  Actually, most people wouldn’t consider it a city, but to this farm girl anyplace with a shopping mall and tall buildings visible in the distance qualifies as a city. 

I hated it. 

A lot.

Sometimes, I cried.

After growing up on several hundred acres, town life was way too cramped.  My little backyard joined up with four other little backyards.  There were people everywhere.  Even the parks were crowded.  The only place to be alone was in the shower. 

When we bought this place and moved, I felt so relieved.  It was so nice to sit on the porch in my pajamas and know that nobody would ever be the wiser.  I loved being able to take a walk and never leave the property.  The stars don’t look the same in the city either, what with all those airplanes flying overhead and the glare of streetlights.

Relocating to the rural countryside where I grew up was such a relief to me.  I’m not cut out for city life.

There’s a misconception about rural life, though.  One that has taken a while for me to sort out.  People often think that communities are much stronger in the country.  I thought that was true at first…  Now, I’m not so sure that community has that much to do with location, be it rural or urban.

In looking back, I see that we had formed a sort of community when we lived in the city.  Our house was the drop-by hanging out spot for most of our college friends.  We had also met and developed a good relationship with some of our neighbors, to the point that I was truly sad to leave them.  My experience with city living was fairly brief, so I’m no judge as to the extent of community atmosphere found in the city.  Besides, I brought my country roots with me and that is a strong influence.  Some of you “city folks” will have to let me know about the strength of your community and the love you share for one another.

Once we were firmly planted back in rural-America, I was content to relax in the solitude for a while.  But then as time went by, I wanted a larger role in my community.  At first, I was a bit frustrated because I wasn’t just falling into place in our community.  I grew up around here and have a large network of aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, seventh cousins… once removed.  I couldn’t understand why I didn’t automatically have my own special place in the community.  Kind of arrogant, huh?!

Time went by.  I started building community in a rather silly and simple way.  I started smiling at random people.  I hated leaving the local grocery store knowing everyone in there was walking around in a fog of their own world, never connecting with anyone else in the store.  Mary was a little baby then, so it was easy to smile at people and share a hello.  This was a good start.  I have kept to my silly habit and enjoy finding that many local store clerks recognize us when we come in.  Of course they would notice us coming (go anywhere with 4 small children and people will notice), but what is really great is that many of them know the kid’s names.  It may sound like a simple thing, but it makes a difference in the way we care for each other.

We had joined a church by then and found a great community within the community.  Our church is a great little country church.  We enjoy fellowship around wonderful, fall bonfires and hayrides.  The men pitch in together to help fix stuff or cut fire wood for those who can’t do it for themselves.  When each of the kids were born, the ladies got together and planned to bring us meals every other night for weeks so that we could spend those days recovering and enjoying our new little one.  The community there is really more of a family in so many wonderful ways.

When we made the decision to home-school, the topic of community became a concern again.  So much of rural community is based around our schools.  To opt-out of the local school system means that we will need to put a little extra effort into making ties for our children in the community.  The kids have been in 4H for two years and hope to get involved with scouts soon.  We have also become a part of a playgroup that meets weekly. 

What I have learned is that whether you live in the city or in “Mayberry,” becoming a part of your community is a process and a privilege that can only be earned over the course of years.  Community can happen anywhere, but it doesn’t “just happen.” 

Community is something that happens when you are willing to get to know and care about those around you.  Community is spending your time and resources locally.  Community isn’t about keeping scores for kindnesses shared, but sharing kindness because you care.  Community is doing or not doing something because you know it would impact others who live in your community.  Community is forgiving folks who make bad choices and caring about those same people while they are enduring the consequences of their bad decision.  Community isn’t a place, be it city or country.  Community is living life, caring for others around you.  Community isn’t a thing of the past, found only in old sitcoms.


Hope you’ll share your own thoughts on community and the ways you are a part of yours.  BTW, I love this little “community,” here on the web…  Thanks so much to all of you who take a little time to read and share thoughts here.  :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wanna Know a Secret?


So, you might have heard how much we love homeschooling.  We do.  It has many wonderful qualities and honorable benefits.  Blah, Blah, Blah!  There is one little secret nobody talks about.  Until now…

I love our schedule!  That doesn’t really convey how I feel about it.  I  LOVE our schedule!!  So, to help folks understand what I’m trying to say, lets do a little comparing and contrasting. 

Scenario A.  Get the kids up and ready for the day, feeding them cold cereal in a bowl (if they are lucky, ‘cause I’m just not an early morning kind of gal), head ‘em out the door and to the bus by 7:15.  They are gone all day long, sitting in a classroom with a bunch of other kids.  Then, pick them up at the bus stop at 4:00 and head back to the (much cleaner) house for cookies and milk.  ~Give me a bit of credit!  I may not be willing to cook breakfast before dawn, but cookies before the bus I can do!  Then I would need to be a responsible parent and make the kids sit at the table for another 30-45 minutes doing homework.  By then, the sun would be setting, dinner would be ready and it would be time for baths and bed.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Scenario Us.  Wake up around 7:15.  Make a yummy breakfast of eggs and bacon, pancakes on a good day.  Sit at the table and enjoy a second cup of coffee while the kids finish eating.  Clean the table with help from my kiddos.  Send the kiddos out to do their chores while I get dressed and maybe fill my coffee cup up half-way again.  Head to the school room around 8:45 and do a little morning meeting time just like I used to do it when I was student teaching the first grade.  Set the kids loose on their assignment sheet, helping when needed.  Spend that time working with Dan on his reading or with Mary on a writing project.  Throw a few loads of clothes on the line while the kids work.  Chase the littles.  Find silly things for the littles to do to keep them quiet.  Chase Sam out of my craft stuff.  You get the idea…  Finish this part of school around 11:00 and head upstairs to make lunch and get the littles in bed for a nap.  Then we head back downstairs and get the big kids started on a big project or a game in which I am there only if needed.  Then, I either dash around like a crazy woman cleaning my house or I crash in front of the computer for a few minutes of “coffee break” with my favorite blogs.  Then, it’s 2:30, and the littles wake from nap.  We eat a snack and then we play until supper time. 

And the best part is that when life gets crazy, the kids get tired, Momma gets stressed or we have a fun playdate scheduled… we can change our schedule.  Yeah, that’s right.  I’m a rebel.  Sometimes, I throw our routine out the window and don’t even look back.  Sometimes, we even eat ice cream for dinner. 

I love the flexibility of our schedule.  Really, it’s a routine (or as my friend calls it “a rhythm”).  I love that we can change things up when needed.  I love that there isn’t a bus to catch or a form to fill out.  I love, Love, LOVE that my kids have lots of playtime.  I love that we are free to learn and spend our time learning in ways that truly benefit my children and make the best use of their precious childhood.

Today was a great example of the flexibility of homeschooling.  This week’s playdate was at our house.  I’m not even going to pretend that I could have done school and been ready for guests by 10:00.  That’s just not going to happen.  There are always last minute things to do like making sure the kids put their dirty clothes down the laundry chute and cleaning up the full glass of milk Sam spilled in the kitchen and splattered on every cabinet in a 10 foot radius.  So, we just ditched school until nap time.  Then, the kids went downstairs and got things going while I rocked Sam and tucked in Sarah.  We finished school while the littles napped and then we played outside.  When Eric finished work, we loaded up in the van and headed to Mom's farm and did some great exploring in the woods and played in the creek.  We didn’t get home until after 7:00, so I threw hotdogs on the grill and washed some grapes and called it supper.  It was a great and memorable day.  The kids collected things to study at school (we are studying trees right now).  We are all relaxed and smiling.  Tomorrow, we will likely be back to the normal routines.  Tomorrow, we will still be smiling.