Sunday, September 28, 2008


Friday was Eric's 19th birthday. He and Sarah both came home for the weekend, so we threw a surprise birthday party for Eric last night. And it worked! He WAS surprised. woo hoo!

His girlfriend took him out for the afternoon to go rollerskating and then back to hang out at her house and watch a movie. The ruse was that they would come back here around 6:30 for a family "birthday dinner. Instead, a bunch of his friends came at 5:30, parking on the other side of the street to make it look like the neighbors were having a party(!), and we waited for them to arrive so we could yell "SURPRISE!".

His reaction?

"So, we're not having Fajitas?" (his request for his Birthday Dinner)

Sorry Eric, we'll have Fajitas next time you're home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Tonight my girls, some friends, and I went to see the movie "Fireproof", which opened in theaters nationwide today. This is another powerful movie from the makers of "Facing the Giants", this time dealing with a firefighter whose marriage is going up in flames. On the brink of divorce, he heeds the advice of his dad and embarks on a 40-day adventure called The Love Dare. The movie does a good job of showing the heartbreak of a neglected and broken relationship and the hard work it takes to restore lost trust. There is a good amount of humor, some tense moments, and a couple of times when a kleenex would have have come in handy.
The story behind the making of this movie is very inspirational as well - it was the project of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA, and produced almost entirely with a volunteer cast and crew.



There is a good review of the movie at Breakpoint .

FIREPROOF is showing in 3 Raleigh theaters - Wakefield 12, North Hills, and Brier Creek!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Favorite Blogs: Making Home

Making Home is one of those blogs that I find myself visiting over and over again. Jess describes her blog as "a place to discuss the hows and whys of making our homes pleasing to God". She describes herself this way:
"I'm the happy wife of a wonderful man, and delighted mommy to four kids six & under. I'm an avid reader, lifelong learner, improving family chef/baker, people & personality watcher, homeschooler, recovering feminist, and a God-seeking, authenticity-craving, husband-helpin, kid-lovin, truth-chasing, kingdom-focused woman."

She sounds like someone I'd like to know and could be friends with. :-)

A recent post of hers on marriage and sexuality stomped all over my toes, and even caused me to ...ahem... apologize to my husband. grrrr

Some Subtle Effects of the Birth-Control Culture made some great, spot-on observations, such as these:
#1 Young couples are thought irresponsible if they get pregnant right away...
#2 "Was it planned?" is no longer deemed a rude and quite personal question...
#3 Children are often seen and even referred to as an "accident"
#4 Large families are either seen as incredible or insane!

Time management, personal quiet times, parenting, mentoring, prayer,
politics, hospitality... she explores a variety of topics and doesn't avoid difficult ones, addressing each with insight and intelligence.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Many Hats: Balancing Mom and Teacher

The topic of the meme this week at Heart of the Matter is "Balancing Mom and Teacher".
"While many homeschooling moms know that being a mother includes teaching their children daily there are those who find the 'line' between teaching their homeschooling child and being a mom fuzzy. What are some of the best tips you can offer a new homeschooling mother who is sorting out those gray areas? How do you manage the balance between the two?"

After 14 years of homeschooling, this is something I rarely think about anymore. Being a teacher is part of being a mom, just like being a cook, nurse, chauffeur, advisor, cheerleader, disciplinarian, guide, and friend. But when I first started homeschooling, I did think about this more. I remember a friend commenting more than once that she felt she would be a better "mother" if she was not homeschooling. I knew what she meant by that comment. She meant that she would spend more time doing " fun stuff " like baking cookies, going to the park, decorating the house for the holidays, planning parties, and playing board games if she didn't have to worry about "school". To her, "school" meant struggling through math lessons, drilling spelling words, and correcting workbook pages. It meant being strict and no-nonsense and tough ~ or else her children would take advantage of her tenderness and not do their work! I would probably be a better mother if I didn't have to be a good wife too! Or a friend, or a daughter, or a neighbor, or any of the other things that make up real life! We don't normally think about separating those "jobs" from our view of ourselves as a mom; neither should we separate the job of "teacher". It is just part of the package.


The "ideal mom" that my friend was comparing herself to was out of balance. Being a good mom is not only about making life fun and happy for our children, although it should INCLUDE those things. Balancing being a teacher AND being a mother means addressing character issues in the midst of the science lesson, or engaging the whole family in discussion at the dinner table or while riding in the car. It means recognizing when my kids aren't feeling well or are having a bad day, and lightening up, or even putting academics aside altogether. It means modeling sacrifice and service and a good attitude in my own work, in my home and outside my home too. It means celebrating a soccer goal or a finished book report with an ice cream cone, and taking a whole day to carve pumpkins and collect colored leaves, and making homemade soup and bread together for a sick friend. The books will still be there tomorrow. 
Perhaps looking at "school" in a new way is the answer. Thinking "out of the box" when it comes to academics frees me to loosen up and realize that our day does not have to be divided into "periods" or "subjects". For us, integrating education into our flow of daily life means that we "do school" in our home - sitting on the couch, lying on the bed, sitting at the kitchen table - and not in a "school room". Chores, playtime, errands, and activities are woven throughout our day. Each child has an "assignment sheet" outlining the school work that I expect to be done that week, with some things divided into daily assignments. That represents our goal for the week, but I will adjust it as we go along. The process of learning is the focus, and not checking off boxes. 
Younger children require my direct attention and involvement in their lessons, but the older they get, the more independent they are expected to be. I do not assign grades, but expect work to be done thoroughly and well, or it is redone. I feel free to shorten a lesson, or skip problems in the book, or modify a plan to suit the needs of the child or the family on any given day. Short lessons for younger children, interspersed with plenty of creative play time, makes both of us happy! Older children learn that academic work CAN be done in the evenings and on weekends too. ( a novel idea to most homeschoolers!) hahaha! Homeschooling has become our LIFESTYLE, and not just something we get through or stick into our day.
I don't take OFF my mom hat and put ON my teacher hat, I wear them both at the same time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Create A Book, Wk 2

Yesterday was my second Create-a-Book class. This week we talked about characters and setting. The students had come to class with story ideas this week, so I asked them to open their notebooks and write the name of their main character at the top of the page. Then I wrote these questions on the board, for them to copy and answer in their notebook:
family members?
hair color / eye color?
favorite color?
favorite food?
least favorite food?
favorite school subject?
least favorite school subject?
personality? ( shy, outgoing, gentle, loud )
character traits? ( honest, kind, impatient, etc)
favorite activities? ( sports, music, Scouts, church, etc)
other important information:

This is to get to "know" your character, even if this information is not actually going to be included in your story!

Next, we talked about 5 Ways We Get to Know a Character

  1. The writer tells directly
  2. Through the character's words
  3. Through the character's thoughts & feelings
  4. Through the character's actions

  5. Through the response of other characters in the story

We looked at some examples taken from children's books. Which of these ways was the author using to describe his character?

Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything except...getting a bath. ( Harry the Dirty Dog ) #1

Of course no one had ever seen Mr. Hatch wearing a tie, or smelling of aftershave, or smiling. So he got a lot of attention. Mrs. Weed tripped over her dog. Mr. Dunwoody nearly fell off his ladder. And little Tina Finn spilled all the toys #5

It was a great relief to Heidi to know that the windows could be opened and that one could look out, for she still felt as if she was shut up in prison. ( Heidi) #3

To learn about Setting, we looked at some pictures ( images printed off of Google Images ) of things like a parade, a snowy backyard, a family around a campfire, a basketball game, and Disney World. We went around the room, and the kids responded to the questions : Imagine you are there. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell or taste? What do you feel/ touch?
Passages from Heidi , The Cricket in Times Square, and Little Town on the Prairie, had wonderful descriptions of setting, and we identified words that described the time and place, and appealed to the 5 senses.
Homework this week is to fill out a worksheet to describe the main character in their story, and also a worksheet that describes the setting using the 5 Senses.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This is How My College Boy Spent His Saturday

It is called Twisted Falls; it is somewhere in the NC mountains - within an hour of Boone....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Create-A-Book and TOG Co-op

School is pretty much in full swing now, with several outside classes and activities kicking off this week. "A"s chemistry class, "J's science class, homeschool choir, and the short story/ create-a-book class I'm teaching all began this week. Oh, and "J"s first soccer game is this morning.

The Short Story /Create-a-Book class is something I am teaching at the local homeschool bookstore / resource center, and our first meeting went very well. I brought a box full of well-loved picture books from my shelves and we looked at them, identifying the parts of a book such as the cover, title, spine, dedication, publisher, end pages, story summary, author bio., text & illustrations.

Then we looked at a couple of homemade books that my children had created, and I read them the story of "Jason and Grayson and the Missing Baseball Hat", written by my lovely and talented oldest daughter.

Afterwards, we brainstormed story ideas by listing the alphabet down one side of a piece of paper and writing down things we enjoyed or thought were interesting for each letter.

A - Astronauts, Antarctica, Alligators

B - Ballet, Basketball, Band,

C - Christmas, Cookies, China

D - Dinosaurs, Dessert, Dreams

E - Elephants, Ethiopia


As a class, we created a Jumble Story. On the whiteboard I wrote these Categories: Character, Place, Time, and Problem. The kids in the class then suggested things to put under each category - for instance, 1. Sparkle, the Dragon; 2. Precious, the Princess; 3. Connor, the race car driver... 1. in a castle; 2. at the beach... 1. in 1475; 2. in the winter; 3. today ; 1. a stolen artifact; 2. can't find his shoes; 3. best friend told a lie.......... Once our categories were filled in, I chose someone to roll a die, and the number that came up was the number we chose for Character; someone else rolled and that number was the Place, and so on. So now we had Sparkle the Dragon, in a castle, in the morning, and a stolen artifact. Paired with a partner, the kids then had 15 minutes to write a story with a beginning, middle, and and end, using those 4 elements. They really seemed to get into this and produced some pretty funny stories.

We talked about character, setting, & plot, and the fact that every story has a beginning, middle, and end. And now they have to come back next week with their own story idea, and we'll get started!

There are 16 kids in the class, ranging from age 8 to 14. We are spending the first 4 weeks learning about and writing their short stories, and then we'll move into the development and construction of a one-of-a-kind, heirloom hard-cover book! I did this project many years ago with my 3 older children, and then about 5 years ago as a class in our homeschool co-op. The project is from Valerie Bendt's Creating Books With Children. "J" is in this class with me, and I'll post more about his progress in creating a story and a book as we go along.

Yesterday was TOG Co-op day. I have a lot more prep work this year, teaching high school level literature and writing to a group of seven 14-15 yr. olds. The kids are super - I love them all - but the material is very challenging, and I am having to read their literature assignments as well as the teacher background notes and discussion script each week, and also prepare some writing instruction materials. whew! We are following the "cutting plan" laid out in the TOG Yr 2 Loom, which trims the literature assignments to make them more manageable for younger high school students. This past week we finished reading Beowulf ( from the Norton Anthology of English Lit.! ) and discussed the story and the elements of theme, worldview, characters, and "experiment in living". Next week we begin tackling Chaucer's Canterbury Tales!

I'm pretty happy with the effort the kids are putting in so far, but I'm going to need to be a cheerleader to keep them motivated through the tough work ahead. I can tell there is a lack of confidence there. This is a BIG step up from what any of them were doing last year for literature, when they were all in the Dialectic level of TOG, reading stories like The Golden Goblet, Wonders and Miracles, and Eagle of the Ninth.

Writing so far is a review of the writing process, and forming strong sentences and paragraphs, but in a couple of weeks they'll be tackling their first Literary Analysis paper, and then a 10-page research paper.

This is WAY above the kind of work I did in high school, but I am excited that my children have a high bar to work for and get to tackle such challenging material. I'm sorry that I didn't have it when my older ones were still homeschooling. They did fine and succeeded very well in college, but my goodness... after TOG, college work should be a breeze for these last two!

Last but not least, here is Jason with the Viking longboat that he made this week.
( tissue box, bamboo skewers, Crayola Model Magic, copy paper )

Friday, September 12, 2008

Extra Activities: Help or Hindrance?

Since this is the beginning of a new school year, I figured I'd start back with the Friday meme for Heart of the Matter. This week's topic is : Extra Activities, Helping or Hindering?

This is now our 14th year of homeschooling, and three children have left the nest, leaving just the youngest two still at home. "A" is in 10th grade and "J" is in 5th. We have always had a full schedule of outside activities, and this year is no different. "A" plays on a homeschool volleyball team, sings in a homeschool choir, and is in a chemistry class that meets one morning a week. When volleyball season ends, she will most likely play on the homeschool basketball team, unless her feet continue to give her trouble, and will also serve as scorekeeper for the varsity boys basketball team which her dad coaches.
"J" plays rec league soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. He just started piano lessons for the first time this fall, and one afternoon a week he goes to a friend's house for a science class. This fall he is also taking a once-a-week class on writing and bookmaking that I am teaching at the local homeschool bookstore / resource center.
In addition to those things, our family belongs to a Tapestry of Grace Co-op that meets for 5 hours every Friday. My husband is director of our local homeschool sports program and also coaches basketball. I am active in our homeschool support group as the newsletter editor, email loop moderator, and coordinator of Saturday morning discussion groups.

Although some of these activities, like choir or piano, are focused on an individual, other things, like sports, are activities we participate in as a family, in one way or another. The outside classes help provide academic accountability and fill a social need. We enjoy our level of activity for the most part, although the very rare occasion when a winter snow flurry shuts down all activity here in NC is a welcome respite for that day or two or three.

These activities enhance our family life, giving my children a wealth of experiences and opportunities to develop skills and talents that will provide enjoyment and possibly avenues for ministry in later years. The choice to participate in extra activities is a personal one that each family should weigh carefully. For some families, outside activities are disruptive. But for us, well-chosen outside activities are a blessing and a wonderful family-bonding experience.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

High School Essays Being Scored By Computers?

Okay, this is rather bizarre, but apparently several textbook companies now offer online computerized essay scoring, and some public schools are signing on for this service, requiring that students achieve a certain score before being allowed to graduate. Read this blog post at Yarns of the Heart, and see what you think!
And here is a follow up to that first post.



Sunday, September 7, 2008

Camping in Boone

I mentioned that we went camping over Labor Day Weekend. It was rather last minute, but Mark decided he NEEDED a weekend away from work, and we love the mountains, and two of our kids just happen to be in college out in the mountains! One of the problems with spontaneity like that is that campsites are hard to come by on a holiday weekend. The two campgrounds we normally visit, Boone KOA and Flintlock, were already booked solid, and a couple of others I contacted nearby were also full. But someone suggested that we try Julian Price State Park, which is located in Boone right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Probably half their sites are first-come-first-served, but the others may be reserved. We didn't want to travel 4 hours with the camper and arrive late at night HOPING that a site would be available, so we got online to see if any of the reservation sites were left, and we got the last one!

Now, we love camping, but we don't really "rough it". Modern bathrooms are a must, and we have come to enjoy electric hook up, camp stores with game rooms for the kids, pools, laundry rooms, wireless internet... Well, this campground had flush toilets, but no showers, no hot water, and no electricity. It was pretty heavily wooded and was DARK at night - can't-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face dark! But even without electric hook up, we were able to run the interior camper lights off of the battery, so that was helpful. There was a water spigot on a path in the woods about 10 yards behind our campsite, so we filled our 2.5-gallon container every morning with water for cooking and washing dishes. The bathrooms were tiled and very clean, but the lights ran off of a solar panel, and the bathhouse nearest to us was too much in the shade for that to work very well! So a flashlight was necessary when using that facility

Well, although it seems like we had to "rough it", we actually visited Sarah's dorm at Appalachian every day for showers. Ah!!!

Because of Co-op commitment in the morning and early afternoon, we left home around dinnertime and arrived at the campground at around 11:30 PM, after swinging by the college campus and picking up Eric. Sarah had RA duty and could only spend Sunday night with us, but she did spend the days with us. Eric's friend, Ryan, also spent the weekend with us.

On Saturday we drove down the road to Valle Crucis, where we stopped at Mast General Store for some old-fashioned candy, and then went to a town park for our traditional whiffle ball game, followed by some wading in a mountain stream

On Sunday we went on a pretty easy 2.5 mile hike around Price Lake. Later we went to the college rec field to play frisbee - pretty funny when you have two forty-somethings, 2 college kids, a couple of high schoolers, and a 10-yr-old.

We also played another traditional Herbert camping game - homerun derby - and Ryan ( who claimed this was her first time ever playing whiffle ball) was the champion! We made a trip or two to WalMart, celebrated Dad's birthday on Sunday, ate dinner at Golden Corral, walked around downtown Boone, and enjoyed being together. Our campfire / s'mores plans were washed out by some heavy showers in the evening, but otherwise the weather was great and the weekend was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back to School

We are all back to school.


Things have been super busy, and the computer has been very cranky, thus the lack of updates to this blog. Let's see, since my last update, I have moved E into his dorm at Appalachian State; started our TOG Year 2 Co-op; celebrated my and Mark's birthdays; celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary; gone to several of A's homeschool volleyball games; put together the Sept. newsletter for our homeschool group; and spent the long Labor Day weekend camping in the mountains.

Now I am playing catch up after that extra long weekend ( we got home late Tuesday afternoon ) and am trying to read the TOG Yr.2 Week 4 upper grammar and rhetoric assignments and prepare to teach literature and writing at Co-op on Friday, and also prepare for the first class of Creating Books With Children, which I am teaching to a class of 16 kids at Homelight Books starting next Tuesday. I'm also trying to do all the dirty laundry from the weekend ( camping creates lots of that ), and go clean out the camper so we can close it up before the rain from Hurricane Hanna hits on Friday!

E and S are doing fine at college as they go through week 2 of classes - both report that their professors have assigned entirely too much work for so early in the semester! E lost his cell phone today when it fell out of his backpack while hiking back from a visit to a local waterfall...

Alex is out on field exercises in TX - he reports that he'll be without a shower for the next 4 weeks. I guess that is part of preparing for the challenges of the battlefield. Get used to being dirty and smelly!

I watched some of the coverage of the Republican Convention on tv tonight. I must say, I am impressed with Sarah Palin. What a firecracker! I wasn't overly enthused with John McCain as the Republican nominee - although I knew I had to vote for him because the alternative is unthinkable - BUT I am definitely more encouraged and more excited after learning more about this VP pick. She brings something fresh to the table. Should be an interesting 2 months!