It’s the last day of January, and whew — I’m glad it’s over. This has been a very busy month, and it has been cold outside with a few days of almost warm. It also has been a month of remembering….remembering loss from last year and remembering pre-covid times when everything was so much easier. I have been doing lots of random things like going to physical therapy, and I have been ordering specimens for my son’s biology labs. I also baked a loaf of bread for one of his science experiments. I haven’t baked in a long time, but I was pleased to have the skill when it was needed. I finished another James Herriot book, and I discovered that I absolutely love Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I’m so lucky to have musicians in my house!
The project that has taken the most time, however, is my 12-year-old’s new YouTube channel! Yes, we have taken the bird project to new heights! This year my 12-year-old is in an online ornithology club, which has really inspired him to dig deeper into the world of birds, and then I wondered if he might enjoy recording the birds in our yard and starting a YouTube channel. I was right, and he’s so excited about this. Every few days he’ll put the camera outside, picking a new place or a different angle, and we’ll put the seeds out there. Then we go inside and hope the birds will show up. They usually do. (And we’re at the window with our binoculars.)
This project is teaching my son more than just how to record birds. We have sat together to edit the film, and I’m surprised that he has so much patience to go through the recordings! He picks out the best parts, and I’ve shown him how to trim them. We are also going to learn more about video editing together, and I can see that it won’t be long before I won’t need to help. You never know where this could lead.
Naturally, he is most excited about getting new subscribers on his YouTube channel. So if you feel inclined, I hope you’ll subscribe. You never know, I might be fostering a YouTube star. LOL. Or, maybe Mr. Cardinal will become the star. We’ll see. 🤣
Here’s one of my favorite videos. Please go to his channel and click on “videos” at the top to see them all. And then you’ll understand why I’ve been so busy. This kid likes recording!
How has 2022 begun for you? I hope it’s starting out well.
May has been a brighter month for me. Earlier in this year, when I learned we would have to prolong our isolation because the COVID vaccine was not approved for kids yet, I fell into a sad slump, which was made worse by other circumstances. However, similar to the experience I had last year — when I realized we were going to be stuck at home for a very long time vs. a 2 week lockdown — I eventually accepted the situation and felt much better. (I am a huge fan of the word ACCEPTANCE. For many years now, I’ve realized that this is a magic word. If you wield it, it has power.)
It goes without saying that beautiful spring weather can lift anyone’s mood. We’ve had a beautiful month, and I’m soaking up the breeze, the birds, flowers and plants. I love sitting on my front porch. It’s my favorite place to be.
After being at home for nearly two years (we had other health issues we were dealing with before the pandemic), we finally got away for a week this month. We rented an Airbnb in the mountains of North Carolina, and I’m sharing photos from that trip in this blog post. The best part of that trip was the view from the porch of our Airbnb. Never in my life have I been so lucky to stay in a place with a view like this. We went birding along the Little Tennessee River Greenway, hiking on the Bartram Trail, and one day we went into the Great Smoky National Park. (We’re planning to go back because there’s so much we couldn’t see in one trip.) We got groceries, ordered take out, sat out on that porch and played games. We had a terrible cell phone signal and no wifi, but we had cable television, which we don’t have at home, so we watched our favorite cooking competitions, Chopped and Iron Chef, and another guilty pleasure, Shark Tank, but that was the only T.V. we watched.
Now that we’re home I feel refreshed, and I’ve enjoyed thinking about the homeschool lessons that my boys need to finish up for 5th and 8th grade. They will work until mid-June, and then they’ll enjoy some virtual summer programs. That will slide us into August when we have birthday month, and hopefully by early October we’ll all be fully vaccinated, and the boys can resume face-to-face lessons and other activities. We are especially looking forward to attending music concerts in person again!
At the end of April my 14-year-old received some happy news. He won 2nd place in the state piano competition again, and on top of that, he won 3rd place in a regional competition (8 southern states). You can view his latest performances on his YouTube channel, if you’re interested, and I know he’d love for you to subscribe too. 😉
I am also happy to report that I have finished a short PDF resource about homeschooling 8th grade. I have no idea when I’ll have time to post it in my store, but I’ll try to do that soon. Meanwhile, if you have any questions for me, you know where to find me. 🙂 I hope spring is lifting your spirits. Please leave me a message, if you have a moment, and tell me about your favorite part of spring.
October is well on its way and the weather has been beautiful. I’m even starting to see a little color on the trees too.
Our homeschool year is going as expected, and it’s keeping me extremely occupied, to say the least, which is why this is a short post. This year is the most challenging as I homeschool both 8th grade and 5th grade. The 5th grader is no longer in the “easy grades,” as I like to think of them, and we are consumed with thoughts on how we’ll manage high school next year for my 8th grader. I spend my days checking my notes, making sure we’re ticking off the to do list and staying on task. It’s not always easy, and I juggle a lot, but I also make sure I preserve time for myself so that I have the energy to do the work.
The boys are older, and there’s so much to look forward to. I appreciate staying busy while we sit out this pandemic, but we also have those humdrum days when we just want to fast forward a little bit. I can’t wait until we (as a society) can get back to some sort of normal, if not exactly the same normal we had before.
Recently we went to the botanical garden, took a leisurely walk, and I cherished every moment. There were many flowers blooming, and I enjoyed using my camera. Outings like these have always kept me sane, and I’m happy to share some of the images with you. Please tell me how you’re doing in the comments. I hope you are well and that you’re getting out into nature too.
A few weeks ago, we released the last of our monarch butterflies, and I’ve been meaning to share my photos ever since. We had only four caterpillars this year. (Last time we had 19!) We think a few of the caterpillars may have been preyed upon by wasps (because we counted more eggs), so we didn’t hesitate to move these four into our mesh cage when we found them. Here’s our monarch summer in photos. Enjoy!
The older I get, the more I find joy in simply being alive. Even when the going gets tough, there’s something to be said for being able to experience Life with all its ups and downs. I think it’s harder when you are young to see the larger picture of one’s life, and it’s very hard when circumstances in your life keep you from living comfortably with good physical and mental health. I have dealt with many things over my own life, so I can empathize, and I’m grateful for that. I hope that for everyone who reads this, you are able to find some peace of mind, especially right now with the pandemic.
As there is still risk in catching the coronavirus, we have stayed home for five weeks now, and we plan to stay here even if things begin to open back up. As I mentioned before, we have a high risk person living in our house, and we are also very lucky that we already work at home and homeschool. We miss many things about being able to leave the house, but it’s not crucial that we do so. My heart goes out to those who are stuck between losing a job and possibly losing their or a loved ones’ life. My hope is that everyone will take this seriously and will take proper precautions when leaving their homes, but it saddens me to see so many people who don’t care or don’t understand the situation for what it is.
I’m very grateful that over the last few years as I’ve been homeschooling, I have learned so much more about science and critical thinking — many thanks go to my children for having these interests and inspiring an interest in me. So on one level, it’s been very interesting to watch what is happening and to follow the scientists on social media who study this stuff and also compare that to what other people are saying and doing. It can be very frustrating too, and heartbreaking. But, it’s Life, and we can’t control it. I try to keep that in perspective when I start to feel angry and want to cast blame.
I don’t think there’s much point in arguing with anyone or trying to convince people of anything. There will always be people who hold vastly different opinions. The fight of “my opinion vs their opinion” has always been going on throughout history, and it will go on no matter what. Unfortunately, there are times that this struggle leads to more suffering, and that’s when it hurts most. Sometimes all I can do is try not to add any more hurt to the world and remember to find joy where it can be found.
Lately, I have found a lot of joy in springtime. This is such a beautiful time of year, and I miss my Nikon camera so much! Gah. There are so many beautiful things to notice. However, my phone camera takes pretty decent photos, if I can find the right light, and searching for the light has always been my favorite thing to do. Not having my Nikon anymore has put me back into my beginner photographer’s mind, learning about what I can do with my phone, searching for the right moments, light and angles. It’s been a joy.
Also, it’s been a joy to watch nature happening around the house. The birds are nesting, and the pair of cardinals that we have been feeding for a few years have built a nest in a little bush right by our front porch! I have been lucky to be able to snap a few photos of the nest when Mama Cardinal was on our back porch filling up on sunflower seeds. 🙂
I also had a little Carolina wren waking me up EVERY morning VERY early for WEEKS. I think he took possession of the birdhouse on our front porch, and he was trying to attract a mate. I don’t know why any female wren would pass up such a perfect location, but I have not heard him singing in the mornings lately. 😦 I haven’t noticed that the birdhouse is being used either. I wonder if it might be because the cardinal nest is so close by?
We are still mostly reading the same books or series I mentioned in my last monthly update, so this month I thought I’d share some of my favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime programs that I have been watching either by myself or with the family. Have you seen any of these? I recommend them all.
May is one of my favorite months of the year. Flowers are blooming and the temperature is perfect. The trees have fresh, new leaves, and the birds are tending to their babies. Our resident bluebirds had a successful brood, and we even got to witness one of the chicks leave the birdhouse — what an exciting moment! We haven’t noticed the baby bluebirds hanging out in our yard, but we do have a family of house finches (mama, papa and two chicks) coming every day to eat our sunflower seeds and drink the water from our birdbath. My twelve-year-old has commented on how loud the little chicks are when they are around!
May has been a busy month. After the state piano competition, I started making appointments and doing things we weren’t able to do while my son was preparing for that. We have had a couple of fun play dates, enjoyed some educational events at the university, and had a few other outings and errands to run, including shopping. My boys are growing so fast, and they need new clothes!
There’s always more to do as kids grow older, isn’t there? Just when I think it’s getting easier because the boys are more capable and independent, there’s a whole new level of work for my husband and me as we homeschool these boys. (Not to mention all the food consumption!!)
For now we are working on wrapping up this year, though for me I’ll be “wrapping up” throughout the summer. (Sigh. I just remembered I need to write up progress reports and all that.)
In the state of Georgia I am required to test my boys every three years starting in the third grade, so this is a testing year for us. As I mentioned before, it takes up time I would rather be spending on more important things, but I do think it’s wise to get an assessment occasionally to see where we’re at. So I am planning to do the testing in early June. I probably won’t write about it again because I doubt there will be anything new to say from the last time, but if you want to see which test we used and our experience with it, you can click here. In future years I may try a different test, and if I do, I’ll write about the process.
One of our weekly appointments will be ending for the summer this week, but the boys both continue their music lessons throughout the summer, albeit with some breaks here and there. We will also continue to homeschool throughout the summer, though we’ll be able to take breaks and focus on different stuff. I’m excited that my eldest son is going to be starting 7th grade in the fall, which I consider junior high. We’ll probably go ahead and begin some 7th grade work in the summer. Though I don’t do any official start date (except on paper), there are some things I’ll save for September in order to give us a lighter schedule during the summer months. Overall, summer will be fun and more relaxing, but it’s nice to ease into some of the new things that 7th grade will entail. (Of course, this is the plan now, but summer has a mind of it’s own — I don’t know what we’ll actually have time for. LOL)
I have laid out my plans for 7th grade, and while we’ll mostly be continuing to use some of the same resources we have always used, I am introducing some new things, and I’m writing a literature curriculum from scratch (with help from the Internet), which is taking a long time to finish. I’m so glad I started early. I couldn’t find a ready-made curriculum that I liked. I was an English major, and I’m picky about the books I want to read at any given time. (It’s this reason I could never belong to a book club. I never want to read the selections other people make.) I wanted to pick books that I felt my son would enjoy but that would also introduce him to other cultures, history, and ways of life. The theme of my literature course will be “survival.” This is something a twelve-year-old should like, don’t you think? 🙂
I always try to write follow-up blog posts to my beginning-of-year post that details our curriculum for that year. Indeed, I made a lot of changes this year, so I’ll try to do that soon, but I can’t make promises. We are going to get busier as the summer begins, and we will have some adventures that I hope to share with you later in the summer too.
I usually write a post about our gardening efforts this time of year, but alas, this will be the first time I don’t do that. We haven’t planted anything new, though we did take a day off of lessons to do some trail maintenance, and we continue to enjoy the flower beds in the front yard, which we made and planted last year. Unfortunately, my son’s Venus flytrap died over the winter, which is too bad. It had given us a few years worth of joy and had gotten quite big. His pitcher plants came back, and they had a good many flowers this year too. I find myself eagerly awaiting the hour everyday when I can step outside for a little while and water the plants. That simple act makes my day feel fulfilling and complete.
My boys and I make a lot of gardening “plans,” and sometimes we manage to carry them out, but as they get older and more involved in their music events and other activities, I wonder how often we’ll be able to dig in the dirt. You can’t plant new stuff unless you can commit to caring for it until it becomes established, and I don’t bother to plant vegetables unless I think I’ll have time to cook with them. But we love our yard, and I’m so glad the boys enjoy plants (I did too as a child). I think it’ll always be something we do when we can.
This has become a long and rambling post, and I thank any of you who have actually read the whole thing. I know this post is not the kind of blog material that attracts readers, but I don’t care about that much anymore. I want to keep a record of our homeschool, and I want to enjoy writing, and I want to attract only those who care about the same, simple things.
Please tell me what you’ve been up to lately. I hope your spring is just as lovely as ours.
Happy Earth Day! To celebrate, I thought I would write about a project we’ve been working on for over a year. My older son has always had a special interest in plants. When he was little, he became obsessed with seeds for awhile. Then he had his carnivorous plant project, and we still grow the carnivorous plants. My younger son also enjoys gardening and likes having his own plants to care for too.
About a year ago my twelve-year-old became extra interested in plants, especially trees, and he even asked to go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for his birthday. He’s been learning how to grow and propagate trees by himself, particularly redbud trees. His younger brother wanted to try this too, so he’s trying to grow some hickories. Needless to say, my refrigerator has been packed with little pots of dirt and seeds this past winter! If they have any success growing these trees, I’ll be sure to write about it in the future.
What started all this? Well, we decided to try to identify and label the plants and trees that grow naturally in our wooded yard. I had mentioned trying this a long time ago, but I never did it because it was a huge undertaking. Finally my twelve-year-old wanted to do it in earnest, so we got serious about it.
So far we have identified and labeled 20 different species of trees and plants! It feels like we’ve made a lot of progress, but there are so many plants we still haven’t identified!
Plants we’ve found:
Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea)
Wild Ginger (Hexastylis arifolia)
Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatom Communtatun)
St. Andrew’s Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum)
Pennywort (Hydrocotyle microphylla)
Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
Winged Elm (Ulmus alata)
Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica)
Water Oak (Quercus alba)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Carolina Basswood (Tilia americana caroliniana)
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
I also help by writing out the labels that we put on or near the trees and plants (because I have the nicest handwriting). We always put the common name and the scientific name. My yard is starting to look a little bit like the botanical garden….well, I guess it would need to be much neater before I could say that! But I enjoy seeing the labels nonetheless.
This Friday is Arbor Day, so I’m going to use that day to post about a particular tree my son wanted to buy and plant in our yard.
Every week I have to drive down Price Avenue to take my youngest son to his cello lesson, and I’m so glad that I have at least one reason to drive down this street. Prince Avenue is special to me, mostly because I used to live near there before I was married. I loved the little old mill houses in the Boulevard area, and in my late twenties, I was finally able to rent one for awhile. I still miss it sometimes.
I also love Prince Avenue because both my boys were born in the hospital that is on this street, but even more than that, I love Prince Avenue because every April all the dogwoods that line this street are in full bloom, and for a couple of weeks every year, it’s like driving through a fairy land.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who gets giddy about the dogwoods. I don’t understand how people can just walk on by them without standing there for a few minutes in awe. I don’t understand why there aren’t more accidents from drivers who gaze too long at these angelic trees. Okay, I’m joking a little, but seriously, you just have to drive down Prince Avenue when the dogwoods are in their full splendor before you can understand what I’m talking about.
It may be because I spent twelve years living in the desert that I get giddy about trees. It’s not just dogwoods that I love. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t gaze lovingly out my windows at all the trees around our house. It never grows old to me — all these trees.
Speaking of trees, my eldest son has a special interest in them too. Maybe it’s something in our DNA because I never talk about trees very much. He just seems to like trees and plants too. I’m slowly working on some blog posts about that. I thought with Earth Day and Arbor Day coming, I would make a push to do a little more writing about these projects.
April is a beautiful month, and I’m relieved that we can take a breath now that my son’s state piano competition is finally finished. (He came in the top 5 in state! Be sure to see his YouTube channel, if you haven’t already.) We have taken one morning to clean up the trail in our backyard, and the boys really enjoyed that. We took another day to drive to Red Top Mountain State Park, which we’ve never been to before. While we were there, the pollen made the air look hazy and yellow. Literally. I have never seen that before!
April has also given us some exciting news, which I can’t write about yet, but we are buzzing about it, and on top of all this, the dogwoods are blooming beautifully this year. Did I mention that? 😉
Today the weather finally feels like spring. We’ve had other spring-like days this winter, but I think we were too busy to notice. But today it’s Sunday, and we took advantage of this warmer, cloudy day to go bird watching at Ft. Yargo State Park. There were very few people there since the forecast predicted rain, but as I write this, it’s late afternoon, and we haven’t had any rain yet, so our instincts were right. 🙂
We had a very successful bird watching expedition this morning. I believe birds are beginning to migrate back up north, so we were able to add some new species to our “life lists.” This included lesser scaups, a pied-billed grebe, and hooded mergansers. We also saw Canada geese, mallards, and wood ducks. As for songbirds, we saw the ever-present cardinals, Carolina wrens and white-throated sparrows. I also saw a red-bellied woodpecker, though I wasn’t able to identify it until I cropped the photo I took on my computer. In fact, cropping photos helped us identify the pied-billed grebe and hooded mergansers too.
You may be thinking that my blog is turning into a birding blog, and maybe it is. LOL But as I have written many times, birds are a favorite interest of my youngest son, and my eldest son loves birds too. In fact, I think my eldest son helps keep the interest alive in his younger brother as he’s more adept at identifying the birds and looking them up in the bird app. But now that the nine-year-old is growing more capable, I hear a lot of fussing over who gets to do the “looking up.” (And who gets the binoculars too.) But it’s all good. I love to see them work together and get each other interested in something.
Other than this, we are still in the middle of what I call “piano season.” Along with the state piano competition, my son has other events he’s attending, so he’s been busy preparing for those, and with the temperamental weather, we’ve mostly been inside….another reason why today was so special. We finally got outside for awhile!
One good thing about being stuck at home for awhile is that we get a lot of lessons done. I feel like we’re making very good progress this year, though I have ditched a few things and changed resources on a couple of subjects. But this is the best part of homeschooling — getting to change it when it seems for the best. I will try to write about that in more detail at some point.
We are especially having fun with our subscription to the Great Courses Plus. The boys have even found courses that they are willing to watch on their own free time! (How to Play Chess and Robotics) We are also watching The Rise of Rome for history and an Intro to Geology for science. I have also discovered that the course How to be a Superstar Student is great for my boys, and it’s introducing them a lot of skills that we’ll be going over again as they get older. It is targeted for high school age students, but the silly parts are probably more funny to kids that are my boys’ age instead. We have also watched a course on mathematics that we’ll slowly continue as my eldest son reaches each concept in his math curriculum. (Most of the courses, however, are college-level, so I am not recommending that homeschoolers with young kids subscribe. What until you get to junior high or high school.)
Also exciting to me is that I have started reading Chickadee by Louise Erdrich, the fourth book in the Birchbark series, out loud to the boys. This series has to be my favorite young adult series that I’ve read so far. I’m not extremely well-read when it comes to young adult novels, but I’ve been adding several titles to my list as I read books to prepare for my rising 7th grader’s literature study next year. I have decided to do a theme-based literature unit on books about “survival.” It’s been a lot of fun to read the books and think about all the ways humans “survive” this world.
Well, now it’s Monday morning, and I am trying to wake myself up after the dreadful time change. I will finish up this post with a few photos from our birding expedition yesterday. And please tell me–how are you doing this early spring?
It’s October, and our year is well on its way. (Even if it does feel like August outside.)
This year I’m putting in the effort to plan our week’s lessons on the weekend, and this has been helpful for me. Writing, grammar, cursive, math, history, science, Spanish, Chinese and more — not necessarily in that order — but we’re getting to all of it. Usually.
We also have a plant project going on that may last all year. We’re learning about trees, especially the ones in our yard, and the plants that grow in the woods. My eldest son got some field guides for his birthday, and he’s making use of them. 🙂
My son requested a science curriculum this year, so we’re trying CK-12’s free, online textbook, Earth Science Concepts for Middle School. He likes it so far, but we don’t have time for it everyday, which is frustrating. There’s so much to do!
We finished reading The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, which was fun (book review forthcoming on the home/school/life blog), and now we’re reading Freedom Train, a little book I own because I bought it when I assisted the author at a writer’s conference many years ago (before I had children). It’s a good read and will give them insight into racism and social justice.
My eldest son has finally caught the Harry Potter fever, and he’s already on the fifth book, which he reads at night before bed. My younger son is reading pretty well now too. He likes to read comics in his spare time just like his older brother, and I’m currently reading Old Yellerto him, which he remembers, but he wanted to hear it again. It’s one of those classics that never gets old.
Every morning I roll our round table out onto our front porch to do our lessons. It’s a bit of a hassle to move the table, but I don’t mind. It’s beautiful outside in the mornings. We get distracted by the birds, bugs, our dog, and the sunlight (we have to move the table to and fro as the light changes), but all the distractions are worth it. I let them (the boys and dog) take breaks and run around the trees. It makes me happy to be outside, and I hope the boys will remember their mornings spent on the front porch. Pretty soon it’ll be too cool to go outside.
I wrote a post about our curriculum like I do every year, but this time, it’ll be posted only on the home/school/life blog. (I need to save time.) I’ll be sure to link to it from here. I’ve also written about how I schedule our lessons, and I’ll post that here in the near future.
I’m enjoying our routine, our learning, our nature excursions, the music in the house as well as local recitals we attend. If you saw the Excel spreadsheet that I meticulously work on to plan each day you would probably think I was one of the those uber-organized freaks. Maybe I am? But I have come to this over six years of homeschooling and realize that it’s necessary when you stay home with two kids and take on their entire education. When you think your kids are probably college-bound, and there are three hours of instrument practice between the two of them each day, you’ve got to be organized. You have to plan meticulously to get everything in (almost everything, anyway) and leave a little free time too.
There’s a lot that goes undone. I don’t cook meals from scratch. I don’t scrub my floors or the bathrooms every week. (Though I do clean. And do laundry. Every single day.) I don’t visit friends or family very much. I don’t take days off or ever visit the bookstore by myself just for the fun of it. I don’t get much writing, photography or other pleasures done. But I consider it a time of life where my priorities are elsewhere.
(There are positives to being busy with kids, though. I don’t spend too much time on social media or dwell too long about negative things!)
I don’t think there are any people who truly understand this lifestyle we’re living except maybe other homeschoolers. I say “maybe” because believe it or not, I was criticized once by another homeschool mom. It made me realize that within the homeschooling movement, there are a lot of different opinions about how to homeschool. But most homeschoolers have a live and let liveattitude because they get judged a lot. And most of them get it. They take full advantage of this lifestyle and know why it’s worth it. Other people don’t need to understand, and maybe it’s a good thing. If every parent who could manage it understood the benefits of homeschooling, then….well, there would be too many homeschoolers, and the resources would be stretched and there would be parents who were doing it for the wrong reasons. (And that sometimes happens now, unfortunately.)
But I’m off on a trail that I didn’t mean to go down. I just wanted to say that October is here! We have a full year of learning ahead of us. We have good books to read and excursions to take. We have concerts to attend at the local university (we’ve already been to several). We have homeschool science classes to attend at the nature center (yay!). My eldest son will be giving more recitals and attending studio classes and other cool events arranged by his piano teacher. My younger son is making strides on the cello. It’s all so exciting.
Every time I check off the plans completed for a day or week, it feels very satisfying. I wish I could blog more about it, but you’ll have to make do with these occasional long, windy posts that I write here and there and try to edit into something cohesive. If you’d like for me to write about something specific, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send a private e-mail.
I hope you are having a fulfilling autumn too. I wish you peace and joy and perfect weather. (We’re still waiting for that weather here in Georgia. )