Happy Month of Thanksgiving! I want to say a heartfelt thanks to anyone who has been reading my blog long-term. I don’t know who you are, and maybe there’s only two of you, but for anyone who has stuck with me, I greatly appreciate it. I am also indebted to those of you who have reached out and sent me an email or message on social media. I appreciate your friendship so much.
I am not sure what compels me to keep writing on this blog. It’s just something I do to stay sane, I guess. But knowing it’s helpful to a few people means a lot, so thank you.
You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more lately. I’m trying something new as I reflect back on these years of homeschooling. I am writing posts that I might have liked to have read when I first started homeschooling. I hope that they can be encouraging to new homeschoolers. I don’t know how many posts I have in me, but we’ll see.
As I have been writing this, my son spotted a young hawk outside my window, and then I had the privilege of watching it for about fifteen minutes. I saw it dive down into the leaf litter and catch a red-bellied snake and eat it! Then I saw it go up into the trees again, fluffing up its feathers because it’s cold outside. It was always looking around, looking for prey, I imagine. A very nervous squirrel sat in a tree nearby and sent out warning sounds. I never saw another bird while the hawk was in our yard. The animals in our yard work well together when they need to, don’t they?
It was a good reminder to me to slow down and remember why I’m doing everything I’m doing even when it seems pointless. The fruits of our labor don’t always show up in tangible ways. I hope someday I will look back on this life and see that homeschooling and all the sacrifices we’ve made were worth it. I hope I’ll feel that I’ve done well by sharing my tips on this blog too. But I imagine it will be a lot like my nature encounters: The time I’ve spent savoring them will add up to time well spent, though only in my mind and heart. I can live with that.
As for my 13-year-old, he’s thrilled to have almost 100 subscribers on his YouTube channel, and he’s working on a celebratory video for when he reaches that milestone. If you haven’t seen any of his videos yet, here’s one:
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.
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.
One of many highlights of our recent trip was being able to visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’ll know I’ve written several times about my younger son’s love of birds. He’s nine-years-old now, and he’s been talking about birds since he was about four. I am pleasantly surprised that his interest has not faded, though he definitely has his own way of navigating this project. We haven’t done a lot of in depth study about birds. Instead, we’ve drawn them, watched them, identified dozens of them, collected toy birds, made toy birds, and only occasionally read books about them. Though I encourage it and offer whatever I can to foster his love of birds, I haven’t pushed all the ideas I would like to see done. This has been a good decision. It’s truly a child-led project.
We’ve known about the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for awhile now, and I have been wanting to visit it, but I never thought we would be able to see it so soon. Then my eldest son’s interest in music took us to Cleveland, and well, though that’s not extremely close to Ithaca, it was close enough for us. We had to go!
We loved Ithaca, and we loved the Lab. We went twice. On the first visit, we walked the trails in Sapsucker Woods for about an hour, and then we took the behind-the-scenes tour of the lab. The next day, we went back and took a longer walk through the beautiful Sapsucker Woods.
It’s a beautiful building. About 250~300 faculty, students and staff work there. We were told it is mostly member-supported, and Cornell University contributes only a tiny percentage of its budget. It has the beautiful Wall of Birds (click on that link and you won’t be sorry), the Macaulay Library, which you can contribute to, and the Lab also houses Cornell University’s Museum of Vertebrates, so bird specimens aren’t the only resource available to students and researchers.
Here is the Lab’s mission statement:
Our mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.
If you are at all interested in birds, then you have probably already been to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website. You have probably used the section All About Birds, which can help you identify the birds you see outside your window. Or you have contributed your sightings to to eBird or another one of their popular citizen science projects.
Their website has much more on it, and if you are a bird lover or you have a child who is, then there’s a lot of educational materials that you can use. I can’t wait until my son gets a little older. I think he’ll really enjoy the Bird Academy. There are also activities and planned lessons for teachers or homeschooling co-op parents in their K-12 Education section. There’s even more than that, but I’ll stop there and let you explore their website yourself. You can also read about the history of the Lab on Wikipedia.
Sapsucker Woods is a special place, and we knew it before we even stepped on a trail. I’ll show you our walks through my photos.
Have you ever been to the Cornell Lab? Please tell me about your visit.
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? 😉
This post concludes my series of day trips that we took this summer, which also concludes our 2017-2018 school year. Day trips are some of our most educational and fun activities we can do as homeschoolers. I will try to write about some of the places we go this year too.
My son picked the Atlanta Botanical Garden as his “birthday day trip.” I won’t lie — I wasn’t disappointed about this at all. I have been wanting to go there for a long time. My twelve-year-old has always been into plants, and lately, there’s been a kind of resurgence in this interest. Since I love plants and gardening too, it’s such a pleasure for me to witness this, and what a surprise that he’d pick the botanical garden on his birthday. I thought he might pick a science museum or aquarium like his brother.
We had never been to the Atlanta Botanical Garden before, and we were not disappointed. It was more beautiful than we were expecting. We have been to our state botanical garden, and we’ve been to the Chicago Botanical Garden, and both those places are lovely. (How can gardens not be?) But the Atlanta Botanical Garden was truly special. The boys loved all the plant sculptures in the garden, which was whimsical and made it fun for kids.
It was so big, we didn’t even get to see it all, so we’re planning to go back. I will highlight our favorite spots in the photos. I hope you enjoy them. (And by the way, I was dismayed that I forgot to bring my Nikon with me. If there’s anything I love to photograph, it’s flowers. So there’s another reason to go back. These photos were taken on my phone camera.)
Earlier this summer, we saw a monarch butterfly laying eggs on our milkweed plant, but when the caterpillars were very tiny, they disappeared. We believe a wasp preyed upon them. That was disappointing, but soon after, we found some other interesting caterpillars in our yard. We identified these as black swallowtails. There were seven. We didn’t take any chances with these guys. As soon as we could, we put them into a butterfly cage.
I can’t tell you how exciting this is for us. We love helping caterpillars get to their adult stage safely. 😉 Here are some of the photos I took.
We are also helping some giant swallowtail butterflies. I will post photos of them after they eclose too.