Sunday, December 27, 2009

Speaking of Poetry

One of my Favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Poetry Hide and Seek

Panhala    Poetry180  7th Grade Poetry OK. I am still looking for that long lost poem that I got obsessed with last week. Why can't I let it go? The funniest thing about this is that Poetry used to scare the heck out of me.  I assumed that all poems were designed to be painful to read and difficult to understand and that there was a "correct" interpretation for each, or maybe several, and that my job (!) because this was work (!) was to figure all that out and somehow convey my understanding to a teacher who would like me and give me an A. Whew.  The  beautiful thing about all this is that I got over the fear.  My poetry hunt has been fruitful even though I have not found what I thought I was searching for.  Four big fruits are linked above. 
I love the poem  Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins on the 7th Grade list.

Have fun!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Backyard Tracks

If these are not bear prints then a Sasquatch with really long toenails has been in our yard!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Finnish Star Holiday Craft

We used plain old construction paper, white glue and staples for this project. I found directions at 
A Cherry on Top

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Poem Fragments

           I remember pieces of a certain poem

                      the way I remember snippets             

          from last night's Dreamtime.

      The more I try the closer I get
  to grasping
  a few random details.
  But the feeling part of the dream-poem

is elusive
and does not
take kindly
to analysis.
The brain is trying too hard.

The feeling is fading, is evaporating.
Pop! There it goes.

I want it back!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Beautiful..but get some Kleenex

 We love our unruly dog, Okie, and think he is wonderful and gorgeous and sweet... and of course he is! My Golden Retriever web quest tonight led me to another beautiful dog named Packer. It is a photo journal on YouTube of a future guide dog raised by a loving family.  Sniff.

                 Packer the Guide Dog

Saturday, August 22, 2009

SpellQuizzer Review

SpellQuizzer is a simple, yet powerful, tool that allows kids to practice their spelling at the computer. If your kids are like mine they are extremely comfortable with using the computer for all sorts of things including educational activities, and SpellQuizzer will fit right in to their homeschool routine or homework time. It is a painless and fun way to do spelling without having to write by hand or be quizzed by a parent. Spelling lists are available for you to use in the SpellQuizzer program, or you can input school or homeschool lists as often as you want and for multiple spelling levels. You can do what we did and make up lists for fun and practice! We had a good time making a special Harry Potter word list for my younger son who is huge fan of the series. Or you can tackle a traditional set of spelling lists or practice for spelling bees.

SpellQuizzer is easy to use. You simply input the proper spelling for your chosen word. Then you record a verbal prompt. You will need a microphone to record your voice, or your child's voice, giving the prompt for the spelling word. I got my microphone for about twelve bucks. One of our prompts was: "Snape. Snape is the potions master at Hogwarts." SpellQuizzer is great because you can personalize the prompts and make them funny and relevant for your particular child. Once your list is created and the audio recorded your child is ready to be quizzed. One thing we love about the program is the ability to choose a favorite "happy sound" to play following a correctly spelled word.

An additional use for this program would be to quiz a child simultaneously on content and spelling for almost any subject. For example, the reminder phrase (prompt) could be something like: What is the capital of Alaska? What is the name for an action word? Spell the number that is the product of seven and eight. What is the name of the thigh bone?

To get a better feeling for the SpellQuizzer program and for a free download visit:
Note: I was provided with a free copy of this program in order to try it out and write a review.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Firelight on the Mac

I am researching relaxation methods and found this tonight. How is it that watching a fireplace fire flickering on Youtube in mid August works? After all it has gone over 90 degrees here for days and we have no AC hooked up. Somehow this 10 Minute Relaxation from Paul Collier was just what my six year old and his uptight mama needed.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Something Peaceful

Thich Nhat Hanh A simple, short video of gentle, mindful movements. I really liked this and plan to share it with my kids.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wii are Very Excited

Go check out the trailer and opening cinematic for the new Wii  Beatles Rock Band game due out 09-09-09.  The kids and I watched them over and over.  This really could bring the generations together. I have to end this post because we need to watch it again....

Congratulations to Homeschooled Connecticut Teen!

 A homeschooled writer has won the 2009 Connecticut Young Writers contest! Read her winning entry HERE.  This young woman writes with sensitivity and clear seeing about a topic refreshingly removed from our increasingly prepackaged world. 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Belt Tests and Cow Births and Being in the Moment

Back in the Seventies when I was somewhere between nine and fourteen our cow gave birth. Her name was Sable Maple Gypsy and she was a Jersey. Gypsy actually gave birth to a calf a year for almost a decade, but this story is about the time the video tape ran out just before the moment the calf (Finally!) slipped from her body.

We had all been waiting for this birth, watching for signs that Gypsy was getting ready.

We watched for mood changes and for discharge.

We checked on her night and day.

We marveled at her impossibly enormous middle supported by spindly, knobby kneed legs and at her cartoonish udder.

When the time finally came our friend with the video equipment was there to capture the magic. I get confused about the details of this particular birth because during my childhood I was lucky enough to watch several. I can say that the birthing involved us sitting in a circle in the hay around a heaving, panting, bulging eyed cow for many hours, while my mom held Gypsy's head. First, a tiny hoof emerged, and then another, usually crossed, and then a nose and a tongue, and a huge forehead (Poor Gypsy) , and then a slippery, slimy body in a sac, and then a whole lot of afterbirth which Gypsy ate. Anyway, this particular birth was never captured the way we'd planned. I remember our video friend howling with disappointment! My hope is that he lost track of the amount of tape because watching the real thing was so amazing. There could be no "Take Two." Gypsy, of course, experienced everything In The Moment.

I am thinking about all this as I charge up my camcorder so I can record my son's Hapkido belt test later today. I guess I am like many parents who document and record our kids' lives and big moments with cameras. It is useful, as homeschoolers, to have a nice record of all of our doings. Mostly it helps remind me how much stuff we do in a year when I start to wonder if we are doing "enough." I want my boys to have a way to look back on their childhoods someday. In some ways it is soothing to imagine that we can preserve something of our lives, and our kids' lives, which tend to have the pesky habit of slipping past us. I am beginning to realize, however, that if we parents are recording big moments with handheld devices we are not experiencing them fully as they are happening. We are experiencing ourselves recording a moment which we will never get to experience again. We may have similar moments, or believe that we will. But we will have lost that moment as pure experience and as part of our internal memory.
During my son's last belt test I took pictures of him getting his belt. While others clapped I was clicking. I have pictures, but I really don't know what I missed. Unless my hard drive crashes and my photo archives decompose my son will have outer documentation of some of his moments. Yet his own experiences will be independent of me, my camera, and whatever images I happen to "capture." He will be living in the moment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The Anxiety Tip of the Day reminded me that one of the ways I "goof off" is to juggle. It helps me laugh and also to focus. I learned to juggle during a heat wave in the Adirondacks near Lake George in the 1980s.  I worked in a sweater and quilt shop! Boy were we hot and no customers came for hours and hours.  So my boss, Susan, taught me to juggle.  I can only juggle one simple way but it still impresses my kids and it is fun.  Here's a link to a juggling book!  I still have my original beanbags that came with the Juggling for the Complete Klutz book.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Countries and Continents

Korean Rhythms As part of an ongoing study of the continents, the boys have chosen countries in Asia to research. My older son is working on a PowerPoint presentation on Qatar, while my younger one is coloring maps and flags and listening to music from North and South Korea. In our search for traditional music we came across this version of Mission Impossible using traditional instruments by a Korean group and I just had to link to it here. East meets West. Traditional meets Modern.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kale Chips!

I can't believe how much I like these. They were very easy and quick, but can burn easily so wait by the oven and monitor them. Kale Chips Recipe and Wendy Battles Website

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Amazing Heart

I've been thinking about hearts today. Physical, beating hearts and beating heart cells, and the way heart cells communicate with each other. But also the emotional heart center and spiritual heart chakra and the way hearts connect.


I just found this cool widget. It has tips for reducing anxiety. Today's tip, while sensible and something with which I agree intellectually, is about reducing/eliminating caffeine and is causing me to feel anxious!!!! I love my coffee.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Peepers!!!!!!!


I heard Spring Peepers tonight for the first time this Spring. What a wonderful thing. Click the link for excellent photos and recordings of these tiny frogs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Channeling Ruth Stout

It looks like we won't be getting a batch of chicks this spring so we'll have time to concentrate on the vegetable garden instead. We saved all kinds of seeds from last year's garden. To psych myself up I plan to re-read the wonderful book by Ruth Stout: Gardening Without Work. What a great spirit she had. I do not plan to follow in her footsteps as far as gardening naked goes, but I hope to make good use of her wise garden practices. Last year, with her no till big mulch method, I never really had to weed and only watered a few times! I began in March with lawn. I layered newspaper over the grass. I used all sorts of mulch-from leaves to hay to grass clippings -over the newspaper. To a height of more than six inches. Magical things happened at the mulch-soil boundary, just as Ruth described. When I planted, I tucked the seeds and plants into the soil and snugged them in with mulch. I even shoved compost materials (like vegetable peelings and coffee grounds) in under the hay, just as Ruth said she did. The garden worked so well I can't imagine ever tilling again. Or double digging. I found a short version of Ruth's method at but can't get the link to work.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Don't Give Up

The other day I was jogging along, trying to rid myself of belly fat, thinking about the terrible economy, and worrying a whole lot. Worrying about my family, worrying about the country, worrying about the whole dang world. All of a sudden I could hear my grandfather's voice telling me not to give up. Now, my grandfather is someone I will miss every day for the rest of my life. He was one of the best men I have ever known or ever will know. A true gentleman. Yet he taught me, by example, some of the worst cuss words I have ever heard! Pop was born almost a hundred years ago. He grew up with four brothers. He lived through several wars, the Great Depression, and night shifts at the steel mill. He played the organ. With my amazing grandmother he raised four great kids. He built things, fixed things and always worked hard. He really used his tools. I have a hand crank drill from Pop I treasure even though I can't make it work the way he did. I can picture him in his late eighties, sweat dripping, staggering on his painful feet, mowing his sloped front lawn with a push mower in the heat of August. He probably considered it a weakness that he was using a motorized mower instead of an old fashioned reel mower. Anyway...Pop wasn't one for a lot of flowery stuff but he always made me feel loved. Through the many years I was lucky enough to have him he reminded me, numerous times, to not give up. "Don't give up, Sis," he'd say during small challenges (like the SATs) and big ones (like my parents' divorce). It even became a joke at times, a reminder not to take myself too seriously, and he'd say it with a toothy smile. This simple, common phrase became shorthand for so much, but at the root of it was Pop's love. So I am saying it to myself and anyone else who needs to hear it!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Homeschool and Andy Goldsworthy

From the first moment I saw Andy Goldsworthy's A Collaboration With Nature in the 1990's I was in love. His work both electrified me and brought me a deep sense of peace and "just rightness." I'll never forget the feelings I had when, neck creaking, I finally looked up from that gorgeous book of images of his amazing work with stone, leaves, twigs, ice and feathers. I felt, somehow, that I'd found a member of my tribe.

Another tribe member, my wonderful sister, bought me my own copies of some of Goldsworthy's books when I turned forty, along with the DVD
Rivers and Tides: Working with Time. Here is the homeschool connection! My older son, then seven, loved the books and DVD. He experimented with ice and other natural items to make time limited sculptures. Eventually that period of sculpting passed and we turned to other things but yesterday, four years later, I found him lying on the dry driveway stone just as the rain started. He announced that he'd always wanted to do one of those Andy Goldsworthy things where you lie down and let the rain paint around you. So he did and this is the result!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Most Romantic Husband Update

This is a nice way to start the day! I'm excited to be included in the group of winners for the Most Romantic Husband contest. Click the link to read all the winning entries, or just see my entry in my post from February 20th, 2009!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review of Headsprout Early Reading Program

My younger son, now six, started this program with a free trial about a year ago and literally begged me to let him continue. Now with 80 episode lessons complete he has come to the end of the Headsprout program. He started reading Headsprout character names like San and Vee. By the end he was reading Henry and Mudge books to me. This program has been one of the best investments we have made as homeschoolers and provided stimulating, interactive reading lessons that my math loving son absolutely adored. He loved the characters and cut scenes. I loved the "speak out loud" activities and hearing his reading fluency and confidence develop. During the year we also provided consistent and numerous opportunities for my son to read, write, spell, create stories, visit the library and practice what he'd learned. We read to him from a variety of books. Notable favorites were The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne, the Geronimo Stilton books and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The choice to sit at the computer and do the episodes was my son's. He self- regulated the experience, sometimes moving quickly, sometimes taking time off. The self paced nature of the program was perfect for us. For incentives and practice there are booklets that come with the program, access to printable stories and a colorful progress chart and stickers to track progress. There is even a certificate when an episode set of 40 or 80 is complete. After each episode there is an opportunity for the parent to give feedback. Feedback I gave always resulted in a prompt, friendly response. Availability of Headsprout character based products like t shirts and clocks from Cafe Press is icing on the cake with this terrific reading program. One more thing. My son chose to work on a Mac with no mouse but I believe most kids would want a mouse to use this program.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Most Romantic Husband in 100 Words or Less

It has been a long time since I have had to write anything with a word limit! Here's to surprised nominee for Most Romantic Husband. He didn't think the following was romantic at all! It just goes to show you that romantic means different things to different people. The contest ends on February 24th...there is still time to enter!

The sweetest thing my husband has ever done for me was to renovate a decrepit chicken coop on our property so the kids and I could raise chicks and have our own free range eggs. My husband is a city boy who would never have hatched a plan for a flock on his own. He would much rather build from scratch than rehabilitate. Yet he spent hours shoveling stone and nailing shingles to use a structure we already had because it was important to me. That act of service is worth much more than a dozen roses!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stressed Chickens

Our poor hens endured the loss of one of their flock yesterday. Today, this is what one of the eggs looked like!
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Learnable Moments

My boys were sitting on the couch. Zack was reading a Liberty's Kids book to Adam (not by choice) and suddenly Adam hollered that he'd gotten his finger stuck in a hole in the Nerf gun he was holding. He was panicking and pulling, his finger jammed up past the second knuckle. Oh boy, these are the moments parenthood is made of and of course my heart rate doubled reassuringly. The first thing I imagined was a quick trip to the emergency room with a Nerf gun hanging off my kid during school hours. Luckily my wits kicked in. I told Adam to stuff his feelings down (Please don't cry'll make this so much worse....for me that is.) Using cold water, then soap, then Vaseline and a set of jewelers screwdrivers Zack and I deconstructed the Nerf gun and slid the plastic sleeve off Adam's finger in almost no time! Now comes the good part....what I love about homeschooling. The boys realized right away that this was an opportunity. They spent a long time learning how that Nerf gun worked by examining its inner parts, its springs and mechanisms. Later we finished the book about the American Revolution but I suspect that Adam learned something just as useful from the Nerf gun incident. Next time he gets an appendage jammed all we need are the right tools and a tub of Vaseline.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Okemo and Magic

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I know cat urinary problems are common but I was still surprised when Magic started peeing on my bathroom floor! Poor Magic! The vet said stress is a contributing factor. Hmmm. Could it be that Okie is stressing Magic out? Could a bouncing, boundary challenged, nearly sixty pound Golden Retriever in puberty stress Magic out? You betcha!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Digital Blue Video of Pulsing Larva

Watch twice for full effect. Something my boys and I found while pond dipping last spring. Think how many of these might be in a mouthful of pond water!

Homeschool Affirmations

I respect my children and their unique needs and abilities.

I am learning and creating every day, as they are.

My children are whole people. They don't need to be "fixed" or made into something different.

Sometimes, however, all I seem to be doing is trying to fix (control) everything. I try to do too much. I forget what is most important.

Thus my modest goal for my sixth year as a homeschooling mother is to remember to trust myself, my kids and this journey more.


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