Lessons from the 30th Week

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Historic events happened last week and are happening as I type, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All the cancellations have affected everybody. They cancelled our yearly achievement test six days before its initial date. All other events got cancelled, except for the taekwondo practice on Friday.

Norris Dam State Park

Norris Dam State Park

Still, looking around the room, I felt weird to look at 22 kids in that studio, breathing the same air together. The corona virus has already altered the way we live our lives, the way we look at the world and human interactions. Continue reading »

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Lessons from the 29th Week

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Lesson #1: getting out in nature is not overrated. After weeks of rain and snow, we were finally able to go hiking with our friends from Wild + Free Great Smoky Mountains. Super nice: the nature, the fresh air, the fellowship, the picnic. It was 46F, which is much better than the 36F we endured during our last hike in January.

Hiking

Looking for a picnic spot

The kids love being out in nature. They run around like lambs, staying on the path, but sometimes going ahead of the adults. We manage to keep an eye on them by sending somebody to run and tell them to slow down.

Face Paint

She loves to paint her face with rocks from the river.

We see the same usual friends, but now and then a family we have not seen in a long time pop into town and they come along. So we get a bit of a variety. This week we hiked the Alum Cave Trail, but only to Arch Rock. It was not a difficult hike up to that point. It gets steeper and harder from then on, but we stopped.

 

Birthday Girl

The other major lesson of the week was that children grow up. (Duh.) Even the baby in our family turned 10 this week. With mixed feelings, we prepared for her birthday party. She invited some friends over, we had pizza and cake, they played for six hours, and great fun was had by all. Sigh. They do grow up fast, don’t they?

Birthday Girl

Unicorn cake – and just like that, she is 10

Where is my baby girl? My kindergartner who could read but could not sit still for five minutes? She is in fourth grade now, participating in middle school events like Science Olympiad, earning a blue belt in taekwondo, playing with the youth symphony on stage at the Tennessee Theater, and giving me so much joy, it hurts.

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Lessons from the 23rd Week

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We spent three days out of the classroom this week. Even though I know learning happens, it makes me nervous to not have “school” done with books, at home, in our regular habitat.

One day, we went hiking with our friends from Wild + Free Great Smoky Mountains. Another day, I had to take my son to Knoxville for Science Olympiad practice (Write It, Do It). And yet another day, my husband drove all of us to Knoxville again, so that our daughter can test her latest boomilever with her coach, while our son met with his partner for Mission Possible to schedule the next move.

Icicle

Now that’s an icicle!

Lots of learning happened, of course, but, at my core, I am not an unschooling, carschooling, relaxed homeschooling type of mama. It makes me nervous that we are not progressing through our books.

We attend church in Knoxville, too, so this means we drove two hours round trip four times in one week. People commute like this every day for work, but I am glad we do not have to do it regularly.

The hardest thing we did this week (besides driving to Knoxville four times) was hiking in 36F. That’s 2 C if you are wondering. Just above freezing. We got warmed up as we went along, but the picnic was tough. We ate in a hurry and left.

Icicle Flag

My daughter found an icicle flag.

The kids have fun on these hikes and that’s what keeps me going for more. Also, I enjoy the fellowship with like-minded mamas. I won’t pretend I do not need these hikes for my own soul. All in all, we had a good week.

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Lessons from the Twenty-First Week

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Last week, we started school back up, along with orchestra, violin lessons, taekwondo, and the Wild + Free Great Smoky Mountains hikes. We should have started piano as well, but what do you know? My car battery got drained mysteriously. The car would not start on the day of the piano lesson. We had to cancel and change the car battery first, before anything else.

W+F Picnic

Wild and Free group picnic, on the Gatlinburg Trail

It was really neat to be out in nature with our W+F group. The fellowship, the fresh air, sunshine, and relaxed pace really do the mind good. One of the moms told me about this book, “Mere Motherhood,” and later lent it to me. I am reading it and taking notes. It is that good. Continue reading »

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Lessons from the Twelfth Week

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We are 1/3 of the way through the school year. Just like that. I am excited about the progress we are making. Also, I am happy with the changes we have made so far to our schedule.

Last week included two days away from home: one preparing for Science Olympiad with two different coaches in Knoxville, and one hiking with our Wild and Free Great Smoky Mountains homeschooling friends.

Seven Islands Hike Board

My kids on one of the hikes at Seven Islands

As such, I had to do some more adjustment in my head about book learning. In the end, I know we will finish our goals for the year. It’s just that I have to allow for weeks like this one to happen. In conclusion, I find it gets easier over time. Continue reading »

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Lessons from the Tenth Week

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Time flies when you are having fun. Indeed, it applies to us this school year. Some days fun eludes us, but, overall, we can say with certainty this year has turned out better than the last.

Kids on a trail

Ijams trails

Just last week, my son exclaimed, “I love this new way of doing math!” He was referring to how we skip around the page, not doing every single problem in the chapter. I observe him solve the first few exercises to make sure he got the concept, and then I assign certain problems or exercises as I see fit. Continue reading »

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Lessons from the Ninth Week

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We have started preparing for Science Olympiad this week. Although the coaches are still recruiting, they have already put assignments out for our children to work on. We might even add another event by the end of the week. Not sure yet. Our kids have to go through a try-out.

Boy lying on a log

Being in nature allows children to hug a log, among other things.

I will announce our final events next week, when we know for sure what they will have to do. Until then, suffice it to say that we are excited. And a bit nervous. Science Olympiad takes extra time to prepare. But the lesson is, stay positive, get organized, and keep calm. Keep Calm and Science Olympiad. Now there’s an idea for a T-shirt.

Continue reading »

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Lessons from the Eighth Week

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In no particular order, last week we learned the following:

  • We still have days when we do not get the basics done. While I accept it on an extraordinary day, I fear this has happened a bit too much lately. We will reduce the screen time to 30 minutes per day, Monday-Friday, in an effort to increase their focus and attention span. On the weekends, they can still have one hour per day. We announced this during a family meeting and the kids took it well. No rebellion. I think they were scared they were going to get 0 screen time M-F, because I mentioned we knew families who did this. But then, when they heard they still got 30 minutes, they breathed a sigh of relief.
The Nina and the Pinta field trip

The Nina and the Pinta field trip

  • No fall break because we already take a break from instruction once a week, for Wild + Free. My daughter heard Knox County has a fall break next week, so no orchestra practice. She perked up, asking when we take our fall break. Sorry, there will be none. We already take only four days a week for book learning. We spend the fifth day with our local Wild+Free group, hiking or experiencing a nature destination. I never thought about explaining why we do not have a fall break. It goes to show how important communication is in any system, including a homeschool.
My kids next to the Pinta

My kids next to the Pinta

  • We learn life skills, a.k.a. adulting, as we travel to Wild + Free destinations. My son and I learned the hard way how to communicate as he gave me directions from the GPS on my phone last week. The lady said, “Turn left, then right.” I said, “Look at the map. What does she mean? I have several left turns available.” My son said, “She means to turn left, then left again.” I made a U-turn. He said, “No, not there. The next left.” We spent the next ten minutes explaining to each other what we meant and how we should communicate in the future. If you think this is not an important life skill, think again. When was the last time you had a “conversation” with your spouse about how she gave directions?
Playing with sticks and leaves

After a picnic, they played with sticks and leaves.

  • The Nina and the Pinta field trip taught us lots of things about Columbus. I wrote down two books from the tour guide and plan to get them soon: Columbus: The Four Voyages, by Laurence Bergren, and Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, by Samuel Eliot Morison.
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Lessons from the Seventh Week

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This seventh week taught us several things. First, children will eat vegetables they pick out at the grocery store. One day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I took the kids to Kroger and showed them all the fruits and vegetables available. They knew most of them, but things like bok choy, artichoke hearts, and turnips looked unfamiliar to them.

Fort Loudon

My children at Fort Loudon Historic State Area

We do not use those veggies in our dishes, but I wanted them to know they exist. I have cooked turnips before, but I did not like them, so I stopped buying them. Plus, they remind me of rutabaga, and I have some bad memories about rutabaga. The less said about it, the better. Continue reading »

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Lessons from the Sixth Week

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We lost somebody to cancer this week – an acquaintance from Romania, who was actually married to my sister’s sister-in-law. He suffered from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Tragically, he went from diagnosis to death in three months. Only 52 years of age, he left behind his wife, now a widow at 49. An avid hiker, he loved nature and traveling in general.

Walker Sister's Cabin Sign

They loved this hike to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin.

When we hiked to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin for our weekly meet-up with the Wild and Free Great Smoky Mountains group, we thought of him. He loved mountains, hiking, and the great outdoors. A citizen of the world, he had traveled from Iceland to Japan and to many countries in between. May he rest in peace. Continue reading »

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