Very Random Things

Warning: This might be the most random post I’ve ever written.

I’m wearing white jeans and sandals today…after Labor Day. Please don’t tell my dad. At least my sandals are not white, and I do have on a cardigan. (And it is in the 70’s today) At my 8:15am dentist appointment this morning, the hygienist suggested I might be in denial about the current season, but then went on to commiserate over how we were cheated out of a proper summer this year. She and her husband have a boat and didn’t get much time on the water. Water skiing was almost out of the question, because then you’d have to ride around soaking wet in the cool breeze. I kind of hated answering her question about any trips we took this summer, but it made me relive our adventures in Greece all over again. So thankful for those warm and sunny memories, because the pumpkins and mums have now arrived in New England.

Speaking of the dentist, I finally made the whole family appointments, and I was the last to go. Good reports all around.  Would you believe no one in this family has ever had a cavity or needed braces? Dental mercies, I tell ya. (Well, I have several fillings, but those are from my teen years, and I might just be a test case for the fact that improving the diet strengthens the teeth and gums. And God’s mercy, too, of course.)

Moved Cooper into his dorm at Gordon College on August 28th
Izckra and I went to a Beth Moore conference in Springfield, MA August 25-26. Beth wasn’t able to get home to Houston right away due to Harvey’s destruction in Houston. Wonderful teaching by Beth as usual. Wonderful time with this dear friend, too. (And evidently, I really like these white jeans)

Kayla is in her third week of Challenge IV at Classical Conversations. This week she had to lead the Old Testament/Theology discussion on the book of Exodus. She worked really hard on it, got great feedback, and is falling more and more in love with God and His Word. It has been one of my main prayers for her. She’s both applying at a couple of colleges and considering a gap year, too, for which the Lord seems to be opening some interesting doors. We are praying for His continued direction here. In fact, I was literally sitting and praying for her (journaling it all) and asking God to show her what her next steps would be, when she came and found me just a little while later and told me she was pretty sure about the gap year. After that, a few opportunities for gap year activities were presented to us, and I’m learning more and more how much the Lord wants us to come to Him with the smallest and largest of concerns.

We’ve been gearing up for the return of the Five College Students at church. Enjoyed this free cookout last weekend for first-year students who were in town before upperclassmen.

I got to participate in Classical Conversations this week (I’m not teaching this year) by helping to take the Challenge II class on a quick field trip to collect pond water samples and leaves for a future tree identification project. I loved taking my previous classes to do this. There is just something about getting outside and being given time to observe and interact with the natural, created world. It’s just something the classroom and a textbook can’t truly offer.

I’ve hardly told one soul about this, but I was interviewed for a podcast last Friday. The night before the interview I had a dream that when Bethany, the interviewer, arrived at my house, I sent her down to the basement to set up in Robert’s office while I settled some matters with my kids upstairs. (Somehow my kids all reverted to being 12, 10, and 7 in my dream and needed some wrangling before I could meet with Bethany.) When I finally started down the basement stairs, after leaving Bethany to fend for herself down there, I found her mopping up an inch of water that was covering my basement floor. Evidently my washing machine had broken and leaked water everywhere. I was horrified.

This horrifying dream may have been because I was fairly horrified about giving this interview. 3,000 listeners? Yikes. I’m horrified at the sound of my own voice.  I spoke at a women’s breakfast for a church in central Massachusetts in the spring, and still haven’t listened to the recording for which the pastor’s wife (Hi Christina!) sent a link. Every time I happen to hear a recoding of myself, I wonder why anyone wants to sit and talk with me at all. Ever. Seriously. But I’m learning that many people feel this way, and that all this self-horror is really just too. much. self. focus. And I pray God would rid. me. of. that.

I don’t know when the podcast will air, and I’m still not sure why the interview took the directions that it did. All I know is that I prayed…A LOT. Prayed that it would all be led by the Holy Spirit, and that the things recorded would be just the things that some other woman needs to hear. And Bethany prayed. And then we prayed together before we recorded. So, I’m trusting that, as confused as I was about what ended up being talked about, God has a purpose. Here, I’ll give you a hint:

Just don’t make the mistake of listening to the “hey, girl” podcast – with lowercase letters and a comma. That would NOT be the one on which I’ll eventually appear. (Or on which my voice will eventually be heard. Ugh.)

One of my favorite things. This group – a very random assortment – was gathered around my table on Sunday after church. No one moved until 4pm, as we listened to each other’s stories of faith and new jobs and spontaneous proposals and weddings and ultra-marathons and growing up a homeschooled missionary kid in Afghanistan. Sweet fellowship.

Speaking of opportunities to be horrified at the sound of my own voice, I was invited to speak at a women’s retreat the first weekend of November, and have been working with the women there to decide on a topic. Several themes have been on my mind, and I look forward to which one they’ll choose, so I can begin preparing. (Especially since I just discovered it’s one of my heaviest workload weeks for my seminary class. (Old Testament II)  (Good thing we get to drop three quiz grades!) But one theme has been jumping out at me in my own reading lately.

I’ve really only read the gospels this year – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. (With some occasional departures into the Psalms and Colossians in moments of desperation.) My goal was to read all four gospels each month, and I was able to keep up with that until summertime arrived. Since then, I’ve still stayed in the gospels, really wanting to soak in all that Jesus did, all that He was and still is, but I’ve not made it through all four each month. As I’ve read, a few things have jumped out at me, one of them being how often Jesus touched people, and how often they touched Him.

Especially precious to me is the story of the woman with the long term issue of bleeding who anonymously reached out and touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. She was immediately healed of her chronic illness, and Jesus knew immediately that someone had touched Him even though there were hordes of people pressing in on Him. When He investigates and she comes forward, He says

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

I just love those words. And I don’t think she was just made physically well. I think she was made wholly well – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and yes, also physically. That she believed Jesus was powerful to make her well was a choice by faith, and that faith made her well from sin first and foremost. It reminds me of the paralytic man who was taken to Jesus by his friends. His most obvious need, his most presenting symptom, was physical disability, but Jesus forgave his sins first and foremost. His eventual healing of the man’s inability to walk was only a verification of His authority to forgive sin.

Faith in Jesus makes us wellsafe, kept safe and sound, rescued from danger or destruction – meaning the danger and destruction of sin, and faith also makes us well…thriving, strong, resilient, sane, healthy, hearty, and more.

He has done that for me. He has made this daughter of His well, and continues to do so on a daily basis. I’ve been praying for this wellness in one young woman in particular this week. I know the wellness is coming, but right now it doesn’t feel so certain to her.

So, I really don’t know how to transition from the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak to Taylor Swift, but I do hope and pray that Taylor comes to know this healing touch of Jesus by faith. How’s that?

This is from Urban Dictionary, and I have to say that I am in full agreement with this definition. 😉

My family and a few other Swiftie friends had a lot of fun tracking Taylor’s crazy marketing ploys for her new album a couple of weeks ago. The group texts were such a fun source of laughter and ridiculousness, and you know what? Sometimes laughter and ridiculousness are just what the doctor ordered.

For the record (I can never pun on purpose), I like her new songs. To be quite honest and vulnerable here, I think Taylor is a gifted, creative, gracious, strong, generous, humble, compassionate, and beautifully confident. I have a theory that people who love to hate on her, are actually just mad that she is able to embody all of those characteristics. Envy and jealousy are oftentimes obvious in our misplaced outrage. True story.

But I’d like to suggest a few edits to her most recent song, “Ready For It.” She has a couple of other songs that are just as suggestive, and I really wish she’d make a lyrical u-turn in this area. So, Taylor, if you are reading, tell me what you think of these changes:

I-I-I see how this is gonna go,

Propose to me, and we’ll never be alone

I-Island breeze, and we’re takin’ it slow

‘Cuz soon enough we’ll know


In the middle of the night, in my dreams

You should see our wedding day, baby


I can’t wait to be with you

So I pray and I pray

Are we ready for it?

I’ve got my eyes open for a part-time job for when Kayla goes off on her gap year or to college, and I’m really thinking Taylor might want to hire me. I mean…her songs only need this slight tweaking. And I could do it from home – after an initial meeting, autograph, and selfie, of course. It’s a win-win in my mind.

Here’s something else I haven’t told many of you, which has absolutely no connection to Taylor, well, except for the letter T. I’m going on a mission trip overseas. It will be a first for me. I’ve been on several mission trips – to Mexico a handful of times and to Louisiana to help with hurricane clean up in the early 90’s, but never overseas. I’ll get to work with a team and help with English classes, provide respite care for long term missionaries in the country, and participate in outreach to people on a spiritual (superstitious) pilgrimage during this season.  Here’s my team:

I’ve never had to raise my own support, though I’ve helped my kids do it several times. If you’ve sent me money, thank you so much. It has been so sweet to read the notes you’ve sent along with your gift, and I’m always overwhelmed by the joy with which people give. In many ways, you’ve taught me how to give – with both generosity of resources and encouragement. I’m not quite fully funded, but almost.

I leave in just about two weeks, and I’d really love it if you prayed for us – for many open doors to share the gospel, to bless others, to serve others, to learn about God’s work in a very different context than my own, and for safe travels. It’s still scary to me to cross an ocean in an airplane and leave all of my loved ones behind, but this invitation to mission and service seemed like one the Lord was asking me to take.

How’s that for randomness? Thanks for loving me enough to track right along.  I love sharing it with you.

Homeschooling: The Beginning Of An Ending

I can’t believe I wrote this post eight years ago. Today arrived much faster than I anticipated: Kayla’s first day of her senior year, and my first day of my last year of homeschooling.

Does that mean it’s my senior year, too? Because it kinda feels that way.

Just look at this cute little second grader working on her “months of the year” with those Saxon Math worksheets.And learning keyboarding skills years ago on that ancient computer in our dining room…
…to working Algebra II problems at the kitchen table. Today, I’m remembering all the highlights of this homeschool journey…The days and hours at home to nurture and learn with my kiddos.

The big breakfasts, lunches at the picnic table or by the fireplace, and snacks at 10am and 3pm.

The read-alouds on the couch every afternoon, where I was either fighting off sleep from exhaustion or tears over The Bronze Bow.

Pregnant frog dissections

The family prayers around the table after “Bible Time.”

The wonderful friends we all made – me with an increasing number of truly incredible women, and my kids with sweet playmates-turned-confidantes and sisters in Christ through the years.

The education I received from educating my own kids.

Protocol Nights..Boston Dinner and Dancing Cruises

The thrill of seeing a child learn to read and write, and being used by God to teach them those basics.

The stages of maturity we celebrated.

The field trips to museums, symphonies, farms, big cities, re-enactments, mountains, theaters, and ponds.

The first day of school special breakfasts (cookies? pie? ice cream?) and new supplies.

The liberty to learn through a biblical worldview, and to consider other worldviews against it.

The swapping of kids from house to house for school with friends.

The sick days and snow days – on which someone was always doing school.

Tuesday “class” days with peers


The freedom.

The flexibility.

The fun.

Several years ago, I was tutoring a high school seminar on economics (in Classical Conversations Challenge I) and we learned about “cost-benefit” analysis. I couldn’t help but think about our choice to homeschool in those terms. The costs are pretty high in choosing the homeschool route (and I’m not just talking about living on one income and buying textbooks), but I believe the benefits outweigh those costs, and I would do it again.

I don’t regret any of the last 17 years of this homeschool journey. (My kids might regret a few!) Oh, I have a lot of moments that I regret, mostly having to do with my own impatience, but today I’m thanking God for the years and for His sustaining grace throughout.

Thanking Him, also, for the blessing of all these highlights…or benefits.

One more year. One last kid.

Senior year, here we come!

Spring: “Filled & Fried”

“We were both so filled at Easter, and also kinda fried,” is what my friend Christina said the other day when we were catching up via text message. (Hopefully she doesn’t mind me quoting her.)

She is also a pastor’s wife, but you don’t have to have that role to feel that way. Everyone I talk to lately has been feeling the same…filled by the warm weather, the meaningful times of worship, the sweet fellowship, the fun activities, but also fried by the frenzied pace of it all.

Here’s a little glimpse into our spring – things that have passed and things upcoming. Warning: this is a long post (again), but I just needed to get it all down.

Weeks of Shakespeare rehearsals and then a weekend of performances – also known as the time of year I get to live out my secret ambition of being a hairstylist. Jessica’s hair was a bit of a dilemma, since she had to turn into a boy in the middle of the play (As You Like It) and then back into a girl.

Kayla did an excellent job in her smaller role, which she always has to balance with her track practices and meets. Lots of hurrying back and forth for both of us the last weeks of March.

Our church’s women’s retreat had been booked and on the calendar for a year, and then the Shakespeare play was booked for the same weekend. This meant I could only help with dress rehearsals and one performance on a Thursday night.  Friday, it was off to New Hampshire in the middle of a raging March 30-April 1 snowstorm!

Every time a woman arrived at the conference center, I was silently thanking the Lord for safe travel. It snowed for over 30 hours and left over 18 inches behind before it was all over, but in the end, all of these ladies made it, and we all had the best time being snowed in together.


With Sarah hosting games, this is Elisabeth and me – about to compete at charades.
Household chores the theme; “Dusting a lamp” was our acting assignment. 😩
Every Sunday after church we hosted a small group Bible study, except that it wasn’t very small. Some of you know that one of my favorite things to do is have people over for lunch after church. Hosting a small group at that time is really just a sneaky way for me to get to do this regularly.

We enjoyed discussions on the book of John, and then broke into smaller groups for prayer.

Abby and Maddie, two Mount Holyoke students, came home after the first service with me every week and helped prepare the meal. Kayla and I loved spending time in the kitchen with them chopping veggies and making multiple pots of coffee.

(We also did some informal scientific research during those weeks and came to the conclusion that more women than men enjoy hazelnut coffee, which led to changes in grocery purchases, and number of pots of regular vs. hazelnut since we had far more women in the group than men!)

I should have put these next photos right after the retreat photos, because less than 45 minutes after I arrived home from the women’s retreat in New Hampshire, Robert and I left for Indianapolis for The Gospel Coalition Conference. Unlike the scheduling of the Shakespeare play which we had no idea would fall on the same weekend, we were well aware of the back-to-back nature of these events. But the conference was going to be in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the list of speakers included all of our favorites and more. We couldn’t resist, and we’re so glad we made it happen.
Josh Moody is one of Robert’s good friends and a fellow pastor. He used to pastor in Connecticut, but is now at College
Church in Wheaton, IL. We had fun catching up over dinner one evening. Josh has written several books lately –
you should look him up at God Centered Life!

I’m just now realizing I didn’t get a picture of our whole group, as we had friends from Ohio join us, but Chris and Katie were with us for the whole conference – and beyond. (!) Both from Texas, newly married, Chris an Amherst College grad, and Katie a University of Texas grad, they are now on staff with Intervarsity on our local college campuses and a part of our church as well.

It was so fun to have them with us, but I think they got much more time with us than they bargained for, as our flights home were canceled mid-trip, and we were forced to take hotel vouchers in Detroit. It was quite an adventure, and I think I have finally learned that is it wise to take some toiletries and a change of clothes with me in a carry-on bag. I bought a $6 t-shirt at the airport to sleep in and Katie was kind enough to let me borrow some mascara the next morning. Thanks to Katie and that fateful morning, I am now in love with this mascara. Grounding us in Detroit was clearly God’s way of showing me His mascara will.

Then it was Holy Week and Easter. We had a wonderful Palm Sunday, 9pm worship services at Amherst College every night after that, a Passover Seder, a Crosswalk through town, a Good Friday service, and ended the week with an 82 degree Easter Sunday and fun lunch gathering at our house.
Grant is a senior at Amherst College and preached at one of the evening services.
(I’ve just turned off the “live” photo feature on my phone, since it gives me 2 second videos
rather than still photos.)

Friend and church member, Shannon, took photos of anyone who wanted them after each service. They all turned out so great!


Robert led the congregation in a song he wrote especially for Easter. Cindy accompanied on viola. So beautiful.


Coop was home for the long weekend.
More college kids home – friends old and new.


The warm weather meant we could be outside.



Texas, Iran, Massachusetts, Rwanda, Kenya, Mexico, and China – all represented around my table
Such a beautiful sight, a true gift, and a glimpse of heaven.
Some of the frenzy is by my own choosing, but peer pressure plays a part. The following Saturday I ran my first half marathon trail race with Betsy and her friend, Liz. The race was Betsy’s idea (definitely not mine!), and since she moved to Natick last year, I decided to join her as a way to spend some time catching up. This meant that during Holy Week and the week after Easter, I was having to up my running mileage quite a bit to prepare. You know…not much else going on those weeks, so why not? Sigh…
These things always sound like a great idea two months prior.
I’m pretty sure that running on an actual trail would have been highly recommended for training purposes, but the edge of the bike trail is the closest I got to the real thing. There were some rocks and roots, but no mud or hills. Oh well.

The route was a 6+ mile loop…or cloverleaf? It rained the whole day before as well as the last half hour of the race. We were freezing by the time it was over and all had blue lips when we met up at the finish line. I was the last of the three of us to finish at 2 hours 24 minutes – about 30 minutes slower than my last half marathon.

Kayla has been running and jumping a lot herself lately with spring track. She’s been doing the triple jump, the 100m, 200m, the 4×100, and the 4×400.

Several of her fans joined us at a recent meet, and she had fun racing some of her beloved kindergartners, first-graders, and toddlers.

Yep…breaking all of the blogging rules with the length of this, but here are a few more things we’ve done this spring…

A trip to the Boston Opera House with friends to see The King and I. So good!
Betsy’s son (and Pete’s!) Dustin was baptized last Sunday. He had to have a special, early
baptism due to his UMass Ultimate Frisbee team schedule.

After Dustin’s baptism, we hosted a graduate luncheon at our house – about 20 of them were able to join us, but as you can see there are so many more leaving us this year! This pic reflects only those in the second service.




Alena (and Lois) were over on Saturday night and Sunday helping prepare, host, and clean up.


Grant and Parker – we’ll be back in Indianapolis next month for Grant’s wedding!

This week included Kayla’s Challenge III Protocol Night. Along with the Challenge I class, we enjoyed an Italian dinner at a local restaurant and then headed to Amherst College for their Christian A cappella group’s spring concert.


Challenge I (Freshmen) and Challenge III (Juniors) classes together


I took my final exam in Theology III on Wednesday…

…and instead of blogging, I should be reading that top book and writing a 5 page paper on it, because it’s due next Wednesday at midnight, but we’ll be in Texas by then…

…and helping another graduate move out of his house in Waco. I am so happy and so sad all at the same time over this. Happy that he has had such an incredible experience and education at Baylor and sad that he’ll be entering the real world which will no longer include long holiday breaks and summer vacations during which he can come home for extended visits.

He was kind enough to take one last picture for me on his last day of class, and while I know he was
celebrating this day, I was truly grieving!
So…Wednesday we’ll move him out (and I will finally move IN to the Magnolia store and bakery for some shopping rather than stare at a hopelessly long line of Fixer Upper fans – hopefully!?), Thursday we’ll have a party, Friday we’ll head back to Waco, Saturday we’ll graduate, Sunday we’ll do church and lunch with him in Waco, and then say goodbye as he heads to Pine Cove Camp for the summer. He’ll move to Austin in August for his first “real world” job at Oracle.
Cooper won’t be able to join us in Texas for the graduation festivities due to his final exam schedule at Gordon, and this totally ruins my plan to have a family photo for the Christmas card this year. It also signals the end of a season – the full nest season – and it’s affecting me more than I thought it would. I’m so happy that my kiddos are growing and thriving in their individual lives and paths, but so sad that there will be so much less family time.
So…yes – filled by the recent joys and fellowship and experiences and hopes for the future, and fried, too – by the pace and the effort and the emotion of it all. I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way, but am looking forward to some rest as well as some different adventures this summer. (It will be our 25th wedding anniversary in August!)
Back soon with graduation picks and maybe even some updates around this little space. June will mark 10 years of blogging (and nearly 800 posts) for me, and I’m looking forward to celebrating with a bit of a “fixer upper” of my own.
Happy Spring!


Big Kids Back To School

It’s been so fun seeing all of the back to school photos on Facebook lately.  We used to be able to take back-to-school photos, too. Here’s one from about 5 years ago. Chocolate waffles, bacon, and new school supplies greeted my homeschoolers that day. Always a fun morning and a fresh start.
I’ve only got one left at home to take photos of, and here she is the morning before her first day back to Classical Conversations. Kayla’s a Junior this year…
…but it seems like yesterday that she read her first chapter book all on her own. Ten years.  It’s been ten years since she read Dingoes at Dinnertime all by herself.  Today she’s preparing to lead tomorrow’s Challenge III class in a 45 minute discussion on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. A lot happens in ten years, and I’m impressed with this young lady’s discipline and diligence.
Here’s Kayla’s course list:
Advanced Mathematics/Pre-Calc
American History
Latin: Caesar & Cicero readings
Spanish II
Philosophy: Consequences of Ideas
Shakespeare & Poetry
Your Facebook photos really made me want to have back-to-school photos of all my kids, so I sent the two away at college a text message begging and pleading them to please send a photo of themselves on their campuses on the first days of school. I may have promised a cookie care package.  Here’s the first one I got:

Kory works in the athletic department at Baylor, and he loves it. His good friend, fellow student, and athletic department colleague, Paul (also a dedicated Gluten Free Krums reader 😉 ), took this photo. (Thank you, Paul!)  He’s sporting his work and game day uniform here, and I know he can hardly wait for football season to begin. He watches the games from the press box, so that might have something to do with it.  

He just told me his schedule on the phone yesterday:
MWF 10am-12pm: Business Law and World History
T/Th 11am-3pm: Project Management, American Literature, and Social Dance (<—Fox Trot was last week!)
Fridays 2:30-5:15: Human Resources, Talent Acquisition & Staffing
He’s a college Senior this year, but I’m pretty sure we took these kindergarten and first grade photos just a few short weeks ago.
Cooper was not as quick to get me his back-to-school photo, so I sent him Kory’s as a challenge reminder.  Cooper thought Kory’s photo was lame: “He doesn’t even have a backpack on!” And then this appeared via text:
Coop started at Gordon College this year. He could have started last year, but decided to take a gap year after graduating high school. He spent about 8 months in Palm Springs, California living with my brother and his family, working maintenance crew and then outdoor service at Rancho La Quinta Golf Club. He dug a lot of trenches, trimmed a lot of hedges and edges, parked a lot of Porches, and made a lot of big tips. I think he was ready to hit the books again after all of that, but it was a good year and great learning experience for him.
Our week of preparation to leave for college began with this purchase…
…because this one wasn’t gonna do the job. (A little bulky for a dorm room, too.) It was great for learning to type and write papers many years ago, though, and Coop is the fastest typist in our family.
Kayla got to help move Coop into his dorm. It’s a triple (three guys) and it’s tiny! It’s redeeming feature is the suite style bathroom – sort of.  Six young men have to share that bathroom. I can tell you that it already smelled like a boys’ dorm by nightfall. Girls live in the dorm, too, but on separate floors. We went to one of those floors. It smelled like flowers. 
Girls’ dorm floors: flowers.  
Boys’ dorm floors: stinky socks. 
Some things never change.

The Lord provided for a lot of really special things to happen throughout the course of the weekend. For one, we ran into these old friends of Cooper’s at the local Target: Isaac and Lauren. We know them from youth camp and the leadership program, Quest. It was such a nice surprise and really fun to catch up with them.

We also met up with another friend of ours. Rachel was a former church member when she was a student at UMass. She saw that Cooper was going to Gordon and sent me a message saying she and her husband live just a few minutes from campus and would love to be of any help to Cooper while he is at Gordon. When I asked her what town they were in, she said Beverly. I messaged her back saying I just happened to be at the Target in Beverly.  She said: “Me too!”  We met up front at the Starbucks for a mini-reunion.  (Target + Starbucks. Was there ever a better duo?) Cooper got to re-meet her and receive more encouragement and lots of offers of help, food, and laundry facilities.
Two more things: We enjoyed meeting Coop’s roommates and their families – one from Austin, TX and one from Nashville, TN. Upon chatting with the Austin, TX mom, I learned that her son, Sam, had been homeschooled through high school. I told her that Cooper had also been homeschooled. Always fun to meet others who have been on that journey, as the kids tend to keep it on the down-low. 
I told Cooper that Sam had been homeschooled, and when Cooper asked him about it, Mikey, the other roommate was in the room.  Mikey overheard their conversation about being homeschooled and then “confessed” to having been homeschooled himself. All three roommates homeschooled their entire lives.  Pretty cool.  (Mikey may have even been wearing his homeschool co-op t-shirt at the time. Ha!)
THEN I check Facebook and noticed that my friend, Sara, from my college days at UT Austin commented on a photo and told me to tell Cooper to be on the lookout for a guy named Sam from Austin, that she and her family are family friends of his and co-small-group leaders at their church. I couldn’t believe it, and could hardly wait to tell her that Sam had already been spotted on campus – in the bed just across the room from Coop! They both play guitar and love basketball. Small world. Good Father. 

Gordon did such a nice job of including parents in the first two days of orientation and then sending us off with a special worship service. It also felt a little mean of them to have us all worship together, drape our kiddos in special Gordon scarves, and then send us out of the chapel to say goodbye for the semester. It made for quite a mix of emotions, but I suppose I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

He was nervous, but also excited to finally do the college thing. There have been lots of texts and calls about book buying, adding and dropping courses, and how the first week of classes went. So far, he has over-studied and been able to answer lots of questions in class. Here’s his schedule:

MWF: History (Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome), Accounting, and New Testament
T/Th: Discovery (or Gordon College 101 for all freshmen and transfers)

He’s planning to major in business and minor in music, so he’ll also take a non-credit classical guitar lesson in order to prepare to audition for the music school. They only have classical music options at Gordon, but Coop is eager for the challenge. (He just released his first single on iTunes! I’ll post information when it is fully available. Super-talented musician, this kid.)

So, no more wooden blocks and Playmobil guys to re-enact the Fall of Constantinople at our house.  It’s all books and computers, calculators and work-studies, group projects and presentations for my crew now. I do miss the old days, but I have to say I’m really enjoying watching these new academic and life adventures they are on. I’ve loved being their teacher, and I love that they’ll still indulge me with back to school photos and stories even though they are such big kids now.

Cookie care packages on the way. 🙂

Final Exams And Other Festivities

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure a final exam does not technically meet the definition of a festivity (the celebration of something in a  joyful and exuberant way), but maybe the completion of the final exam does. I took my final exam in Systematic Theology I (cosmological, moral, and teleological arguments, the Trinity, Providence, problem of evil, free will vs. determinism, etc.) on Wednesday morning and certainly felt more festive when it was over!  I felt especially festive when I discovered that I made a 90% on it.  Then I found out that I got a 91% on my research paper on the possible connections between the Trinity and gender roles (eternal functional subordination of Jesus? I Corinthians 11:3?), and a 100% on my last quiz.  
It sounds silly, but a few of you really encouraged me early on when you said things like “You’re not a B student!” (Anne C., Matt B….) when there was that Moodle mishap with my first two quizzes.  (Thank you!) The problem is that for this particular school and program the lowest A is a 95%. So, I will be making a B, but I thank God for the strength to study and learn and make a grade that somewhat reflects the understanding that He gave me. (I say somewhat, because no grade could ever properly evaluate the growth and joy and privilege of learning the deep things of the Word and doctrine or the worship that it calls forth.  For these things I am even more grateful!)
Somehow, in spite of the schoolwork ~ both seminary and homeschool ~ and lots of other things, we managed to cut down a Christmas tree at our favorite tree farm and get the house decorated.
We had a snowstorm the day before Thanksgiving, so had to trudge through
about 10 inches of snow to find our tree!
We cut our tree down two days after Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is definitely a favorite holiday in our house. We always have a houseful for the meal, and even the kids love helping with the preparations the morning of while alternatively watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Some years we’ve sent the boys away from the house for a football game, but not this year.
Kayla really wanted to make the Turkey this year.  I always cook two turkeys, though.  One goes in at 6am and out at 9am.  The other goes in at 9am and comes out around noon.  I tried to talk her into preparing the 6am turkey and letting me off the hook this year, but she was not swayed.

 She did a great job, and used some tips and tricks she’s picked up from various cooking shows ~ butter and lots of herbs and spices.  She was not too thrilled with removing the neck and giblets, but I made her do it anyway.  Hopefully, that way she will never make the same mistake I did the first time I cooked a turkey.

I left the bag of parts and the neck inside the whole time it cooked.

No one died or got sick, but still.

Here’s a look at the crowd.  27 people which included a toddler and infant.  My house is very small, but people don’t seem to mind too much…

The teen girls’ table
Etienne, Tristan, Katie, and Dan
Kevin (our temporary live-in guest!), Steve, Mike, Kiah, Gwyneth, Logan, Cooper, and Mark 
Me, Theresa, Tony, Christie, Ryan, Izckra, Nicolette, Chris, and Michelle
On the Saturday of the following week, we had a church women’s event called “Mug & Muffin.” The name and idea were stolen from my college and Campus Crusade days at the University of Texas, but it was no less popular than it was back then ~ wow!  About 50 women gathered in the beautiful home of a woman from our church.  Think Pottery Barn + Mary Engelbreit + Williams Sonoma + Susan Branch. It was perfectly delightful in its decor and warmth.  The girls LOVED it.

 They were encouraged to come in their comfiest pi’s and slippers or sweats and bring their favorite mug ~ and as you can see, they DID.  We ate muffins, drank coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, sang, prayed, and heard brief teaching or testimony from two women from our church.  We also used the gathering as a way to get everyone thinking about the women’s retreat coming up in February.

A chocolate stirring spoon was the take-home favor that I had a lot of fun creating the day before. Super easy, cute, and yummy!

 The very next day we had a combined (early and late services) worship and baptism service. Talk about a festivity! We got to hear three beautiful testimonies, and there is really no better way to participate in the spirit of the season than this in my opinion.

And last but not least, I really enjoyed watching several of Cooper’s debates and presentations for Challenge III.  It’s been nice to have a break from tutoring this year, but I always enjoy seeing these teens display the skills and knowledge they have acquired over the last few years.  Cooper’s philosophy presentation was on Humanism and it’s origins and core beliefs.  His debates were on the issues of secession, states’ rights, and the Civil War, specifically whether or not the southern states were justified in secession.  He had to argue both sides in two different debates. Ask him anything! I’m proud of his hard work in preparing.  He’s constantly being stretched beyond what he thinks he is able to do.

Okay ~ that’s about all for now. I only started to think about Christmas gifts yesterday, and have lots to prepare for still. In all honesty, I have been a complete mess (internally mostly, and externally only to my poor husband), but I felt another post about that struggle would not help the situation any. Betsy and I talked about the battleground of our thought life and constant negativity yesterday while running.  I’ve definitely been losing that battle, but as always the Lord meets me in His Word each day and I am sustained in hope ~ though tiny shreds they may seem.

I’ll finish reading the Bible from cover to cover before the end of the year, and I really did not think that Jude and Revelation were going to be of any encouragement.  Silly me.  Maybe I’ll tell you about that on Monday.

He is good, and He is returning! Now that will be a festivity! It will be THE FESTIVITY.

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and he will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 11:15

Back to School 14.0 (And Back From Texas, Too)

Starting our 14th year of homeschooling today. I can hardly believe my baby girl is in high school this year.  Wasn’t she just beginning kindergarten?  Wasn’t she just 3 years old and taking ballet class and afternoon naps and losing teeth?
And completing her first “chapter book” ever?  Oh, those were such milestones and proud moments! But today she begins algebra I (she actually started this summer), and American Literature (The Scarlet Letter is first up!), and Spanish I and philosophy and economics and more.  She’s taking a break from CC this year, but will likely return in the coming years.  I just felt that God was leading us to be at home together this year doing our own thing, and am praying that He uses the year to pour into her an abundance of grace, confidence, strength, and wisdom. (Not that she doesn’t already posses these things!)
And Mr. Cooper is a SENIOR!  Here is is with his monstrosity of an American History textbook. He began the Challenge III level of Classical Conversations last week and has been hitting the books for hours on end ever since. Shakespeare, poetry, philosophy, pre-calculus, chemistry, and Spanish are all on agenda for this year ~ and LOTS of rhetorical assignments like debate, speech, memorizing lines of Shakespeare, etc.
But it seems like yesterday that he was just learning to type on a very old desktop computer. He’s still the fastest typist in this family for sure! 
The cuteness.  Oh my.
I’m hitting the books this year, too.  My first seminary course began last week, and I really enjoyed the lectures and readings.  Fascinating stuff ~ philosophy, philosophers, the nature of reality, arguments for the existence of God, existentialism, noumena, phenomena, Tertullian, Athanasius, Luther, Calvin, Barth.  I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information, but I love learning it ~ I think.  My first quiz grade has me a bit discouraged, but this is a new week, and I’m hoping to get the hang of things soon. Prayers are appreciated.

Thankfully, my class did not begin until last Monday, which meant I had plenty of time to travel to Texas with Kory and take care of all sorts of things there along with him and my dad.

First on the agenda was buying a car.  Kory was blessed by a gift from his grandparents that enabled this purchase, and we are so thankful. (Thanks Grammie and Paw-Paw!) It was probably the easiest, smoothest transaction in car-buying history! I put out a plea on Facebook, a friend from high school, who happens to live near my dad, responded (Thank you, Lee Ellen!), we took it for a test drive the day after arriving in Texas, everyone had the correct paperwork, they signed over the title, Kory wrote a painful check that was well within our budget, and we drove away. Initially, I did the driving, since it is a manual transmission, but Kory practiced over the next two days and took to it like a pro.

I feared the transaction at the county tax office the next day would be stressful with long waits and trips to various offices, but it wasn’t.  We waited about 3 minutes, and walked out with Texas plates and registration in under 20 minutes.  Amazing. (Acquiring insurance was done over the phone at 9pm ~ inexpensive and unbelievably simple. Wow.)

It was so wonderful that all of this happened so smoothly, because it was Friday, and Kory needed to be at school on Sunday afternoon to begin his week of training for LEAD mentoring.  EVERYTHING had to happen by Friday, and it did!  This also meant that Saturday could be spent washing, vacuuming, Windexing, and Armour All-ing the car.  It cleaned up beautifully! (Have I told you how much I adore washing cars, vacuuming cars, and Windexing and Armour-All-ing cars?  Heaven!)

 Friday afternoon and evening were spent in Austin at the Domain, which is sort of an up-scale outdoor shopping mall.  After spending two hours in the Apple store watching/helping my dad purchase a new iPad (Kory went to the movie with a Baylor friend) and case, and SD card attachment, and wireless printer (whew!), we enjoyed some iced tea and GF carrot cake cupcake from the Steeping Room (yum!) and outdoor seating for the high-fashion show that this mall tends to naturally provide.  We were definitely underdressed.

 And then it was dinner out at Chez Zee with my sister and her family.  Fun times catching up, and frozen yogurt afterwards, of course! Speaking of growing up too fast, my nieces and nephews are all in high school now, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their interests and classes ~ cross country and color guard flag team for the girls, and history and film for my nephew.  They are an awesome and talented bunch. (P.S. DON’T go and see “The Conjuring,” okay?  Take it from the experts here. I stay FAR away from stuff like that, but I’m passing along this PSA from three teens who KNOW.)

 Sunday morning had us leaving for Waco, TX and Kory’s return to Baylor.  My dad helped us gather up his things which had been in storage in his very hot attic. It’s a good thing that Kory got a car, because my dad down-sized from a Suburban to a Foreruner and it would not hold all of Kory’s Rubbermaid containers.

He’s in a single this year and loving having the room to himself.  I think he needs curtains.  What do you think? Only kidding.  Pretty sure he’s not concerned about window treatments, though I have to say, he has his own ideas about design and room decorating. He’s especially excited about his new futon.  Living the life…

 One BIG trip to Target during one HUGE thunderstorm (thankful we were safe inside!), and he was all settled in, and it was time to say goodbye.  I suppose it was slightly easier this time, especially knowing what good hands he’s in and how much he adores his school, leadership program (he’s a mentor this year), friends, classes, and professors. I’ve probably said it a zillion times, but Baylor is truly a special place.  Kory even had a much-anticipated meeting last week with Baylor’s Athletic Director, Ian McCaw, who happens to be a friend of ours from Amherst years ago.  Kory has been on Cloud Nine ever since.  He just soaked up the wisdom and example of godly leadership that Ian possesses.  We could not be more grateful for that life-changing influence in Kory’s life. They both love the topic of “leadership”  ~ godly leadership especially ~ and had such a meaningful conversation about it.  I’m pretty sure Kory even asked him why he went after Art Briles to coach football. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for all of that.

(Send your kids there!  You won’t be disappointed! REALLY.)

(Okay, I’ll stop.)

Allen Hall Year Two

 The best part of the ride home was meeting this sweet lady for dinner.  (My dad had to endure our speed-talking about kids, and church, and homeschooling, and private schooling, and more.) It was spur of the moment and scheduled around our late departure from Baylor, a river rafting trip for her family, and CC preparations for her, but we made it work.  Yvette and I have been friends since college, and it has been such a joy to stay in touch through the years and watch each other’s kids grow up.  She is an amazing mom and a gifted teacher.  I wish we lived closer, but for now we’ll grab whatever moments we can.

 Back in San Marcos, I was able to get started on my seminary course with the luxury of sitting in bed in a room by myself, listening to lectures, and reading, and taking notes for hours.  If only that were real life…

Oh, and we also made a lot of progress on a painting project.

 I talked my dad into getting started on painting his deck table, which is something he’s been wanting done for at least three years.  He has many, many projects on his list, but this was one I could actually help with (well, this and setting up the wireless printer), so we dove in.

We hauled the heavy furniture out to the driveway, and started scrubbing each piece with a steel brush.  We followed that up with steel wool.  Next came washing with soap and water, rinsing, and leaving out to dry overnight. Although, in south Texas, it only takes a few minutes for a soaking wet towel to dry ( I know this because we also went swimming), so the table probably dried as soon as we finished, but we couldn’t tell, because it was dark by that time.

 The next day, we started painting, and by the time I left last Wednesday, the table and two of the four chairs had their first coat of paint.  It was so satisfying to make so much progress, and my dad was super-motivated to finish it up himself.

Well, that’s the long update.  Now, I’m WAY overdue to be off the computer and setting up Kayla’s Spanish CD-Rom curriculum as well as her online stock market game. After that, it’s over to the dance studio to register her for Hip-Hop class.
Don’t even ask me if I’ve watched today’s theology lecture.
Happy Back-to School!

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday ~ Mushroom Spores & Meatball Soup (Coffee Concerns, too.)

Before I tell you about our mushroom outing and observation, and about a meatball soup we tried this week, I just have to share a recent discovery about the connection between Celiac Disease and coffee.  I found a message in my Facebook inbox today from a friend who figured I already knew it, but thought she’d share the information just in case.  Well, I didn’t already know, and I found the article she sent very interesting…and quite sad for coffee lovers with Celiac Disease.  It turns out that coffee is a very common “cross-reactive compound” for those who have gluten sensitivities.  Dairy is the most common cross-reactive, but coffee produces the most severe reaction.  Here are the articles I read:
It’s interesting to me, because many times I’ve had an aversion to coffee due to a severe reaction I had after drinking it, but I love coffee!  I don’t drink it in the mornings; I drink tea. But I really, really enjoy having a cup in the afternoon, after a Sunday lunch, or a daily 3pm iced coffee when it’s warm outside. So NOT wanting it for days at a time means that my stomach just really does not feel up for this “treat.”  I often wondered why this was happening.  I thought maybe it was the combo of something I ate and the coffee, but now I wonder if this new science and understanding has uncovered the reason for problems I was encountering.
Hmmmm….but it has to do with processing the coffee, and for some reason, organic, whole bean coffee does not trigger as severe a response.
My grocery bill is already so crazy, I doubt I will be buying organic coffee anytime soon.
Is it a slime mold?  Is it some sort of flat shelf fungus?

 Well, enough about coffee, and on to mushrooms.  This week my Challenge II class got to go on another outdoor excursion to collect mushrooms. After a quick picnic lunch on Cushman Common, we hit the Robert Frost Trail and found all SORTS of interesting fungi!

Jesse is quite the kinesthetic learner.  Gross.

Jesse tricked me into touching this white-fungus-ricotta-cheese-like substance growing on different parts of this tree.  I screamed and jumped upon touching it lightly with my pinky finger. It was creamy and cold and disgusting, but he managed to pack some into his ziploc bag with. his. hands. (and fling it all over his pants), so that we could observe it under the microscope back in class.  Somehow it did not occur to him to use a stick or leaf as tools of collection.

Six of the nine mushroom hunters.

They love being outside.  It was hard to rein them in, as they kept traveling farther and farther into the woods and along the trail, but we had important pastries and drinks to purchase at the Cushman Market and Cafe before we headed back to class, so back toward the trail head we went.  First item on the cafe agenda: WASH. YOUR. HANDS.

Back in class, everyone got to create their own slide of spores from their personal collection of mushrooms.  It was difficult to decide which ones to choose, and a few made time to make two slides, but everyone eventually got their spores in focus, and they all looked a bit different.  Sketches were made, and lab procedures and supplies were noted. Now they are spending the week at home writing up a formal lab report on this “experiment” among a multitude of other assignments. Mushrooms and molds and fungi are nature’s important decomposers.  Together we marveled at God’s wise handiwork. He thought of everything, of course!
Pretty cute ~ and sharp ~ kiddos on a beautiful fall afternoon.

No, I did not bring home any mushrooms for the purpose of adding them to my Turkey Meatball Soup.  In fact, I even had trouble gearing myself up just to think about cooking dinner after dealing with fungi all day, but I pressed on to patting mini-meatballs together for a soup idea I came across in a magazine recently.  It wasn’t a paleo magazine or a dedicated gluten free one, but the recipe just naturally happened to be both.

The most tedious part is forming the meatballs, of course, but they cook fairly quickly.  I loved using fresh parsley as a tasty herb for these.
It’s a sort of a tomato soup stock that the mushrooms meatballs eventually go into.  Roasting tomatoes and onions together before pureeing them into the chicken broth made the house smell delicious!
And the finished product was enjoyed by all ~ along with GF corn muffins for the teenagers and paleo blueberry muffins for the grown-ups. Perfect fall dinner!
Here’s the recipe ~ enjoy!
Roasted Tomatoes and Turkey Meatball Soup
4-5 large tomatoes (or 6-8 Romas, etc.)
2 medium white or yellow onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs ground turkey
sea salt
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 cups chicken broth or 4 cups plus 4 cups water
Coarsely chop tomatoes and onions.  Toss lightly with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until tender and slightly browned/charred.  
Mix parsley, and salt and pepper to taste into the ground turkey.  Form mixture into mini meatballs and place on another baking sheet.  You will probably need two baking sheets for this.  Bake meatballs at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Heat broth and add roasted tomatoes and onions to it. Puree in batches in a blender and return to soup pot.  Continue to heat pureed soup over medium heat and add meatballs to the soup base once they are cooked through.  Keep over medium heat for 10 more minutes, and then serve.
P.S.  This would be great with ground beef or bison, too.  You would probably want to switch to beef broth in that case, though!

Pondwater, Polynomials, Philosophic Discussions, and Pizza

This week marks the halfway point in our Classical Conversations Challenge II semester, and I can hardly believe it.  This is my second time to tutor this level, and I really enjoy the hands-on nature of the curriculum ~ even though biology and algebra II are a challenge for me.  Actually, the entire curriculum is quite challenging for me and for the students.  There are seven seminars in the course of the day including:
  • Latin II (I hired out for this seminar this year.  Latin I is all I could manage and stay sane and feed my family regular meals.)
  • Algebra II
  • Biology
  • Western Cultural History (art, music, and Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?)
  • British Literature
  • Logic
  • Debate

Biology seems to be the favorite seminar of most of the students.  We perform experiments in class almost every week using microscopes.  Our recent lab was to culture pond water samples over the course of the week that were fed egg yolk, rice, soil, and hay.  It was very exciting to watch bacterium propel itself around under the microscope, and find various types in the various water samples.  It was not so exciting to SMELL those samples every time I opened my coat closet with its warm, dimly lit atmosphere!

This week we’ll be headed back to the same pond area and hiking on the Robert Frost trail in order to find various kinds of mushrooms and and other fungi.  We’ll return to the classroom to observe spores and gills, etc, but not before eating a picnic (and wild mushroom free!) lunch together and stopping in at a local bakery-cafe at the trail head for a pastry and drink.  It’s nice that biology gets us out of the classroom so often, because classroom time can be really intense…

…as in the photo above where everyone is taking a test on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was our second novel or epic poem to read.  Beowulf was first, and BOTH are such great stories.  The kids are a bit tired of Old English, though, because after those two poems we read The Knight’s Tale from Canterbury Tales. Oh well, now we’re on to Pilgrim’s Progress and Gulliver’s Travels, exploring the genres of allegory and satire.  I really love this reading selection.  Next up will be Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice and MORE!  They read about one novel a week, and write an essay on each one.
Cooper demonstrating multiplication and division of polynomials with his $1 nerd glasses from Target.
I think he’s jealous of my new specs!
Though we’ve only practiced this once, Francis Schaeffer’s worldview course provides great material for a Socratic Circle.  Below, the students were given a topic/chapter and then left on their own to explore the ideas Schaeffer’s writing put forth, namely the shift in worldview that can be detected in much Renaissance artwork.  I was really proud that they so easily carried on the discussion for MANY more than the ten minutes I gave them as a goal for keeping the discussion going.  Sharp kids, I tell ya!
Socratic Circle
Our first debate was two weeks ago.  The resolution was that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) should be abolished.  They all read a book called State of the Arts this summer which encourages Christians to participate in and appreciate the arts, but also helps give a godly, biblical standard for discerning what art is worthy of our appreciation. 
Panel of Judges.  Look at those stern faces!

Cooper’s team was arguing for the affirmative, and so tried to give compelling evidence as to why this organization is not worthy of taxpayer money.  They focused on the fact that the organization often gets used as a political tool as it did recently when it was urged to promote ObamaCare in some way. They did a wonderful job in front of an audience of parents and siblings as well as a panel of tough judges!

Cross Examination by Sara
The opposing team also did a great job in naming the merits of the NEA, and breaking down the facts about how much of our tax money actually goes to the organization.  Their argument was for reform and more judicial funding. The affirmative team won, but just by the skin of their teeth.  If fact, one judge chose the negative team as the overall winner.  Everyone learned, though, that you can not do enough research, fact-gathering, and THINKING in order to get a big picture understanding of the overall issue and argument!

That was one intense day for Cooper to be sure.  We had to fly out of the classroom door directly after the debate to get him to a Cross Country meet out-of-town.  Afterward, he was totally exhausted from research, workouts, anxiety, and the pressure of performing.  He did a great job with both though.  I was really proud of him!

Go Coop!

Making sure two kids are prepped for their Challenge courses on Tuesdays, and getting myself ready to teach make for fast, intense, crazy weeks, but I am so thankful for this opportunity, and totally sold on this curriculum.  Thankful, too, for the friendships it allows.  Several of the families have opened their homes for debate meetings or simply a pizza and movie night, and that has been so wonderful!  We’re taking a turn this week by having Coop’s class over for pizza, s’mores, games and maybe a movie.  Hoping for a nice fall evening and lots of great fellowship!

Now… essays are graded, progress reports completed, and now I’m off to study my logic book…and buy groceries for the week!

Classical Confessions {Lent Day #23}

Cooper and Cameron on debate day!

I’m getting ready for a Classical Conversations information meeting tonight.  At 7pm my house will be full of parents who are looking into both homeschooling and the Classical method.  My friend Sarah, who is our local director, will talk about the early years in the program, and I will talk a bit about the Challenge program which is for middle and high school students.  It has been such a gift for us to be a part of this program and community.
Rachel cross-examines Anna on the issue of legalizing euthanasia.

 All three of my kiddos have now been through parts of the Challenge Program, and I really do thank the Lord for this opportunity for them and for me.  This is my second time to tutor the Challenge 1 level.  Cooper is in my class along with 12 other teens, and he really enjoys having peers to meet with, learn with, and hang out with on Tuesdays. So thankful for both the joy and the challenging curriculum that Tuesdays provide.

Noah presents his case regarding euthanasia.  
The entire Challenge 1 class on debate day last semester.  This semester the debate topics are gun control and childhood vaccinations.
Elizabeth presents her Shakespeare Project ~ Fashions of the 17th Century.

 The “seminars” I teach every Tuesday this semester are Latin, Algebra, Physical Science, American Literature, American Government, Philosophy, and Debate.  Last semester Economics and Drama were taught rather than Government and Philosophy.  It is quite a workload for me to prepare for this, but probably more so for the students.  They end each day with a long list of assignments to complete before the next Tuesday.  It’s almost as much training in time management and discipline as it is academics!

Cooper presents his economics project called “A Look into the Future.”  Each student had to create a future life, complete with career, housing, and taxes and then report on their monthly budget via pie graph.
Cooper and Jesse having a little fun with the game Taboo.
Cameron and Cooper compete to match Latin and English vocabulary flashcards.

 Being in a small group of peers allows for great group discussions and oral presentations and team policy debate ~ all of which seem so important to be a part of during the high school years.  Again, I am really thankful the Lord has provided this unique opportunity to homeschool and yet be a part of a community of peers once a week.

90 Toilet paper squares to model a “to scale” solar system.  The different shaped balls were planets ~ Mercury at square 3 or so, Uranus at square 90.

Science experiments are also more fun in a group ~ especially when balloons, bowling balls, vinegar, and baking soda are involved!

Kayla is in the Challenge A level which is the equivalent of 7th grade.  Her seminars are Math, Latin, Literature and Composition, Science, Apologetics, and Geography.  Here she is with the girls from her class ~ and our director, Sarah, on crazy hat day Tuesday.

For several years I would search for local Classical Conversations communities only to find that the nearest one was in Pennsylvania!  Meanwhile, my Texas and Oklahoma friends were raving about how wonderful the program was for their kids.  I’m thankful that in the last 4 years, several CC communities have started in New England ~ and seemingly just in time for my kids entering the upper grades.

Thank you, Lord, for Your generous provision in this wonderful and challenging community of learning and homeschooling!

Harms of the “No Pizza” Status Quo…

Did you know there really are some harms in NOT having your Challenge I tutor bring you pizza for lunch every Tuesday?  It’s true.  And they would be very convincing, too, if they weren’t completely ridiculous.  But it was the resolution for the first practice debate for my Classical Conversations Challenge I class.  
Challenge I tutors {that’s me!} should serve their Challenge I class pizza for lunch every week.
Now, if you’re familiar with debate format, then you know that the job of the affirmative team is to give convincing “harms to the status quo” ~ the status quo being that I DO NOT bring them pizza for lunch every week.
It took them a few moments to get the hang of this, but boy, did they finally get the idea!  Here were the “harms” they came up with:
  • Weight Loss ~  We will lose weight and then in a survival/starvation situation be predisposed to DEATH.
  • Stress for Large Families ~ Large families are used to very specific routines.  Remembering to NOT to pack a lunch on Tuesdays may cause them undue stress. {Doubtful…}
  • Cheese Causes Creativity ~ Eating lots of cheese gives you weird dreams. If we don’t get a good dose of cheese each week, then we won’t have weird dreams.  Weird dreams make you more creative, and creativity, of course, helps you in school. {Guess who came up with this one?  My kid, that’s who.}
  • Social Awkwardness/Disadvantages ~ If we don’t eat pizza every week, then we might forget what pizza is, and be unable to relate well to our peers and others in the current culture. {And everybody knows homeschoolers don’t need any more accusations of social awkwardness!}
  • Alaskans Will Freeze ~ It is cold in Alaska.  If the Challenge I kids there don’t eat warm, cheesy pizza every week, they might develop hypothermia and freeze to death. {I think this is my favorite.}
  • Under-Stimulated Imagination/Decision Making Skills ~ If our Challenge I tutor does not ask us what type of pizza we would like each week, then we may lose the ability to use our imaginations and make decisions. {Teenagers have to make THE most difficult daily decisions.}
  • Bacterial Infections ~ Food made in non-commercial, unregulated kitchens is more susceptible to bacteria.  Pizza made at Dominoes, etc, will keep us healthier and disease-free. {Don’t even get me started on this one…}
  • Economic Downturn ~ Money spent each week on pizza will stimulate the economy.  If no pizza is bought, stocks will go down. {They are also competing in a stock market game and REALLY do not want their stocks to go down!}
  • Violence and Possible Murder ~ If pizza is not provided for all Challenge I students, and then one student just happens to bring pizza in their own lunch, violent, jealous feelings may arise.  Murder is a potential outcome. {Oh my! Hopefully the Holy Spirit would prevail here!}

Well, as ludicrous as these “harms” are, I was quite tickled and very impressed with their clever responses.  I was really left with no other choice than to order them pizza at the end of the day.  Thank goodness Dominoes now does gluten free. That meant that even Cooper got delivery pizza that day!
 Since then, they’ve gone on to write an “affirmative constructive” for a death penalty debate, and now they are gearing up for their first team debate in front of an audience and judges.  The topic is euthanasia, which also happens to be a ballot question in Massachusetts next month.  This is a very sharp and passionate group of students, and I can hardly wait to hear their arguments for and against this hot button issue.

Physical Science is another of our weekly “seminars” and includes lots of experiments like sending an electrical current through water and “seeing” water molecules split and bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen gas resulting.  Oh ~ and copper hydroxycarbonate {the blue stuff} forming on one of the wires.
 Below, Cameron is observing a weakening and eventually extinguished flame, because fire can’t exist without oxygen.  We also caught oxygen in a balloon {from a yeast and vinegar reaction} and carefully slipped the opening under the glass jar, released the gas, and watched the flame burn brighter ~ so please don’t smoke in hospitals!
 Ryan {below}is experimenting with what happens when a bottle of cold air{from sitting in ice water} with a balloon attached is then placed in a bowl of hot water.  Wow! Molecules move really fast when they are heated up ~ so fast that they are constantly banging against the sides of the bottle and balloon causing the balloon to inflate. The prior cold air had caused the balloon to collapse on itself and even be sucked into the bottle, so this was quite a visible change!

 Did you know that water has many interesting properties such as polarity and cohesion.  On Tuesday we completed four experiments that demonstrated these properties.  How many drops of water will hold together on the face of a penny?  Cooper got 92 drops to “stick” together on his ~ the highest of all attempts.
It was like a huge bubble sitting on top!

 Jesse is holding secure two test tubes ~ each of which was filled with water and are now filling with hydrogen and oxygen gas over the negative and positive terminals {respectively} of a 9-volt battery submerged in a water and Epsom salt solution. Based on your knowledge of the chemical formula for water, which test tube do you think filled up first? {Hint: H2O means there are TWO hydrogen atoms but only one oxygen…}
Besides Debate and Physical Science, our day is filled with 5 other “seminars” ~ Latin, Algebra 1 and 2 {half do 1 and half do 2}, Economics, American Literature, and Drama/Shakespeare.  After reading either The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain or An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott in American Literature last week, their assignment was to write a similar “familiar” story of their own.  Rachel {above}volunteered to read hers aloud, but could hardly get through it, as it was about a talking, diabetic grapefruit and a professional ventriloquist.  I’m not sure how “familiar” it was, but she gets a lot of points for creativity and humor.
It is a challenge for these students to accomplish the weekly workload required for this class, and it is also a challenge for me to prepare to instruct these very sharp kids! {I have literally had repetitive dreams about 3rd declension i-stems in Latin as well as 3rd declension Latin adjectives ~ which also have i-stems. Sigh.} But it is SUCH a joy to work with these very intelligent, respectful, humble, kind, and fun-loving kids, and I couldn’t be more pleased that Cooper gets to have a full class of such positive peers in this his sophomore year of high school!
Would you believe that he arranged to meet with his debate team today for two hours at a Barnes and Noble equidistant from everyone’s home in order to get some extra work done on the euthanasia debate? {They are scattered all over western MA and NH!}  He even created a Facebook page especially for this purpose.  I’d say that the Classical Conversations Challenge program provides a “harm to the status quo” of complacent, unmotivated teens, and I’m happy to spring for the pizza and lattes in that case!