Tuesday, September 23

Tiny Co-Op

I've avoided using a co-op for ten years. Mostly, we just never found one that would fit what we'd need from an outside source. But this year, we have six students who needed Biology. And labs sound like a lot more fun with friends. So three families got together and put together a Tiny Co-op. It's just Biology. And snacks.

The Littles do their thing during the class period (usually begging food off the host of the week). JakeRabbit works on whatever he needs to wrap up before the next library trip, and wanders in to observe. (He's made it fairly clear that I need to plan on doing something similar when he hits high school.) The high school students do their research independently and the labs in pairs.

They have absolutely blown me away with what they're doing. Not just the way they cover the material, but their willingness to discuss topics in depth. And one of our students does some absolutely fantastic lab drawings! I'll see if she will let me take a picture next week so I can share it. All around, it's been a fun reminder that teens are incredibly capable, funny, insightful, and diligent. (Or they can be, when they have the opportunity.)

We're using High School Biology in Your Home, from Bridget Ardoin. The students are given the topic and questions to answer over the course of the week. They can use whatever material they want to do their resource (so the first week we covered the elements of a trustworthy, reputable source). They learn to cite their sources, follow rabbit trails, and fill in the depth of their knowledge as much as they are motivated to. The labs are fantastic. There are enough typos in the printed material that it's a bit distracting, and I'd love to get my hands on fixing them. But the process is sound, and we'll definitely be using her Chemistry program next year.

I hope everyone else is willing to co-op again!

And just for fun, the boys' Troop had a cook-off at the meeting last night. Each patrol had to prepare a trail meal over a camp stove, and then present its meal to the judges. That was hilarious and fantastic. After the judging, the boys ate the evidence. (I didn't get to the camera in time to snap a shot of the full production.) Once again, kids will blow you away if you give them half a chance.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, September 21

Almost Fall!

It's nearly Autumn, and we're all counting down! Mornings have been cool enough to enjoy a hot beverage and a book on the balcony, and that, alone, makes Summer heat almost worth it.

Jacob is 11, now. James is 16. Jacob, I can handle. But James? I honestly have no clue how that happened. I feel neither old enough to have a 16yo, nor like he's been around long enough to have reached that age. It's a bit surreal, to be honest. I mean, it's not like he's still a pudgy toddler who insists on closing doors people have left open. He's taller than I am by a significant bit (although he'll still gladly close doors and turn off lights, so that's handy), and he's full of great questions and challenging scenarios and wonderful ideas. But still... 16 seems so... grown, but not-grown, and so big-but-not-really-done-yet. But still a lot bigger and more grown than seems reasonable. :sniff:

And it's a little weird. The inner workings of the adolescent mind are fascinating and awe-inspiring, and a titch terrifying, from the parent's perspective. I guess that shows on my face, because he'll often burst out laughing mid-discussion and assure me, "There's no reason for this line of questioning. I was honestly just wondering about the (moral/legal/ethical/historical) implications." Oh. Well. That's... OK, I'll take it.

For Jacob's birthday, we had a little cookout and gathering. James wants to have an anime marathon, so that'll take some schedule wrangling with his peeps. They're all so laid back and easy going. I'm really lucky. Old, but lucky.

Again, I'll take it.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, September 6

This is the week that will not end

Some weeks seem to go on forever in an idyllic onslaught of joy and adventure.

This is not one of those weeks. This week we're all on full throttle, but only half the cylinders are firing, so there are are lot of backfires and rough starts. It's crazy. We've been up and out the door early every morning this week, and that's starting to wear on our collective nerves. We'll have to be out the door early both mornings this weekend, too, and I suspect the boys are about to lobby for a Late Start Monday policy after weeks that carry this level of intensity. If they don't, I just might.

But it's all good stuff. Today was particularly fun: our local homeschool social group started back. It felt so good to get in there and *know* people, to see kids we haven't seen all Summer and spend time with friends we've seen just recently, to hear the plans for the coming months and get excited all over again about what we've got to look forward to. That part was awesome. Today, I felt like I was home, and remembered being new and feeling like an alien interloper every time I walked in to the meeting. It's good to be over that. It's good to be home.

And we have a lot of new families with teens, so that's also exciting. Except for the part where people seem to think I'm in charge of teen activities... which I'm not. Or, more accurately, I strive very hard not to be. I will continue to insist that I'm just inviting people to come do things we were going to do, anyway. The idea of giving the impression that I'm organized, or that any of our outings resemble anything other than relatively organic eruptions of activity in beautiful surroundings, is likely to leave people disappointed. But if they show up to hang out with friends, make new friends, and maybe see or do something interesting in the meantime, then yeah, I'm your gal. I hope the new families are very laid back and understanding. That would also be pretty fantastic!

Homer took off Tuesday to do... whatever it is cats do when they take off. I don't know. This is the first time he's done it, and he hasn't really told me much about his trip. Kerouac impressions? Do they find wild catnip and discarded absinthe bottles and channel their inner Hunter S. Thompson? Whatever it was (and based on his condition when he showed up this afternoon, I'm laying odds he could tell you stories about those bats), he is home. He's eaten an entire can of tuna and hasn't stopped purring and kneading the floor since he got in. He hobbles around like a 90yo after hip replacement surgery, and he with every step he gripes like a hungover co-ed: "Ow. Ugh. Ow. Damn. Ow. Oh, cold floor. Gah, I should have just peed in the closet."

Bless him for not peeing in my closet. And we're all really glad he's back. But dang if that wasn't the longest week of trying to be optimistic I think I've had in a while. I tried to keep it positive for the kids, but by this morning, they were looking at each other skeptically, as if to say, "Do you think we should tell her he's probably dead?" So, yay for having Homer Kitty home.

Z was on the road for work the first half of the week, but he got home a couple of days early. The littles made him a welcome home banner and hung it on the door. The boys refrained from watching shows they know Z would like to watch with them. I love that they notice his absence. I love that his presence makes such an impact on our home, and our lives. He is pretty much everything a family could want in a Dad. And he puts up with us and our weirdness - our wonky schedule, random animals, weird diet, non-stop talking. Yep, we're pretty fortunate.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, September 3

My Favorite Things

One of the best things about living in Northern Alabama is the ready access to water. My children think of this simply as "going outside to play". They have no idea why I get giddy every time I see water. (Yes, ten years of living here and it still thrills me. Every time.)

The weather has been lovely enough for water activity, and this is a little spot we found a few weeks back and just had to check out with our hiking group. What a pleasant surprise! The grounds are clean, the area is well-maintained, and although everyone had on shoes, nobody ran across stray glass or hooks. (Still, wear your shoes in the river, kids.)

There was a child on the rope when we snapped this shot. Kind of looks like the Kraken is emerging, there, though, doesn't it? Or diving. I promise it wasn't as creepy as it reads. Someone (either James or I) is slow on the trigger, and I have quite a few pictures very much like this - swaying rope, no child, churning water. We left with the same number of children we arrived with, however, and that wrapped up the first year of hiking group with a stellar record of no lost children and no ER visits directly related to the hikes!

Today, mid-way through what has turned out to be a particularly grueling week, I've found myself trying to figure out when we can slip away for another morning's play before the weather turns cool again. Just... one more... please? I'd bet the kids are up for it. We just have to convince the schedule to give a little.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, September 1

As You Like It

Every year, I remember that Nashville has a Shakespeare in the Park performance. Usually, I remember this the week after the last performance. So this year, we invited friends (accountability), picked a date (procrastination), and we went! I am so glad we did.

It was absolutely fantastic. We took our blankets and spread out on the grass near the front of the stage. This is probably my favorite way to watch live theater, now. It was a long day, with the 2-hour drive each way, but that was made more fun with friends. It was, without a doubt, absolutely worth it, though.

Everything about this performance by the Nashville Shakespeare Festival was delightful and engaging, but one thing I hadn't thought about before hand was the music. This is *Nashville*! The music blew us all away. At first, we didn't think the actors on stage were singing live. It was too good. Then we realized that's exactly what they were doing. So that was like getting a whole other performance on top of the Shakespeare.

I would have better pictures, but they asked us not to take pictures during the performance (understandable), and we were just having too much fun visiting, watching, laughing, and eating during the time we could take photos.

Actually, most of the pictures I did get centered around the food. They had Thai, Egyptian, and BBQ. Oh, how much we spent trying a little of everything! I'm so glad my kids are adventurous eaters. And we do love some food truck food. (As an aside, anybody ever call them "roach coaches"? I get that that's considered derogatory, but we always meant it affectionately. I'm working very hard on not squealing with delight, "Oh! Let's see what's at the roach coach!" when we pull into a venue and see the trucks lined up. But I do still say it on the inside.)

So, yes, Mr. Shakespeare, we did like it. We liked it very much. From the atmosphere to the production to the food trucks, this was one of our favorite outings of 2014 so far.

Kiss those babies!