Slice of Life: Day 16

Slice of Life: Day 16

Word Hoard for Daily Slicers

laundry in the washer

laundry on the floor

dishes in the sink

dishes at the door

papers ungraded

dinner’s not bought

but the slicing keeps on going

written well or written squat

kids are talking ’round me

someone’s ringing the bell

but, I’m clicking at my laptop

come high water or come knell

there’s places to go

and people to see

but at table and keyboard

is where I’ll be

commenting and liking

and posting oft too late

I’m growing as a writer

and developing my traits

I’m meeting other bloggers

and noting all their skills

I’m reading all announcements

and charging up the hill

slicing and dicing and responding

dusk to dawn

I greet my sleeping husband

each night with weary yawn

it’s is a daily grind

heavy wedges on my plate

but I’m doing SOL March challenge

and I’m doing it first rate

Slice of Life: Day 14

Slice of Life: Day 14

These students are ardently writing about Animal Farm, a political satire written as a cautionary tale against the evils of totalitarianism.  For a writing teacher, this is a beautiful sight:  sixteen energetic students writing and typing with confidence, using transitions, making connections between the text and the outside world, and working heartily right up to the bell.  They have opinions and they aren’t afraid to share them.

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They came to class with their books all marked up and tabbed.  They brought in stacks of paper and laptops.  They had outlines and graphic organizers ready to attack the topic.  When we started the essay, they jumped right to it with a few questions, but plenty of confidence. You could hear pencils and pens scratching and keyboards clicking.  It was a joyous sound.

To prepare for this day, we read the novel, held a Socratic-style debate about the nature of leaders, tracked the characters and their role in the allegory, and closely read for propaganda and irony.  They marked their books as they found catchy slogans, repetitive messages and spin.

Once we finished the book, I gave the students their topic for the in-class writing assignment.  They had a week to organize their thoughts into a graphic organizer, gather evidence and ponder more on the topic.  Because they had been marking their books all along, they were armed with all kinds of evidence to support their opinions.  They were ready and I could tell.

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When they finished, they turned in some weighty essays, nice and thick, double spaced.  No one seemed to be at a loss for written words, another bonus!

What a wonderful writing teacher kind of day!

Now I have 16 hefty essays to grade!  I’ll need to inspect these to see if they are as good as they look… to see if the proof is in the pudding.  Better get right to bed.  I’ll need some rest to tackle these.





























































































Slice of Life: Day 7

Slice of Life: Day 7

Hybrid Schooling and Poetry: A great Combination!

When people discover that I teach high school classes one day a week, I get the question, “Where do you teach that allows you to do that?”

“I teach at a hybrid school in Atlanta, Georgia,” I’ll tell them.

Usually, at this point, they nod their heads, as if they were quite familiar with such a place.  But, most of the time they have no idea what a hybrid school is.  So, I am going to explain it here and show you a little of what we do in my classes.

A hybrid school is a school that combines the best of both the homeschooling and traditional school models.  Hybrid schools meet less frequently then traditional schools, once or twice a week being the most common.  Hybrid schools bring home schooled students together for face-to-face classroom time.  On school days, teachers give lessons, hold class discussions, give tests, hold conferences and all the basic activities that a regular school does.  On off days, students work on assignments, go on field trips or participate in extra curricular activities. The great benefit of the hybrid arrangement is that students and families have a lot of flexibility to travel, pursue advanced level sports or music instruction and study subjects of particular interest.  At my school, for example, students can study core subjects like history and math or they can take high interest electives like film, debate, sculpting or creative writing.  They can take one or multiple classes a week.  I have one student that is a competitive diver and another that is a flutist.  I love teaching in the hybrid environment because it gives me the opportunity to design a curriculum around my students’ specific abilities and needs.



Poetry is the topic of the month in my Wednesday Creative Writing class.  This is a workshop class that has three main elements:  a mini lesson, workshop writing time and sharing.  Today, we looked at the recurring image in poetry, specifically in “The Portrait” by Stanley Kunitz and “Oh, Oh” by William Hathaway.  Before reading these startling  poems, I had the students close their eyes and imagine an event or situation that has “stuck” for some reason in their memories.  The memory could be positive or negative.  Once they recalled the event or situation, I asked them to identify the image that came to mind in a few words.  Some questions I asked, ” How does this image make you feel?” and “What was the ultimate outcome of that event or situation?”  These questions got them pondering and writing.

Once we read and discussed the poems, they were eager to get to work on their own recurring images.  Some wrote in notebooks; others worked on laptops.  But all said they just appreciated having time to write.


City Folks Hit the Pasture

City Folks Hit the Pasture

Recently we took a fall walk and encountered some iconic bucolic scenes.  My fourteen year old son, after viewing my photographs from the outing, penned this piece on his experience.  I hope you enjoy.

City Folks Hit the Pasture

by H.P.N.

The November air was soft and cool that evening. Walking up the gravel road, my dad was setting up a hunting blind in the field behind me. My dad loved to utilize his Thanksgiving break to go hunting. Guiding my neighbor and I up the road, my mom was telling us all about what she had seen up this way the night before. As our small company reached a barbed wire fence the wood ended and I saw them on the other side.

cows at the golden hour

Some were brown, some were white, some were black, and a few were mixed. I approached the fence and a few of them standing near the fence walked up to us. Ben, our lake house neighbor where we were presently staying, picked up a tuft of grass. Ben cruised over to the fence, reached out with the grass and let out a hardy chuckle as the cow ate it. Stepping back from the wire I too picked up some of the little stiff shoots around me and held them out to the cows. A brown one walked over to me and munched on the dried plants.



“Hold right there,” My mom said while pulling out her camera. The low and sluggish fall sun gave off the perfect shade to the cool, but crisp afternoon. This made for the best environment for picture taking. Ben was still feeding the cows, but now was trying to challenge how far the poor thing could reach for its food. The large animal reached up as high as it could with its short stubby neck and stretched out a lengthy pink tongue. It curled this tongue around the weeds and pulled them out of Ben’s hand.


Alien Cow! Look out!




“Whoa!” I laughed, “That is one long tongue.

“Yea,” Ben answered in his almost southern accent.

By now the whole herd had gathered at our end of the pasture, coming to take advantage of the free hand outs. For a while we zoned out of our busy American lives to cross paths with this gentle community of cows. It was like the world around us froze, letting us enjoy this moment. Suddenly, I heard the crunching of boots on loose rocks and turned around to see my dad strolling up the road.

“Hey y’all,” He said announcing his presence and zapping us out of our utopia. “I finished setting up the stand.”

Walking back down the dirt road we told my dad all about the cows and how calm they were. Stepping back into the car the reality that this week was coming to a close came rushing in on me. Sitting there on the leather seat looking out the now dark window, I wished that I was back there at the pasture with the cows.







Workbooks Anonymous

Workbooks Anonymous

“Another workbook, Mom?”  I could already see that baked look on his face.  As I peered at my young student,  a rather cumbersome pile of consumable workbooks cast a shadow on his work space. Since I wasn’t able to honestly answer his question, I said to myself, “Yikes! He’s right. We have too many workbooks going!”  This September, like so many other Septembers, I ask myself, “What are we doing?”  and, more importantly, “Why are we doing it?”

These same questions come up year after year as I try to filter all of this learning through a Charlotte Mason paradigm.   My problem is that I’ve been influenced by too many great approaches to learning.  Sure, the Classical and traditional approaches have their great ideas to add in too.  Plus, when I get to a summer curriculum fair, I see all manor of great workbooks and materials. “I gotta get this!” I’ll say, and grab another spelling book (we already had 3 at home). Then, there are the occasional used book sales around here.  I’ll pick up a great workbook and say, “Gee, I’ve been hearing about this for years and here it is for $2.  I gotta get this!”  And, home it comes to my home school in-basket.


Then, August comes around and we have to actually implement all these supposedly “great” workbooks and materials.  Then, my son asks, “Another workbook, Mom?”

Short of throwing all the workbooks out, there is one approach I have been doing for several years now that actually really is awesome.  And this is just plain reading.  After morning prayers and breakfast, we all lay around and read. Reading is the first subject every day.  I’ve got my  Northanger Abbey, my 14 year old has his Around the World in 80 Days and my youngest has My Side of the Mountain.  Even on late start mornings we still read for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Right in their midst, tea cup on the arm of the couch, I read too.  It is glorious.

So, back to the questions, What are we doing?  Why are we doing it?  These are good questions for any school.   What we are doing is learning magnificent things, but we can get bogged down when this home school mama  over plans. Why do I over plan?  Because I have a hard time saying No!  What are we doing well?  We are reading every day. Why are we reading?  Because we enjoy it.

There!  I said it!  I feel like I’ve gotten something off my chest at the local chapter of Workbooks Anonymous!   Its time I stepped out onto a limb and said NO to about half of these superfluous workbooks! That should give us more time for the subjects we love like reading, writing, art and science.



Chime in!  Have you had to examine the materials you are using this year and make changes, small or drastic?  Is there something you are doing that is really working?  I would love to hear your stories.



ABC’s for the Orthodox Christian Child

ABC’s for the Orthodox Christian Child


Around mid October, we finished up the modern time period and then started our new year with Ambleside Online Year 2.  We have modified the program somewhat to fit our needs and fit the books we have on hand.  Copy work is an important part of a Charlotte Mason approach to education and has always been an important part of the curriculum for our school.  My kids have learned basic, but very important skills from this process including how to stay inside the margin, how to double space, how to print neatly, how to space letters, how to properly apply capitalization and punctuation, etc.

This year, I created a list, based upon the alphabet, of important Bible verses and prayers: ABC’s for the Orthodox Christian Child  Each week, we try to do at least 2 or three entries of copy work from this collection.   Here is how  I have set it up:  1. I printed  a copy of the ABC’s for the Orthodox Christian Child.  2. Then, I placed the list inside the pocket of a paper 3-clasp folder.

copy work

3. Then, I pre-loaded enough paper in the clasps so that he can get through 26 verses and prayers, with a few extra for mistakes.   4. We have an alphabet stamp set, so my little dude stamps the first letter, then writes out the Bible verse or prayer double spacing in pencil.

copy work 2

He has come a long way since the beginning of the year.  But, we still need to work on margins and spelling and capitalization.  The letter O begins St. Ephraim’s Prayer, which is rather long, so I told him he could take 2 or 3 days to do it neatly.  Sometimes my little man is in the mood for copy work and sometimes he isn’t.  I get that.  Sometimes I feel like doing laundry, and some times I don’t.  When he is in one of those anti-writing moods, we just set the timer for 5 minutes.  I tell him to work as hard as he can for five minutes. Then, when the timer is up he can just stop for the day and pick up right there tomorrow.  I have been known to do the same thing with laundry.   Usually, he is surprised by how much work he has gotten done in five minutes… a good lesson in just hunkering down.

Hopefully, as we continue this project , I will show you our progress and what we plan to do with these completed pages.