Herstory, Week 1

Before class read: The Yellow Wallpaper. Watch: Becoming Jane.

Consider what it was like to be a woman during the Victorian Era.

Did women and men work together?
Did women work jobs outside the home and receive pay?
What were the expectations for women during this time period?
What were the expectations for:
clothing; behavior; education; skills; life path; work; religion?
Has anything changed for women today?


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Dear Rosetta Stone, I hate you

There are very few things in this world I hate but Rosetta Stone? You are quickly achieving the top of the list.

Last year, on May 26th, I ordered a *Lifetime Family Pack Italian Online Program* from you. I received 5 codes to go with this subscription. 2 of them were quickly activated by my daughters. Just 2 weeks ago, I attempted to use a 3rd code so that I could enjoy learning Italian, too. Oddly, *the codes had expired*. Maybe I missed it in the fine print, the part where it must have told me that even though I was paying for a *Lifetime Family Pack Italian Online Program*, the codes would expire (in under a year) and that I would have to email, message, make telephone calls and open 1,001 doors in an effort to claim what I have already paid for…and then? I’d be given only 12 months access.

This customer service hellhole is ridiculous. Your expiring customer codes are ridiculous. The fact that your CS reps refuse to provide me the same product that *I have already paid for* is worse than ridiculous.

It doesn’t seem too much to ask that I have access to the product that I paid for, does it? Not to any normal person or any ethical business, it doesn’t.

I’m activating the codes for the 1 year subscriptions, not because I think that what you have provided me is adequate, but because its the *only* thing you’ve provided, besides unprofessional customer service and rude emails.

I will *never* recommend your product, based on this fiasco, which would have been incredibly easily fixed by simply providing new, lifetime access, customer codes for the 3 not-yet-activated accounts I had left, but no, I’ve spent a minimum of 15 hours futzing around with this over the past 2 weeks to no avail. Typically I bill at $50 per hour. I’ve now spent over $1,000 on your product with very little result.

My review on Rosetta Stone: The product was only provided for a few months after purchase, rather than the ‘lifetime’ promised; the customer service people made ineffective efforts and after weeks of trying, finally provided me with a replacement product that is good for 12 months, rather than the ‘lifetime’ I paid for; the turn-around time was extremely slow for online contact, email contact and the telephone contact was ineffectual; the emails were rude; no clue about the product as I’ve only just gotten access to it today.

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Easy English at Home

My daughter, Martina, is following along with the Easy English class from home. Here is her pojack of the same poem the class used.

I am not the wind

I am not the wind

that fluctuating fickleness.

And I am not the dainty flower

which is beautiful weakness personified.

And I am not the sparkling snow

that is childhood joy killed by the warmth.

Nor am I the leaves nor sands nor clouds

which shift and fall and break.

No, I am none of those disappearing

things, not ever.

by: Martina Rose, 2/20/15

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Easy English, Poetry, Day 1 of class

Today the students did a beautiful job of ‘pojacking’ a piece written by Mary Oliver called, “I’m Not The River.” Pojacking is hijacking a poem that you admire and using the structure, rhythm, rhyme scheme or other elements of the original poem as a frame for your own piece of writing. It is a great way to build confidence for reluctant writers…and not so reluctant writers. It is also a very non-assertive way to learn a few rules about poetry without actually discussing them.

We did discuss many things about writing in general and about poetry before we began but I won’t bore you with those details, here is the original poem by Ms. Oliver:


I’m not the river
that powerful presence.
And I’m not the black oak tree
which is patience personified.
And I’m not redbird
who is a brief life heartily enjoyed.
Nor am I mud nor rock nor sand
which is holding everything together.
No, I am none of these things. Not yet.

and here is what the students came up with based on her poem:


I am the war god
that fearless, mighty force
And I’m not a brittle twig
Which is weakness personified
I’m not the aurora
who is a dark night brightly lit
Nor am I a puppy nor wax nor fat
Which are kindness, softness, love
I shun those things. I fight, I slay.
I go to war.

This class is going to be AWESOME! Even if some of the students don’t realize it yet.


Categories: Easy English, homeschool, language arts, ObX, Weekly Summary | 1 Comment

The Pink Tent


A few months ago a friend told me about a dream she’d had. In her dream we were teaching a sex-ed class for the girls at our homeschool co-op. I must have blinked like a giant owl because I had been mulling and praying and thinking on this very topic for quite a while. I may have lit a candle to call in the partner I would need in this venture because I just didn’t have the bravery to try it on my own. It was the perfect synchronicity of teaching and personality styles. We were both excited to begin.

We put a lot of thought into our plan and came up with completely different things to do. They dovetailed perfectly to achieve our vision.

Her thoughts were to take a more innocent approach and address things like self-talk and feelings and to leave s-e-x for a later date. The girls who we are working with are between the ages of 11 and 13. She came up with a plan to use the world GIRLS as an acronym for topics.


She also suggested that we have each girl bring a snack that she can eat. We have a lot of girls with food allergies, so for each of them to have something safe is a big deal. We provide drinks.

My idea was to call our girls group ‘Pink Tent,’ after the Red Tent Temple we ladies share each month. The word pink may seem cliched but I think it makes sense based on the same reasoning that leads us to use the words ‘Red Tent,’ for menstruating women. Some of our girls have their moon and others do not. Maybe this is a good way to bless our pinkness without bowing to cliches? So, we call our gathering The Pink Tent.

My contribution to the girls is to open with a story, have a little discussion about it and then to get the girls up and moving, hopefully dancing and finding joy in moving their bodies for a few minutes and later, ‘flooding’ in which we all say one nice thing about each girl, in turn. It can be difficult to hear nice things and to mute our negative self-talk and my hope is that this will bolster the girls.

Then we move to our topic for the month, which will cycle through those above which my friend came up with, a few additions from me and two that the girls added for themselves at our first Pink Tent (I will blog about that later). Patricia leads this discussion and once conversation begins, we both interact with the girls.

After we’ve been together for about an hour, the two adults leave the girls to talk among themselves for about another 50 minutes. Then we come back and do some stretching or yoga to help all of us ground after an intense two hours. We then dismiss the girls to their parents and that is all.

ImageOur hope is provide an open-ended forum where these young women learn to support each other, in which they have access to adults who are open, accepting and non-judgmental and who will do our best to answer their questions.

Who are we? One of us is a degreed Special Ed teacher and the other has a BA in Anthropology and Creative Writing. We both teach, read and work hard to be kind, honest, thoughtful and caring. We can’t say we will leave all of our stuff at the door but our plan is to offer data and not morality and when we know our own opinions are going to come in, we agree to work on that and to talk to the girls about it.

Our goal is that every girl in this group be deeply aware of her own sovereignty and value in this world and they establish a strong support network where acceptance among young women is the norm. Here is my friend’s take on our experience.

Categories: GIRLS, homeschool, Pink Tent | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Diwali Oil Lanterns

Yesterday, as part of our study of Ancient India, we had a small Diwali celebration. We cleaned the house, cooked palak paneer and chicken tika masala for supper and made oil lanterns. The lanterns were easy and though this tutorial will be scantily papered with photographs, you can see that the end results was cute and, knock on wood, nothing exploded!

Use small jars with lids for the lanterns. Narrow jars hold less lantern fuel, which is a bonus, as the fuel comes in the smallest containers imaginable.
Gather your jars, hemp cord for wicking, lantern oil (can be bought from Michael’s or WalMart or your local, mom-and-pop hardware store), a hammer and either a long, narrow nail or small, thin screwdriver (for making holes in the lids).
The picnic table is the ideal place for most of this work if you don’t care if you make dents in the surface. Really, that is the important part: that you do this somewhere you can make dents in the surface. The ground will work in a pinch.
Place the jar lids, top down, on your work surface.
Using your hammer and screwdriver or nail, put a hole in the center of the lid by putting the point of your pointy implement in the center of the lid and hitting it sharply with your hammer. It is important that your holes are only marginally smaller than your hemp cording/wicking. If the holes are a lot larger, the wick will slide back into the jar. Not a good idea.
Pour lamp oil into your jars, filling the jars about 1/2 way. Cut your hemp cord so that you have about 1.5 inches more than the height of your jars. Ours were various sizes.
Put the cord up through the holes in the lids and press them into the sharp metal that’s going to be at the edge, on top. Be careful of your fingers and don’t get cut! Then feed the bottom of the wick into your jar/s and screw on the caps.
Let the jars sit for a little while, 15 minutes is good with the hemp. It is quite absorbent.
Then, light them! Voila! Cheap and easy. Just like you like it.

Categories: 5th grade, crafting, family fun, festivals, Fire, homeschool, social studies, Waldorf | 1 Comment

A Letter From Hogwarts (11th birthday, Harry Potter style)

My daughter had her 11th birthday at the end of August. She spent months agonizing over the potential arrival of a letter from Hogwarts, which, if you’re not in the know, arrives on a child’s 11th birthday. By owl.

I figured that this was the perfect opportunity for a Big Birthday Party, not something we do annually but more like twice in a lifetime for our kids. One of the motivating factors for me, the mama, was that this birthday was destined to be magical. My quest then was to figure out how I could add to the magic and not detract from it. Another thing, we are not wealthy. This is not some big-budget, Real Housewives of Coastal Virginia, multi-thousand dollar party.
So here are some of the things we did, on our budget, to make this party rock:

I rented costumes and ordered cheap accoutrement from Amazon. Snape? That’s just how he looks, plus some hair gel. Bellatrix? A $30 wig from our local costume shop and a homemade dress. Check out you tube for videos on how to do her makeup. The Bowtruckle! Isn’t she adorable? Brown clothing and a crown of silk leaves from our autumn decor stash. Dumbledore was, as usual, the most expensive. A rented robe, and cheapo hat and beard/hair from Amazon. Me/Prof McGonigle–honestly, I planned on this looking much better but was strapped for time and didn’t manifest what I had hoped for. Thinner being one of those things. 😉 The birthday girl wore a rented, very nice, Griffindor robe but you can find them on Meijer’s website. So, there we were all looking a little weird but excited because we love playing dress up.

The first order of business is this: the party was a surprise. I managed to make it thus while spending 100% of my time with the birthday girl. This included a trip to our local costume shop where I RENTED COSTUMES FOR THE PARTY with this kid in tow. The secret slipped slightly, but she was still not sure what was going on. She was very good about not peeking in the bags.

Amazon was another life saver. Party favors; costume extras; gifts! All came in brown boxes to our front porch.

Party favors? Yes. Generally, I think gift bags are crap. The birthday kid is supposed to receive gifts, not the guests. In fact, this just seems like one more way to be more of a consumer and we are under a lot of pressure to spend, spend, spend not only on the birthday child but all of the guests as well. When do kids learn to give without expectation? But I digress, I bought party favors and we made a bunch of them. My son, aka Professor Snape, made 20 wands. Plain wood with the bark left on the handles. I bought inexpensive owls and other animals for the menagerie, and this was, by far, my largest purchase. I also bought cool candy for the candy shop. Yes, yes, we had Diagon Alley right here in our living room! My husband even dressed up like a goblin and handed out the gold to the kids who had keys to their vaults…(I put a blue bow on a skeleton key and we placed it right beside the counter where they had to withdraw funds for their shopping spree. The taller children had a hard time finding the key. The little people got it more quickly, it being closer to their line(s) of vision. There was a small bag of gold coins for each guest and they had to buy a wand, a pet or owl and a broom if they wanted to play quidditch before they were allowed in the candy shop. All of the stores were staffed by family and friends.

This picture does not do it justice. My son’s girlfriend spent the afternoon painting signs for Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Magical Menagerie, and the other shops. My husband made brooms for quidditch and an ENTIRE QUIDDITCH FIELD. I just sat and pointed. Hah. Or you know, I suggested pine branches would make great brooms and planned the whole thing, orchestrated, ordered and cleaned and set up with a TON of help from my beautiful elves, one of whom was Bellatrix LeStrange. You see, Bellatrix came and kidnapped the birthday girl early to take her on a birthday date. There was a little bobble when Bellatrix and Lucius came to the door because the outfit was so convincing on Martina’s blonde, older sister that she ran away into my bedroom and locked the door. She actually thought Bellatrix was coming after her. I think the singing of, “I killed Sirius Black. I killed Sirius Black,” made it extra convincing.

Bellatrix talking the birthday girl down.

Eventually the kid came out of the room, put on her robes and left with the bad guys.

Then we got to work making the front room and kitchen into the Leaky Cauldron, the living room into Diagon Alley and our downstairs into the dining hall at Hogwarts. Oh, and Mark made the riding arena into a Quidditch field. Obviously the brooms didn’t fly but that darned Snitch sure did. It was awesome.

My husband rigged fishing line and a fishing pole to the snitch so that he could run up and down the field with it and raise it up and down. Only a couple of the kids noticed how it was working. This was one of the most totally amazing things that happened that day.
Once the kids were properly worn completely out, we dragged them inside and away from the West Nile carrying mosquitoes for cake and magic.

My friend, Shelley, made this amazing cake. She also did cupcakes which you can see in the slideshow. This was her family’s gift to Martina. There’s not enough money in the world to buy a gift like this! We have a lot of friends with food allergies and she made certain that there were cupcakes for everyone to eat. I made Butterbeer using cream soda and imitation butter flavoring. Healthy? No. It’s Butterbeer, it’s not supposed to be healthy. I also ordered mason jar mugs from Amazon and printed Butterbeer labels from Avery’s label maker site for the mugs. They were cute.

Shelley’s son, Caleb performed magic tricks for the kids and parents. He was very good, well-practiced and adorable. He even dressed up as a Weasley! I think I was too exhausted by this point to take photos of Caleb or George or Fred or whoever he was, while he was performing. Take my word for it, he was great. (Note, added later: There *is* a pic of Caleb in the slideshow.)
And then we ate and I didn’t make enough food. But we ate and the guests left and we all collapsed and felt really good about it, especially our 11 year old witch. She loved her party. Magical? Indeed.

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Please enjoy the long, long slideshow!

Categories: family fun, festivals, homeschool | 2 Comments

5th Grade Ramblings

Soon enough we will begin 5th grade. This year I jumped in and ordered the Christopherous 5th grade package–the very first time I have used a complete curriculum for any of our kids. I am excited! It has arrived, in a box much smaller than one might expect for a full school year of information. There was a lot in that little box, though, and I’m digging through it, planning, reading, getting more and more excited about the things we will be doing.

What sort of things? Geometry, botany, Gilgamesh, Ancient civilizations including China, Egypt and Greece, decimals, fractions.

For the past couple of years I’ve been struggling mightily with organization and lesson planning, with pulling off the lessons each day because my planning approach hasn’t been as thorough as it might have been. Martina has managed to do just fine and made a typically excellent showing on her required, standardized test, so I’m not deeply worried but…I could do better. This year I will, thanks to Donna Simmons who has done much of my planning and putting together of texts for me.

Now is the time to fill in the tiny details, lay things out on a calendar in a format that I can understand and schedule in a way that will work for us. This year we will forego morning extracurriculars and only do our livestock care and school work. Afternoons can house music, dance, riding lessons, etc. This is the mantra for the year: Mornings are sacred.

As we get deeper and deeper into the grades, it is clear that we must have sacred school time. Time set aside specifically for learning. This doesn’t mean forced learning, just that we have a window that is always open at a set time for main lessons, a time that is sacred space for things to do with learning. This is what works for us.

What are your plans for this school year? How many children do you teach at home?

Categories: 5th grade, homeschool, Waldorf | 2 Comments

Preaching an Apologia, “Oh, I don’t homeschool because…”

It’s kind of surprising how many people do this thing, this, “Homeschooling won’t work for my family because…” fill in the blank. They do this as soon as they find out that we do homeschool. Why? Why does this happen? Why do people automatically feel defensive about their schooling choices when they find out ours? This is one of the things peripheral to homeschooling which drives me nuts.

No one ever got defensive about my kids going to public school. No really got defensive when they went to private school, though there were some raised eyebrows at the lack of wisdom of paying actual money for a pre-university education. So why do folks feel it necessary to excuse themselves for not homeschooling their children? More importantly, why do they think I want to listen to it?

Here’s a tip: I have it on good authority from tens of fellow homeschoolers that NONE of us care how you choose to school your children. Rest assured that we have strong opinions about what to do with ours and may have similarly strong opinions about the state of schooling in our country as a whole but we also understand that you work all day or have seven children or just don’t WANT to homeschool. It’s fine. What’s not fine? The Apologia. For real.

Recently and the most stunning apologia I’ve heard to date was a woman who patiently explained to me how her son was too smart to be adequately homeschooled. Okay, fine and dandy, but do you really need to expound on this to me and my ten year old child who isn’t too smart to be homeschooled? While the parking meter is expiring and the meter maid is penning me a $15 parking ticket?

School your kids however you see fit. It’s fine. They are your children after all and no, I’m not judging you a poor parent or AT ALL for sending them off with lunch money and a pat on the rear end each morning from early autumn  until late spring. More power to you. Now, can you please stop talking at me and let me get on with my day?

Categories: homeschool | 1 Comment

Appalachia, 9-12, Weeks 10, 11, 12

The kids have been diligently reading their assigned chapters each week. I’m very impressed with their work ethic and attention in class.

We have made a glycerite, played with dowsing rods, and talked about the essays the kids will be, or have already begun, writing. Each one should choose a topic. Everyone has, with one exception and he was sick last week and thus didn’t know he had to do this. Today students should have had the first paragraph written. We talked about how to construct an essay and what my expectations are for their writings. We have a lot of Type A kids, so I suspect the essays will exceed expectations. Basically I just want them to write a coherent, topical essay that makes sense. This isn’t the essay they will send off with their college applications, it’s the essay they are writing for our co-op class in early middle school. Topics and lengths will vary but by the week-after-next I expect to have a written or email version to read from each student.

Today we talked about 3 Sisters Gardens and discussed our chapter for the week, Willow John. We reviewed the study guide and the students did some art work.

For next week, each student should have a rough draft of their essay to bring to class.

Categories: American Folk Tale, Appalachian, Class information, homeschool, ObX | Leave a comment

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