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

Cold Comfort

The kid went camping with her Girl Scout troop over the weekend. It was cold, in the 30’s overnight, but she says she was warm and snuggly. The 2 Kelty, 20+ sleeping bag burrito she climbed into each night probably helped.

We have struggled with the decision for her to be a GS for a couple of years now. I had bad experiences when my older daughter did GS and have struggled to shed them, in spite of the truth that our current leaders are wonderful, strong, amazing role models. In the end, the leader’s acceptance of our desire to be a part but just an honestly small part, of the troop pushed us over the edge.

Now my little girl is a Junior and gets to spend some focused, fun time with some other wonderful girls from our homeschooling community. It’s a journey that isn’t in the GS manuals, but one we are happy to be on just the same.

Categories: 5th grade, ObX | Leave a 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

Appalachia, 6-8, weeks 10, 11, 12

Sorry, it’s been a while. Rest assured that the kids in my little Appalachian class are all still adorable, brilliant and hilarious.

We have continued with the Jack Tales and Cherokee myths. We read one of my favorites, Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun. We played with dowsing rods, made a glycerite with lavender and glycerine–guaranteed to shut that colicky baby up in no time at’all and today we planted seeds.

We learned about how the Milky Way was formed and planted seeds after talking about a 3 Sisters Garden. The kids ought to know by now that the mountains which hold Appalachian culture are located in Va, NC, TN, and GA mostly. They should also know what plants grow in the 3 Sisters Garden. Hopefully they remember that they have marigold seeds in their pots.

Each week they are listening, repeating the events of the story back to me, singing, drawing, talking and discussing. These kids are so engaged! See you next week.

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

Appalachia, 9-12, Week 9

The children had two chapters to read for this class and most of them did! Sadly, my own child was one of the ones who didn’t. We read At the Crossroads Store and Trading with a Christian. Both difficult, both strongly emotional chapters.

In class we talked about the deaths of both Old Ringer and the calf and how Granpa treated the calf. We also talked about how Granpa treated the subject of Little Tree buying the calf and how it might have been different in our families, had the children in class wanted to spend all of their money on a sick animal. It was kind of hilarious. We went through the questions, vocab, etc in our workbooks and moved on to weaving, which most of the kids were very anxious to get back to. This is a strong contrast to the younger class, who were a little stressed out by the dexterity involved in making the cd weavings. The students took these home, so you should have gotten to see them.

They also colored a paper quilt square for the week. They had to pair up in class and choose the role of either preacher or politician and then present a sermon or speech. I made them pair into groups they normally don’t choose. In some cases, this worked out beautifully, in others not so much. How well the kids know one another has a distinct effect on how well they work together. All of the groups chose to be politicians. Benny and Sarah did a puppet show in which they were hand-eels. Stephen and Rachael presented a short campaign speech. Lauren and Martina also presented a campaign speech and theirs was the only one that sounded like a ‘real’ *vote for me I’m lying to you* political cliche. All of them were fabulous and funny.

The kids are all up on what’s happening and participating well in our class discussions.

Categories: American Folk Tale, Appalachian, Class information, homeschool, ObX, Weekly Summary | 2 Comments

Appalachia, 6-8, Week 9

This week we read another Jack story called Jack and the Varmints. I have to do a great deal of interpreting with these stories because the language is very different from what the kids are accustomed to hearing and they don’t understand but about half of what’s happening. It makes for great discussion and once they get it, they are rolling on the floor with the hilarity of the things Jack does.

We wove more on their cd weavings and talked a little more about how clothing was made by weaving and they children also worked on a quilt square in class.

We read Dolly Parton’s, A Coat of Many Colors, as well. This is a sweet story made from a song Dolly wrote many years ago. I found a video on you tube for them to watch and listen to, of Dolly singing the song with the lyrics straight from the text of the story. Boy, it was an OLD video, too! She looked so young and adorable.

I have no idea where week 8 went. Sorry.

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

Appalachia, 9-12, weeks 4,5,6, and 7

We continue to meander through the novel, The Education of Little Tree. As of this week, the kids should have read through the chapter: My Secret Place. We have covered a lot of ground from the Trail of Tears, and The Ballad of Frankie Silver to murder ballads and The Brown Mountain Lights.

It would great if the students had time to look at the links provided in their workbooks during the week. There are some violin making links that some may find interesting and one National Geographic video of the Brown Mountain Lights, one of the most mysterious of mysteries.

A HUGE thank you to Miss Lydia, who came in today to play music with the students so that they could trot out all of their homemade instruments and we could have a band. Alas, there was not one homemade instrument in the class. And, yes, that includes my own child so don’t feel too terrible.

Next week is Week 8. Students should have read all of the chapters up to and thought the assigned work in the workbook. It’s also time to begin considering topics for essays, projects and whether or not any memory work is  going to be done.

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

Appalachia 6-8, Weeks 4,5,6 and 7

So, I’m not consistent but I’m back!

The littles have finished the book about the Trail of Tears, thanks to Miss Colleen who stood in for me last week. Hopefully they have some understanding of the Cherokee removal and how it ended.

We’ve started into the Jack Tales. This week I read a story about Jack’s Hunting Trip. Jack is a goof and his tales are TALL but tall tales are a part of this culture and they are a lot of fun.

We talked about how one would find one’s way through the woods when hunting and figured that a compass would be helpful. We tried making compasses using pins and jar lids. This has always worked before but my lids appear to be magnetized and the pins just shot to the bottom and stuck and did not seem to care that North is toward the Chrysler. Ah well, we tried.

Only Graham made and brought a musical instrument to class. GO GRAHAM! This is out of BOTH of my classes. He played for us while we sang today, which was awesome.

Thanks all for coasting along with us missing a week and then having substitutes. Martina seems to be recovering slowly but surely and we will be back at ObX for afternoons now.

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

Week 2, Appalachian 9-12

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This week was Chapter 2 in our novel. The kids all read it and were great in class, going right into the study guide questions and vocabulary as it pertains to our readings. Many of the vocab words have a more obscure definition as they relate to the book than the words may have in common usage, ‘fork’, for example is about a divergence in a pathway and not an eating utensil. Most of the vocabulary words are listed in order to familiarize the students with the language in common use then, when Little Tree is set, and also now as the usage has often survived the intervening years. Another example would be ‘branch.’ Normally something on a tree, in the mountains it is also the word for a small creek.

In Chapter 2, Little Tree learns about foraging and hunting from Granpa. Today our class talked about wild foods and went outside for a look around at the church yard and the sky and water around the Hague. I showed them some edible plants and many, actually most, of the children already knew quite a bit about what was edible and what wasn’t. I am far from expert but know more than the average lay-person about our flora. Then I pointed up and said, ‘What are they?” ‘They” were seagulls. Made of meat, they reproduce by laying eggs, all wild food! Ducks, geese, fish, crabs, seaweed (Martina figured this one out and I was proud).

Back in class the students began working on ‘quilt squares’. This will be our project for exhibition and carrying home on the last day of the semester. Each week the students will complete one rectangle, on card stock, of their quilt. The squares are pertinent to what we’re doing in class and the chapter of Little Tree for the week but they do have a great deal of creative license. Most of the class took as long as they had to complete their squares and the artwork was impressive. I’m excited to see how engaged the students are with creating visual art that connects with the text and the folkway for the week.

See you next week!


Categories: American Folk Tale, Appalachian, Class information, homeschool, ObX, Weekly Summary | 2 Comments

Week 2, Appalachian 6-8

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Sometimes I am distracted by how cute these guys are! I swear a more outgoing, fun, intelligent group of little people couldn’t be found anywhere.

Today we read two chapters from Joseph Bruchac’s, The Trail of Tears. I was actually surprised by how attentive the kids were this week. They listened to the story, which is really a history lesson, and had great things to note when we discussed it. This is difficult subject matter but the reader is designed for small children, so we should be okay. Anyway, we read about John Ross in story form in Chapter 1, then about the history and back story in Chapter 2. It was like American History in a teaspoon.

The children understood that the Cherokee were forced out and had to go without proper provisions. I asked if they thought the people might have found food along the way and thus led them into a discussion about wild foods and foraging. We bundled up and went outside to look at and talk about some different wild foods that we could eat. I managed to keep most of them from consuming anything out of fear of the urban animals that use our church yard as a potty, more than any fear of misidentifying chickweed or a pine tree. A couple had to sample things though.

When they were focused in on the plants I started pointing out other things like geese, seagulls and the water, where there would be fish, shellfish and seaweed. The kids, once I pointed them in the right direction, really came up with great answers about what they may be able to eat from the ground, sky and water. I was very proud of Graham for mentioning seaweed. That seemed to me like the most difficult one.

We went through the first verse of She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain this week. I’m going to teach them the old-school version in which they whack the old red rooster because I hate overly PC things that rob the flavor from the original versions of songs, poem and fairy tales BUT if you want to, you can show them this video by the Wiggles in all its grown-man riding a stuffed pony and acting like a small child PC glory.

Categories: American Folk Tale, Appalachian, homeschool, ObX, Weekly Summary | Leave a comment

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