Weekly Summary

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

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

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

Week 1, Appalachian 9-12

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The children read Chapter 1 in The Education of Little Tree for class this week. In our study guides there are questions to help focus them on the chapter at hand and also to be sure they understand what’s going on in the novel. This week’s chapter was a bit sad as we addressed a child who was orphaned and went home with his grandparents, and their poor treatment by others because of racial prejudice against Indians but there is also a strong overtone of hope and love to carry the reader through to the next chapter.

In-class we also covered the week’s vocabulary and will continue to do so. Some of the words have different definitions or contextual meanings and I want to be certain that the students understand the vocabulary as it is used in the novel.

Little Tree’s grandparents lived in a ‘dog trot’ cabin. Once class work was over, the kids wanted to know how they were going to build a cabin. There were some really strong looks of dread! How on EARTH were we to build a LOG CABIN in that tiny little classroom? Eventually Lauren suggested that Lincoln Logs might be a good idea and so I pulled out the can and broke the students into groups of 3. The all-girl group worked really well and constructed a fine dog-trot cabin complete with people inside in their allotted time. The other group had to tear down and rebuild several times (and part of this was the scarcity of materials) but in the end they, too, had built a very nice dog trot log cabin.

I am really looking forward to teaching this class every week. The subject matter is fascinating and the novel, while topically difficult, is also beautifully written and a cultural must-read. The kids? Awesome.

You can find the study guide for this class here, on Lulu. There are other fine study guides available and mine is really a compilation of pictures and text from online sources (all credited), vocabulary from the novel The Education of Little Tree, memorization work from classic texts mentioned in the novel and questions and craft/activity ideas for each week from my own idea of what is important and age-appropriate.

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

Week 1-Appalachian 6-8

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This week we opened class by introducing ourselves and trying to make our new students feel welcome. After perusing my book shelves I decided that we will not only read the Jack Tales but also some other books about Appalachian culture. All in story form. The plan is to spend our time each week with a story and taking off from that story, to do an activity or craft that teaches them something about the lifeways of the mountain culture.

The story we read was Georgia Music, by Helen V. Griffith. Georgia Music is not set specifically in the Appalachians but it is a very good opening story about how folks live there. Not one of the children remembered one single thing about the book once I’d read it. We’ll have to work on that this week by changing the seating around.

The Grandpa in Georgia Music lives in a log cabin and when his granddaughter comes to visit, she ends up staying the whole summer with him. They grow a garden and listen to the sounds of nature while napping under a big, old tree in the yard. Grandpa plays a ‘mouth harp’. Part of the reason I chose this particular story is that I thought it would go nicely on the first day for those children who are both in Appalachian Choir and in my class.

Then we got to the active part! The children built log cabins from Lincoln Logs. The boys built a cabin, Meg built a cabin, the other girls built a pasture, barn and named all of the horses. I think girls are just wired to love horses.

Then we learned, or rather I sang (and I’m no singer!) the first two verses of She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.

Even with all of that, we finished up a little bit early! I will work that out next week and make sure to keep them busy for that extra five or ten minutes. One thing I’m going to do is an opening and closing circle. All of the kids in my previous classes have enjoyed the circle time and it gives a definite opening and closing to our class. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again next week!

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

Earthworms, Week 5

Links will be at the bottom of this post for the story, info on the worm jar and a few other fun and wormy things.

Our story for this week was about an earthworm who got bitten in two! It’s gross, right? The kids loved it.

We went outside and froze while the children shoveled dirt, ripped up lettuce leaves, grabbed damp herbs (from my morning tea!) and stuffed in moss to top the jar full of oddness. Once they were satisfied, or frozen almost solid, the kids grabbed a few red wigglers out of the tubs from the bait shack…well, all of them except Jack that is. He insisted that there was no way he was touching those worms, so I had to do it. I was expecting maybe Sadie or Natalee to not want to do it but both of them got right in there, shivering from the cold wind, and grabbed worms until they were happy that their jars had enough.

My imagination failed me in coming up with a great picture for the MLBs this week, so I showed them how I would draw a worm and left them to it. Some of the children enjoy the copy work more than others and that’s okay. You may find that the handwriting portion of some of the MLBs have more drawing and less writing.

I love having every single one of these kids in my class each week and am always trying to come up with fun ideas for them. Daniel has been horribly disappointed for the last few weeks because I cannot convince him that blending colors to make new ones or putting together a worm jar is actually a science experiment. I think he’s having fun anyway.

Here are links to a couple of videos that are fun. Worms in Love and Wormie Goes to the Beach. If you want to use the worms in the jar to begin a vermicomposting project, here’s a neat video to help you get started at .

Earthworm games online, our story for this week from The Baldwin Project, this is what your kids brought home.

I recommend keeping the jars around for at least a week so that the kids can see the tunnels the worms will dig. Once you’re tired of the jars, just dump the contents into your flower bed or garden and recycle the jar.

Categories: Class information, homeschool, Weekly Summary | 2 Comments

Thunder and the Lightning Rod

This story is from Main Lesson dot com’s ‘The Story Book of Science‘ by Jean Henri Fabre, chapter name: Thunder and the Lightning Rod.

Class began with my being faced by a large group of adorable and ernest young faces and wiggly little bodies. Once everyone had arrived, we gathered for circle time and sang Ring Around a Rosie. As we fell to the ground I asked the children to stay (not knowing until Leah taught me that there is a 2nd verse where we’re supposed to get back up again!). The children all sat in a semi-circle on the floor and we did a little community building exercise that will be repeated each week: I introduce myself by name and then we all answer a weekly question. This week’s was, “Tell me something that makes you special.” I enjoy doing this because often the children don’t all know each other or anything about the others, by the end of the semester they will.

At the end of the introductions I stood up, saying a rhyme called ‘Come a-runnin’ and we all moved to the table. We briefly discussed the story for the week and thunderstorms and electricity. Elsa and Sadie both knew a lot about the topic and told us about positive and negative charges. Then I handed out balloons, everyone got a little crazy rubbing balloons on shirts and holding them over their hair or sticking them onto their bodies or the wall.

Eventually I asked the children to place the balloons in a tub and come back to the table where each chose a Main Lesson Book (MLB) and I wrote their name on the front. Normally the children will do copy work in their MLBs but since it was week one and I thought we might be pressed for time, we just glued a handout in and then everyone settled down to draw a thunderstorm.

The ability of these little people to focus on their artwork was impressive. Every single one of them set to the task and drew a storm. I even had to hurry a couple of them along so that we could finish in time!

We did our closing circle a few minutes early. The kids gathered once more in a semi circle on the floor and we acted out a lightning storm complete with flashing lights, claps of thunder and the soft (or loud) sounds of rain falling and wind blowing.

Then we went outside and everyone bopped their balloon around for a few minutes before I called them together for a balloon stomp. All of the balloons exploded on the first try except for Sadie’s. I had to hold it down for her and exert a little force before it would submit =)

What a great bunch of children. I’m looking forward to next week and to teaching them about the water cycle. Our story is located here: Why the Sheep Ran Away.

Categories: animals, livestock, circle time, Class information, homeschool, Waldorf, Weekly Summary | 1 Comment

Stories of Light: Week 1

This month I am taking a break from lesson planning and following Marsha Johnson’s ‘Stories of Light,’ lesson plan. What a joyous outline this is!

Week 1 was a study of Chanukah traditions. We made a menorah out of salt shakers from the dollar store. Minerva painted them all, including the one for the shamash which is a different color and shape than the others. We’ve been lighting this each night and saying our prayer as best we can when we really don’t know what we’re doing.

Our form for the week was a crossing-the-midline form in the shape of a menorah or chanukiah. Minerva copied it into her lesson book as part of her border for her rewriting the Story of Chanukah. The story includes all but two of her spelling words for week. I think that’s quite impressive!

To keep up with math she is doing worksheets from a book I bought at TAPS. Each day her worksheet focuses on a different process which works wonderfully with our 4 day school week. We’ve put the gnomes away for now and are just doing practice and solidifying the skills, no active math block is going on now.

We’re learning a lot by exploring the festivals celebrated by other cultures this year, especially the Jewish festivals which we are focusing on.

Categories: 3rd Grade, festivals, form drawing, Weekly Summary | 1 Comment

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