Monday, September 28, 2015

Giving back

I've mentioned on many occasions the fantastic experiences Elizabeth enjoyed at the arts-based charter school that she attended from kindergarten through 8th grade. She still holds a great deal of fondness for that place and appreciation for her time there. Back in the summer, when I mentioned that she should find somewhere in the community to volunteer once she started homeschooling, her thoughts naturally turned to her beloved school. After considering the opportunities there, she asked her former 2nd grade teacher if she could assist in reading time once a week. 

Now, every Wednesday afternoon, while I otherwise engage myself, often photographing for the school yearbook,  Elizabeth returns to her old classroom and listens to burgeoning 2nd grade readers. They get to know a "big kid" who encourages their developing skills, and my teenager learns to slow down and listen to and care for younger students. When people ask what we're doing for "socialization", the age-old homeschooling concern, this is one of the activities I list. Socialization isn't limited to same-age interaction. (In fact, an argument can be made that socialization with only same-age individuals isn't generally the most positive socialization.) This year has been about stepping outside of our comfort zone and embracing new experiences. And although she won't get a high school credit for this, she will become a more well-rounded individual, which is ultimately the goal of high school, right?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

a National Park obsession

Over the last couple of weeks, Finn's 3rd grade class studied various parks that are part of the National Park Service. What a timely study since we were already planning to spend the weekend in between in Shenandoah National Park! Shenandoah wasn't the particular park that Finn studied and made a poster advertising, but he was thrilled nonetheless. (He actually studied Colonial National Historic Park, a mere 4 hour drive from us. We might have something up our sleeve concerning that park.) As part of their studies, Finn's teacher brought in her National Park Passport to show the students and then the students made their own passport books to stamp as they heard about each classmate's national park. Of course, when we visited Shenandoah, Finn needed to acquire an "official" National Park Passport, complete with requisite stamp. As he devour each page and map, he made a plan to visit every park in our state and surrounding states in the coming months. I'm not sure that we'll be able to follow his plan quite to the letter, but since one of the national military parks is right down the road from us, we spent a few hours touring it this past Sunday afternoon. Finn has actually visited Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (locally known as Battleground Park) many, many times in the past. It's a common walking area, and we often stumble upon reenactments here. Needless to say, he saw this familiar park with fresh eyes and his passport book in hand. We'll be visiting other parks as we can, including a few that were already on our travel docket before this providential class study. I'm looking forward to see how many we are able to explore! I'll tag them as National Park Service as I share them here. What are your favorite National Parks, Military sights, or National Monuments that we should add to our list?

Sunday, September 13, 2015


{Robert Beatty, author of Serafina and the Black Cloak}

This past weekend, the Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors arrived downtown. The weather appeared threatening, but ultimately held off for the day. Paul, Finn, and I went down there for a few hours to buy a few books, participate in some children's activities, support Finn's teacher (who illustrated a book that was in one of the exhibition tents), and listen to a couple of author lectures. I was able to get a few books as Christmas presents, and Finn had a fantastic time visiting the children's activities and winning a free book. He was also thrilled to see his teacher, buy the book she illustrated, and have it signed by both her and the author. What a great connection for him to have as a kid. We are so fortunate to live in an area that hosts such an amazing event each year!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Shenandoah in September

We spent Labor Day weekend up in Shenandoah National Park seeking relief from the heat and connection with the mountains before the intensity of the school year sets in. As we suspected, Shenandoah was just what we needed. Big Meadows Campground is one of my favorite places to camp, and despite the Labor Day crowds, we had a marvelous time. We scrambled over the rocks at Bearfence Mountain, wandered through the Big Meadow, lounged around camp, watched the sunset from Blackrock, communed with dozens of friendly deer, and generally had a marvelous weekend. As we did last time, we camped with Cindy of Zach Aboard and her sweet family. I'm always grateful for other sweet kids who enjoy our kids so much. Every time we see them, our kids immediately fall back into their easy way of being together. The time of course went too quickly, as it ever does in Shenandoah; we clearly need to find a way to visit more frequently.

On a side note, I've started dabbling in video. The video of our weekend in Shenandoah can be found here: