Saturday, August 30, 2014


Our family has felt incomplete since Jake passed away in April.  It was so quick and unexpected that it left us shattered.  As we were moving through the process of grieving his loss and reflecting on his life, I realized what an important role he had in our family.  In many ways he was more than “just” a pet.  He was a best friend.  He was here 24/7, in a family that is together 24/7.  He was a reading buddy, a math partner, a music aficionado, a playmate, and a protector.  Those are some pretty big paws to fill.

This week we met Crosby, our 4 week old Goldendoodle.  Don’t let his coloring fool you, this little guy is a true Goldendoodle.  His mom is a Goldendoodle and his dad is a standard poodle making him a F1b generation dog.  He is part of a litter of 10 that was bred to produce a service dog for a friend of the breeder who is a Veteran suffering from PTSD and has mobility issues.  He will be joining us in four weeks and we just can’t wait!

Week of August 25th

This year I am going to go back to a weekly wrap up post to capture the little stuff that does not make it to Instagram, the fillers of our lives.  
Monday was a day filled with Wonder: Lilah's 12th birthday.

Tuesday: Piano and Riding Day!  One of our favorite days of the week.  Lilah is not as much in love with riding as Grace but it is great exercise for both her body and her mind and I am glad she is sticking with it, even though I told her she has my blessing to stop.
Grace on the other hand....

Tuesday also saw lots of reading by Lilah (new Minecraft book) and a new project.  This year we are going to be doing a little more work with history.  We have a formal history program that we wills start next week, but this is a quick fun little daily exercise to introduce the girls to people who have made a difference in the world in some way and whose names they should know.  Each day I pick a quote and write it on our dry erase board.  The girls copy it into their journal and add a personal reflection of what the quote means to them.  The author of the quote is then added to their Book of Centuries.  I got this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, 71 Toes.

Wednesday:  The leaves are beginning to turn and our neighborhood friends start school this week.  Fall is almost here but for now we are holding on to every bit of summer while we can.

Wednesday also gifted us with a surprise visitor.

Lilah gifted me with a lovely watermelon smoothie.  See that cup cozy?  She made it for me.

Thursday:  Not-Back-To-School Day 2014.  There will be a whole post about this amazing day.  We picked this little guy out.  Crosby will be joining our family in a month when he is ready to leave his puppy pack.

Since we were in the area, we ventured to Mystic Seaport.

Friday was our first official day, but this year things are going to look quite different than they did last year.  Grace is working at the kennel and during her hours at work, I am able to have quality time with Lilah. It will be a rare thing to see the three of us working at the same time now.  Grace will have to work over the weekend to catch up.   

Lilah spent an hour on science (Science Shepherd), put her new quote into her journal and Book of Centuries, and began a game of Scrabble with me.  After picking Grace up from work, we met my Mom, who was off from work and my nephew for lunch.  There was some shopping to get Grace her riding jacket for her first walk/trot competition.  Our week ended with two episodes of TLC's Next Great Baker, our new favorite show.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Lilah is an amazing party planner.  For reals.  She puts such care and effort into making sure her guests have more than just a good time.  She ensures that they will have an experience.  This amazing child planned her own birthday party that gave her friends an experience they should remember for a long time!
I wish I had tallied the number of hours Lilah worked.  It is becoming apparent to me that she does not learn quite like other kids and the way her education is delivered is not quite the same as it is for her sister.  She excels at project based learning.  To plan her day she:
Created the guest list
Created and sent the electronic invitation using Evite and managed the responses. (technology)
Used a traditional notebook and binder to make and manage lists. (life skills)
Wrote a scavenger hunt list.  Wrote the game card clues. Wrote the brain buster clues (clues to books) and wrote the store spy clues (reward cards).  (writing)

Designed the game cards.  Designed the spy and brain buster cards using Henri Bendel playing cards, the computer, washi tape, packing tape, stickers. (art)

Determined the number of prizes needed and worked
within a $10 budget at Claire’s Outlet. (math/finance)
On the day of her party everything was packed and organized and ready to be brought to the mall.  All I had to do was drive her and her friends.  

And step back and let them have at it.

Her friends ranged in age from 10 to almost 14.  They all got along.

A partnership between a shy girl and a very outgoing one worked beautifully. (random pairing)
The youngest was paired with the oldest. (again random pairing)
The mall was not too crowded, but crowded enough that they could complete their tasks yet have the freedom to explore within a range.  

This party caused some girls (like Grace) to step WAY out of their comfort zone in the name of fun and do things they NEVER would dream of doing.  
They asked for a received free samples of frozen yogurt.
A stranger cut an extra button off the inside of his shirt for one team.
A kind sales clerk printed $10 receipts and then voided the fake transaction just so they could get an item they needed.
They went store to store to store, asking for letterhead and sadly, explaining to the employees what letter head is since 99% of those asked did not know.  

We were at the mall for four hours!  At one point Lilah snuggled up against me and told me that her mall party was exactly like she planned it in her mind.

The best part of this whole day?  This idea came from a book, her favorite book of the summer and one of her favorite reads of all time: Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.  She said I made an excellent Mr. Lemoncello.  I am honored. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

School Thoughts

I wrote this post for a very special someone a few months ago.  I never posted it.  While reading my journal, I realized this is a perfect not-back-to-school post and something I want to keep fresh in my mind as we approach our first year of homeschooling high school......

Sometimes I wonder what my girls think of all the “pomp and circumstance” that takes place this time of year.  We live in a part of the country that is saturated with private schools for all areas of education, from pre-K to elementary to elite boarding schools and private universities. This is the time of year that the students don their caps and gowns and speakers sing the praises of their accomplishments before sending them out into the world or onto their next phase in their continuing education.  
I wonder how this feels for the child who either does not attend school or perhaps does, but hates every moment of it.  What if you know that your life is not defined by school, by grades, by academic accolades, by the price tag of your tuition, by the worth of your alma matter or by your cumulative GPA?  How do you feel when society (or family) judges you by these quantitative measures?  How do you measure up when you don’t define yourself by the same set of standards?
What if you goals are more personal and cannot be quantitatively defined?  How does volunteering with the homeless or providing love and care for the abused and neglected animals tossed aside by their owners fare against an A in a AP American History class?  
I remember so clearly being in high school and coming home from the awards night in tears because I felt I let down my parents because I only received one award and as is the case in most schools, one or two students (I will never forget their names even though I never spoke to them again after graduation) received the majority.  I wish I could hug my 17 year old self and gave myself the same advise I recently gave another young person.  
Look around this group of people.  Some have accomplished great things according to the criteria that is used for judgement.  Some have perfect SAT scores, some are headed to Ivy League Institutions, some won the department award for their achievements in math, science or language arts.  They played by the rules set forth by their academic institution and they succeeded.  For some of these children this is their pinnacle.  High School (or college) will always be looked upon as the best 4 years of their life.  I think this is sad.  Some of the kids in the senior class are looked over, passed by, and perhaps even ignored because they don’t care about the rules of school.  For them life is not what happens within the hallowed institutional halls.  They may be just hanging on, biding their time, scraping by until that final bell rings setting them free.  For these kids high school will not be the best experience of their life.  They will not reach their pinnacle at 18 or 19, 20, or 21.  For them the best is yet to come.  These kids, these non-conformers, these kids that struggle to comprehend quadratic equations, and care nothing for string theory, will find their own brilliance as entrepreneurs, as advocates for social change, as masters of social media and as followers of the Do Hard Things movement.  These kids simply can’t find their zen in school, for school is not for the zen educational experience.  
To my 17 year old self I would say please don’t judge yourself so harshly.  Be kind to your soul for it is kind and loving and true.  These 4 years are just a snapshot of one moment of your life.  They can never compare with the moments that will define your life; the moments of greatness that are great because you set the standards that define greatness.  That moment you conquer a fear, the moment you step so far out of your comfort zone you literally change who you are, the moment you give your love willingly and consciously to another, the moment life begins within you, the moment you realize that life is about so much more than you.  All these things are waiting for you to discover.  
Do not judge yourself by standards set by the Board of Education or by the College Board.  Judge yourself by a much higher set of standards.
Are you true to yourself?
Are you kind?
Are you seeking to learn because it interests you?
Are you using your life in a positive way?
Do you have compassion?
Do you have integrity?
Are you a friend?
Can you persevere in times of strife?
Can you risk failure?
Can you do hard things?
Yes.  Yes you can.  Because you are capable of greatness.  Now set out to discover what your greatness will be and enjoy the process of self discovery.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cape Cod 2014 Last Day

Last day meant more family, more seals, more beautiful scenery, more food, more fun.  We visited Scargo Pottery and fell a little bit in love with these castles.  I could totally envision one in my garden.....just sayin.  Even if we could justify the price tag, there was no way it would ever fit into our packed car.  Each trip we take in the Highlander leaves us in wonder of how we ever made it work in the Prius........

Cape Cod 2014 Day 5

Day 5:  Traffic to Provincetown was bumper to bumper for miles and miles so we detoured into our favorite town on the Cape, Wellfleet.  We visited a truly wonderful art fair, ate our favorite ice cream, and had our picture taken by a couple walking by.  We saw picture perfect clouds, interesting angels,  and more sculpture.  Hmm....I think sculpture could be a hot topic this year for us!  Our Cape stay was winding down at this point and I am so glad we fit this excursion into our week.

Cape Cod 2014 Day 4

We had perfect beach weather during our stay at the Cape.  Not too hot, never too cold.  The water was crystal clear and warm.  The smiles were huge and the laughter loud.  The colors magnificent and the air salty.  Just the way we like it.

Cape Cod 2014 Day 3

Cape Cod 2014 Day 2

Day 2: Back at Crosby Beach all morning.  My Vitamin D levels should be just fine!

This was followed by harbor seal observation at Chatham Fishing Piers.  As the numbers of Great White Sharks in the area continue to grow, so does the number of tourists who come to observe the seals.  When we were on the Cape, a family out in their small boat (in these waters) observed a 15' Great White trapped by the low tide.  It's a bit creepy wondering what is lurking under these boats.....

Our day ended at Chatham Lighthouse where we were lucky enough to find a space to park. I travel with binoculars in my car at all times.  They come in handy!  We spotted a dozen seals hanging out at Lighthouse Beach.  No large fin sightings however!

Cape Cod 2014 Day 1

Day One:  A visit to Great Cape Herbs.  It was the first of many visits during the week.  Greg and I stocked up on heart healthy tea and tea to help us sleep well.  Lilah found an amethyst crystal and Grace found organic hot chocolate mix.  

Crosby Beach in Brewster was simply idyllic.  The perfect beach for all ages, which in our group ranged from almost 4 to almost 17!  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Unschool High School

Here is one example of how we plan to homeschool middle school and high school.  A few months ago I saw a class I thought the girls might be interested in at Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven.  It was Metalsmithing and Jewelry Making for kids in grades 8+.  Grace was interested and signed up along with two of her friends.  This class was an intensive class, meeting for 5 days from 1:30 to 5:00.  This is a 17.5 hour class, which I rounded up to 18 hours.    Some homeschoolers count travel time.  Generally I do not.  I use the car time to pad our book list with all the audiobooks we listen to in our travels.  I am careful not to double dip on our time.  That would not be fair.  

Here are the requirements for Danbury, not the town I live in.  I use this simply because they summarized the information in a very succinct way.  Google graduation requirements and see how many convoluted explanations you receive.  I spent 15 minutes totaling up the credit hours on the State of Connecticut’s pdf for graduation requirements as of 2020 and I could not make them total 25. 
Credit total 21
Four (4) credits English 
Three (3) credits Science (must include Biology and Chemistry)
Three (3) credits math (must include Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II or statistics.  We are working on algebra I with Teaching Textbooks now).
Three and a half (3.5) credits Social Studies (World Studies, Modern World Studies, US History, Civics (We will begin Ancient History in two weeks).
One (1) credit Physical Education (This will be met this year with Horseback Riding.  Per Lee Binz, participation in a sport constitutes one credit).
One half (.5) credit Health
One (1) credit Business, Consumer Science, Technology
One (1) credit World Language (I am counting ASL I as pre-high school credit and ASL II as 9th grade credit meeting this credit requirement.  Should Grace narrow down a school that requires a romance language, she will have time to fulfill this towards the end of her high school experience)
One (1) credit Art, Music, Communication (Will be met with piano instruction.  Additional credit will be met in Fine Arts, which could be used as an elective.)
Three (3) credits of Electives
*I consider a credit hour 120 hours worth of grade level work.

Grace’s summer art class was grade level and it filled 18 hours towards her 120 hours that must be completed over 4 years.  We tagged a family field trip to Sculture Grounds in Old Lyme (not including travel time) and that added another hour.  She is well on her way to completing 1/4 of her fine art credit before our first official day of "school".   

That is how we are going to unschool our way through high school as much as possible.  

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...