Wednesday, September 30, 2015


What do kids do when they are in school and come down with a serious illness?  How can a high school student take the time necessary to recover and heal when he or she must be worried about missing classes and accumulating hours and hours of make up work?  Do they return to school before they’re ready, risking their own well being and that of others?   

Grace would have missed the past week and a half of high school.  She has never ever been so sick, not even when she had the flu.  After five days of a fever ranging from 100 to 103, a cough, ear ache, sore throat, chills, and horrible fatigue, three doctors visits, and a trip to the walk in clinic, we finally received a diagnosis of pneumonia.  Pneumonia.  

This is not something she is bouncing back from easily.  She is fighting hard to get better.  She does a lesson and takes a nap.  She showers and gets dressed and takes a nap.  She has several days left of antibiotics but thankfully she is off the cough medicine with codeine.  Every time I see her face pale, or her eyes close, I am so grateful that we can attend doctors appointments without getting excused absences.  She can sleep at will, rising at 8:30 am if she wants, napping at noon and after putting in some time for lessons, go to bed at her normal time of 10:30pm.  The can do her lessons when she is able and not have the worry about make up work, grades and missed exams.

All normal activity has been on hold while she is sick.  Unfortunately Lilah does not enjoy staying home alone so she has schlepped back and forth to the doctor.  She had to cancel riding lessons because I could not leave Grace home alone as sick as she was.  Piano was cancelled as were two babysitting jobs.  Friends could not come to visit on their normal day and both girls missed a horse show they were very excited about because I was home alone the weekend it was held.  Lilah filled her days with baking, blogging, Facetiming, reading and photography.  Grace slept.  

She gets winded walking up a flight of stairs.  Today a doctor told us to expect a 2 - 3 month recover time and susceptibility to relapse if she is exposed to a virus.  It pains me to see my child so weak when normally she is so strong.  I am thankful this was bacterial, that she responded to antibiotics, and that she will recover.   Day by day she will recover. She will get well.  

Lilah finally got a lesson in this week on JJ.  Grace watched from her rocking chair.

Normally we only listen to audiobooks in the car but this week we began this one at home.  

Lilah took lots of pictures.  We went on a quick trip around the neighborhood so she could shoot on location.

Lilah worked in her confirmation journal while we listened to coverage of the Pope's visit.

I snapped a few pictures of my girl.

Lilah planned her Halloween costume.

She designed a new button for her blog since we share the email and she was tired of her blog being signed with my name.

Monday, September 28, 2015

15 part II

One wonderful thing about keeping a blog is you can scroll through the history and see what is important to your family at any given time.  This year it is very clear to see our main interest is horses and horseback riding.  We have ridden at multiple farms, watched thoroughbreds run, and held our breath as jumpers cleared rails.  The pictures tell our story.  

Not too long ago one of our family hobbies was shelling.  We fell away from it a bit, partly because what do you do with all the shells you collect?  There are only so many glass jars one can fill.  But we love the thrill of searching for that rare find.  Shelling is calming, peaceful, introspective and brings you into harmony with nature.  When Grace asked if we could go shelling on her birthday, a warm 80 degree Sunday, we said of course.  

Shelling is part of who we are as a family and I have to make sure that our time together is not so full of mundane things that we lose this interest.  I think it may be time for a fall shelling day trip.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


About an hour from us is Old Salem Farm in North Salem, NY home to the American Gold Cup,  held September 11-13th.  To celebrate Grace’s 15th birthday, we spent the day there as observers, mesmerized by the horses, their riders, and what both were able to do.  

When you are a student of something, whether it is music or sport, there is something magical about watching someone execute the elements that you are working you butt off to learn with style and grace.  Over and over I heard things like “he was on the wrong lead” or “look at the half halt”.  We saw jumping and cantering and galloping like we have never seen before.  We saw celebrities and olympians and national champions from countries all over the world.  

It was an incredible experience and I hope to attend future events at this farm.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a family day and celebrate my girl's special day!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Riding Update

We had an interesting summer with riding.  We left our first barn back in May.  We tried a barn just 10 minutes from us and while there were things we loved about it, ultimately it was not the right style and philosophy for the girls and they both found a place where they can grow as riders and find true pleasure in riding.  

However, joining a new farm in summer is tricky because summer camps run for weeks and take away from lesson time.  Add our travel on top of that and there were weeks we did not ride at all.  Now that we are back on a schedule, riding two days a week, the girls want to get back to jumping and Grace wants to participate in shows again.  It has been a year since her last show and she is more than eager to compete.  They have made their goals known and are digging their heals in and doing the hard work to get back into jumping form.

The farm is a place I never feel stress.  I can sit and take in the quiet of what I call Connecticut Country, which is laughable compared to the real country in other places in the USA.  I can hear the cicadas hum and watch the daddy long legs creep by, the dogs roll in grass and the horses graze.  I can exhale deeply and forget about the stresses of my daily life.   There is a part of me that would l-o-v-e to be on a horse and take lessons, but this is not my time.  Someday perhaps, but not now.  

For now it is about them and their relationship with the farm, the trainer and their horses. Soon I will be sitting in a rocking chair with my heavy sweater and cup of tea and I will be very happy.

Friday, September 18, 2015


Photography began as a hobby and is turning into a half credit or more for the girls.  Hours have been spent photographing, learning PicMonkey, a subscription photo editing website, learning to print at a local photography shop, downloading and completing fair entry applications, and preparing the matting for the photos that were selected.  

The beauty of being home is that we have time to visit the shop and talk to the knowledgeable staff about what we are doing and seek out their advice.  They spent an hour in the shop this week receiving a lesson on the Olympus and Sony mirrorless cameras with wifi connectivity and special editing capabilities.   The very best part is that the staff does not speak to them like children.  They do not dumb down information or assume because the are teens they are not capable of comprehending complicated information.  They are treated as fellow photographers.  

The result is that they see the world through the eye of a photographer, which is something I credit Instagram for.  For my girls, photography and Instagram is not about followers.  Their personal accounts are private and have far fewer followers than their peers who attend school.  They each have a public account, Grace for her photography, and Lilah for her crafting, but we don’t allow "selfies" except on occasion and they truly want to showcase the beauty in the world around them.  I find it fascinating.  

Photography is interest led.  I will do what I can to support them by finding free classes online, taking them to the store and on photography walks.  I will help them with the organization that is required for a fair entry and the transportation to get pictures where they need to be according to deadlines.  But for the most part, this is their thing.  It  is a possible career option and I hope they learn as much possible and have the courage and determination it would take to create a career in the arts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

One Year Adventure Novel - our language arts program 2015-2016

After a few weeks into our fall routine, I feel comfortable sharing what we are doing and how it is going.  This is the first year I feel confident no major changes will be made to the curriculum choices we made.  As usual, our week is chock full of activities and lessons, but so far we are managing to get it all done.  

For several years I have offered a writing group for my girls.  My original plan was to hold a workshop similar to a book club, where girls around the same age, could gather, work on their own piece of writing, share and get positive feedback from their peers.  There would be no collecting of pieces, no editing, grading and publishing.  That was left to the parents if they choose to turn it into more.  This was 90 minutes of creative energy in a positive environment.  It has always been my favorite time of the week.

Our writing group, #notebookgirlz, has been through an evolution over the past 2 ½ years.  We have used for many of our writing warm up activities. We have taken writing field trips.  We attended library book sales.  My girls have several notebooks filled with stories, essays, poems, reflections, and lists.  Girls have come and gone from our group based on interest, availability, and friendships.  We almost lost our group when several girls moved away and the pain was almost enough to stop and not send out an invite on the yahoo homeschooling site and not open ourselves up to new people, new dynamics, new relationships and the possibility of new friendships.  But we did.  And we sure are glad we did.

Our little group met once a week and we brought in those who were sick, or had to stay home because of wintry weather, or car troubles via Google Hangout.  Keilee in Alabama and Katya in New York were able to join in every week and our little group became a bit more tech savvy.  

As they grew and matured, they naturally sought more from their writing.  After an 8 week fairy tale unit, I realized we needed more, but I did not have the time or the energy to create something more on my own.  There are many writing programs to choose from but I needed something that would engage the girls, count for a high school credit, and be customizable to the strong voices and genres that my girls like to write.  We have a range of very strong writers, who are already working on novels to those who write because they have to, not necessarily because they love to.  What was most important to me was that we keep the workshop format.  A lesson, writing, sharing, writing, more sharing, asking, answering, questioning, in a positive, open environment.

I had my eye on One Year Adventure Novel for some time but was reluctant to spend this much on a curriculum because our track record with finishing things like this is pretty dismal.  After running it by the group, asking them to watch the sample videos, and browse the website, we decided to give it a try and I purchased the OYAN videos, workbook and teacher’s guide.  

To move through the 70+ lessons and finish in May, we added an extra day.  Now we meet on Fridays like always, but we all meet online Tuesday nights as well.  We watch the video, and I lead them through the questions in the workbook.  We share our writing, ask questions, and receive feedback.  I do wish I had a magic wand and could magically transport all these girls to my dining room table, but this is the next best thing.  We now have 9 girls.  Two in Florida, 2 in Connecticut (but too far to drive every week), 1 in Alabama, and four who are able to come to my house.  

We are on lesson 7 and we are beginning to get to writing scenes.  In fact, Lilah was up until 11:00pm last night working on her scene.  

There are things I simply adore about this program. I love the use of outside literature to make points.  We are reading Tale of Despereaux for book club and every point that has been introduced so far is in this book.  I am constantly pausing to point out things like use of dialect, humility, a power, a big theme, a villain, etc.  We are looking at books in a whole new way as a result of how we are writing.  That in itself is a pretty powerful lesson.

We have made character vision boards.                            
We have been given book recommendations and movie            recommendations.  We have taken impressive notes (a new skill for us).
We have each come up with a synopsis.
We are creating characters to care about.
We are sharing our writing with friends we love and trust.
We are immersing ourselves in the creative process with guidance and structure and support.  

I hope the girls are enjoying this as much as I am.  We are four weeks in and I just cannot wait to see where their stories are when they are four months in.  

* I was not paid or given any compensation or free product for this post.  This is my own review as a homeschool parent, sharing a program I recommend.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Creative Inspiration

Inspiration can come at any time, from any place.  Bam!  Inspiration!

In my home, inspiration is not like a soft breeze of energy gently moving you from one place in your creative journey to another, it is more like a tidal wave slamming into you and physically lifting you off your feet and transporting you to another place.  

Walking around the 103rd Goshen Fair in Goshen, Connecticut, we meandered our way into the pavilion that held the photography exhibits.  Bam!  Inspiration struck.  Grace realized her photographs could be entered into a contest.  She has thought of nothing else since.

Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, she has many good photographs to choose from.  She found an upcoming local fair and has three days to meet the entry deadline.  She can only choose 12 photographs in the amateur division and only 2 of each subject.  Hours have been spent pouring through pictures, trying to move pictures from phones to flash drives, and cropping, editing, and touching up photographs.  

My girls have always, always, learned more from their interests and experiences than they have from textbooks.  So while math, science and history are super important, we will be taking time today to visit the local photography store with the flash drive of their work and try our hand at printing some of these photos, something we have never done before.  When the tidal wave of creative inspiration hits, it is futile to fight it.  You just have to go with it and see where it takes you.  Today it will take us to the photography store.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Collage Friday: Yes, we are busy

I don’t want to be part of the culture that glorifies busy.  “How are you?”  Busy.  “How was your day?” Busy.  When busy is all you are, people stop asking how you are.  They are busy.

I yearn for simple.  I crave peace and tranquility but the reality of my life is that I don’t often have peace and tranquility and I am very busy.  This is of my own doing.  I choose to take a non-paid part time job at church.  I choose to homeschool my kids knowing full well I am the sole teacher in this home since Greg works 2 hours from home.  I choose to get a puppy, underestimating the challenges that come along with an active breed.  I choose to take a risk and open this blog space up to advertising, something I have been toying with for a while.  

So I am busy, however, I am busy doing things that bring me joy.  

Baking for a community dinner serving the hungry
I find such joy in my church work. It is far more work than I dreamed of when I accepted the offer.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be creating a religious education program centered around experiential learning.  Or running monthly catechist support meetings.  Or setting up classrooms.  Or designing a new youth group called Service Corps.  Never.  I would be lying if I said I have it all balanced and in control because I don’t.  However, when I sit at Sister Caroline’s old desk in our Parish Center and reflect on her legacy and how I am continuing it in my own way, all is well in my world.  

Our Not Back To School Day
I find joy in my homeschool life.  Yesterday was the first day of public school in our town.  The school buses rumbled by at 7am taking high school students to a brick building that is in shambles, scheduled to be torn down, with no air conditioning on a 90 degree day and I relish the fact that my 10th grader is upstairs sound asleep in her bed with that ginormous puppy by her side and her air conditioning on.  

One Year Adventure Novel
I find joy in my writing.  Thank you Grace and Lilah for pushing me to continue on with this space that I created so many years ago.  The blog books that line our bookshelves contain all of our family history over the past six years. So much history.  Trips.  Adventures.  Learning.  Lessons.  Projects.  Friends.  Family.   Ups.  Downs.  Laughter.  Tears.  Life.  Our life.  Our teachable moments.

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


On my Instagram someone commented that it is nice that Lilah still likes American Girl at 13. 

I think our society rewards teens who look like women.  "Role models" are Kylie Jenner, who at the tender age of 18, has already had plastic surgery and dresses like she is ready for a nightclub, which she is not old enough to enter legally.  Girls wear shorts so short they are truly indecent, and then complain when school officials ask them to go home and change.  13 year olds I know are wearing so much makeup they are unrecognizable and I cannot connect the face I see with the one I taught the year before in Sunday School.  Then there is Lilah, who does not attend school, and does not have the same influences affecting her day to day choices.  She is a thirteen year old girl who is part child, part young lady.  She wears Burt's Bees lip gloss and yes, still plays with American Girl Dolls and I am so very okay with that!

For her birthday we went to New York City to visit the AG store.  We have been doing this since the girls were pushed here in their double stroller.  It is always fun and it is always an adventure.  This year Lilah brought my camera since she has been practicing her photography skills on her dolls and has taken some lovely portraits of her girls.  She is also blogging again at her blog, A World Of Magic.  

I love watching my girls grow up and will never rush them to grow into what the world wants to see.  My wish is that they grow up to be who God wants them to be, kind, loving, patient, caring, creative, intelligent, respectful girls who find joy and peace and happiness in life.


In the blink of an eye.

Happy Birthday my sunshine girl.

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...