Saturday, August 27, 2011

A New School Year

Here we go... I've been working in my classroom for a few weeks. Friday morning --> afternoon was the Meet and Greet for K-8. High school does theirs Monday evening. One of the things I did differently in my classroom this year was the top of my bookcase. I have taken an idea from my young librarian friend, Andrea, and will change out the books each month. The first month, September, the display is entitled Super Series for September. This month I'll feature a few student favorites, including the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, a good selection of Roald Dahl books, the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the Shadow Creek Chronicles by T. Elizabeth Renich, and several books from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. I have many others I could have put on the top shelf but this is a good variety for the first month of school.

I've made a few other changes as well. Last year I placed my parts of speech posters on the back wall but I've brought them to the front again. Students kept getting out of their seats to check out the definitions and examples, so it is worth bringing them back to the front.

I posted a question on my facebook account about how to sort books in the classroom library and almost everyone said by genre. My initial reaction had been to do that, but getting the opinions of people I respect made it quite easy to follow up on the idea. I'm going to try to push the students to be careful with re-shelving. Right... Oh well, as long as they're reading!

There has also been a lot of renovation going on at school, notably the boys' bathroom near the school library and sixth grade classroom. The day before the Meet and Greet for students and teachers, that hallway looked like this:

Nothing says welcome back better than thrones in the hall for all!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Saturday morning I pruned my vegetable garden. Earlier in the week, I brought my mother over to my house to show her my raised-bed garden. I was sooooooo proud of it! My mother is a master-gardener so I thought she would be impressed with my 2nd-time-ever vegetable garden. Well, she was impressed all right but not in a good way. She got right with the program, telling me that I needed to prune all the suckers off the tomatoes, cut off the remaining blossoms, in fact, cut the tops out of the tomato plants. If I didn't, my tomatoes might not ripen properly. I have LOTS of tomatoes and some are pretty big, but they are all green. Next, she suggested I remove some of the excess foliage from my one (huge) zucchini plant so I could actually see if I have any more zucchini in there. I thought I had two - ahem - I had seven. Then she said something that kind of hit me in a different way than she intended, "You've watched me raising tomatoes for years; I thought you knew this."

Saturday, as I pruned away at my plants, I thought about my mother's comment. How much am I counting on my children, grandchildren, students... knowing what to do because I assume they have paid attention to what I have done? The truth is that I did watch my mother plant and cultivate her flowers and vegetables for at least a couple decades. But I didn't really learn anything until I asked questions and she provided the answers. She was always willing to share her knowledge; I wasn't always paying attention.

We have to speak the words. Do we want our children to be polite, well-mannered? Instruction is needed. Do we want our kids to love books and reading? We must read to them. Are we hoping our children will find a valuable relationship with Christ? We have to talk to them, share our Christian experience, pray with them. We cannot assume it will be caught - it must be taught.

The other thing I realized as I was pruning was that it was taking a very long time. I spent well over an hour at the job. I realized that I could have nipped the suckers (little growths that appear between a branch and the main stems of the plant) as they appeared and it would have taken just a few minutes. Since I waited until I had fruit-loaded plants, I had to be quite careful when I cut, and the job was far more tedious than necessary. The same is true in our lives as parents, as teachers. If, from the very beginning, we start right and consistently do all that is required to raise up well-mannered readers who love Christ (my prior examples), the outcome may be what we hope for - fruit bearers. I'm grateful to my mother for all the lessons she has taught me over the years. I just hope I remember them better than I did the pruning.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back at it

I've been working in my classroom for just over a week. There is so much to do to get ready for a two-week departure. We will go to Texas for my husband's surgery at some point - still don't have a fixed date for that. Yesterday, I spent some time talking with my principal and we decided on a sub for the time I will be gone. The sub I really wanted has been hired to teach 4th grade in our elementary building. I don't know the lady that's coming but her creds look very good and my principal mentioned that he hoped she wouldn't be too strict. I know what all my teacher friends are thinking right now, and yes, that was the comment that sealed my choice! Long live strict subs!

I have planned five weeks of lessons. I have photocopied all the work I will need, which has turned out to be a mixed bag... I was told my class was full, and I would have no more... and then, yesterday, we accepted another student. I was not happy as that means I get to go back and make one more copy of everything! But I got over it when I realized if we get two more, we'll hire another teacher so I'm really hoping that will happen. Plus the new student is fluent in French! How often does that happen?! Never in this neck of the woods. I'm excited to have her for that very reason. (For those who do not know, I'm also fluent in French - or I was!)

Yesterday afternoon, Mrs. History Teacher and I worked on student scheduling for junior high enrichment and elective classes. Mrs. H.T. is the same age as my youngest son, but we get along as though the decades of separation were not there. She is an excellent teacher, incredibly organized and creative, and I'm so grateful to work with her. We complement each other quite well; what I don't think of, she does - and vice versa. In addition to scheduling, I have the chapels for September all lined up with speakers, and I have my stuff out of boxes and on the walls, journals in the proper bins, books in the cases. Honestly, I could start tomorrow... but have another week to go. Meetings begin the 24th and students show up the 31st. I have a feeling that this is going to be an interesting year!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Poetry and Cancer

A few days ago, one of my Haiti friends, Ruth, posted about a book of poetry called The Radiation Sonnets. I had no idea such a collection existed but I think I'll have to get this book. A couple weeks ago, my husband and I learned that the dreaded "C" had returned. We know there is surgery in the future but are unsure whether it will be necessary or even possible to have radiation again. He had the maximum dosage the last time around and it's not a great idea to over-radiate any part of the head. So we'll see what happens. This whole thing is so surreal; we honestly thought we were done with this stuff. Oh well, he is alive and active and I am grateful!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chi-ca-GO !

We are heading to Chicago in the morning so we can see these sweet people by afternoon.
Can't wait!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Family Heritage

This weekend has been all about family. Friday night I accompanied my 83-year-old mother to her 65th high school reunion. It was great to see her connect with friends from long ago and those with whom she lives life regularly still. Sixty-five years... wow! As you might imagine, there weren't a lot of people attending. Three other 'children' attended with an elderly parent; it's all about the designated driver! It was a good experience and I'm so glad I went. I know my mother would not have attended without me.

Today my husband preached both services at our church. He did an amazing job sharing the Word and some of his own story. God used him powerfully. After that, we attended my annual family reunion. My dad had 17 siblings: 10 brothers and sisters, 1 half-brother, and 6 step-brothers and step-sisters. Most left Kansas as soon as they could - around age 17 or 18 - and moved to Western Washington state. Every year since the mid-1940's, the family has come together on the first Sunday of August for a huge potluck picnic. As a kid growing up, I really looked forward to this event. My cousins were more than family; they were my friends. We had a blast as kids. Now things have changed a bit. The main thing is that we only have three of the originals left: Uncle John (90 in January), Aunt Margaret (87?), and Uncle Walter (79). All the others are gone... and we miss them. The stories are not quite so colorful or heart-rending. Many came from the old country (German Russia) and lived through the Great Depression. And every one of them made something exceptional of his/her life. All of us kids were able to go to college if we wanted to and most of us did. The stories we share are memories of them, plus it is good to see everyone again.

It's been a good weekend of reflection about my family and how they have allowed me to be the person I am today. I am so fortunate, so blessed!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Website Grammar

I'm really not trying to be picky - but - I just visited a website dedicated to a certain kind of homeschooling, one that emphasizes classical education by parents who know their students best and therefore are more prepared to help them succeed. I cannot count all the errors in grammar I found on that site. I am not against homeschooling, just against those who say they are going to do it and then don't really do much. I've had some students who've had excellent homeschooling preparation and others who were enrolled in my class because the parents realized they hadn't done anything to really prepare their student for high school and figured I could do it in a year. I know, I know, it's like anything else, always examples of good and bad. I just think that those who like to point out how good they are at what they do probably ought to have a proofreader.

Monday, August 01, 2011


A few days ago, my eldest granddaughter sent me an e-card. Actually, every so often she sends a short note via email and I always write back. The last time, she asked me to send her little sister an e-card because she was sad that she never got any email. So I did... one with monkeys; it fits. Anyway, Kayla helped little Sierra choose an e-card to send back to me, thanking me for the card. The one she sent had this song playing in the background, just the chorus of it...

Legacy (Nichole Nordeman)

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

The chorus says exactly what I feel. I want my grandchildren to know that they are loved unconditionally, by Jesus and by us. I want them to believe that they can change the world - because they will - for good or not so good, we all do it. I love all five of them so much; we are so blessed!