Wednesday, September 20, 2017

School Is In Session

The 2017-2018 School Year is well underway! We've been at it since early August, slowly adding a new subject each week until Labor Day when everything kicked into high gear. Allow me to introduce the four students I have the joy and honor of learning with...
Jaxton Isaac... this hot mess is curious, eager, loud, and insightful. He is smarter than his three-year old grin suggests and is thoroughly enjoying fun, hands-on activities at co-op each week. (Although, almost any random scientific fact he spews no doubt comes from Curious George, Nature Cat, and Wild Kratts. Thanks PBS.)
Annalyse Joy... this missing-lots-of-teeth second grader thinks learning is fun, especially when it means being home where time is flexible, the demands are light, and her baby dolls can sit at the table with her while she works. She radiates happiness and is a strong leader when she's with five other second graders at co-op each week.
Micah David... this 100% athletic and 100% conniving and 100% ambitious fifth grader is on top of his study game when he can sit partly on the couch, partly on the coffee table, and partly on the floor while reading and writing. Never mind using his desk - that's so old school.  
Grady Lee... this almost-as-tall-as-me with bigger-feet-than-me sixth grader LOVES history and all things reading. It's not uncommon for me to ask him to stop reading and go play and that no, he cannot read several chapters ahead to see what happens next.
Some days science looks like this... my crazy bunch on the driveway. But, the neighbors are used to it by now, promise.

Initially we planned to join friends at the botanical gardens to observe the eclipse and to participate in some hands-on activities. But, after a 10-hour car ride home from New Jersey the day before, we opted to stay home and watch the eclipse via cereal boxes and aluminum foil. And guess what? It worked!
Most mornings by 9:00 our books are opened and we're scattered around the house doing our thing. The boys are 90% independent, Annalyse still needs help with reading instructions and getting started on various tasks, and Jax is a busy-body fury that simply wants in on whatever the big kids are doing.
Homeschooling really is a joy ride! It's a gift and a privilege and my kids have no idea how blessed they are in this regard. We talk about it a lot and relish in the freedoms it allows, but their minds can't grasp being in a classroom for several hours a day, waiting in bus or car pool lines, and completing evening homework during the week.
We've stayed with Samaritan Scholars Co-Op again this year and my kids look forward to it each week. Here are a few random pictures friends shared with me from our first couple of weeks...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fun in NJ and PA

We (finally!) squeezed in a summer visit with family in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. After almost two years without a visit north, we were long overdue. Life just happens and between various family members moving, job-related transitions, and other commitments, we couldn't find dates to visit that aligned with one another. Until last month!
Thankfully our 10-hour drive to New Jersey went smooth and we had no traffic delays or unexpected stops. Usually we are thinking (and sometimes saying) ugly things about traffic heading that direction. Too many people + Too small of an area + Too much construction = LOSE YOUR MIND.

Nana and Aunt Becki warmly welcomed us - rearranging their town home to accommodate our crew for space to eat, sleep, and play. They went above and beyond and we felt their love!
We sent one day enjoying the beach at Ocean City. The temperature was perfect, the waves were great, and sea gulls never stole any of our lunch this time. We ended the day with a walk on the boardwalk and ice cream... perfect.
A long weekend visit doesn't leave much "down time" for simply hanging out, but we managed to find pockets of time to relax and enjoy being together. Thankfully my mom-in-law has a go-with-the-flow mindset and is content to do whatever means spending time with her grand kids.
We spent a few hours roaming the Franklin Institute (enjoyable and worth it every time we visit!), we drove an hour to see more family, overtake their house, and burst their space with cousins laughing and playing together.
I'm thankful for two older nieces who were patient and generous with Annalyse. I think, more than anyone else in our family, she had the most fun and was the most sad to say goodbye!
My bro and sis-in-law went above and beyond to make our visit special: getting baked Amish goods, prepping Philly-famous foods, giving tractor rides, sleeping on couches so we could have beds...!

Our family was blessed by their generosity and kindness; and a day to do nothing but play and talk and laugh was wonderful.
NJ and PA - you were good to us this past visit. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to make a second visit happen before another two years pass by!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cincinnati: Business and Pleasure

Back in July Grady had a week of business in Cincinnati and the whole family tagged along. (Because a two bedroom, two bathroom suite for the win.) If Grady has to travel somewhere that is easily driveable, we make every effort to turn the business trip into a family adventure.
It had been almost 16 years since Grady and I have been back to Cincinnati - and by back I mean to walk past the hotel that hosted us for a formal dinner event our senior year of college! It was funny to be staying at a hotel that was just across the street from the hotel we enjoyed with friends a long time ago when we were young and in love. This time, we were anything but young and traipsing four kids along city streets, but still madly in love.
While Cincinnati hasn't usually been top of our list for tourist destinations, I admit, there was plenty to do and see for our week there. Our hotel was an easy walk to plenty of places to eat and parks to enjoy so not everything we explored required a car ride. (Speaking of places to eat - ever been to Tom and Chee? If you've watched Shark Tank it's a must-visit lunch or dinner option.)
Because Cincinnati is a short six hours from my parents house, they met us for a day and night and we visited the Ark Encounter together. We spent about five hours at the Ark and it was worth every penny we paid. If you have the chance, I highly recommend a visit to the Ark Encounter or to the Creation Museum - they are both extremely well done.
We also enjoyed a day at the Cincinnati Zoo. We've been to a lot  of zoos, but this one may be one of the best we've visited. After six hours of looking at and interacting with animals, and still not having seen it all, we called it a day. And, after watching a cheetah show, Grady Lee once again confirmed that if he can't play professional sports for a living it will be something with animals.
Grady has a custom of trying to watch a professional game of whatever team is in the city he's visiting, so it was no surprise when he enthusiastically announced we were going to see the Reds play. Aside from the air being a muggy 87 degrees with no hint of a breeze, it was a great game. The kids think it was especially great because Grady had an all-you-can-eat pass so we all enjoyed unlimited hot dogs, popcorn, chips, and peanuts.
We also spent a day visiting the Reds Museum and a Baseball Hall of Fame Museum - enthralling for my boys and air-conditioned for me with the firm expectation of ice cream afterward so it was a win for everyone.
Add on a day at a children's museum that was wonderfully geared for Jaxton and Annalyse, swimming at the hotel pool, and one too many trips to get ice cream and play in the park fountains, and you have a glimpse of our week.

Dad worked hard all week so that we could play hard all week. He is a servant to our family and we are grateful for the tag-along opportunities to see and enjoy new places.