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Home School in High Speed

Have you ever wondered what it is like for our family to homeschool?  It is difficult to capture, but I did my  best.  One morning last month, I secretly set up the camera to record my five diligent students, hard at work.  This does not include the living room, where someone else was working for a while, or the mayhem that is also called “lunch”.  Yes, I ruffle my hair sometimes when I’m getting tired.  Look for it.  So, here you have it, in high-speed.  ONE day in our life.  Every day is different, so maybe I’ll do another video in the future.  I hope you enjoy!


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The Wind is Blowing Our Faces Into a Smile

There are many lost journal entries this month, as I’ve either been too exhausted to sit down and write, or I’ve been too wiped out by the end of the day.  One of those two.  Starting with tonight and working my way backwards, however, I will attempt to do a brief overview of our May Days.

The weather today has been awesome.  Matthew experienced hail the size of small golf balls where he was working, and we experienced sunshine and dark clouds, changing back and forth all day.  I had to explain to Betty five times tonight where all the snow went.

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Elsie is my helper.  I told her if she wore goggles while she chopped onions, they wouldn’t sting her eyes as much.  The other day when we were driving and smelling cow manure which wafted through the open windows, she said: If I could pop my nose off whenever something is stinky then put it back on when something smells good… Well, that would be great.  Speaking of smelly, Nadine had this descriptive offering of armpit odor: they apparently reeked of rotten chemicals with hotdogs dipped in mayonnaise.  Yum.

Right now my dad is in Africa.  In fact, this week he was able to visit the station where I was born and raised.  Partly because I was feeling especially nostalgic, and partly because the kids have been begging to pop into our “old house”, I decided to do just that.  We stopped in, and it is now a dentist office.  Everything is bright blue from the outside.  The downstairs is completely different, but the upstairs was just the same.  It’s hard to believe I stood on those stairs in my wedding dress over 12 years ago!  In my old bedroom, the inside of my closet door still had the glow-in-the-dark paint signatures of my siblings and friends, from back when I was a teenager.  There were even a set of my nephew’s baby footprints, glowing in the dark when we shut the door and stood inside the closet.  The same day, my same nephew, had just flown his first solo flight!
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School is winding down, with our last week stretching out before us!  I have learned way more than the kids, I’m sure.  Nadine has become a much more confident reader.  Elijah has improved in his math skills.  Jack is reading and writing.  Elsie is also reading and writing.  Betty loves books and can write a few letters of the alphabet.  She told me the other day: I don’t want to take it easy.  I want to take a break.  They love games, and have really improved in so many areas.  I have a nice-sized list of things I am changing for next year.  As my ever-wise husband has told me: this teacher and mama must keep a tight ship.  This week Betty also overcame some of her fear of bugs.  She managed to pick up fuzzy “calipitters” for hours on end with her second cousin, and she also willingly let an ant crawl onto her hand.  She told me very excitedly the other day: Mom!  Mom!  Guess what?  Lady bugs climb on trampolines.
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Besides book work, we are out and about for so many activities.  Nadine’s horse club has been a huge blessing for her.  Elsie & Jack have even gotten a turn to ride when we pick her up at the end of the day.  Field trips, archery, friends, blowing bubbles, picking flowers, and riding bikes leaves mama pretty exhausted some days.  I am no longer the endless source of energy that I see in my children.  I remember having it.  I know it once existed.  But it has been sucked out of my veins and into their own.  So now they just borrow my phone to take pictures of their tired mama.Phone Photos4
We do have a lot of fun around here.  The beautiful moments of this month I think can be summed up in this one picture of Jack:Phone Photos5

Our windows are down.  The wind is blowing our faces into a smile.  Summer is just around the corner.

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How To Use A Runaway Truck Ramp

This week I had the privilege of reading a brand new book that just hit the shelves.  Our friends, Shawn & Maile Smucker, are two incredibly talented story-tellers and writers.  They not only dream big dreams, but they live them out, and have beautifully and poignantly shared their latest adventure with us.  I literally felt as if I was another passenger, traveling across the country alongside them and their four children.  I was mesmerized by the scenery and people they encountered along the way.  As I read, each chapter felt like another delicious bite of a feast that I didn’t want to end.  Here is a short excerpt to whet your appetite:

Saturday night we cruised north on I-75. We had spent a few beautiful days at Reed Bingham State Park in Georgia (where Maile’s imaginary mugging took place), and a wonderful afternoon with friends just outside of Atlanta. By the time we left, it was growing dark – our destination was a truck stop close to the Tennessee border. The highway was a sea of red, and rain streaked the brake lights across the bus’s massive windshield in arcs and splashes. But the traffic charged forward, sweeping us along with it.

In the distance, the lights of Atlanta’s skyscrapers rose above the trees like the center of a newly formed galaxy.  

The kids played in the back of the bus, long past their normal bed time.  Maile sat beside me at the front of the bus, her feet up on the dash. We talked about how years change people. How life has made us a little more tired, a little more mature, a touch more cynical, a little less selfish.

Then we entered the city, the lights rising around us. It’s a fascinating feeling, driving through such tall buildings late on a rainy, Saturday night.  The lights reflected off the wet highway, battered the windshield. Passing cars glared into my side view mirrors, then flashed past, making disgruntled sounds in the rain. When I opened the small sliding window beside the driver’s seat, the smell of wet, hot macadam rushed in to where we sat, filling the bus with an early summer.

Lightning flashed. Or was that a streetlight blinking out?

Then a quiet rustling through the curtain beside me. In the far reaches of my peripheral vision, out at the edge of a different galaxy, 2-year-old Sam had quietly walked to the front, pushed through the curtain that separated us from the back, and sat on the step beside my seat. He looked up through those huge pieces of glass, up through the rain, up at the forty- story office buildings with lights just blinking out.  

Like a cricket in the forest looking up at the moon. Was there anything smaller than him in that entire city, looking up at its expanse? For a moment, he seemed like the center of it all.  

Then, in a whisper, he said one word: 


A few times my heart beat faster, as I mentally went through some of their stories.  Other times I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and kept reading through the blur.  An adventure like they experienced tugs at me in a way that’s hard to describe.  I encourage you to pull up a seat on their big blue bus named Willie, and get lost in their 10,000 mile adventure.

Shawn Smucker is the author of How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp and Building a Life Out of Words. He lives in Lancaster County, PA with his wife Maile and their four children. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook, and he blogs (almost) daily at shawnsmucker.com.  Maile blogs at mailesmucker.blogspot.com.