georgia history

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (5.9.17)

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point.

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

Have I mentioned that I love epistolary novels? This one, set on the (fictional) island of Nollop, is a particular joy. The islanders revere their native son, Nevin Nollop, creator of the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,” but when letters begin to fall off of Nollop’s monument, the government decides that the fallen letters must be banned. The rest of the book is one big language game, as letter after letter is removed from the alphabet. I’d definitely recommend this book to homeschool teens—read it for language arts and enjoy the wordplay, or read it for history as a satire on the creation of a police state! HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.
(LC Score: 0, got it in a library sale)

I’m trying to do a better job of reading widely so that I can be a better ally in the fight against racism and other forms of oppression. Plus, I don’t want to miss out on great books (like this one) because I wasn’t paying attention. This is Smith’s short but powerful memoir centering on his answer to the question, “How do you learn to be a black man in America?” Along the way he talks about sexism, homophobia, and his own deeply ambivalent (to put it generously) feelings about the Obama presidency. Smith is still a young man (29 when this books was published) and I’m hoping that he’ll write a part two at some point to bring us up to date on his journey. Another great book for teens—and anyone else who is concerned about the world we’re living in. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.
(LC Score: +1)

When I was a student at Georgia Tech, I often ate spring rolls at a Vietnamese restaurant that was literally a stone’s throw away from The Dump, the (then unrestored) apartment house where Margaret Mitchell wrote her magnum opus. At that point in my life, I had little interest in either Margaret Mitchell or Scarlett O’Hara. As part of my current quest to read all-things-Georgian, though, I recently made my way through Gone With the Wind (my opinion of which is a whole other essay) and then turned to this biography. I was delighted to learn that Margaret Mitchell—debutante, girl reporter, and world-famous author—is at least as fascinating as (and much more funny than) her heroine, Scarlett. I enjoyed getting to know her in this detailed biography, but I can’t ignore its major flaw: Just as Mitchell wrote a 1,037-page Civil War novel set on a Georgia cotton plantation yet somehow managed to almost totally ignore the institution of slavery, Pyron has written a biography that completely side-steps any examination of Mitchell’s racism. Aside from one anecdote about bad behavior as a Smith College freshman (when she pitched a temper tantrum that went all the way to the highest levels of the administration because a young black woman was enrolled in the same lecture class as she was), we learn almost nothing about how Mitchell’s racist beliefs affected her personal or professional life, nor does Pyron look at how her famous novel is irreparably marred by her racism (in my opinion at least, see: a whole other essay). At one point, for example, Pyron says that Mitchell was infuriated when her novel was described as “anti-Negro,” but he never attempts to explain why she disagreed with that assessment. Despite this fairly gaping hole, I did like this biography and learning more about Mitchell (especially that she wholeheartedly concurred with the psychologist who diagnosed Scarlett as a “partial psychopath”), but, even though it would not be a fun read, I’d still like to find a book that grapples with the white supremacist side of Mitchell and the culture she grew up in, and how that is reflected in her work.
(LC Score: +1)

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled
By Dorothy Gilman

The final Mrs. Pollifax adventures! While I was sad to bid her farewell, I have to admit that I didn’t love the last book, published in 2000, where Mrs. Pollifax goes gallivanting around Syria, which had then just come under the rule of Bashar al-Assad. It was surprisingly uncomfortable to have the fictional CIA agent come so close to today’s tragic headlines. Gilman never published another Pollifax story after 2000; I have to wonder if she felt the same way about her black-belt grandma in a post-9/11 world.
(LC Score: +2)

Iron Cast
By Destiny Soria

This YA fantasy novel (which, honestly, I would have picked up just for the cover) is set in Jazz Age 1919 Boston, and tells the story of teenage best friends and nightclub performers, Ada and Corinne. They are hemopaths, meaning that they’re allergic to iron and have special powers: Ada can affect people’s emotions through her music, while Corinne can cast illusions by quoting poetry. Together they have to deal with anti-hemopath sentiment and escape the evil doctor who’s running hemopath experiments in the asylum just outside town.
(LC Score: +1)

In this collection of short essays, Ajayi explains how we’re all Doing It Wrong, laying down the law on topics ranging from personal hygiene to racism to #Hashtag #Misuse. Meanwhile, I’m judging my library system for only having one copy of this popular book in circulation—I was on the hold list for about six months!
(LC Score: +1)

 

In general, I agree with everyone who says that it’s better to see Shakespeare’s plays performed than to read them, but I’ve also found that the plays are a lot easier to follow if you’ve read a story-adaptation of the plot first. Over the years I’ve looked at several different Shakespeare adaptations, but this collection (and its follow-up, Shakespeare Stories II) is by far the best I’ve found. Beginning with Twelfth Night and including Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth, I’ve used it as a read-aloud introduction to Shakespeare in our homeschool (in conjunction with the BBC series Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, and episodes of Shakespeare Uncovered, available on PBS streaming). I don’t usually include homeschool readalouds in Library Chicken, but we’ve just completed our very last read-through of the book with my 6th grader <sniff>, and I wanted to mark the moment. Now we’ve got a stack of film adaptations to watch and maybe we can catch a show at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern! HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.
(LC Score: 0, off our homeschool shelf)

Maybe one day I’ll learn that it’s a bad idea to check out that big ol’ nonfiction history book at the same time that I’m grabbing a dozen or so *must-read-this-IMMEDIATELY* sf/fantasy novels. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)

 

 

Library Chicken Score for 5/9/17: 5
Running Score: 22

On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan (I’m NOT a fan of the trendy term “cli-fi” for climate-change science fiction, but I won’t let that stop me from reading this novel about the world freezing over)

The Nix by Nathan Hill (this novel was all over the best-of-2016 lists)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (because I’m the last one in the country who hasn’t read it)

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (also catching up on my Feminism 101 reading)
 


Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (4.25.17)

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken.

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that due to our Tuesday publication date, this “week” was actually closer to 10 days—because we pride ourselves on ACCURACY here at Library Chicken HQ.

 

Fanny Kemble was a celebrated British actress—part of the famed Kemble/Siddons theater family—who came to America on tour and fell in love with a wealthy American, Pierce Butler. What she didn’t know when she married Butler was that his family’s wealth came from large plantation holdings on and around St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. (For my Hamilton fans out there: the Butlers were friends of Aaron Burr and it was to their plantation that he fled to hide out after The Duel, when New York charged him with murder.) As Fanny was an ardent abolitionist, this caused a problem or two. Her husband, an absentee landlord most of the time, really didn’t want her anywhere near his plantation or his slaves, but he did allow her to spend one year down there, during which she wrote her Journal. The marriage eventually fell apart in dramatic fashion (detailed in Clinton’s biography) and Fanny, who had become known as a memoirist, eventually published the Journal. It’s a fascinating if grim read about life on an isolated plantation in the Deep South, where the authority usually rests in the hands of a hired overseer, often the only white man present, whose only concern is to provide a good-looking balance sheet for the absentee owner. Fanny was especially interested in the lives of enslaved women, recording details of their lives that other (male) witnesses may never have seen or heard about. I read these as part of ongoing prep for the Georgia history class (and let me tell you, Fanny was not a fan of the Peach State).
(LC Score: +2)

 

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

SPACE OPERA. Leckie, as you may have heard me say, is my new hero. A stay-at-home-mom, she was in her mid-40s when she published her first novel, Ancillary Justice, which then went on to win just about every award in the science fiction genre. I made Amy read it with me for the podcast and we’re due to talk about it next time around (as soon as the stars and our schedules align). SPOILER: I thought it was pretty darn good. Leckie explores gender and personhood in wonderful and original ways, plus people get to shoot at each other with ray guns! So of course I had to pick up books two and three in the trilogy and finish them off. If you’re already a SF fan: c’mon, read Ancillary Justice already. I know you’ve heard of it. What are you waiting for? If you’re most emphatically NOT a SF fan: well, this is definitely very science-fiction-y science fiction, so maybe give it a miss as it’s probably chock-full of all the things that annoy you about the genre. If you don’t know if you’re a SF fan or not: this series is a great example of some of the exciting things that are happening in modern SF right now—pick up the first book and give it a try!
(LC Score: +2)

 

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White

Nothing With Strings by Bailey White

I am on record as not loving the sort of Southern fiction where everyone is always hot, sweaty, and barefoot, and every attic room houses an insane cousin/brother/uncle (looking at you, Faulkner), but I do love Bailey White and her stories of Southern small towns (primarily in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida), where eccentric elders spend their time fussing over the younger generation and vice versa. As part of my quest to immerse myself in everything Georgian, I’ve been treating myself to a reread of her work.
(LC Score: +2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shadow Guests by Joan Aiken

Joan Aiken’s YA/children’s novels are a bit hit or miss for me. I find them to be an unpredictable mixture of entertainingly gothic and unpleasantly grim. I’ve had this one on my shelves forever (for Atlantans: it had an Oxford Too stamp inside, so you know I bought it a while ago) but I was excited to pick it up and find a promising beginning, with a young boy sent to Oxford, England to live with his aunt in a house not entirely ghost-free (reminiscent of the Green Knowe series). Ultimately, however, it came down on the grim side for me.
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)

 

Mr. Midshipman Easy by Frederick Marryat

My dad insisted that I stop everything and read this book, a mostly forgotten classic set during the Napoleonic Wars and written by a friend of Charles Dickens. The title character is raised by an philosopher father, whose eccentric beliefs include the idea that everyone is equal. Friends of the family conspire to get the son into the navy, in the hopes that he will rid himself of these patently ridiculous ideas passed down from his father, but it takes a while, as young Easy has been trained to argue every point and will happily do so all day. My dad <ahem> may have said that the character reminded him just a teensy bit of my younger son.
(LC Score: +1)

 

Observatory Mansion by Edward Carey

GUYS, I LOVE Edward Carey. Have I told you how much I love Edward Carey? Have I told y’all to run, not walk, to your nearest bookstore and buy his Iremonger trilogy (beginning with Heap House) for your favorite middle/high schooler, though of course you should really read it first before passing it along? The trilogy that Carey wrote after moving to Austin, Texas from England because, as he says, he missed feeling cold and gloomy? Have I told you how delightfully bizarre and weirdly Dickensian his books are? My only complaint about Carey is that he doesn’t write fast enough. Aside from the Iremonger trilogy, he’s written two books for adults: Alva & Irva: The Twins Who Saved a City (very very strange—read it immediately) and this one, his first novel, with a narrator who works as a living statue, collects (i.e., steals) important objects from the people around him for his private collection, and never ever takes off his white gloves. Carey is interested in what happens when you objectify people and personify objects and really I have no idea what’s happening, but I LOVE him SO MUCH, GUYS.
(LC Score: 0, because my library didn’t have it and I had to buy my own copy, darn)

 

Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled An Empire by Julia Baird

After catching a few episodes of Victoria on Masterpiece Theater I thought this would be a fun read—but apparently so did everyone else. RETURNED UNREAD (because it was due and had holds and I’m in the middle of this whole Georgia thing right now anyway).
(LC Score: -1)
 

 

Library Chicken Score for 4/24/17: 6
Running Score: 11 1⁄2

 

On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:

Georgia: A Brief History by Christopher Meyers and David Williams (like I said...)

After O’Connor: Stories from Contemporary Georgia edited by Hugh Ruppersburg (hopefully not too many sweaty barefoot insane cousins)

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit (because Solnit is wonderful and I’m obsessed with disasters)

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (because I will read anything with “Library” in the title!)


Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (4.14.17)

Here’s your (new!) weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken.&nbsp;

Here’s your (new!) weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft edited by Leslie Klinger

I’ve watched television and movies inspired by Lovecraft’s tales, played board games based on his works, and read countless novels and short stories set in the world he created, but I’ve read very little by the man himself, which is embarrassing given my self-proclaimed status as a hard-core bookish sf/fantasy nerd. This beautiful oversized volume collects 22 of Lovecraft’s Arkham Cycle stories, with extensive annotations by Klinger and a short biographical preface. (Spoiler: Lovecraft was super racist!) Lovecraft definitely has a specific (and repetitive) style — narrators share events almost TOO TERRIBLE TO RELATE involving INDESCRIBABLY HORRIFIC TENTACLED ENTITIES the mere mention of which MAY DRIVE YOU MAD — and may not be for everyone, but this is a great introduction to his work, definitely worth passing along to any teens or adults who may have a Cthulu t-shirt or two but have never gotten around to reading the original. (LC Score: +1)

 

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

As a fan of Victorian novels, I can’t tell you how many characters I’ve watched gracefully waste away after being stricken with consumption. And there are times (especially after a not-so-successful day of homeschooling) where being an invalid on top of a mountain somewhere, breathing the crisp fresh air while a handsome young orderly adjusts my lap blanket before wheeling me to another part of the meadow, sounds pretty awesome. Except, of course, for the whole coughing up blood and dying part. Mann’s famous (and famously long) German novel, set just before the Great War, describes the kind of sanatorium I’ve always imagined myself in and the people that inhabit it more or less permanently. I enjoyed this novel, though I only understood about 80% of it, not including the almost-entirely-in-French chapter that my translation (by H.T. Lowe-Porter) didn’t bother to translate to English and which I didn’t understand t al, forcing me to spend quite a bit of time arguing with Google Translate before discovering a more recent and more friendly edition (by John E. Woods) online. (NOTE: For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading this book alternately with the Lovecraft collection and they went surprisingly well together. I have no idea what that means.) (LC Score: +1)

 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief by Dorothy Gilman

This 10th entry in the Mrs. Pollifax spy series — think Miss Marple, CIA agent — has, as usual, a faintly ridiculous plot (set in Sicily this time around), but makes a delightful change from tentacled monsters and German consumptives. (LC Score: +1)

 

 

 

 

The Rose-Garden Husband by Margaret Widdemer

I think I picked this up based on Amy’s recommendation — and it is indeed a charming little romance, once you get past the racism, which is still kind of charming. (At least compared to Lovecraft.) (LC Score: 0, read on Kindle)

 

 

 

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

Russell, burnt out from her high-powered London life, moves to Denmark after her husband gets a job at Lego. This is the memoir of her “Danish happiness project”, investigating the claim that Danes are the world’s happiest people and trying to figure out why. I’ve had this book on hold since I read a similar travel memoir — The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth — but apparently the idea of moving to Denmark strikes a nerve with my fellow metro Atlantans, because I had to wait months for it to become available. I was reminded of the very similar (but non-Danish) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and of the two Scandinavian memoirs I think I preferred the Booth book, but it’s still an entertaining read. It left me with NO desire to move to Denmark, however. (LC Score: +1⁄2, loses half a point because I returned it overdue)

 

Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist by Anne Boyd Rioux

I love a literary biography, especially of a female writer, but it’s unusual for me to read one about an author I’ve never heard of or read before. Woolson is primarily known today for her close friendship with Henry James, but in her time she achieved both popular success and critical acclaim. While the reviews of the day hailed her as a permanent addition to the American literary canon, my library doesn’t even have copies of all her major works, though it carries several biographies that (no doubt) emphasize her relationship with James and her death by probable suicide in Venice, proving that fame is fleeting but gossip is forever. (LC Score: +1)

 

Georgia Odyssey: A Short History of the State by James C. Cobb

I grew up in Florida, so while I learned how to pronounce Ponce de Leon correctly (hint to fellow Atlantans: ‘ponts-dee-lee-on’ is not the usual way to say the name of that street downtown where the Kripsy Kreme is located), I don’t know much about Georgia history. As I’m going to be teaching a class on the history of my adopted state in the fall, I’ve started reading up and have learned that most of Georgia history can be subtitled “Don’t Be Bringin’ Any of That Yankee Nonsense Down Here.” After reading a couple of volumes heavy on cotton crop statistics and making my way through all 1,037 pages of Gone With the Wind, it was wonderful to discover this lively and surprisingly entertaining history by native Georgian and UGA professor James Cobb. At just under 200 pages, it lives up to its title’s promise, but Cobb packs a lot in there. (LC Score: +1)

Library Chicken Score for 4/14/17: 5 1⁄2

 

On the to-read stack for next week:

Fanny Kemble’s Civil Wars: The Story of America’s Most Unlikely Abolitionist by Catherine Clinton (for the Georgia class)

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White (reread for the Georgia class)

Fanny Burney: A Biography by Claire Harman (because it’s the week of Fanny, I guess?)

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (because I’m gonna need some space opera after spending all that time in Georgia)


At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy’s 8th Grade

Resources and routines for a relaxed classic homeschool 8th grade

Every year, Shelli and Amy open the door and invite you to step inside their homeschool lives. (Please ignore the mess!) We talk about the resources we're using in our own homeschools and how we structure our days. There are lots of ways to homeschool, and we don't think our way is the best—just the one that happens to be working best for our particular families at this particular time.  If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better! Today, Amy's talking about how she homeschooled 8th grade this year.

Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 8th grader. (You can see what 7th grade looked like for us here.)

If I had to sum up 8th grade in one word, it would be “transitional.” We did a lot of learning and had a lot of fun, but we also spent a lot of time figuring out how to make the transition from middle school to high school. My daughter is opting to homeschool through high school, which thrills and panics me, but I wanted to make sure that whatever she wanted to do, she was prepared. So we spent this year working on skills that don’t always come up in homeschool environments but that are important for higher-level learning. I’ve mentioned note-taking, which is essential for lecture-based classes that she’s bound to run into at some point. We’ve also slowly shifted responsibility for deadlines to her shoulders. Homeschooling tends to be open-ended for us, which means projects get done when they feel done—which can be a couple of hours or a couple of years or never. This year, though, I made a point of giving my daughter due dates for some things and letting her keep up with them. We’ve talked a lot about due dates for things like research papers, where you’re really excited and just want to keep going and going but have to figure out a logical stopping point in order to get it done on time. My daughter also found that having a deadline made her second-guess herself—she’d wrap up a perfectly good project well in advance of the deadline and start to worry that she hadn’t put enough time or effort into doing it—shouldn’t it take her until the deadline to complete the project?

We’ve also started experimenting with grade feedback. I am not a fan of grading—honestly, a lot of things we do in our homeschool defy traditional grading, and I really like that fact. But at some point, we’re going to have to pull together a transcript, and while I think the pass/fail solution would be ideal, it doesn’t always work well for GPAs if you want to go to a more competitive school. So we’re playing with grades. I don’t give her grades in subjects like math, where it’s easy to see from how many problems you got right how you’re doing with a particular concept. I try to give input in the more nebulous areas, like history essay questions, where I can say, “This answer is good, but I would probably give it a B—it would be an A if you’d gone on to explain why the Treaty of Indian Springs was so controversial instead of just telling me that it was a controversial treaty.” Interestingly, I was all stressed out about the idea of grades, but my daughter doesn’t seem to care one way or the other.

As far as what we studied, here’s what we used:

 

History

Eighth grade was our year to study state history. We used the free online textbook Georgia: Its Heritage and Promise, which did an impressive job of making a pretty fascinating subject almost completely boring, but it was a good spine. We read a lot of supplementary books together and—once I was mobile again—took a lot of field trips. A few years ago, we did a study of women in Georgia history, so it was fun to revisit some of those figures again from a slightly different perspective.

My daughter kept a notebook, which she filled with facts, thoughts, sketches, taped-in photos, and other notes from our studies. Every few weeks, we’d come up with a big-picture question for each other: How was Georgia different from the other twelve original colonies? What was Reconstruction like for people living in Georgia? We’d answer each other’s questions and chat about what else we might have included or any particularly good points someone made. (I like writing essays, which not everyone does, obviously, but we had a lot of fun working on these together.)

 

Latin

Our last year of Latin (sigh) was a continuation of what we’ve always done: We used Ecce Romani (though we jumped to books 3 and 4 this year) and did vocabulary cards, translation, and exercises for each chapter. Latin is the place where my daughter learns most of her English grammar, and that was true this year, too. If my daughter wanted to continue, she’d definitely be well-prepared for more advanced Latin next year.

 

Math

We tackled Life of Fred Prealgebra with Biology this year, but it was slow-going. I feel like I’m not very good at teaching math—I know my one way to solve the problem, but I’m not good at explaining how to do it or helping someone find another way that works better for her. We made it through, but it was definitely harder than it needed to be for both of us—I’m really glad Jason is here to take over math for high school.

 

Literature

We read a lot of books that tied into our Georgia history study (Some of our favorites included Juliet Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, Cold Sassy Tree, and A Good Man Is Hard to Find.). We also thought this would be a good year to explore an author’s complete body of work, so—like many people—we focused on Jane Austen, working our way up from Love and Friendship through Persuasion. (We didn’t read the unfinished Sandition.) For me, this was really fun—I love Austen and all those lovely Austen film adaptations—and my daughter really enjoyed it, too. She worked on a big paper over the course of the year about mean girls in Jane Austen, which turned out to be very interesting. I loved seeing it develop over the course of the year—as she read more and thought more, her ideas got deeper and more nuanced. It was very cool to watch.

 

Science

We used The Story of Science this year, and we loved it. I found The Story of Science through Rebecca’s review (thanks, Rebecca!), and it was the perfect combination of readaloud and hands-on for us. I wish we’d discovered it sooner because I would have loved to use this series throughout middle school. I didn’t get the student workbook—my daughter usually just keeps a notebook for classes—but I did get the teacher’s guide so that I could have the lab instructions. 

 

Creative writing

My daughter was the copy chief for her creative writing class’s magazine—though all the stories came in so close to deadline that she didn’t get to do as much actual copyediting as she was hoping. She took the class at our local homeschool group.

 

My daughter also got really adventurous with her cooking this year, inspired, perhaps, by our obsessive viewing of The Great British Bake-Off. She continued her knitting and sewing, having a brief fling with cross-stitching followed by a return to plushie making. She practiced her piano and guitar (almost) every day, did nature walks and kept a nature journal (not daily) with me and her brother. She wrote and illustrated comic books, got really interested in Maria Mitchell (the astronomer), and made all her own beauty products. (Her bathroom smells really good.) Sometimes these interests superseded “regular academics,” and that’s always perfectly fine in our house. Sometimes, she just wanted to read all day or had a shiny new video game that had to be played immediately and obsessively, and so that’s what she did. She really loves reading aloud and doing all the different voices, so I’ll often find her in her little brother’s room, reading to him. To me, all of this is part of homeschooling—as much as math or history or science.

Our schedule was hard to find a rhythm for this year, but eventually we fell into a routine that worked. Some of that difficulty might be because of my injury through the fall, which made everything kind of janky, but I think a lot of it was because we were trying lots of new things and it took a while to find the ones that worked and to get the hang of some of our new patterns. In some ways, our routine was the same as always: My daughter gets up when she gets up (later and later every year!), we do our structured work together after she has breakfast, then she does her independent work and whatever else she wants during the day and evening. (It’s weird to go in her room to say good night and see her sprawled on the bed at 11 p.m. writing essays or doing math problems, but that seems to be her prime creative thinking time.) But it was hard for us to find a balance that felt like the right mix of hey-we’re-learning-stuff and hey-this-is-fun, and I’m really glad we decided to tackle that challenge this year instead of waiting until 9th grade. I feel like this year has helped us know better what we’re doing as we move into high school.

As far as testing goes, we went ahead and did the PSAT this year—I signed her up to take it at our neighborhood high school, and while dropping her off at that cafeteria all by herself was both heart-wrenching and terrifying, she did just fine—on the test and in the strange environment. (I’ve done testing at home every year since Suzanne suggested it, and while I tend to think testing is annoying and not at all representative of what someone knows, I think Suzanne was right that just doing it every year takes the anxiety right out of it for prone-to-test-panic kids like my daughter and gives them practice sitting for so long without being able to take a break.)

Writing all this up is kind of reassuring because this year felt particularly hard, like trying to find my way through an unfamiliar terrain in the dark without a map. But looking back, I think we did a good job—we shifted some of the big pieces in our homeschool, but we were able to do in ways that let us keep the things we love about homeschooling. I guess transitions always feel messy and uncertain while they are happening. And, of course, when I asked my daughter how she thought this year had gone, she grinned her adorable grin and said “Great!” So that’s all right.