You Know You Are Raising Geeklings When…

You head to the microwave to warm a cup of tea, and discover that the clay version of the angel of death (complete with sword) beat you to it…



(warning: this could become an occasional regular feature.  You have no idea the crazy things that randomly show up around my house!!!)


Halloween was like…a Scream, man…

In typical Uber and H-T fashion, Halloween was yet another demonstration of the polar opposites that are my children.  Born only 22 months apart, these two young men might as well have been born 30 light years and 747 planets apart.

Here is the pictorial evidence of the differences in their personalities.  H-T, of course, is my rifle-bearing, horror-flick aficionado, and nothing would do him but to pay top-dollar for the official “Scream” movie bad-guy costume.

My vegetarian, pacifist, minimalist kiddo, on the other hand, has never been big on dressing up.  But knowing that his youth group was expecting him to take part of the Halloween festivities, Uber found something he could live with.  Everyone said they had never seen a costume that fit a person’s personality so well!

We had a ball going trick-or-treating with our youth group to a local senior center, taking a quick stop at a free local haunted house, then back to the church for a terrific supper prepared by a gracious mom and dad, then finally finishing off the night in the youth room with the “Sixth Sense”, which none of them had ever seen before, so it was like sitting there with this Cheshire Cat grin on my face the whole last half of the movie waiting for them to gasp at the “big twist.”  And boy did they ever!

It was one of the most fun Halloween nights I can remember in a while, and I’m already looking forward to a repeat next year! 

Hope your All Hallow’s Eve was great too!!  Look forward to reading everyone’s blogs and hearing about their frightfully fun night!!

FreeForm Scholar

That’s the name Uber has given himself.  We came to the conclusion that we really dislike the term “unschooling”, and interest-led learning is kind of long and drawn out.  So Uber came up with “FreeForm Scholar,” which I personally adore.

The coolest part?  To commemorate, he has also begun a new blog by the same name where he will be relaying his freeform experiences with learning!!  You can check it out here. (And I’ve added it to my blogroll, as well.)  He has already added several posts, and he is going to be taking my Blogging 101 course as well, starting Monday!

I think it is beautiful that he isn’t afraid to call himself a “scholar.” 

One who learns.

Isn’t that awesome?  This is a kid, by the way, who is ALWAYS learning.  ALWAYS thinking.  ALWAYS processing. 

He is always teaching his mom a thing or two, as well.  So stop by his blog if you get a chance and encourage him onward and upward. 


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Field Trip Wars – Round Three…or the One Where H-T Nearly Bought It

Did I mention in my last post that we were on vacation for TWO days?  Well, that means that there was still one entire blog post to be squeezed out of that little excursion. 

On our second day of rest and relaxation (ha!), we headed into the edges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the Visitors Center/Farm Museum just happened to be hosting a Mountain Life Festival that day.

There were demonstrators everywhere, dressed in period clothes from early Appalachia, and doing everything from making sorghum molasses to blacksmithing something or other.

Ok, so maybe I’m not necessarily an expert in Appalachian history, but I do recognize an outhouse when I see one.  R-T couldn’t wait to look inside to see if they had an old Sears & Roebuck catalog in there…


There wasn’t, but R-T was still amused.  It doesn’t take much.

We all got sort of wrapped up in our different areas of interest on the old restored farm.  Uber was fascinated by the antique organ (he has recently begun taking piano).

I was entertained watching someone besides myself slaving over a hot stove (woodstove, that is).

and R-T was thoroughly fascinated by watching whatever it is they do in a blacksmith’s shop.

But we had all sort of lost track of H-T.  We figured he was having a blast immersing himself in history.  Meanwhile, we checked out the barn, watched some primitive wood planing, and read up on the sorghum making process.

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However, we still hadn’t seen hide or hair of H-T.  Then finally, we all spotted him at once, happily stripping down sugar cane to prepare it for the sorghum, that would be churned by a bridled horse connected to a makeshift churning wheel.

If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice that H-T is eyeing the horse.  That is because at precisely three seconds after this pic was snapped, the horse suddenly decided it didn’t want to be bridled and connected to the churning wheel, so it reared up and came within about one foot of clocking H-T right in the head!!!  I’ve never seen a kid move so fast.  His lightning-quick reflexes seriously saved that kid from lasting neurological damage. 

It took me about an hour to recuperate from the “what-if” scenario. It took H-T about thirty minutes.  The horse?  Ah, he was fine and dandy in about five minutes, and churning that molasses as pretty as you please. 

It really teed me off.  I wanted to sidle up beside that hot-headed equine and give him a piece of my mind!!  But all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

And even though I could’ve – – just to make things EXTRA competitive for Firefly Mom – -  I refrained from taking a picture of the pile of horse poo.  (Heck, I even refrained from taking a picture of MY poo following the horse incident).

That’s just the way I am.  Always playing fair.

Field Trip Wars – Round Two

Firefly Mom really pulled out all the guns for her last homeschool field trip, and even got a picture of a big old pile of bear poo.  I threw up the white flag on that one.

But I wasn’t daunted for long.  I secretly knew that I had a two day mini-vacay coming up that included two full 24-hour-periods of educational goodness.  That getaway took place this past weekend, and I feel that I just might have this next round in the palm of my camera-happy hand!

I had heard through the grapevine that the five main Southeastern Native American tribes were coming together to celebrate their culture and arts in the Cherokee reservation that is located less than two hours from home.  And oh what a celebration it was!

There were displays of every possible kind of native craft including basket-making, dream-catchers, blowguns, corn-husk dolls, slate art, masks, and gourd art.  H-T was especially taken with the antique bow and arrow collection, and Uber took his time poring over the tomahawks.

The night schedule of activities at the Fairground was slotted with Tribal Dancing Competitions, so we had some time to fill before then.  We headed a few blocks south of the fairground to take in the sights and sounds at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.  This was compelling combination of static and interactive displays about the history of the Cherokee, and I’ll admit that by the time we got to the part where the Cherokee chiefs traveled all the way to England to plead for a treaty of peace between themselves and the European settlements, I was boo-hooing like a lost child in a department store! 

I seriously barely made it through the Trail of Tears display!!  Such injustice!!!

Thank goodness the night’s festivities were a lot more upbeat, and included some great competitive dancing fun between the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes.

I won’t share the X-rated commentary my hubby was giving during this dance called “The Beaver Catcher”.  But I was seriously LMAO throughout the whole performance (probably NOT the reaction they were hoping for!)

H-T even got to get up on stage when they asked for volunteers for a dance called the “Tick Dance.”  He was on cloud nine the rest of the weekend after getting to shake his groove thing with some true Native Americans!!

But the weekend wasn’t ALL steeped in history…we made plenty of nature-based memories as well.  You’ve probably already heard me brag plenty of times of all that our Western North Carolina mountains have to offer, but here is some more pictorial proof….










I’m thinking that Firefly Mom is quaking in her field-trip planning boots, right about now…

Learning and Lollygagging

My buddy, Firefly Mom, who blogs over at Pack of Hungry Snails is BIG on field trips.  If you ever had feelings of inadequacy about not doing enough homeschool field trips, then I BEG OF YOU not to frequent her blog, because you’ll basically want to hang up your homeschool uniform, take your bat and ball, and go home.  She does field trips like her life depends on it!!

Us?  Not so much.

Well, until now that is.  Thanks to our recent foray into unschooling, we aren’t tied to Uber’s online school schedule anymore, and we can gallivant all over creation whenever the urge strikes us.  AND our new homeschool support group is big on field trips, so our fall schedule is already packed with things like visiting a chiropractic office, spending an afternoon at a horticulture center, and park days galore.

Nowadays, I have my ears and eyes on “Eagle Alert” for any and all field trip opportunities.  For one, because I’m making up for lost time.  And for another, because Firefly Mom has been a monopoly for too long.  It’s just not good for America if she doesn’t have some honest competition.

So today, we headed down to Chimney Rock.  Chimney Rock is a 1000-acre state park boasting attractions like a 400-ft. waterfall, a nature observatory, interpretive trails, and a 500 million year old monolith that sticks out like a chimney and provides one of the most spectacular views of a mountain gorge you will ever have the privilege to see!

Today, Chimney Rock was hosting one of their monthly homeschool days, and we were determined to take part.  The theme was Nature Journaling, which interestingly enough has been one of Uber’s latest passions. 

After assembling their nature journals with paper, sticks, and twine, the group headed toward the woods to do some observation, sketching, and practice with descriptive adjectives.

There was PLENTY of nature to interact with.  Trees, flowers, boulders, and a handful of live critters too!

I guess watching live critters makes us Topsies hungry, because as soon as we finished with our class, we headed up the mountain toward the chimney, and even better – – the Chimney Rock Cafe!  This was the view from our lunch table…

Tuna salad, nachos and cheese, and pizza by the slice was just the fuel we needed!  We had plenty of energy for our climb up to the chimney…

where we saw even more of the beauty of this clear September day in Western North Carolina…

Then it was time to put our hiking boots on and head out for Hickory Nut Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the state.  I’ve lived here basically my whole life, and had NEVER visited this waterfall, so I was bound and determined to get there today!

It did NOT disappoint…

The long hike was taxing…especially because summer decided it wasn’t quite done with us, and it was 85 degrees in the park today.  But we made it!  ( I could give away the fact that we had to recuperate about 10 minutes longer than the 80-ish-yr-old  looking couple that got to the falls just ahead of us, but that would be embarrassing, so I’ll just keep that to myself)


Last thing on the day’s agenda?  Grabbing some of the best ice cream in the world at the Chimney Rock ice cream parlor, and taking it down by the river, to soak our tired footsies and reflect on how awesome this unschooling thing really is!


Take THAT Firefly Mom!!

Does Your Baby Prefer Frontline or Nova?

Sometimes I get totally fascinated by the most boring subjects.

Like learning styles, for instance.

I’m sure that reading about the way people learn would be lower than say – – watching an infomercial at 2 a.m. – – on some people’s priority scale, but I find it perfectly absorbing.

If you don’t know a lot about learning styles, then I’ll give you my super-condensed Topsy-Techie primer.

Visual Learners  – -  if your kid would steer his baby walker to the tv at age 6 mos., and stop to watch anything on – – even the Newshour on PBS – -  then you might have a visual learner. (Yep, H-T was a huge Newshour fan as a babe)

Auditory Learners – – if your kid talks  non-stop, repeats back everything other people say, or sings from morning till night – – then you might have an auditory learner. (Uber has to discuss EVERYTHING before it takes hold in his head.  He will readily admit that most anything he has retained has been because he has had a conversation about it with someone)

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners – – if your kid has built two Lego castles and one Lego moat before you could finish reading one chapter aloud of his favorite King Arthur story – – then you might have a kinesthetic/tactile learner. (my boys each have kinesthetic/tactile as their secondary learning style)

Now you might be saying…”Topsy is such a genius. Look at all she knows about learning styles!”  And I would reply…”I’ll send you the 20 bucks via Paypal." But the truth is…I had to learn this stuff the hard way.  By slamming into the brick wall of curriculum choice vs. learning style. 

Early in our homeschool career, I desperately wanted to use Sonlight.  I LOVED the idea of reading aloud to my kids all day, and discussing good literature, and doing projects based on what we were reading.  I couldn’t possibly imagine a more lovely way to learn.


That was me hitting the brick wall of reality, when my boys became bored – quickly – – with me reading to them all day, and discussing good literature, and doing projects based on what we were reading.  “This is LAME,” I heard, more than once. 

Impossible!  I couldn’t figure out why this lovely, perfectly educational curriculum wasn’t working for us.  And then I read about learning styles, and how some homeschool materials and curricula are better suited for certain kids, based on HOW they learn.

One cool resource I recently discovered was the Homeschooling Books website, which lets you search for homeschool materials by learning style, thinking style, personality, and expression.  Now THAT’S a good idea!  Understanding the uniqueness of your child and using an eclectic assortment of resources to help him or her learn best. (For more info on eclectic homeschooling, check out my post on Home-School Online today.)

What about you?  Does your child(ren) have a noticeable learning style?  How does it play out in their homeschooling?

(Note: Homeschooling Books has a decidedly Christian slant, but offers secular resources as well)

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