Making Time to Write

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Swoope, Virginia | Augusta County | Shenandoah Valley | Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

I met a friend today at Panera’s for lunch. As we got caught up on the latest things we had done (I had last seen her a month earlier at the Homestead in Hot Springs), she made a comment that kind of caught me off guard.

“You don’t write [on your website] anymore.”

I told her about being busy with Bearing Drift now that I edit for 20 authors and a number of other responsibilities that take up the time I used to have for writing my own posts. I still write, but it’s for Bearing Drift and not LynnRMitchell, and it usually falls into the political template of the site.

As I explained all that to her I lamented that I miss the “fluff,” as I called it — the light-hearted things and subjects I used to write about at my own site. She said she had expected to see photos from Tuesday’s snow. True enough … in the past I would have written about our first snow of winter.

I would have written about watching the snow come with eyes glued to the window and enjoying the ever-growing winter wonderland. I would have written about trekking to the mailbox, and then going for a walk around the yard as the flakes came down.

I would have shared those photos that were shared on Facebook. I would have shown the pics of the young twin deer who were feeding beside the driveway … ever present in the yard.

I would have shown tracks in the snow, and snow-covered nandina berries. The woodpile covered in snow. The deserted firepit. The picnic table with several inches of snow piling up on it. The tiny white twinkly outdoor lights … the wreath on the deck gate.

I miss doing that. But there will be a day again when I’m not heading up Bearing Drift.

For now I love what I do at Bearing Drift and the interaction with our writers and guest posters and political candidates and elected officials, all cultivated from 20 years of involvement and developing grassroots in this community that I moved to almost 24 years ago.

But I may be able to make a little more time to post some “fluff” here at LynnRMitchell. I just need to give myself permission to do so.

“All work and no play,” you know. Enjoy your weekend….

 

Remembering Singer John Denver on his New Year’s Eve Birthday

John Denver

Two months before his death, singer/songwriter John Denver wrote a letter to his mother on her birthday and told her, “I would not be the man I am, nor would I sing the way I do, nor would I have written the songs I have written without the influence and inspiration you have been to me. I want you to know that today there are hundreds, if not thousands, who join me in saying, ‘God bless the day that you were born.’ ”

Today is John Denver’s birthday, born on New Year’s Eve in 1943. John Denver — forever in our minds as the youthful, blonde-headed, wire-rimmed granny glasses-wearing troubadour — would now be a 76-year-old grandpa if he had lived. His daughter Anna Kate, 43, who lives in New Zealand with her husband Jaime Hutter, gave birth to a daughter, Daisy Eloise, on December 21, 2011.

Anna Kate’s brother and Denver’s son Zachary, 45, lives with his wife Jennifer in Basalt, Colorado. Anna Kate and Zach’s mother is Annie of the hauntingly innocent Annie’s Song fame who was married to Denver from 1967-1982, and still lives in Colorado. The birth of baby Daisy Eloise made her a grandmother.

Denver was tragically killed in October of 1997 at the age of 53 when the plane he was flying crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. In a sense, for me, the music died that day … but it lives on because his songs are still with us.

From his earliest music like the quietly simple Poems, Prayers & Promises to the fun and rowdy Thank God I’m a Country Boy and Grandma’s Feather Bed to the little known but one of my favorites to play on the guitar, Shipmates and Cheyenne the vintage-John Denver I’m Sorry, and later in his career the extremely personal plea, Don’t Close Your Eyes Tonight, John Denver has been my favorite singer-songwriter since 1969.

Perhaps it was his love of the Rocky Mountains that reflected my own love of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, or maybe it was his appreciation of the simple things like the outdoors, good friends around a campfire, and the power of music to heal a hurting soul, that drew me to him. Whatever it was, I rejoiced in his lyrics and guitar chords, and mourned when he died far too young.

Even today, I still hang onto every word as he sings the words to This Old Guitar, the love song he wrote about the 1910 Gibson guitar his grandmother gave him at the age of 12, and how it so very affected the path his life took. He closed his concerts with that song … an ode to his grandmother and his life … and anyone who has ever played a musical instrument understands the attachment between artist and instrument.

His story-telling wasn’t limited to the music. He had a charming way of presenting intros to songs by sharing personal experiences. Who can forget his Dancing With the Mountains video skiing Aspen Mountain? Watching it reminds me of skiing the Aspen mountains with my sister in that part of Colorado years ago. Denver was an excellent skier, and he knew the trails on Aspen Mountain like the back of his hand, something that is readily evident on the video as he actually “dances” down the slopes.

When my husband, sister (who lived in Denver at the time), and I attended his Red Rocks concert outside Denver on July 5, 1982, Denver shared his experience of traveling to China and looking out at the night sky half a world away. Annie, he realized, was back home in Colorado seeing the same moon and stars, and so he wrote the song Shanghai Breezes“The moon and the stars are the same ones you see/ It’s the same old sun up in the sky/ And your love in my life is like heaven to me/ Like the breezes here in old Shanghai.”

But it was too late for John and Annie … their divorce was underway even as he sang that summer night in the shadow of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

The magic of his concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater was captured for a television special. We were sitting on the third row right in front of the stage in seats we had staked out at noon for the night concert after standing in line for the first-come, first-serve outdoor seats.

We watched as Denver and the band ran through the sound check at mid-day, and we partied the afternoon away in the Colorado sunshine with fans seated around us. It was a sold-out event, and we twenty-somethings were excited because it was far out! (For those too young to remember John Denver, far out was his signature saying.)

Amazingly, on a whim, I found the Red Rocks concert on YouTube. Ah, the beauty of the internet … all these years later, and there it was for me to listen and drift back in time and remember a wonderful concert that started before sunset and lasted long into the night under the stars in that magnificent Colorado sky. It was magical … a moment in time, a memory that lasts to this day. The entire audience was mesmerized by John’s singing, and hung onto every word, singing along with this Pied Piper of folk music.

The songs and interviews with Denver from the Red Rocks concert are divided into five videos: Part 1 (Take Me Home, Country Roads), Part 2 (Seasons of the Heart), Part 3 (Thank God I’m a Country Boy and Annie’s Song), Part 4 (Calypso), and Part 5 (Perhaps Love, written as a love song to his fans).

I heard him sing in the Coliseum in Richmond, at Carowinds in North Carolina, twice at Wolf Trap Theater in Vienna, and at Red Rocks. How sad we can never again sit and listen as his personality and talent take us away for that brief moment in time while he shared his life — his highs and lows, heartache and joys — through the lyrics of his songs.

On this day that would have been his 76th birthday, it is amazing how much we all still miss John Denver….

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from LynnRMitchell.com

The reason for the season….

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.” Luke 2:8-20

The true meaning of Christmas … a time for the Christian world to pause and celebrate the birth of the son of God.

As 2019 comes to a close, it is a time to remember family and friends and those who have special meaning in our lives. While I’m still writing and posting photos at LynnRMitchell.com, my new responsibilities as editor-in-chief at Bearing Drift have kept me very busy. The entire past year was busy.

Here’s to a great 2020 and many more years observing, writing, and taking pictures of politics and more. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

To Every Thing There is a Season

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Everyone has gone to bed and, as I sit in the darkness with my laptop while listening to the wind outside my window, thoughts swirl in my head.

There are many who are sad this Thanksgiving.

At Bearing Drift we lost Rick Sincere last week, one of our writers and our on-air radio personality. We are all still in shock over that unexpected and sudden loss. In Utah, a childhood friend lost his wife last week, a youthful mother, friend, sibling, daughter.

What sadness in those two families as we plunge into the holidays.

Yesterday more bad news hit when word spread that the body of Dr. Mark Robbins, an avid cyclist, hiker, marathoner, and all around outdoorsman who had been a pulmonologist at UVa Hospital, Augusta Health, and Rockingham Memorial, had been found in the Rivana Reservoir in Charlottesville. That stunning news of a beloved physician’s death has rocked everyone back on their heels. Mark’s wife and three sons now face the chasm caused by his passing.

Then last night came word that the 23-year-old son of a local family had taken his life leaving yet another family shattered right here at the holidays.

Each of these deaths has left a hole in the lives of those left behind — a hole filled with emptiness, sadness, loneliness….

Pastor John Pavlovitz reminds us, “Everyone around you is grieving. Go easy.”

This week we know of four families whose lives have been devastated. It’s going to be a long, sad holiday season for them. My heart hurts for them all….

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV)

Mr. Rogers Visits a Cinema Near You

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” –Fred Rogers

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the movie about the children’s television host Fred Rogers starring Tom Hanks, was released yesterday. It is at the top of my must-see list and I’m hoping to get to the theater over Thanksgiving weekend to catch Mr. Hanks’ performance.

A description of the movie in a nutshell notes, “A journalist’s life is enriched by friendship when he takes on an assignment profiling Fred Rogers. Based on the real-life friendship between journalist Tom Junod and television star Fred Rogers.”

Wikipedia adds, “Notable cameos in the film include Rogers’ wife Joanne, Mr. McFeely actor David Newell, Family Communications head Bill Isler, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood producer Margy Whitmer, who appear as customers in a restaurant that Rogers and Lloyd meet in; Fred Rogers makes an uncredited appearance in archive footage of his show during the ending credits, singing the song “You’ve Got To Do It.”

It appeals to me that they took up the telling of the story through the cynical eyes of the Esquire journalist who would become Fred Rogers’ friend.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” —Fred Rogers

My children watched Mr. Rogers when they were young. It was his gentle nature that was particularly intriguing to very little ones who had not entered the world of video games and were drawn to the simplicity of the show with the hand puppets, choo-choo train, and the gentle nature of the man in the sweater. Some might say it was milquetoast. Not to our little toddlers.

And not to this mom.

I truly believe I have come to appreciate Mr. Rogers more the older I become. In an ever increasing political world, I need his kindness, his humble nature, and his quiet ways of teaching goodness.

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” —Fred Rogers

If you’re worried that a movie about Mr. Rogers could be boring, the reviews have been good, and the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 96 percent rating. Not bad for a pastor who hosted a children’s television show.

Here are a handful of reviews….

“The movie bets on goodness, and wins.” Full review. Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“Many a movie will make you laugh or cry or think. But very few make you want to be a better person.” Full review. Paul Asay, Plugged In

“This drama is a poignant, powerful tribute to the man who’s embodied kindness and love to children and adults for four decades, thanks to Hanks’ fabulous performance.” Full review. Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media

“If most viewers consider it a no-brainer that Hollywood’s nicest actor, for whom wholesomeness is a brand, would play Mr. Rogers, they’d be mistaken to think his performance is technically easy.” Full review. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

Loss, Friends, and Life

dscn6522-2A childhood RVA friend — church, school — lost his wife last night. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain he and his family are going through today. A wife, mom, daughter, sibling … still young and vibrant … gone, and a family brokenhearted.

It’s interesting how Facebook brings people’s lives across our computer screens. It has helped me reconnect with many classmates and childhood friends. Every day I see people celebrating or grieving, or building new houses or welcoming new grandchildren.

But today struck me a bit differently. Another high school classmate who has never married has found love after reconnecting with a longtime friend. He is happy and seeing life through new lenses.

Today I saw his joy and my other friend’s heartache. It’s ironic how Facebook’s window into everyone’s lives brought together the good and the bad on the same day. I passed along my condolences to one and am so very happy for the other.

Earlier this week a colleague at Bearing Drift died in his sleep. I learned of his passing on Facebook through his sister who posted the sad news. It was totally unexpected and left everyone in shock; at Bearing Drift we have a hole in our little online family.

Never miss a chance for those you care about to know it. We may not have a second chance….

Holiday Prep

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The porch still looks like autumn while inside we are working on Christmas.

The holidays are temporarily colliding at our house.

“A little to the right,” I said as Mr. Mitchell held the Christmas tree in place. He adjusted, I cocked my head to eyeball it again, and gave the thumbs up. Perfect! Its spot in the living room had been secured.

Does it seem early to be decorating for the holiday season? Not at my house. We have so much going on that it’s imperative we be finished by Thanksgiving. After that, between entertaining at home and taking part in area activities, we don’t want our time spent decorating the house. I plan to play!

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An autumn field in the beautiful mountains of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

This year is the shortest amount of time between Turkey Day and Christmas — four fleeting weeks — so they will be jammed even more than usual. I intend to enjoy them. This is, after all, my favorite time of year.

So the weekend has been busy with spring-cleaning-for-winter, washing curtains and bedding, finishing up yard maintenance, and storing away outdoor furniture. This week we will hang white twinkly lights on the porches and trees, taking advantage of our fingers actually being flexible enough in the warmer temps. Trust me, I’ve had those years stringing lights in frigid temps with frozen fingers and it certainly drains the fun out of it! Brrr!

This fall we had new counter tops installed in the kitchen and additional cabinets added to a bare wall so I’m still working on organizing and moving pans, dishes, and everything else in the kitchen to new storage spots. That’s been a chore but I’m certainly looking forward to the extra counter space during baking season. Bring on the gingerbread men, fudge, and toffee!

Autumn 10 Bill, Matt 2019

Mr. Mitchell had a helping hand from our son when he cut down a worrisome tree in the yard.

Oh, and Mr. Mitchell revved up his chainsaw and downed a bothersome tree this past week that will provide much firewood but also has more limbs than Jack’s bean stalk so clean-up has been ongoing.

Did I mention it’s been a busy week? And that Christmas tree we straightened up so carefully? It’s still waiting for yours truly to string the lights before we can dive into the ornament box. ‘Tis the season … ho ho ho!

The holidays are on their way to the Shenandoah Valley….

Seasons

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Mom and her girls — my two sisters and me — in 2015 taking niece Em back to the University of Virginia after winter break.

Virginia’s November elections are over and we are hurtling into the holiday season. This morning there’s much to do but I’m also reflecting on the past year and all there is ahead.

I lost my mother this year. While I haven’t talked or written much about it, going into the holidays will be the continuation of all those “firsts” that everyone experiences after someone dies. Since Mom’s passing in July, we have experienced the first Labor Day (we used to go to my Aunt Ruth’s Northern Neck house on the river when she was alive) … first autumn (my mom and dad married on October 23 in 1948 so the season reminds me of the two of them in their youth) … first Halloween (Mom and my step-dad dressed up one year and showed up at a party Mr. Mitchell and I were having at our house in Midlothian) … and even Election Day (Mom used to put out yard signs all over Midlothian and Salisbury, stumping for her chosen candidates).

Now we’re coming up on the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s without her.

On this chilly and overcast Saturday morning, it’s somewhat dreary outside the window, and inside my head. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. I’ll put on some music — music always soothes me — and go about my day.

As the seasons pass, we check off one more “first” of not having Mom here….

Autumn Colors Western Virginia’s Highland County


With my trusty travel companion driving so I could ride with camera in hand and shout out, “Stop!” when something photogenic caught my eye, Mr. Mitchell and I set out on our back road journey Thursday, October 17, 2019, through western Augusta County, Highland County, and eastern Pocahontas County, West Virginia, to check out the autumn leaf progress. We live in a beautiful part of the world. Enjoy the sights….

 

 

Autumn in Western Virginia
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 17, 2019

Back in the Homeschool Classroom … Rainy Days

6d7a7-schoolbooksWith rain pouring down outside my window in the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains hidden behind fog and low clouds … dark and dreary but cozy and bright inside … my mind wandered back to rainy days when my kids were little. A drippy day was the perfect time to build a blanket house. Some people call it a fort. Either way, it made hours of fun for little ones who couldn’t go outside and play.

It wasn’t a new idea to me. When my sister and I were young, our mom would take the ladder-back dining room chairs and spread blankets over them to make us a blanket house. We spent hours playing inside, arranging the interior, napping, tending our baby dolls, and whatever else little girls do to entertain themselves by setting up housekeeping under a sagging blanket ceiling.

So when I had children of my own, the memory of those rainy days gave me the idea that my kids would probably like doing the same. And they did.

I would set up a card table and some dining room chairs in the middle of the living room floor. Then with the help of blankets gathered from the bedrooms, the kids and I would drape them over the chairs and table to make a roof and walls, and leave an opening for a door.

The kids would help, so excited they couldn’t stand still. Once the “house” was ready, off they would fly to their bedrooms to gather favorite stuffed animals and books. Katy would usually also be toting a favorite doll baby; Matt would have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

While they were gone, I covered the “floor” of the house with a blanket or quilt, then added a couple of extra blankets or sheets inside along with pillows snatched from the beds. By that time the kids were back with their treasures. Giggling and wiggling, in the door they crawled as they each made a nest from pillows and blankets, and after a fair amount of time arranging to get the house all set up, they settled in.

And that was where they would spend most of the rest of the day. It was something that was done only on some rainy days so the always-new experience kept them interested and satisfied. Sometimes a request was called out through the door for a board game which I delivered, and they would play Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, or Trouble, and as I headed into another area of the house, I could hear their muffled voices and giggles as they rearranged or made plans, or the pop of the Trouble popper and dice.

Afternoon naps took place in the house as each child curled up with a book and then drifted off as rain beat against the nearby windows. Lunch was served in the blanket house which was much like a picnic. Sometimes I would plop down on the floor and join them for lunch; other times I would enjoy some much-needed mom time for cleaning or cooking or even lesson plans once they were in school.

It’s so dreary today that I would love to have little squirmy ones around to make a blanket house, snuggle in together with a book, and then nap. The fun of littles … it’s too bad we’re so busy at the time it happens to truly enjoy it as much as we should.

Memories….

—–
Lynn Mitchell educated her children at home for 16 years and was part of leadership in North Carolina’s Iredell County Home Educators (ICHE) and Virginia’s Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH). Her son graduated from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University (JMU) in 2007 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Creative Writing. Her daughter graduated from Staunton’s Mary Baldwin College in 2012 with a BS in Sustainable Business and Marketing. Lynn and her husband live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Other titles in the “Back in the homeschool classroom” series by Lynn R. Mitchell:

– Reading out loud to our children (July 2015)
– Did Terry McAuliffe understand the ‘Tebow Bill’ he vetoed? (April 2015)
– The Virginian-Pilot is wrong about homeschool sports ‘entitlement’ (February 2015)
– ’50 reasons homeschooled kids love being homeschooled’ (November 2014)
– Grown son’s first home (April 2014)
– Support group vs Co-op (February 2014)
– Where it all began … blazing new trails (January 2013)
– Grown son’s first home (July 2013)
– Staying in touch with homeschool friends (July 2013)
– New Year’s Eve (December 2012)
– More sleep = homeschoolers happier, healthier than public school students? (April 2013)
– Using Shenandoah National Park as your classroom (March 2013)
– Rainy days (May 2013)
– A chance encounter (June 2013)
– Autumn (October 2012)
– The rain rain rain came down down down (April 2012)
– Why we teach our own (April 2012)
– Casey (April 2012)
– The wedding … letting go (September 2012)
– The pain of grief (August 2012)
– When faced with a challenge … no whining (April 2012)
– The simple wisdom of Winnie the Pooh (August 2012)
– First day of school (September 2012)
– The rise of homeschooling (February 2012)
– Hot summer days (July 2011)
– Constitutional lessons and the Judicial branch of government (March 2012)
– Mary Baldwin commencement 2012 … SWAC Daughter graduates with honors (May 2012)

Back in the Homeschool Classroom: Reading Out Loud to Our Children

Reading

My kids and I spent much more than 15 minutes a day reading out loud over the 16 years that I had the wonderful opportunity to educate them at home.

Today’ it’s cool and rainy, a perfect autumn day for reading to little ones, and I found myself savoring the sweet memories of those days when my now-grown children would snuggle close to enjoy the many adventures found on the pages of a book.

During those days, we read countless books out loud at home by the wood stove in winter and outdoors in the yard during the summer, while picnicking and camping along the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, at the Outer Banks, traveling across the country to Colorado and Wyoming — anywhere and everywhere. The memories are priceless.

While in kindergarten and elementary school, our trips to the local public library — I considered it another room of our house — resulted in an armload of books for each child. They were curious about a variety of subjects so it was interesting to see what was chosen.

When planning road trips, the kids would find books about the places where we would visit, about nearby historic sites, trees, fun areas, animals — whatever they considered interesting.

Sitting at a picnic table along Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway, we would read of Virginia and American history, or perhaps about historical figures specific to the area. During our North Carolina years, Daniel Boone was a favorite as we sat in the shadow of where he had explored and blazed through the thick laurel thickets in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Poetry was another favorite to read aloud. Biographies. Science. History. Those years were priceless.

Read. Learn. Bond.

—–
Lynn Mitchell educated her children at home for 16 years and was part of leadership in North Carolina’s Iredell County Home Educators (ICHE) and Virginia’s Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH). Her son graduated from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University (JMU) in 2007 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Creative Writing. Her daughter graduated from Staunton’s Mary Baldwin College in 2012 with a BS in Sustainable Business and a minor in Marketing. Lynn and her husband live in Augusta County located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The story of how she began her homeschool journey can be found here (see Back in the homeschool classroom: Blazing new trails).

Other titles in the “Back in the homeschool classroom” series by Lynn R. Mitchell:

Continue reading

A Little Girl Named Katy

1 Wearing Pappaw’s hat – age 3.

Happy Birthday to my sweet girl!

In 1987, October 3rd was a Saturday, and just as it does every year, today has opened a flood gate of memories that take me back to that time in our lives.

It had been warm that fall in Iredell County, NC — typical for our western Carolina location — but a cold front was expected to pass through on Friday night, October 2, that would significantly cool down our area located at the base of the Brushy Mountains, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Even though I was nine months pregnant, we were preparing to attend the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival on Saturday just as we did every year, located thirty minutes away in North Wilkesboro.

The expected cold front came through that Friday night, and Saturday was overcast and cool, but instead of attending the festival, we began the day with the newest member of our little family — Katy. Three-year-old Matt was at the hospital with us, napping in my room and watching Saturday morning cartoons as he waited to find out if he had a baby brother or sister.

We had two names picked out: Katelyn for a girl, and Andrew for a boy. We got our Katelyn and her dad promptly wrote “Katy” on the name card located in her nursery bassinet.

Katy & Colin at Millie's wedding 2011Katy and Colin

Katy & Matt Braves 9-10Katy and older brother Matt at Atlanta Braves game in D.C.

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Katy and Colin on their wedding day at House Mountain Inn, Lexington, Va.

Katy & sheepBonding with a Highland County sheep.

Katy and Colin 1 year anniversaryAt the beach house in Florida

Katy and Colin at VaTechVirginia Tech game

Katy at Nags HeadOBX

Katy and Emily

Toes in the James River, RVA.

Katy MBC photo 2011My sweet Mary Baldwin College (now University) girl.

Beach 2 Katy, Emily 063Cousins Emily and Katy at the beach house on the Gulf.

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From that day on, our family was complete. Katy and Matt formed a sibling friendship that continues to this day. Ever the big brother, he was helpful with her from the beginning, and she gravitated to him before she could walk.

Homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, she graduated from Mary Baldwin with honors, and then married in a beautiful ceremony overlooking the mountains of western Virginia, bringing a young man into our family who was loved not just by her but by us.

Today my fun-loving child is a bubbly, organized, and adventuresome young woman who loves the beach and hiking and baking and flowers and autumn, and sheep and cats … and so much more.

She is definitely my traveling child, perhaps best captured by one of her favorite quotes from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Today we celebrate the day a little bundle of love entered our lives and we were blessed with a little girl named Katy.  Love you, Katy Bee!

~~~

If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.” -Winnie the Pooh

Katy Lord 22Sharing a book with Palmer Kitty

Palmer 3Palmer

Katy 2Gatlinburg

Katy 3The cousins … Shenandoah Valley

Katy Lord 4

Humpback Rock

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Katy Lord 7

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Katy Lord 10Studying

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Katy Lord 12

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Katy Lord 18Scott Stadium 2009 for U2

Katy Lord 19

Katy Lord 20

Katy Lord 23The Homestead, Republican Advance, 2009.

Katy Lord 24Katy with cousin Emily, and homeschool childhood friends Amanda, Vicki, Debbie, and Amanda.

Katy, Colin magazine cover

At Duffs’ maple barn during Highland County Maple Festival. The tourism magazine asked to use my pic of Katy and Colin listening to the sugaring process.

IMG_8295 (2)At Mammaw and Pappaw’s house, 2018.

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With Mammaw and Pappaw, September 2018.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Happy Fall! First Day of Autumn 2019

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Here’s a load of pumpkins to celebrate the first day of autumn 2019.

Happy Fall!

 

9/11 Remembered at Bearing Drift

9-11-11-flight-93Please join me at BearingDrift.com today as we remember 9/11 with memories of that day from colleagues and friends, and with live-time timeline of the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.

I will never forget that day. I don’t want to forget that day. #NeverForget

Back in the Homeschool Classroom: Where It All Began … Blazing New Trails

school books“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote this morning, my mind drifted back to the sixteen years we educated our children at home. Talk about going where there is no path and leaving a trail!

A tip of my hat to those homeschool pioneers who were there years before I joined up in 1990. I read books about their battles with school and state officials in various locations across the country, and was grateful for the tenaciousness and willingness of those faithful parents to basically lay it all on the line, plowing that path for those of us who followed. In Virginia, Delegate Rob Bell’s parents were pioneers in that movement, and local homeschool friends whose kids are now grown had been involved in the South Carolina movement.

By 1990, when we took the plunge, laws had been written and there were enough families involved that they had begun forming local groups and state organizations. We were fortunate to find a homeschool support group when we decided to jump from public school into homeschooling.

Before making a decision, I researched. There was a homeschool section of our local library with a number of books that had been donated by the local homeschool group which was how we found them. I wrote to publishers for information — that was before the internet opened the world on a desk top — and read books about other families and their struggles, and called the president of the local group. I researched curricula and laws and everything I could think of that would help if we were to make this life-altering decision.

In the end, we pulled our son out two months into second grade. The Calvert curriculum I had chosen used the same reading and math books that he had in class.

First of all, thank you to all the hard-working teachers out there who pour their souls into education. They have a love of children and teaching that makes them special and loved in the eyes of not only their students but the parents. The energy, hours, and financial sacrifices they expend often go unnoticed.

Let me back up a bit before going on. When our son entered kindergarten, I became a room mother who helped with field trips, holiday parties, and reading. A small table and two chairs were set up in the hallway outside the classroom, and I would listen and help students who were having difficulty with their reading. We’re talking books with one word on a page and, though the kids had been instructed to take their books home and read them ten times to their parents, it was easy to tell who had not done so.

For my son, kindergarten was a great experience and so we moved on.

In first grade, I was again the room mom who traveled with the kids on field trips (by this time they were fondly calling me “mom”) and sitting in the hall listening as students read. I found scrap wallpaper materials and cut out six-inch round circles of various textures and colors, and the teacher and I began a caterpillar that crawled around the wall of the classroom with all the children’s names as they completed a story or book.

One of the main issues I observed in public school was discipline, and that was especially true in first grade. One or two kids can disrupt an entire class of 25 or 30, and it can be very time-consuming for teachers. Sadly, recess was sometimes taken away from the entire class because of the actions of one or two or three … recess, where little wiggly legs could run off energy after sitting at desks for long periods of time.

Another issue in first grade was busy work. Bundles of work pages, or “staple sheets” as they were called, were given to each child who was expected to work the exercises but also outline each illustration (apple for “a” or whatever) and color it in. To quick learners, it proved frustrating and tedious.

By second grade, a very discipline-minded teacher set forth a rule of no talking in the lunch room until kids were finished with their meals. Since I was again spending time with the students as room mom, part of the fun was joining them for lunch. They were delighted to sit with me, and I loved to interact with them in a way that was not necessarily in a structured manner.

What I observed during that time was lots of wasted food. Lots. Kids were not allowed to talk during their free lunch time until all their food was gone, or they would have their names written on the board and be punished. So what else were they to do? They threw away most of their food. Problem solved! Now they could talk. It was wasteful. Elementary kids who sat in a classroom for hours during the day needed some time to release all that pent-up energy, and social time with their friends.

I went to the principal, a fair-minded man I knew well, to discuss my concerns. He was hesitant to interfere with a teacher, something I totally understood, but that didn’t help the situation. It was disheartening to see kids basically punished for being kids at what should have been a less-structured portion of their school day.

That was when light bulb #1 went on.

In second grade, more homework began being assigned. Since I was a stay-at-home mom, we were fortunate to have afternoons to complete homework and not lose our family time in the evenings except for those days when we had sports and other after-school activities. On those nights, we often had homework-dominated evenings.

It seemed to me that second grade children who spent all day in a classroom doing school work should not then have to spend more additional hours at home doing school work. When were they supposed to play? When were they supposed to read? When could they explore the subjects they were interested in pursuing? When were they allowed to just be kids?

That was light bulb #2.

The county we lived in took up a new reading program that year. In the past, students were placed in traditional reading groups according to ability and those who were faster learners moved into new books while the slower learners persevered until they could move forward. Makes sense, right? Apparently not to some pencil-pushing desk jockey who came up with the new program. And this is how it worked.

On Monday, all students were given a story to read. The teacher read it in class, and students were then to read it themselves, and carry it home at night to read aloud to their parents as they learned new words.

On Tuesday, the same story was read in class. The typically fast-learning students had picked up on it quickly while some of the slower learners struggled with unfamiliar words. Tuesday night, the story was to again be read aloud to parents to continue re-enforcing reading skills and word familiarity.

On Wednesday, the same story was again read in class. By this time, the fast readers were becoming bored while the slow readers continued to struggle. Wednesday night was a repeat of Monday and Tuesday nights.

The same for Thursday and, according to the thinking of before-mentioned pencil pushers, by Friday all the students would fly through the story with the greatest of ease and that would be that. Monday they would start a new story and the cycle would begin all over.

The problems were immediately evident. Fast readers quickly became bored with no challenge to keep them interested, and slow readers panicked when they realized they were holding up the entire class. No more intimate reading groups so by Friday everyone’s eyes and ears were glued to the poor child who was still struggling with words.

It was disappointing. I talked with the teacher who said it was the new program and she had no control over it. I talked with the principal who said it was the new program and he had no control over it.

And then other parents began calling.

That was light bulb #3.

Because I had been a room mom and involved with the students, they thought perhaps I could do something or head up something or form a protest. At about that time, a study came out grading school systems nationwide and, in that study, North Carolina was just about at the bottom of the list.

That was the catalyst that caused me to seriously consider educating my son at home, maybe for just a couple of years, I thought. He was bright, he was a fast reader, he loved learning … but I saw him wilting from the tedious busy work, and from being slowed in one of his favorite subjects, reading.

My research convinced me that we should take the plunge although I was scared. I had no college degree much less training as a teacher. I did have, however, a love of learning that I had shared with my kids from the time they were born, and a willingness to do whatever it took to make sure we were successful. And I definitely wanted to raise my own children, not leave them in the care of others, so had no immediate plans to go back to work.

What would my parents think? What would my friends think? Would I mess up my kids’ education? Would something important and necessary fall through the cracks? I would become one of those parents that others whispered about at school events. I would lose the backing of all that knowledge and all those resources of the public school system. I had received an excellent education in Chesterfield County, Virginia, schools. How could I deny that same foundation to my children?

As I dug more into the subject, our son was brought into the conversation to see what he thought about it. He was fine with staying home to learn; in fact, he seemed downright excited. I assured him he would not lose touch with his public school friends, a promise I kept even after we moved back home to Virginia when he was 12. I looked forward to “homework” being “work done at home,” something that could be completed during the day while Dad was at work so our evenings would once again become family time.

I had decided to try the Calvert curriculum and so ordered it, and applied to the state of North Carolina for permission to educate my children at home. We had to give our school a name so we combined our love of the nearby mountains with the meadows on our farm and became Mountain Meadow School. When the curricula arrived and armed with my state-permission postcard, I made an appointment with the school principal to share my decision to withdraw my child from public school.

I carried the curricula with me so the principal could see that I was serious about my son’s education and that it was not a flighty decision. He smiled as I pulled out book after book, explaining that reading and math would seamlessly continue from the point where they were in his class, and shared with him the work books and manipulatives to help in the hands-on part of education that I felt was extremely important to young learners. And then he said something that meant a great deal to me.

“I am not surprised that you researched it so well,” he said. “From my time working with you, I would expect nothing less. But I’m sad that your son will be leaving us because we seem to be losing our brightest students.”

We chatted a bit more, and then I stood up and extended my hand across his desk as we shook hands and said goodbye. Picking up my L.L. Bean bag full of school books and hoisting my purse on my shoulder, we said goodbye to office staff whom I had worked with for the two-and-a-half years while my son had been a student and I had been a volunteer and room mom. Then we walked out the front door into that October morning and climbed into our minivan never to return to public lower education again. Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time … I was still thinking we were on the two-year plan.

Along with my seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, we drove to a nearby restaurant and celebrated our cutting the umbilical cord to public education with breakfast and a discussion of the adventures we would have. Then we drove home to begin this new journey that would end up lasting sixteen years as we traveled where there were few paths, and blazed new trails. Though there would be bumps along the way, it turned out to be a journey I never regretted.

—–
Lynn Mitchell educated her children at home for 16 years and was part of leadership in North Carolina’s Iredell County Home Educators (ICHE) and Virginia’s Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH). Her son graduated from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University (JMU) in 2007 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Creative Writing. Her daughter graduated from Staunton’s Mary Baldwin College in 2012 with a BS in Sustainable Business and Marketing. Lynn and her husband live in Augusta County located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Originally posted in 2013

Cross-posted from Bearing Drift

Other titles in the “Back in the homeschool classroom” series by Lynn R. Mitchell:

Reading out loud to our children (July 2015)
Did Terry McAuliffe understand the ‘Tebow Bill’ he vetoed? (April 2015)
The Virginian-Pilot is wrong about homeschool sports ‘entitlement’ (February 2015)
’50 reasons homeschooled kids love being homeschooled’ (November 2014)
Grown son’s first home (April 2014)
Support group vs Co-op (February 2014)
Where it all began … blazing new trails (January 2013)
Grown son’s first home (July 2013)
Staying in touch with homeschool friends (July 2013)
New Year’s Eve (December 2012)
More sleep = homeschoolers happier, healthier than public school students? (April 2013)
Using Shenandoah National Park as your classroom (March 2013)
Rainy days (May 2013)
A chance encounter (June 2013)
Autumn (October 2012)
The rain rain rain came down down down (April 2012)
Why we teach our own (April 2012)
Casey (April 2012)
The wedding … letting go (September 2012)
The pain of grief (August 2012)
When faced with a challenge … no whining (April 2012)
The simple wisdom of Winnie the Pooh (August 2012)
First day of school (September 2012)
The rise of homeschooling (February 2012)
Hot summer days (July 2011)
Constitutional lessons and the Judicial branch of government (March 2012)
Mary Baldwin commencement 2012 … SWAC Daughter graduates with honors (May 2012)

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