Monthly Archives: February 2015

Sum Fun(d) Raising


I don’t have any subscribers?

Not money, you say scanning the title of this post. She can’t be asking for money. What could she possibly want money for? Don’t go there. Lots and lots of things is the answer. But this post is not about that. This post is about support. What I am asking for is a tiny moment of your time.

I need you to subscribe to my blog. That’s it. Seriously. No strings. Just helping a gal feel the love.

It’s simple. You scroll to the top. Or if you’re already there because you’re on a dinosaur screen like a laptop or even desk top look to the right. Find where it says. YES! SUBSCRIBE TO SANDYBEACHGIRL NEVER MISS A POST and right below that a note in red that says Your e-mail address with an empty box below that. Click on the box, type in your email address and then hit the Subscribe button below that. I know, some of you don’t need all these instructions. But some faithfuls do. Thanks for being patient with them.

That covers it. You might get an email asking you to verify that you did this. If so click on the link (highlighted part) and answer the question which usually goes something like, Yes, I really do want to receive SandyBeachGirl post updates.


Wait! Now I do have subscribers.

That’s all. You’re done. Thank you SO much. Really you don’t even need to read a single post. Of course I very much want you to but I know we’re all busy and time needs to be prioritized. So even the couple of minutes it takes to read my posts, because I do keep them short, can just not be part of your time allotment for that day. I get it. And not every post will sound interesting to you (oh no!). Yeah, I get that too. I subscribe to lots of blogs and I don’t read every post. But I do like to know that a blog has been updated and I choose to skip over it rather than Just.Never.Know. a good post for me to enjoy came along and I missed it.

I’m not in this for the money. No not your money ever here (buy my art if you want to send money my way), the money a blogger can get for lots and lots of people reading your posts. You need hundreds nay thousands of readers (or actually just folks that open the page they don’t even have to read) to make any money this way. It happens. I know of bloggers who have those thousands and even hundreds of readers per post. I’m pretty happy with a double digits readership per post.

Thanks for subscribing during my Fun(d) raising. Oh and pass the word. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell the person next to you in the grocery line.

I’m feeling the love already!

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At Home(School)

Chemistry of Cooking

Chemistry of Cooking

When we last left our three, fresh from the constrains of public school (okay two Lewis was still too young for formal school), homeschoolers we were just getting into the swing of our routine.

Our academic routine. Not for everyone. Crazy and yet it worked so well for us. But there’s more. During the day when we were all awake, (those night owls slept in rousing when the mood fit) I had them work on projects like these.


How it Works

I was a stickler for entering every creative contest that came along. Art contests. Writing contests. Poster contests. National Geographic’s Geography Bee. We subscribed to Cricket Magazine and religiously every month I had all three enter the Cricket League competition. Open to all with several age group categories. The League rotated between prose, poetry, art, photography monthly. There was always an intriguing prompt. Later Cricket added an adult category and the boys insisted that I had to enter too. I was the teacher, I hesitated. But what’s fair for the the goose is fair for the gander. And so I did reluctantly. We all won. Multiple times. Sometimes first place, second place, third, honorable mention. Sometimes nothing. This was an international contest too with hundreds of entries. And everything had to be mailed with a stamped return mailer if you wanted your work back. Work. But worth it.

drinking & driving poster driving safety poster heart poster

Sometimes to mix things up we took all the academics outside and worked together. We ate, chatted, studied, took breaks, went swimming. We had fun. But you know what the best part was?

They. Never. Got. Sick.

It was as though the sick switch turned off. And while we did not belong to any homeschool groups (we were our own group) we did interact with the world. They swam on our local community summer swim team. They went to summer 4-H camp. They were all on Dare County Parks and Recreation basketball teams. We traveled to Richmond to be with Donny at work. Being school Geography Bee champion, Stephen got to travel by Amtrak to the state level competition in Raleigh. Andrew got to go to the state level competition too when he was old enough too but no free train ride. (By the time Lewis was eligible organizers had figured out their mistake and banned independent home schools.) Home school for us was not stress free but it was stress that we could handle.

lessons outdoors dune diving karate kids

Next time, how they faired in college and the real world. Spoiler alert. Fleek!




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Not That Gecko

Horseshoe gecko by Charlie

Horseshoe gecko by Charlie

Go away Geico. I don’t need you or your gecko. I have a better one. See. And mine is a gift. A surprise gift. Made of recycled horseshoe pieces with horseshoe nails for toes.

He’s really grey but when I was tweaking the photo I liked the way the green color changed in the background. So I left it. Because like Charlie says, explaining why he paints some of his geckos and not others, geckos change color to blend in with their surroundings. My gecko is doing exactly that.

Horseshoe gecko arrived in the mail yesterday. I really haven’t ordered much lately and was pondering what I did order that I forgot about as I opened the package.

Dear Sandra,

Sorry for taking so long to get this to you. This is the second of my horseshoe geckos (my wife Sheila got the first one). The first one I made I used new horseshoe nails for the toes. I went to the horseshoe supply store and they were closed. So yours is even made with used horseshoe nails (totally recycled). I didn’t paint it, geckos take on the color of their surroundings and you’re probably a much better painter than I. Hope you like it.

Charlie Desert Flats Farm

No, Charlie I don’t like it. I LOVE it!

Charlie and I met on Etsy. His shop Desert Flats Farm Store caught my eye when I was creating an Etsy Treasury. He had some awesome sculptures made from recycled cool stuff and so I added one to my Treasury. Charlie thanked me and we chatted a bit about our shops. He liked my BitchSLAPBoards. I told him that I collected quotes from everywhere and had more than I could paint. He followed with, Here’s one more quote to add to dilemma. It’s from a friend of mine. “It’s not that I’m unambitious. It’s just that I started at the bottom and liked it there.”

I loved it and told Charlie I’d put it on a board for him which I did. I added another board into the mailing for fun, one that Charlie had admired. When Charlie & Sheila got their package they were delighted.


Desert Flat Farms geckos

Dear Sandra,

Thank you very much for the signs, they’re Great!!! I’ll show the one to my friend “Big Al” when I talk to him next. I have an idea of what I want to send you. It will the first one I make, so it might take me awhile. I can’t believe that you can look out your window and see where the Wright Brothers made their first flight. When I look out my back door all I see is a little mountain, well not too little of a mountain, okay, a big mountain called Pikes Peak.

Thanks Again Talk to you Soon

Charlie & Sheila





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Miss Jett Take Those Greeks Down

greek godsIn a previous post I told you the beginning of the story about landing on the front page of the Richmond newspaper.

Here’s Page 2 (love me some Paul Harvey.) Let’s begin with the follow up letter home.

Hi Family,

Well, everything was wonderful but am I glad it’s over. I am exhausted. We worked for 3 nights straight on our decorations and then put them up Thursday night in the freezing cold and finished putting up the rest Friday morning in even more cold – at 7 o’clock no less. But they looked so good. And I was so proud of all my girls. Everyone but 2 or 3 worked like Trojans on the things and really put forth an effort. Also every woman’s dorm (the men were too lazy) put up decorations – every last one!

Sharon & I went with the judges Friday afternoon & then had to sit there on pins and needles while they tore them all to pieces & not allowed to say a word. But finally after about 1/2 hour they picked us as best & Founders Hall as honorable mention!!

founders hall

Founder’s Hall

Pause in the narrative here to add that I left out of the letters home the fact that I figured a club sponsorship of the project would better impress dorm leaders as well as Dean Gladding and sold the idea to our Cotillion Club President Sharon Gates. And the club decided to award trophies to the winners. Sharon lived in Founders but honestly our two dorms did have the best decorations.

nash and me 909

909 leaders. Sandy Nash, my roommate, is center. I’m top right. I found this when looking for a photo of 909. I could only see Nash’s head in one of the clips I found about the house. That doesn’t look like Elisabeth Bocock I thought, it looks like Nash. The things you find on the internet.

Meanwhile the Senior Cits had been raising cain about the disgrace on their building. One old man even tried to take it down! Well Nash & I just traipsed right out there and tied it back down because the man was coming from the New Leader to take a pix which he did & it will be in the paper this afternoon. 

After that Sharon & I went to the Dean’s office to write our story for the paper. While we were there Deans Gladding & Johnson came in and asked me to go with them. It seems the Senior Cits had complained to Dr Oliver! So they came by the dorm to look, saw nothing wrong & left to see Dr Oliver. A little later Dean G came back & told me he said they had to come down. She said, “This is one time I don’t see eye to eye with Dr Oliver but I have no choice.” We were so mad! I was even madder because I knew we had won (no one else here knew). So then we decided we’d sorta leave it up til Saturday morning so we could at least get a pix of it.

Then Frances, Gordon & I went to the Press Club. When we got back Mrs Carter informed me that Dean G had called me & said we could not ignore the President’s request, so I marched upstair & cut the ropes. Then we took all the bedspreads (their togas) off of them and dropped them over the side of the porch.

Saturday morning:

I was rushing to get downtown to meet Buddy (8:30) when Thelma (maid) said that Mrs Bocock wanted to know what happened to the decorations. I was in a hurry so I told her to tell her that Dr Oliver had requested they be taken down & then I left.

mrs bocock houseMy dorm was such a unique place. Built in the early 1900’s  for Elisabeth & Frederic Scott it was patterned after Marble House (its style often compared to the White House) in Newport, Rhode Island which was modeled after the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Mrs. Bocock lived in the back upstairs and downstairs of the house but rented (not for money for community support) the front bedrooms to RPI for dorm rooms. I was one of the first thirteen girls to live there. The front downstairs parlour, sitting room and dining room were used during week days for a Senior Citizens outreach program. While they were there we were not allowed downstairs. We had to use the side entrance to come and go. But in the evening and on weekends all but the dining room were ours. This included the elegant stairs that split halfway up with a section continuing up on either side. I lived in the second floor balcony room, the one over the front door. It was a designed as a family sitting room. We had hand painted French wallpaper. Big red, white and blue plumes. The rooms on the third floor are hard to see in this photo. The one over the columns with the huge overlook was the family ballroom.

Well, when I got back (Buddy missed his bus & didn’t get in til 10:30 but I didn’t wait) Mrs Bocock asked me to please put the men back up!! If she only knew how hard they were to get up. It seems she had spent all morning talking to Dr O (and she was right in the process of cleaning house & had 1000 things to do) and he said to put them back up. (She loved them and wanted to get pix of them). So I woke everyone up & after a few groans they agreed to help. So once again we hoisted our men into place. Even after being dropped & mangled they were in good shape (in fact the pix I sent you was taken after they had been put back up again. Make sure Jett sees the pix).

We really caused a stir at dear ole RPI.

Also the picture was the only one on the front page of the Times-Dispatch Sunday! Front page! (The paper always had several editions. My copies probably did have just the one photo).

We were so glad because all those smarty senior cits will be bound to have seen it.

The dance was good. The boys looked so good in their tux. Frances had white gardenias & I had 8 yellow rose buds. 

We went to the Press Club before. A very plush place. Gordon is a member. All wall to wall carpeting, sofas, swivel chairs, soft music, etc. And they mix wonderful drinks. I love to go there.

I also had to give a speech at the dance about this decoration dealy. Fun. Frances accepted the trophy for our dorm & we woke up everyone when we came in to show it to them.

I’ll be glad when all gets back to normal even tho it was fun.


mrs bocock 2

My note from Mrs Bocock. I attached it to a book on her written by her granddaughter.

mrs bocock

Love the title of Mrs Bocock’s autobiography, Never Ask Permission. Perfect!

A few days later Mrs Bocock gave each of us living at 909 a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. She included a card that had a personalized note about how much she appreciated and enjoyed what we had done. She never really interacted with us, probably because she was far too busy but also she was probably keeping boundaries. I mean we could actually open a door on our hall next to the stairs that lead to her apartment. It was rarely locked. But we respected her too much to compromise her trust. She was a classy lady, our Mrs Bocock. And a champion for Richmond history.

We both made our mark on the Richmond landscape.




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RPI Revelry & Rebellion

I promised you the story about the first time my picture was on the front page of the Richmond newspapers but posting that turned out to have a few more twists and turns than expected. After searching in vain for the saved clipping, I gave up and tried another tack. A few years back my sister sent me all the letters I had written home during my college years that Mom had lovingly saved along with a trunk load of other correspondence.

Revelers Bigger JPEGThere within those stacks and stacks of letters (I wrote a lot) were details about this very story. Details that I had forgotten. Now even more than before I had to write the post, not that I was going to skip it but it might have ended up on the back burner. Still I needed the photo. The letters gave me the exact date the picture was published. (What Grandma was doing on your to be birthday fifty years ago Martin.) I decided that it was worth the fee for a day of delving into the newspaper digital archives, even with no guarantee, to try and find it. And by all gods Greek I found it on my first try.

A bit grainy but better than a few decades old clipping would have been. Where am I, you ask. See those funny looking paper mȃché guys top left? They belong to me and my dorm mates. We owned them, in so many ways. Rather than paraphrasing I’m going to really take us back in time and quote my letters home word for word.

Dear parents,

Well, we’ve really been busy this week. Sunday night Chris (girl in dorm) and I were playing cards when I noticed something odd outside. A group of kids with a ladder in the middle of Franklin Street putting up a huge sign. It said, ‘Welcome to RPI.’ Then a whole bunch of kids started collecting and dancing on the sidewalk (a girl in the dorm next door turned her stereo up quite loud). About 45 minutes later the police came (that’s what everyone had been waiting for all this time) and the crowd left but the sign stayed although against a city ordinance.

Interject here that our college was/is (now VCU and sprawlingly huge) located on the fringe of business Richmond. The area is called the fan because the streets fan out from downtown. Classes and dorm spaces then were in a group of random vintage buildings with no identification as such. We knew where everything was but any passer by would have no clue. btw That’s my dorm in the photo. Back to the letter.

So Chris and I started thinking about how much fun it would be for all the dorms to put up outside decorations for the dance like home coming. So Monday we asked the dean and she said okay. So I got on the phone (by the way we have free phones now. The number is 353-2711 ext 351) and called all the dorm presidents and told them to have house meetings and join the competition and everyone is! Ours is so great. We have 2 huge gods made of chicken wire and paper mȃché. The dance theme is ‘Winter Dionysia’ so our theme is a great big drunken brawl. One god is hanging over the top balcony (3rd) floor reaching for grapes-the columns are grape vines. And another is sitting on our balcony eating and drinking. They are 20 feet tall and huge. We have been working like trojans for the past 2 nights. My poor hands are so sore from cutting chicken wire with scissors. We also have a few hands and feet showing up on the 3rd floor balcony. The grapes are made of balloons and the vines are crepe paper. We decided to get up at 5 o’clock Friday morn to put it up and so to make sure everyone gets up I’m going to have a fire drill. Isn’t that mean.

I was the dorm president, I got to call fire drills.

stampsBuddy came down this weekend & stayed with Gordon. We watched TV Friday nite. Went to a Sigma Chi party Saturday. Sunday we bowled. 

I dyed a pair of shoes that Ann gave me yellow to match my dress & they look very good. 

I finished reading Fountainhead & it was very good.

Must sleep.



Next post, how we came to be on the front page of the Sunday newspaper.

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Nine Days in March

st andrew's by the seaIn 1997 during Lent, Charles Gill, then rector at St Andrew’s By-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Nags Head, North Carolina, asked me if I would be interested in painting Stations of the Cross for that service conducted weekly during the days preceding Easter.

I was intrigued, awestruck and up to the task. The current art for the service were small framed drawings, nice drawings but done by some unknown person with no connection to our church. Yes, our church because at the time we were not, as we are now, typical Episcopalians who attend church maybe, just maybe once a year. We were regulars. The boys were acolytes. Donny & I were lay readers and eucharistic ministers. We all sang in the choir.

We got involved because when Emily & Marty were planning their wedding Emily wanted to be married in a church. At the time we were spending Sundays at home cooking family pancakes and just being with Dad since he was in Richmond during the week. But  we did not want to be drop in patrons for the wedding, paying for the services and going on our merry way. So we went Full Monty. It was fun. The chapel is just like you would want church to be, at least just like I wanted church to be. Full of friendly people. Cozy. Barefoot was okay. I even chaliced once bare footed. The motto is “Fishermen welcome. Come as you are.”

The chapel is simple and I wanted the stations to be simple. But they needed to be able to hold their own against the strong dark beadboard walls and high arch windows. I got raw canvas from the one local sewing supply store and some gold trim. I had tempera paint already. I cut the cloth close to life size mirroring the windows in reverse. One station would hang between each window. Two in the back by the doors. The layout was perfect. Charles had given me no directive or deadline. I made my own deadline. That year. I painted a sample for him. He loved it.

stations 1-7 in chapelstations 8-14 in chapel

I set to work. I painted and took breaks. Painted and took breaks. I actually found that I had plenty of time for other things. Still I kept myself on task. More than a self imposed time deadline, I was afraid that  my style would change if I let too much time pass. Slowly the canvases became finished pieces.

First Station, Jesus is condemned to death

First Station, Jesus is condemned to death

Second Station, Jesus takes up his Cross

Second Station, Jesus takes up his Cross

Third Station, Jesus falls for the first time

Third Station, Jesus falls for the first time

Fourth Station, Jesus meets his disconsolate mother

Fourth Station, Jesus meets his disconsolate mother

Fifth Station, The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene

Fifth Station, The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene

Sixth Station, A woman wipes the face of Jesus

Sixth Station, A woman wipes the face of Jesus

Seventh Station, Jesus falls a second time

Seventh Station, Jesus falls a second time

I worked on parts of all fourteen in various stages at once. I had trouble with Mary’s foot as she is holding her son. My friend Lisa modeled. Lewis became Simon of Cyrene. Donny was Christ. I cried when I painted the cross scenes. This man. This man, whatever you believe, was a real person with feelings and heartaches. And a mother. I painted through my tears.

Eighth Station, Jesus meets the women of Jereualem

Eighth Station, Jesus meets the women of Jereualem

Ninth Station, Jesus falls a third time

Ninth Station, Jesus falls a third time

Tenth Station, Jesus is stripped of his garments

Tenth Station, Jesus is stripped of his garments

Eleventh Station, Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Eleventh Station, Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Twelfth Station, Jesus dies on the Cross

Twelfth Station, Jesus dies on the Cross

Thirteenth Station, The body of Jesus is placed on the arms of his mother

Thirteenth Station, The body of Jesus is placed on the arms of his mother

Fourteenth Station, Jesus is laid in the tomb

Fourteenth Station, Jesus is laid in the tomb

And then I was finished. We put a dowel through a fold at the top and attached a dark piece of cording on each side of the dowel for hanging. We took them to the chapel the evening before Palm Sunday and hung them. At the service the next morning everyone was in awe. Some people loved them. Some were unsure. Others were very sure, not for them. I had a friend recently tell me that over time he has come to love them, at first he was in the not for me camp. They were a pretty bold step away from those tiny framed prints.

I cherish the comment friend Becki Rea offered me. “I was dashing through the chapel to a meeting when suddenly I just stopped. I looked around me and realized how absolutely breathtaking the stations are.”

A friend of Donald’s told me that she has seen the stations at Notre Dame (we have too since but not then) and how she liked St Andrew’s so much better.

It had taken me nine days from start to finish. Nine days! That’s more than one canvas a day. As I look at these photos now and when I painted the last stroke then, I knew without a doubt that I had a lot of celestial help on a project that I will hold dear in my heart forever.

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Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year. I’m excited. It’s the Year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram. That’s me (yes I calculated using the Chinese calendar). I’m gentle, softhearted, considerate, attractive, hardworking, persistent, thrifty and also indecisive, timid, vain, pessimistic, moody, weak-willed. My constellation says that I am energetic. My blood type says that I am stable and always play on the safe side. Yup, that pretty accurately sums me up even if it all did come from a google search.

I found this in Mom's albums. I have no idea where she was but I like that this is family history and not a stock photo.

I found this in Mom’s albums. I have no idea where she was but I like that this is family history and not a stock photo.

This year it seems that my fortune could fluctuate in a down spiral if I’m not careful. If I stay the course, however, things will run smoothly. I should not invest, fear not Taisui (Chinese god of fortunes) I have no plans to offend you in this manner, you can rest completely assured. And I like to think that I am generally tolerant with family so those waters should be quiet.

It’s been a good start so far. I got a letter (a real letter not a scam) in the mail saying that I had won twelve bags (one a month) of Arbor Day shade grown coffee. My choice between whole bean, ground, decaf. Nice!

My dentist crowned me today. Finally a queen. Considering the wrack and ruin my teeth suffered through the years I’m very surprised they have endured this long without major work.

So sheepish me will take this positive start and upon advice proceed forward cautiously.

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Today we buried Apollo. He was one of our seven cats. All loved. None purposefully acquired. You know how that happens. First we took in two brothers who having just been neutered for Feline Hope were riding with the vet when he came to treat our sick cat, Willie. They were the last of the litter. “We’ll take them both,” Donny told the vet. “They shouldn’t be separated.” Both solid black. They came with names, Huey & Henry.

“Mom, you were almost free of cats,” Emily laughed. It was her Willie, who had come to live with us after he lost his way to the litter box one too many times, that was sick and would not survive.

The next two to arrive were actually Lewis’ cats. One being Apollo. Gray & white Ares came first. A gift. Lewis decided to name his cats after Greek gods. When a beach goer found a wandering kitten on the beach and could not keep him, Lewis, lifeguarding at the time, stepped up. “Mom,” he phoned, “there’s this kitten…”

“Bring him home.” And so Apollo joined the consortium.

Next my sister had rescued a litter from under a trailer and when we stopped on our way back from California to visit her, she asked if we wanted the last two, Blaze & Pumpkin. “We’ve got enough already,” we told her. She understood. A few days later I called to say we’d take them if she still had not found them homes. They shouldn’t be separated either. Sucker for the family connection.

Lastly is Remus. This time a friend of a friend of Hilarey’s had found a cat while pool cleaning and could not keep him. He became Donny’s Father’s Day present. Hilarey told her dad that Remus was his Father’s Day present too, not being presented with a kitten. We called him the Kitten That Lived Under the Couch because he did and was so tiny and grey that no one could find him.

Cats on the porch the three yellows

But this story is about Apollo. It’s just that they are a consortium and operate as a group, most of the time. Apollo liked to think that he was in charge. And he was unless Ares, the wanderer, was around. Apollo with the squinty eyes could fool his brothers into thinking he wasn’t paying any attention and then smack them into doing whatever it was that he deemed important at the time. He was first to meals and pushed everyone out of the way to get to the best bowl. He was lovable. He purred louder than any of the others and would offer you a wet kiss anytime you asked.

He stopped showing up for meals this past week. At first I thought he had just found something better. They all live outside. On a covered porch. With a custom built condominium. But when he kept hanging out in unit 102, the one with the heat light, Lewis decided that maybe he needed to come inside. We brought him in. The next day I messaged the vet. They were in Vegas at a continuing education seminar. She advised me what to do and arranged for some meds. We kept him inside in a quiet room. I checked on him a lot. Yesterday I decided that he was lonely and carried him around like a baby all wrapped up most of the day. He helped me win a lot of on line games of Dominion. He still wasn’t eating but he seemed better. He watched Justified with us last night. He told Lewis goodnight and as it turns out goodbye. When I looked in to check on him this morning he was in the same spot where I had put him down. I don’t think he moved, just drifted away to the ethereal cat consortium.

Goodbye Apollo. We’ll miss you.

ares & apollo

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by | February 18, 2015 · 6:49 pm

I’m Going to Do WHAT?

I was chatting with friend Jen today (you really should subscribe to her blog, Life in the Circus, it’s always a great read) about home schooling and how I would approach it now. Hard question. When we decided to home school after dialoguing for a full year with school personal about how they could provide better opportunities for Andrew and coming up practically empty handed (a few token classes but nothing meaty) we decided to try home schooling. Emily was a freshman at UNC-CH and Donald finishing out his high school years at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

Even though it was mostly my idea, okay all my idea, and Donny supported me, this is pretty much how I felt. A helpful selling point for both of us was the article that we read about three home schooled brothers who had recently graduated from Harvard. And all of our kids had skipped at least one grade so we figured if it didn’t work out we could drop them back into their chronological age grade and not miss a beat.

I'm going to do what?

I’m going to do what?

Stephen was maybe as skeptical as me but for a different reason, “This is how it’s going to work, Andrew,” he said after we told them the plan. “We’re going to go to regular school and then come home and Mom will teach us.” He could not believe that he would never have to go to public school again. Neither of the boys were getting into trouble or performing poorly academically. They were just bored. My take? They were learning really well how to efficiently waste time.

And so we took the plunge. And for weeks we did nothing, literally nothing. We were all so exhausted from all the trappings of getting ready for school, traveling to and from school (a good hour each way), working on projects not to mention homework that we just sat and stared at each other in silent glee. Then I started rounding up text books. I knew what I wanted them to learn and no curriculum was going to offer my eclectic blend. I found a company, Follett Textbooks, that had used books listed in an endless tiny print catalog, no pictures just books by category, page after page. They offered no questions returns. I jumped on that one. Remember this is still pre-public access internet days. I ordered books, returned books, relentlessly until I was satisfied.

And then we started in earnest. Before that there was learning going on. Just not out of a textbook.

 running on sandbags floating chain the bic and the boyslooking for indian artifacts with dad

Our days went like this. I would write out assignments for the two older boys after doing each one myself to be sure that I understood what I was asking of them and to ascertain about how long each lesson should take. Lewis was still in the hands on stage at this point. Reading and math were enough and quickly covered. I would line the books up (cannot locate the picture but it was awesome) on a bed and then they would have the day to complete it all. There was no school clock. No school room. They worked wherever and whenever they wanted. Inside, outside, long breaks in between, it didn’t matter.

We called ourselves the twenty-four hour family. Someone was always awake. The one rule was that all work for that day had to be completed by midnight. If they ran out of time they had to stop whatever else they were doing and finish up. I was usually in bed by then, but they didn’t abuse the system, or if they did they make it work, because when I got up the next morning the books with completed assignments were back in my court.

You didn’t think I was going to cover this all in one post did you? This is almost as much work as writing out assignments. I love both!


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Above the Fold

This is the third time my picture appeared on the front page of a major Richmond newspaper.  Here is the second time. I’ll tell you about the first in a future post.

We had plans to take the Church Hill Christmas tour on Sunday and even surprise snow didn’t slow us down. It was a short drive and just some gentle flurries. I had stopped to fix Andrew’s mittens when a guy with an impressive camera asked if he could take our photo for the newspaper. I guess we provided some fun color with all the winter whites and also a nice juxtaposition against the lamplight Christmas decorations.

church hill winter

The ice on the right is what’s outside today

I said sure. He took a few shots, got our information and we all went on our way. Imagine everyone’s surprise the next morning when we woke to find some of ourselves on the front page of the morning paper. It was a big picture and above the fold!

Even today the photo is great, the memory a cherished one, but the point of the story is a building you cannot see in the picture, the reason we were even on the tour. It was (was because while the building is still there the school is no longer in operation) St Patrick’s School. Run by the Daughters of Charity this tiny not upscale community school took it upon themselves to implement a rarely utilized, because it was so much work to put in place, form of education. Just before we landed there (the connection you see) head mistress Sister Mary Dorothy decided to trash regular grade by grade reading and math and put each and every student on an individually guide path. That meant testing each one, sorting them out, matching like groups up with a teacher and making a workable schedule, all while avoiding chaos. It was daunting. But she did it. And we were lucky enough to jump in at the right patrick's church hill

We tried a private school with Emily which was a bad fit. Then public school for a year and a half until we’d had enough. Home school was for religious exemptions only, not our thing. We heard about St Patrick’s from friends and since it was on Donny’s way to work (ride with Dad to school) decided to give it a try. It was everything we could have wished for and more. We aren’t Catholic but the community embraced us. They elected me President of the Home and School Association (the first non-Catholic ever) and a few years later Donny became Chairman of the school board (again first non-Catholic).

The next school year was to be Donald’s kindergarten year but he was way past that curve. Plus St Patrick’s did not even have kindergarten. Sister Mary Dorothy told us to have him independently tested and provided the scores were good she’d take him as a first grader. Of course his scores were off the chart. He was in but even in an IGE he was such an anomaly that he had his own reading teacher.

We stayed with St Patrick’s until we moved to the Outer Banks. With one tiny exception. When Emily reached middle school age she decided that she might like public school better. More things to do. After much discussion we withdrew and enrolled in the brand new local middle school. Memory is hazy but I think maybe half a day, maybe less, and we were back at St. Patrick’s.

Our last chapter with St Patrick’s came when Andrew reached kindergarten age. Well almost kindergarten age. That was the problem. He was like Donald, academically more than ready, but his birthday was three weeks past the cut off date for Dare County kindergarten enrollment. Next year we were told. Donny was still commuting to Richmond at the time and so he took Andrew with him, and with Sister Mary Dorothy’s blessing, enrolled him in St Patrick’s for a week. Then brought him home, transferring him into the Dare County system.

There’s more much more to our education journey. You will be reading the more.

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