Poetry and homeschooling

As we approach the end of what is a school year for most kids, I’m reflecting on practices we have used this past year.  One we added last fall was Bravewriter Poetry Teatime – we call it Poetry Tuesday at our house, and there’s no hot tea in Texas in the summer (we make it iced or have some other cold drink).

Poetry Tues
In Texas, Poetry Teatime on Tuesday often comes with iced things in jars….

I’ve only scratched the surface on Bravewriter and bought one of their Arrows. I wasn’t really impressed, but then I heard about the site on a great interview with the founder on the Savvy Homeschool Moms podcast.  It’s a 2 part interview, and I highly recommend it to secular homeschoolers. (Here are all of their episodes – it’s rare for me to find established secular podcast resources.)

After the episode, I contacted Julie at Bravewriter to tell her about the guide not working for us and what we were doing for writing. I appreciated that she told me to keep doing what we are currently working on (blogs, reviews, creative writing) instead of trying to sell me something else.

For us, Poetry Tuesday prep starts on Monday morning morning with a list of other Monday housekeeping items we do.  We have some time set aside when everyone participating selects or writes (or a combination) 3 poems to share with the group on Tuesday at 3pm.  L and I always bake something together while K is at math on Tuesdays, and when she gets home we all sit down to business.

I don’t know why they love this so much, but it’s a weekly routine the kids never want to skip.  They get incredibly excited when the time comes – we try not to move it and schedule around our 3pm meeting.  I take advantage of the time to give them a mini-lesson on interesting poet bios, rhyme and meter patterns, etc.  We’ve done Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack Prelutsky, Emily Dickinson, Shel Silverstein, Walter Dean Myers, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, and T.S. Elliot to name just a few.  This is a keeper for next year, I highly suggest reading up on the process on the Bravewriter site and making it your own for your homeschool!

Lots and lots of resources online, but one of the most comprehensive I’ve found if you’re just trying to get an overview on a variety of poetry is Gradesaver.com.  The menu bar on the left side has just about everythign you could need for beginners.  Here are a few pages I looked at that have extensive information about these poets and their work, just for example.

Walt Whitman

Emily Dickinson

Langston Hughes

Maya Angelou

The site also contains even more information on novels, essays and quizzes.

August 2016 update: Poetry Tuesday is still going strong.  Summer we do cold drinks, winter is for hot tea, and it’s an easy tradition to keep alive on the road.  You can bring small poetry notebooks to copy poems you find or write your own, and luckily just about every town in the world has baked goods and tea!


University of Texas Swimming Pools

The only way to survive the summer in Austin is to swim just about every day. It’s true – I’ve learned that after being here for many years. Luckily there are so many swimming options in this city that you don’t have to travel far to use a pool for a few bucks. But I think one of the best kept secrets in central Austin for a little more money (especially for the months leading up to the public pools’ opening day) is the UT rec center pool at Gregory Gym.

Check this out – my 6 year old took swim classes for 6 weeks in this spring. The pool temperature is maintained outdoors, so you don’t have to freeze on chilly spring days if that happens.


See this? Saturday afternoon from 12:30-3 pm AND NOBODY IS SWIMMING!


If it rains, the kids classes happen in this pool inside.


The catch to getting in is that you have to do one of a few things if you aren’t currently affiliated with UT in some way:

  1. Take a swim class (open to the community, $50 for a 6 week child’s class)
  2. Ask a current student to sponsor you (you pay, they just say you’re okay!)
  3. Be a Texas Ex and buy a pass
  4. Buy one of the 500 community memberships UT offers

The university prorates annual memberships, so, say if you read this and have to get in that pool they’ll only charge you for the rest of the season (to August).

Find rates and membership details here. And don’t miss the adult classes! No membership needed for class, you just check in at the front desk.  Note – it’s tricky to park on this campus, and that’s a whole long story. If you need help with that let me know, but parking garages are available. You can park pretty easily by the law school in the afternoons and evenings on Dean Keeton street – about a 15 minute walk from the gym.

Oh, and if you’re curious, the class my daughter took was effective. She didn’t know how to breathe in freestyle or do backstroke and she learned both. Nothing earth-shattering as far as instruction, but solid!


Lyndon B. Johnson Boyhood home and Ranch, Johnson City, TX

In April we took a field trip that was totally worth a whole day of skipping school. I didn’t grow up in Texas and really don’t know much about pre-Carter presidencies anyway, so I was eager to find out about LBJ.

I wrote more about this trip on a field trip page after I spoke with a National Park ranger friend who happened to be working there in April. She gave us some tips on how to visit both sites in a day trip.

We headed out from Austin after traffic settled down a bit, and arrived at the LBJ boyhood home right near the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City.  We stopped first at the visitor center.

IMG_5631-2 IMG_5630


There’s an interesting room full of lots of facts about the LBJ presidency in the visitor center. Be sure to read all this, especially if you haven’t done much prep for the trip.

Rangers are here to answer questions when you arrive and are so friendly. There’s also a gift shop and you can buy your National Parks passport here.  Be sure to ask for the Junior Ranger program sheet as well, which you complete both at the boyhood home and at the ranch.

RangerThe park ranger we found in the visitor center also gave us the tour and homeschooled her own kids. She gave a tour that was really interesting to all the kids in our group (ages 7-11).







There’s a geocache somewhere in Johnson City as well!



After hitting all the sites in town, we headed out to the ranch where LBJ spent 25% of his presidency. Lady Bird apparently wanted to do some traveling to other places too, but the President liked to just head to the ranch any chance he could.  I can see why!

Ranch scenery 2 Ranch scenery ranch cows

You have to stop and pick up a pass to drive through the ranch when you enter. Be sure to buy the driving tour CD plus DVD. The CD is well worth the $7 (they recently lowered the price to make it more appealing since it really makes the tour around the ranch more personal).

Stop and have a picnic when you enter if you like – there’s a place to watch the buffalo and eat down to the right of the visitor center.

Also, be sure to make the first stop to see the settlement – it looks just how it did when the Texas pioneers were living there!


We ran out of time near the end, having to leave just after seeing Air Force 1/2

IMG_5685And some really sweet 2 week old baby goats (still a working ranch out here)


We had to leave to get back to Austin and didn’t want to rush the house tour on the ranch, so we’ll be headed back there in a few months to see it and complete the ranger program!