Friday, September 12, 2008

Let's Begin Again

The leaves outside are turning and so is another page on the calendar. School is in session and it is time to begin again. Personally, I find that, as a parent, I`m greeting the school years with much the same kind of mix of anticipation and regret as I did as a child. Regret that the summer was so short-lived, but anticipation at starting up another school year. We all seem to feel this way, children and parent alike.

I remember thrilling to the possibilities of blank notebooks and the smell of new crayons. (Okay, show of many of you pulled the crayons out of the box and sniffed each one? 'Fess know you did!) Unsharpened pencils. Shiny rulers and sharp scissors. New bottles of glue, uncluttered by tacky wads of previous uses. When I walked through the school supply aisles at the store--the ones that looked like bombed out strikes from the London blitzkregs--it was hard for me to resist grabbing more than just the wide-rule composition notebook Dog needs for his Format Writing class. I still find blank pages compelling.

It`s truly exciting and enjoyable to have regular opportunity to interact with parents who are equally excited about this job of teaching our children. The first few weeks of our homeschooling group are hallmarked by everyone, students and adults alike, reconnecting with old friends and exploring relationships with new ones. Every year, matriculation means the departure of solid fixtures in our family, both of the student and the parent, who contributed to the synergy that makes us feel like a cohesive team. Blessedly, every year brings fresh sparks of talent, enthusiasm and uniqueness that re-energize and enliven us.

Our homeschooling group has been around since...and has seen many families come and go--some for a few years and some for the full tour. The program has expanded and contracted according to need. Maturing along with the children attending and the skills of the parents leading.

Our Drama "department" has seen the coming and going and coming of different generations of talent, both in leadership and participation. Past performances have included Oliver, Anne of Green Gables, and Cheaper By the Dozen. I suggested that everyone was ready to assay Fiddler on the Roof this year, but the newly coronated drama leader glared balefully at me, so I wilted quietly into the scenery. But I think they could do it.

Drama class isn`t short on entertainment, even off-stage. Rumor reached my ears that the talents of these young thespians stretches even to the ability to improv the antics of a gorilla suffering from scientifically-induced rabidity. The things they learn... Despite my most earnest wheedlings, however, it appears that the story of the blowfish must remain untold. Dommage.

One of the things that makes this group feel unique and cutting edge are the talents that parents have contributed to our learning process. In the past, we`ve had such offerings as Crime Scene Investigation by a CSI and Korean Culture class by a first generation citizen. This year, the course offerings include such fare as Introduction to Phonics Fun for the primary set, and for the older students, college level Fine Art directed by a local professional artist who happens to be currently showing her work in some local galleries, SAT Essay Prep, Format Writing, Life Skills, American Sign Language III, Home Economics including fiber arts by a veteran artisan, Music Ensemble by an experienced musician, Drama, and Introduction to Furniture Building, as well as our perennials of General Music, Art and Gym.

Tool Guy is going to be joining us this year, having convinced The Powers That Be to allow him to flex his hours to work on Saturday so that he can be off during the week for our co-op. His is, of course, the Introduction to Furniture Building. There's a fulfilled feeling having all of us pile into the van and take off together to do this as a family.

Which means that I'm also packing more adult "snacks" to go along with us for noshing on during the afternoon. This past week was kimbop. I'm planning ahead for this week. The garden, such as it has been, is winding down. Don't think I'll get many more pickles out of it, but the tomatoes are persisting a bit. Not enough to bother canning, so I decided to pull out my salsa recipe.

We did a stint in San Antonio, where Tool Guy was exposed to honest-to-goodness lacto-fermented salsa. The kind where people just do it and think nothing of it, because "Mama always made it this way." His crew consisted of many natives of the area and he tells me that my salsa is redolent of the tastes of theirs...sans jalapenos for the sake of Hobbit sensibilities. Again, salsa is one of those "potato salad" foods where the ingredients are as varied as the families who make them.


4-6 tomatillos
1-2 red bell peppers
1 vidalia onion
Enough red tomatoes to equal a gallon of product
2-3 T Real Salt

Chop all ingredients, more roughly than fine. Mix thoroughly with salt and divide up into quart jars. (This might very well be able to be fermented in larger crocks, but I've not tried it that way yet.) LOOSELY covering jars with a coated or plastic lid, leave out for 2-4 days, or until bubbling. Gases can build up during the fermentation process, so don't thread the lids on the jars until ready to remove to the refrigerator. This salsa has a tangy zip and effervescent tingle that adds zest to any food it tops.

The High School students aren`t the only ones who are amazing us. The first day, everyone was treated to a primary student with her kaleidscope of butterflies...that were even finger tamed. Finger taming butterflies? Who knew? Got to be here to see it! I was sorry that I didn't have a camera to the ready to catch an image of the cluster of small, grubby index fingers, outstretched in hopes of alluring those shy wings onto the receiver's

Aside from the input and direction that the parents provide to all of the children in each session, we have the input and inspiration that we provide to each other. 'As iron sharpens iron,' we 'provoke one another to love and good works.'

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