Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Voted Today

The place where I vote is a Catholic church situated on the Ohio River. I have never really understood how they got such great real estate, and it is beautiful, but there it is on the mighty Ohio river, up high, yet right on the banks, away from flooding. It is a beautiful building, and for a country that believes in separating church from state, quite a statement to The Kid who is currently studying the US constitution in depth.

Voting Tuesday in Southern Ohio was rainy, so we weren’’t assaulted by the usual mob of campaigners, who by the way I am sick and tired of.

As we approached the Gothic structure, The Kid reminded me of The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom co-authored by founding fathers, Jefferson and Madison, where “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever...”. I often wonder why he can’t remember his multiplication tables. I told him it was actually the bingo hall that was our destination, so it really wasn’t a religious worship place. The Kid continued, he wanted to know why the rest of us had to vote on gambling and slot machines but this place was allowed to have bingo...sigh... the trials of mentoring this sort of human being.

The Kid is in general very Liberal in his politics -- who wasn’t when they didn’t have any money to call their own? The Kid takes great delight in harassing his Grandfather and anyone else who speaks of anything conservative. A friend recently shared this story:


A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat and was for distribution of all wealth. She felt deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican which she expressed openly.

One day she was challenging her father on his beliefs and his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and more welfare programs. In the middle of her heartfelt diatribe based upon the lecture she had from her far left professors at her school, he stopped her and asked her point blank, how she was doing in school.

She answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain. That she had to study all the time, never had time to go out and party like other people she knew. She did not even have time for a boyfriend and did not really have many college friends because of spending all her time studying. Furthermore, that she was taking a more difficult curriculum.

Her father listened and then asked, "How is your friend Mary?"

She replied, "Mary is barely getting by,"

she continued, "all she has is barely a 2.0 GPA"

adding, "and all she takes are easy classes and she never studies."

But to explain further she continued emotionally,

"But Mary is so very popular on campus, college for her is a blast, she goes to all the parties all the time and very often does not even show up for classes because she is too hung over. "

Her father then asked his daughter, "Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your 4.0 GPA and give it to your friend who only had a 2.0."

He continued, "That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair equal distribution of GPA."

The daughter visibly shocked by the father's suggestion angrily fired back, "That would not be fair! I worked really hard for mine, I did without and Mary has done little or nothing, she played while I worked real hard!"

The father smile and said, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

The look on The Kid’s face was classic and the backpedalling was interesting.

But to get back to our adventure, in general I take The Kid with me when I vote so he can see what goes on and understand the process a little. This day, The Kid accompanied me because I was certain he would be able to figure out how to use the electronic voting machine even without reading the instructions. These kinds of things escape me and frustrate me to no end and that’s why we make such a great pair.

Later that day in TaeKwonDo, The Kid’s Master told me that she was so proud of him, she continued “it’s so cool to see kids excited about politics, he said he couldn’t wait until he was old enough to vote.”...If she only knew...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Who Knew Adams County Was so Beautiful?

It’s been a while since we’ve written. Our “school” year started and we have been wrapped up in many new courses of study. We always have time to think and plan new adventures of course. Once we have our study topics for the year the “field trips” get easier to think about. We’ve enjoyed the theater as part of our travels in our own back yard so far this“school year”. We saw the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park production of Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. It was an excellent production. We also saw “Spamalot” a “musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. Also a great production.

As usual as part of our Autumn studies, we go to the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg, OH. There’s really not much in Harveysburg, OH, I suppose you could check out the Caesar Creek flea market if you really wanted to make a day of it, but we go for the Renaissance Festival. At the Renaissance Festival you can always catch a sword fight, but being the theater animals we are, our favorite is naturally the “Theater in the Ground” where one may just luck in and see a great production of Beowulf. The actors perform in a mudpit, yes, hard to imagine, but nonetheless, worth the trip to Harveysburg, OH.

As civilized as all the theater talks sounds, we just can’t help ourselves, we’d rather be paddling. As our luck would have it, we were fortunate enough ot get to Adams County, Ohio. Near the Ohio River yet far enough away from the city to be able to see thousands of stars at night. The kid and I got the opportunity to paddle Brush Creek in early fall and boy was it beautiful. An unspoiled creek that has the occasional cabin perched on the hills and home to that illusive Kingfisher I have been trying to photograph all summer. Brush Creek dumps into the Ohio, but instead of that treat, we paddled up river. The Kid stopped to fish and I explored with a camera. No fish but great pictures - though no pictures of the Kingfisher...maybe next year.

In our future we are planning a trip to Southern Europe and soon we are heading to the Caribbean for some sailing in the French West Indies. We are in the process of planning other trips as part of our homeschool so stay tuned! When you take your homeschool on the road, life is an adventure!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not Back to School

Every homeschooling family celebrates a “Not Back to School Day”, at least that is what I like to believe. Our day to celebrate was Mondaythis week. The plan was to go to our local coffee house to catch up onthe latest news with the coffee-house-posse, to go to Staples to not-buy back to school supplies, to go to Morgan’s Livery one last time to kayak our favorite river and then to Eat at Joe’s (Joe’s Crab Shack) on the river for dinner.
You always see a flurry of noteworthy news regarding the idea of students returning to school:
Parents Clueless on Drugs
Surveys show teens, folks out of synch, out of touch...
A comparison of two recent surveys shows parents apparently don't have a clue about their teenagers' use of drugs and alcohol....[Read on]

Goal is Grads, Not Dropouts
Schools put emphasis on getting to finish line
Glen Este High School in West Clermont missed its graduation goal last year by four-tenths of a percentage point, the equivalent of one student dropping out, says Superintendent Gary Brooks...[Read on]

No Cheating, Kids Pledge
When Villa Madonna Academy senior Sean Spille turns in his schoolwork, you can be sure it's his own - he even put it in writing.

Spille is one of the high school's 180 students who signed a new honor code this year that calls for honesty and academic integrity...
.[Read on]

Just once I’d like to see for example, the Literature reading lists that returning students are required to read, the lists of texts being used and perhaps a syllabi or two of some of the more enlightening classes offered in our schools. This might make me wonder what we are missing by “not-going-back-to-school”.

On our "Not Back to School Day", Staple’s is always a fun stop. As we walked the crowded rows, we saw parents and kids pouring over lists of items required for learning at school. The bulging baskets made me wonder if I had missed something in our planning. There really isn’t much “stuff” a homeschool needs, though I have to admit to replacing our 7 year old laptop this year.

Published in Today’s local paper:

How much we spend (selected items)
Clothing and accessories - $230
Shoes - $98
School supplies - $86
Electronics (lower grades) - $114
Average total spending (lower grades) - $527
Source: Bigresearch

What I spent
Clothing and accessories - $0
Shoes - $0
School supplies - $61.60
Electronics (lower grades) -- $19.98
Average total spending (lower grades) - $81.58
Source: My Staples Receipt

Though, if I really wanted to start totalling my dollars that go toward education, including the property taxes I pay to fund what our local public school system does, we’d be in the thousands...though I am not going there today. (I generally have that number ready for when they start the cries for more taxes to pay for the schools in November.)

We did have a glorious day on the Little Miami River. The leaves on the trees were that green, showing a golden glow that Autum is just around the corner. All the turtles we saw in the early spring were back lazing in the sun on the logs. Several large fish jumped for us and the ducks and herons were all there to celebrate our "Not Back to School" day on the river.

Sunburnt, and tired, we finished our day at "Joe's Crab Shack".

It was a good "Not Back to School" day.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Sometimes you can find the best things right in your own back yard! We spent the summer discovering the local waters in our kayaks and boy do we have some good stuff here in the midwest!

Licking River, Kentucky

The Morgan Family pioneered the canoeing industry in the Southwestern Ohio and Southeastern Indiana regions nearly 50 years Morgan's has 3 locations and we chose the Little Miami for most of our summer adventures. Every Wednesday this summer, until the river got really, really slow, we went to Morgan's Ft. Ancient to paddle six miles. The river is generally a Class I and mellow is just what we wanted each week! They also provide a shuttle service for those with their own boats, and we like that! What's fun about this place is the campground stop. There's a snack bar, good conversation and a frisbee dog that doesn't stop. We like Morgan's because it really is a feel good place. You can tell there is a family pride there as you will encounter many of the Morgan family involved in every aspect, from running the grill at the snack bar to giving paddle lessons in the parking lot to driving the shuttle bus. So far Morgan's Ft. Ancient is our favorite locally. We definitely want to check out Morgan's in Costa Rica, but we'll save that for another day...

Paddlefest - Cincinnati, Ohio

A unique events happens locally in the early part of summer. Last year we attended this event to try out kayaks, this year we were volunteers at Paddlefest. Paddlefest is a huge event where Tevas and Chackos are the footwear of choice and language like "Perception", "Dagger", "good shuttle bunnies" and "Class IV" is spoken. If you paddle, this event is for you. Two days of events, booths, waterhounds and fun. The "float" down the Ohio river to the Public Landing in the city is awesome, almost 1,000 kayaks and canoes in the water floating by River boats and docks hosting a variety of bands playing music for the paddlers. The best part about volunteering aside from meeting other paddlers are the Ohio Riverway water maps you get to keep. Though my back was stiff for a day or two after helping to launch paddlers into the Ohio River for 3 hours, it was one of the best volunteer gigs I ever participated in.

Licking River, Kentucky

Even though we are finding riverways in Ohio to be awesome, Kentucky has some great places too and The Kid and I find ourselves traveling over the Ohio River bridges to the Bluegrass state as often as we head for Ohio water. Once the Little Miami got a little bit lower, we wanted to find moving water, and the Licking River was it. The Licking River is one of the few rivers in the world that flows North and it is right here in our own back yard.The day we were there showed us that it is Class I [where we were] and perfect for a hot July day! Thaxton’s South Fork Canoe Trails, Inc. and Paddlers’ Inn is located on the Northwest side of the US 27 bridge on the banks of the Licking River is where we put in and found shuttle service. Thaxton's is also a family business and you will find family members operating most of the facilities here. Generally The Kid is pretty agile when we have to launch from a dock and that's what you do at Thaxton's, but it was here that I successfully learned how to get into my kayak from the dock without getting wet, and I'll always remember this place for that knowledge. My grand kayak accomplishment for the summer. Now all I need to do is practice what I learned.

Laurel River Lake, Kentucky

We chose to do our big kayak trip for the summer during one of the several midwest heatwaves. Ever slept in a tent with freezer ice packs? Yep. That's what we did, though the water was great! Rockcastle River and Laurel River Lake, both in Daniel Boone National Forest were the places where we spent more time in the water than on it. The Rockcastle River got its name from the majestic cliffs that tower above the river and it is a beautiful place. The Upper Rockcastle is normally suitable for the less experienced paddlers and the Lower Rockcastle should be attempted only by experienced, well-equipped paddlers. I read that Rockcastle can be Class IV, but when we were there seemed like a "pussycat". [links: Nature Conservancy Rockcastle River watershed ] The Rockacastle campground was a very scenic place and camping spots are on a first come basis. Next time we'll probably stay there, but this trip we stayed at Holly Bay campground on the Laurel River. The boat launch was easy, the marina was fun and the scenery was great.

And now it is time for us to get back to schooling but we're planning another sailing trip, so stay tuned......


Rivers are classified based on the International Scale of River Difficulty. Skill level needed is based on both the general fitness and strength of a paddler, plus paddling skill, judgment, and expertise.

SKILL: Beginner, easy.
DESCRIPTION: Moving water with few riffles and small waves. Few or no obstructions.
Intermediate, requires care and some knowledge of paddling and reading of the river. Easy rapids with waves up to 3 feet and wide, clear channels that are obvious without scouting. Some maneuvering is required.
SKILL: Experienced, difficult.
DESCRIPTION: Rapids with high, irregular waves often capable of swamping an open canoe. Narrow passages that often require complex maneuvering. May require scouting from shore.
SKILL: Highly skilled, very difficult.
DESCRIPTION: Long, difficult rapids with constricted passages that often require maneuvering in very turbulent waters. Scouting from shore is often necessary, and conditions make rescue difficult. Generally not possible for open canoes. Boaters in covered canoes and kayaks should be able to Eskimo roll.
SKILL: Team of experts, exceedingly difficult.
DESCRIPTION: Extremely difficult, long, and very violent rapids with highly congested routes which nearly always must be scouted from from shore. Rescue conditions are difficult and there is significant hazard to life in event of a mishap. Ability to Eskimo roll is essential for kayaks and canoes.
SKILL: Team of experts with every precaution. Utmost difficulty, near limit of navigability.
DESCRIPTION: Difficulties of Class V carried to the extreme of navigability. Nearly impossible and very dangerous. For teams of experts only, after close study and all precautions taken.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Traveling the Road of Life: Happy Mothers Day!

Many of my girlfriends have daughters and tell me that it is my job to teach The Kid how to be a good husband...

I guess that could a subject in Life Skills, "Husbanding 101". Being a single mom, my opinions on what a good husband is may be very different, though I do pay close attention to this development in The Kid!

Part of our Mother’s Day Tradition is that The Kid makes mom a pot of coffee, brings in the paper and we have a special “mom outing”. The Kid thought bringing in the paper sounded more like the job of our faithful dog than a teenage son, so this year it was breakfast. I still got to be the mentor to this event. Egg in the Nest , sausage and coffee. There are skills that need to be taught in breaking an egg into a slice of thick French Bread, it is tricky business....

Recently, I went with a new friend to a Jerry Garcia Art show and I thought The Kid might enjoy it as well so I suggested it as our outing. He had remembered that I had gone, so he asked if there was any place else. I suggested the Marvels of Maiolica at the Cincinnati Taft Museum. It’s an Italian Renaissance Ceramics collection, from the Corcoran Gallery. That was not a huge hit, though we’ll still go. The kid thought a day of Italian Pottery and Hippie Art was the perfect thing for mom!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Happy Birthday to The Kid

We celebrate a birthday at our house for a week. Often the celebration includes some sort of trip or a series of outings, often a chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and always some laughs. This week is a birthday week for us.

So far our week has included our annual trip to Amish country for a checkers set. I have an agreement with the Kid that when he can beat his mom at checkers, he’ll be ready to leave home. That agreement can contain a lot of symbolism if you know the rules of checkers. People generally react to the idea of this simple pleasure that it is an easy way for The Kid to stay at home forever, or they’ll say “what if he never beats you”. (Those folks do not understand the true nature of a homeschooler or The Kid!) Our outings in this week of celebration in addition to Amish country include a trip to the Cincinnati Flower show , a golf outing to maybe beat Grandpa this year, a trip to Montgomery Inn for world famous ribs. There will also be Birthday cupcakes from Grandma, hamburgers on the grill and of course, a game of checkers.

Visit our archives to read about a year of our adventures!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Celtic Music, Bockwurst and a Pint of Guinness®

Quite often travel can involve not leaving your own backyard. You can tour the world in your mind through the study of music. Music study doesn’t need to involve the Symphony or Opera, it can involve World Music too. World Music is one of the best ways I know to travel when travel isn’t an option....

Recently I had 2 tickets to see a popular musical group that has been around for 40 years and always sells out when they come to our town. The Chieftains have had 19 grammy nominations and have won six grammys and have collaborated with Jackson Brown, Elvis Costello, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Sinead O’Connor, Emyylou Harris, Ricky Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Earl Scruggs and others I am sure I have missed. Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains were nominated for the 2006 Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Folk Album- Live From Dublin - A Tribute to Derek BellThe thing about this group is that they always surprise you and you don’t need to travel far to see them, especially if they come to your town.

Though The Chieftains still invite you to enjoy the finest Celtic music around, they also invite your mind to venture into listening to sounds and songs from other places in the world. In concert with The Chieftains was The Cottars, a group from Nova Scotia also incredible musicians and capable of some pretty interesting music.

The sounds you hear when you listen World Music inspire you to recall imagery from your own travels. If you are unable to conjour up the imagery yourself, enjoy the poetry of the stories that come with the music. This particular form of World Music has drawn many cultures and age groups together. The Vice Mayor of our town, Jim Tarbell, was on hand to make that observation and to present the key to the town to Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains.

And speaking of our Vice Mayor, as luck of the Irish would have it, I was able to tie the whole evening together for "The Kid". Earlier for dinner we went to Arnold's Bar & Grill, Cincinnati's oldest tavern, was owned by Jim Tarbell from 1976 to 1999. (Owner Ronda Androski bought Arnold’s from Jim Tarbell in 1999 [history].) So that appearance by the Vice Mayor was really perfect for me as I was able to string that Cincinnati history together with the culture of the food we ate.

At Arnold’s we ordered 2 Bockwurst Plates, a pint of Guinness® and a soda. Even though we were going to listen to Celtic Music, but being in a German town and having dinner at Arnold’s the oldest Bar and Grill in town, we naturally ecountered the Springtime tradition of a Bock Festival. Bock is a style of lager beer which originated in Germany. It is traditionally brewed in the fall, at the end of the growing season, when barley and hops are at their peak. It is "lagered" all winter and enjoyed in the spring at the beginning of the new brewing season. Bocks can be pale (helles) or dark (dunkles) and there are double (doppel) bocks which are extra strong. Even though I do appreciate a good Bock, I definately prefer Guinness®, it’s a better dark beer and just the ticket for the evening! Typically eaten with bockbeer is Bockwurst is a german kind of sausages. Bockwurst is one of the most favourite sausages eaten in Germany, but tonight we ate it with Guinness® and Soda in honor of the Celtic culture we were about to absorb.

Our study of Music and the culture of the world continues! We’re thinking about Southern Europe next!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Travelin' Homeschooler Takes a Break

I have an acquaintance who scuba dives. To hear him describe the activity and characters that live beneath the sea is true poetry.

After our trip to the Everglades, we went to Captiva and then on to Key West, a grueling schedule as I am sure you can imagine. Once that leg of our journey was completed, I traveled to see my friend in Grand Cayman. Everyone should travel to the Cayman Islands!

You don’t go to Grand Cayman to see the architecture, the landscape or the tourist attractions. In fact, hurricane Ivan destroyed much of this beautiful Caribbean Island. Grand Cayman, just like much of the British West Indies in the Caribbean, has remarkably recovered from this natural disaster and the original beauty of the island is still apparant and is as vibrant as ever. There is new building going on all over the place, and many of the places that were damaged have been restored. It was difficult for me to imagine what Ivan did. There is a very moving book called “Paradise Interrupted by artist and photographer Courtney Platt that illustrates the devastating effects this hurricane had on Grand Cayman in September, 2004. A good book to choose for visual learning about Mother Nature's power.

You go to Grand Cayman to explore a world that most people forget exists on our planet. That world is the one that only Neptune himself and those crazy people who don scuba gear and jump out of boats into the dark and mysterious sea below know. I am not a diver, but the folks I spent 4 days with were as fanatical about diving as I am about travel. Yes, the Travelin' Homeschooler enjoyed 2 days reading on the beach while these crazy folks explored places called “Babylon”, “Snapper Hole” and “The Maze”. According to my host who has been diving for many years, the best place to go diving in the Caymans is in the East End out of a place called “Ocean Frontiers“ Situated in a pretty cool resort area called "Compass Point Dive Resort" . Compass Point is a place for divers, comfortable, beautiful, right on the beach, in view of the reef. Away from the busy Seven Mile Beach and the tourists there, Compass Point and the folks at Ocean Frontiers will take care of the travelers in our homeschooling community. This place is truly a place to learn; where, if you are brave - you can learn about reef life by diving, by snorkeling or by simply swimming off the beach at Compass Point. My friend took me snorkeling each day I was there and it was truly a memory I will have forever. The first day the reef revealed amazing residents. [You can check out photos of some of the colorful reef residents at the photo gallery at the Ocean Frontiers website.] The second day the reef residents were out entertaining the divers and I got to take in the beauty of the colors of the coral. There were so many colors that you wouldn't ever imagine existed under the water. It was the most beautiful natural wonder I have ever seen - so far!

Grand Cayman is also a place where there is some pretty good food if you are so inclined to indulge in local cuisine. Portofinos, a favorite of my host, offered pretty incredible Italian food and a decent wine list. The Lighthouse Restaurant at Breakers in Grand Cayman also offered a pretty amazing menu. They even had grappa on the menu! One place I wanted to visit and hope to go the next time is Vivine's Kitchen, a place for local cuisine, is located only 500 yards East of Ocean Frontiers at Compass Point.

For more dive information contact [Ocean Frontiers]. For information about staying on the beach near the reef contact[Compass Point Dive Resort].

Beef Jerky, Hells Bay and the River of Grass

"Everglades has no single feature, no prominent point of interest now or ever. It is a mosaic of many things seen, smelled, heard and endured."

Daniel Beard - first superintendent of Everglades National Park

You start out in a midwest snowstorm and end up in Florida packing nothing but beef jerky, cut-offs, sunscreen, red and yellow kayaks. Travel is great when you do it this way. Homeschooling on the road. Beef jerky at it’s finest, "Catcher in the Rye" for reading and the thoughts of a new adventure.

A drive on the single road through Everglades National Park does not reveal the beauty and magic you can find there. We spent 2 days kayaking in this amazing place and left feeling like we explored only a very small bit of this river of grass.

The Everglades offer some pretty good kayaking spots like “Hells Bay” , “Noble Hammock”, “Nine Mile Loop”, “Mud Lake Loop”, “Bear Lake Canal”, “West Lake”. All come with the caution: “Tides and winds can significantly affect your trip. Do Not overestimate your abilities”. They ought to add “Don’t worry about the alligators - they don’t bite.”

The Native Americans named this place “The River of Grass”. We chose three trails, Hells Bay was one of tightly woven mangroves, West Lake was rough and wavey and a lot of “Need for Speed” fun, but the Nine Mile Loop is where you understand why the original inhabitants named this place the “River of Grass”. The description for this trail reads: “A scenic trail through a shallow sawgrass marsh with scattered islands of mangroves. Watch for alligators, wading birds, and an occasional eagle. Trail marked with numbered white poles. Motors prohibited.” It’s 5.2 miles and takes roughtly 5 1/2 hours to paddle - leisurely. There are 116 trail markers to be exact and it is one of the neatest paddles we have done yet.

Florida Everglades Information