It’s time to THINK BIG!

Hey Kids!

Here we are THINKING BIG!

Here we are THINKING BIG!


Great news!  Our homeschooling group is officially underway.  August 13th marked our first official homeschooling gathering, a book club meeting to discuss You Have A Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.  by Dr. Ben Carson, a 2016 Presidential contender.  Seven students who are continuing in traditional schools, our four homeschooling students, and three parents met at my home, the site of our summer book clubs for a number of years.


After spending a few minutes engaged in “How was summer?” chat, we passed around this cool rock.


Do you know what kind of rock this is?

Everyone who read You Have A Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K.  B.I.G. identified it as an obsidian rock.  This common rock had a profound influence on the life of Dr. Ben Carson.  (You’ll have to read the book yourself, or watch the movie Gifted Hands to find out how.)  We watched a short clip from the film to remind us of the turnaround in Dr. Carson’s life once he started reading two books a week, per his mother’s direction.  Inspired by the movie’s snippets of the G.E. College Bowl, one of the two television programs Ben watched growing up, we discussed the book as we played Jeopardy, a modern day quiz show, with questions from T.H.I.N.K.  B.I.G.  

Jeopardy at home.

Jeopardy at home.

Our categories were: Childhood, The Teen Years, Neurology, Life Now, and Think Big.  Here are a few questions our contestants answered:

What is Dr. Carson’s middle name?  (We had lots of discussion after this on what proved to be a very appropriate name for Ben Carson.  God’s hand at work.)

What class did Ben nearly fail in college?

What book does Dr. Carson quote heavily from in T.H.I.N.K.  B.I.G.?

In what country is the Benjamin S. Carson School of Medicine?

What does the B stand for in T.H.I.N.K.  B.I.G.?

Have you ever watched the G.E. College Bowl?  See if you can answer any of the questions.  These college kids sure are smart!  (The only one I got was the Friar Laurence question.)

After Jeopardy, and following in Ben’s footsteps as a middle schooler, we had a short spelling bee using words from the book.   The words were tough!  Hence, the brevity of our bee.  Here are a few of the words we tackled: charlatan, omniscient, retrospect, magnitude, and perpetuate.

All this mental activity made us hungry, so we had lunch, some of us continuing to talk about Dr. Carson, his accomplishments, and the first Presidential debate.  When we finished fortifying ourselves, we discussed ways that we can THINK BIG.   We decided to host a community yard sale, complete with lemonade stand, and to donate our proceeds to Heifer, International.  We read through the Heifer, International catalog, deciding what we could buy to help families in need of assistance.  Some of our ideas are: a llama ($150), bees ($30), and baby chicks ($20).

Would you like to join our book club?  If so,  read Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick by September 26th and then log onto Off the Grid to join the discussion!

You can also join our discussion of You Have A Brain by commenting on this post.  As you know, Dr. Carson is running for President.  What criteria do you think are important for our President to have?  Who would you like to see as our next President?  What do you like about this person?

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Summer Reading 2015

A cup of tea, a summer morning, a long awaited is good.

A cup of tea, a summer morning, a long awaited book….life is good.

Well, hot diggity dog, kids!  Summer is here!  YAHOO!  

And you know what that means, right?  Time for……..READING!  YAY!  Happy dance!  If you’re anything like me, you love summer because it is a season when we are able to do everything we love but have been putting off until we have time.  In June, July, and for some of August, we have the luxury of time.  Time to rest, time to exercise, time to spend with family and friends, time to vacation or to staycation, and time to READ!

Whoop, whoop!

What books are you planning to read this summer?   My list includes:


House of the Red Fish, (the sequel to Under the Blood Red Sun) by Graham Salisbury

(Remember our Skype visit, kids?  Also think about Eyes of the Emperor and House of the Bamboo Rat)


A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, 1599, by James Shapiro

a year in the life of william shakespeare

Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, by Lee Cockerell

creating magic

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd


Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury


and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Life of Pi

If you need help finding a good book, try DOGObooks Summer Reading list and program.  Kids write all the reviews on DOGObooks; this year 78 books made the summer reading list,  and 76 books are offered as prizes for those who participate in the program.  Now is the time to find a good book, immerse yourself in another time and place, and then start a conversation by writing about your book adventure here.

Let the adventures begin!

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Georgia on My Mind

Stone Mountain, Georgia Generals Lee and Jackson, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Stone Mountain, Georgia
Generals Lee and Jackson, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Hey Kids,

On our last day in Atlanta, we visited Stone Mountain, a place intriguing for its geology, history, and entertainment.  Aside from hiking to the top of the mountain, we tried a ropes course and rock climbing, visited an antebellum village, took a train ride, played miniature golf, saw a 4-D movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and watched a laser/fireworks show.  It was a busy and fun day.

One of the first books we’ll read when school resumes next month (aaaggghhhh!), is The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.  Written by Newbery Award winning author Rodman Philbrick, this historical fiction takes us on a journey from Maine to Pennsylvania during the Civil War.  As evidenced in its carving, Stone Mountain takes a look at the Civil War and its effects on the South.  It’s interesting for a Yankee like me to see the War Between the States from a different perspective.  While I was there, I also began reading one of my favorite books, Gone With the Wind.  

DSCN1926These two photos depict the inside and outside of a typical slave home prior to the Civil War.  They reminded me of the homes Elijah’s parents would have grown up in.  For those who have read Elijah of Buxton,what differences do you notice between the houses in Buxton and these houses in Georgia?


We had a great day at Stone Mountain and in Atlanta.  We also visited the Coke Museum, the Georgia Aquarium, the Etowah Archeological Site, Centennial Park, and lots of baseball fields while we were in the Peach State.

Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain, Georgia

What are you doing on your summer vacation?




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Summer Reading!

Relaxation, Recreation,  and Reading!

What are you reading this summer?  

On our first day of vacation, I drove with my family to Books-A-Million to meet author, neurosurgeon, and potential presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson.  Much to my joy, four of my students were also at the book store on the first day of their summer vacations for the same reason I was; they came to meet Dr. Carson and get his book.  We had watched Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story in class this past week in 6th grade and at Christmas time in 7th grade.  I was so impressed that my students went home talking about the movie with their parents and that together they decided to meet Ben Carson in person.  When their parents had asked, “What did you do in school today?”  the kids answered, “We watched a great movie about Dr. Ben Carson.”  Good job, kids!  

Outside Books-A-Million with the Ben Carson tour bus

Outside Books-A-Million with the Ben Carson tour bus


Ben Carson's summer book tour

Ben Carson’s summer book tour

My students also used this time to buy some of their summer reading books; at least one of them walked out of the store with Avi’s Nothing But the Truth, a documentary novel.

I’m planning to read A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro this summer.  Usually I am consumed with middle school fare, so I am looking forward to reading this adult book.  I also have Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell on my nightstand.  Dr. Carson’s One Nation has made it to my list also, so I am ready to read for the next few weeks.  

What are you reading this summer?  

How do you read your books:  ebook?  paper copy?  library?  own?  

Where do you read:  beach?  bed?  bus?  favorite chair?  

Leave a review as a comment.  All my students get extra credit as part of their summer reading for a well-written review.  We’d love to get new ideas for great books!  You can visit my Shelfari page, too, to see some of my favorites.  

Happy reading!

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Tot gauw

We love Mrs. Etz!

We love Mrs. Etz!

Our beloved middle school math teacher is leaving us tomorrow.  For the past two years Mrs. Etz has taught our middle schoolers algebra and geometry with aplomb.  She has enticed them to solve equations, find the circumference, and follow PEMDAS through MobyMath, Math Counts, Math Tutoring, Math Class, and Carlene’s Cookies.  Her energy and patience know no bounds.  She is strict and kind, humble and inspiring, humorous and serious, loving and loved.  No one will ever fill her shoes.  Because we cannot bear to say “doeg”, we will say, “vaarwel” and “tot gauw”.   God bless you on your journey, Mrs. Etz.  We love you.

What is your favorite memory with Mrs. Etz?

last day of school 2014 017

Thank you, Mrs. Etz!

Thank you, Mrs. Etz!

last day of school 2014 004

last day of school 2014 010

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Hey Kids!

Look what I got in the mail!

The first postcards of summer!

The first postcards of summer!

It’s great to see you out in the world, learning new things and having fun.  Next week we are off to Cooperstown, and Teddy may come with us, so look for a post from him on his blog.  Also, check out the Under the Blood Red Sun Facebook page (with your parent’s permission).  You’ll find some photos of our Literary Tea Party!  Very neat.   

Keep up with your own blogs this summer.  Remember extra credit!  I’ve enjoyed reading the posts of those of you who have been writing the last couple of weeks.  Visit each other, and remember that some of our blogging buddies, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere, are still in school, so continue to keep in touch with them, too.

See you soon!


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Visiting Bear Country


Narcoossee Community Middle School:
Home of the Bears

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a field trip to Narcoossee Community Middle School as part of the Blue Ribbon Conference.  It is a place full of enthusiastic, dedicated teachers and respectful, engaged students, a place anyone would be happy to teach and to learn.  I came away with a renewed sense of energy and passion for teaching after visiting with the students, teachers, and administration at Narcoossee.  Thank you especially to our wonderful teacher/tour guide, Mr. Brian Joseph, the media specialist, and to Antonio, 8th grade student extraordinaire.

Come with me to visit Narcoossee in photos and see what makes this school so special.  Then tell us:

What makes your school world class? 


Mr. Allen, the principal at Narcoossee, is clearly well-liked and well-respected by his faculty and his students. He set a goal to have the first middle school in Osceola County with a score of 600 and exceeded his goal! NMS is in the top 25% of all middle schools in Florida. What goals does your principal have?



A sandhill crane ate lunch as the students walked a half mile around their track as part of their health class. Do you have unusual wildlife at your school?











This is Antonio’s Spanish homework. We also visited a t.v. production class, career skills and AVID. The orchestra and band played “Hiawatha” and “In Excelsius Deo” for us. They were GREAT! What electives does your school have?







The 8th graders are reading Night by Elie Weisel and wrote poetry of the Holocaust on butterfles hanging in their classroom. Each butterfly symbolizes a person who died in the concentration camps. What unique, meaningful lessons have you done in your school?



This poster hangs in the front of Mrs. Dennis’ AVID class. Do any of your teachers use thought provoking messages? Do you know what AVID is?









Narcoossee Middle School has a beautiful campus. 1200 kids pass quietly on the outdoor hallways between classes. They also have frisbee golf and an eagle’s nest on their campus! What makes your campus unique?

These are my esteemed colleagues, Mrs. Brennan and Mrs. Gunther, along with our guide, Mr. Joseph. Who are your world class teachers?

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A Day Down Yonder

After reading Richard Peck’s Newbery winner, A Year Down Yonder, the Odyssey students visited Manatee Historic Village, a small, early 20th century town reminiscent of the novel’s setting.  We imagined ourselves arriving on the train with Mary Alice to live with her Grandma Dowdel for a year.   As we walked through the farmhouse and barn, by the privy, into the one-room school house and the church, and browsed in the general store, we imagined Grandma Dowdel pouring glue on Augie’s head, ramming Old Man Nyquist’s pecan tree with the tractor, letting Mildred Burdick’s horse loose, and serving burgoo at the Armistice Day turkey shoot.

What is your best memory of time spent with your Grandma?


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Nearing 100 visitors!

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Hey Kids and all,

We are nearing a milestone of 100 visitors on our blog!  YAHOO!  Check out our map.  We have had visitors from California to Florida to Maine!  We also have had visitors and comments from Canada to Uganda to New Zealand to Australia!  We have already been seen in three continents!!  Imagine that.  When we return to school, we will be ready to network with classrooms from around the world.

I have also added a subscribe button to our blog.  Anyone who adds his or her email address will receive a notice when we update our blog.  Pretty cool, eh?

And check this out:  I have learned how to add a Google Map to our posts.  Here is a map of Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand where Mr. Webb has a class we will meet in August.  Click on the little “x” in the right hand corner to change the map from a photo to a world map.  You can even zoom in and out to your heart’s content!  Wicked awesome!

I am SO EXCITED!!!!!  We are going to have the best school year ever!

Where in the world do you hope our blog takes us?  Why would you like to go there?




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Learning about Web 2.0

Hey Kids!  Hope everyone is having a great summer!  I am learning a lot about Web 2.0 and want to share this neat Prezi I found today.   I also want to encourage everyone who visits our blog to join in our conversation!

As you can see, I am spending some time this summer learning about technology in the classroom.  What are you doing this summer?

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