Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving break is finally here. Despite writing last about how close Thanksgiving seemed, while wading through my schoolwork it seemed that it would never actually come. I had an intensely busy pre-break week, filled with two tests, three papers, two nights of substitute ballet teaching, and two afternoons of babysitting.   After the constant time management and studying, it’s hard for my brain to have it all come to an end and not need to do anything. None of my teachers assigned any homework over the 5-day holiday (I love it when teachers treat a break as an actual break. So many love to give large projects or tests for us to study while we’re away), so  I really have nothing school related to do.

Luckily, there is plenty to do at home, the foremost thing being cooking for our Thanksgiving meal. I used to cook so much before I was a college student, that during the school year I really have the urge to bake and bake and bake as soon as I have a chance. It’s a good thing there’s so many mouths around to help me eat up all the treats!

Moving Along

Time is surely marching on, and the end of the semester is only about four weeks away. Homework, college activities, and work keep time moving quickly. I don’t think anything makes the days fly past as a test date that seems oh-so-distant, and then is suddenly tomorrow. I’m unable to believe that Thanksgiving break is the week after next. Today the first snowfall fell, (5 inches!) so maybe the world’s new white wardrobe will help convince me that the end of the semester is almost here.


Yesterday was my first day of school, so I’m working on readjusting to the rigors of college homework. This is a little bit of a shock, since my family just arrived home last weekend from spending two weeks on vacation in California (pictures coming soon). The weather is taking a sharp turn also, towards decidedly cooler temperatures. Autumn is approaching faster than I expected it.

(My) College Survival Tips

The Fourth of July was the first time I heard someone say, “Summer’s almost over,” and I thought it was too soon. But now it is almost August, and even though I don’t go back to school till September, some people will be having school start up in just a few weeks. So maybe summer is wrapping up, or summer vacation at least. For those who will be beginning college, I thought it might be good idea to share a few things that worked for me last year.

1. Don’t get hooked on one way of doing things

This lesson was the first I had to learn. I went to school with many ideas about how I would do things, but I had to throw them by the wayside after a few weeks. I tried to use a paper planner, for example, to keep track of due dates and events. It was a nice color with pretty paper on the inside,  and I liked having a real handleable copy of my schedule. After a month, however, I finally admitted to myself that I was much better at using an electronic calendar on my computer. In addition, classes can be very different from each other. I don’t think there have been two classes that have needed the same study strategies.

2. Figure out when reading is important

I feel a little guilty for even saying this, but: I found that sometimes you don’t need to do the assigned reading. Don’t misunderstand me- in many classes reading is crucial, but if a class covers everything on the test in class, reading the text can just be redundant and time consuming. Other times, I found it worked out not to do the reading before class, but after class as a review. This was especially helpful when the text goes deeper into the topic than the class does (like my anatomy book), and I usually ended up being confused if I read it first.

3. Read the directions. Follow the directions. Double check if the directions were followed correctly.

A lot of the time I had points marked off on assignments, especially writing ones, it was because I had missed a small detail on the instructions, or didn’t follow them in a way that it was easy for the grader to notice.  I found I needed to restate their question exactly with my answer. If the assignment said “Tell me your thoughts on X” my writing would have to read “My thoughts on X are ____.”  I don’t usually like writing a sentence like this using such a formulaic, fill in the blank type response, but if I didn’t, I often didn’t get credit for it.  It helped to remember that the teacher was grading fifty other papers besides mine, and needed to have an easy way to see that I read and followed the directions.

4. If you have to learn it, someone else did too-

-and they probably left you resources to help out! A friend introduced me to the site Quizlet, where you can make your own flash cards, and also use flash cards that others have made. I used cards I found there to memorize the twenty essential amino acid structures in biochemistry, and it helped me out a lot. I also found helpful phrases for memorizing lists of things online. For example, we needed to know the names of the twelve cranial nerves in anatomy: olfactory, optic, occulomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, vestibulocochlear, glossopharyngeal, vagus, accessory, and hypoglossal.  Those long words would have been impossible to keep in order without the mnemonic: Oh, once one takes the anatomy final, very good vacations are heavenly!

5. Highlight!

This is something else I didn’t figure out till the last month of college. Some students highlight in their textbooks, but I found it more useful to highlight and annotate my own notes. I shaved off some study time with this method, and I am definitely stocking up on multi-colored highlighters this year.

6.  10 minutes of study the same day of class is worth twenty minutes three weeks later.

This one was REALLY important for me, and again, I didn’t figure it out until the last month of school. Once I got in the habit of reviewing my notes the evening after class, the amount of time I had to study went down by at almost half!

7. Read through notes creatively-never the same way twice.

Skimming notes blankly without interacting with the text is a waste of time. I saved so much effort by reading through notes first as they were written, recalling the professor’s words as I went. Then I would read through them backward, trying to remember the point that came before the section I was reading. Then, I would summarize each section and important points as I read through them a final time, adding bullet points and underlining as I went.

8. Study on weekends-briefly but consistently.

Not many students want to hear this, but isn’t an hour of work on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday better than four hours cramming Sunday night?

Funniest Homeschool Moments in College

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to hide it, the world reminds you that your homeschool is showing. Here’s a short list of my moments, ranging from embarrassing to entertaining.

  • The day I didn’t know the universal signal for fist bump.
  • The third day I didn’t write my name on my assignment.
  • Being singled out by the teacher as the only one ever smiling-because it’s such a new experience going to school in an actual classroom.
  • Getting the stink face from another student when you change locations on different days of the week. Apparently the unwritten rule is that the chair you sit in the first day of class is yours. 


I’m done. The first year is over, and I’m one quarter of the way through with college. Having been homeschooled, this is the first time I have ever known the excitement of getting off for the summer and having the sudden freedom it brings. School finished late in the day, leaving me exhausted and lacking motivation for other things I enjoy (like knitting, cooking, and blogging, as you probably have noticed).

But I’m still keeping busy, and just got a job as a nurse assistant. I’m working on getting through all of the training I need, and everyday, my head is nearly exploding with all of the new information I’m learning there, but I am starting to get a little more used to it. After three days out on the floor shadowing someone, I know I’m going to get a lot of good experience to prepare me for the rest of nursing school.


Through a Microscope

I’m back in the thick of the college semester. After a long Christmas break and easy month of interim classes, my mornings now begin at 6:30 AM. Most of my reading comes from a large anatomy textbook, and I’m working on learning to identify structures like this on a microscope slide:

Cells that line the inside of organs, called stratified squamous epithelial cells:

stratified squamous epithelium-1

Bone cells:6


My college has an interim course that only lasts three weeks in between Christmas break and the new semester. My class is really easy, so it has been rather like an extension of the break. It is really nice before the whirlwind of classes begins again in February. I will be starting biochemistry/organic chemistry, latin, anatomy, religion, and choir.

The cold snap at the beginning of the month broke and we had some temperatures above and around freezing before getting really cold again.  I am in awe of the chickens who are able to take such cold temperatures! We did give them a heat lamp on the night that was going to be -20 to -25, but they took the rest of the frigid weather in stride and still give us around 4-5 eggs a day from eight chickens. They are really big homebodies this winter, and don’t like to go outside the coop unless the temperature is pretty warm.

I am teaching three ballet classes this year, and they are going really well. This year teaching ballet feels a lot more natural. Around this time last year I was just starting to feel the rhythm of the balance between fun, discipline, and learning, but this year it didn’t take nearly as long to get used to it.  Around this time of year we start preparations for both ballet exams and the spring recital. I really enjoy picking out the recital music, costumes, and choreographing the dances. I have a new source for new pieces of music to use for my classes-the Augustana College Symphony. I heard them playing Danse Macabre at the fall concert in October, and the string-led theme was so beautiful I knew instantly I was using it for a ballet class.

January is moving by fast, and I’m trying to resist thinking about little green seedlings. There’s still a lot of winter to go.  In the meantime, the other kids and I have been making the most of it by going ice skating at an outdoor rink nearby. This has been a lot of fun, and I hope to go several more times before it gets too warm.

Three and a Half Big, Full, Months

Despite (or perhaps causing) the way the semester flew by, I have never conquered so many experiences in so little time. New events seem to come one after another!

I got my first car back in October, which has been really nice, but it is also the first time I have driven such a light vehicle. Winter has already thrown a fair amount of precipitation here, and I have had to learn what I can and can not do in the snow. For example, if we get a couple inches and the snow plows go by, my car will get stuck in the pile of snow they leave at the end of the driveway! Also, if there’s a couple inches of snow on the road at rush hour in the morning, the typical 10 minute drive to college takes 45 minutes.

December 8 found me riding on a tour bus for the first time with the rest of the Augustana Choir, and we sang in Rapid City and then came back in the same day. Fortunately, my first class was at 11 am because we arrived home at 4:30 in the morning!

I have now lived through finals, though it definitely was a lot different for me than some of my fellow students. Not only did only 3 of my 5 classes have a cumulative exam, but since I was good at keeping up on my assignments for the rest of the year I didn’t have to worry too much about my final score. So, I actually had a  pretty relaxing finals week. However, I am slightly concerned that I might be missing out on the Full College Experience, since I never pulled an all-nighter and lived on coffee the next day. In fact, the latest I ever stayed up doing homework was midnight. I hear other students talking about being up to 2 or 3 am.

I shadowed a nurse at the hospital for the first time yesterday morning. It was a very interesting experience, and helped me get a much better idea of what my job will actually look like when I graduate. I got a good look at how many facets there are to the job, which involves both medical knowledge and interaction with many different sorts of people.

Now the year is nearly over, and I am sure that the next semester will bring a whole new set of exciting experiences! I am slightly torn between enjoying my break, and excitement for the next year to begin.

Winding Down

Except for a few final exams, the semester is finished. Where did it go? Having my days full of one scheduled class or activity after another really made me lose my sense of time-I have never known it to move so quickly. I glanced at my calendar yesterday and counted the days to Christmas with disbelief. Isn’t it still November?

But now I can sit down and take a deep breath.  After Thursday morning, I won’t have to think about another school assignment till January.  I will be able to pull out my kindle and read again, knit again, bake again, blog again. I am looking forward to a few weeks of stillness after the whirlwind of the semester.

In Which I Heave a Sigh of Relief

Whew!!!! I just made it through my first set of midterm tests. Finally, I can breathe!

Lots has happened in the last few weeks. I have finally gotten the swing of college time management. The two commandments: Thou Shalt Study Hard on Weekends if Thou Wanteth to Survive, and Thou Shalt Not Ever Fall Behind in the Reading.

The biggest difference that I have had to adjust to in college is that homeschool can maneuver around life events. If I catch a cold and don’t feel well, I still have to make sure to do homework and attend class. Johnathan had his appendix removed ten days ago, and
I spent a night in the hospital with him. I didn’t get all of my reading done that day, and it took me several hours each evening for the next four days to just catch up.

Life is moving fast at home as well. It seems to race by now that I am not around for a good chunk of the day, and I end up missing out on major happenings around the house. I glanced in the small aquarium where we keep our two little frogs one evening. “Oh!” I cried. “One is missing!”

“Oh, yes, didn’t you know?” Mom said. “He died about two weeks ago.”

Clare is making great strides in her skills. She is sitting up almost perfectly for long stretches of time and pushes herself up onto her hands and knees. She hasn’t crawled forward yet, but she can really move backwards.

Dominic is going through the language explosion, and frequently surprises me with his vocabulary. Because I haven’t been around as much to hear him speaking, it catches me off guard when he says something that sounds like it came out of a three year old. He also knows his colors and almost all of the letters and their sounds, thanks to a Leap Frog movie.

College Update

I have been a college student for an entire three weeks now. (Wow!) School is great, and I enjoy walking amidst the large buildings on campus. It is a really nice place, too, with beautiful trees everywhere and nice brick buildings. I am just getting to the point were I recognize quite a few of the people I see when I’m walking around outside of classes, and I’m getting to know a few of the other freshman students, especially the other members of the choir.

I had to audition to see if I could make one of the three choirs on campus, and found out my official singing category when the choir director told me I have the range of a low soprano. I was placed in the women’s choir, and it’s truly an amazing experience to sing in such a large group. I was amazed at the beautiful sounds we produce as even as we warm up our voices.

Classes are going fairly well, though I’m still trying to figure out how much study time I need to put into each one. I really like my teachers, who are very approachable and willing to help if you have questions.

Of course, there has been a few difficulties in transitioning from a home environment, and since I promised I would show the world exactly what happens when a poor, unsocialized homeschooler finds themselves in college, I must be honest and tell all of the challenges I have had to face in the last three weeks:


The Backpack

I have never had to carry more than one book at a time in my backpack, so it has taken me a while to get used to carry it loaded with three thick textbooks and several notebooks. I have improved my back stamina a lot since the first day of classes, when I thought I was going to die from the load before I’d crossed half the campus!


The Drinking Fountains

Since I have been living within a 15 seconds of a glass of water my entire life, I have never had to learn how to drink from a fountain without dripping all over my face and clothing. This challenge took about two weeks to overcome.


The Language Barrier

I have found that students who came from a school environment have a language of their own. Last week, I got up the gumption to answer a question Chemistry, and a girl next to me raised her fist in my direction. Maybe she had wished she had given the answer? Not knowing what she expected me to do, I just smiled at her sheepishly.  The girl lifted her other fist and demonstrated (with some exasperation) that she expected me to bump her fist with mine.


Stay tuned, as I’m hoping to devote a whole post to the socialization myth as soon as I have time!