Monday, February 28, 2011


The group seated around the table after Sunday dinner included five teachers, so it wasn't surprising that our conversation turned eventually to education. One of the things I learned during that discussion surprised me. Definitely not an info-bit to be filed under "rocket science" - but, in this age of higher education and specialists and professional expertise, it seem a bit idiosyncratic. First, a little background...

I am a homeschool mom. Anyone in this business is familiar with the ongoing debate about the qualification of parents to teach their children. If we are not professional teachers, with college degrees and state certifications to validate us, do we really have the knowledge and training necessary to educate the next generation?

Not many folks will argue that a parent possessing at least a high school diploma lacks the intelligence to teach a pre-schooler her numbers, colors, and alphabet. However, lots of folks will insist that for higher grades - particularly junior and senior high - teachers must have college training. After all, not every Joe off the street has the mastery of trigonometry, chemistry, or world history necessary to adequately train high school students. Right?

Here is where my surprise comes in. The party at the table that day included one elementary school teacher and four high school teachers. Their college degrees? All but one had degrees in education. The Biology I and Anatomy teacher? Nope, her degree was not in Biology, nor any other kind of life science. It was in education. The technology and communication teacher? B.S. in Education.

Now, this shouldn't really come as a surprise to me at all. My high school Biology teacher was a football coach with a degree in physical education. Same for my high school history teacher. Were they experts in the subjects they taught? Absolutely not. But they were certified.

When I attended UT Knoxville a bazillion years ago, pursuing a degree in education with an emphasis in human ecology, my dean explained that upon completing my education degree, I could also receive certification to teach algebra, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, physics, and biology. Why? Because, while pursuing a different degree, I had completed two years of college math, two of chemistry, two of physics, and one of biology. Had I mastered those subjects? No way! But the dean was confident that I knew enough about them to teach high school students.

Do I still remember the things I learned way back in Calculus 3? No. In Organic Chemistry? No. Am I qualified to teach high school students? With some excellent resources in hand and the right motivation, absolutely.

The issue doesn't seem to be "Does the teacher possess mastery of the subject?" Rather, it is "Does the teacher have the training and the ability to teach?" My brief experience in the education department at UT taught me that "education" is not very much about reading, writing, and arithmetic; it is quite often about learning styles, lesson plans, and churning out paperwork for state and federal records.

And this is where it gets a little weird for us homeschoolers. By the time a homeschool parent has a student ready to enter high school, she has 8+ years of lesson plans, grade reports, and teaching experience behind her. Whether she knows the current technical jargon or not, this mom knows Johnny's learning style and adjusts her teaching style accordingly. What about quality textbooks, laboratory equipment, math manipulatives, etc.? Text book publishers and producers of school supplies made their products and services available to the homeschool community a long, long time ago.

A state-certified high school teacher and a homeschool mom without a college degree - we found we had some things in common that Sunday. We are both experienced, capable teachers. And, yes, despite weaknesses in our own educational backgrounds, we are both adequate for teaching the subjects at hand.

But we found we had some significant differences, too. Jane spends a disproportionate part of her class time dealing with behavior and discipline problems, with no real recourse to address them adequately. Bob admits that, when faced with a student who simply will not do the work necessary for his class, it is a relief to be able to just barely "pass" them at the end of the term and get them out of his classroom for good. He genuinely cares for most of his students, but lacks the time or resources to constructively engage the particularly lazy or difficult ones.

Me - I have to live with my students. And they have to live with me. Like it or not, we simply must work out some of these behavior issues, motivation problems, and mental challenges to learning. No bell rings at 3:00 to tell us we're free from this educational journey. And unless they're headed to university next fall, they'll all be back in my class next year.

My brain is still processing a few other education-related thoughts, so there will probably be more blogs on this topic before the week is out. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts, too!

Friday, February 25, 2011


One of the wonderful things about being a homeschool mom - really, about being a parent, homeschool or not - is that you learn SO MUCH from your kids. Just last night, I learned who Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is...and I learned the name of his dad. Not that I'll recognize Mr. Earnhardt's face next time I see it on a TV commercial. But let's just say we had some good laughs over that little session of Mom's education in celebrity identification!

Driving Nate back and forth to UTM for classes during his junior year of highschool, I was introduced to country music. "Who is this artist?" "Is this the same group who sings....?" "I don't understand the lyrics - what are they saying?" Nate was a patient teacher: I don't remember him even once saying, "Could you quit asking so many questions and just listen to the music already?!" Today, not only do I know who they are, but I can also unashamedly profess that I do indeed enjoy music by Zach Brown, Easton Corbin, and Rascal Flatts. And how could I dislike anything sung by a guy with a name as cool as Darius Rucker?

This semester, I'm riding back and forth to UTM with Tom. Thus begins another phase of Mom's education. This term - rock-&-roll. Okay, I'm already familiar with old acts like Bob Seger, Santana, and 38 Special. But now, I'm becoming acquainted with even older rockers, like Tommy Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. I can also tell you which Christina Perry song I like and which Shine Down tune plays most frequently this week.

Just as we pulled up to the house yesterday afternoon, a particularly significant song came on the radio. "This is one of the most awesome songs ever!" Tom enthused, cranking up the volume.

Okay, the instrumentals were pretty amazing. But the vocals? "What are they saying?" I asked. "All I can make out is 'HEY, HEY, HEEEYYY, HEY.....'" These guys sounded like they needed a dose of herbal tea and a vocal vacation - just listening to them made me feel like I needed a throat lozenge myself.

"Mom, this is AC/DC. They're saying, 'Back in black...'"

They weren't saying anything. They were screaming. With bleeding vocal cords. Sounded more like a gacking cat to me. Skip the AC/DC...I'd rather have ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" any day of the week.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


"Camille, I need to meet with you for a minute to discuss a problem I'm having in class with your son...."

"Mrs. Kendall, we need to reschedule dental appointments for A---, B---, and C---...."

"Hey, Camille, got a second? I think there's something you need to address with D---..."

"I've got a 2:00 appointment next Thursday. Can you have A--- here then?"

"Have you talked to B--- about working for me next week?"

"You'll need to make lodging arrangements for your kids..."

"Please have your children at the parking lot to meet the bus by 4:00..."

"I have a project that I'd like C--- and D--- to help me with. Can you bring them by my house one afternoon next week?"

I know it's part of the Mom job. But still, when I'm feeling particularly tired or stressed, I can't help but wonder, "Why don't you go talk to their Dad?"

Monday, February 14, 2011


I'm always a little freaked out at the beginning of a new school year. When I look at all the material we need to cover, consider outside commitments, and try to schedule lessons for the year ahead, I usually feel a bit overwhelmed. "How on earth are we going to get everything done?!"

Invariably, we start with Day 1, move onto Day 2, Day 3, Day 4..... Almost without realizing it, we find we've fallen into a routine and a rhythm that has us clicking off assignments, piano lessons, and church activities with relative ease. Full days, yes. Focused concentration, yes. But, lo-and-behold, we reach Christmas holidays and discover we are half-way through the textbooks and have indeed completed a full semester of schoolwork!

So the beginning of spring semester shouldn't be stressful. I mean, I already have half a year of steady schooling behind me. Just keep chugging and before you know it, we'll be at the back cover of the math book and it will be time for summer vacation...right? Wrong. Isn't it funny (not!) how life throws us curve balls, surprises, "complications" that completely fumble our routine.

Last fall, we added keeping a baby two half-days a week to our school demands. Great opportunity for the teens to develop some useful life skills while helping me help out a friend. Worked out fine. This spring, baby's momma is student teaching - which means we now have baby three l-o-n-g days each week. And baby is no longer sleeping the long naps of a newborn. And she's getting mobile. And she's learning to "talk" - and she's LOUD!

Last fall, we had piano lessons on Thursday afternoons. This spring, T.W. has a class on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays - class time and commute knock about 3 hours out of our at-home school day each session. Tuesdays and Thursdays, we also have weekly doctor appointments. And piano lessons. And, if we're not too wiped out by 7:00 pm, a jam session at the Music Rodeo for the little fiddler. Wednesdays, church. Fridays, American Sign Language. Woodmen dinners, dentist appointments, knee surgery and followup, flu days, snow days, crash days...

All this to say, spring semester has NOT settled into that regular, focused, productive rhythm necessary for completing our schoolwork. Six weeks into the term, we've struggled to develop some kind of a manageable schedule while falling steadily further and further behind. I can't keep up with it all. Neither can I replicate or clone myself. I feel like I hit a trip wire at an all out run.

The calendar for tomorrow is black with ink. 8:00 - 3 kids to dentist. 11:00 - one kid to UT Martin. 1:40 - one kid to orthopedist. 2:00 - one kid to counselor. Dinner, chores, and - somewhere in all of that - a little school. Then, 7:00 - jamming with the old-timers. 10:00 - crash.

But tonight, I'm doing Lamaze breathing. And writing. And eating lots of chocolate.


Who made these fairy footprints in the snow? I follow them over the hill, quietly, stealthily, but glimpse only a doe-brown flash vanishing among the trees.

Shhhhh! Listen! Who is singing, sighing, softly? Beneath ice, the creek warbles back to life after throat-cracking drought.

The sky is blue, but I hear Rain, rain, slip, drip, splash! Who is raining this sunny afternoon? The snow slip-sliding off the barn roof, ten-thousand tiny drops, sledding off a precipice into the freedom of sunshine.

A piper trills a shrill melody, silver notes slicing chilly air. Who whistles this warning of impending spring? A flash of gold, a smart black ascot, meadowlark flits from stem to stem.

Muck. Schluck. Squishhhh! Who has wet toes, freezy feet from tromping the thawing countryside? Me!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Today, I walked back on the farm for the first time in almost two months. Back to the three great sisters, still sleeping under the worsted brown of last fall's stubble. But the hills were not as I left them in December, baked hard from summer drought and winter cold. Today, I snuck up on the three sisters and found them soft and malleable, their sinews loosening for the work ahead.

When the wind paused to catch its breath, I could hear beneath the snow's crust the gurgle of life in the veins of the great hills. The three sisters are waking and breathing and drinking in the snowmelt.


The long inhale before spring.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The year 2011 is right at six weeks old. Me, I'm right at 47 years old - not too old to learn. And this year, already, I've learned some pretty significant things. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the things I've learned over the past few weeks...

American Sign Language is fun and relatively easy to learn, especially when you're learning with friends after a weekly pot-luck dinner. I guess having a lively, cute teacher helps, too - thank you for teaching us, Aimee!

Passive-aggressive is a game that takes two to play.

An eating disorder is like living with a monster inside your head. Feed the monster or feed your body - either way, somebody has to pay a high price.

Factories looking for entry-level workers for the night shift are NOT interested in fat, middle-aged women.

The world will not end if you do not have a green vegetable with dinner.

Your best friends are not the people who downplay or soft-peddle the truth in some kind of pretense of protecting you. Your best friends are the people who tell you the hard things you need to hear about yourself...and then give you a hug while they cry with you.

Antibiotics are very, very expensive. (You do the math: $2.75 per pill/3 pills a day/for a minimum of 10 days. Wowzer. I am so thankful my kids are usually very healthy!)

Cheap beer is as good as the pricier stuff, if enjoyed in the right company.

A hunter/trapper/rough-and-tumble outdoorsman can get a little crabby after two weeks on crutches. (Hang in there, Nate - only four more weeks to go!)

When I am trying to think of the words to communicate the idea "safe place" - I say the words "Katherine's kitchen."

When Mrs. Kay says I need to come over for a cigarette and a Bud Light...she's probably right.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This is a rerun of my January 29, 2010 post. Seemed appropriate for today!

When Steve and I lived in Nashville, we attended a small church plant in the Old Hickory area. Although I had been a Christian for many years, it was here, under the pastoral care of Larry Ferris and his wife Lisa, that the gospel was first given "flesh". Eighteen years later, I still think of Lisa asking me, on several occasions, "What are the practical implications of the gospel in this situation?" These two, whom I affectionately think of as my Mother and Father in the faith, were active, aggressive, and deliberate about translating what they believed into what they did, in every area of life.

Larry had a gift for coming up with great sermon illustrations. He could make seemingly far-off, abstract concepts suddenly clear and relevant. This particular illustration still comes to my mind often, and always brings with it a thrill of excitement....

You remember how when you were a kid, and the evening weather forecast predicted snow? You hoped against all hope that it would snow and snow and snow all night, maybe even a foot, and that school would be canceled the next day. You went to bed anxious with anticipation, finding it nearly impossible to sleep. Your ears strained for the faintest sound that would indicate the coveted snow had finally arrived. You sneaked out of bed, peeped out the window - nothing. Finally, exhausted and fearing morning would bring only disappointment, you dozed fitfully off to sleep. And slept, and slept, and slept. Until...

The next morning, Mom came into your room, same as she always did, to wake you up so that you could begin getting ready for school. Only this morning, as she shook you gently from your sleep, she didn't say, "Wake up - time to get ready for school." She simply whispered, "Go look out the window!"

Instantly, you were wide awake, your heart pounding! Throwing off your blankets, you planted your feet on the cold floor and bolted for the window, a jubilant smile plastered across your face. "Go look out the window!" Those words elicited a spasm of pure joy! You danced! You squealed! It was absolutely impossible to conceal the excitement you felt.

Dear Reader - after a long and dreadful night, God, in Christ, has whispered to us, "Go look out the window!"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Yesterday's weather forecast of "snow, with possible accumulation of up to an inch" finally played itself out to about five inches here in the hay field. Soft, fluffy, wet, and deep enough to cover the stubble of last summer's burned up grasses. Deep enough for tromping and sledding and building snowmen. Deep enough to still be here a day later!

Sunrise on the snow covered hills was beautiful. Of course, all the snow around the house was thoroughly stomped up by dinner time last night, but the slopes further out are still untouched. This morning, the hills sparkled like jewels in the soft, blue light of morning. Beauty, still unmarred. A fresh invitation to PLAY!

Looking at the glistening hills around the house this morning, I couldn't help but think how much they are a picture of so much of my life. Smooth, perfect, unbroken snow. But underneath, the scars of two (three?) years of drought. Hidden "rocks" - piles of frozen poop, reminders that last year, we had to turn the cows into even the hayfield to forage for every scrap of grass. Ruts from the tractor and the truck, erased and smoothed over by a blanket of white. Muddy, slushy muck, lurking just a few inches beneath the pristine canopy.

I went to get a haircut last week (yay!) and the friend who snipped away at my shaggy mane commented that she had seen Mrs. June the week before. Mrs. June is a precious older saint...a tiny, soft-spoken woman, but a giant in faith. "I told Mrs. June that she really needed to be praying for your family, that you all were going through a lot right now." Julie's scissors suddenly froze in mid-air. "I wasn't out of line, was I, asking her to pray for you? I didn't think you would mind, being it was Mrs. June..." The look on Julie's face showed a grave concern that maybe she had spoken out-of-line, violated a confidence.

"Julie, if there's anything I'm learning through all of this, it's that I have got to be honest...put the truth out on the table. Quit pretending that things are okay when they're not, pretending that I can handle it. No, we need all the help we can get..." I thought about tiny, sweet Mrs. June. "And having Mrs. June praying for us...could there be a greater blessing? Just knowing she's praying my name is a huge encouragement."

Under the relative routine and apparent sanity of day-to-day life lie the struggles and trials that build our faith. My faith. If anyone reading this thinks Camille Kendall's life is "together"....well, get a little closer and you'll find out different! Thankfully, when dealing with the muck underneath, I have sister saints praying for me, encouraging me, loving me through the mess.

Thankfully, I have sisters reminding me that there's not just mess under that snow.

There's the promise of spring.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I cook toast in the oven, on a large baking sheet. Much easier and quicker to prepare 10 or 12 pieces at a time that way. Which leads me to today's post...

When you fix toast in the oven, how do you know when the toast is done?
It is time to take the toast out of the oven when you hear the smoke alarm go off.
(Ooops, guess I'll start a new pan and try to be more attentive.)

If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, how do you know when it's time to let the cat out?
It is time to let the cat out if you have just finished letting the cat in.
How do you know when to let the cat in?
When you've just finished letting the cat out.

If you are a child in a large family and you notice the housework is getting a little neglected, when is it appropriate to volunteer to sweep and mop the floors for your Mom?
It is appropriate to volunteer to sweep and mop the floors if you are breathing. (This is also true for cleaning toilets, ironing, picking up trash around the house, etc.)

When is it okay for large teenage male children to wrestle in the kitchen?
(Just kidding. This activity is only allowed in the kitchen if Mom is happy to participate in the fray. Love you, my sons!)

You and your husband are on the couch watching a movie while the kids are out for the evening. In celebration of this rare and momentous event, Hubby opened a bottle of wine. You have slowly savored your first glass of wine and are contemplating a refill. How do you know if you should indulge in another glass?
You should have another glass of wine only if there is still wine left in the bottle.

When is it okay to read G.K. Chesterton aloud to the rest of the family, the general public, etc?
Whenever you have G.K. Chesterton at hand.

When do you compliment a stranger at Wal-Mart on her lovely eyes, her fun-&-funky hand-crocheted shawl, or her well-behaved children?

When is a middle-aged, menopausal, mom-of-many allowed to raid the chocolate stash in the pantry, guilt-free?
Oh, is there still chocolate in the pantry?!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


"I want a stronger, deeper faith. I mean, radically deeper. I want to know and love God better, and to be a bolder, wiser Christian."

I looked at my friend for several seconds, then took a deep breath. "Do you realize what you're asking?"

A wise older woman told me once, speaking of her children, "You don't want your children to have to struggle, to suffer, to endure trials. But, you know from experience that it's during trials that you often grow the most as a Christian. No, I don't want my kids to hurt, to have to wrestle with really hard things in life. But if trials are a means to growth and maturity as Christians, then, yes, I'd rather they have trials than a life of ease..."

Yesterday, my friend asked me to pray that God would give her a stronger, deeper faith. "Do you realize what you're asking?" I queried. "Do you realize the answer to such a prayer may come with much hardship?"

My friend didn't blink. "Yes. I do realize that. And if that's what it takes, well,...whatever it takes, I want to know and love God better."

" be a bolder, stronger Christian?"


"God's know, He isn't growing us to be fairy princesses - He's growing us into warrior princesses..."

"Warrior princesses?"

I told my friend the story of Eowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan, a character from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. One of my very favorite scenes from the LotR movies was when Eowyn, having just killed the Nazgul, challenged the Witch-king of Angmar at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The witch-king, the embodiment of all that is evil, laughed at the small mail-clad warrior, because he knew that no man could kill him. As Eowyn pulled off her metal helmet, her long blond hair cascaded over her shoulders. Sword drawn, she charged the witch-king: "I..AM...NO...MAN!"

My friend smiled and her face beamed. "Warrior princess!"

And so we prayed yesterday for stronger, deeper faith. To know and love God better.