Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rachel's Excellent Adventure

Over the past several months, I have thought of blogging about Rachel, but I never did because at first she was only applying, and what if it didn't happen?, and then...well, I think we all know how I procrastinate. But it is happening. Rachel has been accepted to a private school for the coming semester, and this Friday, she leaves for Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin!

Quick summary: I found a school called The Conserve School via a sidebar ad on Facebook and happened to click the link. What I read intrigued me: it is a private high school experience for juniors and seniors, focusing on environmental science. It is a semester school, meaning that all students go for just a semester at a time-so Rachel will be on equal footing with everyone else, not a situation where she is a homeschooler coming to a school where everyone knows each other already. Their mission is to inspire young people to environmental stewardship through academics and engagement with the forests, lakes and wildlife of Lowenwood. They provide a "diverse group of young people with a residential academic setting that fosters understanding of the science of natural resource conservation, commitment to protecting the environment, an inclination toward careers that help preserve the natural world, enjoyment of outdoor activities and love and respect for nature." TA-DA! It was like a school had been created just for us!

Matt and Rachel took a trip last May to the school for their open house, and were very impressed. Thus began the application process, which was like a mini-lesson in what we'll go through with college applications. She was accepted in October and we have spent the past few months preparing--gathering all the supplies she'll need for such harsh weather, getting her plane tickets, choosing classes, shipping boxes, etc. She will be gone for 18 weeks, although we'll see her for 9 days in April on her spring break. She will be taking a great course load, including AP Environmental Science, and will experience all sorts of outdoor activities, including ice fishing, cross country skiing, and a solo camping trip.

There have been moments of fear from all of us--she is understandably nervous at the thought of so long away from home, leaving her friends, meeting new people, and being in a school environment for the first time. Julia, Ben and Emma are quite upset at the thought of her being gone, and I know we'll all miss her terribly. I am feeling the pressure of knowing that as her teacher for all these years, I bear responsibility in some ways for her success or failure academically...but I know that she is very bright and a hard worker, and that those fears will almost certainly prove baseless. And I know that I am going to cry as she walks away at the airport on Friday. There just is no way not to.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is an important interim step for her college years--she will be living as she would at college, in a dorm, responsible for her own schedule completely, responsible for homework and studying without any parental input, eating at a cafeteria and attending classes...but with only 58 students this semester, it is a cozier atmosphere that will foster pretty close friendships, I think. Also, each student has their own room with a bathroom shared with just one other student, so she's actually going to have better accommodations than she does here! :)

Crazy to think it, but this is the first little step towards an empty nest, Someone said to me the other day, "give them roots, then let them fly," and I think Rachel is going to fly this Friday!

Happy Birthday, Julia!

Today is Julia's 12th birthday! Wait....what? It seems like yesterday that this girl was a baby, a toddler, a preschooler...and now she is practically a teenager? Pull the knife out of my heart very slowly, please.

As always, we scrapped school in favor of birthday fun. This included a lot of playing outside, even for me. It certainly isn't often that Julia gets a sunny day in the low 60s on her winter birthday! So there was frolicking in the yard, a walk with the dog, and the kitchen door stayed open to let in all the lovely light. The birthday girl made pancakes...and before anyone asks why the birthday girl made US breakfast, let me just say that Julia loves to make pancakes. We watched a couple of episodes of "the Brady Bunch," in the afternoon, with popcorn made by Rachel, and Rachel made us pizza for dinner. We had a visit from our neighbor, who brought a card and turtle earrings, a package from Grandma with coveted books and art kits, and gifts from Rachel, too--a book, a Snickers and a lovely necklace.

After dinner, Julia opened books from us...her other present is going to be a rabbit! But we're still looking into that, so a bit of patience is required, much to her chagrin. We had a chocolate cake with marshmallow cream in the center (I made the middle layer using a bowl to form a ring, which was then filled and covered by another layer, sort of like a homemade Ring Ding. After dinner, Matt and the three younger kids went to watch "X Men 3" while I cleaned up, and they are finishing the evening with a game.

All in all, a wonderful day for a wonderful girl. Happy Birthday, sweetheart!