Partying with Purpose

Friday, November 11, 2016

Yesterday the entire school went on a field trip to Medieval Times, pre-schoolers through seniors. It was a really fun day AND it was perfect for reinforcing and highlighting everything we're covering in history and literature school-wide this year. Jousting, sword fighting, falconry, the code of now I have the perfect example to clarify the word "anachronism" for my kiddos who are reading The Sword in the Stone. We've been a little hazy on the meaning, but mail-clad knights taking selfies and talking about cyber bullying should clear things up perfectly!

Plus there were chicken legs. Yum.

We are definitely in that busy part of the school year where it seems like there's a celebration or field trip or special event or SOMETHING every time you turn around. I love it. Next week we will have our Thanksgiving feast and grandparent's day to kick off Thanksgiving break, and after the break it won't be long at all before we start on the Christmas celebrations. And you know, Halloween kind of just happened.

But y'all, seriously, the balance of work hard and play hard that we get to have at Flint is incredible. And incredibly rare! It's so much simpler to do one or the other, and cultivating that balance demands a lot of creativity and mindfulness from each teacher. 

It's not just that all of these events are carefully planned to be informative and to reinforce academics and cultural norms. Every party, every field trip, every most (haha!) tangential classroom conversation? We're still on. We're getting to know the kids better, observing how they interact outside of regular classroom conditions, noticing ways that they struggle or excel socially and practically. And then we turn right around with that information and make plans and adjustments so we can better nurture each one of them. 

Some students enroll at Flint and think it's going to be a school on Fridays, no homework in the grammar school and minimal homework in the upper school, awesome parties every time you turn around...then after a few days they announce that they've never had to work harder, not ever in their LIFE. Probably because we make every bit of class time count and insist on individual mastery. Not to mention the classes are all so small that you can't really slip through any cracks. Other students insist that Flint is the most fun, easy school ever. Probably because we're awfully sneaky with how we accomplish some of our academic goals, lots of our lessons are doing triple and quadruple duty, and well, let's be honest here, we're all hilarious

Also? It works. My tinies are singing songs about how to write numbers, reciting the bones of the human body, and voraciously reading about King Arthur. My eighth graders came to me already writing like champs, already in love with reading, already excited about books. My upperclassmen are practically brawling with each other to be the first to identify schemes and tropes in our literature (there may or may not be candy on the line there) and thrilled to death to start our new book club portion of of English class. Our grads are out there killin' it in the big wide world. 

That pretty much sums up our strange little school, actually. It's fun, and it's difficult, and it works!

We get that we seem unusual sometimes. After our Beowulf party last month a tour came past my classroom and looked in for a few minutes before continuing. "Oh good, we weren't doing anything weird this time!" exclaimed one of my students, who had been diligently writing. "It seems like we're always in the middle of something that looks crazy whenever a tour comes by."
"Love, we're surrounded by the remains of a Viking feast and there's a severed arm hanging on the wall. I'm not sure we looked exactly normal." I pointed out. 
"Oh. Well. Flint has it's own kind of normal, I guess."

So if you pop your head in, make sure you remember to look for the lesson that is invariably taking place beneath the surface of the fun. Maybe it looks like the advanced Latin class is just throwing a stuffed bird back and forth at each other, but ALSO they are creating complex Latin sentences on the spot. That kind of thing. 

Shadow Spinner

Saturday, October 29, 2016

In case you were wondering, we don't only read Very Old Books in my literature classes. We mostly do but I like to mix things up a bit, especially for the eighth graders. They have to read different things than the rest of the upper school anyway, or they'll end up possibly repeating books their senior year. Only possibly, because I am a wild thing, given to CHANGING THE BOOK LIST without any notice! I know, I know. But some creatures just cannot be tamed, mkay?

All of that (it wasn't that much, actually, but I got interrupted by Tristan about 87 times in the course of typing that paragraph SO) to say that my eighth graders finished their first novel with me and we had their first book party on Thursday. I don't usually start the eighth graders on Lost Tools until maybe the very end of the school year, but I had a suspicion that this group was up for it now. That suspicion turned out to be completely founded, so they also knocked out some wonderful rudimentary persuasive essays on the book as well.

We read Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. It's an easy read (to lull them into complacency about literature class before I throw them into something with more tricksy words and sentences...was that a clever little clue about the next book? NO BUT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME) about Shahrazad and the thousand and one nights. We all loved it! It caught their interest right away, sparked some wonderful discussions about all kinds of things, and was a lovely introduction to the idea of stories having this deep and timeless power that is essentially what we will be going back and back to until they graduate. And best of all, the students didn't execute me or anything because they wanted to find out what happened next in the book! 

No, but really, I kept timing it so class would end on a cliffhanger and I could shoo them away, so I got a lot of "Mrs. Hallford! YOU'RE BEING SHAHRAZAD!" and they totally got why the Sultan had to find out what happened next. And you know, it occurred to me that I do tell stories every day to save lives, just on a much less dramatic, tangible scale.

To celebrate the book we watched Aladdin, ate Middle Eastern food, and drank sharbat. My awesome room mom got the food for us from a restaurant around the corner, because I just wasn't up for an all-nighter of making baba ganoush and falafle. I did make the sharbat, though. They drink it a lot in the book and the kids had asked to try it especially.

Fun times yet again!

Village Life

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I have approximately five hundred random mini-posts rattling around my brain these days...things I haven't got around to writing, or haven't figured out how to write, or maybe just aren't quite enough on their own to write about but don't seem to really go with anything else. So like a nice, disciplined, rule-abiding English teacher (ahem!) I am naturally going to just throw them together and see if they coalesce or something on their own. Let's find out, it'll be fun!

My eight grade homeroom is one of the most delightful groups I've ever taught. They're such a funny combination of silly and serious, reflective and ridiculous. They sing entire conversations, ride piggyback on each other down the hallways, and bounce around the classroom like rubber balls, but they also study intensely for every single assignment they have, delve into incredibly deep discussions of our lessons, and are the only class I've ever had that cried openly at the part of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe where Aslan dies. 

All bets (and lessons!) are off when there's a baby in the classroom, though.

They were also really great at the Compassion Experience field trip we went on, and now they want to sponsor a child as a class. 

My other classes are all wonderful, too, actually. Flint kids are just the best. Even when they make me crazy! My junior/senior literature class has finally warmed all the way up to Pride and was rough at first, no lie, but they started to come around when Mr. Bennet told Elizabeth that he would never speak to her again if she married Mr. Collins. Then yesterday Mr. Darcy PROPOSED to Elizabeth and she said NO and they were completely hooked. Today we read Mr. Darcy's letter to Elizabeth in rapt attention and with much discussion. All of the other classes are reading The Once and Future King and they aren't quite hooked yet. But we'll get there! Just a few more nose-biting, owl-talking, fish-transforming chapters and we'll be totally immersed. 

We had our medieval-themed Fall festival, which turned out absolutely wonderful. I wish I had a picture of all of the staff together - the PTF encouraged everyone who wanted to to dress up in medieval clothes to add to the ambiance. I was amazed at how many of our teachers were all for it! We raided the costume room and had a blast. Even some of the husbands dressed up. This team isn't just insanely talented and dedicated, y'all, they're crazy fun people to boot!

I skipped out on my classes last Thursday so I could go to a grammar school field trip with my babies. I do that sometimes, in spite of the outrage it causes amongst my high school babies. I don't like to anger them (they bring me Starbucks! And mysterious small pumpkins and gourds!) but it makes my tinies sad when I miss their field trips.

Anyway, the photo opportunities alone are worth it!

Sack races, chickens, and water pump games...and a llama! Avalon and Lainey burst out - in unison- as soon as they saw the llama with, "A llama? He's supposed to be dead!" Which made me basically explode with pride. My girls are the coolest little nerds on the planet!

Not pictured: that pony trying it's very best to make friends with Tristan and Tristan absolutely freaking out about the WEIRD SCARY LARGE DOGGY HALP! We'll work on it, I guess.

Baby plus pumpkins equals so many adorable pictures

Okay. It DID coalesce for me, at least a little. There's a lot more besides all of this awesomeness that could go here...laughing and crying, pranking and panicking, scary conversations and conversations about what to read next, hard decisions and stupid puns, eye-rolls and hugs, Instagram-worthy snapshots and moments no filter can pretty up...but what I really want to get across is how much I love these people, this tribe. It's the same feeling I have when I look at my babies. I know for a fact that they aren't actually perfect (trust me, I KNOW) but when I look at them that's all I can think. Oh, you are perfect

This community, these people? Not perfect at all. But also somehow completely perfect at the same time and they fill my heart to bursting.

Panic At the Mead Hall!

Monday, October 10, 2016

I'm going to make a confession here. I never really liked Beowulf. Um, at all. The only thing I remember liking about it in college was the phrase "whale road" which is right at the beginning so it was all downhill from there as far as I was concerned. The only thing I liked about it when I read it to one of my classes a few years ago was how much they liked it. It was so gory, and they were all sixth grade boys, so it just worked. I personally thought it was icky. But y'all, THIS TIME? I totally got into it. I had a translation that I really loved, which helped a ton. Also, maybe I'm a bit smarter now? We didn't study Beowulf in the Circe apprenticeship, but we did a lot of work that helped me understand how to better approach and understand and appreciate literature. Even if you don't particularly feel excited about it because it's full of gross battles in the mead hall! 

We finished Beowulf and spent last week writing about it (in most of my classes, anyway. My eighth graders are reading different books, and I have an alternate class that's reading Pride and Prejudice because they've already done most of our medieval lit) and then finished off with a rousing party because that seemed fitting.

I decorated my classroom like Heorot, complete with a charming severed Grendel arm and an amazing pig-on-a-spit-over-a-fake-fire that my mom had just finished making for the Fall Festival.

"Why is it a HUMAN hand, Mrs. H? Grendel wasn't human!"
"Because I couldn't find any disembodied monster hands lying around."
" could find disembodied human hands easy??"
"Let's not dwell on that too long."


"Is that fire really hot?"
"It's as hot as your mix tape, dear."

And we feasted on grapes, baked apples, fresh bread, (root) beer, and roast chickens that we tore into with our bare hands LIKE VIKINGS.

Everyone came during lunch to watch The Hobbit (because we had talked endlessly about the similarities and the inspiration, etc., and because there aren't any Beowulf movies that I'm willing to show my students except for some fairly hilarious Lego Beowulf youtube movies, but those are really short) and eat, even the kids who weren't in the Beowulf classes. Good times!

I love, love, love getting to do stuff like this. Even baking bread at five o'clock in the morning, then running around to find a fake hand in the theatre room, all with my baby in tow because GiGi was home sick. Even if my Pride and Prejudice class is now demanding a tea party WITH FRESH SCONES YASSSSSSS PLEASE! 

We have fun, y'all.

Quick Takes

Friday, September 16, 2016

1. Our girls did a fantastic job at their volleyball game last night! I'm pretty crazy about these chicas...the team this year is 80% of my homeroom plus a few more older darlings. Isn't it great how they can go from cutesie pose mode to warrior beast mode (and then back again!) so quickly? 

2. Also, we're actually getting into the swing of having FOUR little Hallfords hanging out on the sidelines. We went from school to a staff meeting to the dance studio to the gym and then home to dinner and bed with minimal angst. Don't mind me, I'm just the crazy girl who hauls her dozens of children everywhere she goes! 

3. In less fun Flint athletics news, we had to cancel this year's football season. SAD FACE. (wait, those emoi-replacing all-caps maybe sounded sarcastic? Totally sincere all-caps here. I loved having football.) Hopefully we'll have enough players again next year!

4. Avalon had a doctor appointment first thing this morning, which we stretched out into a Target-and-sundry-other-errands sort of morning, just the two of us. It was awesome. And much needed, I think. Especially since we're at what I consider to be the end of an era: she has officially decided to no longer dress the same as her sisters. I KNOW. I've always made a point of telling them that they don't have to match...and they always say how they want to, and I'm always glad because it's cute and I only have to plan one outfit each day and they're really easy to find in a crowd. But now she wants to wear different outfits and she's getting all individual and grown and her own person and everything. It's a moment. HOWEVER, would you like to know what instigated this moment?

5. Yeah. It was a boy. A boy told her that he thought she should dress differently than Lainey, so now she wants to. Hmph. That is all the commentary I will offer. Just...hmph.

6. In other less fun parenting news, Aaron and I spent last weekend enjoying Meanest Parents Ever Since the Dawn of Time status. The big girls wanted to go to the Pinterest Convention. We told them they could earn it by working very hard in class and being very kind and obedient. And then we kept catching ourselves giving warning after warning every day..."If you want to go this weekend, should you really...?" type things. Until Friday, when we realized they actually hadn't been behaving all that well really and then a certain young lady chose to tell a lie (which is the offense I can tolerate the absolute least, as a matter of fact) and wait, WHY were we working so hard to help them earn a reward? Sorry, no. 

7. They were hideously upset, but they also responded really well to the conversation we were able to have about how very wrong it would be for Mama and Daddy to let them grow up believing that you can only halfway put forth the effort needed to achieve something and then still have it handed to you. was a good thing, I guess? Someday my children may possibly see it that way. Or maybe they'll just cherish this bitter disappointment for years and then run away to become Pinterest Con roadies and that's not a thing and if it was I have no idea what it would actually involve, but I'm going to go ahead and picture them running around dressed as giant Mason jars filled with glitter, crock pot recipes, printables, articles on the Top Ten Ways To (fill in the blank), seasonal craft projects, elaborate cupcakes, and budget DIY everything in the whole universe.

So basically a win-win, amiright?

Back to School

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Because you have to start eighth grade with a class selfie! I love getting to be the eighth grade homeroom teacher (because eighth graders are awesome) and this year I love it even more. This little group is so much fun!

In my opinion the first day of school absolutely is a holiday and you'll never convince me otherwise. My kids agree, fortunately. They were slightly excited to start school yesterday.

(Phoebe was excited about it, honestly, she was just also very excited to be eating breakfast and wouldn't stop for a picture)

No one wanted a Frozen backpack this year! Wonders will never cease! Also, I wised up and asked each of them what kind of backpack they wanted separately so as to get their own actual opinions.

Tristan started nursery class with GiGi, which means he isn't with me all day every day, which means I am super emotional. He doesn't mind being dropped off at all, but when they stop by my class for a visit he wraps his arms around my neck and clings like a little monkey, so I think he misses me a little bit too. ALSO Phoebe started pre-k! She's been incredibly impatient for this day, but felt a little overwhelmed when we actually were going in the building.

She cheered up pretty quickly, though!

This is the first year that I've managed to get all my tinies settled into their places before I technically needed to be in teacher mode for my older babies in the upper school. I guess four years of experience will do that!

The upper school had an assembly with Dr. Flint first thing, and then went to homerooms. 

(Those are First Day of School muffins and I only make them once a year because, again, I'm convinced this is a holiday. They are spice cake mix and cinnamon-sugar glaze and apple butter filling and Tristan stole one at the end of the day and wouldn't relinquish his grip, oh no ma'am, it's MINE ALL MINE NOW!)

I didn't start any of my books in my classes...we did some review ANI columns and ate muffins and enjoyed seeing each other again. The kids think that we didn't really "do much" in class because it was the first day (probably they think that because I said it to them) but there was all manner of sneaky groundwork-laying and adjustment-making and observation going on to help the REST of the year go smoothly. And also, I really missed them all!

My eighth graders reported back at the end of the day that upper school is very different from the grammar school and they like it, but it's still kind of overwhelming and they miss Mrs. Hobby. My babies reported back that SCHOOL IS AWESOME WE LOVE IT WOOHOO, etc. and included lots of "Thank you, God, for our teachers" in their bedtime prayers. I had to rock Tristan forever when I put him to bed, not because he was fussy, just because I missed him so much and he had fallen asleep rubbing a handful of my hair on his face while I read Winnie The Pooh to him and I hated to move.

And then I went to bed as soon as I finished the girls' bedtime story because Aaron had a fantasy football draft and I had been up since four in the morning. But it was a really great first day of school and I think it's going to be a wonderful year at Flint!

Summer's Lease

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May
And summer's lease hath all too short a date

It's the last day of August, we're in the middle of our teacher in-service week, and I'm about to switch out our pool bag for our football game bag. The girls have finished their summer workbooks, which I officially love. If you go to Flint you're going to hear ALL about how much I love them and how much I think you should do them come next May. 

We also finished our bedtime chapter book, The Horse and His Boy. We've been reading through the Chronicles of Narnia since Tristan was born...I've read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to every single one of my newborns (because you have to do SOMETHING while you're sitting and rocking baby for hours on end, and mine are all used to me reading aloud from the womb, so it calms them down) and this time the older girls got hooked in and wanted ALL the Narnia, all the time.

We didn't technically "finish" our summer bucket list, since there are a few things we didn't get to, but my OCD is surprisingly okay with this! I think because flipping out and trying to force activities just so I can check them off of my list isn't exactly summer-chill, which would kind of defeat the purpose. Where this mental health and clarity is coming from, I can't imagine! Probably it's largely thanks to the fact that Tristan, at seven months old, is STILL determined to be my non-sleeper, so I can't get all crazy and project-y during naptime. Naptime is my own sacred time to catch up a little on sleep, and let me tell you I have missed it hard already this week! 

Here is our list:

And here is (partially) what that looked like:

It was one for the books, y'all!

"Winds in the East, Mist Coming In...

Monday, August 15, 2016

...Like something is brewing, about to begin. Can't put me finger on what lies in store, but I feel what's to happen all happened before."

So, a weird thing about me! The weather affects my mood hard. All kinds of weather, all kinds of moods. Sort of like a frog barometer, but also sort of like a mood ring. Very much like a crazy person. But y'all. This weather right now! Having a rainy week with highs in the 80's in August? In TEXAS? Magical, right? Almost overnight we went from somewhat-successfully frying an egg on our sidewalk (it was really more like baking than frying) in 104 degree sunshine to playing in the rain with cousins until the thunder got too intense.


I keep pulling up the weather app on my phone to gloat over the forecast. Is that weird? I think it might be weird, but there you go. It just feels so heavenly outside and it somehow kicks me into a different state of mind. The end of summer is suddenly more acceptable and I want to start thinking about school things and schedules and lists and everything. I can start thinking about it all, whereas before my mind just kept wandering away. 


I'm not so crazy as to think that it won't heat back up, but I am crazy enough that the change in the weather was just the nudge I needed to get excited about resuming athletics and academics and all of that. This summer has been perfect, but I'm suddenly okay with it ending, and I wasn't until the temperature dropped. And happily, we still have this week and next week before inservice start at Flint, so there's this whole best-of-both-worlds thing going on right now. The kids and I spent an entire rainy morning snuggled up in bed watching movies (and eating Pop-Tarts, oh the crumbs on our sheets!) in our pajamas because why not!


Today we went swimming even though it was raining. There wasn't any lightning or anything, and my little crew thought it was THE coolest thing imaginable.



But I won't pretend it was entirely for their benefit. One of my favorite things in the world these days is Tristan's poolside naps, and I'm not about to miss any if I can help it. Next summer he'll be too big for a morning nap, and I love our time snuggling while I stretch out and watch the girls swimming.


I mean, just look.


Pretty soon school will start and the pool will close and we'll have all kinds of new adventures...until then we're going to snuggle in the rain as much as possible while I make checklists and lesson plans up in my head.
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