Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Little Bit of Heaven Here on Earth

 If there is a heaven for me, 
I’m sure it has a beach attached to it.
Jimmy Buffett












Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Education Reform

We can’t expect colleges and universities to change until we begin to change our expectations for a college education.  It is necessary?  Many opinions have been voiced that no, college is no longer necessary for every child.  The cynic in me wonders where this is coming from.  Is it to further divide the classes, further alienating the middle class thus extending the current era of dependency and extending the welfare state and thus the power of the government?  Although this could be refuted by the First Lady recently professing that all children should go to college.  We are sending our children mixed messages.  
I want my girls to have a degree because in my experience a degree will gain you access to opportunities.  It has also been my experience that even more important than a degree are connections.  Who you know vs. what you know.    I firmly believe that unless a student is seeking a highly specialized field of study, there is no need to pursue top tier colleges. In fact, I hate the term “top tier”.  Is is so condescending and elitist. I have always maintained that I would not seek this for my children.  I would prefer not to expose them to far left liberal, Godless indoctrination for 4 years.
There is also the ever-present issue of college tuition.  It is still rising at a rate far exceeding the cost of living.  Most families have not received any cost of living raises in the past years yet the cost in tuition is skyrocketing.  
These costs do not include room and board.  Add another $10-15,000 on to these already astronomical figures and some 18 year old young adults are facing total costs of at least $100,000.  That is conservative.  These are loans that cannot be defaulted on, ever.  They follow you to the grave and beyond.
Are we so afraid of our children’s potential personal economic shortcomings that we give them such financially unsound advice?  Are we so afraid that they will not find a job, make a decent living, buy into the American Dream, that we in effect, make it almost impossible for them to do so?  What young adult, newly married (add the cost of the wedding to the college debt), can buy a house?  Is there current job affording them the ability to make a dent in their loan payments?
This is not how I want to send my children out into the world.  Greg and I have been saving like crazy to hopefully allow the girls to pursue an education free of debt.  HOWEVER, this is assuming they will not undertake the “traditional” paths I mentioned above.  
This is why I attended a homeschoolers information session at Naugatuck Valley Community College.  I wanted to educate myself on how high school age children can take classes that will apply towards a certificate program or Associate’s Degree with several of the degree programs transferring to Connecticut State Universities.  I walked away from this event firm in my conviction that a “traditional” 4 year private university is not the best financial decision for most teenagers and their families.

The community college pathway provides some unique opportunities.  NVCC is the top nursing school in the state of Connecticut and in the top 5% of nursing programs in the nation!  How impressive.  Grace could get an Associates of Science in Interpreter Preparation: ASL from Northwestern Community College.  4 different schools offer degree or certificate programs in Culinary Arts for Lilah, should she continue on this course.  


I am not going to spend the next 4-6 years talking about college.  I swear I will bite my tongue every time I want to utter “but you need this to get into college....”  I don’t want to be that kind of parent or that kind of teacher.  I want my girls to continue their journey of holistic learning, of interest led learning, while I work behind the scenes quietly and competently filling in the pieces so that college is an avenue available to them.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Another Brick in the Wall

If you ask my girls the #1 reason they don’t want to return to school, they will say they do not want to sit at a desk all day.  They are constantly in motion, therefore our homeschool is constantly in motion.  
We do spend some days at home, where we begin gathered at the dining room table, watch CNN Student News and then branch off to bedrooms, couches, floors and even the outdoors to work.  
But the best days are those that are in motion, when the flow of learning matches the flow of physical energy expended by the girls.
We leaned nature studies in nature at Acadia National Park in Maine.

We learned about marine science aboard The Dolphin Fleet in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

We got some more science in at the Science Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Music is a big deal in our house and we try to fit in as many performances as possible, like this one at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, New York.

We were back in New York for Peter and the Starcatcher (best show ever).

There are so many opportunities to learn in New Haven and we are always registering for classes at Yale.

Marine Science class was held on the water in Stamford, Connecticut.

To the north of us is Bradley Airport and the Museum of Aviation where the girls took a class on aeronautics.

We visited The Great Hunger Museum in Hamden, Connecticut to extend our learning of Irish immigration.

Maurice Sendak’s works were on display at The Museum of American Art, in New Britian, Connecticut.  

We took our study of the Periodic Table to The Peabody Museum in New Haven and to UCONN Main Campus in Storrs, Connecticut.



The holiday season began by spreading good cheer by visiting The VA Hospital in the Bronx, New York.

We absorbed history in Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida.


We took in all that Epcot had to offer.

UCONN Storrs, Connecticut was the venue for The Piano Guys.

Physical Education was covered at The Discovery Zone, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Lilah deepened her love of crafting at the Duck Tape Festival in Avon, Ohio and happened to help set a Guiness World Record for most participants in a duck tape fashion show.

More live music in Nashville, Tennessee.

Who says homeschoolers are not socialized?  We traveled to Alabama to finally meet our long time friends Karen and Keilee at HomeschoolGirls.  They took us to Huntsville to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  I was surprised at the amount of History this museum contains.

The girls experienced their first dinner theater at Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Our year closed with another first: attending a high school graduation in Lake George, New York.  Their graduations will look quite different, but equally special.  

As we enter into the 2014-2015 year, I am already lining up the places we will go and the things we will experience.    I have to agree with Sandra Dodd’s words:
My world's pretty cool. It has become gradually cooler since I had kids and have tried to figure out how to make THEIR worlds cooler. Mine got the side benefit of what I learned about how to help keep them happy. —Sandra Dodd




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Art of Baking with YuppieChef

My whole philosophy about education is that you start with an interest, a desire and you fan it, feed it, and nurture it so that it sustains itself.  Some interests are pass after learning just enough to satiate your curiosity.  Other interests become more.  Become desires. Become passions.  Become dreams.  Become goals.  It is my job to offer more so that my girl can continue to grow and move closer to achieving her goal and ultimately her dream.  
The unschooling side of me is not passive.  Opportunities just don’t happen.  Often they have to be created.  Earlier this summer I posted on our town Facebook women's page if anyone knew of a good baking camp. The responses were dismal.  Kids decorating cupcakes with Fruit Loop cereal or making fruit kabobs.  Hardly appropriate for a kid who has a goal of owning her own bakery.  I have no patience or tolerance for spending our money on classes that are dumbed down or meant to baby sit rather than educate.  So what did I do? I created my own Baking Camp with a little help from a lovely online South African website called YuppieChef.com.  (made known to be by www.Se7en.org.za )
Two other moms were interested and a week was set aside.  Each day from 1:30-4:30 the girls would focus on one tutorial from the YuppieChef free course: The Art of Baking.  We watched the tutorial, baked the recipe, created something artistic to go in our baking binders, sampled the baked goods and then adjourned for the evening.  Our camp ran Monday through Thursday and it was simply lovely.
Day 1: The 10 Rules of Baking and Cake Day







Day 2: Cookie Day





Day 3: Cupcake/Decorating Day






Day 4: Bread Day









Baking Camp Reflections:  I am so glad I held this camp.  It was very time intensive.  Uber-organization is not my strong point and for this level of baking to run smoothly with three girls ranging in age from 5th grade to 7th grade, organization is a must.  The best part of this camp was not the baked goods, although they were very, very tasty.  It was not that they learned rules and tips for making sure cakes don’t flop and bread rises, and if you forget to cut the bread dough into thirds it will still come out okay!  It was not that they learned the difference between attachments for a stand mixer or how to tell if your oven is operating at the correct temperature.  It was not that they learned that recipes in grams are very hard to follow without a gram scale and it is acceptable to substitute a similar recipe in its place.  It is not that they learned how to fill a pastry bag and pipe beautiful, perfectly peaked frosting onto light and fluffy cupcakes.  All these are important.  But what touched me deeply was the courage each girl had in attending.  Three girls came to this camp who did not know each other or did not know each other that well.  At the end of this camp these girls had two new friends in the neighborhood.  Real friends with a shared interest.  That makes all the effort worthwhile.

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