Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Snowboarding with Tyler

My blogging is horribly out of date.  I now blog when I have time rather than several times a week and I go through my camera roll to jog my memory of what we have done and where we have gone.  So much of their learning right now happens away from me.  I have to beg them to remember to snap a picture here or there so I have a record of the moment for them to look back in our blog books.

Snowboarding in the snow, February 8, 2016

Two weeks ago Tyler joined us on the mountain.  He is truly an incredible snowboarder.  When I saw his first run, I literally gasped at the speed he accumulated and for a moment I wasn’t sure watching would be a good idea.  He joined up with one of the girls’ instructors who was not teaching and the two of them were pure grace on snow.

Tyler and Grace are fearless and they enticed Lilah to step out of her comfort zone and try the chair lift.  Having him there gave her confidence and a feeling of safety and after that first run, they went again and again and again for hours and hours.  We were blessed to have a mostly empty mountain which quickly filled up when school let out and ski teams came for practice and local teens came to hang out and ski.  That was our cue to head home.  After we dropped Tyler off Lilah sighed and said she was so disappointed that this magical day had to come to an end.  It was like the eve of Christmas Day.  The letdown was intense and the desire to do it again was immediate.

Next year we are going to look into a multi family ski rental in Vermont.  With a few more lessons the girls (who jumped from level 1 to levels 2 and 3 after their second lesson) will be ready.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Digital Photography II

There is a mom I know who is skilled at seeking out experts in the field and asking them to create educational opportunities for homeschooled children.  She organized Soundwaters, one of our all time favorite classes, and she has done it again with Digital Photography I and II with a professional photographer working in New York City. We opted to pass on level I because Grace had covered all the topics through her online class and her class at Milford Photo, however, in hindsight I wish she took it simply because Gus is a great teacher and he has fanned the flame of her interest and has taken her photography to a whole new level.  

This class meets weekly for 90 minutes.  In addition to the class there is at least 90 minutes of homework each week and the assignments are challenging.  This is not a point and shoot class.  Grace purchased herself a good quality tripod with Christmas money as it is necessary in order to capture quality photos when using long exposures, otherwise every little shake will affect the outcome.  

We subscribed to a 90 day trial of Adobe Photoshop which they love.  It had a large learning curve but now that they understand it, they want to extend the subscription so they don't lose access when class ends.

We are a third of the way through the class.  Lilah has felt in over her head at times and we came to an understanding that for her course of study, this class is not required for high school or middle school credit.  It is a learning opportunity and what she takes away is more than what she took into the class.  She is trying so hard, but photography is like a foreign language.  The talk of f-stops, aperture and ISO settings, depth of field, panning, and noise can be overwhelming and this week an email was sent asking for clarification of the difference between light painting and light trails, because after all can’t a light trail also be a painting or a cool painting can create a light trail?......this was a huge point of contention in our house this week!  

The results speak for themselves but the most amazing thing I realized is that because Gus sets such high standards for his students, his students meet them.  Grace puts hours of effort into planning her photos knowing that when she uploads them to the group Flickr account, she wants to match the quality of her peers.  Her competitive nature runs deep and in this case it is propelling her forward.  Lilah is focused more on beauty and cares not about her class standing.  During a recent photo shoot in our home that was not for class, she spoke at length about the quality of her photos and how quality is affected by the age of my dslr camera and I just smiled because she is battling through frustration and she is learning.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

OYAN Update

OYAN (One Year Adventure Novel) is moving along.  We slowed down dramatically over the holidays and are now revving back up to power through and complete this curriculum.   My girls approach writing very differently; one loves to write and one hates to write.  Their stories look very different.  Lilah has set a goal for 100 pages and at the close of chapter 5 she is at page 38.  Grace’s goal is simply to write the best story she has ever written and so far she is meeting that goal!  

OYAN’s video lessons keep up on track and moving ahead.  Because we are doing this as part of our writing group, there are four other girls to account for and because I am not their “teacher” it is up to them to find the motivation and perseverance to power through when writer’s block sets in.  If we were doing this solo, I’m not sure we would make it, but the group shares are powerful and transformative.  I have sat at my kitchen table and listened to stories come to life.  I have heard genuine, constructive feedback from their peers and have been amazed when the girls took that feedback, evaluated it and reworked their chapter into a more powerful, dynamic piece of writing.  The process is authentic, positive, supportive and simply thrilling to watch.

We are half-way done.  Chapter seven will be shown this week.  The program is designed to write out of order, focusing on acts, rather than chronological chapters, but due to the writing and learning style of our group, we decided to proceed through the lessons chronologically and it is working for us.  I am so curious to see what their characters have been up to since the last time we met.  This week (chapter 6) they should have experienced a failure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wolf Conservation Center

Like I said in an earlier post, we are signing up for just about everything that includes the word teen so when a post came across my yahoo group for a once a month class at The Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, I jumped on it.  It is not enough for a stand alone class obviously, but it ties in beautifully to the girls' biology units on ecology.  Rather than worry about a lab for this module, they will have hands on experience with live wolves and learn from conservation experts about the environmental and human issues affecting their habitat and forest ecosystem.  

I found a free lapbook on homeschoolshare.com and we went to the library and took out many books about wolves.  The great thing about lapbooks, is that information is information and you can customize lapbooks to meet the developmental needs of young children or teens.  For example, Grace used a photo she took and her favorite editing program to overlap a quote on the photo and this will be used as the cover of her lapbook rather than a coloring page that was provided.  Lilah wants to draw or paint a wolf, like she did with the lion that became the cover of her Narnia lapbook.  

I am glad we began our research early because every thing we learned was covered in the first class.  The lapbook will be worked on over the next four months until the class is completed in May.  This is the first time the WCC has offered homeschool programming and I am impressed with the thought that went into planning.  Although there is a large age range of children, the instructors are comfortable with all ages and the teens were split into their own group.  

My girls felt this was the best class we have attended in a long time and wish it was offered weekly.  So do I.......

Course Outline:
Wolf families, pack structure / wolf life
Importance of communication within packs
Den building 
Pup 101
Activity – shelter/den building with sticks and leaves
Resource survival game (food, water, shelter, etc.)
Importance of the Endangered Species Act
What the ESA is: different listings, what they mean, creation of act
Examples of what animals are listed
Current challenges faced by ESA
Activity – write essay about what the ESA means to you and present it to the class
Current challenges faced by wolves located at Isle Royale, British Columbia
Little known wolf populations that are struggling
BC, aerial hunting of wolves, caribou population, etc.
Activity - tracking:  importance of radio collars in tracking these wolves
SSP:  in depth look at the Species Survival Plan program
Red wolves, Mexican gray wolves
Federal recovery programs, institutions involved
How SSP has helped wolves  F838, 2015 red wolf pups, M1141
Activity – SSP studbooks
Mythology of wolves                       

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Update: Dave Raymond's History

After taking a break from our history program to delve deeply into Civil Rights in preparation for our Alabama trip last November, we are back to our daily video lessons with Dave Raymond.  I love these lessons.  I love that they teach things not found in a classroom textbook, like who Cotton Mather was and why he matters.  Or that our country WAS founded on Christian values and why that matters.  Or that the Puritans had some really great values and perhaps that is why their communities were so much stronger than our current ones.

Living in New England allows us to take our lessons and bring them to life.  When I was searching for historical sites pertaining to the Puritans, I came across a Mather Homestead in Darien, Connecticut, just around the corner from piano lessons.  This is the family homestead of one of Cotton Mather’s nephews and is protected from developers by a land trust.  

I’m so looking forward to this spring.  As we continue to watch our lessons and create beautiful notebooks, we will walk in the footsteps of the people we are learning about by visiting Philadelphia, Boston and Gettysburg.  


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