Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Since experiencing her first bee sting in June, Lilah has been very curious about insects. This summer she has undertaken a self-study of creepy crawly bugs. Surrounding herself with books from the library and her growing collection of field guides, she set out to make a book of facts. Since she is not yet able to summarize the information into her own words, we are working on a bibliography so her readers will know where she copied the facts from.
Many nights I would find her working in our learning lounge, long past her bedtime, begging to just finish one more insect, or to complete the page she was working on. How could I deny such a request?
My favorite memory of this project was taking her to the Sacred Heart University Library, to work along other scholars in an institute of higher education. It thrilled me and her as well. This year I hope to visit as many new libraries as possible, including the local community colleges, surrounding towns, hopefully Yale (with my niece acting as a tour guide) and most definitely the New York City Public Library on 5th Ave.
Back to Lilah.......her focus on insects is just one part of her larger desire to learn as much as possible about nature. This summer she has splashed through creeks, tagged horseshoe crabs, hung informational posters in libraries (about the horseshoe crabs), dissected an unknown egg sack at the beach, cared for her frogs, read many many books, helped solve a beetle problem at our garden organically, assisted in our worm composting, found and identified a green stink bug, watched a fascinating documentary on the box jellyfish, and all the while, had a fabulous time!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I have come to realize that Grace does not consider anything to be learning unless it has a letter grade attached to it. Apparently five years in the public school system has done this to her. Yesterday we were discussing with a friend what we have done this summer. Grace was asked if she did lessons and she replied that we did not. Remembering my previous post, I chuckled and asked her to share all she had learned. She was silent.
I was in shock. Grace! Tell her about your summer of weather. Again, silence. I asked her if I needed to start with what she had learned and I began to list some of the things she has accomplished. Then she smiled and began talking about some of her favorite things.
I was deeply concerned. Here I felt my child has learned a great deal about something she is passionate about. She recognizes the work she has put into the projects like blogging, hurricane tracking and writing mini-mysteries but she did not consider it “learning” because #1 it was not assigned and #2 it will not be graded.
I am now on a mission to dispel my daughter of the idea that schools assign value to learning. I would much rather her spend hours pouring over books about tornados, watching documentaries on Hurricane Katrina, blogging back and forth to new friends and eagerly anticipating when the newest Hurricane will form than go back to the days where a summer reading and math packet were to be completed by the first day of school. To me, that has no meaning. It is not connected to her desires, it may or may not have been something she has learned yet in school and it is drudgery. Busy work to keep their minds “engaged” during the weeks of summer break. I will concede that some children probably need this, but not mine.
I am going to start leaving quotations around the house, on my chalkboard basement door in the kitchen, on the white board in the learning lounge, on the dry erase calendar in the bathroom. I need to plant more seeds that learning is not only what happens in the confines of a school building. Learning is not completing an assignment for a grade. Getting all As on your report card does not necessarily mean that much has been learned, only that a student was successful in memorization and regurgitation.
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. - John Lubbock
I learned most, not from those who taught me but from those who talked with me. - St. Augustine
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. - Thoreau
Do you have any favorite quotes to recommend?
Monday, August 23, 2010
Grace has a passion for weather. While we have not done “formal lessons” this summer, I have considered her learning to be project based. Since June she has:
- listened to two audiobooks; Night of the Twisters and Escaping the Giant Wave
- she has made several blog entries about the local tornado (which involved much learning about blogging and computer skills)
- she read the Magic Tree House books Twister on Tuesday and Earthquake in the Early Morning.
- She has learned the difference between weather watches and warnings.
- She has a better understanding of doppler radar.
- She now knows the warning signs for severe weather and what to do to stay safe.
- She has watched several Weather Channel online videos about severe weather in addition to Storm Stories on their cable network. Just tonight she watched KATRINA: RIDING IT OUT which is part of Hurricane Week on The Weather Channel.
- She has begun to write and illustrate a book of weather facts.
- She wrote a realistic fiction story about two girls and a tornado. She offered clues to predict a storm was coming. She published it on her blog and asked her readers to tell how they knew a tornado was coming.
- She participated in a UCONN sponsored weather data collection event at a local park.
Since we now have an active hurricane in the Atlantic, we are learning to track it. I showed her how to look up coordinates and find them on a map. She will write down the coordinates daily, using the data collected at the same time each day (5:00pm) and plot the storm on a map. She knows the predicted path of the storm and is curious if the meteorologist’s prediction will match up with the storm's actual path. We will do this for every hurricane that develops this season. I would love to take her to a weather prediction center like the one on Long Island. Theresa over at Our Life in Words, told me of two weather classes being offered in February at The Liberty Science Center, which I hope to register her for this week.
I am not offering much in the way of curriculum for her to pursue this passion. I have thought long and hard over the choice to build a year long unit study around weather, or to let her navigate her own way. I think part of the excitement in this type of learning is that she meets each new opportunity with such JOY. She is searching for books at more than one library, having almost exhausted the books available at ours. She is thrilled when she learns of programming on tv and has naturally changed course from pre-teen mindless television, to documentary programming. The only thing I am making available to her is a purchased science curriculum: Weather Reporter, an earth and space science unit for high-ability learners in grade 2. Even though she is going into grade 5, this is a comprehensive unit and I believe she will gain much from it. It certainly will not take a full semester, so we will use it as a springboard into something else.
So when Grace is talking to her friends and family members and says “oh, we have not done real lessons this summer”, I just smile and say, “and look at all you learned!”.
I would be lying if I said I was not nervous. Having one child home for learning was fine. We had good days and not-so good days. Having two at home now is a little unsettling.
All my curriculum is ordered. I am waiting for Grace’s Horizons math to arrive along with Rosetta Stone and Drawn into the Heart of Reading. My plan has always been to start September 7th. When the girls were in school, I always wanted them to start the day after Labor Day and would feel frustrated when the start date kept creeping earlier and earlier into August. This year, they get an extra week of vacation. We plan on using the week that their friends go back to school to do local trips. We will go to New York to hopefully meet new friends and visit their father at work. We will head up to Massachusetts to visit their Great Aunt and swim if the weather is still warm. I have been promising Lilah I will take her to the Yale Art Museum and Grace to the Peabody Museum. I am looking forward to this week.
Nerves aside, I am really looking forward to starting the girls schooling. My bookshelf is neatly labeled and the school supplies are set aside. Lessons are scheduled for flute, piano and cooking. Basketball is falling into place. Girl Scouts and Brownies are at times that do not conflict. They will be busy, but not over-scheduled. We have Thursday and Friday open to play with friends. Most importantly, the girls are asking to start. They are excited to dig into their new books, mechanical pencils, and open up their new glue sticks. Grace wants to start her weather science study and Lilah is looking forward to continuing her history lessons. Both girls are anxious to visit a local retirement home where they may be going to deliver fresh baked cookies and perform a variety of songs on the flute and piano. Our Religious Ed program at church has changed this year offering both girls the opportunity to sing in the choir.
My hope and dream is that they are content yet challenged in their learning. My wish is that they wake up most days eager and excited to dive into what the day will bring. My plan is to plan as much as possible and be flexible to go wherever the learning takes us. I know we will go excited places that I cannot even fathom right now.
Is it September 7th yet??
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I detest hypocrisy. I try very hard to educate myself on social issues, political issues, and moral issues so that I can make an opinion, defend my opinion and then live my life accordingly. For me to be true to my religious beliefs, I must strive very hard to live them daily, not just listen to them weekly. Honesty, integrity, charity are all important to me. I always tell my children “if God were in the room with us right now, what would he say? Would he be happy or sad, proud or disappointed?” I feel it helps to guide our decisions, reflect on our choices and help us grow in our faith.
Several people I have come into contact with in my adult life proclaimed to be faithful. They wore the jewelry, they talked the talk, but when it came to walking the walk, they did not. I don’t think they just stumbled. The vicious intent of their actions led me to believe that behind the smile that they turn on so effortlessly, they are not kind people.
Thankfully, some of these people I was never that close to. I could make the choice to not pursue a relationship with them. No harm done.
Recently, I ended a friendship with someone who certainly talked the talk. The difference was I liked this person and I chose to build a relationship based on what I believed to be similar values and similar beliefs. When presented with a situation of choosing to help a friend deal with a personal issue, rather than offering assistance, comfort and support, judgement against the friend was passed swiftly, harshly and irrevocably.
At the end of the day, I am left reflecting on how my actions measured up to my beliefs. If I feel I have lived my day according to the Golden Rule, I consider it a good day. Otherwise, I apologize and make amends. I have learned I cannot account for the actions of others, only my own. In order to move past this latest chapter in my evolution of what friendship means, I ask myself, how God would feel if he were present right now? Did my actions speak to my faith. Yes, I believe they did.
I guess then I can finally move on.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
After traveling 26 hours via military transit, my brother touched down in Afghanistan yesterday. I have been thinking of him constantly. I wonder if he has slept, how much he has eaten. I wonder if he is surprised at the landscape that now surrounds him. Is it what he expected? Will his training keep him safe in harms way? I pray.
Today we sent our first care package. The girls and I stopped at our local Rite Aid and they were each allowed to pick two items. We sent him the ESPN College Football magazine, today’s NY Post newspaper, Mike and Ike candy, Chex Mix, mints, hand wipes, sunflower seeds and of course three letters.
My brother is a hero. Not because he is defending the rights and freedoms of our country, but because he is looked up to by four adoring children. Over the years, these they have thought their uncle has the strength to lift airplanes. They thought, and still think, he is the smartest person in the entire world. He is certainly the coolest. The four of them glow just a bit brighter in his presence.
This picture was taken on the front steps of my sister’s home in May of 2008. My brother had just joined the Marines, barely making the age cutoff of thirty. He dreamt of joining the USMC but did not make that dream a reality until he was an adult. My parents threw him a party. A big party. At the time we were sad that he would be away for the summer at The Basic School in Quantico. We wrote letters, we emailed, we visited when we could. This moment was a break from the worry and anticipation. This is just an uncle with his kids, having fun.
Godspeed brother. Semper Fi.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I was reading a new blog I discovered at Unique Family Vision and loved the way the author captured the important things about who she is. Since I have a few new faces in my followers area, I thought it might be nice to do the same.
- I am convinced that God steered me towards becoming a teacher so that someday I would find the confidence within myself to teach my own children at home.
- Before I was a teacher I worked in the relocation industry, mostly international. One of my favorite clients was the United Nations. At my desk was an open World Atlas where I would highlight the many countries I moved people to and from. To this day, it still haunts me that I helped relocate thirty UN relief workers to Rwanda just weeks before the massacre. I still think of them and pray that they made it out alive.
- I never thought I would be a stay at home Mom. I always held the belief that women must be able to support themselves and their children at all times. It was hard to let that go and trust in my husband and our relationship. For my family, it was the best choice I could have made. For after having my sister as a care giver, there was no way I could put my child in daycare.
- I would love to adopt an older child someday. I was approached by someone I know who works in the foster care system and had preliminary meetings to inquire about the adoption process. Greg is not fully committed to the idea of adoption and I hope that someday he will be. Perhaps when our children are older....
- My husband is the kindest most generous person I know. He has supported my every desire; to quit my job to pursue graduate school full time, to leave my career in teaching for a career in parenting and to completly shift our family’s way of life with our choice to homeschool. He has given me all I need and just about everything I want and for that I am ever grateful.
- For over a year I volunteered at a homeless shelter. There were nights I would come home and cry for the families that do not know stability, sobriety, and unconditional love. I learned so much from this experience.
- My only great travel adventure has been to China where I studied karate. I went with several people from my dojo as part of a cultural exchange. As part of this program, I studied with Tai Chi experts, worked out at the Beijing Sports University and actually performed in front of the Shaolin Monks.....at the Shaolin Temple! I walked the Great Wall and visited the Temple of the Sun. I longed to be one of the many couples in Beijing, bringing their newly adopted baby home.
- I have lived in my home for over ten years. I have no desire to leave it but I have a list a mile long of what I would like if I ever did more. Maybe room for chickens........
- I have to always have a book going. I am always looking for recommendations. Right now I seem to be in a children’s lit phase, trying to keep up with my daughter’s reading. Some books I have recently read and enjoyed are: The Princess Academy, Rules, and The Year of Ms. Agnes. I am also reading about how to keep my worm compost healthy, how to knit and how to cook gluten free! What are you reading? Would you recommend it?
- I have come to believe that we have friends for different reasons. After a particularly painful ending to a close friendship last year my sister in law shared with me that some friends are with us for a reason, others just for a season. I am blessed to have a wonderful friend of 15 years who I speak to at least once a week. I know that if ever I need someone, she would be there for me as I would be for her. Friendships are funny things, sometimes strong, sometimes weak, some are sister-like, others are toxic. Part of my growth has been to learn the difference, understand their purpose and nurture their development.
This year has been about change, growth and education, not only for me but for all the members of our home. I enjoy sharing bits and pieces of it on my blog and am so grateful and thankful for the advice I have been given, the suggestions I have received and the new friends I have made!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Grace is athletic. Watching the Olympics while sick on the couch led to her skating in competitions by the time she was 8. Now she enjoys basketball and hitting an occasional three-pointer. She is determined. A talented musician, she enjoys both piano and flute and is looking forward to playing in an ensemble this year. She has a passion for weather and dreams of becoming a meteorologist when she grows up, or a vet! She has volunteered for a local pet rescue and enjoys reconnecting lost pets with their owners. She would like to run a pet sitting business from our home. This will be Grace’s first year of homeschooling.
Lilah is an artist. Creativity runs through her blood. She enjoys making beaded jewelry, printmaking and flower arranging. She is learning to sew. Her goal is to become a baker with her own shop on etsy.com. She bakes both at home and in specialized classes. Her friends and relatives are lucky to sample her treats. A voracious reader, it is nearly impossible to keep a book list for her. She loves magic, fairies and make believe. Her favorite book this summer was Emily Windsnap. Our yard has several fairy houses she designed. She is also a budding naturalist enjoying classes that put her outdoors for as long as possible. Thanks to her efforts with gardening this summer we enjoy fresh vegetables weekly! Lilah has been homeschooling since January 2010 and because her experience was so great, her sister decided to come home and give it a try!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I have a theory that the best place for children to experience personal failures and the harder life lessons is among friends. When the girls were younger, we would have our friends over for dinner to give them practice with their manners. Then when we would go to a restaurant they would know what was expected of them. I remember having dinner with friends and their child was having a particularly hard day. He was having a hard time sitting still. He spilled his drink. He did not like the food he ordered. He was five. I had been in the exact same situation and still am on many occasions. I smiled at my friend and said there is no better place to keep practicing, than with understanding friends.
Something happened today that make me recall that afternoon. I have been giving my girls greater freedom in walking unsupervised to our neighbors house. They can walk and ride their bike around the neighborhood. They can run back and forth from friend to friend since we all live on the same block. Today my girls were playing outside and somehow rocks were thrown. As my daughter tells it, she was “told” to throw a rock. She made the choice to throw it, and it landed in the front grill vent of my friend’s car. She came home to tell me, against the wishes of the person who told her to throw the rock.
While I was gathering my thoughts, I commended her on telling me what happened. I can always help her work through a situation if I know what is going on. I asked her if she got a funny feeling in her belly when she made the choice to throw a rock in the street. She said she did. I told her that is her conscience. When I am not around, it tells her right from wrong. While she was not aiming at the car (or anyone’s property), her aim was off and rather than landing in the street, she hit the car. She knew it was a bad choice, yet she made it anyway. I told her to remember to always be strong enough to say no.
I explained that she must apologize for throwing the rock and hitting the car. Together we walked to my friend’s house and she rang the bell. She had been crying and she was scared because words do not always come easily to her. We practiced what to say on the two minute walk over. She apologized and her apology was graciously accepted.
When it was over, I told her it is better to learn these lessons with friends. I showed her another car parked ten feet away from my friend’s. I told her if she hit that car instead, she would have to apologize to a stranger and that would be even harder for her to do. Friends are understanding. No damage was done. The rock will probably be under the car when he drives away. But hopefully through this event she learned several important lessons. I thank my friend for accepting her apology and giving validation to her words. If the situation is ever reversed, I hope their children learn some hard life lessons in the comfort of our circle of friends.
Have your circle of friends ever helped out with tricky life-lessons?
Friday, August 13, 2010
This time of year most children are rushing to the mailboxes anticipating their letter from their new teacher. When I was teaching, I enjoyed sending these letters, introducing myself, sharing my hobbies and summer highlights. When my girls were in school, they looked forward to this letter, or postcard, every year. The welcome to school letter is the first connection the child has with his or her new teacher.
This year I had the idea to write my own welcome back letter. I thought about the supplies we would need and how fun it would be to shop for things other than an 8 pack of crayola crayons, three notebooks of specified color, three folders in corresponding colors and a pencil case (not to mention the boxes of tissues, antibacterial wipes and cleaners we needed to contribute). We will still need basic supplies like lunch boxes for when we picnic at the Audubon and folders for transporting our research safely to and from the library. We will also need the not-typical back to school supplies for our art and science lessons.
Our supplies include Prismacolor markers, clay, a gram scale, Rosetta Stone Spanish, Field Guides, charcoal pencils, and oil pastels, as well as folder, pencils, and fresh new pink erasers! I can’t wait to go back to school shopping with my girls this year.
I wonder how they will react to receiving their welcome back letter this year?
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Yesterday my Dad asked me if I felt like I was living a reality tv show. I had to laugh! Let’s take a look at my week:
This time last week I was relaxing on the beach with my knitting, The Help, and a coffee, watching my children frolic in the surf. Then........
My Grandfather passed away changing our vacation plans. My sister and I drove 2 hours for the wake, 2 hours back to the Cape to pack up the house. We woke up at 5:30am to pack the cars and drive 2 hours to the funeral then 2 hours home after.
My brother, home for one week before leaving for Afghanistan was supposed to be on the Cape with us the days of the wake and funeral. Needless to say that did not happen and we were very disappointed.
On Wednesday of our vacation Grace hurt her achilles tendon while skim boarding. She cried off and on for 24 hours and would not walk properly. Our wonderful pediatrician recommended a trip to the nearest walk in center. Greg did this while I was driving to the wake. Diagnosis was a bruised achilles tendon. However, no help for given to relieve the pain other than “keep limping”. Nice.
Came home Friday night to one very sick dog who acquired canine influenza in the kennel. Brought her to the emergency vet Friday night as I was concerned about her shallow breathing. Prescribed Robetussin -- which worked wonders.
Saturday both dogs were sick, which resulted in another vet bill, this time from our wonderful veterinarian who prescribed antibiotics in addition to the cough suppressant.
Sunday was spent at my mothers with Grace on crutches we borrowed from my nephew. We were supposed to be enjoying being together as a family however the stress of the imminent deployment weighed on us all.
Monday brought us a visit to our wonderful pediatrician since Grace was still crying in pain from her foot. That visit was immediately followed by a visit to our wonderful pediatric orthopedic doctor, who confirmed the original diagnosis, but immobilized her foot in a walking boot which needs to be worn for one week, followed by physical therapy.
Tuesday brought us one last family dinner gathered at my Mom’s house. This time the tension was lighter. Still palpable, but somehow it did not hang so heavy on our shoulders. Just before we sat down to enjoy our Christmas dinner of filet mignon in August, Lilah comes running in, blood pouring out of a one inch cut on her thumb joint. Cause: whittling-- the kids newest pastime. She and I missed dinner rushing to the local walk in center for two stitches. Thankfully, my Mom kept it warm and we enjoyed it an hour later when we returned.
That has been my week.
My bags are still not unpacked and my house is not very clean. My dogs are still not well. Each girl is dealing with their own medical issue. I am having friends to our house for the first time tomorrow (they may be horrified and never come again), but I hope not!
So does this sound like an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey? Nope. I think it sounds more like an episode of Modern Family!
Monday, August 9, 2010
I am still straddling the two worlds of public school and homeschool even now that both of my girls are officially homeschooling. My experience with homeschooling has been that age is not a factor in friendships. Lilah is as much a friend to a 10 year old girl we see often as her 10 year old sister is. Granted, when the age gap is great, siblings seem to pair off by age, but no one is left out. For the most part, playdates include all children. This summer when Grace was invited to the beach with the older girls, we hosted a pool party for the younger siblings. It is balanced, which you know is my new favorite word!
Of course Grace will be keeping her school friends. This can throw things out of balance. Today she was invited to watch the Teen Choice Awards at her friend’s house. Lilah was not invited. Things suddenly were out of balance. Lilah was intensely jealous. So jealous, she did not know how to handle her feelings. Her perspective is that her sister has the best of both worlds.
I don’t know how to handle this situation. We talked about friendships and the friends she has spend time with recently. I told Lilah that when I was young I had three best friends. That’s all. Her comment was “ugh, that was so long ago”. It is not about how many freinds we have, but that our friends are who we want to be with. This did nothing to relieve the fact she wanted to be with her sister and her sister's friends and she could not.
How do I handle the intense feelings she is experiencing? Do I just hold her while she cries knowing that there will be times when Grace gets to do things simply because she is older? Grace will drive first. Grace will get a job first. Even though for most things I have raised them like twins, they are not. Grace is two years older. Life is not fair and there are times when there is nothing you can do to make it fair.
I was the first born. I cannot quite relate to what Lilah is feeling. Of course, I never thought of my sister’s feelings when I was 10 and my sister was 8. I am doing my best to soothe her hurt feelings, hold her while she cries and remind her of all the things she has done lately that her sister has not. Like just today she was featured in our local Natural Awakenings Magazine for part of Two Coyotes. Grace was jealous feeling that Lilah was now “famous”!.
I know that these feelings are part of being a sibling and growing up as a sibling. But it does not make it easier for the parent.
What do you do when your children experience jealousy? How do you help them handle strong emotions?
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