Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

For all those who fought for our freedom
we give you thanks.
For those families who sacrificed while their loved one served
we give you thanks.
For those who gave their life so we may live ours free
we give you thanks.
You are not forgotten.
Your efforts live on in the hopes and dreams of young Americans.
You are our heroes.
Let us never forget.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Last night I spend an hour pouring over my old journals.  I read those that covered the year Lilah was born (2002) and the year Grace began Kindergarten (2005).  I have wanted to do this for a long time, to just get lost in what were my thoughts and hopes and dreams for my young family.
Two things resonated with me after I read these two journals.  The first was that writing is clearly my therapy.  I wrote about all kind of things that were important to me then.  I wrote about my weekly visits with my Grandmother and the resentment I felt that school would curtail these.  I wrote about my frustrations with Greg’s work schedule and the amount of time I spent alone with two babies.  I wrote about my desire to find something for me like teaching a summer class about poetry, volunteering at the homeless shelter and substituting for GED night classes.  I was desperate to reclaim a part of myself I thought I lost by becoming a full time stay at home Mom.  
The second thought I had was how profoundly unhappy I was.  I was struggling to accept that my relationship with my sister had been redefined as a result of motherhood and I was longing for close connections with friends that at the time I did not have.  I found motherhood lonely and isolating.
My heart ached for my former self.  I barely recognized myself in my own words and handwriting.  Once upon a time I did not believe that people could change, at least not deep down to the heart of one’s soul.  Clearly I was wrong, as I am not the same person I was five or ten years ago.  I wish I could take my philosophies, views, and teachings that I have acquired in my thirties and  guide the twenty-something woman that I was towards a happier, more peaceful parenting style.  
I am fully aware that some people close to me do not understand the evolution of my life.  They do not understand the choices I have made and the reasons for them.  I try to step back from my life and imagine what it would be like if my best friend, sister, or daughter took such seemingly radical steps away from who she once was.  Would I think she was okay?  Would I be concerned?  Would I ask about her choices, inquire about her decisions and be non-judgmental, or would I assume that she is “going through something” and pass it off as a mid-life crisis?  I know how people judge.  I know that I have been judged.  I am 100% okay with that.
The changes I have made have helped me become someone I like very much.  I like and love my children.  Sadly, I know people who do not like their children no matter how much they may love them.  I like and love my spouse.  More and more, in fact, as we age together in this life.  I like and love my family.  We are stronger now than we ever have been in the 14+ years since its creation.  We are moving towards a place of respect and understanding.  We try our best to meet one another’s needs while recognizing that our needs are very different.
I try now to parent from a place of mutual love and respect.  I have been the authoritarian parent who read  John Rosemond’s books and told her children “because I said so” without questioning what they were thinking as I said it.  I have been the parent who used time out, withheld items as punishment, and took away tv time as a consequence.  I learned that none of these work other than to build anger and resentment.  I am far from the place I wish to be but I  move closer to it every single day.  

There are times now when I  tell my girls that I need to think it over and decide upon a consequence that is logical.  If they hurt each other’s feelings, then they need to do something nice to make up for it.  If they are disrespectful to me, then I ask them to help me around the house in some way to make amends.  Most of the time consequences are logical anyway and they are old enough to learn from them positively or negatively.  
I can see where people might think I now “spoil” my children.  Don’t they realize that the verb spoil means to diminish the value of something?  Unfortunately they may see my girls sleeping in late, going to bed late, swimming when every other child in the neighborhood is confined to the school building, not having homework, tests or CMTs, and assume that I hold them to a lower set of standards than the rigorous ones that school imposes just through their schedule alone.  I get that on some level... I guess.  
I want people to understand that homeschooling is not like being with your children on the weekends (if they attend public school).  The family dynamics are fundamentally different.  My children and I would be miserable if I tried homeschooling five years ago.  I could not say, sit down and write what happened the day the bus did not show up.  When they ask why, reply “because I said so”.  I could not threaten to withhold computer time because they did not finish the assigned thirty math problems.  In school, the threats/punishments were: trips to the Principal’s office, loss of recess, and worst of all -- humiliation by standing at the fence while other have recess. I cannot educate and parent under this paradigm.  For me, it simply would not work.
I am reminded of the bumper sticker “coexist” featuring symbols from the world’s religions.  We need to coexist peacefully in our home for homeschooling to be both a pleasure and a success for all involved.  I hope when my girls are becoming parents, they shrug off the advice of mainstream society, never watch SuperNanny, and always trust their instincts.  “Professionals” do not know best.  Jesus and before him Confucius said, “Do onto others as we want done onto us”.  Have you noticed that this seems to apply to everyone else but our children?  If we encompass our children into this golden rule, the rest comes easily.
Last night as I put down the journal from 2005 I wanted to go back as my almost 40 year self and give my 33 year old self a big hug and tell her not to worry that things are going to turn out better than she could even imagine in her wildest dreams.   

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Doing it our way....

Homeschooling looks different for every person who homeschools.  Unlike public school where teachers have 180 days to teach a set curriculum to a classroom of 25 children, our situation is a bit different.  Some states require homeschoolers to prove they “educated” their children 180 days out of the year.  Here in CT we don’t have that regulation.  Even if we did, it would be easy to meet for some part of every day we are learning!  
I have my curriculum for the year.  I know what I want to “finish” before we take a summer break.  For example, at this moment, I know we have four chapters of Story of the World left.  We are working at an accelerated pace to finish that by the end of next week, although I would really like to finish it this week.  So last night during dinner I read them the story of Ceasar and Cleopatra.  We learned about Pompey and his unfortunate demise.  We also learned about one of my favorite quotes, “I came.  I saw.  I conquered.” ~ Julius Ceasar.  I love this quote because of the confidence and strength it conveys.  I feel that way about homeschooling sometimes.  “We tried.  We grew.  We learned.” ~ me.  Only sometimes I am not as confident as Ceasar was!

There was a time when I did lesson plans, kept detailed records and calculated days spent “learning”.  I drove myself and my child crazy.  It is very easy to keep to a lesson plan when you are a classroom teacher.  Every day you move a bit forward.  Because you have so many children you stay on the path that is set for you by the district.  If you are fortunate, you have some wiggle room to infuse your passions into the lessons.  Perhaps you can find the time to give the children a really cool project.  I used to love to assign academic choice - a catch phrase for "here is the topic, you can show me how much you learned any way you want".  
Homeschooling is the epitome of academic choice.  I don’t test my girls.  I rely on the feedback I get from them in our daily  interactions.  When we are planting the garden, I ask them about photosynthesis.  They know this is their “pop quiz”.  From there answers, I know that both girls have a firm understanding of this subject.  Recently we were somewhere and the subject of volume came up.  I asked Grace for the formula.  She wavered.  I knew that we had to go back and choose some review questions for this topic.  
So how do I move the girls from point A to point B?  It is not totally random.  I don’t wake up each day and see where the day will take us, although I do allow for some of that every week.  I have a weekly plan in mind.  Like I said, I have tried lesson plans and quickly abandoned them.  There was no room for flexibility. What if we found the perfect movie about the Great Wall of China and that cut into Language Arts? What if during reading we discovered a poem we loved and had to add it to our poetry anthology.  Then we had to illustrate it.  Then we had to add the poet to our Book of Centuries?  Could I say no - we will do that tomorrow during language arts block because we have not done science yet?   Ugh, no way!  I did not want to homeschool like that.  
What works best for us (right now) is a flexible calendar which I manage.  After much searching I found a date book at Staples that doubles as my lesson guide.  Every night I look to  see the upcoming day looks like.  If it is a Monday the only thing we usually have is our dog walking job.  I try to plan for a full morning of lessons.  If it is Tuesday, then we usually have our town study or botany, immediately followed by pottery lessons, then piano lessons, then tennis lessons.  There is very little time for anything else.  During our days at home, I know that I want to do math, history, poetry/cursive, botany reading, reading, writing, artist/composer studies, time for bike riding, dog walking, piano practicing and baking!

Each girl works at their own pace.  We do science and history together.  Math, reading, and writing is done separately.  There are days when Grace is sitting at the breakfast bar working away on Aleks and her sister is sound asleep upstairs.  That day, while Grace is enjoying her afternoon, Lilah gets her one on one time with me working on math!  We do our best to do math every day that we are home.  The other subjects we piece in.  
I plan for a chapter of history and science per week.  When we have time at home we read.  It may be at breakfast (one of our most productive times of the day), lunch, dinner or anytime in between.  There are days like yesterday, when I tell the girls my plan is to move a bit quicker so we can finish something, so would they mind if I read a bit while they were both together.  

We never leave the house without their bags.  I need to come up with a bag management system.  Here are the bags we use almost on a daily basis:  my camera bag which can double as a handbag when necessary, my computer bag, Grace’s messenger bag, Lilah’s tote bag, our insulated lunch tote bag and my knitting bag!  I wish I still had the coat-tree I scored at a tag sale.  It would be perfect to hold all my bags in one place!  We load up our bags when we go out for doctor appointments, dentist appointments, eye appointments, hair cuts, etc.  We always take the following: math workbooks, journals, and our reading book.  You would be amazed at how much work gets done in waiting rooms!
In the car we rarely listen to the radio.  We live for audiobooks.  I choose them very carefully.  I try hard to pick books that tie into something we are studying in our curriculum.  This has been sidetracked by Grace’s book club but this summer we will be back to books that enhance our learning.  We have listened to some great books......

I don’t schedule our reading. We are very unschoolery this way.  My girls read.  Grace reads every night before bed.  I love to climb in with her.  She used to enjoy reading her book aloud to me.  Now she prefers that we each read our own book, together, silently.  She is reading The Magic Half by Annie Barrows, along with her book club buddy.  Lilah reads throughout the day.  I can think she is still sleeping and she is tucked in bed reading!  Lilah is working on Soul Surfer right now, as am I!
We are also a bit unschoolery with writing.  I have allowed both girls to write whatever they want this year.  Lilah has a talent for creative writing that I wanted to nurture.  I did instruct Grace how to write a 5 paragraph essay but left plenty of time for creative writing as well.  We read Ralph Fletcher’s Writer’s Notebook and did some journaling.  My goals are to increase journaling and find a writing program that is a more structured but does not restrict the creative process.  Not too  long ago I was talking about writing with Grace, discussing what she has worked on and what she is planning next.  I shared with her my own anxiety about writing.  I sometimes think of the kids down the street plugging away at their stories day after day after day and realize that is not how we are learning.  She laughed away my concerns.  She told me that they hardly ever finished a story in school.  Before they were able to they had to move on to something next.  She said this was true in third and fourth grade, not so much in the younger grades.  I had to agree.  I remember the process the children would go through in the younger grades from finding a small moment to write about, putting their words on paper, drawing a picture and hanging the completed story in the hallways.  I also remember being furious when Grace finished third and fourth grade with the amount of incomplete work (including stories) that came home on the last day of school.  They had already checked out, clearly on summer vacation.  There was not way I could get them to go back and finish those unfinished thoughts.....  
No two homeschooling families have the same routine, schedule, philosophy and structure, even if they are using the same method.  Classical, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Monetssori, Eclectic, Unschooler.  No matter what we call ourselves, how we educate our children is a deeply personal choice.  Finding what works best for you and your children is a process.  It changes.  It is fluid and flexible.  It is a beautiful way to learn.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Western Connecticut State University

We went to Western Connecticut State University for a class about Meteorology.  I was so excited to bring Grace here.  Dr. Mel and Paul Piorek (two local meteorologists) attended this school and Dr. Mel helped build the new department.  We viewed the wall of monitors in the weather center and attended a class given by a graduating senior from the department.  The children then had the opportunity to tape a forecast in front of the green screen as if they were broadcasting it live on television.

I was so proud of Grace.  She took this past year as an independent study in weather.  She begins every day by watching The Weather Channel.  She has their app on her itouch and idolizes Stephanie Abrams.  By the way, if you know her through 6 degrees of separation, could you please ask her to write back to Grace?  It breaks my heart every time she checks the mailbox for a reply.  Grace has a doppler radar app on her itouch as well.  She has read countless non-fiction books about severe weather, watched just about every weather related video on Netflix, and over the year has become a bit of an expert on Hurricane Katrina. 

She read Ninth Ward aloud to me.  This is one of my favorite children’s books.  I love the style of writing, the ability of the main character to see the supernatural, her self-reliance and perseverance.  It is a must read if your child likes weather and historical fiction genres.  

Based on her love of this book, Grace then wrote two stories based on real weather events featuring the same main character.  One was set during Hurricane Katrina, for which she researched real timelines and damage reports.  The other was a tornado in Oklahoma in which she documented the same character’s experience in real time according to weather and eye witness reports.  She wrote a letter in the style of a five paragraph essay to her idol, Ms. Abrams, and talks about television meteorologists and storm chasers like they are a part of our family. 

A highlight of her year was seeing the imax movie made by the movie crew from Storm Chasers show on Discovery while we were in Chicago.  The tee shirt I bought for her there is a favorite article of clothing and must be clean at all times (she is wearing it above).
Grace could answer every question asked of the class.  It was a weather 101 class, so my expectation was that it would be mostly review.  However, as we were leaving, the student-teacher announced that WestConn has a bridge program that links many university departments to students in the community.  She began the bridge program for Meteorology and it will continue after her graduation this weekend.  Middle school students study under the guidance of a Meteorology Department student for a semester!  It would be a ride for us, about an hour each way, but I am signing her up for this opportunity.    Lilah and I can hang out in the gorgeous lobby of the science building doing something while Grace gets a unique opportunity to learn more about the field of science that she loves, discover a bit more about college, make new friends, and add a unique experience to her homeschooling resume!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our first full year - a year full of teachable moments

Our year is winding down.  We do not have a set ending date, we will finish when we finish what we have to finish!  But I feel it.  I feel the completion of our first year of homeschooling both girls. 
Over the course of the last 12 months, I have evolved and my blog has evolved.  When I first began, my posts reflected my distress with school and the most notable differences between school and learning at home.  I would stay up late, very late for me, sometimes until midnight writing.  It was my therapy, my release, my reassurance that everything was going to be alright.  I enjoy taking time to go back and reread some of the early days.  Back when I was trying to figure everything out.

one of Lilah's first days....
As a homeschooling family, we have evolved.  I have tried school at home (in January 2010). I was very classically oriented.  Adding another child disrupted this, as we needed to provide an extended amount of time for her to deschool (September 2010-December 2010).  When we finally came out of this phase, I learned that school-at-home was not going to work for us anymore.  We simply could not plan all our activities after 1:00, when we typically finished.  I needed to allow time for the wonderful learning that takes place outside of our house.  We needed to explore the fields and woods at the Audubon.  We needed to run food drives and cookie booth for our Girl Scout Troop.  We needed to find what we liked, how we wanted to learn, and what we wanted to learn about.  Come January, when we found our groove, and both girls were on board with this new lifestyle, we found a style that worked for us.

she discovered who she is and who she is becomming
Slightly Charlotte Mason (Nature Studies, journaling, living books, narration and some copywork), slightly Classical (History from the beginning of time, structured math) with a splash of unschooling (child led independent studies, no reading list, writers workshop, with a large dose of learn through play).  The result was eclectic magic, just pure magic.
 Girl Scout Capital Day 2010
I began back in 2010 with a lesson plan book, a calendar and many rules.  You had to start at 9am...because that is when your sister starts school.  They learn this in school...so you must too.  They spend 45 minutes doing writing...you must write for 45 minutes!  Over and over Greg would gently remind me to relax..."this is not school", he would tell me. We took Lilah out of school so she would not be in school!  
Neither Greg nor I had any experience with homeschooling.  Our lives were ultra-traditional.  We attended school, for the most part did not hate school, and both did well in school.  But I swear, Greg was a homeschooler in his previous life.  He just gets it.  It took me some time, months in fact to deschool myself.  He acclimated immediately.  Perhaps this is because he could view it from a safe distance.  He could see the benefits but was not in the trenches day after day trying to make it work.  Whatever the reason, I am so grateful to have him in my life, my constant supporter, defender and provider.

our first not-back-to-school night
I was a teacher in my previous life.  Not for very long since I left to raise Grace.  I knew that although I loved my job, Greg was working long hours and traveling.  There was no way I could have both parents absent in my child’s life.  I always planned to return at some point...I just never expected (or maybe I did) that it would involve educating my own girls, thus having to let go of just about everything that made me a teacher in the first place!
People think that homeschooling is “okay for us” or “easy” because I was a teacher.  Ha!  Double Ha!  This is such a misconception.  I used to make lesson plans and have my whole week planned out down to which pages in grammar we would cover and which pages in history we would read.  This works and is necessary when you have 180 days to cover 7 subjects and teach them to 25 children.  You must set a pace and adhere rigidly to it.  
we loved the Audubon - Fall 20
Not so with home learning.  Some days Lilah would want to do four grammar lessons at one sitting!  Agh...this threw my schedule completely out of sorts.  Or what if she wanted to dive right into the mapping work after reading history and that was not planned until Friday?  Or worst yet, what if a new friend called and invited us to play in her creek because the tadpoles just hatched and it is teeming with the life that spring brings?  Do I say no because math is not complete?  

we became bloggers and friends!
I would find myself redoing lesson plans, becoming frustrated with myself and increasingly worried that we were not on a path, headed towards a very defined target.  I needed to reassess.  I abandoned the lesson plans.  I stopped recording every little thing that Lilah did or did not do.  I quickly came to realize what she knew, what her talents were, what areas needed more care and what her passions and interests were.  Once I found out this about Grace, learning just exploded.

we visited UCONN and other universities
I blog to record our accomplishments, and to share my experiences with other homeschooling friends, and our family.  I don’t share every post since I use my ipages site as my journal and not everything is meant to be shared.  Not every day is wonderful, but thankfully most are.  Not every day is easy.  I have not abandoned all my school-like worries.  I panic at times that math is not happening enough or that a story is still not complete.  But then I am shown, usually quite clearly, like a smack upside the head, that I need to stop worrying for they are learning.

we reached new heights but literally and metaphorically
Like when Lilah corrects me telling me that the helicopters covering my car are not pollination, they are seed dispersal.  Or when Grace can answer every single question asked at a meteorology class she took at a local university.  Or when Lilah tells me she is reading her picture Bible on her own and gives me a retelling of each Bible story she has read so far.  Or when Grace sets up her own blog in less than 15 minutes, and is able to download pictures and video to it independently.  Or when Lilah tells me that she is the only child in her pottery class that is able to center the clay on the wheel (granted she has taken pottery classes prior to this one). Or when Grace looks at me earnestly and is so inspired by her friend after attending book club that she wants to stay up all night and read.  
our first field trip -- NYC

I could go on an on about all the ways it is working for our family.  It makes those hard days, the days where all I can see is the 6 baskets of unfolded laundry and the dog food bin is empty and the floor is sticky and the girls are arguing and we have an appointment that we should have left 10 minutes ago for...it makes all those days worthwhile.  
It has been a pleasure to share the ups and downs of our first year of homeschooling ~ a year full of teachable moments!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

10 More Ways it is Working - Greener

10 More Ways I know It Is Working....
I love to write these posts.  It shows me the progress we are making in literally changing our lives for the better.  I have tackled some pretty big things in the past year and a half; we began homeschooling one, then two children, I gave up coffee (then went back to small amounts of half decaf), I gave up sugar, took up green smoothies and began worm composting.  Here are 10 more ways we have beautified and healthified our family!

  • We have made the switch to all natural oral care products.  It killed me to have my girls use products with all that red and blue food coloring.  After trying many different flavors and brands we all agreed on Tom’s Wicked Fresh toothpaste and mouthwash.  

  • The Green Smoothie habit has taken hold.  Yesterday I made the first smoothie that Lilah approved of.  She even called it “good”!  The girls only drink their smoothie out of cute wine glasses we picked up for a dollar at IKEA.  I think everything should be about beauty right now.  Why surround ourselves with things that do not inspire and motivate us?  Myself, I prefer my gigantic glass milk jug.

  • This weekend Greg is building me raised garden containers for my fresh herbs (for my smoothies!).  I am overjoyed at the possibility of being able to pick fresh basil and cilantro without having to drive to our community garden plot!

  • My Rubbermaid container full or worms and their fresh poo will be going into that container to provide nutrients and fresh compost for the soil.  Thanks worms for your hard work....it was much appreciated!

  • One of my girls favorite sites is Foodfacts.com.  It rates the quality of ingredients in our favorite brand name foods.  Now they see why I don’t let them drink Gatorade and eat at fast food chains.  Every item they looked up from McDonalds rated 0 out of 100.  The newer items to our diet like Lara Bars rate in the 80s.  

  • I am not a non-fiction reader, I never have been.  Give me a big bowl of popcorn and a novel and I am one happy Mama!  My reading this month has included Green for Life which you all know I simply adored and I just finished Alkalize or Die.  I am looking for Dr. Max Gerson’s biography but do not want to pay $24.00 on Amazon.  Hopefully the library will have it or I can borrow it from someone.  This green smoothie way of life has revolutionized my way of thinking and of eating.  I do not think I could return to the old way.  Just last night I had a few organic tortilla chips before bed and because my body is getting used to my smoothie, a light dinner and then nothing else, I wound up going to bed with a belly-ache.  Not worth it!

  • I can fit in my Paige jeans!!  I can fit in my Habitual ones too.  Comfortably.  Since I have not increased my activity level, it is solely due to cutting out sugar and my smoothie habit.  Greg has also been drinking smoothies daily and he is losing weight too.  My skin is glowing, I sleep well at night, and my eating habits have completely changed.

  • I am toying with the idea of vegetarianism.  I could not go vegan,  but I find myself wanting less and less meat.  I love Dr. Praeger’s California Burgers and when I grill chicken or pork, I find that I am eating more rice and veggies than meat.  I am looking to add some beans to my meals for more protein.  Whether or not I make this choice is not important, but I am examining what I eat, why I eat it and why my body needs it.

  • We are adding a seafood component to our CSA. (I know this contradicts what I just said... baby steps) Each week we will get a pound of fresh seafood with our share.  I am looking forward to trying new foods and cooking new ways.  I just wish it would get warm here already.  This time last year we had our share for a few weeks......I really want my fresh greens.

  • We are adding clover to our lawn.  This may not seem like a big deal but we have struggled with our lawn for years.  I refuse to have a commercial company come in with deadly pesticides to kill the grubs that call our yard home.  We have tried everything we can think of but yet the ugly little white monsters come year after year.  Our grass is patchy and dense.  I hope that some clover will beautify our yard and fill in the sparse areas.  A few bees might be nice as well.  The girls could observe pollination up close, just not too close!
I am sure as summer arrives we will find even more ways to green our family.  But for now, these are working!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Graveyard Book

The girls and I are listening to this wonderful audiobook.

Halfway through a chapter, the girls asked me to pause the audio.  They asked if they could make a movie of this book.  I said sure but that I can’t speak for their friends who they would want to cast in the movie.  Quickly my backseat became the casting director’s office.  Each character was named and friends were assigned to the roles.  I have to say, I think their choices would be most excellent.  We discussed the setting; the perfect cemetery.  As this conversation was taking place we were driving through old windy country roads.  We happened to come upon a cemetery. Rather than drive on by we pulled in!  
We decided that although this cemetery meets the criteria of old it does not have required elements such as a chapel or a mausoleum.
We wandered around looking for the oldest headstone, feeling the quiet.  At times I shivered feeling like we were not alone, for I am sure we were not. You could not help but imagine Mrs. Owens,  Silas and Liza watching from behind the nearest tombstone. I felt like at any moment Bod could pop out for a chat.  But since we were just three girls on a walk, appreciating, looking, and listening, nothing bothered us.  
Now the hunt is on for the perfect cemetery.  I have a few in mind but part of the beauty of learning is letting the girls lead the way.  I can point the car in the right direction but I want them to find the location.




Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Learning Will Find You

Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford is hosting an exhibition of Monet’s Water Lilies.  The last time I saw a Monet collection was in Boston with my Aunt when I was in college.  It made an ever-lasting impression.  For some reason my girls were not into the idea of visiting an art museum.  They have never been to a larger museum so I am not sure what put the idea in their head that it would be boring....probably tv.

I was embarrassed to admit to the friends we went with that I did little to prepare my children for this trip.  We watched Linea in Monet’s garden.  I highly recommend it.  We learned about water lilies through our botany class when we studied seed dispersal.  We took a walk down to the pond at the end of our street that is covered in water lilies not yet in bloom.  But that is all we did!  

Unlike school, where teachers toss out information contained in a lesson or unit and then move on to something completely unrelated and most likely will never again touch upon the concept introduced, with home learning you can introduce just a bit of something.  The learning will find you.

She is not touching the canvas...it just looks that way!

Remember from back posts how we first learned about the Charter Oak while preparing for our trip to the Capital?  We learned its history and sat in a chair carved from the tree.  Then while reading during the study of our town, we happened upon the fact that a tree descended from the original Charter Oak was planted in our historic green?  Well, yesterday the learning found us again.  The girls stumbled upon this......a portrait of the tree, framed in........wait for it...........none other than a frame created from the wood of the felled Charter Oak!!!!!!  How stinkin' cool is that!  Learning will find you.

We discovered paintings we loved.  Like this one.  I am determined now to find the poem by Tennyson and read it to the girls.  

We discovered painting we connected with but did not enjoy looking at ~ like this one depicting Hercules fighting off death who has come for his love, Alcestis.  We did not learn about this myth in particular during our study on Greek myths.  Again, the learning found us.

It found us again when we found a self portrait of Van Gogh, Greg’s favorite artist.  My girls are most familiar with Starry Night since Greg will often play the song by Don McLean over and over again to our despair! 

Lilah discovered she likes Renoir (not surprising).

And Grace connected with this classic.....(again, not surprising!)

Our goal was to find pictures that made us feel something.  Once the girls told me why the connected with a painting, either positively, or negatively, we took a picture of it.  There was a whole room of large European paintings depicting scenes of war and battle that Grace flat out refused to enter.  I was proud her senses were working at full capacity and she was connecting with art on a intrinsic level.  Ahhh......learning.  It reminded me of Ken Robinson's talk about changing school paradigms.  If you have not watched it, you should.  He speaks of the arts around minute 5:40.

We found pottery from the 1700s taken from a historic home in Middletown.  Lilah said she would like to try to make a water pitcher in her pottery class.  Hello learning!

The girls discovered the preferred the styles based in impressionism rather than the newer more modern pop art and modern art styles.  
I stumbled upon a Diego Rivera that I adored.   I was hoping that he would be partnered with some Khalo works but he was not.  I have only seen Khalo in New Haven.  As I was speaking to the Wadsworth employee (who was not a docent) about Khalo I realized it was probably the first time my girls have ever heard me engage in conversation about an artist!  It showed that not only is print literacy vital, artistic literacy is as well.  The best way to obtain artistic literacy is to immerse yourself in the arts.  It was a lightbulb moment for me.  We will be adding an immersion component to our art studies!
After we had our fill and worked on gaining artistic literacy, we headed to the gift shoppe, to meet up with our friends, and work on our print literacy!

Words cannot express the joy I felt in sharing this experience with my daughters.  They will always remember visiting their first art museum.  We are checking train schedules for a possible trip to a place I have been wanting to take them for over a year......The Met.  I just get shivers thinking about it!  

Learning.  How could we ever go back to the old way?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To Email or Not to Email that has been our question.....

I love that my girls now have email.  I struggled with the decision to allow them access to this communication tool.  They are young.  I do not want my girls reading chain emails carelessly sent by children that sometimes contain scary content or that spread gossip or give the false idea that if you just send it to ten more people something wonderful (or if you don’t something terrible) will happen to you.  I asked Grace to read a book about internet safety and present me with a five-paragraph essay of her findings.  Still, I declined.  
My fears were:

  • Access to things that are not age-appropriate
  • Would this limit true communication skills?  Can’t you just pick up the phone anymore?
  • Am I feeding into a technology-obsession?
  • Will it enhance life or distract from it?
When we discovered the fabulousness of online classes, I realized that by logging on under my email, my name will come up as the class participant, not theirs.  So I reversed my decision and allowed the girls to have their own email account, which I set up and therefore, have total access to.  The girls know that I am not “invading” their privacy when I check in on them.  They are so open with their computer usage, that I find I don’t have to check in on them.  Because we are restricting the use of email primarily to things related to their lessons, not many people outside our homeschool circle of friends and family have their email address.  
We have had interesting conversations about email:

  • Never give it to a retailer or your email address will be sold and the result will be closure of your account!
  • Never open an email from a name you do not know or recognize
  • IM is fun for some people (like her cousin) and not so much for others (like her mom) so do not stalk people via IMing!

And we have realized that adding email has enhanced our learning experience by:

  • Allowing me to forward information I think they might find interesting.
(This morning I forwarded nutritional ratings for our favorite Lara Bars.  Yesterday I forwarded them the National Geographic picture of the day.) 

  •  Giving them direct access to online classes under their sign-on names.
  • Enables them to “talk” to friends they have met around the country through blogging.
  • Teaches them internet safety in a controlled, supervised environment.
  • Enhances a love of technology.
  • Fosters a sense of independence and maturity.
How does your family approach email/facebook/computer usage?  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Make A Wish Foundation

Our family was invited someplace pretty special.  Once of Grace’s best friends hand delivered us an invitation to join his team to walk for the Make A Wish Foundation of CT. 
His team. 
He is a survivor.  Diagnosed with lymphoma last year he taught us all a lessons about courage and bravery.  Not once did I ever hear him complain, not when his port was installed, not when his hair fell out, not when he missed some school for appointments, and not when his baseball hat became his constant companion.  This child is remarkable, as is his family.  
So when we were asked if we would raise money and walk with him, of course we said yes!  
Saturday was a day of friendship.

Of caring.

Of support.

Of compassion.

The next time Make A Wish calls your home seeking a donation, please remember this post and don’t hang up.

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...