Monday, July 30, 2012

The Cloisters

We are taking the month of August off from all formal lessons.  We have been working straight through and now it is time for rest.  Snap circuits and art journaling will carry on since we love them so, but math, history and science will all be on hiatus and will return again come September.
We closed our history book on chapter 18:  The Age of the Crusades.   I thought the most perfect way to celebrate our learning of medieval history would be to visit The Cloisters in Manhattan.  The Cloisters is part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art but not located in Midtown Manhattan, but rather just off the Hudson River in Fort Tryon, Manhattan.  
Because we study world history using Story of the World, I knew this visit would come.  I waited until we learned about castle living, knights, William the Conquerer, tapestries, and the code of chivalry.  The Cloisters takes the visitor on a magical journey back in time to when these when these things were imaginable.  We chose to ignore the plague, lack of plumbing and use of garden herbs to cover unpleasant body odors.... 
I will never forget the moment when Grace leaned into me, her voice just a whisper, and said, “Oh Mom, now I know why you took us here!  This is everything we have learned!”  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Collaborative Approach to our Learning

Snap Circuits has become a favorite class for my girls, especially Grace.  Now that they each have their own Snap Circuit kit, they can build the projects without having to share parts or collaborate on one board.  They can each work at their own pace until they have achieved a level of understanding why their board works or does not work.  

I sat in on the lesson this week and I love Steph’s “teaching” style.  She is eloquent, passionate and extremely knowledgable.  Her analogies of electricity and water made perfect sense to my girls and helped explain why a circuit must be layered and why it must be complete.  
There is something very interesting happening that is transforming our homeschooling experience.  We have created a collaborative model of homeschooling.  I teach art and writing, Steph teaches science, another Steph teaches problem solving, Cath teaches project management, if my girls participate in the Shakespeare play (fingers crossed) they will get literature and theater from Ginny.  Piano is taught by Jenny and is now supplemented by Mr. B, the Music Director at church, where Grace will play this year as part of the teen choir!!!!! 
These “classes” have been chosen with care and with great deliberation.  These adults provide my children with an opportunity to learn from someone with a different style, knowledge base, passion, and life experience.  They are each inspiring my daughters in different ways.  My heart swells with joy when I hear that a child in my writing class is showing marked growth in his writing at home as well.  I smile on the inside and outside when I see Grace take out her Snap Circuit kit and pick a new project to work on or when Lilah comes to me with an art journaling page that she created and completed.  This is how I know our own unique approach to homeschooling is working.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Camping Part 2

I left a comment over at Cath's blog, Wholeschoolers, that the person I woke up as Tuesday morning  was not the same person who woke up Wednesday morning.  Our biggest wish is that our children grow and mature and explore new interests and develop passions but how often do we experience this as adults?  How often do we step outside our comfort zone and learn something new or overcome a fear, or both?  This is not always easy but sometimes hard can be fun.

Camping is something that think I will do again....willingly!  The last time the girls and I had a bonding experience like this was 18 months ago when we drove to Chicago.  And to think this adventure almost did not happen because I was afraid.  Afraid of my fears of mosquitoes, spiders and tics.  Afraid that I would not be able to feed my family.  Afraid that my girls would wake up in the middle of the night and want to go home.  Afraid that I had no supplies.  Just plain’ol afraid.
Laughter chases away fear.

Joy chases away fear.

Sharing chases away fear.

Friends chase away fear.

Beauty chases away fear.

Unfortunately fear snuck back in at 12:15 when the wind whipped the camp site into a frenzy.  Thankfully there was no storm, just strong gusty wind.  Wind that tipped over the screen house and knocked over bicycles.  Wind that sucked in the walls of the tent and pushed them back out again.  Wind that cast scary shadows and made owl’s hoots sound eerie.  My first thought was that if the wind woke up my girls they would want/need to go home.  My second thought was at that moment, I wanted to go home.  I wanted my safe house, my husband, my dogs, my bed.  I wanted to feel safe and protected.  
The girls did not wake up and I had to find a way to push my fears aside and work through my anxiety.  I turned to what always helps me, prayer.  I pray like Buddhists chant.  Over and over and over until I am chanting the words to Hail Mary and I can feel the calm return.  It took hours but it finally happened and sleep came again for a few blessed hours until the crows began their 5:30 wake up call and the children stirred in their sleep.

We stepped outside to a new day.  Fresh cool crisp air.  Sunshine.  Blue skies.  We I made it through the night!  I pushed the fear aside.  I found my peace.  I learned that I am strong and capable and do not need to let fear limit my experiences.  This was the perfect place to camp for the first time, surrounded by beauty and friends.  What I learned about myself could not have come from a book, or a workshop, or a lecture.  It came from living.  What my girls learned may shape their opinions of camping forever.  They thanked me profusely for taking them and changing my mind and agreeing to try.  They helped me with the set up, the clean up and the putting away.  They treated each other and their friends with respect and kindness.  They lived and loved and laughed.  There was no need for a plaque to remind us of these simple things.  We figured it out all on our own.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Camping Part 1

Have I mentioned that I have really wonderful friends?  I do and I am so grateful because it was not always this way for me.  I have gone through my life with one or at times two very good friends; the kind that are there for you no matter what, the kind that would jump on a plane and fly home to help you if you just said please, the kind that you imagine sharing Grandchildren stories with.  
For the first time in my life I have more than one or two friends, I have many.  They are the most talented, intelligent, giving, caring, supporting friends a girl could ask for.   This week I had an adventure that never would have happened without some of these amazing women.  Months ago we planned a camping trip.  Four mothers, eight children, and a beach.  Perfect...right?  Not so much for me who has never camped a day in her life.  The thought of camping completely overwhelmed me.  I could not figure out what to bring for food.  I could not imagine borrowing all the supplies that I would need.  I could not imagine actually sleeping outside.  Coward that I am, I cancelled our camp site and told my girls that we would spend the day with out friends, leave when the campsite closed at 10pm, drive home to sleep, and drive back the next morning.  Thankfully the beach is close enough to make this possible.
....and then we saw the campsite.  It is perfect for beginner campers.  It is like a block party where you happen to hang out in tents!  My dear friend Cath took the liberty of bringing an extra tent with her “just in case”...  

Grace had a lesson on how to set up a tent.  No parent assistance was necessary!  I learned what to bring, how to cook, how to wash dishes, how to dry your clothes and how to  start the fire.  I saw firsthand the joy on my daughter’s faces as they went crabbing along the rocks, rode through the campground without a chaperone and were even allowed to go to the beach for the very first time without a parent!  These are big events in a child’s life.  Huge.  I think my girls grew a bit in just a few hours.  I think it is time for their Mama to grow a bit also.

Tuesday night will be spent at the camp site!  My kitchen floor is covered with mattresses, quilts, pillows, food, vinegar for jelly fish stings, bait for crab hunting, fat wood for fire starting, lanterns, bottled water, swimsuits and lots of towels!  I am crossing my fingers that my neighbor will come over and let my dogs out. It is going to be hot and they will be lonely.   

There are little butterflies in my belly this morning as I write knowing I have to stop, hit save and load up the Explorer.  Then we will be off on our camping adventure that promises to be magical.

I owe my friends a huge Thank You.  Thank you for feeding us, teaching us, empowering us, encouraging us, and helping us grow.  It means more than you know...

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...