Friday, February 19, 2010

Home from a long, excellent day at Liberty Science Center with Joe and Sarah. We managed to catch 3 separate presentations -- the surgery one (creating a sterile space and doing surgery on a banana), Subzero: states of matter (fun with liquid nitrogen), and It's Electrifying (fun with Vandegraaff generators) -- as well as play with the language karaoke exhibit, catch some films on the Hudson estuary, and get a nice amount of time with the latest traveling exhibit: A T. Rex Named Sue. The takeout from the TickTock diner sucked mightily, though, so now I've got that itch for "fun" food. Wish I had some avocadoes (been craving them since A mentioned them the other day, and one of the failed dishes from the Tick Tock was sucktastic guacamole)...

Hmm... Garlic bread and refried beans might do the trick. And then it's dinner-and-a-movie. I think we're going to try introducing Sarah to Chamber of Secrets, see how that goes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'll fight them as a woman, not a lady!

When we play school in the morning, we sing a couple songs together. Usually taking turns picking them -- Sarah usually picks ones we've sung together before, and I generally pick songs I know Sarah already knows pretty well (although occasionally ones I've recently been reminded of -- ones my mom used to sing to me but which I haven't yet introduced to Sarah, say). This week, though, out of the blue she asked to sing a song she'd overheard me watching on youtube a couple times:

We found the lyrics in my copy of Rise Up Singing, and after our third day in a row we're pretty close to knowing the words without needing to check the book. Too bad there's no more TMcAFS, or I know what we'd be singing at the next talent show! :)

Between this and the recent comments I've heard her making about TV shows or books without interesting female characters, she seems to be developing into quite the young feminist. It does a mother's heart good!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yesterday K visited to take photos of our homeschooling day. It was a really interesting experience -- trying to clean the house ahead of time enough so that I was willing to let someone with a *camera* in, but not disturbing any of our usual piles of books or magazines or crafts-in-progress, and then trying to live a "normal" homeschooling day while interacting with an observer. She takes such lovely, interesting photos -- I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Friday we visited the NY Aquarium with my parents. It was a really good visit -- there was a surprising amount to do, even with most of the outdoors exhibits cut back or cancelled for the winter. Sarah's favorite things were the Alien Stingers (jellyfish, anemone, coral) and watching the sea otter try to protect his food from the aggressive seagull who kept swooping in to try to bully his way into the feeding! We also both really enjoyed seeing the seahorses, the pipefish, the electric eel (and reading all about how they use the different amounts of voltage they can put out)... My dad also brought a nice pile of books for Sarah, which she's been enjoying looking through -- some math, some reading, and a few on being a forest ranger or on using the national parks for educational field trips. The trip to the Aquarium was much easier than I'd expected. I think we'll be going again soon.

Saturday we took the train into the city (direct from Rutherford to Penn Station, switching at Secaucus. I wouldn't do that again -- next time I'll happily go back to switching to the PATH at Hoboken, it's a lot less trouble) to go to Barefoot Boogie. It's at a meditation/yoga space, and the first hour is an introduction to a new type of movement. This week it was something called JourneyDance which reminded me a lot of the various ecstatic dance events I've experienced. Then a visiting group shared a Havdalah ritual they'd adapted to work with the meditative dance (Havdalah is the ritual that marks the end of Shabbat, returning to Ordinary Time (although I'm pretty sure that particular phrase is my Catholic background showing)). It was beautiful, and I'm glad we happened to choose to be there this week. Unfortunately, at that point we had to leave, to catch our train home. Next time we'll arrange for a pickup in Hoboken and stay much later!

Sunday we hung out and tidied up, and made some more valentine's decorations and cards. Yesterday we had a lowkey homeschool day, and had a fabulous adventure with our Faery's Tale RPG. Joe narrated (GMed) a pied-piper-like adventure involving dark pixies and rescuing young kids who'd been lured into dark woods. We're all settling into our roles nicely. (That was my one disappointment of the day -- I would have loved to have one of the things Sarah does with Joe caught on film, but both the RPG and their Teddy Bear card game wound up falling too late in the day. I know I could take pictures of these things myself, but I never think to. Maybe this'll be the impetus I need. I finally got around to putting photos online -- now maybe I should starting *taking* more in the first place!)

Sarah and I recently decided to borrow a homeschooling technique from a Waldorfy online friend, and start picking a theme for each month (new moon to new moon). This month she chose two themes -- underwater and fairies. Fairies are pretty much everywhere in our house -- in crafts, games, poems, storybooks... For underwater I picked up a couple books at the Aquarium, and dug out what we already had in our collection, so we can pick something from those every day or two. I chose two themes for myself, too -- physics and the history of science. I'm currently really enjoying Isaac Asimov's _Understanding Physics_ and using my old Halliday and Resnick for the equations.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"We don't need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes."

I've been looking into the Charlotte Mason method and the Well Trained Mind approach -- for my own self-education, mind you, not for Sarah, although I may present bits to her to see if she'd like to try them for herself. On one Charlotte Mason-y site they suggest that, before you start putting together a CM-inspired homeschool curriculum for your child, you ask yourself what your ultimate goals are -- why are you homeschooling, with what sort of skills and knowledge and experiences do you want your child to come away from their homeschool experience?

I've been mulling that over for a few days, now. I know why we're homeschooling (sort of -- I come up with additional reasons every few months, as we discover a new benefit -- and I'm not sure I've ever typed my reasons up here. Maybe I'll do that some time this week.), but what are my ultimate goals, here? What do I want Sarah to get out of it, and what do I want to get out of it myself? Those are excellent questions.

I want her to come out of this homeschooling experience loving knowledge, loving reading, loving the process of learning new things. I want her to love words and word games; to love music and math and the act of creation, whatever it is she chooses to create. I want her to have the basic skills necessary to be able to do anything she takes it into her head to attempt -- that is, to be able to figure out how to go about learning any new skill she wants or needs; to be able to examine new information for its accuracy, logic, internal consistency; to be able to imagine forging her own path if that's what it takes to make the life she wants. I want her to be able to hold her own in any conversation, even about a topic she's never encountered before. I want her to be confident and compassionate and content in her own skin. To have a sense of possibility and purpose and her own power, and a sense of how one goes about building a life filled with delight and community. I want her to know that a full life is about more than how you make a living.

I want her to be comfortable enough with the rules (of culture, of grammar, of society itself) to know exactly what she's doing when she chooses to break them. And, yes, I want her to know the difference between infer and imply, to recognize a logical fallacy (or a rhetorical device) when she sees it, to recognize a reference to Yeats or Shakespeare or the Bible (or the West Wing!) when she sees *it*.

What do I want for me to get out of our homeschooling experience? To have the incredible good fortune of settling into a front row seat as she decides for herself what *she* wants out of our homeschool experience.
I really like this quote that IDEA posted on facebook, today: "The ultimate aim of education is to enable individuals to become the architects of their own education and through that process to continually reinvent themselves." - Elliot W. Eisner, emeritus professor of Art and Education at Stanford University

Saturday, February 13, 2010

For peace comes dropping slow

I called this place Mistress of Speed and Time because that was the title I'd taken on (at first in jest) when I was looking for a title other than "Director" at school. It hasn't felt appropriate for this little corner of mine in a long time. Yeats is one of my favorite poets, and The Lake Isle of Innisfree is one of my favorite of his works. This most evocative of his phrases from that poem seems to fit this newest phase of my life better than the driven, driving, outward-focused notes of "Mistress of Speed and Time".

Thursday, February 11, 2010

scheduling, rhythms, choices

Joe was home for a snow-day, yesterday. In the morning he shoveled and I made banana pancakes for everybody. In the afternoon he shoveled and I decluttered and made various appointments for our Spring home repair project. And throughout the day, Sarah and I made Valentine's Day decorations (I really liked the paper heart garland, but the stuffed paper hearts were a lot more work than they look worth) and talked and danced together.

At night we played school together -- reading from Civil War on Sunday, and Sarah's Noah's Ark book of stories, and the "Tyranny is Tyranny" chapter from A Young People's History of the United States. And singing a bunch, of course. We all played Apples to Apples, practiced our calligraphy, and Sarah and Joe played their teddy bear math card game. We were planning to finish up Civil War on Sunday at bed time, but instead watched West Wing together.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, right now. Trying to figure out how to fit everything in. But the main thing I want to fit in is a well-rounded, well-balanced home life for Sarah -- so does that mean cutting down on other things, to help make the whole thing feel more relaxed? But the other stuff is so much fun, for all of us. Maybe can I just learn to hold on to the sense of calm, even when there's so much going on? There was so very much going on this weekend (I was at a weekend retreat and feast, in honor of Brigid, and had an indescribably wonderful time), and I still managed to feel calm -- is it that being responsible for another person is enough to push me over into rushed-and-flustered, sometimes? Because if that's it, it's absolutely time to shift that -- Sarah's old enough to be responsible for so much of her own stuff, it's time for me to set down that particular rock (I picture the tension of different responsibilities as rocks lodged in different places in my body, sometimes) and breathe more easily.

Also a little overwhelmed by the plethora of choices, homeschooling-wise. Every time I hear how another family does it, I find myself thinking "oh, we should be doing more of that!" -- not in a guilty are-we-falling-behind way, but in a wow-that-sounds-like-fun!! way. As I was saying to another mom at LSC (we were there on homeschooling day, so ran into lots of acquaintances), we tend to have trends -- when we're home most days doing lots of focused crafty or academic work I miss our playdate and field trip trends, and when we're out of the house most days I miss our quiet, focused trends. There are so many options for how to spend our time together, so many of them wonderful.

Tuesday we hit Liberty Science Center with Fairy Scouts (we each chose one Most Important thing to see -- dinosaurs (how do scientist know what they know about dinosaurs? I didn't know dinosaur bones had rings like trees!), communication (calligraphy, kente cloth, totem poles, coins, graffiti) , infection (diagnosing disease, banana surgery!)). We rescheduled the visit with my parents (it's gotten cancelled onaccounta weather or traveling issues twice, now) so we'll be meeting them at the NY Aquarium this week. Saturday Joe's got plans to see friends in one of the Boroughs, so Sarah and I are going dancing on our own in NY (I was hoping to make the Chinese New Year celebration in Montclair, but I'm not sure whether we're up for so much in one day). Next week we're taking Joe back to LSC with us, and doing a field trip into the city one day. I'm looking forward to all that, very much.

But when we stay home, right now, we're making books, copying over poetry into our Common Book, making cards, reading Story of the World and A Young People's History of the US, and the kids' version of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and singing together constantly and playing math games... And those are my very favorite days.

I dreamt, last night, that I was on a boat with a friend or two (depending on when it was in the dream) and some other folks (maybe the friend's mom or aunt?). We traveled out into the ocean, to some spot where you could choose to drink from one bit of magical water or the other, depending on how you were feeling about yourself (there were only two choices -- high esteem or low esteem, nothing inbetween). I couldn't decide whether to drink from the water that was for people who felt powerful and accomplished, or not -- because declaring that I was powerful and accomplished would take so much more energy -- first just to let myself feel that way, and then to live up to it, to step up and do what I'd declared (admitted) I was capable of. Drinking from the lesser-self water would have been so much easier, and would have let me relax a little longer. Finally, though, I drank from the Awesome Self water, scooping it up with this quaint little liqueur glass. Once you'd chosen, you could drink from another, larger, body of water, but I don't remember what that water would impart. It was either additional power or talents, or it was a glimpse of the future, I don't know. There was a lot more detail to the dream, including a long journey there and back, but I can't make sense of the bits and pieces I remember at the moment. I completely understand my dream-self's ambivalence, but I'm glad she made the more challenging choice. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's only Wednesday and as of yesterday it was already one of those weeks. Putting my foot in my mouth left and right, making a fool of myself or saying something that came out hurtful or obnoxious entirely without meaning it to. Just saying exactly the wrong thing, in one situation after.

And then, yesterday, Sarah had an awful day. Just ridiculously so. And, somehow, I managed to say exactly the *right* thing. Made everything better, just wiped away all the bad stuff. And, really, if I have to choose, I'll pick saying the right thing to Sarah and the wrong thing to the entire rest of the world, every. single. time.

(Of course, there are plenty of days when I haven't known how to make things better, when I've said exactly the wrong thing, or when I myself have been the problem in the first place! But I'm immensely grateful for every good Mommy day I get!)