Saturday, November 19, 2011

What a busy homeschool time it's been, this last month. I'm teaching a civics class to 7 or so students, working on the skills needed to be active citizens: researching topics, writing elevator speeches, writing letters to representatives, etc. This week we met with dear friends of Sarah's and mine, who are also experienced political organizers. They gave us excellent advice on how best to lobby our legislators, and got us all fired up. It was an awesome class, and all the kids are still talking about it.

Sarah also hosted a Dia De Los Muertos party, inviting all her friends to put together ofrendas (altars celebrating departed family and friends (several kids chose to celebrate their departed pets, as well)), and share stories and family recipes that had been passed down. The kids had a great time, painting each others' faces, making papel picado (cutting patterns and images into brightly colored tissue paper), and sharing their stories. Our recipes -- irish soda bread and peach dumplings -- went quite well, but I think we're going to have to practice more to get them just right.

Yesterday we went to a class on the Lenape at Essex County Environmental Center, arranged by our friends K and L. We learned about the different trees the Lenape used for food, medicine, and for building their longhouses, we got to try out a few different Lenape toys and tools (including a drill made out of wood and string (or possibly a strip of leather?), and a fire-starter also made out of wood and a strip of leather), and we made our own clay pots. The instructor was great -- high-energy, relaxed with the kids, and able to answer most of my questions about how things worked. I'll have to do a little more energy (ETA: *research* -- where on earth did "energy" come from?!) on why smoking and drying extend the "shelf life" of food.

Right now our own homeschool work is focused on the history of NJ, on learning to use and make maps, and on getting in lots of practice writing. Sarah and I are each working on a NaNoWriMo project (the official site has some amazing resources for young writers and their teachers), so we're spending lots of time on that, and on background research for our projects (Sarah got help from the librarian on researching Chinese Mythology -- and took out her very first adult book from the library!).