Sunday, January 27, 2008

We're off to see the Wizard

It was definitely organized chaos wrangling hundreds of children into groups of poppies, munchkins, and flying monkeys. The flying monkeys were already zooming around!

Ella is a munchkin, and she is so excited! This picture is stinky, but you can see Ella in the turquoise shirt right in front when they were learning the jitterbug.
She was thrilled to be cast in the Wizard of Oz at the high school, along with some of her friends. Yesterday we went to rehearsal and the director of the show had such a wonderful energy and it was really great. I am so glad that Ella has had so many positive drama mentors.

Friday, January 25, 2008

One more thing on the Golden Compass

Warning, I think as I re-read that this may have turned into a bit of a rant.

I just have to say that Philip Pullman totally rocks. I am a big fan of the radical, whether I agree with that radical notion or not. People must at least try to envision what that outer limit of acceptability is and then decide how close to sit to the edge. I appreciate those visionaries that sit out there so that the rest of us can remain safe, if we choose. That is why, while not a vegan, I appreciate PETA. I say, go on out there and be completely far out. It is awesome.

My blog was recently cited on one of the local home school lists as (maybe? maybe it was confused with Joyce's Joyfully Rejoycing site?) radical. Somehow, even in writing that came across as a slam. Of course, this is the homeschooling list I left because of a forwarded message from HSLDA that endorsed hitting your child with sticks ("the rod"). But, that is okay. I don't mind being radical. There are far too few of us being radical these days. Jesus was a radical, as was Buddha. But I digress.
Who knows if Philip Pullman set out to be a radical, and I think that the ideas that he allegorically uses in his books are not that far out there (or maybe that is just from where I sit). However, I think that he has exposed the radical other end of the spectrum and its influence. Or, I guess exposed it to anyone who is looking.

He said the following about the current teaching of literature. Hopefully, children can still read his books and access them in libraries. He definitely is clued in to the fact that children are not encouraged to be free thinkers in today's world.

"What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it's "slaves' work, unredeemed.”- Isis Lecture, Tuesday 1 April, 2003

He clearly doesn't mind ruffling a few feathers.

And ruffle them he did with the movie The Golden Compass.

Well, I say that was a good thing. It was so interesting to me that I had to drive to Cambridge (anyone see the connections there?) to *see* the movie, as it FLEW out of theaters. Anyone who thinks that our current economic disparities and recessions is not influencing the ways in which we can express our rights is living in a fantasy world.

In fact the movie was pretty good, too. The special effects were awesome, and it wasn't even as disturbing as the book at the end. It didn't at all make me think that there was no God (even in the movie world). In fact, I saw the dust as an embodiment of the Holy Spirit as I understand it. Also, the discussion of Free Will was an interesting one, and I thought the idea of children expressing pure free will or being altered in such a damaging way that they cannot choose to be one with the Dust (Holy Spirit) was very stimulating.

Do we damage our child out of their ability to make free choices? Do we *really* support our children to be themselves or are we more repressive and comformist than we acknowledge?

Why is discussion of free will being shut down by members of some church groups? It seems so un-American to me. I may see the movie again, just to prove to myself that I still can see free expressions of different visions of the divine. I'll definitely buy the DVD. And maybe join PETA while I still can.

Oh, and by the way, my daemon is a crow named Apolonious according to the movie website. Modest, it says, and flexible, shy, assertive and competitive. Hmmmm...maybe so.

Learning All The Time

"The trouble with talk about 'learning experiences' is that it implies that all experiences can be divided into two kinds, those from which we learn something, and those from which we learn nothing. But there are no experiences from which we learn nothing. We learn from everything we do, and everything that happens to us or is done to us."
John Holt, Instead of Education

Just something I am pondering. And wondering, why if everything is a learning experience, some things have to be learned over and over and over and over and over.......

Spiraling Around Fairies

Spirals are so wonderful and organic and somehow cozy and scary all at once.

I have always loved the educational notion of a spiral of learning as opposed to a linear progression. After all, isn't that how we learn in real life? I love the image of swirling around ideas and falling into them as one falls into a whirlpool, reaching deeper and deeper (maybe even scary) levels of understanding.

One thing that we have revisited over and over is the Spiderwick series of books. They are captivating, and as they captured the imaginations of Ella and then one friend and then another and another, or then she was given a field guide, the interest would be rekindled.

I remember feeling that way about gnomes. I still have the Gnome Gnotebook that Meg's mom gave me when I was about Ella's age.

Now that Spiderwick is going to be a movie, we did the books with our Coastal Free Learners homeschool group. We also found out it is going to be a game and I am so excited! It 's going to be very fun! There is so much information about the books on the internet, along with games and downloads, etc. What is so wonderful about these books is that the kids seem to take them so seriously, and really feel connected to the Grace children and the invisible world all around us.
We had a blast today making Sprite outfits. It was so fun to hear the children earnestly discussing the merits of leaving milk out for Brownies, and whether or not fairies liked fairy houses or felt that they were some sign from us that we thought them incapable of housing themselves. Ella has researched the authors, their influences and even their pets (pugs, of course!). Even the boys had fun drawing and making the Sprites have warrior helmets on their head..

Library Lovin'

Oh, I love our library. There was an awesome display here about the perils of high fructose corn syrup. After it came down, the Shellvers made an Ode to Jon Scieszka. It was so cute, because all these "cool" middle schoolers and high schoolers were like, "Jon who?!" but then when we started pulling the books off the shelves they got so enthusiastic about the books that they remembered from when they were small (oh so long ago *grin*).

Of course, the rise in enthusiasm may have stemmed from the chocolate and marshmallows and frosting that I was feeding them.

I am not above a little bribery.

MIT revisited

"Oh, I am so happy to be learning something new! I do so love this place. And don't I look cute here?"

Oh how we love this place! It is so fun to go and learn and the coordinator there does an amazing job. This time we were exploring laser pointers and mirrors. The kids had to get the laser through a maze using mirrors to make the light turn the corners. It was so fun to see how Declan really got the idea. He also really loved the laser pointer.

The coordinator there does a lot of programs for kids who go to school in Cambridge. When I taught there, I remember that there were some issues about laser pointers. They had to be "banned", and there were lots of urban legends that the kids knew about laser pointers on the subway, in their neighborhoods, ones that were brought to school, and other things.

When the coordinator asked the homeschool kids from Cape Cod about the laser pointer, they didn't even know what it was. Hee hee. I am living in a whole different world from where I came, baby.
This is the strobe light operating machine for the strobe pictures that they took. Ella got to operate the strobe light and say "Ready Set Go". Too fun.

That Crazy Pink Inflatable Chair

Hmmmm.....what is that? Is it a mess? It is a pile of blankets? Or is it another great use for that crazy pink inflatable chair?
Oh, the pile is moving, the white blanket is off. Everyone loves the crazy pink inflatable chair, so who could it be? The dog? Maybe. The cat? Very much maybe (see previous posts). Oh, the mystery is so very suspenseful.

Oh! It is Declan! Hulking out of the chair! Rocking the hiding place!

This is how we amuse ourselves these long winter days.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How to Be an Unschooler

How to be an Unschooler in 400 Words or Less

Wake up to the wide world and your sweet home. Stretch. Cuddle. Eat something. Smell the smells. Touch hair and remember the baby threads hidden in memory. Snuggle while pajamas are all still warm from comforters or sleeping bags or couch cushions or animals that lay in their beds while they slept until they were ready to awaken.

Read something. Discuss something else. Get a hug. Smell that wet, strawberry shampooed hair and brush it until it is all silky again. Play with the other child’s dreadlocks. Wear a pair of fairy wings. Treasure hunt. Write to a unicorn. Breathe. Be grateful. Love.

Record something. Download something. Check out classic movies. Check out B-movies. Read a magazine about a foreign country. Count the ants that are crawling around in the sidewalk. Take a walk in the mall, the beach, the park, the field, the museum, the city, the farm, the yard. Get a library card from as many libraries as you can. Use them often.

Make friends with interesting people, and meet everyone. Talk to the mailman, the baker, the librarian, the thrift store church lady. Bring them all cookies next time you make a big batch. Show them you are interested and they will become interesting. Find your community.

Go online. Blog. Write poetry. Sing a song and make up the words you don’t know. Laugh a lot. Make up jokes, stories, and limericks. Try to play an instrument, or lip sync. Show the kids you know every single word to Gloria Gaynor’s disco hit I Will Survive. Learn a new game. Revive an old one. Make up new rules. Cuddle again. Channel surf while the tv is on mute and make up the dialog. Watch a movie with subtitles. Watch a movie in your native language with foreign subtitles.

Breathe deeper. Do a yoga pose. Laugh when it makes you fart because this week you are all eating only Mexican food and that has involved a lot of beans. Catch your breath. Let your breath be taken away again. Love more. Be.

You are an unschooler.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Shellvers Make ATCs

We made ATCs at the library with our Junior Volunteers. They choose the name Shell-ver last year. Get it? Shelving books, shells since we are near the ocean. Hee hee.

We definitely introduced a couple of the girls to a new passion. There are a couple of boy volunteers, as well, but they were on the computer during this activity.

The volunteers have worked really hard this year so far. They did face painting, balloon selling and clean up at the Attic Sale, and they were great elves during the Centerville Stroll. We celebrated the accomplishments of the last year and got ready to keep on going with an ATC making pizza party.

We got a fabulous donation of pizza from Not Your Average Joe's, and although I wasn't sure that the kids would like the bread they gave us with olive oil and garlic and Parmesan cheese dipping sauce, but they ate it all up!

Even Declan got his creative juices flowing with some ATCs on Batman!

Sweet Kitty

Well, maybe our cat reads this blog when he is out and about, because he has ceratinly turned things around. Formerly the killer cat, he is now the sweet kitty. He even hangs out with the dogs, which I really can't believe!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Yay Tom!

So, the Barnstable Patriot this week was all about Tom *grin*.

He was recently appointed the new assistant Town Manager, and you can read all about it here.

In a funny side bar article (that was on page 2! Gotta love a small town!), it has been determined that Buddy can remain Town Dog, and that there is no evidence of nepotism. But, now I wonder if Joy and Milo have to be out the running until Tom steps down?

Shake Things Up

Okay, the Christmas decorations are down, the day is grey and the video games are getting old (I guess that's what happens when you have a LEGO Star Wars marathon).

So, it is time to start shaking things up. We have had some fun around here making things and creating science experiments, and we are really s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g our comfort zone by going vegetarian.

When we are transitioning away from holidays, it seems we have to put a little more effort into being engaged. Here are some things we've done to shake off the cobwebs of Christmas and get more into the fun of winter (an oxymoron if *I* ever heard one, but my kiddos like winter and who am I to say anything.....)

Some things we have done to get the fun rolling again are:

*museums (especially small-ish ones, like plastics or associated with a college. I think we'll hit the MIT museum next time we're up there.)

*a new crafting tool (next time this happens, I have my eye on a wood burning tool, I may get it sooner, but right now we have enough craft material lying all around the house for me to want to buy something new. Both Ella and I are a little in love with the Crafty Chica)

*bowling, roller skating, or a video arcade (last time at the arcade,my dd got a Newton's cradle with her tickets won on the games, and there have been some unbelievable discussions that branched off from that toy!)

*a new music CD or video or computer game...or season three of the Gilmore Girls

*a road trip (even just to the next town over)

*the supermarket to buy strange fruits and veggies and figure out how to cook them (we have a coconut sitting on our counter right now waiting for a smashing)

*a day/week of foods from a different place, or eating on the living room floor instead of the table, or breakfast in bed

*checking out books from a different library (somehow I come out with completely different kinds of books from the library on the other side of town...we've been all over looking for our Gilmore Girls DVDs)

Ants in Our Pants

Declan has created a bit of a unit study for himself. He is completely into ants. It is so fun, but I have to say that I am so glad that it has been cold otherwise I am sure that we have had some "ant pets" in the house.

He has been reading and looking at two ant books in particular, one is The Magic Schoolbus Gets Ants in its Pants. He loves the facts about ants, and thinks that the jokes in the book are hilarious.

This morning, as I write this, he is watching Ant Bully, and making all kids of delightful connections. He noticed queens flying off to make new colonies, aphids getting milked, and different types of ants.

Somewhere in our future I see an ant farm. I need some time to prepare. Maybe if I can imagine the ants all speaking like Ricardo Montalban in the movie it will be a bit more palatable to me.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Books, books, books...

Our favorite author has been named an Ambassador for Reading! Yay!

We absolutely love both the author, Jon Scieszka, and his whole idea of getting boys into reading. He has a great website, and along with illustrator Lane Smith, makes us giggle pretty much every time we pick up one of his books.

Anyone who *knows* that Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is an inspiration is okay with me.

So, in our humble way, we want to congratulate Mr. Scieszka on his latest coup.