Friday, April 28, 2017

Friend Friday: Aquarium Fountains

What is better than a warm spring day and an impromptu outing with friends to play in the local fountains?

We had originally planned on meeting at the Coolidge Park, but when we arrived we discovered that the fountains were closed for maintenance.

The kids were bummed, but we hurried across town to the Aquarium where the kids were delighted to plan in the fountains there. Honestly, as long as they can get wet, I don't think they care where they do it!

Their favorite thing is to slide down the smooth side of the cracked rock (I don't know what to call this, see video below). They would do it forever if we let them. Jack actually has warn out a pair of swimming trunks doing this, but he really loves it!

Isaac was thrilled to wade in the knee deep water and splash his big brother. The kids had a wonderful time and I was thankful for the opportunity to catch up with a friend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


"I just like to know," said Pooh humbly.

Have you ever had a quote that really resonated with you? This line from "Winnie the Pooh" by A.A. Milne has always stuck with me because it summarizes how I approach life. For me, the knowing involves a constant state of learning. And even in the busier phases of my life, I find myself itching to learn more about everything. So I devour more books than most adults (mostly of the non-fiction variety), I scour the internet, I read blogs and listen to podcasts, and I constantly stretch myself to learn all manner of subjects. It's what I do. It's what I've always done.

I hadn't planned on homeschooling. One of the reasons we moved to where we live is the excellent school system. But, here we are, on the brink of homeschool.

Last year I experimented with getting my kids outside daily and I also happened to read a book called "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. This book got my wheels turning. Why are kids expected to start spending so much time inside at an early age? Why were we in such a hurry to speed childhood along? Why this diversion from play-based learning and more of an emphasis on medicating kids that have trouble sitting still in school? I couldn't shake the thoughts.

Then all of a sudden we were in the middle of kindergarten readiness activities (it creeps up on you!). These activities included attending a parent-teacher conference with Jack's preschool teacher, going to a kindergarten readiness meeting, and taking a tour of the school we are zoned for. While we checked these items off our list of things to do to prepare for kindergarten, I happened to read the book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" by Diane Ravitch.

If you don't want to question how school is being done in America, don't read this book. But I did read it, and my doubts about public school, especially in regards to kindergarten, grew.

I was torn because we have excellent schools without having to pay for private, but I have strong feelings about the requirement of a seven-hour school day for kindergarten. Can Jack attend school for that long each day? Sure, he's capable. But what would he actually gain from that amount of time in a classroom? When I look at my child and his capabilities and the things he loves, I don't know that a classroom setting with 20+ kids and one teacher is the right fit.

Am I worried about his socialization? Nope. Jack does not meet a stranger and we have constant exposure to other families and kids that I think will provide enough so-called socialization.

Do I want to homeschool for religious reasons? Sure, we can instill our family values and beliefs in our children through homeschool, but we would do that regardless of where they attended school.

What if he gets behind? Based on the things Jack has already learned from us (with minimal effort), I am confident that formal education at home will allow him to blossom further with the added benefit of us being able to tailor his studies to topics he loves.

A third book that I recently finished was "Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education" by is an internationally recognized leader in the development of innovation and human resources who shared a TED talk about education in 2006. He inspired so many people, he has gone on to share his knowledge and inspire even more through books he has written. 

I have not watched his TED talk, but his book Creative Schools is chock full of observations and recommendations from professionals that emphasize rethinking how education is currently done. I could have highlighted the entire book! The book is engaging and informative and gave me a lot to think about in regards to how homeschooling will look for our family (in light of the ways it needs to change in the public school sector). Here are a few of the passages that especially resonated with me:

When standardized tests are the primary factor in accountability, the temptation is to use tests to define curriculum and focus instruction.

In my view, a balanced curriculum should give equal status and resources to the following: the arts, humanities, language arts, mathematics, physical education, and science. Each addresses major areas of intelligence, cultural knowledge, and personal development.

"Failure is an important part of the process... This critical part of the learning experience– the learning that comes from failure– is far too often programmed out of the academic curriculum." – Larry Rosenstock, High Tech High

"The world economy no longer pays for what you know, Google knows everything. The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know." – Andreas Schleicher, Secretary General, OECO

In national and global surveys, employers don't complain about applicants lacking specific knowledge or technical skills, which are easy to test and express in a letter grade; they want employees who can analyze critically, collaborate, communicate, solve problems, and think critically." – Joe Bower, science/language teacher in Alberta, Canada most respects, individuals are most like themselves with their own temperatures, interests, talents and dispositions. You can help your children by treating them as individuals and not by assuming that they should follow the same paths or be judged by the same criteria at school.

...the greatest argument for homeschooling: that it allows you to push your children where your child needs pushing... while also letting you give your child enormous room for improvisation and discovery.

Effective education is always a balance between rigor and freedom, tradition and innovation, the individual and the group, theory and practice, the inner and the outer world.

It has always been my belief that no matter where our kids attended school, we would supplement their education at home. I still believe this, but for the time being, supplementing will actually be teaching. I don't believe it is possible to teach everything there is to know, but I can teach them how to learn and equip them with the desire to learn. With that ability and desire, the world will be at their fingertips.

Here are a few podcast series about homeschooling that have really resonated with me and shaped how I think our homeschool will work:
The Homeschool Sisters
Wild and Free Children
Brave Writer

Monday, April 24, 2017

Baby Hulk │Isaac's 2nd Birthday Party

On Isaac's actual birthday, he was happy to stomp in puddles and we decided to take him to our favorite local Mexican place, El Metate, for dinner. Isaac LOVES salsa.

At age two we thought he might still be a little young to be sung to at the restaurant, so we skipped the official birthday festivities there (they smash whip cream into your face). We still enjoyed our meal (and I didn't have to cook). Plus, salsa!

It was probably a good thing we skipped the singing, because on Saturday we celebrated his birthday with our small group. This meant singing to him and enjoying cake with friends. He was incredibly bashful for the singing part (see above video).

We must be settling comfortably into parenting two children if Isaac's official birthday party is any indication. While we love him dearly, due to this busy season of life, there was very little planning for this party.

Instead of an invitation, there was a last minute email sent to family 10 days beforehand.

Instead of Pinterest worthy-(ish) decorations, there were window stickers from the Target $1 bins.

We continued with my family's traditional Pistachio cake, to make the party sort-of themed, I stuck Jack's Hulk figurine in the middle of the cake and added pulverized Oreos and Reese's to make it look like Hulk was smashing his way out of the cake.

Our family brought Isaac some delightful gifts – everything was a hit, especially the costumes! Isaac and Jack have been playing with all of the goodies non-stop since everyone left.

For lunch I made grilled chicken and pulled pork carnitas. My philosophy is: you can't go wrong with Tex-Mex. And it's fairly easy to pull together for a crowd.

Isaac was still a bit bashful for round two of the Happy Birthday song with family...

We are grateful for everyone that was able to make the drive (in torrential rain no less) to celebrate our youngest boy.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friend Friday: Picnic at Greenway Farms

I have written before about our Friend Fridays, and our love of Greenway Farms. On this particular Friday we met up with plans for a picnic.

A stroll through the woods, that include a stomp in a big muddle for the boys, was a perfect way to work up an appetite.

The weather was perfect. Blue skies with bright green trees because it is spring!

The kids enjoyed exploring, finding bugs, and just being outside together.

The moms enjoyed a visit and the fresh air. I will always be grateful for these precious days with our friends and treasure them in my heart.

We ended our visit, where else? Down by the creek, throwing rocks in the water!

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...