Monday, January 30, 2017

Valentine's Day and Tasha Tudor

Countdown to Valentine's Day? February does tend to get long and boring. I have found a calendar to bring us to the next holiday. And by Tasha Tudor, who had a great fondness for Valentine's Day. 
Valentine's Day in France was not so much meant to be shared among family or friends, it was strictly for sweethearts. I love our traditions here, especially the ones involving chocolate and champagne, and preparing little gifts  for the kids.
This is the lovely wrapping that brought this treasure to our door:

And here is the calendar, super cute to gaze at and discover, even with all the windows and doors shuttered up. Each time I look, I find a new element tucked away in a corner or behind flowers.

I am sure there will be a mad dash to be the first to open a window, even at the ages of 9, 12, 15 and 18. Happy February!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Museum Homeschooling Series #2: The Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Dubuque, Iowa is my hometown, and it is also host to the largest, truly incredible museum on the Mississippi River and the history of the peoples who have inhabited the area. In a single visit, you can do everything from petting a freshwater sting ray, to trying your hand at shaving roof shingles, to dreamily meandering through the aquarium section.

Our first study unit (main lesson block) of the year was local and U.S. history. I planned the museum visit as a part of this block. Native peoples, the land, the water and pioneers were all on the agenda, and I knew we would encounter them here, as well as the children's favorite alligator tank. What I did not know, was that the museum I had last visited a few years ago, was also constantly expanding and changing, adding ever new places to explore and chapters in the earth's history. This museum, in particular, makes it very easy to keep curiosity alive while exploring and having fun. The boys could be looking at arrow heads while I read aloud to them about Native American's respect for animals and all of life. They could stick their head in a turtle while I read the quotes about the mighty river and its connection to all. We had quite a visit.

Resources of the Mississippi (much depleted): Button-making clam shells:
Early European settlers' cabin:
The walkway between the cabin and a main building; there used to be a wigwam here...
Soil erosion lesson;
This goes nicely with Native American stories in a 3rd grade Waldorf curriculum, and animal stories in 4th grade.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Museum Homeschooling Series: #1: Discovery

I am not going to hand you one single formula that will always work for every museum you tour. This is not about extracting every ounce of learning to be had at each and every visit. I am not always that kind of homeschooler!  I will give you examples of different ways to approach a museum visit at a new venue each time.

                                              Charles, in a typhoon-wind-velocity simulator.
Museums can be wonderful places to learn and wonder. They can be both places to discover and to spark interest in learning more. You can take it to the next level with research and a plan in hand before leaving the house, you can explore every nook and cranny together, or you can grab your knitting and let them go (for those who are old enough not to touch what must not be touched) and let the discovery be self-led.

This week's museum was our local Putnam, a science and natural history museum. We specifically went to see the traveling Pirates and Shipwrecks, an exhibit that truly had something of interest for every single age group. The approach this time, was to go and discover together. We were all given free-reign, and called each other over to see what we had found of interest in one corner or another. It was fun, a lot of fun.

Yes, those are actually my off-spring:

The spots the boys called me to were mostly the truly gory ones; the skull hanging in iridescent blue spookiness, descriptions of pirates' lives, the weapons window with cutlasses and daggers.

I was more often reading them other historical items of interest; here are a few.

Each of the objects below is followed by the signage describing it, I love seeing the treasures brought up from the bottom of the sea.

We were all set to go home, when we made one last discovery: the museum had emptied itself of the dozens of bused-in school children, and the place was OURS. Instead of the two boys who were sooo ready to go home, I now had two young men eager to take advantage of every single one of their favorite spots, ie: (Lego station above with Hall of Mammals behind), while I knit and knit and took a break to participate in a car race or visit the submarine every hour or so. Paradise. 

Next up: mindful visit, after study of a period in history, to a giant of a museum; the National Mississippi River Museum.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Road Trip: Colorado!

                                                            Just look. Wonder and look.

They ALL love to climb the boulders, it's their mini-Everest. Oldest on top, Charles half-way down. He made the most trips up and down, part mountain-goat, that child.
Mon amouur in our warm and cozy cabin (which was especially warm the first night, as Cate had found the thermostat and cranked it to 79 before we figured out why we were all removing layers of clothing.) She was the child who used to sleep in pj's, a sleeper AND a wool sweater.

Valentine/Ariel, wondering how the heck a mermaid found this comfortable:
 We stay at a YMCA complex when we go; some of the perks: playground equipment by the cabin:
 A lesson in bravery, perseverance and endurance:

This next one, I'll admit, was my: "please get out of the car, the lake is so beautiful and we never did get a family photo!" Alas, there was no one around to snap it, so we are still missing Papa, but look at those colors!
Sleepy brothers on the way:

One last glimpse of the snowy peaks; exhilarating and mournful, but with the promise of home at the end of the road.