Friday, August 28, 2015

movie and mittens

One of my homeschooling goals is that Elizabeth finish her work in roughly 4 days each week which will enable us to reserve one day per week for field trips or other enrichment. In our first week of homeschooling, Elizabeth finished her week’s work by noon on Thursday. When I asked about her thoughts for Friday, she responded that she’d like to watch Boy in the Striped Pajamas since she’d recently finished the book.

When I read Boy in the Striped Pajamas over the summer, I wasn’t overly impressed. The notion that a boy in the midst of Hitler youth would be that naïve and innocent in his surroundings didn’t ring true for me. In addition, the use of Out-With (a combination of English words) as a pronunciation substitution for Auchwitz (a German name) drove me to distraction. I finished the book, gave it 2 stars on Goodreads, placed my copy in the Little Free Library outside, then moved on to greener pastures. I don’t think I even mentioned it to my kids.

Elizabeth discovered it in the LFL, and I found her reading it one afternoon. She seemed engrossed so I didn’t share my opinion. Of course, she became enraptured with it, finished it, and placed it on her “permanent collection” bookshelf. She wasn’t thrilled with the vagueness of the ending, but she found the child’s perspective of the Holocaust intriguing. She also recognized Bruno’s natural love and friendship toward others, regardless of heritage, as endearing. I think despite her fondness for Bruno, she appreciated the karmic payback received by his father.

Isn’t it fascinating how an adult reader and a child reader can see such different sides of the same book?

As for the movie, I found it more tolerable, without the insufferable “Out-With” references, and the mother’s and grandmother’s disapproval translating into Bruno’s naivety seemed more believable. Rarely do I appreciate a movie more than a book, but this was one of those cases.

As for the mittens, they don’t particularly tie into this post except that I finished them while we watched Boy in the Striped Pajamas today. I’m more than ready for cooler weather to allow me to test them. The pattern is Detour Mittens, available for free on Ravelry. I knit them in City Tweed, Tahitian Pearl. At first I wasn’t sure about the pointy tips on the mittens, but the elvish look has rather grown on me. I might be in love with these tweedy mitts!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

a new year

A new school year is upon us. Paulie, Philip, and Finn are back in their respective high, middle, and elementary schools in 10th, 7th, and 3rd grades this year. School is now underway, and we are settling into familiar routines. Except Elizabeth. She's feeling her way through a new routine this year as she homeschools for 9th grade.

The feedback when you decide to homeschool a highschooler is interesting. "Really?! Why?!" "What about math?" "Won't she miss the socialization?" Ok, maybe those responses aren't so different as when you announce that you intend to homeschool at other ages, but the underlying question that many seem to hedge is, "aren't you afraid of spending THAT much time with your teen?" The basic answer to all of those questions is this: I not only love her because she's my daughter; I like her too. She's witty, curious, and engaging. She's had a great educational foundation and enjoys learning. She's a motivated kid who likes to check things off lists, which means no nagging from me. She already has deep connections to many friends. She will volunteer, take art classes, take violin lessons, and find other ways to "socialize" if we find that lacking over the year. As for math...thank goodness for Sal Khan.

Since the ever-burning question from other homeschooling parents is generally curriculum related, I'll post a list of our resources below:

English: I'm making my own literature curriculum supplementing with resources online. We started with Tom SawyerBrave Writer will stand in the gap for writing.
Math II: Khan Academy (following the basic Common Core Integrated Math II)
US History: A History of US
Earth Science: CK12 Earth Science for High School, supplementing with YouTube, online activities, and projects
PE: 4-6 week units as Elizabeth chooses, right now she's doing yoga and stretches
Art: assignments that tie into her other classes as well as classes through our local art school

A few other things worth noting, I'm trying to keep a week or two ahead on planning, which will allow me to adjust as needed. Teachers Pay Teachers has fantastic resources, some free, for nearly every subject. I've already downloaded many of their resources to tie into other curricula we're using. YouTube is your friend. There are videos on EVERYTHING out there! Netflix too. I'm sure as we continue I'll find things that work better and not as well. I'll try to keep you posted as we go along!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summers end

13 months.
That's how long it has been since I visited this space. A year full of beginnings and endings.

Among other things:
Paulie began high school.
Elizabeth finished her final year at her K-8 arts school.
Philip began middle school.
Finn began guitar lessons.
Paulie began marching band.
We each grew a year older.

Just this summer, we visited with friends at Hanging Rock,

Finn participated in music camp,

Finn and I visited family in Philadelphia (and met a new niece!),

the kids and I hiked the top of Pilot Mountain,

Finn lost a plethora of teeth and went to camp,

Elizabeth and I summited Mt. Evans outside Denver,

we fed large animals at Lazy 5 Ranch,

and we spent a week at the beach with friends.

I'm unsure how often I'll be in this space. I was relieved to let go of the pressure of blogging last summer, and I'm happy to be back now, in whatever capacity I feel works for me. Stay tuned later this week for details of new endeavors we're embarking on this year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yarn Along

After a fairly significant break in knitting, for me anyway, I started a new project last week, socks for Finn. I'm using leftover yarn from other projects, which necessitated mixing colors. Finn requested that I make the sock's colors reverse images of each other. The pattern is Easy Toddler Socks, which I've made many times in the past. I'm using the same number of stitches as in the pattern but using sport weight yarn and size 3 needles so that they'll better fit a 7 year old.

As for reading, I'm just starting first book in the The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. I'm reading it for a children's lit online book club. Philip read it while we were in Costa Rica and loved it. Although I'm only a couple of chapters into it, I must say that it's proved very entertaining thus far.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tortuga Island

Sunday morning, bright and early, we boarded a bus to the Pacific coastal edge of Costa Rica. From there, we caught a catamaran to the Nicoya Peninsula to a small natural island called Tortuga Island. It was a beautiful place, with little disruption to the natural state of the island. There weren't even permanent bathrooms or shelters there. The sand was warm and the waves were frothy as we basked in a bit of time just enjoying the sun. The kids swam, we shelled hunted, and we even rented a kayak for a while. It was nice to enjoy a simple day of relaxation in the Costa Rican sun.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Manuel Antonio National Park

Bright and early this morning, we headed out for the long drive from our hotel to Manuel Antonio National Park. Unfortunately, only 4 of us were able to make the trip. Paul had to stay back at the hotel with Philip because he was having tummy troubles this morning. We were sad to leave them behind, and I was more than a little apprehensive about taking 3 kids + 2 bags full of stuff on a tour that I knew would require at least 2 miles of hiking to the beach and back. I frequently tell the kids that we sometimes have to do something less than pleasant (ride a long way, trek in hot weather, etc) before we can experience something wonderful. I was meditating on my own words with this adventure! 

We stopped about halfway into the trip for a mid-morning breakfast and a visit with this brave iguana.

Following breakfast, we trekked across the Tárcoles River bridge to spot many of its famous crocodile inhabitants. (Another thing I am not comfortable with: walking on an 18-inch wide path over hundreds of 7-foot long crocodiles while traffic flies by mere inches away beside me.)

Fortunately, we made it across unharmed and caught our bus again for the park.

Once we arrived at the coast, we parked and readied ourselves for the hike to the beach. The first thing I noticed was another iguana sitting on a spray-painted wall like he was an art installation. Iguanas must be plentiful in this area. We saw quite a few of them.

Just outside the park's entrance, you can find several vendors selling coconut water from green coconuts. We waited until our hike back to buy one, but it was delicious!

Once we hit the trail, our guide pointed out the local flora and fauna, in addition the animals that are popularly spotted in the area.

The first mammal we saw was the squirrel monkey. He, unlike many that we saw later, seemed to be posing for our photos.

Random spider. "Non-poisonous. You can touch." says the guide. Um...not hardly.

We saw a sloth early on in our walk to the beach. I took a few shots but he was hard to see tucked behind branches and leaves. Fortunately, this sloth was on the closest tree to the trail and was easily spotted and photographed.

Almost as soon as I started snapping, he turned toward us and flashed his famous smile. The kids were thrilled to see this 3-toed sloth, not only moving but easily spotted.

Our guide also pointed out this sleeping frog on a leaf along the path. He was adorably tucked up and completely zonked out.

We ended up seeing a total of 25-30 monkeys while we were in the park. This white-faced capuchin was the other variety we spotted. The guide warned us several times that these monkeys were famous for stealing tourist's food from their bags on the beach.

At last we were on the beach. The water, beaches, and natural areas were just as lovely as all of the photos I've seen. This first photo is looking right from the trailhead on the main beach.

The following photos is looking left from the trailhead. The park forms a horseshoe shape here at the main beach. Its really so beautiful and lush, and the water is the prettiest green color.

The kids, of course, didn't care as much about the beauty of the beach. They just wanted to play.

We were warned that the water was a little "strong" today. The guide wasn't kidding. The waves were strong, and the pull of the receding water, even in just knee-deep water was crazy strong. The waves would crash and splash 10-15 feet in the air when they hit the rocks further out in the water.

I didn't let the kids go out very deep, but they seemed to have plenty of fun in the shallow water too.

When they warned us about food-stealing animals, they should've told us about this fellow! I watched him walk right up to a couple's bag and steal wrapped food out of it with them sitting right there! He tried the same with our bag. I swung it at him a few times, and he wandered off to find easier pickings.

One of our favorite parts of the day was walking over to the right to the rockier side of the beach.

The sand changed quickly to rocks, and what beautiful rocks they were. We each kept a small handful of pretty colored rocks and wave beaten coral.

This area of the beach attracted many hermit crabs. They were skittering all over the sand and rocks.

The kids found a "pool of warm bath water" as Finn aptly named it.

And then we saw the tiniest little conch shell with its little conch feeling its way around the beach.

After about 45 minutes of rock hunting, the kids decided to return to their beach play. The rock hunting was probably my favorite part of the day. "I found another treasure!" Finn kept shouting.

After another 30 minutes of water play, it was time to head back out of the park, among the coconut palms and yet more monkeys. I'm so glad that we were able to make this trip, despite how tiring it was. I'm also sad that Paul and Philip missed it. I think they would've had a fabulous time here. Thankfully, Philip appears to be on the mend, and hopefully he won't miss out on any other adventures.